News & Trends: How to Adapt to the Shifting Market
"We’ve almost become accustomed to an uninterrupted flow of bad news,” said Michael Healy, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) at the organization’s sixth-annual Making Information Pay event, held May 7 at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium in New York City. Falling sales, shrinking margins, closing bookstores and job losses are among the negatives facing the industry, noted Healy. “Some attribute this to wider economic conditions,” he said. “But that implies the book industry will return to normalcy as well,” when the economy recovers.
Others believe that while there are economic factors at work, social and technological forces also are at work. The question for the book industry, Healy said, is: Are we looking at “temporary/transient changes or profound, long-term changes?”
This question formed the foundation of this year’s event, themed: “Shifting Sales Channels and What Publishers Are Doing About Them.”
A View of the Industry
Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst of research and advisory firm Outsell Inc., shared findings from recent research Outsell conducted with BISG for this year’s annual BISG “Trends” report.
In general, she said, “flat” is the new “up,” and book publishing revenues will be flat in 2009.
Watson Healy also highlighted characteristics common among companies “doing well” this year:
- Market share/brand leaders;
- Innovators and boutiques;
- Publishers of real-time data and workflow solutions (i.e., “publishing at the point of need”) especially in the professional publishing sector—for example, content about how to better manage a law practice fed to lawyers at their desks;
- Having a “digital DNA is absolutely essential to today’s successful publishing company,” she stressed.
Despite current economic challenges, investments are not entirely on hold. According to Watson Healy, the most common investment areas are:
Sales and marketing;
- New product development;
- Technology (we are at the “digital tipping point,” she said, and companies need technology to help them manage this transition);
- Staffing, primarily in editorial and IT;
- Process and infrastructure redesign (aiming to “change the things we do that are holding us back,” she said);
- Global expansion.
Most publishing executives surveyed by Outsell expect the industry will return to growth by Q2 2010.