Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The future of print and the future of hiring

I've said before that I'm not one of those folks who argue that print is dead. Rather I believe that "some of print is dead. Some of it isn't...yet. And some of it will live forever."
Newspapers -- and I mean the paper versions of them rather than the brands -- are in grave danger. And I see little use now, let alone in the near future, for weekly or monthly magazines that focus on news rather than analysis.
But I do believe that my infant daughter will read some form of paper when she reaches my age. And so, apparently, does author David Renard. His new book, titled "The Last Magazine," argues that the surviving products will be the independent mags that are "objects of absolute passion for both creators and readers alike."

It's unclear to me what Renard's future will look like for B2B. Trade magazines are objects of absolute passion for me. But I know that my affection for the business isn't shared by many folks -- including many of the people who work in the industry. And if there's one thing that I have learned in all my years of speaking with editors, publishers and readers it is this: those of us on the content side are often delusional about how much passion our audience feels for our work. We are seldom as good as we think we are. And we are often not as valuable to our readers as we could be.

I have learned this too: the biggest threat to the future of B2B isn't technology and new delivery vehicles, it's us. I continue to be disappointed and surprised by the number of people I meet who remain unwilling to learn the new storytelling skills. Nearly every day I see resumes by recent grads and established journalists that could have been written 25 years ago. And every day I toss those resumes into the garbage. Because neither I, nor anyone I know, has a need for someone who can only report, write, edit or take a photo.
Those skills have value. They always will. But in the competitive world of today, they are simply not enough.
I want to see evidence of video and audio skills. I want to see evidence of familiarity with CSS, RSS, HTML and every other acronym of new media. I want people who live online, consume content on mobile devices, use social-bookmarking tools and participate in Web communities. I want people who don't think they need some gray-haired, middle-aged man like me to give them permission to create -- I want bloggers and page designers and database builders who have made things even when they weren't getting paid.
I want to hire people who have "absolute passion" for the new era of journalism.

I'll be talking about such things at three different events this month. If you're going to be at any of them, stop by and introduce yourself.

tags: , , , , , , , , journalism education

2 comments:

  1. That’s a wonderful vision, Paul. I wish more publishers in the B2B world felt that way.

    Unfortunately, too many publishers would rather hire a new college graduate for the worst possible reasons: because they’re cheap and they won’t rock the boat with new ideas or new ways of doing business.

    I’ve seen too many cases where B2B publishers will fill an editorial opening with the lowest salaried person they could find. Work ethics, skill sets, and even brainpower are low priorities – the publishers would rather hire on the cheap than pay for someone with imagination and talent. (I think you’re aware of a certain media industry publication guilty of that.)

    Second, I have to restate a comment I made some weeks back: there are too many senior editors and publishers who are extremely uncomfortable with young talent that want to take a different approach to their line of coverage. This is not an industry that happily embraces new ideas and youthful enthusiasm.

    Third, I have to contradict you on a key point: I still think basic journalism skills should be the priority. I am not concerned about young writers who use social bookmarking tools or mobile devices, but I am more interested in young writers who know how to create original, intelligent and compelling copy. To be rude, there’s not exactly a glut of that in B2B journalism, particularly at the entry level.

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  2. >>
    I am more interested in young writers who know how to create original, intelligent and compelling copy. To be rude, there’s not exactly a glut of that in B2B journalism, particularly at the entry level.
    >>

    I'm more interested in people of whatever age who know how - and instinctively seek to - ask the difficult questions, the unasked but once-asked obvious questions. Turning that into copy, or a story (in whatever medium) is the sort of thing that more experienced journalists are there to help enable. But one thing that all the good journalists I've ever worked with or met is the desire to pull things apart.

    Perhaps B2B doesn't encourage that. Maybe it should.

    Good post, though.

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