The death of print publishing is coming, it’s just a matter of whether it happens in 5 years, 10 years, or 15 years. I’m betting it happens sooner than anyone expects. Colin Crawford, the SVP of online for IDG, posted some stunning figures:

Today the absolute dollar growth of our online revenues now exceeds the decline in our print revenues. This occurred in the US in 2006 and in Europe during the last quarter.

With this change in the revenue mix and the higher margins from our online businesses – the company is more profitably today than it has been previously.

and

In the US, our online revenue now accounts for over 35% of our total US publishing revenues. Next year, for many brands online revenues will be greater than print revenues, if fact they already are at some of our key brands and by 2009 – approximately 50% of IDG’s US revenues will come from online.

When you think about how fast the fundamental business model of publishing is changing, it’s truly mind boggling. These numbers are already moving faster than anyone expected last year — the rate of acceleration will continue to exceed expectations. Colin goes on to say:

The brutal reality that we’re facing today is the costly process of dismantling and replacing legacy operations and cultures and business models with ones with new and yet to be fully proven business models. However, we face greater risks if we don’t transform our organization and take some chances.

Print publishing is kept alive today only by inertia, because dismantling the business is a huge cost to bear, not because the business itself has any sustainable rationale. The efficiencies of digital distribution of information will soon reduce print publishing to an art form. There will be plenty of artistic reasons to publish in print, but for news and business information, it will become an utterly irrational undertaking.