Are You the Weakest Link?
For example, it is commonplace to recognize that different skills and assets are required of the four pillars supporting the publishing enterprise (you can, of course, model as many, or as few pillars as you like):
#1 acquisition and development of the editorial product
#2 production and manufacturing (or digital conversion) of the physical product
#3 marketing and sales of the assembled product
#4 distribution of the packaged product
It is also commonplace to recognize that the administrative and process tools for enterprise management are yet another bundle of skills that attach to each of these pillars, generally not identified as such in the supply chain diagram.
A conventional and rudimentary supply chain model might look like this (of course, longer lists of discrete functions and movers can be aggregated):
Function chain: creative + production + marketing + distribution + customer.
Mover chain: author + printer + publisher + librarian + patron.
Process and administrative management is required of all of the functions, but there is also an enterprise function. In a smaller company, it may reside in the hands of a “shirt-sleeve,” or owner-operated publisher who also doubles as editor-in-chief and triples as marketing manager. In a larger company, we find presidents, CEOs, COOs and vice presidents who do not appear in our foregoing models.
So, we need to add an additional element up front:
Function chain: enterprise
Mover chain: CEO
The CEO and publisher may be one and the same, but the supply chain distinction is critical to an examination of threats and opportunities, strengths and weaknesses—to positioning for core competencies.
The Publisher as a Manufacturer and Content Manager
Publishing-industry people usually don’t think of themselves as manufacturers. That is one of the reasons why many smaller publishers don’t necessarily get the best financial advice—since they are likely to engage accountants who specialize in professional, creative or personal services, where fixed assets and work-in-process aren’t significant.
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.