The Takeaway: Good for Business, Good for the Soul

Stephen BatemanBy Stephen Bateman, Publisher and Managing Director, David & Charles Limited

If, like me, you attended the Digital Book World Conference hosted by F&W Media (parent company of David & Charles) in New York City last week, you left fully energized and invigorated, ready to implement many of the ideas and best practices the speakers and panelists shared with attendees.

If, however, you did not or could not attend, all is not lost because I took notes!

And that is the first lesson: sharing is de rigueur in this new digital world.

For me, the conference dealt with many themes, but these generally broke down into one of three key categories:

  1. Online marketing and cultivating customers
  2. Online retailing and selling direct to consumer
  3. Publishing in multiple formats, physical and digital

Here are my key takeaways for each:

Online Marketing and Cultivating Customers

We must make outsiders feel like insiders and work to bring our authors and readers together; we must cultivate and nurture the connectivity between members of our community, paying special attention to the people on the top rung of Forrester’s Social Technographics Ladder to learn what we can from them by asking questions, listening to and interacting with them.

We must work alongside the key social influencers or “cool people” in our communities, and do everything we can to empower our own people to face outwards and represent our brands.

Online Retailing and Direct-to-Consumer Sales

We must move away from being product-driven to being community-driven. It will become increasingly difficult to push one product to many customers, so we must be able to communicate with thinly sliced segments and promote the products those segments will value most at any given point in time. To do this, we need segmented mailing lists and customer data detailing attitudinal behaviors, online purchasing behaviors, etc.

We need to understand our customers intimately, especially if we are to compete with online offers elsewhere that might have economies of scale and a low cost base. In order to build our audience we need email lists and clever competitions and other incentives that will attract and help us grow our niches in order to gain scale ourselves.

Publishing in Multiple Formats, Physical and Digital

New digital revenue streams are palpable. The media industry has been questioning when the tipping point of digital sales would come and we can now see that tipping point looming, yet closer now with the imminent arrival of the Apple iPad.

(Aren’t your kids and colleagues clammering for one?)

There is now a genuine and immediate opportunity to earn new supplementary revenues from new initiatives such as Apple’s new iBooks platform by investing in both new and existing assets. Sure, some observers might be skeptical but the tipping point is here and Steve Jobs would appear to have blessed our industry with a great solution for modern audiences. Because Apple and iTunes are trusted household brands, the iBooks Store and iPad are destined to revolutionize the market for electronic reading and on-the-go entertainment.

Add to this the other new “reveal”: Blio, the new, “in the cloud” platform by Baker & Taylor aimed at publishers of illustrated layout, and the horizon suddenly looks very attractive for those willing to embrace new media models. For this, we must ensure our digital workflows are geared to producing content that can flow into multiple physical and digital formats.

Those are the three key categories of the conference that energized me and which I feel can boost many publishers. It’s a pity not more European publishers could make the trip to DBW.

Hopefully F&W Media can host something similar for us in London?

Finally, Mike Shatzkin should be applauded for pulling together such a great program and for chairing the event with such enthusiasm and good humor. The event was good go for the soul, not just for business!


Stephen Bateman is focused on change in the media industry and on providing ways to lead effective organizational change to better meet the needs of an entire generation of new media consumers, profitably. He is the Publisher and Managing Director of David & Charles Limited, an international publisher of illustrated non-fiction books, and a division of F+W Media, Inc.

4 thoughts on “The Takeaway: Good for Business, Good for the Soul

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  2. Hal Robinson

    My principal take-aways were a bit more abstract but I think they’re fundamental. Both provide healthy reinforcement for the currents my company, Librios, and our customers in publishing have been swimming with for a while. One was voiced by Larry Kirshbaum: “Content is still what drives publishing”. The other reflects an observation I’ve seen attributed to you, Stephen: “Community is the heart of our business”. The challenge of joining content and community, as the beacon publishers should look to, captures the essence of the conference for me.

    The specific elements nearly all turned around this, in one way or another. Which format, or all? Copyright and contract issues. The changing relationships between authors, agents and publishers. And, above all, the urgency of building or re-building the relationship between publishers and their real customers – their readers – for which the potential richness of community relationships seems to hold the brightest promise.

    Content, whether generated by authors, publishers or a community itself, is still an under-used resource, and commercially the old content-management mantra, “Create once, use many times”, is still valid.

    Community relationships are also under-developed, especially where books are concerned. The local reading group is a beautifully simple example of a community – a community of interest, to borrow an old Knowledge Management term. Each book, it seems obvious, has its own natural community, even if the members of it don’t know each other; conventionally, alas, it’s likely the publisher doesn’t know them at all. I’d like to see publishers building on this in any and every way they can. Social media and, even more, content-focused community tools, can facilitate this but it behoves publishers to find the most sympathetic and constructive ways to develop these relationships: How to build? is a more critical demand than What to build with? at this time. This was also a clear message from the conference.

    I was particularly pleased that technological solutions were not touted as panaceas, and I say that even as a technology provider. Of course technology can help, but it’s the business vision, the publishing vision, that really counts.

    All credit to the F+W team and the conference organisers for facilitating such a stimulating, appropriate, and above all timely event. The future of publishing, indeed.

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