Friday, April 10, 2009


Book publishing can always learn from other media sectors. The environment may be different but the similarities are often stark and can’t be ignored. Many will try to argue that the differences are so huge that the comparison between media sectors is inappropriate, but the more we watch the media world unravel and morph from one model to another, we start to see the same or similar warning signs.

The old world created media conglomerates that controlled the channel, the creative process and focused on their market share. These grew swallowed each other up to the point where they could hardly grow any bigger. The result was that the corporate blue chip publisher ruled. This worked within the physical world where the controller of the supply chain reaped the economies of scale and the 80 / 20 economic model prevailed. However, the digital world effectively turned this upside down. As we have seen so many times, the Internet doesn’t respect corporate size and actual revenue, it respects eyeballs and potential revenue. We remember those, who ten years ago said Amazon would not survive, was over valued and the likes of Bertelsmann would crush them. The old world saw one Goose, the new world saw the Golden Egg.

Enter the omnivores who were not tied to any sector and were driven by moving technology, valued on the number of visitors and their potential pulling power, rewarded maybe by advertising. They often viewed content, on whatever format, as merely a means to an end. Also enter those from the technology sector who wanted their technology to dominate and were often focused on shifting tin or software, not content.

We now have upheaval in music, which has never recovered from Napster and continues to unravel. Newsprint and magazines could always rely on advertising. That was until the Internet stared to grab it before the newspapers could grapple with the digital shift. The film industry had a great release model that controlled what, where and when films could be seen. However, this only fuelled the pirates offer to beat both the release schedule and the price. This month gave us the ultimate piracy with the pirates even beating the release of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” , not by a day, but a whole month!

We hear one name repeatedly – Google. Their quest to make YouTube deliver stronger revenues has created new battles with the music industry bodies, such as PRS and the artists themselves. Peter Waterman’s composition ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ experienced a phenomenal 154million YouTube downloads, yet he only received £11 royalty from Google. Google now want to create in collaboration with Universal. But who will win from the envisaged new revenues? When Bono first suggested the marriage, he must have envisaged the artist winning, but we reserve judgement.

Google News grapples with the newspaper world on whether their use of snippets is ‘fair use’ or infringement. Some would say that they have the newspapers over a barrel, others that its time the newspapers stood up.

Google Book Search and the land-grab settlement, has had not nearly enough written about it.

When will the media sectors join up the dots?

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