Fixing Publishing is a Group Effort

November 10, 2013 by Thad McIlroy

I caught a tweet by Joe Wikert (@jwikert) today:

nameplateArthur Attwell, founder of South Africa-based Paperight, reveals some profound truths about publishing today and its enormous challenge in dealing with new technology. His remarks are directed at book publishers, but are relevant to every traditional paper-based publisher.

Attwell’s intro positions his observations:

“Over the last seven years, I’ve pitched technical or otherwise innovative services to publishers over and over again, and learned some hard truths along the way. Here I list my top five, and what they mean for startups and publishers.”

I encourage you to read the whole post. Here are a few of Arthur’s remarks that stood out for me (not all of them verbatim):

  • Emotionally, publishers just don’t respond to the promise of making more money.
  • Convincing a person is very different from convincing an organization.
  • A big problem for innovative startups is that most of the time there is no person with responsibility for the thing you’re pitching.
  • Because of publishers’ lack of technology training they don’t understand the lingo or the concepts. “You might as well be selling thermonuclear reactor parts.”
  • “When you’re pitching a service to a publisher, they fear regretting their decision much, much more than they want your product. Even if they want your product a lot.
  • The risk for publishers is that while these issues hold you back, faster, more active companies are changing your market for you, and stealing your lunch.

This is the most cogent analysis I’ve yet seen on the problems publishers face as our industry continues to transform into a technology business. It’s essential reading!

November 11: Jeremy Greenfield interviews Mike Shatzkin on publishing startups…similar insights to Attwell’s. “I don’t know if publishers need start-ups.”

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