Three Ways to Fail in 2012: Digital Publishers Beware

Unless your website portal, subscription websites, online stores, customer lists, digital books, periodicals and videos are state-of-the-art, you probably shouldn’t be doing the following three things in 2012.

Most publishers I know, including me, suffer from a mental illness called BSOS or Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. Someone who suffers from this malady exhibits behavior that resembles a child on Christmas morning with too many presents. They move from one shiny gift to the next, never fully exploring or realizing the potential of the trail of unopened gifts left in their wake.

Three things digital publishers probably shouldn’t be doing in 2012

Creating ancillary products: most of us have our hands full trying to transform our books, periodicals, and videos into Digital Products, which we can sell online through our own subscription websites and online stores, and through a rapidly expanding retail network that should include Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Zinio, and more. We are not software publishers, and wasting resources learning to be software publishers is likely not a good use of time in 2012. There is no argument that opportunities abound as we transform our companies into digital media publishers. But the tablet computer revolution, which is designed to distribute our products, provides us the opportunity to focus on core skills and product types that we have been honing for decades.

Selling other people’s stuff: when you’ve invested a lot of time and money in building out a retail store that allows you to sell both physical and digital products, it’s easy to become delusional and decide you’re an online retailer. Companies like Amazon and Apple are state-of-the-art online retailers. They know how to sell their own merchandise, and how to source merchandise from other manufacturers and publishers.

I’ve watched more than one publisher with a successful online store venture into the realm of selling other people’s stuff with disastrous results. Sourcing, merchandising, and shipping other people’s stuff is different than selling your own; being good at one does not automatically make you good at the other. Perhaps the biggest reason to not start selling other people’s stuff in 2012, is the sucking sound you will hear on the resources that should be used to maximize the performance of your own retail and subscription websites at selling your own branded information products and services.

Spreading yourself too thin:
virtually every publisher I talk to has more opportunities than resources to deal with. They routinely have more initiatives than they can staff, track and manage. This is perhaps the ultimate waste of resources. And the inability to focus teaches the lesson that certain activities are failures, when in fact they’ve merely been under resourced.

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When Steve Jobs returned to the helm of Apple, the first thing he did was focus the product line. Steve’s strategy was to create three or four products for each niche and make them insanely great. Today, Apple makes desktop computers, laptop computers, portable music players, smart phones, and tablet computers. These are big consumer product categories, and yet Apple creates only about three products for each category, so they can make them insanely great. Apple is a multi-billion-dollar organization with research and development capabilities that most CEOs will only ever dream about. And yet, they severely limit the number of products they produce for each target market. Might a similar strategy make sense for your digital publishing business?

What you should be doing in 2012
– Transforming your best-selling products for digital delivery
– Building websites designed to attract your target audience
– Building websites that empower direct to consumer sales of your products
– Building relationships with Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and every other digital media retailer who make a significant commitment to selling digital books, periodicals and videos
– Trying to avoid pursuing other new bright, shiny objects

Amazon puts newsstand first
I was stunned when I turned on my new Kindle Fire a few weeks ago to discover that the very first item in their horizontal navigation was Newsstand. I suppose I expected to see books as the leading item or perhaps movies or videos. Today, Amazon generates more revenue from books, or movies, or videos that it does from periodicals. And yet, they have chosen to make Newsstand the first item in their horizontal navigation. Now, some might think they simply made a mistake. I don’t think so. Amazon spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on performance testing. My bet is that smart folks at Amazon have noted that periodicals are most often sold as subscriptions. Subscriptions, as we all know, are wonderful things that generate annuity revenue. The periodical industry should be thrilled that Amazon is putting periodicals first.

The tablet revolution is just beginning

Position yourself, your products, and your organization to go with the flow.

If you had a positive or negative experience with digital media that is driving your 2012 digital publishing strategy, share it with me and the Mequoda community with a comment.


    Feb 1 2012 Digital learning K-12 will surely fail as the public schools tried to teach new math a decade ago. Kids had no way to learn digital logic or Boolean logic. Digital learning may be a promotion to sell products, parents may be set to purchase many bright gadgets while their kids fail in Boolean logic or new math. Using computers for lessons is a fine method but the subjects to be taught may not include Boolean algebra and learning and creating programs using microsoft programs in visual basic 2010 programming which may include c#, C and other visuaul programming language. The most important issue is how to teach boolean logic when kids can’t even learn the power of tens math and then to enter into a strange world of the power of 2’s number system and set theory and things that must be learned to step into the real digital world and not selling bright gadget to school children mom’s.


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