Saturday, December 20, 2008

Printers are Part of the Education Business

But they don't realize it. Printers print. Commercial printers print for people who pay them. In the era that is now ending, many commercial printers were in the power of marketers/advertisers who bought Print because it was the easiest way to sell stuff.

Today, Print is no longer the only way to sell stuff. Some printers are having a hard time figuring out how they are going to get paid for the books, news(letters) and posters that they print.

Advertising/marketing is moving to Search and social networks. On the internet, that means Google, Microsoft,Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter. In the real world Search and social networks happen in families, stores, at events and from whatever information emitting products are present in physical environments. That usually means Print.

In the days of information inequality, it was easier to persuade people to buy things. These days persuading is being replaced by being accessible. When people search, they now expect to find what they are looking for.

But Printers, like newspapers, are having a hard time looking past marketing and advertising. There is still lots of money on the table. But until they change their focus, they are going to struggle to get a piece of an ever shrinking market.

So, if "starve the past, invest in the future" is a plausible business approach, printers need to understand their role in learning. Learning is part of life. Once freed from "educational" institutional restraints, it's a growing market. When the global need for learning is considered, it may turn out to be the biggest market Printers have ever had.

A printed piece is either a tool, a toy or a token. Toys amuse. Tokens make the invisible, visible. Tools are "must haves." Highly designed beautiful things are toys. Self published books, family calendars and photo books are tokens. Books, news(letters) and posters are the most highly evolved tools for learning.

Everyone on the planet needs to be learning. As civilization starts to come up against physical constraints on growth, everyone has to get much smarter to figure out ways to use less to make more. The only way to get smarter is to learn. In that context it's not surprising that President-Elect Obama is going to invest heavily in education.

In a world of information inequality, formal institutions have been the place where knowledge is transferred and learning is supposed to happen. In a world of information equality, they are losing their competitive advantage. Now it's possible to eliminate a lot of overhead in buildings, physical proximity, time spent on Tuesday morning from 9 to 11:30 sitting in a "talk and chalk" presentation.

The technology allows asynchronous communication that generates it's own data stream. Feedback loops that measure and inform the process are both possible, scalable and very, very inexpensive. Feedback loops encourage natural improvement. But, contrary to the conventional wisdom in media, people live in the real world, not in hyperspace. Even the active minority that communicate via Screen - computers, cell phones and ebooks - live in physical space.

Once in physical space, Print is still the queen of the media. Signs (posters), news(letters) and books are the information products of physical space. Until now, Print was too slow to market. It is not anymore. Until now use based data streams were not generated by Print. It's not anymore. Once the hurdles of time and data stream generation have been overcome, the intrinsic advantages of Print can re emerge.

In the first edition of Edge Conditions, I selected and published to the screen some bytes about how Print can talk to the Cloud. In the post, TransInfo, Not TransPromo, I talked about publishing the information in the Cloud to Print in the service of changing behavior.

The most important behavior that needs to be changed is to learn how to make better decisions. The most important outcome is smarter people - the operational indicator of education. Until now the efficiencies of communication, which are at the heart of education, have generated excess money that has been captured by institutions. Consider textbooks or standardized high stakes testing or the cost of higher ed or the cost of career technical education.

But the drive to educate faster, better cheaper is leading to new approaches that can distribute that value to the users. We are seeing: cheaper, better, faster alternatives to textbooks; discussions that are starting in the Federal Government on the cost of higher education; and outcome based measures of high school and technical education.

Never underestimate the blind spot that technologists have to the value of Print. Unfortunately it's part of their DNA. But people on the ground understand that the Book is a perfect tool for reading, not scanning. (Kids love to scan. Smart people - kids or adults - love to read.) The Poster - sometimes in the form of a postcard or a club card - is a perfect way to bring information into the physical world. And the News(letter) - the Church bulletin, the New York Times, or the non profit's brochure - is the perfect Search product in the physical world.

Printers make books, posters and news(letters). In a world of information equality, the amount of information that is in the Cloud is growing exponentially. Much of it wants to appear in Print. The only hard part left is to figure out how to make money from publishing it to Print.

Keep in mind that Gutenberg never figured out how to make money. That needed Fust. Figuring out how to make money is called "business development." That was Fust's job. As long as everyone does their job, things usually work out very nicely.

People talk. Designers design. Printers print.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Newspapers are in the Education Business

Now all they have to do is realize it. The real job of newspapers is to educate, inform and entertain. Lately they thought their job was to aggregate "eyeballs" and sell them to advertisers. Now that advertising is moving to Search, it's hard to make a dollar selling eyeballs.

It's the railroad problem.
Papers now seem to be the equivalent of the railroads at the start of the twentieth century—a once-great business eclipsed by a new technology. In a famous 1960 article called “Marketing Myopia,” Theodore Levitt held up the railroads as a quintessential example of companies’ inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Levitt argued that a focus on products rather than on customers led the companies to misunderstand their core business. Had the bosses realized that they were in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business, they could have moved into trucking and air transport, rather than letting other companies dominate. By extension, many argue that if newspapers had understood they were in the information business, rather than the print business, they would have adapted more quickly and more successfully to the Net. from the New Yorker
But, it seems that at least one paper, has started an "Institute." Sooner or later someone at a newspaper will notice that the education business is the most profitable business in the USA.

Found this at Editor's Weblog
A California daily has formed "The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism," in response to the "changing face" of the industry, according to an editor.
. . .
The course, instructed by Press staff, is open to anyone, "from high school students to retirees," and upon completing the course participants will be considered for freelance positions.
The natural next step is to restrict admissions and get some school to give them cert cover. Or to make it a Charter Technical Education High School. Or to replace the textbook industry that is ready to fall, anyway. If they deliver education, the cert giving school gets a small piece of the revenue, the newspaper has a new source of income, the kids get a really useful education. If newspapers replace textbooks, the revenue stream is pretty clear.

Advances in communication makes much of the educational overhead less necessary. Higher Ed lives in a protected market. The State controls the right to sell certification. The cost of producing learning should be going down. But it's going up. No doubt, there is a top tier of schools that are doing the traditional sort 'em out and nourish the smart ones. But there are also many schools of Higher Ed, that talk the talk, but don't really do their jobs. Not doing their job does not mean not making money. Consider newspapers in the 70's,80's and 90's.

Meanwhile, everyone "knows" that everyone needs a college degree. The market naturally renews every year. More money for "education" is Mom and Apple Pie. My bet is that after January 20, the Federal Government is going to be in the market for lots of Apple Pie. Meanwhile, adjuncts teach most courses at low salaries. Buildings and overhead go up. The spread between cost of learning and the price charged is captured by the institution as opposed to shared with students and teachers.

Sooner or later, a newspaper will realize that the value of learning is the activity and the teacher. Newspapers just have to hire the teachers and change the activities slightly, and they can get a piece of the action.

It may well turn out that as newspapers search for new revenue streams, it's going to mean the end of the textbooks industry and the end of Higher Ed as we've known it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TransInfo not TransPromo

I got into a thought provoking discussion over at Transpromo Live about the recent InfoPrint TransPromo campaign. Since I've hated the word Transpromo from the first day I heard it, when Lee Gallagher explained what it really could mean, I was happy.
Lee said,
"To me, TransPromo is based on predictive analytics which allows the marketer gain a deeper insights into the their existing customer and their potential needs. Leveraging the predictive modeling, you are better able to target the needs to the customer as well as what messaging, promotions, and or information that may be of interest or drive a call to action. As Pat indicates, and I support, its the data analytics which drives the content and the result is relevant content which grows the customer relationship and loyalty." You can scan the rest of the conversation here.
If "based on predictive analytics" is changed to "can create predictive analytics", that's the thought that was provoked.

If you use a Purl based campaign in combination with personalized Print, you can find out who is interested enough in your offering to go to the website. As important we can know when that interest occured. Then you can use SEO techniques to see what they do once they are at your website. That's a lot of useful information about some people. Those "some" people are people who want to talk to you. In niche marketing, all you can expect to get are "some." If you treat them with respect, "some" is good enough.

An active "some" is the key to word of mouth and viral marketing. That's why some companies focus on evangelists. That's why Wal-Mart set up a mommy's blog. That's where you find the mavens and salesman that Gladwell describes in the Tipping Point. That's where you find the people who are twitter leaders. That's where Obama found the organizers for the ground game that got him elected.

The trick is that once that "some" have raised their hands, they need to be nurtured and supported, not with money or stuff, but with attention. Promo is about one type of exchange - money for stuff. Info is about other kinds of exchange - attention for attention. A click to a website is measurable form of attention. Posting to a blog is another. Adding to a twitter is still another. Every exchange throws off information about the time and motion of people who want to talk to you. Once you can analyze the time and motion of those special someone's, it's much easier to understand how they think and when they think it.

"TransPromo" is about promotion. "TransInfo" is about using exchanges to create new information. Everyone loves information. If the information created by tracking exchanges in real time are stored and analyzed, predictive analytics will get better. Predictive analytics is a discussion that can be held with the CMO or the CTO or the CFO or the CEO.

If I ran IBM or Xerox or Oce or Kodak or Screen, I would do the Printing, but sell the systems that store and analyze. If I were Mindfire or Xmpie, I would help with the Printing and sell the systems that store and analyze. Then I would price the systems based on the number of "somes" and how many times they exchanged attention. Instead of looking at ROI, I would focus on Return on Time, ROT. - Dr. Joe Webb

Since I believe that advertising is a shrinking market and education, health and government (EHG) are the growing markets, consider the organization value that could be created by better predictive analytics in schools, communities and hospitals. Could one use the tech to predict those students likely to be at risk? Or those patients likely to be non compliant in self administered medications?

Consider RFID, QR codes, Cell phones that read bar codes and take you to a website. More at Edge Conditions.

Now, consider the amount of wasted time and the long response times in EHG. Then consider the effects of late responses on desired outcomes in the education, health and government spaces.

More in later posts....