Stay Ahead of the Shift: A Talk on the Publishing Future

Stay Ahead of the Shift: What Publishers Can Do to Flourish in a Community-Centric Web World is what Mike Shatzkin has to say about the book future to a group of publishers, at BookExpo America.

We are all in the content business, and we are going to have to move into the context business. The ownership in the future of eyeballs will be more important than the ownership of IP, because value moves to scarcity. This is immutable, you cannot change this. Content creation and distribution are no longer scarce. Anybody can do them. Distribution is not an issue. I can type something on my computer today, I can flip it to my website, it is distributed. Any body in the world, on the web, can get it. The problem is, will they know about it? That’s the problem. Marketing is the problem. Distribution is no longer the problem. And you’re going to do your marketing niche by niche, and nugget by nugget, and it does require scale. If you don’t have enough content, or clout in a community, you won’t be heard. If you don’t pay enough attention or put enough labor into a community, you won’t be able to command the attention of that community.

I don’t agree with everything he has to say – in particular, I think his view of the cloud being the future to be overstated (he argues that we’re no longer going to download – or own – products, we’re going to buy access to them, ‘they’ being stored online) … but he makes rather good points about what publishers need to do to thrive in a completely different environment. The underlying shtick of his talk is that publishers will first have to build audiences, and then sell them products. And to keep doing the first until the latter makes financial sense.

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