Monday, March 8, 2010

Steve Forbes Keynote Address

I’m at the Publishing Business Conference in New York City, and just attended the keynote address by Steve Forbes, one of the nation’s foremost economic prognosticators (and also the chairman and CEO of Forbes Media and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine).

Current and future economy

Forbes believes there are huge economic problems. Government spending is at an all-time high. Massive national debt. However, America in not in decline. We will grow 3-4% in real terms this year. Watch the US dollar—not against other currencies—just look at the price of gold. You need a strong dollar to have a strong recovery. Also look for tax cuts. Bailouts and spending has to stop. These will be signs of a recovery.

Timetable for a full recovery

Forbes is an optimist. He believes there are solutions to the above. We can’t compete with other countries on commodities and manufacturing. We need to take the game to the next level, like we did with the information age and technological innovation. He believes that governments need to reign in spending and allow the economy to grow. Given a benign environment, he believes that the economy can grow more quickly than we think.

Shifting publishing and media landscape

The Web is fundamentally changing the publishing industry—and the bad economy is accelerating the timeframe that we have to adjust to these changes. “Creative destruction” is Forbe’s term for how capitalism will save us. Get over worrying about platforms and delivery and determine the “value added.” Consumers are evaluating the value added by their purchase. People want useful, unique, and specialized content. Aggregators are doing well because people value the convenience. Break down your content in a way that people can access/consume it.

E-readers will not be the salvation of the publishing industry. However, people are willing to pay for the convenience (large library, immediate access, variable type size, lower price point). People are coming to expect the price point of $9.99.

The circulation of Forbes magazine as never been stronger. [Interesting note: Forbes has a circulation of nearly a million—about the same circulation as the Ensign magazine.]

Internationally, there is a huge market waiting. The combination of entertainment and the Web have huge potential. There will be a lot of experimentation to determine the right combination that people want.

Printed publications will remain. In fact, they lend a level of credibility to the digital offerings.

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