Uses, not platforms

After The Daily announced that it was closing down, Felix Salmon wrote a reasoned piece arguing that tablet-only journalism is impossible. A number of industry observers took issue with his post, claiming that The Daily was poorly conceived, poorly executed or a bit of both.

To his credit, Salmon engaged with his critics, but those conversations left him even more convinced that “we won’t have tablet-native journalism”. I believe he’s right.

For about as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve been saying that publishing’s real problem is its failure to increase the breadth of use of content. Instead, publishers maintain a belief that format and brand are synonymous, in the end cutting costs.

Creating “tablet-native journalism” limits breadth of use, much as a print-only strategy once did. Amortizing a content investment over one channel increases risk and decreases return.

Why do we do it, then?

The answer is in part tied to a problem identified in the recent report, “Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present”. As I noted on Monday, its authors make several workflow-related recommendations, including a call to fully rethink workflow to support digital uses.

"Rethinking workflow to support digital uses" starts with “uses”, not platforms or formats. If we were geared to think about solving readers’ problems, we’d organize content in ways that worked wherever that content was needed.

That’s why internet standards and seamless support of mobile content consumption loom large these days. Trying to figure out the one platform that will supplement or replace print is a mistake. As Salmon concludes: “That’s the future, I think: write once, look great anywhere.”

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.