Sunday, February 18, 2007

As PGW Turns

After reading that the battle over PGW between Perseus and NBN is over, I'm not sure whether to be pleased or not at the outcome. Then again, I'm not sure if I'd be pleased or not at either outcome.

As background, PGW is a client of ours. We have been working with them for at least 6 or 7 years - going back to well before their acquisition by AMS. During that time it was impossible not to respect how they respected their clients. Even after the acquisition, their inherent culture of caring for clients did not change.

Given that customer service is something that I value very highly, even when we didn't necessarily see eye to eye on an issue, that level of respect never wavered. So, I'm clearly a fan.

In some ways, I'm very happy for them. There appears to be a future. When the bankruptcy was announced, shortly thereafter followed by Perseus' acquisition of Avalon, I feared the worst. I thought that they would completely cease to exist within a very short period of time.

Now, the rhetoric that is published in our industry 'rags' would have us believe that PGW will remain in tact - at least for the moment. I truly hope this is the case. I also hope that Perseus will take the time to reflect on why PGW's clients (and suppliers) think so highly of them. PGW's intangible qualities are its greatest value. PGW is more than a distributor, they are a 'brand'.

PGW pretty much invented the distribution model for book publishers, and given how it was hamstrung by AMS, there is little wonder that it is an early casualty in the war to create 'distribution state' borders. There are very few publishers left who distribute only for themselves, so growth of distribution companies is now limited to growth by acquisition, or by offering more (paid services) to their existing clients, or by helping their clients grow their existing businesses. The bedrock of the future distribution model will be the last, and the way that will happen is through PGW-like customer service.

Publishers can now change distributors easier than they used to be able to switch to a new computer system. So, they will flock to the companies that they feel will do the best job for them, and partner with them to grow both of their businesses. PGW has always worked this way, it is part of their 'brand' identity. Perseus would do well to recognize and capitalize on this 'brand'. Perhaps even use it to redefine themselves.

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