Thursday, November 13, 2008

Harnessing the Publishing Network

The new market challenge is not traffic but turning networks and their traffic into money. Anyone can dream up a new service, or feature, but making it pay its way can often be hard. People often think that business models will remain the same or similar and those sales will grow expediently to accommodate all. The reality is that change brings new challenges that often confront the existing models.

What was the result on the music sector from the changes that the many P2P players such as Napster and Kazaa brought? Not only did their change the format, delivery, the breadth and range of tunes available and price perception, but ask where all the High Street music stores are today? When iTunes entered they found a way to channel sales and collect money. iTunes succeeded not because of the iPod but because Apple understood how to make money out of the latent demand for tracks. It joined the dots between consumer demand, an aggregated online repository and download service and an iconic device – simple but the best are always that!

When we look at newsprint we see new entrants in the form of the Internet news alerts, news aggregated services such as Google , the emergence of advertising options such as Craigslist and the new reporter - the blogger. Some newspapers will stand on the shore line watch the incoming tide and close their eyes. They can’t envisage the world without the authoritative watchdog journalist, printed copy and the profits they previously enjoyed. But the Internet doesn’t respect tradition it can democratise news and enable it to be not one way but a two way experience.

People now demand ‘my news’ tailored to meet their needs and tastes and they can do it in a heartbeat. Although the online subscriptions lights continue to flicker it’s only for a few who can command a price, for what is in the main, public domain news. The trick newspapers failed to do was to offer a customised service across newspapers and newspaper empires, but if network collaboration wasn’t in their dictionary it was in Google’s and Craigslist’s.

The Internet is about money and finding ways to make money from it is the game. Google was not the first search engine nor necessarily the best at the start, but what it understood was networks and how advertising revenues could be driven from people’s searching habits. It helps consumers find stuff on the web they could never find on their own and advertisers buy traffic. Simple, yet so difficult.

We now have to ask ourselves how we prepare for change, who will be the potential winners and who will be the potential losers. It’s not good enough to sit on the fence and watch, you have to participate. The hardest challenge is to get competing forces to recognise what they compete on and to start to collaborate on the rest in order to make a new offer that is different because of the collaboration. One of the best examples in publishing was the Crossref initiative and organisation one of the worst examples is the rights registry giveaway to Google. Collaboration is very difficult for most organisations, with every employee seeming to have ‘we know best’ running through their genes. Harnessing the huge publishing network offers the biggest opportunity, operating individually offers the same opportunity to others.

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