Preparing for the Industry’s Future
The 2008 Publishing Business Conference & Expo—held March 10-12 in New York City— was the setting for a meeting of many of publishing’s top minds. With more than 1,000 book and magazine publishing industry executives in attendance, the Publishing Business Conference & Expo featured two-and-a-half days of intensive conference sessions addressing the biggest issues facing publishers today. Held concurrently, the expo hosted more than 100 exhibitors showcasing publishing technologies and services.
The show, which this year featured its new Publishing Business brand, is produced by Book Business and Publishing Executive magazines and follows in the footsteps of the BookTech Conference & Expo.
“The evolution of production- centric BookTech into Publishing Business came to maturity in 2008. While we still have some work ahead to make the brand recognized deep in every major publishing company, attendees and exhibitors communicated loud and clear that they were extremely pleased with the quality of the content and the productive networking of this year’s show,” says Mark Hertzog, Book Business vice president/group publisher and Publishing Business Conference & Expo director. “The Publishing Business Conference & Expo has become the one annual event publishing executives must attend to fi ll up on business intelligence from the brightest minds in the industry.”
Nearly 150 speakers led close to 50 sessions, many standing-room-only, and provided attendees with strategies and tactics to tackle the most pressing issues facing their businesses and careers.
“The conference has been growing signifi cantly over the past few years, and this year not only followed that trend, but I think in terms of the content presented and the caliber of speakers, it was perhaps our best event ever,” says Noelle Skodzinski, Book Business editor in chief and Publishing Business Conference program director. “The publishing industry is at a pivotal point …, and executives have so many questions about how best to approach the future. The conference addressed many of those questions and hopefully provided attendees with a number of practical strategies for facing the change that is upon us.”
“I agree with the sentiment expressed by a number of people I spoke to that this year’s event was the best ever,” says John Morse, president and publisher of Merriam- Webster Inc. and conference chair of the event. “The sessions I attended were wellstructured and informative, and I was particularly impressed with the high level of attentiveness and engagement I saw from members of the audience at all of the sessions. Clearly, people had come … to learn, and that certainly was gratifying for both the speakers and the organizers of the event. On a personal level, I came away better informed on a number of key issues and, even more importantly, with a renewed sense of focus and clarity about ways we can be moving our business. And I think I am not alone in feeling that way.”
Attendees also explored an exhibit hall packed wallto- wall with the latest industry solutions and services— including publishing management and workfl ow software, digital solutions in printing and publishing, and book manufacturing, fi nishing and packaging services.
“As a new vendor [at the show], I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of traffi c to our booth, which should open up new opportunities for us and for conference attendees,” says Lou Bahin, chief marketing offi cer of ePublishing, a Chicago-based provider of online and e-commerce solutions. “… The subject matter of the conference was very informative and encouraged publishers to come to us with very informed questions about doing business online; the net result was a good use of attendees’ time, and many new business contacts for us.”
Book Publishing in the Digital Age
On Tuesday morning, a keynote panel of industry thought-leaders addressed a crowded ballroom on a topic that is at the forefront of most publishers’ minds: book publishing in the digital age. Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of The Idea Logical Company, moderated the discussion. He was joined by Peter Osnos, founder and editor-at-large, PublicAffairs; Carolyn Pittis, senior vice president, global marketing strategy and operations, HarperCollins Publishers; Publishing Business Conference Co-Chair John Morse, president and publisher, Merriam-Webster Inc.; and Michael Cairns, managing partner, Information Media Partners, and former CEO of R.R. Bowker.
Shatzkin kicked off the discussion by noting a shift in the consumer media landscape— from the horizontal, format-specifi c coverage of the 20th century to the new, 21st-century content-delivery models in which “communities rule,” content is organized vertically and formats are rendered insignifi cant online. He touched on some of the implications of this shift for book publishers, including reduced opportunities for horizontal promotional media, such as shrinking book review sections, and the concern that a younger generation weaned on the Internet may be steering away from the book’s long form, citing the popularity of text messaging and the manga genre among adolescents and young adults.
Shatzkin urged publishers to rethink their business models. “Get beyond the book,” he advised, “… and get comfortable with audio and video.” He also stressed the importance of building community relations with customers and creating an online marketing infrastructure.
Peter Osnos discussed The Caravan Project, which he created two-and-a-half years ago. The grant-funded project, which focuses on nonfi ction books, has a two-fold mission, explained Osnos: to enable publishers to produce books “in all the ways technology now permits,” including audio and electronic formats, and to give booksellers the capacity to make these multiformat books available to consumers.
Seven nonprofi t publishers, including several university presses, and a number of independent booksellers are participating in The Caravan Project, which has produced 65 titles in two seasons.
Carolyn Pittis of HarperCollins stressed the importance of providing readers with a unique experience, not just content. She highlighted several of the publisher’s recent digital initiatives that help to create that unique experience— many of which were “fi rsts” in the book publishing world—including its digital content warehouse, “Browse Inside” feature and author portal, Author Assistant.
While Pittis noted the benefi t of authors building communities online, which the Author Assistant portal helps to facilitate, she also urged publishers and their staffs to interact with their communities. “It’s very important for publishers to remain in the conversation,” she said.
John Morse conveyed the message that print and digital can exist side-byside. “Online and print feed off of each other,” he said, citing Merriam-Webster’s decision in 1996 to offer its best-selling product, the “Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary,” online for free. Revenue for the print version of the dictionary has increased each year thereafter. “We learned that [consumers] want print, but they don’t want just print,” said Morse, “[and] electronic use does not necessarily endanger print sales.” Michael Cairns advised traditional publishers to be aware of what services self-publishers such as Lulu.com and AuthorHouse are offering to their authors. “Lulu.com could be considered the germination of a trade/consumer publishing platform,” he said. “Publishers should see what they’re doing.”
Book Distribution Strategies
The implications of digital-distribution models for authors, publishers and booksellers took center stage at a Tuesdayafternoon discussion moderated by Book Business columnist Eugene Schwartz. Schwartz was joined by new Book Business contributor Thomas Woll, president of Cross River Publishing Consultants, and Andrew Weinstein, vice president and general manager of retail solutions at Ingram Digital.
Woll began his presentation by stressing that print distribution models now in place should remain stable for the foreseeable future. The big shifts, he said, will come in digital delivery. “The shift in the paradigm … has been in delivery systems,” he said. “We’re going from the print or electronic fi le into reading devices, and I think the next logical step for the reading devices will be happening, which is the cell phone.”
E-book sales increased from $5.8 million in 2002 to $20 million in 2006, Woll noted. “E-book content—which for years and years … has been fl at, waiting for a delivery system to happen—is now going to really rapidly expand over the next fi ve years,” he said, adding that the habits of the emerging young demographic will only strengthen this trend.
Given a stable print model and rapidly changing digital market, Woll had several key recommendations for publishers.
Plan for continued consolidation among independent booksellers and a “revision of the superstore concept,” he said, citing the emergence of Borders Express as a harbinger of retailers’ scaling back in response to online purchasing.
Planning for increased digital distribution involves understanding emerging business models. If you are going to give something away for free online, make sure it brings people into a “buying scenario,” Woll said. “You have to think of profi t, not just hits and clicks. … The electronic world demands a business structure.”
Woll said subscription pricing or tiered pricing models, such as that adopted by the National Academies Press, can work well, depending on the audience. However you sell, he stressed, make the ordering process easy for consumers.
Repurposing is a strategy both for content and distribution, he added, in that different confi gurations of content demand different methods. Publishers must understand the uses of metadata and have an effective content management system.
In explaining the vision behind Ingram Digital’s success, Weinstein spoke of book distribution as a continuum from print to digital. The challenge is in managing, promoting and distributing content in and between these various forms.
As the Web becomes more vertical, “special niches are becoming siloed,” Weinstein said. The challenge, in many cases, is simply fi nding the consumer.
“There are three rules to live by for a book publisher, in our opinion,” he said. “Publishers should never miss a sale for any title. Customers should always be able to fi nd what they want and find it easily. No. 3 is, refer to Nos. 1 and 2.”
Manage digital assets to fully exploit new possibilities, including selling outof-print titles, repurposing content and driving new marketing strategies such as book previews, Weinstein said. Ingram’s service “turns virtually anybody into a bookseller” with widgets and other interactive applications, he added.
Woll noted that these kinds of marketing and distribution possibilities, “open up competition to a level that we haven’t really seen before.”
Sessions Cover the Full Scope of Publishing
Other sessions—such as “Major Retail Trends Publishers Need to Know”; “Tips for Cutting Book Manufacturing Costs”; “Becoming More Nimble, Shortening the Content Production Cycle”; and “Digital Strategies: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck”—addressed everything from manufacturing to marketing and digital publishing strategies.
Kim Catalano, senior vice president of operations for Galaxy Press, who attended the “Digital Strategies” session, said, “[This was] an excellent seminar. Very informative and very stabilizing for me as a publishing [executive] diving into the digital world. I [now] know what to do.”
The conference closed on Wednesday with two intensive, half-day seminars. One, on search engine optimization (SEO) strategies for publishers, was presented by a full panel of leading SEO experts, including Michael Dubb, Time Inc. Interactive; Michael Guzzi, Merriam- Webster Inc.; Aaron Kahlow, BusinessOnLine; Dan Roberts, Hearst Digital Media Group; Adam Sherk, Defi ne Search Strategies; and Rob Yoegel, North American Publishing Co. The other session was led by Publishing Executive columnist and design guru Jan V. White and editorial and design expert Robin Sherman, and explored ways publishers can increase readership by establishing a meaningful information architecture and making content presentation lure readers and keep them engaged.
“Jan White is a publishing icon!” said attendee Brent Jacobs, director, publications production, American Speech- Language-Hearing Association, which publishes books about communication.
Another attendee, Rick Queary, senior buyer at Thomson Tax and Accounting, noted, “Jan White should be heard by anyone and everyone involved in publishing!”
Queary’s colleague at Thomson Tax and Accounting, Linda Lusk, manager of purchasing, attended the SEO intensive. “[It was] interesting, factual, [offered] new ideas, [and featured] excellent speakers who were excited about the subject,” she said. “I thought this subject was going to be boring. … It was absolutely not!”
Karoline Freudenberger, Web marketing manager for Standard Publishing, said, “This conference provided deep insight into industry trends and best practices that I couldn’t have found elsewhere.”
—Reported by Noelle Skodzinski, Janet Spavlik, Matt Steinmetz, Jim Sturdivant and Mark Hertzog/Book Business.
Save the Date
Mark your calendars now for the next Publishing Business Conference & Expo, which will be held March 23-25, 2009, in New York City. Visit PublishingBusiness.com for more information.
- Aaron Kahlow
- Adam Sherk
- Andrew Weinstein
- Brent Jacobs
- Carolyn Pittis
- Chair John Morse
- Dan Roberts
- Eugene Schwartz
- Jan V. White
- Janet Spavlik
- Jim Sturdivant
- Karoline Freudenberger
- Kim Catalano
- Linda Lusk
- Lou Bahin
- Mark Hertzog
- Matt Steinmetz
- Michael Cairns
- Michael Dubb
- Michael Guzzi
- Peter Osnos
- Rick Queary
- Rob Yoegel
- Robin Sherman
- Thomas Woll