Friday, May 09, 2008

Beware iWords IS Coming

Experiments are being heralded as the way forward in the digital world. Lots of small steps and not huge leaps. However, the question is not whether experiments are right or wrong, but where is the money and do they give a return or are they just throw away in search of the Holy Grail? When we think back ten years to those heady CD days, it was not only bold moves, but also unchecked experiments that brought some issues to a head and seriously burnt some publishing fingers.

Today we read an interesting article in Publishing News ‘Beware iWords is coming’ from two partners at KPMG. It clearly draws much from the music experience and the premise of the article is to learn from music, advocate publisher experiments and for them to take control. However, we are not one industry but several bound together by a common format the book and the book itself, unlike music is the content, the format, the rights package and the reader. When we looked at the music industry in the Brave New World report, we sought to dispel some of the urban myths and focus on the issues that counted. Unfortunately today many still believe in those urban myths and often as in this article rewrite history to fit their case.
The article talks about taking control of digital reporting of download information. This can easily be resolved not by tighter control of the reporting the obvious flawed route advocated but by adopting drop ship models that store once and distribute many. Any publisher who is aiming to store their files in more than half a dozen trusted parties could be said by some to have lost the plot. That music companies continue to cut deals and scatter their files lioke seeds in the wind is the real control issue.

The migration from albums to tracks was more to do with pricing issues and peer to peer experience than iTunes. The record companies had long been pilloried for their territorial and high pricing of CDs. They may have escaped the monopolies reports but could not escape the consumers.

Social networking offers much but who is the natural driver, the publisher, the author , a retailer or an outsider who has the other elements of the jigsaw? Some of this is down to brands, some down to marketing and innovation and a lot is down to connecting with consumers.

Multi media is a real opportunity and one that can enhance the text content and in some genre is increasing in importance. The issue here is whether the media is added as an afterthought or built in from the start and present throughout the publishing life-cycle. Today many of the development process employed are still analogue and now need to become digital.

So was the article right or wrong, informative or mere noise? All we can say is that it did stir our thinking and promoted this response.