I bought an e-reader recently. Late to the party, eh? It isn't that I haven't longed for one for some time now. The issue for me has been that, given the number of them on the market and rapid pace of change, I couldn't commit. The feature set I want never seems to coincide on a single device, and every time I think I've compromised and settled on one that's good enough, well, market leaders and innovators alike improve on what's out there or introduce some game changer.
However, this holiday season, I was besieged with inquiries about which e-reader to buy for whom. After prompting for some answers to key questions about how the device would be used, I discovered that not only was I able to make recommendations, but I was also ready to take the plunge myself. I won't reveal my short list here (you are welcome to email me), though my path to this e-reader has been a longer road than you may realize.
I became the editor of EContent 6 years ago. The opportunity to take the helm was offered to me while I was working on its sister publication, EMedia, which focused on disc-based digital content such as CD-ROM and DVD. At the time, the magazines were owned by some remarkably forward-thinking publishers, the Pembertons, who founded their company Online, Inc. in 1976 (yes, a few years before most early adopters had email accounts).
When I started at Online, I had a decade's worth of publishing experience behind me. Print publishing. I'd never worked on a website. In fact, I don't think the articles I wrote before I started with Online, Inc. are even online. Back then, I actually had to learn basic HTML to post articles on the site. I certainly would have been the last to guess that only 4 years later, Online, Inc. would offer me the opportunity to edit EContent magazine which, as you all know, covers creating, delivering, finding, and managing digital content. From zero digital to all digital all the time in just a few years: Talk about a learning curve.
Ah, but all digital isn't altogether accurate: EContent readers know that we have always produced a print magazine along with our website and enewsletters. Just after I started with the magazine, the Pembertons' hired a developer with whom I worked to create our first CMS, which took a lot of the heavy lifting out of delivering our content digitally. A short time later, the magazine and the rest of Online, Inc. was acquired by friendly competitor Information Today, Inc.
Both companies had deep roots in print publishing products that support the information industry, which even then was becoming overwhelmingly digital. At the time, and for many years after, our worth in the industry was profoundly affected by whether or not we had a print presence. When working on stories, sources would ask if we were print or digital, with print being the standard-bearer for relevance.
Today, I find myself at the far end of that spectrum. Now, our focus on print first relegates digital to almost an afterthought. Our roots in print strangle the green shoots of econtent-or at least impede a digital-first publishing strategy. I know we are not alone; this is part of why the magazine has such loyal readers. We struggle together to find profits in the promise of digital; to move past hyperbole and build a content future we can be proud of, without abandoning the high standards we've always had for our print content products.
And while we have seen many companies come and go and others' fortunes wax and wane, what remains true is that there is no one right way to do this, no perfect set point for the balancing act between print and digital. To paraphrase the "Chinese curse": We live in interesting times.
Without doubt, my years at EContent magazine have been interesting. I have raced right alongside my readers trying to keep pace with this rapidly evolving industry. I have seen that there are many paths to success in the digital content marketplace, and no one size fits all strategy or solution. In each case, there are specific needs, preferences, users, and myriad other considerations that inform the decision-making process.
So trust me when I tell you that I change the path of my own career only after much deliberation. I have had the privilege of working with the smartest and most forward-thinking people in this industry, and now I join them on the other side as I leave my role here at EContent to lead the content strategy for digital-only publishing company FreePint. While digital content has no greater advocate than I, it is not without mixed feelings that I leave print publishing behind.
Yet, despite any trepidation, I am excited to turn the page and begin to write the next (digitally delivered) chapter of my publishing career. Farewell EContent and hello econtent industry: Time to get off the page and out into the digital fray.