People often stick to ideas and concepts they have known all their lives. This can be a hindrance to innovation. Both individuals and businesses latch onto linear thinking and miss how things can change. We like to think linearly, but reality is not linear. When the automobile came out, some continued to improve horse carriages and horse whips. Why? Because everyone knew transportation was all about horses and carriages. As Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. The media is one of the most obvious areas where people have latched onto what they have known their entire lives, so it is difficult for them to see what is coming. Dear newspapers, magazines, and book publishers – if you think you are in the “printing words and pictures on paper” business – you missing the boat.

For my entire life, magazines and newspapers have been words and pictures printed on paper, and for the past 15 years, some of that same exact information has moved to the Web. So in order to improve on that we just take those words and pictures and put them on computers, right? Yes, but there is more. New devices and new technologies will push the meaning “book”, “magazine”, and “newspaper” into new areas. And, news organizations will need to change and develop new skill sets to create these new types of media.

New devices/ technologies

iPad devices can be future they are looking for. I have been looking for something like the iPad to be created for some years now, because I believed that a tablet-type device that is properly designed and marketed would mark the big turning point for computing and media. My guess has always been that there is a big market for tablet computers. The reason being that it meets most people’s home computing needs. Many people only surf the web and do a few other basic tasks – yet the industry is selling computers that run powerful applications which casual users will never buy. So tons of hard drive space is left dormant as people move more and more into the cloud for their computing. A solution that invests less in hard drive space and expensive hardware, but which invests in a user experience – all in a low cost device – can be a winner – especially for books, newspapers and magazines. But, new skills we be required.

New skill sets to create a new product

Old media companies – like newspapers and book and magazine publishers have a new skill set to develop. Skills in printing on paper will continue to decline, while multi-media skills will be in increased demand. Over the past decade these media companies have moved in that direction because of the web. But technology will re-make media and publishing companies into content, trust, curation and multi-media expert companies. “Newspaper” will become an antiquated term – kind of like “carriage”. Paper won’t be involved in the process of most newspaper distribution. Being able to research and write well will still be critical – but what will be needed more and more is the ability to turn information into videos, pictures, images and interactive features. The iPad type devices will mean this type of content will be more easily accessible for everyone. Unbound from the more expensive, bulkier and slow-to-boot-up computers – the tablets will boot almost instantly and do all the things you want to do more conveniently. This type of device makes a great platform for a lot of things – including better books, magazines and newspapers.

For example, we have all read text books. Imagine a new type of textbook on a tablet device. It would have interactive charts, graphs based on real data sets. The data would be in the textbook and could allow the student to create their own queries and charts – another level of interactivity. Video and sound could be incorporated. Social functions would be available, too. Text and images could be shared with friends instantly. This is the textbook of the future, and it looks a lot like the book, magazine and newspaper of the future as well. I have a Kindle, which I like a lot. But I expect more from media now, because of the internet. I will be reading a Kindle and I will think: “I need to email this paragraph to a friend”. But it does not have that capability – right now.

A couple of my favorite media sources – The Economist and the Wall Street Journal seem to be at the leading edge in these areas. And, from data I have seen, these two sources are not experiencing the big decline in subscribers that have plagued other newspapers and magazines. Part of this is because these two news sources are simply superior news organizations and writers – but another reason is that they moved earlier than others to incorporate what technology could offer their readers. Especially the Wall Street Journal, which for years now has done a great job of creating interactive features on its website. These features, and ways of working, will move onto tablet computers in the long run. I think this may apply to books as well. I believe books will also morph into multi-media and data-driven experiences. This will shape new media – and will reshape the companies behind them. This will be disturbing for many in the industry but exciting for consumers of their valuable content.