The dichotomy of content and publishing solutions was carefully laboured at the London Book Fair. Industry folk questioned whether editorial capability or slick publishing solutions better impacted publishing success. Content is the starting block, granted; yet has it been demoted from king to courtier?
How far has technology challenged the pure content business? Examples of successful online communities and multi-platform brands (Top Gear, Pottermore) were showcased over the course of the digital seminars at the fair. The importance of digital marketing tools like Mouseflow and Google Analytics was stressed by all (Puffin, Oxford Scholarly Editions Online).
Speakers from Macmillan claimed that focus in publishing was no longer on content but generating and implementing digital solutions. Dominic Knight called for ‘moving beyond content’ while Stephen Devlin predicted that the product owner would be either equally or more important than the editor.
Marketing professionals from BBC Worldwide and Penguin showcased a plethora of publishing solutions ranging from apps (both content-based and games) and online communities to user statistics, analytics and semantic tagging. As marketers, they measured the ‘story’ in how well it created an emotional gateway to the brand. Their focus remained on the latest publishing solutions in which to commit their digital content. Laurie Kaye, lawyer behind Pottermore, heralded an IP-centric, platform-agnostic publishing paradigm.
A pressing need to invest time, staff, money and forward-thinking into technology and publishing solutions trumped all other concerns discussed over the seminars (I attended) at the fair. The most insightful and incisive publishers were in the process of bolstering the organisation from within by implementing strong technology leadership. The lesson from the London Book Fair was clear: the pure content business has been toppled; substance is nothing without publishing solutions that will give it a fighting chance in the current publishing arena.