Digital Directions: Breaking Away From the App Herd
Publishers and media types often fall victim to a herd mentality, in which one and all jump on the latest bandwagon, the latest "hot topic." The realm of digital publishing is especially susceptible to this bandwagon effect. Digital media will require a fundamental strategic shift for many media organizations, involving new business models and unfamiliar technical issues. It is often tempting to hope that some simple, magical solution will pave the way to a digital future. And we are often too willing to jump on the bandwagon of each hot new topic that comes along.
Ten or 15 years ago, many felt that the implementation of some digital asset management (DAM) system was all that stood between them and their digital future. Some educational publishers felt that if only their print-ready PDFs were put in some kind of repository, they could be sold as digital product, such as selling textbooks by the chapter. No doubt, the implementation of a DAM is an important digital step forward. But alas, DAMs did not, in and of themselves, represent a digital product solution.
Along comes the next bandwagon: XML. By maintaining works in XML, content can be dynamically formatted for a variety of print and digital formats. Jump on this bandwagon we did. XML is clearly a powerful standard that will have a transformative effect on publishing, but does not intrinsically have any value to the marketplace, to customers directly. It is also not a strategic product solution.
Now we are immersed in the frenzy of the mobile app, the deployment of content and services via smartphone or tablet. If I had to name the top area of interest and aspiration among publishing and media companies, it would be the desire to get an app. A not-uncommon sentiment of this summer has been the imperative to deploy an app by the fall, or the end of the calendar year at the latest.