The New Skills in Publishing?

May 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

One of the more interesting sessions coming up at the Firebrand Community Conference in September is going to be a discussion of the new skills required by publishers as the internet converges as both the platform and fulfillment mechanism for books and reading.

There are many aspects to this topic. What new skills does everyone in the organization need to acquire? What skills are required of everyone entering publishing today? Do we need a new vocabulary? Do we need new processes? What things do “digital natives” inherently understand that those of us who came to the business before e-mail arrived don’t quite get?

In this disruptive time, publishers are being asked to fundamentally change the way they produce and market every product. The shift is massive for publishers, moving from where essentially business-to-business companies to business-to-consumer companies, both because they can, and because leaving it to “middle-men” is no longer having the desired effects.

What do you think?  What skills do you think you need to compete in today’s job market? What disciplines and new habits are you currently working on to be the best you can be?

For me personally, there are some old challenges that take on a new twist, and some new challenges that require iterative tweaking. Many of mine are not related to books, but just to the generally escalating speed of communication and the need for immediacy in so many things. Some of the old challenges are:

  • Managing my time – I think I’ve been working on this since I entered the workforce many years ago, but now its different. As my roles have changed the demands on my time have increased dramatically. Moving from a “do-er” to a “manager – do-er” to a “manager” causes different time management challenges. Every day there seem to be new tools and software, and retaining a single discipline over a long period of time seems nearly impossible.
  • Managing email – I’m one of those people who entered the workforce when email was only a theory on a whiteboard. Now my inbox can carry upwards of 600 messages a day. Learning to triage, and making time to triage is a constant challenge. I highly recommend Inbox Zero as a way to help, but it is still a constant challenge.
  • Understanding how and how much to engage in social media and which social media. I’ve been all over the map on this one, and it’s still a constant challenge. I am amazed at how well some people work their social media presence and have used it to elevate their own personal standing, yet it takes a fair amount of time to get it right.

Some of my newer challenges relate to understanding how other people, especially younger ones, naturally think about   things and communicate with each other. Trying to understand and engage in social media is part of this. However, there is also no denying that the traits that were important in the products and services we offer when I was selling them, are different now that median age of the customer we engage has declined.

What are your challenges?

§ 3 Responses to The New Skills in Publishing?

  • Peter Turner says:

    My feeling is that the necessity and ramifications of developing a successful supplemental B2C business to augment the existing B2B model not well understood. Publishers (I was one for many years) are bred in the bone to see their business as a linear process—of acquisition, development, production, sales, distribution, marketing. The fundamental dynamic of direct-to-consumer sales and marketing is not linear, it’s relational. The key metric of traditional publishing is sales, right? The key metric in B2C is long-term value—of the customer and of the data. There’s a profound mind-shift involved. My guess is that intermediaries will arise that will bring scale and the necessary tools to make this shift possible but publishers are going to have to at least lay the groundwork.

    • ftoolan says:

      Peter, I think you hit on an important element in the new world order of publishing. Can you pump out the same number of products in a B2C world as you could in B2B? It takes people to sell to people.

      This notion alone is scary to think about, and may force publishers to look to develop new products with higher price points and higher margins.

      • Peter Turner says:

        Yes, but increased margin helps, as does value of customer data, but developing unique products, value added, appealing bundles, etc. all raise $ per order and volume of sales as Amazon doesn’t have ability to do this in what feels like a thoughtful way. There’s a lot of real opportunity but selling and/or marketing direct means you have to task someone and give them the tools to be truly customer-oriented.

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