Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review of our 2008 Predictions - 5. Publishers

At the end of 2007 we made 10 predictions for 2008. Many predictions made have now been conveniently forgotten but we stand by our thinking at the time and believe it appropriate we openly review these individually and see what we think happened and assess them appropriately. Today we review the publisher response.

5. Publishers – more digital directors, more conversions and much activity. Some true small innovators are likely to rise to the occasion.

The Digital Director became the new hot job in publishing. One major trade house went through them rather rapidly but there again it’s a new job, new scope and casualties are bound to happen. Where do you get a publishing digital director from is a difficult question. Some choose music, after all they have lived through it, although some may point out not very well. Some may choose technology and particularly the web, but again is the job about selling, or the total digital impact on the business. Some may choose production as the closest in-house fit, but again it’s a different world and not like the production we knew. Some saw it as the publishing hub of the future and created a new commercial/ publishing role. What fits in one organisation may not fit in another, but what we believe we saw in 2008 was a clear maturing of the role and a move away from the previous marketing / web / technology and media candidate cv.

A wise move we think as more realise that digital publishing is publishing. Even if 90% of the sold product remains physical digital publishing should impact all business processes and activities and will require focus not just a new web site.

Conversion programmes were announced with great vigour with major houses tripping over themselves to announce anything with the word ‘digital’ in it, or the letter ‘e’ at the front of it. Some were mere noise, which the press gave unworthy column inches too, others were genuine and significant steps forward. Sorting the news from the noise continued to often be the greatest challenge.

However the trade started to move digital and US houses certainly lead the way. It will now be interesting to watch as times become tighter whether this commitment holds, but for those who have grasp the issues we don’t envisage a change of course.
Experiments continued on the marketing front with social network sites being the goal of many, direct sales the target and the giving away of whole titles as digital loss leaders potentially becoming standard practice for some.

We think a modest 6 out of 10 unless you think differently.

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