Friday, November 09, 2012
It's All About Content and Rights
Publishers rightly tend to stick to what they good at when it comes to genre and content. The public may not always recognise the Publishing brand and only recognise the author, but focusing on the genre and building authoritative collections is critical to publishing today. Some mistook this focus as being what book sellers should also do, but forgot that book consumers were eclectic in their buying habits and wanted both value and ‘one stop’ shops.
Earlier this year, Wiley sold its Fromer’s travel guide to Google and had declared its intent to dispose of its remaining trade and reference division. Today they concluded that sale to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). The sale includes Wiley’s cookbooks, dictionaries and study guides. This continues the new approach within HMH to trade and consolidates material under their Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens and How to Cook Everything brands. We are all aware of the cookbook celebrity brands and success of the likes of Jamie Oliver in the UK and Betty Croker in the US. Cookbooks appear to be holding their own in print and despite the significant growth in cookery applications and websites, account for some 2% of book sales in the US market. HMH now also add Webster’s New World Dictionary to it’s CliffsNotes and educational publishing, test preparation and assessment services.
Growing vertical publishing operations is not new and is publishing. As further publisher consolidation takes place, what we once saw a one industry joined together by a single format - the book is starting to diverge and consolidate into stronger vertical operations. The digital marketplace now allows these focused content repositories to be exploited in ways that were somewhat restricted by the book and the economics of the physical market. Consolidation of ‘book’ content will continue for those wanting a one stop shop and book buying value, but new markets will now evolve for the digital content and context which will be outside of the book market as we know it today. Packaging and licencing rights into new offers will become increasingly important as the content itself starts to become more fluid. We must always remember that Steve Jobs in creating iTunes sold tracks not albums, George Martin said the album was the menu and the concert the meal and that individual recipe could be proportionately more valuable than the collection.
Should publishers become the genre point of focus? Can author brands co-operate to form compelling points of consumer focus, or will they always be reliant of third parties to aggregate them? Who are the genre consolidators that the consumer recognises and how can they cash in on their ‘first point of contact’ opportunity?
Yesterday, books were not stocked by retailers whose primary goal was to sell other stuff, but as retail itself migrates increasingly online, then adding associated digital content that enhances the proposition and authority of the sale, becomes a potentially no risk, small cost added consumer value and lock-in. Being able to licence that digital content in chunks, collections and many renditions may be the key to many publishers moving forward.
It’s all about content and rights.