Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 28, 2012 8:26 AM

Does "Quality" Mean "Paper"?

When people talk about quality journalism, they tend to also mean that it must appear on a dead tree.

That's the feeling I get when I watch this video from Business Insider when Henry Blodget interviewed Jill Abramson (the executive editor of The New York Times):

People still love paper (sort of).

In my next book, CTRL ALT Delete (out on May 21st, 2013), I call this moment of time "purgatory" - we're not in heaven... we're not in hell. We're, kinda, in limbo. That's the feeling you get from Abramson and that's the way consumer's are behaving. On one hand, we love Spotify and Netflix (who needs a DVD player and/or entertainment content clogging up our hard drives with data) and, on the other hand, we line up on Boxing Day to buy hardcover books because they're on sale for $10 a pop. On one had, we consume more and more content in digital channels like blogs, online news sites and others, but on the other hand, we run out to buy the last print edition of Newsweek. On one hand, we want our e-books delivered to us as fast we can hit the Buy Now With 1-Click button, but on the other hand, we shoot long-form videos and post them to YouTube when Seth Godin's latest book shows up on our doorsteps:

What does "quality" mean to you?

In watching the two videos above, it becomes abundantly clear that we have yet to cross the chasm that enables us to feel that same something for products in a digital format that we have for the physical and analog. It's starting to shift (look at how passionate people are about their playlists), but we're not there yet. Human beings take a serious amount of time to adapt to massive changes. We're in a moment of exponential growth as the digitization of things becomes more pervasive. So, it's important as an engine of marketing that you take a cold, hard look at how you connect people with your brand and figure out how you can attract them with both the physical and the digital. Sure, Seth Godin can get millions of people to download a free PDF book, but in the same instance, if his physical books aren't able to be picked up at the local Barnes & Noble or airport bookstore, his sales are affected. People like having his books on their desks, on their bookshelves and, on their persons. There's still something about picking up the latest edition of The New York Times and thumbing through it over an espresso at your local coffee shop. Sure, tablets are shifting and adjusting this kind of reading, but for anything serious, it must be bought on paper.

This isn't me.

I've heard people say to me, "Mitch, you're always on your iPhone!" What if I told you that 85% of the time, it is because I am reading a book on my Kindle app? Does that change your perspective. If those same people saw me reading a physical book, their intonation and brand perception of me would be different. It would be something like: "Wow, Mitch is always reading some kind of interesting book..." It's a market of one example, but it's true: if it's digital and on my smartphone it can't be anything important and substantive.

2013 is going to be an important year: the digital will become something of quality. It has begun.

By Mitch Joel