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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Future of Online Content is So Bright, It's Gotta Wear Shades

Could it be that in the future, only poor people will read magazines? Don't laugh. It will happen.

Visit any newsstand and your eyes will be assaulted by a patchwork of colorful, glossy covers featuring beautiful celebrities, sleek automobiles and business executives.

Most of those magazines will end up being shredded because the vendor only sold two of their ten copies of Lucky, the new magazine about shopping (ugh). More magazines debut each and every month, and more cease publication as well. There's all this content that is never read because few people know it's there.

Meanwhile, the future is bright for online content, thanks to rapidly increasing readership, advances in contextual advertising and the maturation of community-created content. Then there are other promising things on the horizon like micropayments, ever faster Internet connections and richer media. Oh, and let's not forget DVRs and all that digital convergence hoo-hah.

Yes, times are good for online content.

Things are looking so good, in fact, that Jesse Kornbluth writes in Media Bistro of "the dwindling life expectancy of print-only media." Recent news that the online edition of the Wall Street Journal is more profitable than the print version is at last concrete evidence of what I've believed since I learned what WWW stood for.

I was a copy editor at a small-town newspaper in 1996, and the Internet was just getting mainstream media attention. I followed any and all developments very closely and became convinced in a very short time that my publication was suddenly obsolete.

I knew one day that the logistics of printing tens of thousands of newspapers every single day would be overtaken by the enormous efficiences of online content delivery. The old morning delivery schedule was also obsolete because now the news could be presented in real time, and not only that, but any one could create it.

You can bet that Jesse's article will be one of those prescient works that Batelle and Godin seem to crank out every few weeks. It's a window into a future world now.

It's tough to say what the content landscape will really look like in ten years, but my guess is that only the poor will be toting around glossy dead trees. The rest of us will have tablet PCs or laptops armed with the content of a thousand digital magazines. And as Jesse says, the magazines will be promotional devices for the magazines' websites.

Subscriptions will be rare. Most content will be free or paid for with micropayments. Scale will ensure profitability. Oh, and contextual advertising. There will be lots of that.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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