I’ve been prompted by Korash Sanjideh, the Creative Industries iNET Broker, to think about a series of workshops that would strengthen the regions publishing brands and safeguard their future in the post digital age.
The Truth: Digital revenues will not be enough to compensate shortfalls
Dan Franklin, Random House’s digital editor, says that the publishing industry is looking “into a void . . . heading into the unknown”.
It’s an uncomfortable truth, for most UK publishers revenue from their traditional revenue streams is tailing off and revenues from their lower priced digital products is not sufficient to compensate the shortfall in cash.
But publishing needn’t look into the void and a series of workshops that put the real dilemmas in publishing at the heart of the debate will help publishers be better informed and better equipped to refocus theirs businesses in the digital age.
Hence, a program of workshops designed to help publishers strengthen their businesses for the digital age will need to consider some of the following critical issues:
- The value chain. Has your position in the value chain been altered? Are the critical success factors that once defined you as pertinent as before? Are your specialist skills in editorial, print buying, time to market, content editing, content creation, manufacture, distribution and marketing as valuable as they once were? Read more on this question here
- Author needs. Are your authors or potential authors or subject experts still relying on you as an intermediary (connection to readers/users) or are they exploring their own direct relationships with readers via blogs and online social media? What bundles could you offer your authors to remain relevant?
- Content for social community. Beyond traditional authored content, what other ‘user generated content’ could you aggregate and leverage into your publishing model to provide discoverability for your online community of interest? This content needs to be relevant, social and sharable.
- Content affiliation. Which commercial stakeholders share content needs online? Are there any publishing partnerships to be forged with non-publishing companies seeking content for marketing and sales and to enhance their customers’ experience online? The budgets that brands are willing to spend on great content are significant and worth investigating. A high turnover of refreshed content is needed online.
- Relations with online distributors. How should you manage your relations with the large online distributors? How can you grow these relations whilst building direct-to-consumer relations? Now that customers are identifiable, contactable and trackable online, publishers need to build their businesses around customer knowledge and proximity.
Undoubtedly the biggest and most powerful change in publishing needs to be cultural. The cultural shift involves moving the focus in the business away from product (book or magazine) to consumer / reader.
From a focus on content to a focus on community
So, if you’ve been a gardening publisher for 15 years, you need to reinvent yourself as the provider of gardening know-how, expertise and solutions to all stakeholders in the world of gardening.
Refocusing a publishing business in this way means no longer considering ones business to be publishing but rather to be a key player in the industry of gardening and building and maintaining a brand community around gardening. That means focusing the key assets (human, IP and technological) on the brand community development. The Harvard Business Review looks at getting brand community right in more detail.
Viewing the core activity through the lens of community is the route to longer life expectancy. Core transformation in the genes of the business creates a new and essential vibrancy that breaths new life into publishing teams, providing much needed vital energy and dynamism to build a stronger business future. I’ve reported on my own experience of driving and managing this kind transformation in publishing here
Publishing businesses that transition to community in this way will discover that they have many new revenue streams to embrace. It means that dependency on their eroding books sales vanishes and is replaced by a new range of opportunities.
Evolving the revenue drivers in publishing
Andrew Davies, a friend and colleague at idio Platform provides a useful “ABCD revenue driver framework” which I’ve used on several occasions to help clients think through strategies for their publishing businesses. Briefly the framework looks like this:
Audience revenues: This category covers revenues that are a function of the audience size: purchase price and advertising and sponsorship revenues.
Brand revenues: This category denotes brand extensions such as events and new products in which the brand name is strong enough to develop new products in other categories. A publisher specialising in photography can develop, promote and manage photography field trips.
Content revenue: This is the opportunity for supplying the asset to other stakeholders. Magazines and book publishers can use their writers and their specialist knowledge to create branded content for other companies. Air France commissions Gallimard to do this in France.
Data revenue: As direct-to-consumer relationships increase, data becomes a more valuable asset for every publisher. This might be in the form of selling on marketing lists to interested brands, building insightful research from aggregate data, or selling through ancillary products to the current audience.
If I were to devise a program of workshops for publishers in the South West it would look something like this:
The focus would most likely be on implementation rather than idea generation because participants would need actionable takeaways.
I would develop a list of possible topics and invite publishers to whittle down the list to three or four core subjects to be the focus of deeper debate and exploration. The list would most likely include the following topics:
- eBooks marketplace / impact
- New publishing paradigm
- Marketing and sales
- Getting and making use of data
- Exploring revenue streams
- Exploring paid subscription services
- Reuse and recycle content
- Build partnerships with Key retailers
- Online community management
- Develop new distribution channels
Putting detail around the topic and asking businesses in the target group to rate the topic for relevance on a scale of 1 to 5 would help shape a program of workshops relevant to the needs of the target group.
What other topics would you expect to see on a workshop list of this kind?