Editor’s Note: Matt Goolding is an outside contributor for the Publishers Inc website and blog. His below commentary on the broad topic of the need for innovation in the publishing industry is one that the 2016 Publishers Inc team has explored in depth – from an update on the ebook market to how magazine publishers are taking video platforms by storm. Check out the coverage in the launch of this year’s publication later this month!
By Matt Goolding
My company has worked in the publishing industry for a number of years, helping large publishers improve their tech and IT systems. Along the way, we’ve worked with lots of project managers and executives, some more experienced than others. One thing that’s always struck us – especially in the past five years – is the role that young team members and fresh graduates have in shaping an industry in such dramatic transition.
Because we work with technology, our brains are somewhat digitally focused. Our tech allows more traditional forms of publishing to work as smooth as possible. In each case, we see new and exciting publishing talent pushing boundaries and forging a path into the future.
A caveat; it’s easy to label the pre-digital stalwarts as dinosaurs of a defunct publishing age, but this would do many leading figures a disservice. Forward-thinking senior executives are guiding publishing houses through troubled waters, but it’s the new generation of industry entrants that are the lifeblood of this energetic change. They’re on the front line, and must continue to inspire their leaders with great ideas and savvy projects.
Publishers need to take risks and push boundaries
The past few years have been remarkably challenging for the publishing industry, like many other industries, due to global economic downturn. This downturn happened during the same period as a huge shift in consumer behaviour; the unbridled adoption of digital channels and devices, and the emergence of cloud-based web services. These technological advancements have allowed services such as Spotify, Netflix and Scribd to prosper.
Many commentators argue that the need for consolidation has brought about a more risk-averse approach. Publishers have been accused of not taking a chance on new authors or titles, and instead opting for more sure-fire choices such as sequels and series. If true, this would be a shame, yet also understandable. In a world where uncertainty is abound, pushing untested projects may not be at the top of the priority list.
This is where the younger generation has a responsibility to take up the reins. Independent publishers will grow by picking up neglected areas of the market, and large publishing houses will establish a firm base from which to survive and thrive. Industry entrants with fresh minds will be the key to pushing a more innovative approach, taking risks and providing the wide-eyed instinctive foresight to drive projects for the modern market.
A confident approach
As suggested, there may be an atmosphere of risk-aversion in publishing houses today; an ethos that has matured over the volatile past decade. Whilst it’s foolish for new employees to go in with guns blazing, there should be a drive within these publishing professionals to be bold and make an impact – both for themselves and their organisation.
There are remarkable opportunities available for those who embrace technology, and these go far beyond the humble ebook reader. As just one example, virtual reality technology can provide a truly immersive experience, bringing stories to life in a more extreme way than ever before.
In addition, there are now more exciting ways to market publications and products online, by tapping into existing online communities and targeting audiences through video, social and blogging platforms. Young publishing professionals have grown up in this digitally enabled world and can provide a more natural perspective on the way audiences interact online.
Meeting challenges with patience and drive
It would be naïve to expect the goliaths of the publishing industry to adapt immediately to such drastic market changes. Large-scale established structures, in terms of skillsets, management balance, HR tactics and business technology, are already in place. Whilst smaller independent publishers remain agile, larger publishing houses need a bit more time to take shape. This is where quiet determination and patience are virtues.
Professionals entering the publishing industry should be prepared for multiple challenges, including budget limitations, team shake-ups, and company and department mergers. It’s important to be realistic, whilst remaining positive and progressive. In tumultuous times publishers must meet these challenges with a patient and driven forward-thinking approach to reap rewards in the long run.
Overall, the publishing industry provides an amazing opportunity for innovative people to make a mark. Whether this is using new technology in products or driving new ways of working, fresh thinkers in this sector are very much needed. Graduates, apprentices and junior executives fulfil a key role in helping business leaders see new openings and take the right risks.