Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Summer is over - What's Next?

Today is the first day of school in Newburyport, and, after a great summer, the kids are all excited and anxious about starting up again. Lot's of big smiles - and some bouncing off the walls - this morning. My guess is this will last through next week as the new schedules become more routine.

This whole transition at home has me thinking a bit about the transition in book publishing systems. Last Spring, and right up through July, many of us were skipping from conference to conference trying to understand the term, 'digital strategy'. We were pondering widgets, and Internet marketing techniques, and 're purposing our content'. And, then it seemed as though we all decided that we needed a break and took the month of August off.

So, now it's September - time to get back to work. And for me, the open question seems to be, as an industry, what are we going to do with all of this collective knowledge that we gained earlier in the year?

My guess is that we are going into a quiet period. The industry leaders all had strategies before the Spring, and they are (now) working on executing those strategies. The next tier of publisher is taking all the collected knowledge from the Spring and putting together strategies. And the last group is simply waiting to see what shakes out from all of this.

I think it will be very interesting to see what gets rolled out in January and February next year by the leading publishers. Oh, we might get a few minor announcements before then, but my money is on the big roll outs happening in the beginning of the new year - after the Christmas season is over, and before the 'Trade Show/Publishing Conference' season starts up again.

What I do expect to hear about is Fall is more consolidation. These new technology innovations are expensive, and generally out of reach for small to midsized publishers. Much like the expensive technology barrier for physical distribution, the high cost of developing electronic marketing and distribution systems is going to encourage the small and midsized publishers to 'partner' with the bigger guys.

I expect that we will see alot of fluctuation in business models as the larger 'entities' figure out how best to 'partner'. Competition to gain economies of scale (to make all this investment worthwhile) is going to be fierce among the top organizations, and the race will really be on to woo publishers into their respective folds.

I use the term 'entities' loosely as I think that there will be some shakeup in who we have all traditionally thought of as leaders. Some will rise and grow, and I believe that others will self destruct. It wouldn't surprise me if there was another 'PGW-like' collapse already in the making.

So, like my kids, I'm excited and anxious about the year ahead. I suspect that this time next year, I'll have a completely new perspective!

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