What is the Core Expertise of a Publisher Today? The ‘buy’ versus ‘build’ dilemma

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At a time when developments in technology and the emergence of new services have so much potential for our communities, what should we be doing as publishers? What is the core expertise of a publisher today; should you buy or build your way to growth? Jon White, Sales and Marketing Director at Semantico, chaired a panel of speakers who considered different aspects of what publishers now do.

Alison Jones, Director of Practical Inspiration Publishing, suggested that ‘buy or build’ is the wrong questions.

Collaboration fits with the general cultural move from ownership to access. Traditional publishers are much better at competitive strategy than collaborative strategy.

Chris Leonard, Head of Product at Emerald Group Publishing argued that publishing articles is a solved problem, but the services around them aren’t. They did a lot of UX research and looked at a range of websites that worked – including The Daily Mail’s Sidebar of Shame. iTunes playlists inspired their ideas for create-your-own-bespoke-journal functionality.

Lynne Miller, Managing Director of TBI Communications, focused on the pursuit of high differentiation with low cost. Publishers can stay relevant and working with an agency can be a good way of avoiding internal politics and an unbiased view. Key industry trends are in content marketing, content sharing, author services, impact & outreach and big data. Strategy is also about deciding not what to do. Define what makes you unique and focus on resulting market opportunities.

Dietmar Schantin, Founder of the Institute for Media Strategies, observed that we now expect easy access to relevant content in any place on any device. The audience now looks for best of breed, rather than showing loyalty and want to be engaged in the communication flow. Multi-platform publishing is essential as is cross channel communications that are linked and across media. New fields of expertise have developed – audience insight, social media and distributed content, user experience. News publishers respond by investing in tech start-ups, hiring people from other industries, outsourcing non-core aspects. And remember, a fool with a tool is still a fool!

Timo Hannay, founder of SchoolDash, was the final speaker of the session. He asked if data is something that publishers should outsource. Data ought to have a particularly pertinent meaning to us as publishers, purveyors of knowledge and that the separation of data and content is anachronistic. Converting rich data into PDFs puts us in the data destruction business. Publishers are worryingly keen to outsource data work; content and data aren’t two different things. SchoolDash publishes research in any format that serves our purposes, not in journals. They’re really keen to enable the reader to interact with the data directly themselves. Everyone in this room has the capability to do what we’re doing; if you’re not, that’s through choice.

The panel took place at the 2016 ALPSP Conference.

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