Digital Directions: Understanding Your Digital Opportunities
Profound, technology-driven changes in the content marketplace have presented publishers with a mandate for transformation, to change the manner in which value is delivered, how it is monetized, and the tools and skills necessary to do so. At present, this is seen most strikingly in the world of print. Seismic events are regularly occurring that herald the dawn of new models of content distribution and the twilight of the old.
The changes necessary to adapt to these new models appear daunting. Such a transformation would involve:
- altering product models and their corresponding revenue dynamics;
- creating new distribution relationships;
- selecting appropriate technologies and service providers; and
- changing organizational capability to create digital content value.
Organizations often respond to a mandate for change in one of two ways. Many respond by metaphorically shutting their eyes. Such a transformation represents to these organizations not only a disruptive change, but one that is beyond the means of available capital. However, as we have seen most recently in the newspaper industry, inaction is not a viable long-run option.
Other organizations—perhaps with extraordinary levels of management commitment or greater access to capital—respond differently. They evoke sweeping changes across their publishing programs. Often delivered by edict, such efforts impose prescriptive standards across all offerings and publishing programs. These standards might include restrictive approaches to editorial workflow, tagging and asset management, distribution, and metrics for success.
While this top-down, prescriptive approach does, in fact, affect change (often accompanied by significant Sturm und Drang), it is often ill-suited to a book publishing organization with a diverse array of publishing programs. Without reflecting the unique requirements of each program, the monolithic approach may fail to find success in the marketplace.
A third way, particularly appropriate for publishers with diverse programs, is to develop digital content initiatives that reflect unique requirements and opportunities for each program. By using a segmentation-based strategy, more relevant approaches to digital content management and distribution will emerge for each program.
The following three-part approach can be used to develop relevant digital content programs:
1. Product Segment: First, divide your product offerings into relevant segments. For example, segment the list according to form (reference, fiction, etc.) or subject matter, such as in the case of an education publisher (hard sciences, humanities, etc.).
2. Opportunities: Viable digital opportunities can be specifically identified for each segment. For example, e-book distribution might be a potential opportunity for trade fiction; institutional licensing of hosted content for scholarly monographs. Some product segments may have multiple opportunities, others none.
3. Execution: Each opportunity will, in turn, have specific requirements of execution, which should include both business considerations (required approval, channel strategy, up-front costs) and technical considerations (submission format, metadata). This is where costs associated with specific opportunities emerge, as well as indications of the program’s profitability.
This is not to imply that each opportunity will require a unique technology platform. Our budgets and our sanity require that any organization can use common technology platforms for working with digital assets. However, the specific way in which that platform is employed—such as how content is chunked, tagged or styled—should be determined by the requirements of each initiative. Successful digital content programs should be driven by market opportunities, not by technologies. This will keep the horse in front of the cart.
An approach such as this will result in a structured, hierarchical view that defines what potential opportunities might exist and what is required to execute them. This structure document can be used to:
- develop a case for digital initiatives;
- create implementation approaches relevant to the market opportunity;
- understand common technology requirements across initiatives; and
- prioritize digital opportunities.
Based on the prioritization, organizations can first go after the low-hanging fruit and explore new models incrementally. Breaking down seemingly insurmountable challenges into bite-sized chunks is the first step to surmounting them.
Andrew Brenneman is founder and president of Finitiv, a provider of digital content solutions. He has been leading digital media initiatives at major media and technology organizations for more than 20 years. Contact him at Andrew@Finitiv.com.