, Audible Parenting and the dumbest generation ever

Most people in publishing have acknowledged that publishing is in a transition phase right now. With the digital bubble, everyone tried to grab a piece of the pie – but it didn’t always taste very good. Digital content brings with it it’s own problems. For magazines that includes how to make profit on something you’re giving away and how digital advertising will in turn affect print advertising.

Despite the fact that many readers are getting more of their information online these days, many magazines still don’t have a successful website, with an easily navigated digital version of the magazine. (Or easily navigated pages) In comes It has done what many mags failed to do – it has designed a simple, easy to use reader that allows members to browse pdfs of many popular magazines. The magazines are uploaded by users, and there is a surprising variety available. While the site will likely fall into trouble soon, since it defies copyright laws, it still shows what is possible and inspires the question: Is the lack of good content or design simply that print people can’t think digital?

Lets look at another example of how some are dealing with digital. Parenting Magazine has recently teamed up with Audible, the audio book publisher to bring into the spotlight. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Parenting Magazine will advertise for the site on their own site and will promote books their editors choose. In my mind, this is a fantastic example of how different media forms can interact. And, more importantly, it is very long term planning. If takes off, and truly integrates families, then all the children who are exposed will become adults, future consumers, who know and like audio books. Naturally, as adults, they will be more likely to use the products.

Audio books are not something that you generally think of as digital content, yet there is no reason it can’t be exactly that. This, to me, seems a successful merging of content and the web. In today’s world of ipods, why shouldn’t parents download books for their kids? I remember when I was younger using books on the computer – they resembled leap frog’s readers, where the pages were interactive and it would help you read the book. To be honest, I’m surprised those haven’t become more common. I’ve gone slightly off subject.

This relationship between Parenting Magazine and AudioKids proves that print people CAN think digital – but the change is coming slowly. Publishers need to become more digital friendly, and need to find solutions that will work. While this partnership serves an example of a forward-thinking integration for the publishing industry (that will in the future create new users for the original format), it still is not up-to-date will all the advances in consumer technology. If publishing can’t figure out how consumers are receiving their information, create a business model that will seem competitive to consumers and still make a profit. proves that if people in publishing don’t get on the ball, someone else will do it for them – and they will likely suffer for it (think the music industry, and napster).

There is one more thing that publishers and those who work in the industry need to keep in mind. Some people are saying that the slump in advertising for magazines and newspapers right now can be blamed on the market; some say that it will all come back and it’s just a cyclic process that happens with time. But the consumer base is changing.

As a young person, at first glance I took exception at the article called “Is this the dumbest generation ever?” Written by Charles Enman. But in it he discusses several things that are true. First, my generation (the 20-somethings) are focusing more online (and our younger siblings even more so – my now 18 year old brother taught himself html code several years ago). They are also more ‘socially inclined’ using things like facebook and myspace (my brother taught himself it so he could set up his myspace page). The article is on a book by Mark Bauerlein wrote, called The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. The point is that young people who care about public issues, about government, perhaps about the state of the civilization in which they live, are disappearing.

While, as a 20-something, I can point out plenty of examples that are contrary to that statement (I have friends who are very active, in all of the above) I am still willing to admit that as a generation, perhaps Mr. Bauerlein has a point. If newspapers and magazines and even book publishers want to stick around, they need to re-engage this generation, and those coming after it. Only people engaged in those subjects feel the need to keep up-to-date on news. Only people who see beyond their immediate sphere of influence read magazines, and have an interest in information on the world at large that they supply. And only those youth, if they can be pulled from their ipods, emails, instant messaging, texting, etc. will take the time to read longer works – will make time in their busy lives to read a book.

The question is HOW they can do this. And while I don’t have THE big answer, I have a few suggestions. Make the content easier to get – and easier to get from one source.

Example: there are blogs are have gained a great about of popularity. This is mostly due to writers who are constantly trying to stay up-to-date on information in their ‘topic’ – Bosacks does this for publishing – Perez Hilton does it for celebrity gossip. These people are a one-stop-shop for information on their topic of interest. They gather information from all over the web and compare it for readers.

Another possibility – if people like to be able to multi-task, which is it easier to multi-task while doing – reading a magazine or listening to a podcast?

There are avenues out there that haven’t been explored. The industry needs to start exploring.

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