There has never been a better time to be a publisher! But if you read newspapers and magazines you will see stories of doom and gloom. If you read old-media pages on the web you will see similar negativity.

This lack of positive energy is surprising. While the web may have changed and grown far more rapidly than anyone expected, publishing has always needed to deal with radical changes in technology. And the web has provided huge opportunities to publishers:

  • Apple iPad iBooks bookstorebillions rather than millions of potential readers
  • tiny marketing costs to reach millions of eyes and ears
  • dozens of niche sales sites alongside ‘mainstream’ Amazon

The rate of change appears to be the problem. The older, established ways of working are, well, not working. Just the three points mentioned above reveal significant changes.

Billions of potential readers

The new audience won’t all read The Times Literary Supplement and maybe none of the dozen other reputable sources that have established themselves, some over decades. Those billions need new thinking by the publishers:

  • rapid and agile adoption of new online channels
  • tone of voice that suits each channel
  • calls to action that are appropriate for each channel

MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have not been a success for publishers because, in the main, they failed to achieve the basic requirements. For example, the process below can be an #epicfail in the Twitterverse:

a tweet that leads to a Facebook page which requires signing up that subsequently links to a website

First, there are many people who have abandoned or refuse to join Facebook after the perceived loss of privacy. Second, only novice web users would accept four clicks through four platforms to reach the real content.

Apple iPad book and blog creationTiny marketing costs

Without going into deep and treacherous discussions about ROI, the point is that TV advertising costs tens of thousands of dollars/pounds/yen to reach large audiences. The same problem applies to advertising in large-circulation newspapers and magazines. The web has many examples of clever marketing which attract hundreds of thousands of fans (aka conversions) but at a fraction of the cost. Rage Against The Machine, Meerkats and Heineken are perfect examples.

Yes the brands may have already spent millions on previous marketing strategies but every brand needs to capture new converts, especially the ones who have not responded to previous mainstream mechanisms.

Dozens of niche sales sites

Amazon was, at one time, niche. Then along came Apple and iTunes which not only stole online music from Amazon but also from everyone else, even Walmart. And now there is the looming threat of Apple’s iPad to challenge Kindle.

Now there are many ways to market and sell on the web, from eBay and PayPal-powered sites through to hold-your-hand-DIY services like ASOS and Etsy. For publishers the choices are almost limitless IF they can make/arrange/agree the pricing:

  • Amazon – but publishers often fail to provide sufficient information or incentives
  • Apple iBooks and iPad – although there is a chance authors could benefit more than publishers
  • Blogs – essential for publishers and agents and authors
  • Consumer websites – the department stores of today with huge footfall
  • DIY sales channels – publishers are noticeably absent
  • eBay – publishers need to help simplify the process for niche collectors
  • Fan websites and forums – agents and authors are there, not many publishers
  • Mobile – the biggest challenge for the next 5 years!

Publishers have, probably, a static mindset. The bookshop/department store is there and they only needed to provide the books and occasional marketing support. Static no longer works. The rules of the web prevail:

  • fail to provide required content within 8 seconds and we’re gone
  • fail to provide required content within 4 clicks and we’re gone