The Content Machine

If we’re all publishers now – bloggers, tweeters, photo sharers, commentators, status updaters, product reviewers, content curators – where does that leave the actual publishing industry? What’s the future for a profession when the problem it was designed to solve – the difficulty of getting written information out into the world – no longer exists?

Michael Baskhar’s The Content Machine is the latest attempt to develop a ‘theory of publishing’, and to start to map out a direction for an industry that seems to have been in crisis for at least the last twenty years.

Analysing the history and changing role of the publishing business, Baskhar’s core argument is that “if publishing means anything… it lies in the idea of amplification”.

In other words: it’s not enough to just press the ‘update’, ‘submit’ or ‘publish’ button on your content. Anybody can do that.  The value that The Professional Publisher can add, Baskhar suggests, is in disseminating content: in making sure that people actually find and consume the content produced.

He even goes so far as to argue that content only becomes communication “with a further intervention; publishing itself, not content alone, creates the act of communication”. Which is both obvious (publishing=marketing) and very much worth thinking about for everyone who produces content (which is all of us, remember).

There’s lots of good stuff in here, particularly when Baskhar talks about the early development of mobile-only fiction in East Asia, although publishing professionals may be disappointed that the book doesn’t, ultimately, provide a clear solution to the industry’s ills.

I’m also not sure how convincing his Content+Frame+Model theory is when held up against Brian O’Leary’s much less product-centric Content/Context/Container theory  (to which Baskhar nods).

But then Baskhar is, ultimately, working within constraints defined by a specific end product – The Book. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts on publishing processes that are less platform-focussed.