Special Report: Event Focuses on Publishing Innovation
With no government bailout in sight to rescue their ailing industries, more than 1,200 book- and magazine-publishing executives convened at the 2009 Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York City, March 23-25, in search of strategies to help them weather the worsening storm. And while much of the discussion centered around cost-cutting, the topic of innovation took center stage throughout the event, which featured nearly 60 educational sessions and more than 125 speakers.
“In a time of so much doom and gloom, people actually left the conference optimistic, motivated and armed with greater insights on how to move forward through these challenging times,” said Noelle Skodzinski, conference director and editor-in-chief of Book Business and Publishing Executive, which co-produce the annual show.
“[The event] was … thought-provoking and a good glimpse into the challenges facing publishers, but also inspiring and informative,” said Anne Trudel, associate editor, Upper Room Books.
“The [conference] deals with the full range of emerging publishing models and related technologies … from the perspective of the publishing industry, not just the technology industry,” said Andrew Brenneman, founder and president, Finitiv Corp., who co-chaired the event. “The show not only sheds light on the evolving marketplace, but provides pragmatic approaches to getting new initiatives off the ground. This conference does more than toss around the latest buzzwords: It focuses on solving business problems.”
Attendees also had access to the industry’s largest expo of book- and magazine-publishing solutions providers-. “[This was a] great show for us. Very qualified leads,” said Holly O’Rourke, global public relations and advertising, EFI, a digital print vendor.
Here are a few of the event’s highlights:
Dissecting the Google Book Search Settlement
Tuesday’s keynote panel, “The Implications of the Google Book Search Settlement,” featured industry leaders who dissected how the settlement terms will affect publishers.
Tom Turvey, director, content partnerships, Google, represents the Internet search giant’s Library Project and Partner Program—which currently consists of more than 20,000 publishers globally—both of which feed content to Google Book Search. “What Google Book Search really represents for publishers,” said Turvey, “is that ability to integrate the full text of every book easily in a way where if [a user is] not searching for the title or the author, [they] can still find a book that’s relevant to [their] search, where formerly that book would have been completely invisible to end users. … And then, of course, [the end user] can buy [the book] … .”
Turvey said it was important for Google to partner with libraries—under the Library Project—as well as publishers because of its mission of comprehensiveness. Therefore, Google Book Search could contain “not just the books that are in print … but all the world’s books,” he noted.
“I think this Google settlement is a phenomenal thing. It is the world’s biggest book deal, and we should celebrate it,” said fellow panelist Pat Schroeder, president and CEO, Association of American Publishers.
Schroeder also noted the importance of the Book Rights Registry, which will be created under the settlement terms and funded by Google. “The registry is going to be controlled by half publishers and half authors,” she said. “They’re going to be able to do all sorts of things with this content … . There’s all sorts of potential here.”
Keith Yatsuhashi of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Global Publishing Division, charged with promoting and representing U.S. commercial interests overseas, provided insight into how his agency can help book publishers operate and expand in foreign markets. It can provide valuable market intelligence on business conditions and local culture, access to foreign governments and help finding overseas trade and distribution partners, he said. It also assists in trade complaints and intellectual property protection.
The division has no legal standing in host countries, but as an agency working out of U.S. embassies and consulates in 83 countries, Yatsuhashi notes, “We have influence.”
For example, he said, a publisher’s booth for an important trade show was recently held up in customs, and the agency was able to work through diplomatic channels to get the materials through in time for the show.
The agency also offers webinars on topics such as intellectual property challenges in China and the Indian publishing market, and coordinates U.S. pavilions and promotional events at book industry trade shows across the globe.
Many services are free, but a Gold Key service is offered that arranges customized, pre-screened appointments with prospective overseas trade partners, as well as strategic consultative services and help securing transportation, accommodations, interpreters and clerical support. Fees range from $350 to $700 per day.
Publishing, Selling and Licensing in the Post-Bookstore Future
A panel of experts considered the future of selling and licensing book content in a retail landscape altered by changing consumer habits.
Michael Linder, former senior vice president of strategy and new business development at religious book publisher Zondervan, said audiences expect publishers to make content as easy to use and convenient as possible. This can involve innovative platforms and modes of delivery, new types of products (such as selling by the chapter and packages tailored to certain audiences)—even creative partnerships with retailers and other book producers.
“There is a lot of room in the Internet publishing space for publishers to band together to create more aggregated content and create search facilities around that content,” he said.
Marji Ross, president and publisher at Regnery Publishing, stressed the importance of targeting an audience. “As publishers, it’s very important to know what we are good at and do more of that,” she said. “This requires knowing your market really well.”
She advised approaching “long tail” marketing strategies cautiously (“The ‘long tail’ should not wag the dog ...”), saying it is better to aggressively market to a reader base than count on micro-niches spread out across the consumer
David Borgenicht, president and publisher of Quirk Books, noted his success with “crossover” titles that do as well in gift shops as bookstores.
“Take a page from other industries [and] think about how you can build brands within your publishing companies,” he said. “Very few out there have a true brand in the traditional sense. Think about what your brand is and try to communicate that.”
The first-ever Independent Book Publishers’ Half-Day Symposium covered a variety of topics pertinent to independent publishers, with an emphasis on outside-the-box strategies.
Tanya Hall, special projects manager for Greenleaf Book Group, suggested focusing on retailers other than traditional booksellers that may complement a specific title. As an example, she noted recent success with “Green for Life,” a book about raw foods that the publisher sells in health-food and vitamin stores.
Stenhouse Publishers’ Dan Tobin, general manager, and Zsofi McMullin, Web coordinator, addressed online marketing strategies. “We’re experimenting with Web 2.0 in small, targeted ways to see what might stick that later we can charge for,” said Tobin.
McMullin discussed online strategies that Stenhouse has achieved success with, including the company’s blog. On the blog, McMullin has established “Quick Tip Tuesday,” which “trains” visitors to return to the site at least once a week and, by drawing tips from backlist titles, promotes those titles.
To view photos from the event please visit the Publishing Business Conference's Flickr page.
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