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Are Books, Magazines & Newspapers Dying? That’s Up To You. And Me.

Every day, we choose the future of media, be it books, magazines, newspapers, television, music and the like. Why? Because we vote for it with our actions, behaviors, and purchases.

We are empowered to save media.

Dan Blank Consider this exchange from a recent episode of the TV show Mad Men:

Man: “I’m in advertising.”

Woman: “You’re kidding. It’s pollution.”

Man: “So stop buying things.”

Likewise, the movie Food, Inc described the surprisingly complex system that our food industry has become. The movie concluded with a simple message: that we get to choose the future of our food, because we vote every day with the items we buy at the food store. Do you want food free of pesticides? Simply buy organic. Do you want food that isn’t made by a huge multinational conglomerate? Simply buy food from smaller companies whose practices you prefer.

I spend my days considering how media is changing, how these changes are empowering, and what they changes are destroying. When I wonder if the media is dying, I merely look around my home. I look at my behaviors and actions. Because my life, like all of our lives, are a petri dish of state of media. This is how I interacted with media in the past week:

  • I purchased more than 20 children’s books at a yard sale for $5.
  • I intently read most of the long articles in the most recent issues of The New Yorker and Rolling Stone.
  • I put the most recent issue of Runners World – a tip driven magazine – onto the magazine pile without even scanning through it. (Not a good sign. That pile is a black hole)
  • I returned four books to the library, two were half read, two I didn’t have time to open.
  • I dusted my “need to read” book pile, which currently has about 10 books in it.
  • I checked Twitter, Facebook, and Techmeme.com about 10 times each day. Maybe 20.
  • I reached for my iPad when getting into bed instead of the two books on my nightstand.
  • I spent hours browsing around YouTube on my iPad, sometimes sharing videos with my wife.
  • I downloaded the most recent episode of Mad Men on iTunes ($1.99)
  • I downloaded about 6 Apps to my iPad and iPhone. (all free)
  • I watched one movie on DVD via Netflix and started watching two others via their online streaming service.
  • I bought five used CD’s at a local music store.
  • I downloaded the new Arcade Fire album from Amazon.com for a mere $3.99.
  • I streamed BBC Radio 6 on my computer every day.

What does this say about the future of media that I am building? A few things:

  • Media is interwoven into many aspects of my life.
  • I consume a broad range of media, from digital to print.
  • I create and consume media.
  • The traditional media I consumed was largely free. For the items I did purchase, dollars mostly didn’t flow directly through to content creators or owners.

When I consider the future of books that I am creating, there is a simple fact I need to accept: if my primary source of obtaining books is the library and the second-hand market, then I can’t be surprised if the book industry changes. Because while I have done a lot to embrace books themselves, I have done little to support the organizations that sustain them in my consumption habits. I am not justifying this conclusion, I am simply observing my own behaviors and actions, and trying to understand what they may mean; the effect they have on the world, even if unintentional.

How are you creating the future of media?

973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank | dan@danblank.com

  • nbashaw

    I agree that we're collectively in control of the future of media – the problem is that we're collectively in total control of the future of almost every other human institution. Everybody can't care about everything. We all have our niche interests. Most people don't care about how their media got to them. They care more about the effect it produces inside them.

    Once a person finds it easier to get their books digitally than in print, they'll make the switch (assuming they don't value the means, just the ends). That line happens at a different place in life for everyone, but I think in the long run it will win out and ultimately be the dominant distribution method.

    Of course, just like indie kids still listen to records (I'm guilty of owning a record player myself), there will always be a group of people that cares about the art value of a printed book. I will count myself in that group. As soon as someone stands up to lead that tribe and starts creating beautiful books, I'll happily follow.

    • Nathan – GREAT points! Like you, I still own a record player, and appreciate the massive difference in sound compared to my iPod. That said, I listen to more digital music than analog. Life seems to work out that way.
      Have a great day!

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