03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Small Is the New Big in Publishing

Publisher's Weekly recently reported the results of a survey that asked 840 international publishers how they'd most like to offer up digital content. The survey revealed:

Charging readers a flat rate that would allow them access to all of a information provider's online content similar to a traditional subscription model was favored by 25% of respondents, especially those from Europe. Paying for snippets of content through micropayments was favored by 23%, with that method backed the most in Great Britain and the U.S. The premium model, under which users would pay for selected online content, found support from 16% of respondents.

Which leaves me with a giant question ... who cares?

There's a tragic flaw with this survey which is indicative of the the very mindset that's holding the industry hostage.

It's asking the right questions ... to the wrong people.

Imagine starting a business by asking all of your competitors what their favorite way to sell their products was, but never asking the sea of prospective clients what they wanted to buy and how.

Hello ... Beuhler?!

That's what this survey does and, my fear is, it's mirroring what the broader industry is doing. What's behind this deliberate avoidance? Pain.

Nobody wants to hear what you've built over decades, if not centuries, needs a radical revamping. Because that forebears years of pain, risk of the unknown and sweeping change. And, as we've seen over the past year, big, old companies in any industry tend not to do the change dance all that well. Especially when shareholders, auditors and creditors are looking over their shoulders.

Thing is, the market doesn't particularly give a crap whether the big kids do the change thing well or not. This train has left the station and it ain't going back.

So where does that leave those whose blood, sweat, tears and money has helped to build the very industry that's now abandoning them?

Confused. And, if they don't respond ... screwed.

When you're in the trenches of a massive shift in paradigm, the survivors aren't those who hold on desperately to the old model or try to retrofit around "their" needs with minimal disruption. Because, it's not about "their" needs. It's about the market's. Even if retrofitting works short term, it's a stop gap. A band-aid.

Grasping onto the bastion model leaves you massively vulnerable to seemingly inconsequential upstarts who have the willingness to listen to the market, coupled with the desire and capital to build a fresh solution not around the quest to stay alive, but the desire and freedom to give the market what they want, how they want it, without reference to the past.

In my next few posts, I'll be spotlighting some nontraditional publishers and technology most people have probably never heard of, but who are doing amazing things, growing like wildfire and making serious jack ... even now. So, stay tuned.