How Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google Are Changing Publishing

Scott Galloway“It’s these guys’ worlds. We just post in it and shop in it,” said New York University Professor Scott Galloway of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google at Digital Book World 2016. During a talk called “The Four Horsemen,” Galloway argued that these four companies are taking over the world and continually disrupting the publishing ecosystem.

“I can’t get enough of television. I love Game of Thrones. These four firms are dragons,” Galloway explained. “When they’re smaller, they’re fine—you can throw rats at them. As they get bigger, they eat cities. It’s not a question of what businesses they’ll go into because it’s not if—it’s when.”

To prove his point, Galloway said Facebook has grown faster than any company, with more than 10 billion dollars in revenue.

“In 2010, I predicted Facebook would be the most important thing and I was wrong,” he continued. “But it will be. It will be more important than Buddha, Allah and the Kardashians.”

Victims of these companies are aplenty, but Galloway highlighted advertising companies and magazines specifically.

“This is a zero-sum game right now,” he said, regarding the victims.

Galloway believes ad companies will still be around in the future, but a bad place to work at. Ad tech companies will be a great industry to work in, he contends, as long as you’re working for Facebook or Google. As for magazines, they will be “Facebooked.”

“The future of advertising is a winner take all economy with fewer and fewer exits,” Galloway added. “Traditional advertising doesn’t equal success.”

Apple and Amazon continue to dominate retail, Galloway explained, with Amazon responsible for 51 percent of growth online.

“Amazon has changed the game like Game of Thrones [changed television]. It changed profits with vision and growth and put everyone in a box. Amazon says ‘We don’t need to be profitable, but we’ve convinced you that you do.’”

As for the future of innovation, Galloway thinks we’ll be seeing more head fakes in technology, disruption in education, and a virtual reality takeover that will drastically affect the content business.

At the end of his talk, Galloway asked the audience to consider whether these technological advances are helping humanity in any way.

“There is a lot of idolatry of money and of innovators. Steve Jobs is our Jesus Christ. We go to churches called innovation conferences,” he said. “We’re in fact taking the greatest IQ concentration together [at these companies], but are we addressing the real problems of the world?”


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One thought on “How Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google Are Changing Publishing

  1. Michael W. Perry

    Amazon changing publishing? Certainly and mostly for the worse. A monolithic business is an unhealthy one. That said, I’m encouraged at glimpses that Amazon wants its ebooks to look less dull and ugly. That is good news. Now if they’ll again support mobi/KF8 export from InDesign.

    Apple? No, the company’s music-addled leadership could care less about publishing. They’re so shallow intellectually, they confuse Bono’s music with having deep thoughts about life and thus see little need for books. The iBookstore team are fine people, but they get little corporate support. Books on the iBookstore get little visibility outside the iBooks app. The iBooks app remains Apple only. That’s a bit like a gas station that’ll only sell to Ford owners. And while it is great that publishers can sell industry-standard reflowable and fixed-format ePub versions of their ebooks, they still can’t sell them as part of a single package. Readers have to buy twice. That’s stupid.

    Google? Don’t be silly. Google is a royal pain for those segments of publishing that depend on advertising, mostly magazines and newspapers. For the rest of us it’s a meh-factor with one exception. Dumping crudely scanned, dreadfully OCRed versions of books illustrates how bad but free drives out good. The bad versions of books that Google publishes as an advertising hook make it hard to publish good quality modern editions. Google not only is the junk dealer of the publishing world, it doesn’t even know publishing well enough to know it’s selling junk. Worst than anyone else, it confuses server farms filled bits with genuine books. That illustrates that while geeks get gadgets, they rarely seem to get ideas, particularly those linked to our humanity.

    There are those who’re doing publishing a great service. The family-owned Ingram is one, as is the author-supporting Mark Croker at Smashwords. Adobe is to be commended for creating an excellent product line for publishing in the broadest sense (i.e. including multi-media). But the development of InDesign seems to have languished since they shifted to Creative Cloud subscriptions.

    As for Steve Jobs, we all need to ask ourselves two critical questions. First, was he right when he claimed that he and many of his high-tech colleagues had seen the harm all this technology can do to growing minds (i.e. tablets) and severely restricted their kids’s access to it. Second, if they believe in that harm, why are they so eager to make billions promoting that technology for other people’s kids? But, then again, when I mentioned those billions, maybe I answered that question. Often, it really is all about the money.

    J. R. R. Tolkien had one of his characters remark that \All that glitters is not gold.\ It’s equally true that \all that’s new is not good.\ More and more I’m impressed by the Amish who look at a new technology, evaluated its costs and benefits, and accept or reject it on those grounds. We need to think more deeply about technology and be more selective in our adoption of it. That’s perhaps one of the points that Professor Galloway wanted to make.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

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