Category Archives: Career

Transformation and Disintermediation In The Publishing Industry – Final Word Of 2011

To make an end is to make a beginning - lessons from 2011

To make an end is to make a beginning - lessons from 2011

 

I’ve written about the different facets of transformation and disintermediation in the publishing industry throughout 2010 and 2011 but I wanted to share a more personal angle and distil the lessons I’ve learned into ten key points that will guide me in 2012.

  1. You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Abandon any attempt to make a horse drink water and focus on achieving something of less resistance. Continue reading

2010 year in review – 9 things that made it special despite recession and austerity

Concentricdots Stephen Bateman A Capstone Year

2010: A Capstone Year

A whizz through my 2010 calendar has reminded me just how busy 2010 was: a year of change; a creative year; a fulfilling year but, above all, a year of transition.

2010 was shaped by four things: curiosity, independence, connection and reinvention. So here, in reverse order, and with no further ado, are the 9 capstone elements that, despite the austerity of recession, made 2010 a very rewarding year for me.

1. GreenWise®

In December I joined GreenWise, a specialist online publisher that focuses on helping UK SMEs “green” their operations and reduce their carbon footprint. The business, founded by Louise and Mark Fewell, serves the needs of four distinct business segments and has established itself as a premiere destination for “green” content, providing trustworthy information and resources to a growing tribe of subscribers and advertisers.

GreenWise is a pure digital player that relies on an integrated mix of online digital media to grow and sustain its online customer communities. The challenge in 2011 will be to diversify the revenue streams, leveraging its Audience, Brand, Content and Data revenues by further engaging and sustaining its community of users.

2. iGlimpse™

The decision in November to start iGlimpse came from the conviction that a proven segment of lifelong learners in the outdoor leisure and pursuit sectors could be served with better media. Hence, the content we will create at iGlimpse will inspire, instruct and interface with outdoor enthusiasts providing them with an entertaining experience on their handheld devices.

The overall aim is to quicken an enthusiast’s ability to master their chosen outdoor recreational activity wherever they are and whenever they need quality instruction. iGlimpse will combine new media technologies with the wisdom of leading outdoor experts to create rich bundles of convergent media that instruct, entertain and make a tangible difference to the lives of those seeking progression and proficiency. Making all this happen for time-poor and mobile enthusiasts will be a key focus for me and my business partner, Simon Jollands, in 2011. Website under construction.

3. Like Minds

Like Minds is an international community of business leaders, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers which emphasises innovation, learning, connecting and engagement on subject digital. There’s an annual conference in Exeter in the autumn. This year the conference theme was “creation and curation”.

The workshops and plenaries were blistering, the participants were tropical and the gathering of like minded people was thermogenic.

The founders Scott Gould and Drew Ellis have built a community with attitude. And, just as it did in 2010, Like Minds promises to float my boat again in 2011. Follow #likeminds on Twitter and see what I had to say about the 6 magic ingredients of the 2010 autumn event in a video blog here.

4. CAM / CIM Diploma in Managing Digital Media

The best way to learn about digital media is to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. But I’m a great believer in structure and discipline, which is why, in September, I enrolled on the CAM diploma course in digital media management as a postgrad professional student to undertake four modules covering digital campaigns, branding, online advertising and public relations. The course provides a solid framework and objectives to underpin strategic and operational work undertaken in the field. Studying the course and working on assignments whilst managing and implementing digital media campaigns will help me consolidate and strengthen my digital marketing and media competencies in 2011. All essential to doing battle in the ensuing digital media landscape.

5. Idio

I can’t talk about 2010 without mentioning Andrew Davies, Ed Barrow and the great team I’ve had the pleasure of working with at idio. This is a truly passionate and talented team of young semantic experts. They develop some great semantic software and they’ve been an inspiration to work with. We’ve got some exciting publishing projects in development and I’m really looking forward to my collaboration with Andrew, Ed and the rest of the idio team in 2011.

6. Micro-blogging

Twitter has undoubtedly been a major focal point for me in 2010. Whilst only starting to gain popularity in the UK, the micro-blogging platform has allowed me to connect to +250 of the most influential thought-leaders in my industry. It’s been like drinking from a fire-hose and I can genuinely say that without Twitter I wouldn’t have discovered nor assimilated 30% of what I’ve learned in the last six months, since June. Twitter has not just allowed me to connect with people in the virtual online world but to meet extraordinary people “irl” (tweet speak for “in real life.”)

My use of Twitter has been professionally focused and this has allowed me to build a tribe of  just under 250 followers without distraction. Combined with this blog and my professional LinkedIn groups, Twitter has been a force unlike any other. In 2011 I will align my use of Twitter to ensure my content remains relevant and authoritative.

7. Professional Networking

I joined LinkedIn over 3 years ago and I have consistently updated and embellished my profile. And I’m so glad I maintained my profile because no other social networking platform has been more valuable in helping me connect with my primary network and extend my reach into my secondary and tertiary networks than LinkedIn.

I’ve discovered numorous specialist LinkedIn groups that have been powerful and engaging platforms to bring me into contact with people who share the same interests but who have different perspectives. The quality of interaction has varied widely from group to group with the best groups hosting open-ended posts to stimulate discussion and give users room to add their perspective. The best moderators have also thanked people for their participation to the group.

8. Blogging

Joe Pulizzi (Junta42 and CMI) famously said “you can’t be taken seriously in social media unless you have a robust, consistent blog”. I’ve loved blogging and whilst my Google analytics won’t break olympic records, the results I’ve achieved across different metrics (unique visitors, individual page views, average time on site, new and repeat visitors) have all made my blogging activity worthwhile, providing me with a hub toward which I can point my readers whenever I discuss a subject dear to me.

I’ll admit I’ve sometimes struggled with the time and frequency of blogging but, through perseverance, I’ve found my voice and built my authority independently of any publishing corporation. Having my blog has forced me to be analytical and to ask questions about the changing nature of publishing. I know from direct feedback that my recommendations haven’t been in vain and that I’ve helped others make sense of sometimes complex challenges.

Above all blogging has given me a platform to engage in meaningful conversations with industry colleagues, prospects and customers, establishing my credibility and authority whilst having fun.

In 2011 I’ll be committing to blogging better and, dare I say, more often.

9. Family and Friends

Other highlights (non-professional) of 2010 include Louis, my eldest son, achieving the “A” Level examination grades he needed to read International Politics at Aberystwyth University (August), My mother’s 70th birthday on the Isle of Wight (March), A touring holiday with my wife and boys on the Basque Riviera (August), two magnificent stage performances managed by my daughter at the Bath Ustinov Theatre and my gruelling GR20 high altitude trek across the Corsican Alps (June). Oh, and the iPhone and iPad weren’t bad either ;-)

Happy New Year All

Community: a focal point for core transformation in book publishing

Community: an opportunity for teams and their leaders

In these times of transformation, corporate attention tends to be on digital tools, platforms, dashboards, analytics, budgets, timeframes, business models, ROI and an inordinate amount of technical detail.

Our instinct seems to be that systems will solve all our woes. But leaders will tell you that successful change occurs when people in the business are “on the bus”. So why is it that conversations about digital transformation focus on systems first and people as an afterthought?

Think about it: in the new connected world, successful publishers rely more than ever on collaboration between the people on the inside (editors, community managers) and those on the outside (readers, authors, bloggers). People-passion is at the heart of community and, yet we fail to take the time to open it up and overhaul the moving parts.

Transitioning a traditional book publisher from a book-centric business to a community-centric business requires something special: leadership at every level of the business, regardless of job function; leadership instilled right across the workforce.

Meeting the needs of community is a collective game that requires the entire business to be outward facing. That scale of change means rethinking, resetting and re-configuring business practices and the roles of every employee. Core transformation is about refocusing the entire publishing activity to align with new goals, a larger playing field, new forms of distribution and marketing,  a bigger more aggressive competitor environment and the consumption and buying habits of a new generation of media consumers.

Setting the vision for this level of strategic leadership, and planning the operational outcomes is a job for leaders and their leadership teams. It starts at the top with a new vision for the business and it drives down to the teams who, in turn, take ownership of the vision and enact the changes needed to achieve the newly defined goals of the business. To ignore this process of resetting the business in its entirety is tantamount to suicide. Leaders not doing enough, not being rigorous and exacting enough in this process of core change and not moving fast enough to redefine the focus and practices of their business will fail their staff and fail their communities.

However, the leadership team can only go so far. Staff need to step up and seize the opportunities that are being presented to them and avoid hanging on to outmoded practices. The job of change is a collective process of immense learning and discovery.

For leaders and their teams, everything begins with an understanding of community and the new role and place of content within the new media environment. The good news is that, as publishers, we already have some of the most sociable and creative minds around, and this talent can easily be transitioned to the new media world. The focus across the business needs to adjust from being book-centric to people-centric.

For this, team members require a 360- degree pan optic view of the new media environment and their roles in it; only then can they truly start to engage with the breadth and length of opportunity that emerges from a community-centric publishing model.

Educating teams on the diminishing scarcity of expert content and, working alongside them, to expose ways in which the disruption is affecting the traditional publishing model garners a desire for action. This is why, when drawing on employee knowledge, leaders will see their teams quickly put forward initiatives that address the need to change business practices, job functions and collaborative workflows. Discussion will uncover new opportunity and business practices to make money from community. Everything the business does will begin to be viewed under a different angle: through the lens of community, not the lens of book making.

What changes in a team is seeing and accepting that we are no longer in the business of publishing books and, that challenged revenues must be replaced by other sources of revenue which are only possible with a community-centric business model.

Together, with our teams, we need to examine the dynamics of people and content, connect the dots between the two pillars of the business (content and people) and embrace audience marketing. We need our people, who have long been experts in very specific content domains, to fully appreciate the way digitally-empowered audiences consume, produce and circulate content and the initiatives that are required in our content and social commerce hub to attract and retain fellow enthusiasts, in community. That’s the 360-degree view our teams need to embrace in order to make a full contribution.

What needs to be done isn’t a mystery (I’ve written it before) and there are some key actions that can help accelerate the process of inoculation. Here are four suggestions from a repertoire I developed in my last corporate leadership role:

  • Set clear learning objectives: we are all students of business. We need to be constantly learning and improving. There is no room for passengers. Personal learning objectives put valuable focus and structure around learning and help employees learn on the job and apply that learning to work.
  • Establish collective learning teams: these are groups of people who are given a responsibility and opportunity to participate in a learning initiative together. These can be task or subject orientated. The group can be given a room and some time for group discussions to talk about ways they can improve their jobs and subsequent contribution to the business and they can report back on their progress.
  • Offer mentoring: change is a time of personal opportunity and as leaders at all levels in the business we can have the opportunity to take another member of the team under our wing and by means of coaching help them develop new skills and strengths.
  • Offer guidance, encouragement and feedback: in the current climate when financial reward is not possible, encouragement is a great incentive.  A constant stream of feedback, both corrective and reinforcing, is one of the best ways to develop employees. Without a clear and balanced understanding of what they are doing right and wrong, employees, like athletes, are unlikely to improve. That’s not good for the business and not good for the people in it.

Specialist book publishers, if they are to survive the post-digital age, need people who can see the reality of today and describe a brighter, more prosperous tomorrow; people who challenge the status quo and change everything. Those publishers who choose to behave like a swift-footed 2-toed flightless ratite bird will only know the consequences when it is too late.

Special interest publishers who bury their heads when they could be acting will only have themselves to blame

All change! My personal update

Which Way Now?

Until 19 March 2010 I ran the UK arm of a F&W Media Inc. As MD and Publisher of David & Charles Limited, I had complete responsibility for all aspects of the business including the staff, the customers, the budget, the company’s assets and all other company resources to make the best use of them and increase the company’s profitability and strengthen its future position. I was in a creative role driving new product development and output.

The job was rewarding and I saw many talented people rise to the challenge of their new roles and embrace new skills. I got a buzz from our collective achievements and I got energy from the pace. But I was a recent hire for F&W Media, and, after reinvigorating the publishing and design, reorganising the company to a community structure, outsourcing trade distribution, winding down the outmoded book club operations and rearranging internal roles, I left the company to pursue my own projects.

What am I doing now?

It’s a fascinating time, and the transition to digital in our industry is an adventure we are lucky to experience. The market moves fast and the opportunities are there for those that are nimble and creative. Hence, I am as busy now as I ever was. I have been attending conferences and I’m working through my international contacts and having interesting conversations. Being connected by social and professional networks is a real bonus as it provides me with a high speed link to many new opportunities.I write about the changes occurring in the media industry on my blog and offer ideas for business leaders to take control in these turbulent times. I believe that reading helps you get smart and, since print can’t keep up with change anymore, blogging and Twittering is a great use of my time. I see a lot of people struggling with the social media platforms and that’s a shame.

How else am I spending my time?

Not being in full time employment means I can do the things I enjoy like cooking and helping my boys with their economics, maths and french homework. I’ve got loads of ideas and I’m catching up on some of the things that got left by the road side in the chaos of the recession. I’m keeping my finger on the pulse and following trends and opinions and writing my blog. I’m working my personal connections and testing business ideas against the market to ensure my assignments add genuine value to the seasoned businesses that need help with the challenges of a changing marketplace.

I’ve got really exciting longer-term projects I am working on as well but my overriding sense is that there are lots of opportunities in consulting right now. Times are tough but change isn’t an option, it is an imperative.

Curious about my Status?

Friday 19 March 2010 was my last day at David & Charles.

What now?

I am focusing my attention on helping clients rethink their business orientation in order take advantage of the online marketing practices that are emerging and which allow direct to consumer relationships and community building to flourish and drive word of mouth, narrative, sales and new product development.

I am also trying to manage my time in order to pursue a few personal projects that were forgotten in the chaos of the recession.

Any clients wishing to get in touch with me can do so via my LinkedIn page.