Must read essay on Publishing by Paul Graham. A few excerpts:
Economically, the print media are in the business of marking up paper. We can all imagine an old-style editor getting a scoop and saying “this will sell a lot of papers!” Cross out that final S and you’re describing their business model. The reason they make less money now is that people don’t need as much paper.
People will pay for information they think they can make money from. That’s why they paid for those stock tip newsletters, and why companies pay now for Bloomberg terminals and Economist Intelligence Unit reports. But will people pay for information otherwise? History offers little encouragement.
What happens to publishing if you can’t sell content? You have two choices: give it away and make money from it indirectly, or find ways to embody it in things people will pay for.
The reason I’ve been writing about existing forms is that I don’t know what new forms will appear. But though I can’t predict specific winners, I can offer a recipe for recognizing them. When you see something that’s taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn’t have before, you’re probably looking at a winner. And when you see something that’s merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you’re probably looking at a loser.
There were also two great lines in the notes:
“Content is information you don’t need.”
“Record labels, for example, would probably find it more natural to expand into casinos than software, because the kind of people who run them would be more at home at the mafia end of the business spectrum than the don’t-be-evil end.”
Read the whole thing.