7 Reasons Why It Sucks To Be A Publisher

This post was previously published in an earlier edition of Online Publishing Insider.

These days, online publishing has become a tough business. Competition for the reader’s attention is fierce, business models are falling apart, trust is eroding -- the list goes on. If you feel like commiserating with fellow publishers at your next networking event, or if you want to explain to your loved ones why you are losing hair prematurely, here is a handy-dandy list of reasons you can cite.

1. You are not unique. In the good old days, working for a publication made you a member of a select group. Look around you now: There are thousands and thousands of Web sites that claim to be publishers. There are even platforms that let you create your own publisher site by combining content from other publishers.

2. You are pretending to be something that you are not. The whole concept of publishing has its roots in print, and has been around for more than a century. Although online publishing is creating entirely new ways of producing and consuming information, many online publishers are still based on the notion of publishing as it existed during the last World War. In other words, you are an octogenarian trying to act like a millennial.



3. You are becoming irrelevant. Publishers used to hold the distinction of being the gateway to information, a place to which people turned when they wanted to learn new things. Today, information is all around us, and there are hundreds of channels to gather -- and publish -- information, with social media leading the charge. Your teenage niece is probably considered a more serious publisher than you.

4. You are being held to unreasonably high standards. On the one hand, you are forced to generate fresh content every day -- make that every hour, or even every minute -- and to do it on an increasingly tight budget. On the other hand, you are expected to maintain the highest standard of integrity: Heaven forbid you should show a native ad without flashing neon signs indicating its commercial nature!

5. Your success does not depend on your strongest skills. Let’s face it: You're probably in publishing because you like to do research and write. What part of your college English lit classes taught you about generating clicks? Did 20th-century publishers like Samuel Pearson and Albert Reed have to worry about Facebook likes?

6. Your mistakes lasts forever. Whether you made a ridiculously wrong prediction about the economy, or said something that sparked a flame war on social media, your words can never be erased from the Web. Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, the fictional government entity in charge of rewriting history to make Big Brother always look right, could never have survived the Internet.

7. Your clients hate your boss. Your readers are your clients, but your advertisers are your boss. You are stuck in the middle, and some days it feels like no matter what you do, you’ll always piss one of them off.
It is a marvel that, in spite of all these adversities, there are still so many people who continue to produce great content, day in and day out. As someone whose role is primarily that of a reader rather than a publisher, I want to thank those of you in the publishing business for your perseverance. And if I see you at that next networking event, I’ll be happy to buy you a drink.

1 comment about "7 Reasons Why It Sucks To Be A Publisher".
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  1. Mark Westlake from GearBrain, September 23, 2016 at 1:37 p.m.

    Thanks for the insights but I think its great to be a publisher today.  You are right there are a lot of challenges for publishers in today's world and its hard to drive revenue.  Especially when Google and Facebook take 85% of every digital dollar spent.  However, if you think like a marketer, control your costs and figure out how to get a piece of the 85% spent with Google and Facebook, yoiu can have a very profitable content business.  It's just not going to be a billion unicorn like they use to be back in the day.

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