Over the weekend, I’m responding to Shirky’s superb disquisition on the fate of newspapers. As much for myself, really, given that the interwebs are already not short of commentary on the subject, and to do a little close reading to draw the lessons for publishing.
When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of its most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.
In book publishing, the Innovation Department is called Online Marketing.