Publishers Will Need Independent Tech to Level Playing Field

Technology in the hands of businessmen

By Danielle Desjardins

“Google, Facebook, and Twitter — Are they media companies disguised as technology companies?”

This is the question at the heart of “Publishers Will Need Independent Tech to Level Playing Field,” by Kirk McDonald, President of PubMatic, and although the answer to this hotly debated issue isn’t quite clear, one thing is: regardless of whether these outlets are media or technology companies, traditional publishers will need to up their game, and rethink their roles, to compete.

Premium content is no longer the failsafe recipe for success that it was for publishers for decades. Instead, technology and data are upending the monetization strategies that publishers have relied on for so long.

The world of publishing has changed dramatically over the past several years, and according to McDonald, this has created a new paradigm for publishers. “Premium content is no longer the failsafe recipe for success that it was for publishers for decades. Instead, technology and data are upending the monetization strategies that publishers have relied on for so long.” And these changes show in user behavior.

According to a study by Publishing Technology, a leading supplier of data and content solutions, 43% of mobile phone users (both in the United States and United Kingdom) use their phones to read books. The remaining 57%, however, find the experience of reading on a mobile phone unpleasant (36% in the US; 29% in the UK) or found the mobile platforms designed for reading too difficult to use (26% in the US; 21% in the UK). This indicates that unlike game developers, social networking sites, and other media/technology hybrids, publishing companies are not concentrating on continuously refining the user experience of their digital content — a necessity when users can, and will, easily switch loyalties. And considering that an estimated 2.4 billion smartphones will be sold in 2015 alone — approximately 120 times the number of Kindle e-readers sold from 2007 to 2014 — this represents a lost opportunity on a huge scale.

But that is only one technology. As millennials and other digital natives increasingly affect the marketplace, this need for excellent user experiences, and more convenient print/digital hybrid solutions, will only increase.

But the task of developing new monetization strategies and redirecting focus requires publishers to rethink their roles entirely. No longer will they solely be responsible for acquiring, producing, and disseminating content; instead, the average publisher will also need to consider the development or acquisition of specialized technologies built around their unique products — and their unique challenges.

Although some may rush to partner with the Facebooks and Twitters of the world to gain access to these groundbreaking technologies without a substantial internal investment, this strategy may prove short-sighted, especially as the partner technology company moves (often lightning fast) to change the offered technology to fit their own needs, not the publisher’s.

These marketplaces are no more invested in a publisher’s success than the NASDAQ is invented in the success of a particular mutual fund that makes trades on its exchange.

Instead, according to McDonald, the secret to adapting is to locate and partner with independent technology companies — or create individualized technology perfectly suited to your requirements in-house — to solve problems such as the need for greater market automation and real-time inventory management. In a sense, it is only by redefining themselves as both media and technology companies — effectively blurring the lines between each segment — that publishers will survive.

“It’s time for publishers to stop asking, “Are Google and Facebook media companies or tech companies?’” says McDonald, “And start asking themselves, ‘How am I using technology to build the media company of the future?’”


How Publishers Need to Rethink Marketing

By Danielle Desjardins

It’s clear that digital publishing has completely changed the way publishers look at their products. But writer Mike Shatzkin suggests in this piece for “Digital Book World” that they’re slow in evaluating the ways their marketing must change, as well.

According to Shatzkin, no longer are we living in a time when marketing copy is best left to those who have deep knowledge of what is inside the book, and marketing efforts best directed toward booksellers and reviewers.

“Both of those ideas are now anachronisms, artifacts of a time when the primary ways a consumer would find out about a book were by seeing it in a bookstore or reading or hearing about it from relatively few review media. Now that half or more of the books, including ebooks, are not bought in stores, and even the most important review media reach people by links emailed to them by their friends or posted on Facebook, the old ways make no sense.”

The solution for publishers? Adopting the type of audience-centric — and research-heavy — forms of advertisement that marketing firms have long built their businesses around. Publishers can no longer write to intermediaries, but instead must research the perceived audiences of each text — in fact, build extensive marketing segments for them, including where they can be found online — and create copy that must always be applicable to these audiences’ methods of reading and sharing, even if it that copy is only intended for use in a publisher’s catalog.

This, of course, comes with natural problems. Many publishers don’t have the resources to devote to this type of time- and labor-intensive type of marketing — and may not have the skill set in-house to do it as successfully as the firms they should be emulating, despite being skilled at identifying the best audience for any single text.

If publishing is to successfully transition into this new phase of digital content, however, these are skills they must develop — or disappear into an anachronistic landscape of unseen print advertisements and unread reviews.

Read his piece here: