Digital Directions: The Top 10 Ways to Kill Your Publishing Business
The world of content is in the midst of a nearly perfect storm:
- Changes in the media landscape brought about by digital technologies and customer behavior are driving fundamental changes in how we acquire, produce and sell content.
- The global financial crisis makes funding new capital initiatives required to address digital media much more difficult.
- A downturn in the advertising market is raising havoc with revenue projections.
Decisions are required, but missteps are costly. These are not “bet your job” decisions. They are “bet your company” decisions.
Many of these critical decisions pertain to the digital realm. Here are the top 10 ways to kill your business by making the wrong choices in digital strategy:
1. Apply the full cost of a delivery program to the profit & loss (P&L) statement of the first product to use it.
A digital-product initiative may require a content management or e-commerce platform. Or it might require a new role for the organization, such as customer support. If so, apply the full cost of these new capabilities to the initial product to require it. Why have pesky capital expense charges lingering on your balance sheet for years? If this capability is truly required, then the initial product’s revenue should be able to cover it. If this product fails to meet gross margin targets, write it off. If it does meet GM targets, then subsequent products can benefit from the new capability.
2. Apply all revenue to physical product.
A great way to drive print sales is to bundle the e-book with the physical book. If an e-book program drives incremental revenue, apply all revenue to physical book sales. Your year-over-year unit sales will show growth. Apply any e-book preparation costs as a marketing expense.
3. No matter how much writers and editors protest, force everyone to use a common editorial application and workflow in order to “go XML.”
Sure, they have all become accustomed to tried-and-true applications such as Microsoft Word, and have become increasingly efficient over the years in using these tools. But the only way a publishing organization can move forward in creating structured XML content is to jettison all current tools for a new application that revolutionizes publishing. Ignore the moans of protest; it is for their own good. Right?
4. For online sales, sell your content—physical and electronic—only on your own Web site.
Channels such as Amazon take too high a percentage of the sale. The Web allows us to sell direct. Disintermediate these channels and benefit from the added margin.
5. Maintain your digital assets only with vendors and channel partners.
You don’t need to manage your content. There is a wide array of parties ready and able to maintain your content assets, including typesetters, printers, digital channel partners and digital asset distributors. Keep all copies of your digital content there. You don’t need to keep a backup copy of your content, do you? After all, should you need to access the right version of the right file, your service provider will surely know where and how to retrieve it, and will happily do so without charge. Right?
6. Determine which titles to distribute electronically only after reviewing physical book sales.
Since there may be incremental costs in e-book preparation, only those titles that have demonstrated strong physical sales should be considered as candidates for e-book distribution. At that point, the necessary licensing and royalty agreements can be secured.
7. Pick an e-book format and stick with it.
For your market, it might be Kindle. Or ePub. In any case, prepare your content for one device only. If readers truly want your e-book, show them where they can purchase the appropriate device.
8. Maintain your final content in PDF only.
PDF is the electronic print solution. It is the best format for ensuring your electronic content looks exactly as it does on the printed page. It is the only format required for completed works.
9. Focus only on efficiency of execution of traditional lines of business.
Kill all new and innovative product initiatives that do not have a track record of predictable revenue. Times are too risky to contemplate destabilizing change or new capital expense. Don’t do anything new.
10. Stay the course.
Print publishing has a business model that has been stable for centuries. This digital nonsense is just a bump in the road.
Andrew Brenneman is managing director of Finitiv, a digital media consultancy. He has 20 years of experience leading pioneering digital media initiatives in publishing and advertising, including NETg’s Skill Builder, Thomson Learning’s WebTutor, FreeMark Mail and MSDewey.com. Brenneman also founded the Digital Media Group of The University of Chicago Press Books Division, where he led digital distribution and the development of The Chicago Manual of Style Online.