What's New In Communications and Publishing Today

by Patrika Vaughn
The Internet Writing Journal, April 2001
Introduction

Global competition is the issue -- but the subject is you and your company. This subject is of critical importance, because....

Your Business May Be At Stake.

No matter whether you are a manufacturer/ wholesaler/ retailer/ service provider or government entity, you either are or soon will be affected by global competition. Europeans know this and have responded by banding together to create the Eurodollar as one means of making Europe more competitive in the global economy. We live in an age of rapid change, and require the more efficient communications and exchanges that a common currency can bring. Every company, organization and corporation on the planet must gear up in some way to deal with the challenges of the breathless growth and change we are all undergoing today.

The size of your organization doesn't matter. Small retail and service shops are as vulnerable as the largest corporate giants -- though findings indicate that Europe's fastest-growing firms in the global economy are the smaller ones.

In the past five years Europe's 500 fastest-growing company's created more than 180,000 jobs -- just as Europe's 500 largest company's slashed their payrolls by 600,000. These numbers parallel those in North America, and seem to indicate that the future of business (and particularly online business) is in smaller companies.

Though smaller companies have significantly smaller promotion and advertising budgets, such online innovations as e-zines tend to equalize. While larger companies have more resources, smaller companies have the advantage of flexibility -- of being able to adapt to change as it occurs in the ways we communicate and do business. We'll be looking at these specifics extensively -- but first let's look at the big picture:

It's important to look at the 21st Century as one full of opportunities, not problems. We're living in a time of rapid growth and change. As existing systems/products/services are rapidly becoming obsolete, there is a need for constant learning and innovation.

Someone is out there inventing a process, product or service that could make you obsolete overnight, and you know it. You may even know what that process/product /service will focus on, yet not have the slightest idea what you should be doing about it. It's a problem waiting to happen in the 21st Century.

Part I - 21st Century Marketing

Chapter 1: What's New In Communications Today

We live in an environment today of what I call the datasphere. The datasphere is composed of television, radio, newspapers, magazines and now, of course, cell phones, the internet, voice mail, email, and all the newly exploding forms of communication. This datasphere can instantly transmit information anywhere around the world in seconds. This is a great thing. But it results in quick, constant change. Some people predict that entire industries, such as travel agencies and stock brokerages, will disappear and be replaced by the internet. Because of the speed of change, the number of jobs eliminated from the traditional market is probably going to grow exponentially. In the U.S. alone we are currently losing 500,000 jobs a year which are replaced by technology, and some predict that by 2004 or 2005, this might grow to a million jobs a year.

There is little we can count on remaining the same today, except for the Rules of Chocolate, and today's communication needs remind me a little of Rule #1 for chocolate: if you've got melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly.

Likewise, if you're not constantly updating your methods of communication, you no doubt are communicating too slowly.

We're going to be discussing recent innovations in communications -- from print to audio and video, to the constantly new forms available through the internet. My hope is to give you the information you need to successfully move yourself and your company into the 21st Century. Let's begin by looking at what's new in communications. Many of the more recent innovations in communications are net-based:
  1. There are over 20,000 news and discussion groups (usenet) on the net, covering almost any subject you can think of. These groups allow you to search for information, get help, swap ideas, join in discussions.

  2. I-net chats (IRC) allow you to chat with people from all over the world through your computer keyboard

  3. I-net phone Using your sound card and a microphone, you can speak to people around the world in real time.

  4. Internet video conferencing is still in its infancy but this is developing rapidly, as communications become faster. Using a small camera (just larger than a golf ball) you can see and speak to people around the world in real time.

  5. Real audio You can now listen to hundreds of radio stations from all over the world transmitting worldwide

    On the lighter side, there is:
  6. Streaming video (audio/video combination that lets you watch the latest music video and other film clips as they are released by major artists and film companies. You can now even make a streaming audio/video info-mercial on the net.

  7. Multi-player games allow you to play a variety of games with people all over the world, from bridge to the latest interactive driving and "shoot em up" games.

  8. Online shopping. Lets you order goods/services worldwide, to be delivered to your door
Growth. Change. Rapid world-wide communication. Are you and your company ready? Here are questions to ask yourself to find out:
  1. What kinds of product/service will satisfy my customers' wants/ needs in five years?
  2. What trends are forming in my industry?
  3. Who are the movers and shakers, and what are they saying?
  4. Who can I identify right now as potential competition?
You may not have answers to these important questions. If not, (1) you'll need to search them out. For information on the future, read your trade journals, magazines and newsletters, and don't forget to examine foreign materials, readily available through the net. Much American material is available through the U.S. Department of Commerce

Once you understand the products/services that will be needed in the future, it will be relatively easy to (2) identify the changes needed to enter the new century. You're "here" and you want to be "there". Make two lists, one defining changes needed to existing performancesand the other defining new ways that will have to be developed from scratch.

It will be relatively easy for your company to: add equipment, change manufacturing sequences, re-arrange your store or office, for instance. But it will be less easy to meet your company's people objectives and these are two-fold:
  1. to update the attitudes, ideas & skills of the people within your organization
  2. to inform your public that you are able to fill their wants/needs
These people objectives can take time, and usually require supporting materials, such as books, reports, newsletters, etc. This means you will have to create communication tools, both internally and externally, for employees and clients -- everything from employee manuals and frequent internal memos, to books and audio and video presentations for your clients. Those of you working for an organization must keep in mind that although you are an expert on your subject and may have written books, you are not primarily an author, publisher or publicist: you are an information provider, and it has become necessary to provide that information at a faster and faster clip.

Rapid communication has become essential for survival. This is reflected in our new ways of doing things:

JOB TRAINING: It now requires a minimum of 1.3 yrs of post-secondary education, but less than a B.A. degree for a U.S. citizen to be economically self-sufficient. In Florida, community colleges are now training for a virtual world by adding a one-year certificate program to their curricula. Their emphasis used to be on transfer education (to four-year institutions): Now they are getting involved in economic development, preparing students for the high-tech industry and high annual salaries. Junior colleges have moved into the educational area formerly provided by vocational tech schools.

TEACHING is now going online, world-wide, becoming more one-on-one: thru email communications (tutorials).

Steve Morrill, Dean of WritersCollege.com claims:
1) The entire concept of the university as a physical place with buildings is doomed. A California student can now get a full university degree without ever setting foot on a campus. Florida has a virtual high school already, operated entirely on the Web and offering the standard State diploma.

Steve predicts that in 50 years, the college campus will be a thing of the past. As computers and web access become cheaper many students, now denied college because they can't afford the high cost, will be able to access online education.

2) Steve notes that online teaching today is still rudimentary: "Today all we do is use the technology to reach an audience we couldn't otherwise reach. But the second part of the equation, using the full capabilities of the computer/web instrument to teach in a whole new way, is yet to come." Steve predicts that within a few years we'll be using photos, live TV, sound and full hypertextual documents, to teach in a multi-disciplined, multiple-input fashion. "It will return us to the Stone Age, when the cave man taught the cave boy using the world around as the classroom and every sight/sound,/smell/feel was interrelated to everything else."

3) Steve also points out that private business has huge advantages over academia -- so long as the private businesses stay small and innovative. The bureaucracy of academia tends to get in the way. Assuming decent funding, a private company can just go buy the machines it needs. It can hire and fire at will. The overriding need to clear a profit makes internal jealousies and bureaucracy counterproductive. Changes in direction are swiftly made as needed.

Online teaching is effective for updating employees, both within your provider company and to teach your clients' employees how to utilize new services being offered. All of us need to think about how to utilize online teaching, both for our in-house training classes and with our information outreach to clients and customers.

In addition to Job Training and Teaching, we're also doing our corresponding differently:

CORRESPONDING: Fewer letters are being written: more and more communications are being done by fax or thru such Net capabilities as email. AOL alone has 17 million members worldwide. In the U.S. Thirty million people used email in the past 24 hours. This year that number is expected to grow to 108-million. Expect to receive an average of 178 messages per day as we move into the 21st Century.

We're exchanging information in many new ways:

INFORMATION EXCHANGE
Talk: It is predicted that the current 160 million cellular phone users will rise to 300 million this year, and mobile services are expanding to include a range of text and data services, providing news, sports results, stock exchange and other data...going from voice to visual. Other new talk technologies include internet discussion groups; chats; internet phone; video conferencing.

Document-exchange: The internet makes information-transfer instant and inexpensive, and email allows messages to go to multiple recipients simultaneously.

Documents, even manuscripts, can be transmitted instantaneously, from authors to publishers. On-demand printing and e-books make entire books available in moments.

PUBLISHING
Today books can be published electronically, without ever appearing on paper or waiting for the cumbersome process of printing: e-publishing is nearly instant publishing.

And the new On-Demand printing allows books to stay in print forever, making it possible for books with limited audiences to be made available.

So, let me remind you of the first rule of chocolate: if you have melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly. Rapid communication keeps your hands clean and keeps you growing and innovating. It has become essential for survival. This is reflected in our new communications styles, both internally and externally, and include:

TODAY'S COMMUNICATION VEHICLES:

Internal Vehicles: External Vehicles: Now let's look at the trends these new communications methods have produced in publishing (overview of trends, opportunities, demands, restrictions):

PUBLISHING TODAY

Publishing is a whole new ball game and the old rules don't apply: Getting published today is difficult and confusing but opportunities are there for information providers (you writers) IF you know how to navigate the new publishing landscape.

Let me illustrate that with a story:
There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later, the company contacted him about what seemed like an impossible problem they were having with one of their multi-million-dollar machines. They'd tried everything to get the machine fixed, but nothing had worked. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who'd solved so many of their problems in the past.

The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and proudly stated, "This is where your problem is."

The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer. They demanded an itemized accounting. The engineer responded: One chalk mark $l. Knowing where to put it $49,999. It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.
It's the same with publishing today: if you know where to put your "x" your communications will succeed.

Niche publishers and co-op publishers are more viable today than ever, and electronic publishing and marketing have added a whole new dimension to cost-effective communications and distribution.

**Patrika Vaughn is the world's leading Author's Advocate. Over the past 25 years she has served as a professional writer, ghostwriter, editor, publisher, literary agent and teacher of creative writing. She is also a marketing and public relations consultant, serving business, industry, non-profit corporations and individual authors. Her works have appeared in more than 100 national publications and she is listed in The International Authors and Writer's Who's Who.

The above article is an excerpt from her ebook and seminar, Selling to International Markets.

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