Traditional publishing is dead – and all that

Unless you have zero interest in the publishing business, it’s tough to ignore the current – and still growing – hysterical mass harping about self publishing with ebooks ringing the deth knell for traditional publishing. So let me tell you a little about podcasting.

Back in 2005, almost a year after the concept of adding media items to RSS feeds, podcasting began to take hold of the imagination of the online world. Anyone – well, almost anyone – could record and distribute their voice, their opinions, or someone else’s music right into the ears of a global audience. Nobodies became virtual somebodies. The unheard became virtually influential.

Podcasting was the revolution that would bring down the towers of  “old media” and democratise audio (at the time, internet bandwidth was still not ready for video) on a global scale.

I know this because I was right in the thick of it. I began my podcast in February 2005. By May that year I had built a central home for British podcasters (BritCaster – now run by another early UK podcaster). Later in the year, I remember a group of British podcasters meeting to talk about this new revolution with interested – and concerned – parties at the BBC. The following year we held the world’s first dedicated podcasting conference.

Old media thrashed in its death throws.

A few years later and we can see how old media has bitten the dust and been left to scavenge a meagre existence from New Media’s leftovers.

It’s the same with everything digital

Remember the digital camera revolution? No-one shoots in film anymore, right? (In case you were unaware, here’s LOMO, to name but one of many, hugely popular forms of modern film photography.)

The music industry, oh yes, let’s not forget their complete demise at the hands of digital music.

Thanks to podcasting, no-one listens to radio any more.

Thanks to online video, TV sets collect dust and Hollywood studios have been turned into self storage facilities.

So I guess, following media, film, and the music industry, publishing must be next to “fall” to the latest digital revolution, namely the self publishing of ebooks.

Sure, each of these past digital and technological revolutions (and there are many more as you wind back) forced, often painfully, a rethinking, restructuring, and general blasting off the cobwebs of traditional industry thinking. But none died; they each evolved to embrace the new technologies and understand the opportunities they offered.

Publishing is no different. There is some way to go before it discovers how the new technology slots into place, but it’s coming.

In the meantime, we’ll all have to put up with the revolution hype perpetuated by individuals who have much less interest in the industry they are purporting to circumvent, than they are desperate to part you from your money, get some attention, then attract the eye of a traditional publishing house.

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