Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

If the horse already left the barn, and it’s 1908, maybe just get a car

Posted by metaphorical on 10 June 2008

If you ever wonder how the carriage trade let their near-monopoly on personalized transportation slip through their fingers, consider this:

Think Ad Revenue Is All Going Online? Think Again.

While there is no denying the digital revolution, a new study by Publishing Executive, called the “2008 Publishing Advertising Trends Study,” shows that online revenue is not exceeding print revenue for most publishers … and the majority of publishers don’t expect it to-that’s right, ever.

For the study, Publishing Executive worked with independent research company Readex Research to survey Publishing Executives from a variety of industry segments including business-to-business (b-to-b), consumer, association and professional publishing. More than 250 publishers participated.

What did the study’s findings reveal? For starters, 89 percent of respondents said their organization’s current online revenue does not exceed its print revenue. (In this case, online revenue included Web sites, e-newsletters and webinars/webcasts.) Nine percent of respondents said that their current online revenue already exceeds their print revenue.

While that may not come as a big shock (though the 9 percent whose online revenue already exceeds print may be higher than some of us would expect), this next finding might: More than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents reported that they do not anticipate their organizations’ online revenue will exceed their print revenue in the future. Twenty-eight percent said they anticipate their online revenue will surpass their print revenue.

Back in 1908, Buggywhip Executive, a trade magazine for the carriage and cart industry, predicted that car sales would never exceed horse-drawn carriages, based on the surveyed predictions of buggy-whip makers who by their own admission would never have correctly guessed how many cars there already were on the road. That seems so silly that it shouldn’t possibly be what’s going on in magazine publishing, but Publishing Executive is happily reporting it is.

Buggy whips are still sold, of course, in tiny numbers, mainly, one imagines, to a certain segment of the sex paraphernalia trade. Two of my favorite magazines, Climbing, and Rock + Ice, are bigger than ever — literally. They’ve increased their format to something like 10″ x 13″, to accommodate their fabulous photography, the one thing a climbing magazine provides in print that can’t be matched by ‘zines, blogs, and web discussion forums. Readers jokingly call the stunning full-page photographs “climbing porn.” Meanwhile, subscribership and ad revenue are surely decreasing.

Did the buggywhip manufacturers really have as sanguine a view of their future as the magazine execs surveyed by Publishing Executive magazine? One would have supposed otherwise; that even in 1908, the eventual ascendance of the automobile must have seemed inevitable even to those desperate for things to be otherwise. One would have supposed otherwise, that is, except for the example of those who don’t see the eventual ascendance of the Internet as the deliverer of all media, even though it seems as inevitable as the car over the carriage.

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