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Bo Sacks gives the keynote speech on Day 1 of the Summer Publishing Institute

In his animated and lively presentation, Bo Sacks, owner of The Precision Media Group, told the students attending NYU’s 2010 Summer Publishing Institute that while print is not dead, it will not be the primary way to read in the future. His State of the Union address directed toward SPI’s aspiring media professionals offered a glimpse into the blurring lines between print and digital media.

Sacks highlighted some of the problems the publishing industry faces when trying to interpret how readers absorb knowledge from mass media and contemporary culture. He explained that today, consumers know how to find a fact by researching their needs online, rather than knowing a fact. Moreover, magazines have a beginning, middle and end whereas digital platforms offer endless possibilities.

No matter what the medium, says Sacks—whether it is through newer and better versions of tablets that will contain Qualcomm’s mirasol product debuting sometime in 2011, or some other light-reflective electronic paper currently on the market—superior content is the necessary tool for the survival of the publishing industry. Those left on the island will be swift, nimble, and niche scavengers. They will know how to monetize content and to use cutting edge technologies. And they will be adept at utilizing citizen journalism, social media and location-centric sites like Foursquare and Gowalla, not to mention understanding the importance of globalization. Sacks insisted that there must be accurate systems of accountability for all print products for a more sustainable environment.

Stressing the importance of a recurrence of ideas, Sacks invoked the popular TV-series Battlestar Galactica and declared: “All of this has happened before, and it will happen again.” He urged publishers to build on ideas of the past, in order to succeed in the future. He noted that we are living a world where the growth of magazine newsstand sales came to a standstill in 1990 and Ashton Kutcher has more fans on Twitter than the entire population of Norway, Ireland and Panama combined. The world, he explained, is rapidly progressing toward a digital future. In 25 years, Sacks predicts, only 15% of current print magazines will still exist. Ultimately, a question remains within the minds of publishers and SPI students alike: how do we get everyone on the same page during this moment of change? Will there ever be one source for all digital-print media that readers are able to access? Will the transformation from print to digital lose sight of the strong writing and voice of authority that makes up so much of what is currently published? Maybe, but as Sacks suggested, adaptation will inevitably push readers, writers and publishers into an exciting and rich new world of print and digital platforms.

by Ryan Willard

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