Publishing Business Conference: 'Exhilarating and Reassuring'
David Aldea: Embrace 'The Conversation'
One highlight among many book publishers was special guest speaker David Aldea. Publishers worried about piracy might do better to focus on opportunities, rather than threats, brought about by the proliferation of digital content, Aldea told conference attendees during his Monday presentation.
Aldea, a strategic consultant specializing in digital transformation and digital innovation, said attempts by publishers to discourage and control digital sharing will increasingly run up against consumer expectations of flexibility. He cited the mistakes of the music industry, whose initial response to music sharing was to sue the very people keeping them in business. The failure of digital rights management (DRM)—even for Apple—after millions were invested in the technology demonstrates the futility of such elaborate and (in the public's mind) intrusive controls, he said.
"I'm not suggesting you should make your content easy to give to everybody," he told the audience of book and magazine executives. "What I'm suggesting is there are other methods to make your content demanded even though it has been digitized."
One approach, he suggests, is to rely more on detection than control, embedding digital files with code that tracks usage in order to create qualified sales leads. Another is to monetize content via what he calls "the conversation," a means of facilitating and capitalizing on existing consumer behavior built around social sharing and comment.
"The conversation is going to happen with or without your participation or permission," he said. "Why not harness that conversation?" For authors and publishers, this means ceding some control to create and maintain a following.
"In fact, I will put it to you all today that hosting and curating a conversation on topics that you write about or publish is a highly effective way to protect your own copyright or earnings going forward," he said. "The greater the distribution of your content, even dare I say if it is done so illegally, the greater the power of the community that you have started. That community can be marketed and sold to as a pre-qualified group, more effectively in some cases than a book just sitting on a shelf."