"But I'm not a content provider -- I sell shoes."
During a recent layover in Tulsa, I got into a conversation with an executive from a popular shoe company, and it wasn't going well. When we boarded the flight in New York City he thought he was in the shoe business, exclusively. Fifteen hundred miles later, I was beginning to convince him otherwise.
"I have some news," I said with the kind of affable pugnacity people either love or hate about me. "In the digital age, every business is in the publishing industry."
I'll repeat it again because it's that important: In the digital age, every business is in the publishing industry. And you can thank technology for that.
When technology (read: the Internet) became the nucleus of our lives, it changed the DNA of many businesses. But only a handful was as violently disrupted as the publishing industry.
For over a hundred years, the publishing supply chain remained relatively static: writer creates content; publisher edits, markets and prints content; retailer distributes content. That's it. End of story. But the Internet shook everything up by streamlining the entire process and creating a new model: content creator writes, edits, markets, publishes and distributes content.
Does this system still require a platform? Yes, of course. Is it the kind of brick and mortar outfit that once stood so pervasively between creator and consumer? Absolutely not. Content in 2012 is designed to be shareable, connectable. Creator meet consumer. Consumer meet creator.
This new approach to words-on-the-page has caused a dramatic power shift and leveled the playing field for businesses and individuals alike, providing a unique opportunity for everyone to become publishers -- something businesses should wholeheartedly embrace. And not just because it's the current trend.
Building a platform of compelling and authentic content can have a slew of positive effects on your business. It can help build brand loyalty, develop thought leadership (the real kind), increase sales, create a better culture, gain valuable permission assets, and the list goes on and on.
But most importantly, becoming a publisher can provide the rare and special opportunity to develop a direct link between business and consumer. No more middleman. No more relying on media companies for coverage. Now if you want hype, you can create it yourself.
I'm not saying that entering the publishing game is easy; the shoe executive from New York City was right to be a little frightened. Creating valuable content is about more than just the act itself: it's about the strategy and development behind it. In other words, a business must understand both the how and the why of what they publish. That's when it works.
To deny such a valuable tool because it's scary and new is to overlook an entire category of innovation. What's more, it's essentially giving your competitor an open invitation to dominate the market.
So allow me to say it once again -- and this time, write it down. In the digital age, every business is in the publishing industry. And that includes yours.