My colleague Andy Stubbings went to hear Taschen Books' Julius Wiedemann
talking about publishing's rocky road to a digital future recently, and
it turns out that the industry has something to learn from Elizabeth
Kubler-Ross's five-stage model of grief: (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance).
As he writes, "It wasn't exactly clear from the talk where publishing is on the DABDA
journey (inevitably, the projector was malfunctioning), but it appears
we have gone past Denial ("Of course the traditional newspaper model is
viable!") through Anger ("How dare people find information for free that
they used to have to pay for!"), and is now somewhere into Bargaining
("OK, you can read all our magazines as much as you want online, but
only by subscribing to our 'digital newstand' via your iPad").
We discussed these transitions in our Technology 2020 report (which has been excellently summarised
by our sister company Digit). Digital technology is following the same
foreseeable 50-70 year cycle that other big technology developments have
gone through since the Industrial Revolution. A
period of 20-35 years of technological innovation without radical
application – "old things in new ways", followed by a second period of
major social and economic change as the technology is applied to do "new
things in new ways" (new applications, new behaviours, new
organisations etc). There is necessarily a period of fragmentation,
messiness and even "bargaining" as industries transition from the first phase to the second.
It always takes years to bridge this gap, and publishing will be no different. It's not just a question
of publishing markets taking time to reach an new equilibrium where both buyers
and sellers benefit, or the development of new business models to let this happen. It's not just about infrastructure, and the time
that will take for new standards, new distribution mechanisms and new
systems to be put in place. With the introduction of every great
technology, whether it is digital technology supplanting print, or cars
replacing the horse, the last
thing to change is usually people's values and assumptions about how we
do things, which are a legacy from the technologies that preceded it.
With technological disruption, as with grief, the hardest part is