What Today’s Investors Are Looking for in Publishers

For investors dealing with content, it’s not enough for publishers to be digitally savvy. Rather, they should know how to engage an audience and leverage data to create products customers want.

In a panel at Digital Book World 2016 that featured Wiley’s Jon Semel, Wicks Group’s Tom Kearney, Ingram’s David Rolin, and New York University’s Frank Rimalovski, the four leaders discussed what investors are looking for in publishers.

Because the market for startups is so saturated, the panel noted that investors are putting greater filters on whom they invest in.

“In the last year, I’ve seen so many changes in what investors are looking for,” Rolin said. “We don’t just want good ideas. We want people who can prove their ability to generate revenue.”

“A bunch of startup founders are doing the same thing,” he continued. “There’s 10 of the same idea out there. I don’t think founders realize how much of that is really going on.”

“With the emergence of educational technology,” Kearney added, “it’s only become more vital to establish yourself as a clear winner in that space.”

Startups with data-driven solutions are also on investors’ radars. “If you divide media into two fundamental cross sections like content and distribution, distribution is really what has been disrupted,” said Kearney. “That drove us at Wicks Group into content and, once you get into the world of content, you have to ask yourself if you’re dealing with a truly proprietary data set.”

As a result of these changes, the panelists said publishers should give their content more value.

“It’s the shifting of the table stick and delivering must-have content,” said Semel. “Then it becomes about content and distribution where you can deliver content in whatever form your customers want.”

“We were in the education business and provided content and software products. But a couple years ago, we got into the business of education, which allowed us to provide fully credited online degree programs,” said Semel. “This program places students with jobs. We want to hyper-charge content with other services that can increase power of outcomes.”

“It’s about much more than being a content provider,” he continued. “It’s about how you support content and provide services that raise engagement and allow you to extend beyond publishing.”


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