"Playboy is digitizing its entire archive. All 636 issues of the magazine will be rendered page-by-page on six disks, one for each decade. Price: $100 per disk.
What a mistake. Every time a new medium arrives, older media players think, "What an opportunity to extend our franchise." So magazines and newspapers and radio and TV outlets are jumping all over themselves to digitize their brands."
That's where my attitude went from, "hey cool! An Al Ries article!" to "Are you fucking kidding me?"
He goes on to explain how Playboy shares are half what they were when the company went public in 1971, and how the 2.9 billion dollar company still lost 75 million last year.
Right. It isn't a branding problem. It isn't a relevancy problem. It isn't a conservatism issue. Nor does it have anything to do with Hefner's oddities or bad press. Not the creepiness of an elderly man dating seven twenty-something blondes. Nope. It's because they're moving along down the digital highway. Ideological curmudgeonism? Check.
And Ries continues,"Every print publication thinks it needs to expand into the internet to be successful. It's exactly the opposite. Stay where you are and launch a new brand on the web."
What the? Are you? Can he? Did he?
Well, give him points for shock value, I guess. And he goes on to failures that other companies have had in crossing on from one medium to another. He did get it right that those failures generally happen when those shifts are mishandled, but that hardly means that it shouldn't happen.
It's never a winning strategy to allow your brand to become irrelevant. No way would it make sense for the New York Times to waste away only on paper rather than remaining relevant to a class of people like myself who no longer reads the back of dead trees. I love the NY Times, but I haven't picked up any kind of paper in more than a year.
Yet Ries says, "Putting a magazine on radio or TV never worked either. Literally dozens of publications tried to take their successful print formula into the radio and TV arena. They all failed." An argument based solely in deception, as if the the printed word in print and internet form is the same as a magazine taken to newscast.
More than that, the idea that brands can't crossover from one medium to another is bullshit. Would that argument also follow to NBC or CBS? Should they have just stayed in radio? Or ABC, should they have just stayed in TV and not gone to radio?
Now, I agree, many of these traditional media sites have had a serious learning curve, but I'd still be the first to tip my cap to them for working hard and spending millions to stay relevant to a new generation of people only willing to accept traditional media in an adaptive form. To argue them back into their shells, away from change, is insane, idiotic and plainly wrong.
*Update: I'm dumb and spelled Ries wrong in the title. Fixed now. (thank ya, ma'am.)
*Update 2: Peter Kim also didn't agree with the article. He cracked me up with the line, "I guess the worst thing you can be is in the middle - it's refreshing to hear a voice that's consistently wrong." Kudos for that one...
*Update 3: I'm dumb and also spelled Ries wrong in the body. Fixed now.
"Newspaper brands never made it big on radio. Radio brands never made it big on broadcast television. Broadcast TV brands never made it big on cable. Cable brands never made it big with magazines. And newspaper, magazine, radio, and television brands never made it big on the Internet."
My response is down in the comments (here).
*Update 5: High fives to me for spelling Laura's last name right!
*Update 6: And, yes, I realize I'm inflammatory, so stop emailing me. I still think she's awesome.