Gregory Brown, Senior Director, Strategic Development, DataStream Content Solutions (DSCS)
David Prichard, President & CEO, Ingram Content Group, Inc.
Matt Turner, Senior Consultant, Mark Logic Corporation
Steven Alperin, Entrepreneur in Residence, MyWire, Consultant ABC , MyWire, Week's Best
Skip Prichard highlighted some of the tailored publications that they produce, one unit at a time. Their average run is 1.8 books. They find customers from both major players like Amazon and major bookstores but also small local retailers. Either way they're making money. Matt Turner was asked by Gregory about custom publishing beyond print. They can feed single-unit print cycles, but they have done far more with partners such as Wiley enables publishers to replace back-end operations that are used to create books more cost-effectively. Mark Logic sees custom publishing as pervasive, moving into workflow products also on electronic platforms. Steven Alperin came from a mass media background, but now focuses at MyWire on how to access audiences in ways that help them be more engaged with content on a personal basis.
What does it take to enable technology to get content to work effectively in a custom publishing environment? Matt noted success needs to be hinged around a company invested in the idea of custom content, the technology is there, but there's a mind shift that needs to occur. In terms of what needs to be invested in, Skip noted that you can't invest in everything, but tools like VitalSource can help publishers not only to package content but to offer feedback on usage and, via social networking tools, feedback on the content itself to refine the product constantly. Matt noted that the investments are largely there, now, with the trend towards customizing being driven by the opportunities being revealed by platforms that are already good at repurposing. "Content that wants to be expensive tends to be really, really narrow sets of content that custom publishing can reveal," Matt noted. Investigating your usage data is one of the key opportunities to understand custom publishing opportunities and to define them, noted Steven.
I agree with the panelists that custom publishing needs to be elevated radically from a sideline to a core rationale for premium publishing. Recently I received a post card invitation to an upcoming publishers' conference. Not only was the card tailored to me personally but the conference organizers had created a custom Web address personalized for me to explore the content that was printed on the card. That's highly targeted marketing that's a cross between the capabilities of custom print and online technologies. This is the key to driving publishing today, be it in print or online.
I do think especially that print-oriented publishers are missing many opportunities to develop custom markets for print as they fret about how to protect existing mass distribution models. Why focus on dwindling margins on rights-protected content when you can help people to add value to printable materials by opening up printable content to customization by partners and individuals? People can talk about eInk, tablets and other electronic display all they want, but cost-effective custom print is going to be a key factor in the renaissance of print publishing over the next several years. This rebirth may not result in an industry as we know it today, but it will still offer a very powerful value-add channel for most publishers.
Labels: books, custom publishing, enterprise, magazines, marketing, media, online, print