Outside the container

In drafting “The library within us”, I started with a simple and somewhat challenging idea: “It’s time to think about content, not as a product or a service, but a vehicle to reach an outcome.”

That notion led me to return to the six principles of lean consumption, conceived seven years ago by Daniel Jones and James Womack. The last of their six principles encourages firms to “continually aggregate solutions to reduce the customer’s time and hassle.”

In “library” I observed:

“The challenge we face in publishing is discovery in the face of abundance. What Jones and Womack provide is a filter or a lens through which we can reconfigure our approach to publishing. Unfortunately, we’ve left much of that innovation to others.”

An example of that innovation can be found in “What drives sharing on mobile devices?” Written by Cameron Scott, the post appeared on mediabistro’s SocialTimes blog a couple of weeks ago.

Citing a study of mobile device use that had been prepared by Onswipe, Scott notes:

“Users of smaller screens are more likely to be engaged in content consumption than content creation, but are more likely to share content to social networks”.

In and of itself, this is not earth-shaking news. Anyone who owns one or more mobile devices could tell you that they aren’t the best devices for writing a blog post, let alone the next great American novel.

Think about the less-seen trend, though. Because tablets and even smart phones are pretty handy when it comes to content consumption, they are an emerging battleground in a fight to promote discovery in the face of abundance.

Scott’s post focused on the differences between tablet and smartphone content consumption. Citing Onswipe, he noted that “Facebook usage grows as the screen gets smaller. On smartphones, users are most likely to share to Facebook. Email follows as the second most common choice, trailed by Twitter and Pinterest.”

The short story is that the interface matters, something that prompts continued evolution of things like the Facebook “share” button. To their detriment, though, most publishers leave the interface opportunity to third parties. That’s why I used “library” to say:

“The answer involves using content as a means to build and serve communities of like interest. The Internet helps publishers reach widely dispersed, even global markets in ways that were not possible before. But simply putting content on the web is not enough.

“There is already an abundance of content, one that will continue to grow, reducing discovery and increasing the cost of marketing. Instead, publishers need to look at their work as “community organizers”, investing in the development, management and sustainability of groups affiliated by place, purpose or preference.

“Those communities need help forming boundaries (defining what they are, as well as what they are not), advancing community awareness and consciousness and (by a variety of means) negotiating new ways of thinking and acting. These are deliberate efforts, not accidents or opportunities to exploit a near-term advantage.

“They can be rewarded as publishers learn to nurture those communities and provide both goods (physical and digital books, for example) and services (continuing education or opportunities to meet virtually or face-to-face, to name some options) that meet the needs of the communities they serve.”

Most publishers won’t get to make the platform; that moment has passed. But some publishers will get to make better use of the platforms, including the web as a whole, with first-mover advantage accruing to those who think outside of the container.


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.