BoSacks Speaks Of Peril And Opportunity In ACT 9’s Capstone Speech. The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 16

May 12, 2019

Bo Sacks wound up the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 9 on Thursday with a much-anticipated capstone speech, where he sounded some very strong warnings and spoke of great opportunities. Sacks, we remember, spent a decade debating the future of journalism with Dr. Samir Husni, Mr. Magazine™; and Sacks reminded us that Husni actually created the Ph.D. in magazine journalism that did not exist. Mr. Magazine™ has been recognized for his significant influence in shaping this business and popular perception of it.

Sacks referenced the highlights of the conference: Linda Brooks identifying magazines as invited guests; Jeff Joseph mentioning the history of vinyl as a comparison to print; Lori Oglesbee saying that without a free press, democracy dies; James Hewes warning of the risk of depending on a single revenue stream.

Tying it together, Sacks spoke of the incredible acceleration of growth of technology into the present. Soon nothing will be mobile because everything will be mobile. It came too fast, and it led to some chilling consequences. Today, the digital giants are exploring every part of our lives. Facebook, Amazon, and Google, are intruding into every part of everyone’s existence, learning where we are going, what we are doing, what we are saying, what we are thinking, and using it to sell to us.

No one could have known the Gutenberg press would have had effects from fueling the reformation to changing the shape of our brain. Today, new technologies have started a new revolution. Living through this revolution makes it impossible to take a long view. We have combined digital technology with a mutant form of capitalism—surveillance capitalism. It takes our private experiences and turns them into revenue opportunities. It changes everything.

It’s impossible to overstate the peril of our times. Robber barons of yesterday have been replaced by e-robbers. We used to fear the totalitarian government who knew everything about us, followed us everywhere. Well it isn’t the government, but it’s happening.

Digital advertising has surpassed the other forms, including TV—yet the level of fraud in digital advertising is mind-boggling. It’s the largest crime in terms of money generated globally. Fake humans, click fraud, fake ad placement, fake websites, are all grabbing loot online. And technology companies are designing content with the sole intention of capturing as much attention as possible, creating a race to the bottom of the brain stem.

The online advertising ecosystem is impossible to understand or control, and there is no competent leadership. Why is it happening? Ad trade organizations and marketers are making too much money to change anything. The intrusion and fraud could be ended in a heartbeat—but there is no cure for greed. The lawmakers with the power to change it have absolutely no idea how it works.

Print should be a shining beacon in a sea of criminality. We have the trusted content. Everywhere on the planet, it’s as simple as this: Let’s have the readers pay for the content. Ad revenue should be the gravy on the meat, not the unreliable indigestible thing advertising has become. Give the readers what they want, when they want it, and have them pay for it—that’s the formula for success.

Diversification is opportunity. Your brand may be venerable, but it shouldn’t be static. Without alternative revenue streams you have zombie momentum. Create a better user experience. Add experiences, memberships, products. A relationship is a strong building block to revenue. Consider every option to keep readers engaged with personalized bundles. There are billions of dollars left to earn.

And try new things. Structure follows strategy. If you base your strategy on your existing structure, you limit your potential to what you’ve already done.

Addressing the students, Sacks finished: Now is the time to re-think the unthinkable. This is a unique and historic period where the unthinkable has never been more possible.

To watch Bo Sacks presentation click on the video below:

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