Corner Office: Aiming for Agility
• What digital strategies are you employing?
Lerner: Well, we are definitely looking at digital products … specifically for the school and library markets, because those markets are ... just really starting. No one knows exactly what kinds of products are wanted. We're going to be trying several different kinds of product approaches and see which direction gains some traction. This fall, we will be releasing digital products that do things and reach markets that our print titles can't.
• So what do you see as your greatest digital
Lerner: … Digital opportunities have to work hand-in-hand with print. … While it's understood that the majority of every book publisher's revenue now is still derived … from print revenue, without digital elements, print will suffer because the relevancy of the house will diminish. I think it's just imperative to have a digital strategy and show that to the market.
• Do you foresee challenges in trying to implement your digital strategy?
Lerner: There's a myriad of challenges there. It's hard to know where to start because there are so many. But around … the workflow—I think that, in itself, is a big challenge for a traditional publisher like us who's been in business for 50 years and has relied on [only] print for revenue. So [our challenge is] to change the mindset here that it's important that we're not just a print publisher, that we're a content publisher. And whatever format we end up publishing our content in, be it print or digital, that's what's important and that's what we bring to the market, as opposed to just a digital version of it. …
It's a challenge because creating a digital infrastructure is not an inexpensive thing. … So it's a real fine line to be able to fund the change in workflow without necessarily counting on revenue—digital revenue. That's a real big balancing act, I think.