How the Media Is Changing (Part 2 of 3)

Gutenberg invented the printing press more than 500 years ago. Then came photography, the telephone, film and the phonograph in the 19th century, later television and the World Wide Web. A vast interval of time spanning over 500 years -- leading to the media reality as we know it today.

The publisher Hubert Burda recognized the potential of the digital revolution early on. For the last few decades he has occupied himself with understanding this topic.

This shows in his latest book "Diary on the Digital Revolution," which is a compilation of personal notes, presentations, conferences and encounters from the last 25 years.


February 2005 // Fundamental movements

Overall, magazines' development and composition is essentially complete, except for their internationalization. Now it is a matter of benefitting from the digital revolution, which should run for at least another 10 years. It's a matter of movement and shifts, innovation, and not getting stuck -- and that is important to me.

The advertising business is changing in a fundamental way -- away from the conventional target group and toward the community. People in certain life situations may be more interested in finance, health, or the digital lifestyle. That ends up on the web -- and with one click, I'm in the target group.

August 2008 // The future of magazines

Now we have this entirely new and grand Internet medium and the phenomena of search engines. Many companies failed to grasp how it would affect their business. In this day and age, there is no such thing as the status quo. Of the 260 magazines that we publish, I cannot tell you which ones will still be in existence 10 years from now. I only know that there certainly will not be 300, and most likely far less.

June 2009 // We are stealthily being dispossessed

Online advertising works, although it lands especially on search engines, like Google and Yahoo. They achieve much higher revenues online than the websites of publishing companies. Journalistic websites also benefit from search engines forwarding users to them, but it must be noted that this is not a sustainable business model for journalistic quality on the Internet. Publishing companies still do not have sufficient protection for their journalistic online products. Search engines, as well as providers and other suppliers, profit to a disproportional degree from our content generated at high cost. However, those who commercially use the work of others have to pay for it. This fundamental economic principle must also apply in the digital age with its "link-oriented economy."

September 2009 // Old and new trade routes

I have always seen the period of change around 1500 as comparable to the year 2000. Back then, Gutenberg's invention of the printing press had occurred 40 years prior (1458), just like the start of the internet dates back 40 years.

Business, goods, transportation routes, political relationships, and financial structures changed very quickly back then. This era has always interested me as a current example for our business today.

My basic thesis is that the land routes, which we call "old media" today, did not cease to exist. In the past, these routes had to change mainly because of the types of goods being transported. When Christopher Columbus discovered America, something new happened in the seafaring realm. After the printing press was invented, this discovery was the second greatest epochal event of this period of change. The sophisticated, world-traveling merchant became a symbol of this era.

The major figures of that time reflect upheaval, as represented by the Fugger family and its worldwide trading empire or artists like Albrecht Dürer, who once went to Venice and later moved to Antwerp because he thought the Habsburgs would be more lucrative customers.

January 2010 // Collecting

It is a world that is in the process of continually collecting, connecting, interlinking, and thereby holding together the knowledge that exists.

November 2010 // The Internet's "Wunderkammer" (cabinet of curiosities)

Today's cabinets of curiosities are not those seen in royal treasures centuries ago, but those represented by Google and Facebook. In the past, the royal collectors decided what would go into the cabinet. Nowadays, that task is accomplished by the Google algorithm.

July 2011 // Press lords

It is the biggest changing of the guard ever seen in the media world: The so-called press lords and moguls, like Murdoch, are stepping down. The newcomers are often barely 30 years old, much like the founders and owners of Google, Facebook, and Apple. This generational shift can no longer be undone. They are the masters of the platform, and Google can basically take down all competitors if it wants to. What I don't know for sure yet is how consumer behavior is going to evolve.

June 2014 // June 12

Frank Schirrmacher's passing is a great loss. Among the intellectuals, he along with Friedrich Kittler was the only one who understood the philosophical dimensions of the internet. He took on the topic not just for his own sake, but he was also able to convey his concerns through his newspaper.

November 2012 // Amazon

One has to acknowledge that commerce as a whole has changed. I am sometimes outraged that even the best publishing companies hardly paid any attention to e-books. Almost no one wants to admit the genius of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Apparently, many have failed to see that Amazon has become the world's biggest retail company.

October 2014 // Eric Schmidt's secret meeting

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" finds out about a meeting between Eric Schmidt and representatives of Facebook, Dropbox, and Microsoft at an event in Palo Alto. Schmidt clearly makes a case against European data protection proposals. The Internet is American. Berlin and Brussels slowly wake up and develop plans to counter the American hegemony.

November 2014 // Infosphere

The Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, ZKM) is planning an exhibition by the name of "Globale" for June 2015. One of the focus areas will be the "infosphere."

"Besides the atmosphere that is essential for humans to live on this Earth as biological beings, an infosphere is also required for 7 billion people to live together as social beings. It consists of a globe-spanning, wireless communications network based on electromagnetic waves (radio, television, telephone, satellite, Internet, etc.).

This will ensure a global exchange of data and goods organized by data traffic. The risk of pollution exists for the infosphere as it does for the atmosphere. Freedom of the infosphere should thus become a law and the Bible needs to have an 11th commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's data.

This post is excerpted from Hubert Burda's book, "Diary on the Digital Revolution: Notes from 1990-2015."