MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate …

It’s a bad time to be a part of the print media industry. As exemplified by Ray Pride’s “pink slip Tuesday” pile of layoff headlines, businesses that built their bank on print are feeling the impact of the digital age, and it’s not a pretty sight. What’s particularly unfortunate about this is that people are losing their jobs, in large part, because of the failure of the management at the top of the print media food chain to grasp the powerful impact the digital evolution was going to have on their businesses.
Clearly, many people at the top of print publications missed the memo about the changes in consumer habits the internet and all things digital would bring — or they got the memo and tossed it in the circular file, believing that if they buried their heads in the corporate sand long enough, the change they so feared might just pass them by.

It’s a problem that could have been averted, at least in part, had those companies had the foresight to put at the top people who weren’t so married to the old ways — the kind of people who could have, perhaps, help navigate those massive ships out of danger before they were caught in the eye of the internet hurricane. Unfortunately, for most of them, that didn’t happen, and the old captains leading the ship had no idea the size of the storm that was coming, much less any clue how to deal with it.
The one announcement that was particularly interesting to me in all this, though, was the story that The Christian Science Monitor is ditching daily print and going mostly on-line. They’ll still be running a print edition weekly for now, but look for even that to go away once their online model is solidly in place. CSM Board of Trustees member Judy Wolff, in the aforementioned CSM article discussing the change: “We plan to take advantage of the Internet in order to deliver the Monitor’s journalism more quickly, to improve the Monitor’s timeliness and relevance, and to increase revenue and reduce costs. We can do this by changing the way the Monitor reaches its readers.” Exactly, and bravo to the folks at CSM for leading the pack. They clearly get that the change is no longer just coming, it’s here, and you’d better embrace it to survive.
This is the single smartest move I’ve seen a print pub make recently, and the other print companies looking at layoffs as the primary band-aid to stop the bleeding of dollars would do well to pay attention to that announcement, and consider strongly making similar moves themselves. From a business standpoint, if large companies are able to streamline and run more effectively and efficiently, and quickly adapt by navigating themselves to a more solid position within the internet market, they’ll survive, and in the long run, they’ll thrive. Those that don’t, well, they’ll ultimately sink, or perhaps cling on as much-diminished versions of their former selves.
As print and their readerships continue to decrease, so will their viability as a medium for ads; companies seeking to reach out to consumers with their messages will be searching for ways to maximize exploitation of the unique interactivity of a wired world. There will be revenue out there, for those companies that figure out the best models with which to make a profit and stay stable on the internet. For print publications, though, part of being successful at this period of transition is going to be having people in decision-making positions who actually understand the way people interact with their web sites.
The gut instinct for print pubs going online always seems to be to simply slap up a virtual version of their print offering, with little thought given to how to effectively direct traffic flow, how to increase the stickiness of web pages and thereby increase the window of exposure to ad materials, and other key web design issues. Publishers need to put in place people who are expert at usability and design, who understand the human interaction patterns of internet consumers, to make the decisions about how to successfully migrate their revenue stream for an internet model. The old dogs who aren’t able to learn new tricks need to step out of the way for those who do, or those companies will whither away and die.
It’s going to be interesting to watch, over the next decade or two, which of the print behemoths survive this period of colossal transition, and what models of navigation design, usability and outreach beyond the internet prove to be the most viable for the long-term. Eventually things will stabilize and balance, and I believe that, in the long run, salaries for many people who write for online will rise to a level closer to what print journalists are used to making.
In the interim, though, it’s going to be rough sailing for the print folks as they adjust to a world in which cushy writing jobs with decent salaries, benefits and expense accounts disappear into the ether. Some will adjust quickly, get up to speed and rebuild their brands online, others will land at existing online outlets and others, well … they’ll struggle to find a place from which to share their voice, and eventually fade away.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon