Hot off the heels of innovations and connected devices galore at CES, publishers have a world of opportunity in front of them. There’s so much opportunity it can often get difficult to decide what to prioritize first. For some insights and advice on 2014, we go straight to the ultimate expert in publisher success and sustainability: Bo Sacks.
JM: With so many innovations launching, (including the rise of content marketing), do publishers really need to think differently about the way they do business? Or, is all of this just noise?
Bo: The concept that “isn’t it really all the same as it ever was” is at the heart of the problem for all publishers. Many perceive that the whole problem just revolves around the battle between paper vs. digital substrates. That concept has distracted most professionals and isn’t at the core of the issue.
The real problem is diversity and fragmentation of our readership. And there are two factors going on here.
- Ease: There is just too much easy access to the a world of information. We all hold robust communication devices in our hands formally known as smartphones. These communicators empower anyone one to access information either on the fly on in the comfort of their own home. These instant portable electronic librarians offer the reading public limitless reading opportunities where none existed before. So we are reading more now than ever before but not on traditional substrates.
- Mass: Publishers were once the best businesses at identifying groups and niches and selling them words and related materials based on their specific interest. What technology has done is to separate and disperse our old niches into sub-set camps of platform devotees. Where once Meredith had all of America’s housewives locked up in reading a single printed magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, now even the niche of housewife’s is broken into smaller subsets, as iPad reader, Kobo Reader, Kindle reader, and paper reader. This has broken the former single straight line to the reader into readers with multiple personalities, different needs and assorted commercial desires.
Now, combine those two thoughts above with another fundamental concept of the publishing industry that has dramatically changed everything. There is more freely available and accessed information today to the “reader” than ever before in the history of mankind, yet the time to absorb all this new data has changed very little. Drew Davis calls this “Information Overload.” We don’t have the time, the energy, or the desire to read what is out there, yet it hovers in our hands and taunts us every minute of every day. Your communicator says to you, “Hey, pick me up and lets play?” Or, “Hey, I know what, perhaps you would you rather learn something… come on, pick me up and let us both get distracted from what we should be focusing upon!”
JM: Over the past few years, there has been lots of hype over new technology; 3D covers, shopping inside the pages of a digital issue, stand alone apps, etc. Some have thrived and some have died. What technologies do you think have legs, and which do you think are a waste?
Bo: New technologies are plentiful and none have improved the core process. Most of the new technologies distract from the essential moment of the reading process. Until you make a better device than our old friend’s the “letters” and the “words” the rest is just a distraction.
Reading is critical to society. You can’t have brain surgeons, architects, auto mechanics, digital salesman, or any other trade unless you continue to teach and inform them of societies critical needs. 3D this and augmented reality that are cute toys, but they pale to the true need to just read, learn and be informed. Thus these tricks aren’t important at all, except like a magicians trick, they do add some nice smoke and mirrors, but at the end of the process you have read words or you have not.
JM: For 2014, in 50 words or less, what does a publisher need to succeed?
Bo: This is the most critical question of them all. First, in a Darwinian way, not all publishers are meant to succeed. Those that will survive will have the best and most interesting words and thoughts available to be put on the reader’s choice of substrate. The only way any publisher succeeds is with words and thoughts of great value.
JM: And there you have it. Great thoughts from Bo!