Marketing backflips

On Saturday, I recapped the first day of an annual meeting hosted by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta. The post also included a preview of the sessions planned for that day.

That morning, Jack Illingworth, executive director for the Literary Press Group of Canada, started the day by offering his thoughts on five factors he thinks are collectively reshaping Canadian publishing. Literary Press Group provides sales, marketing, distribution and advocacy support to almost 50 independent Canadian book publishers that specialize in Canadian literature.

The federal and some provincial governments in Canada actively support cultural activities, including literary presses, an approach not really seen in the United States. Their engagement shaped some of Illingworth's observations, which included:

  • The impact of lower prices on business practices across the supply chain
  • What he called a "creeping specialization", a market-driven need for all supply-chain participants to re-evaluate their missions
  • A "marketing backflip", bringing content to consumers (rather than driving consumers to purchase content)
  • A conflict over "authorial laborers", with publishers and government entities unclear in their thinking about authors as a workforce, suppliers or partners
  • In Canada, a "bipolar book policy" in which major parts of cultural policy are made in a narrow basket of "more" or "less" of some benefit

Illingworth's talk, "Publishers' radar: A whirlwind tour of the issues that matter", moved quickly through each of these issues, but it had members of the audience thinking out loud even as he spoke. His description of the "marketing backflip" reminded me of the ideas contained in "Lean consumption", a Harvard Business Review article that I feel offers a blueprint for content marketing in the years to come.

A bit of disclosure: When he was working at the Association of Canadian Publishers, I did a project with Jack Illingworth.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.