Publishing has never been stronger, financially or otherwise

Let’s take a step back and look at the way we write about publishing on a Meta level. Perhaps, as publishing professionals and commentators, we’ve got our entire narrative wrong.

When we speak of “publishing”, in its unqualified form, the chances are we’re typically referring traditional publishing in the form of delivering content (magazines, books etc.) to press. Book publishers themselves, don’t often include magazine publishing in their view of what “publishing” is, and conversely the true can be said for magazine publishers.

Most of the commentary and discourse almost always talks about “publishing” in the context of these two industries though.

Let’s be a little semantic for a minute and suggest that because of this restrictive definition, we’re not acknowledging the vastness of what exists in spaces like the internet. Instead, we have an overly myopic view of what publishing is, particularly when speaking of the “decline” of publishing.

I’m not exclusively referring to independently published content through mediums like individually-run blogs, which often have no business model behind them. There are huge numbers of professional, profitable, ad-supported websites publishing everything from niche hobby-interest journalism, to critical journalism, to opinion editorials on important current events.

It’s also undeniable that, in simple numerical terms, the number of people creating content has risen dramatically since the advent of the internet. There is now more content out there than ever before and it’s cumulatively increasing in volume, year-on-year. No longer is this content some sort of arbitrary mush of badly written, badly edited prose either. Progressively more sophisticated content aggregation systems are breaking things down for readers in increasingly simple, magazine-like interfaces to access on the fly.

All of this serves to make content more digestible. Alongside these positive developments, the act of publishing itself, through dedicated publishing platforms or content management systems, has never been easier; and there are innumerable amounts of free marketing advice and consultancy forums to help get your site, blog or other form of published content off the ground.

It’s roughly analogous to another industry, that of radio. Not only have a succession of writers heralded the death of radio ever since the advent of television, but in more recent history, the advent of the internet forced us to radically rethink what we mean by the term “radio”. Podcasts have quickly become part of a burgeoning and growing “internet radio” movement, often with solid business models to support them.

This isn’t, as is often suggested, some binary thing either. There’s still a space for traditional publishers of books and magazines. In fact, the growth of digital reminds us what it is about print we love so much on a very personal and psychological level: The look and feel of glossy paper, the tactile way a book feels or just the mere act of owning something that tangibly exists in the real world. Much has been written about these two types of product as “complementary”, to the point it has become a little clichéd, but there’s truth to it.

Never has there been more published written content more easily available, more extensively categorized and never has there been as easy a way for an enterprising writer, or writers, to make money.


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