Digital media provides publishers with an opportunity to compete in new markets using multiple formats. Publishers who want to take advantage of new opportunities will need to be sure their content workflows support those efforts. They’ll also want to be sure they can cost-effectively support multiple opportunities: Write once, read many.
The importance of workflow can be found in a post by Johanna Vondeling, Berrett-Koehler’s vice president for international sales and business development. In it, Vondeling describes the “top ten trends shaping the future of publishing“. Vondeling’s first trend, “everyone’s a publisher”, specifically talks about book publishing, but it offers lessons that can be useful for other types of publishers and marketers:
Now that digital content is popular and relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, millions of individuals and thousands of non–book-publishing media companies have leaped into the business of creating and distributing it, often also offering print-on-demand options.
The near-elimination of barriers to entry into the publishing marketplace has produced an ever-increasing flood of information and entertainment options for consumers. Publishers’ primary competition today isn’t other books but rather other forms of media, including social media platforms, games, and streamed content.
As the presence and relevance of physical retail space for books continues to decline, so too will the necessity for other entities—including authors and other content producers—to work with established legacy publishers to bring books to market.
The number of published titles has skyrocketed in the last five years, with annual output estimated at between two and four million new releases each year. The vast majority sell very few copies, but they are reshaping the landscape for traditional publishers. In a previous post, I came to describe the new entrants, including Wattpad, as a kind of “farm system”.
Vondeling observes that the declining significance of physical retailers will also shift power away from traditional houses. I agree this is happening, although I have lamented the attitude that keeps regional retail stores from engaging directly with promising local authors.
In thinking through the issues related to abundant content, Vondeling is understandably focused on books. Still, she is right to say that competition doesn’t come just from other books, as digital media affords book publishers an opportunity to compete in other markets and formats.
International markets, where long-tail demand can be served if the rights are negotiated with worldwide releases in mind, provide one example. The Atavist, which offers options to cost-effectively distribute medium-length content, provides another example.
Publishers who want to take advantage of cross-border and cross-platform opportunities need workflows that support those efforts. I know .. workflow again. It’s the ante for competition in an age of digital content.