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Despite areas where traditional publishers are seeking outside support and the plethora of start-ups emerging to provide it, partnerships between the two remain limited. If it stays that way, publishers may ultimately have more to lose.
One solution? Open up the editorial process to out-of-house input.
Findings from a recent study presented during the Publishers Launch conference at Digital Book World 2014 by conference chair Mike Shatzkin highlighted current disparities between the 25 traditional publishers and 43 publishing start-ups surveyed. Nearly three-quarters of the latter consider themselves to be “disruptive,” with the majority of those intending to disrupt publishers specifically.
Start-ups appear to see themselves squarely in the trade publishing marketplace, primarily offering solutions for data, discoverability and marketing issues, among a range of others. Publishers overwhelmingly report needing help on each of those things. When the two camps work together, Shatzkin said, “workflow and marketing seem to be the central points of discussion.”
So why don’t we see more productive publisher–start-up partnerships than we do, at least in those areas if not outside them? To get a better sense of what publishers believe start-ups can offer them, it helps to look consider what they feel what they can’t offer them.
Traditional publishers may be inclined to see editorial development as the heart and soul of their business, the area most driven by the discernment and taste of talented editors. That may well be true, but editors today are increasingly pressed to back up their instincts with market data and metrics — some of the very things start-ups appear best positioned to provide.
Indeed, the survey found that “one hundred percent of publishers see data, insight and intelligence as a challenge they’d like help with,” Shatzkin said. When it comes time to applying them to the editorial process, though, publishers are more inclined to shut their doors.
As Shatzkin summarized publishers’ interests, “they’re primarily looking for practical help with their current business and making financial considerations–risks or opportunities.” In other words, vendors who moonlight as consultants.
But when it comes to determining what sorts of content readers want, the best methods for delivering it amidst the cacophony of the digital marketplace and measuring its impact there, start-ups may be able to play bigger roles than publishers are so far comfortable with. That means not just promoting and tracking the performance of content, but actually helping to develop it.
For traditional publishers, a better strategy in the long-run might be to welcome start-ups into the editorial space now, lest wind up competing with them there later.
Source of slide: Publishing Start-Up Survey