Is “Giving It Away” Good Business Strategy? An Interview with Nolo Vice President of Editorial Mary Randolph on her company’s progressive approach to legal publishing
In business since the 1970s, Nolo––a Berkeley, Calif.-based trade publisher specializing in legal publications––established a presence on the Web in 1994 and has been aggressively pursuing online opportunities ever since. Mary Randolph, the company’s vice president of editorial, recently spoke with Book Business Extra about Nolo’s stance on controversial topics such as Open Access and Google Book Search, and why the company believes in giving away a lot of its content.
Extra: What do you feel are the biggest challenges your publishing segment is facing right now?
Mary Randolph: We are primarily a trade publisher, and our main markets are bookstores and libraries. As we all know, the number of independent bookstores has been declining for years, and the big chains are not expanding rapidly. But in general, all book publishers must come to grips with the fact that people go online first for information. They may actually find, when they’re searching, that their best solution is in a book. But we all know that people are getting more and more used to finding information in dribs and drabs as they ping around to different Web sites––and they’re used to getting it for free.
Extra: How are you utilizing the Internet and new media to complement your print publications? Which areas have been successful for you and which areas do you hope to grow in the future?
Randolph: … On Nolo.com, visitors can read thousands of free articles; listen to free podcasts; order hard copies of Nolo books, software or forms; download copies of our books and software; read profiles of lawyers they might want to consult; or use our online services, for example, to make a will online. We regularly send free e-mail newsletters on specific topics (legal issues for landlords, for example) to customers who have requested a subscription. We will soon be launching a series of blogs by Nolo experts on some of our main topics, such as business, intellectual property, family law, tax and estate planning.