Publishing Business Conference: 'Exhilarating and Reassuring'
The Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York, was abuzz April 4-6 with more than 1,200 publishing industry executives attending the Publishing Business Conference & Expo, produced by Book Business and Publishing Executive magazines.
The event, which saw its highest attendance in its history, focuses on providing strategic information for senior-level executives in book and magazine publishing, with 40-plus sessions throughout the 2.5-day show and tracks dedicated to each publishing audience. This year's theme was "Thriving in the New Media Universe," and the conference program was built with the goal of helping attendees do just that.
The conference opened with two high-profile morning sessions on cross-platform publishing and social media strategy, followed by a welcome address by Esquire Editor David Granger, a keynote address by The Onion President and CEO Steve Hannah, and special guest speaker, Consultant David Aldea, who spoke on digital transformation and prioritizing financial investments going forward. Monday also featured the Third Annual Digital Magazine Symposium, now a staple of the show.
Tuesday's keynote event was an executive roundtable—featuring Workman Publishing Group Publisher Bob Miller, Ingram Content Group Chief Content Officer Phil Ollila, LJK Literary Management Founder/Agent Larry Kirshbaum, McGraw-Hill Professional President Philip Ruppel, and Scholastic Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development Jeffrey Mathews—which explored how shifts in the marketplace are impacting the entire supply chain—from distributors to publishers to authors and agents, and more. Tuesday also was rounded out by a half-day mobile strategy summit—which explored issues and solutions in mobile publishing, from the mobile Web to apps, from pricing to logistics and workflow, to business models, return on investment and more—and the annual Digital Book Printing Forum, presented by INTERQUEST.
Wednesday featured a half-day social media workshop run in cooperation with the Online Marketing Summit, which engaged the audience in success stories and tactical strategies, and provided specific solutions to social media hurdles.
"[The Publishing Business Conference] is the event horizon for the publishing industry," said Robert D. Clouse, president and publisher, Triple Nickel Press. "Truly the thought-provoking edge. Trust me, you'll wish you had brought your entire team."
Robin Coleman of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists noted, "The Publishing Business Conference organizers have done a wonderful job maintaining balance between innovative thinkers and speakers with knowledge grounded in experience. The sessions are simultaneously exhilarating and reassuring."
"The 2011 Publishing Business Conference & Expo was an excellent conference and definitely worth the investment of attending," said Jennifer A. Mojave, corporate services manager for Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. "Each session I attended exceeded my expectations, and I gained vast knowledge about the industry, best business practices, future predictions …, etc. I can now share the information I learned with my team and move forth in improving our own business practices, and offer our Castle Connolly publications to our customers over multiple platforms we are investing in."
The Expo: Solutions for All Walks of Publishing
Monday and Tuesday also drew traffic to the expo hall, filled with 70 exhibitors of a wide range of publishing technologies, services and solutions. "It's very helpful if you're looking for an all-in-one publishing show," said Stan Tracy, director, Capital Cities/ABC. "I found several vendors I will be contacting."
According to the post-show survey distributed to show attendees, more than 60 percent of attendees found new, prospective vendors in the expo hall.
Marianne Calilhanna, marketing manager for Really Strategies Inc.—which provides content solutions and services to publishers, and exhibited in the expo—commented, "This year's Publishing Business Conference provided the ideal forum to speak one-on-one with the thousands of publishing professionals who gather on the expo floor. It was no surprise to us that 'e-book' was definitely the hot topic this year. Because of this event, RSuite Cloud by Really Strategies was able to demonstrate how our solution automates e-book production to hundreds of people."
"… The show coordinators have done a great job of recognizing the areas of our business that are rapidly changing and adjusting the show to facilitate and showcase those changes," said Dan Deardorff, manager of client services for Advantage Book Binding, a longtime exhibitor at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo. "The show has been a good tool for us as a vendor to gauge where the industry is heading and how we need to grow to keep up with all of our customer needs."
Ben Hoffman, senior account manager for MoFuse Inc., which exhibited its mobile website management solutions in the expo, said, "The Publishing Business Conference & Expo is an excellent opportunity to learn about innovative technologies in the field of publishing, as well as meet those who are leading these transformations."
"I have seen the show evolve over the years as our industry has evolved," said Jonnie A. Bryant, executive director of marketing and sales for book manufacturer McNaughton & Gunn Inc. "I believe that [Publishing Business] has kept a high degree of integrity and value to the exhibitors and publishers who attend. The show was very good for our company this year. The traffic was high, and I believe that was a result of the caliber of the event and speakers. The information was important and of value to the attendees. I attended a number of sessions where the energy was high because the topics were important to the audience," Bryant said. "Thank you for all your continued work to make this show successful for all who attend and exhibit."
Suggested improvements include: The show could use more available seating for attendees during breaks and lunch, according to some, and more opportunities to network with all the innovative speakers and attendees.
"With the show growing each year, the staff works hard to keep up with everything needed to accommodate the increasing numbers of attendees and exhibitors, and we will continue to listen to and respond to attendee feedback," says Noelle Skodzinski, program director for the Publishing Business Conference & Expo, and editorial director for Book Business and Publishing Executive magazines. "Most attendees said they'll be back next year, so we'll plan to have more seats waiting for them!"
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."
Expect and prepare for this conversation, he said—or prepare to be left behind by non-traditionalists who accept the wide-open digital landscape. "Publishers need to be aware that the fiercest competitor may be a completely different player," he said. "Someone who has a unique insight [into marketing and distribution] could sandbag the next bestseller you are hoping to launch. Publishers are not the only game in town." BB
Editor's note: Additional coverage of the conference can be found on PublishingBusiness.com. To receive updates on the Publishing Business Conference & Expo, sign up to receive the free Publishing Business Insider e-newsletter at PublishingBusiness.com. And mark your calendars now for the 2012 Publishing Business Conference & Expo, March 19-21, in New York.