Friday, 8 July 2011

The future of publishing (and everything else)

The crocodile tears over the News of the World's demise is an interesting insight into the future of publishing, and maybe the entire future of business. What analysts call the Tesco and Chanel future - basically you either sell a lot and make a little bit on everything, or you sell a few things to a niche (and ideally affluent) market.

The phenomenal readership of the News of the World means advertisers (normally) queue up to take display space. Circulation might (like all other mainstream titles) be falling, but 2.7 million sales a week gives advertisers a chance to reach far more household than any other Sunday paper can ever dream of. Visiting London I can't believe how many people are trying to give me free papers and magazines: even the once mighty Evening Standard is handed out FOC. Big Issue? Not unless it's free, my homeless chum. The game's the same, it's about the numbers - a real life internet, in fact.

So it is with Riders, an Italian magazine. Just 2.50 Euros: that's virtually free, when Motociclismo's almost treble that. Not many words (though there's a very random interview/photoshoot with Ben Spies) and some nice design, but not much to get your teeth into (a plus point if your Italian's as bad as mine). I could also get by without product reviews of swimming trunks and suncream. But look at the advertisers: trainers, cosmetics, clothes - even the odd bit of bike related stuff. Basically the cover price is for the retailer, while the publisher works on the advertising revenue.

Question is, does this put the reader first? Who knows, but it does matter. With the disappearance of the middle market goes a lot of jobs, and a helluva hole in our High Streets. When I left school the bright but not brilliant kids could aspire to being a shop manager, work in a bank or become an apprentice. From here on in our kids are either going to get to the top of the greasy pole or stack shelves. The irony this is driven by technology as much as the emergence of Asia as a global force: the technology that was going to give us so much free time. Be careful what you wish for, because it amounts to haves and have nots: like the Kaiser Chiefs, I predict a riot

In the meantime, technology means Benzina can break even at 1,000 copies, which is pretty niche. Thank you to everyone who supports the project, and I guess it's the Chanel path for me. I wonder if that means I get to ride Keira Knightley's prototype Ducati 750 Sport off-roader (below)?

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