The Evolution of US Digital Innovation in Publishing

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The Evolution of US Digital Innovation in PublishingThe United States has been at the forefront of digital publishing since the field’s inception. And now, as digital is fully integrated into our daily publishing lives and the industry continues to expand the format of books and data analytics, the US market continues to lead.

While there has been a lull as ebook sales level out and digital startups and initiatives falter, this year has nevertheless seen the reimagining of some of publishing’s earliest digital innovators to adapt to the changing face of the industry, such as Vook’s evolution to become Pronoun, and a greater focus on data analytics and software.

To highlight the current state of the market, forecast how digital publishing will change in the US and around the world in the next several years, and hear from some of the key players leading these changes, the Frankfurt Book Fair has highlighted US Digital Innovation as one of the seven markets at our inaugural conference, The Markets: Global Publishing Summit, on October 13th in Frankfurt.

The two biggest problems publishers face in the digital landscape are adapting print book content for devices and what readers are seeing in other media outlets, and understanding and reaching readers through curation, format and content.

Joe Wikert, director of strategy and business development at Olive Software, agrees that the market has mostly plateaued: “Right now we’re stuck in what I like to call the ‘print under glass’ era. That’s similar to the early days of TV where the first shows were nothing more than radio programs in front of a camera,” said Wikert. “It’s clear that publishers want to protect and leverage workflows they’ve built over the years.”

Dan Nigloschy, Client Solutions Architect: Publishing Technology at codeMantra, sees publishers shifting their production cycles. Where they once thought digital enrichment came post-production, they now see that as something they produce simultaneously, if not before the print production. Publishers are also acquiring content with digital enhancements in mind, allowing them to better plan the timeline and allow all formats to reach the marketplace simultaneously.

All these production advancements are designed to meet the growing desires of readers. “I think in the coming years we’re going to see looser boundaries across content,” Wikert said. “The lines between a ‘book,’ ’newspaper,’ or ‘magazine,’ for example, will become more blurry in the future.”

In order to better understand what readers want, publishers are also investing in learning more about their readers and connecting with them directly through digital channels, like online communities, social media and direct-to-consumer sales initiatives.

When HarperCollins Chief Digital Officer Chantal Restivo-Alessi joined the company, in 2012, HarperCollins was already beginning to collect reader data. And under her tenure, the company has examined this data to discover better pricing, better ways of reaching and appealing to readers through online communities and social media campaigns and sales, and what kind of content they are looking for.

In a 2014 interview, Restivo-Alessi said, “Digital changes our ability to acquire more data, which is good and bad. The good side is it gives us the opportunity to look at things that we do and also what we acquire in a different way. The bad thing is that the risk is you have too much noise and you need to make sure you’re identifying exactly what you’re looking for rather than being swamped by data.”

What Restivo-Alessi has been praised for in the industry is her drive to test campaigns and tools to see how effective they are, assess the response and data, and then adapt.

As readers expect more access to content, publishers need to be more agile in understanding what readers want in content and format, but also in how to reach them.

In October, at The Markets conference, we will explore US Digital Innovation further and provide access to these leaders in the US market.

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One thought on “The Evolution of US Digital Innovation in Publishing

  1. Robert Gregory Browne

    While there has been a lull as ebook sales level out…

    With all due respect, I’m getting awfully tired of this meme. The only ebook sales that have leveled out are those with traditional publishing houses. Indie sales continue to be strong. Why? Because we keep our prices low rather than tag our books with $14.99 price tags.

    The slump (or leveling) of ebooks sales are those books that can be tracked by ISBN numbers, and most independent authors don’t use ISBN on their digital products. I would suggest that anyone who believes ebook sales have leveled off go read the latest report about the health and vitality of indie ebooks. And, yes, I know some discount’s reports, but they shouldn’t be. These guys are on the ball and know exactly what they’re talking about.

    I feel for traditional publishers. I really do. But anyone with any business sense knows that consumers like lower prices. This is something indies have known for quite a few years now and we’re thriving.



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