AdAge‘s  has a very smart article on their site today, should be a must-read for anyone who wants to publish, be it as a marketer, content provider, or brand.

As he says in the piece, In Order To Build the Future Systems of Content, Forget the Past, we (the publishing people) are beyond the point of simply producing content and throwing it out to a print subscriber base of consumers. We now have the tools to target very specific consumers not just as a nicely, narrowly defined audience, but now a better defined, bigger audience.

The more interesting point of his story is that these great new tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and my old friend targeted email, are just the beginning. What comes next is what’s more interesting. What is that? That’s not as important as being ready for it.

As he says, put yourself in the position of Henry Ford;

But the model won’t help if the thinking in our newsrooms is akin to the famous quote attributed to Henry Ford about the mindset of consumers: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

His point of course is similar to the approach other great thinkers have taken, like Steve Jobs when he said:

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

This borders on “burying the lede,” but it is a great way to wrap up the story:

If you are a brand thinking about the challenges of the age of social media, start by asking yourself, “What is different now than in the past and what are the tools that we have at our fingertips?” If the answers make you feel as if you are treading into territory never documented before, that’s a good thing. As many have noted, the biggest mistake we make in a new medium is mirroring the process of an old one.