Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dubious Mainstream Journalism

Now when I got that special-purpose software using magazine subscription that I mentioned earlier (or later if my Blogspot chronological posting effort fails)... as I said I filled out a simple form to get a subscription to e-Week. I had just moved by the way, and had decided to not load up with "free" tech-pub subscriptions that used to fill my mailbox daily in Virginia. But the vendor (Zinio is the product) then offered me the chance to subscribe online to several other tech magazines by filling out a single form. Now I hadn't figured out how useless this online magazine paradigm was yet, so I thought "cool - one form, all the old mags, no full mailbox!" so I clicked on through to what turned out to be pages and pages of questions, far worse than any form I've ever filled out for a printed publication, but still a net savings of my time. Finally I got to the end of it, had clicked "send" so to speak on all this information about "my company" when I was informed that none, NOT ONE, of these publications was even available in Zinio format so, they would be MAILING me these magazines instead. UGH. WHY had I given them my address?!

This was a classic bait and switch of course. The print publishers are desperate for circulation numbers and they will do anything to get them, as I'm finding out while I try and cancel any of these subscriptions or just let them lapse.

If anyone needs to know the answer to why online publishing is a good thing (whether you call it blogging or something else) you need go no further than to try and use the alternative and have to deal with he pond scum that run the paper publishing business. They don't value their honor. Witness the daily excesses in the mainstream media (and the tech pubs are owned by the same people). They get caught lying about their circulation numbers all the time. Yes, there is click fraud, but I am sure that is nothing compared to the fraud of running your ad in print and thinking that "millions" of people are going to read it. Which is not to say that print advertising is worthless. Having your company name appear EVERYWHERE is a good thing for some really big companies. Seeing Boeing advertised in Time magazine won't cause me to buy my own 747 (even if I could) but as a tiny part of their advertising campaign it is probably justified, and if not, so small an investment as to not be noticed.

But the days of print journalism as we have known it are surely numbered, blogosphere or not. In addition to the full mailbox, my filling out that endless form has cause me to get a lot of requests to participate in things. Oh not just the things that cost money to attend. Free things too. Various forums are run by these outfits where they round up last-minute speakers to speak to a last-minute audience about subjects to be decided on at the last-minute. Only it's a three hour drive for me to get there.

I opt-out of these things (thank you Zinio) as often and as permanently ("Please don't call me with future offers") as I can. One magazine has been bugging me for weeks (with no opt-out mechanism I can find) by e-mail to participate in some sort of innovation survey. I just delete them. But the other day the magazine arrived with the "top 100 innovators" (I'm not going to bother identifying the magazine, I wouldn't want "CIO" to cancel my subscription now would I?)

Now I'm used to these top 100 things. Computer World and other used to run them all the time. Only then they would go into some depth about 25 or so and have shorter articles about the rest. This thing has articles on about four of the "winners" and I say about, because the articles are hard to separate from ads for the companies who won with talk about the actual innovation on the short side. At the end are the 94 "runners up" I guess, just listed by name, with no indication of what great thing they did. Oh yes, there are some big outfits in there like the US Marine Corp, the Iowa Department of Administrative services, I'm sure there are some innovative ways to notify people that they haven't paid their speeding tickets. There are a lot of small companies I've never heard of too. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I'd even responded to their inquiries, my small consulting firm might be in the top 100 as well.

Woe be to the paper publishing business. But didn't we not only predict that but brag about it years ago? All the waste of trees, energy to process, litter. All that ended. Any day now. So why are they fighting it? They all have web spaces. Most of their customers (especially of the tech publications) would rather be reading the material on-line, the day it is typed in. it's like there are building full of people somewhere who just don't get it yet. How can you be in the business of writing about this technology, and in some cases of providing it, and still be so clueless about what makes sense?

Got me.

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