Coming out of O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change conference, a number of industry observers have blogged about lessons learned (Kassia Krozser), lessons not learned (Don Linn) and the value of serendipity (Debbie Stier).
One part of the post from Don Linn (who has recently re-started his blog) jumped out at me: his fifth observation that “NOBODY talked about how to make money on any of this stuff” (which is true). Linn sees the cost of investing in digital publishing platforms as often much less than the downstream rewards can justify.
He’s right on at least two counts: established businesses have a much higher cost to replace legacy workflows; and the solutions available are either dauntingly expensive or uncomfortably limiting.
Like Linn, I think that the future is uncertain, and it’s tough in that environment for established publishers to make an argument for six- or even seven-figure investments. What’s a publisher to do?
Some have counseled open-source solutions, but even those are potentially expensive to implement. I think they also mislead publishers into thinking the platform “should be cheap”.
I’ve written before that content’s fundamental problem is not that it costs too much, but that it is deployed too narrowly. Publishers with valuable content need to be thinking about how to reduce or even eliminate the cost of making it available everywhere.
Publishers who look to make money on “containers for content” will be hard-pressed to justify investments that will help them make their content agile. The future for paid content does include those containers, but the investment has to consider uses that are at once likely (mobile) and untested.
Once an investment in content agility is made, pursuing a wide range of revenue opportunities becomes the business model. Without planning for that breadth of formats and uses, the investments may never make sense.