An interesting read on technology journal FIN’s site, Joseph Walker’s article provides some insights into the approaches (or in some cases the lack thereof ) at several major publishing houses in adjusting to the rising tide of digital content consumption. There isn’t much I could add to what he’s written, which, while essentially stating the obvious (some “get it” and will thrive, those that don’t will expire), there are a few specific points that I find curious or worth mentioning:
Publishers are hiring (gasp) techies.
It appears they are underpaying them – according to Payscale.com, the average salary for a software developer at a publisher or newspaper is $61,100. Google is hiring college grads with salaries starting anywhere from $90 – $105k. There are plenty of bright young minds who will accept a lower salary to work for an inspiring cause, the trouble is that major publishers don’t represent an inspiring cause – they are widely acknowledged as slow-moving behemoths. Walker draws the point that current business models of traditional publishers – top heavy with management and oversight, simply doesn’t jive well with the young and creative developer bunch, who want to bring their dogs to work and designated paid time to work on their own projects. While a publisher might not hesitate to pony up a generous salary for an edgy and creatively progressive editor, they likely fail to realize or appreciate these characteristics in software developers, instead mitigating engineers to the same practically-minded-service-oriented roles traditionally held by systems administrators and tech support (and, as a long time sys admin, I’m by no means knocking these roles – only stating that they are far different from a creative standpoint).
Lots of people are moving into the digital publisher start up space.
While moving towards an ever-increasing awareness, most of the majors, in my opinion, still see the rise of digital as a new branch of business – like paperbacks once were, or later audiobooks, as opposed to a far broader paradigm shift. This is a fundamental misconception about the role of technology and, indirectly, it manifests in odd ways: For example, several major publishers, while launching new internal “development operations” for iOS or Android, still don’t allow their employees to use said devices for their such things as checking corporate e-mail (internal IT departments, ironically often the most reluctant to adopt new technology, cite security concerns, despite the fact that other Fortune 500s and indeed the US Government has asserted the devices are as safe as any other). This technology is pervasive, not modular or encapsulated.