Amazon.com recently announced they were piloting an eBook subscription service. The basic idea is for $9.99 a month you can read as many eBook as you want.
This in an of itself is not necessarily a surprise, but it does signal a further dismantling of what we understand as traditional publishing.
What happened to the music industry about 10 years ago is now happening to book publishing. Services like Spotify, Pandora, and others have commoditized music purchasing and broadened access to a greater number of people.This was bad news for music industry executives but a big win for the listening public.
You could probably say the same thing about this move by Amazon.com; it’s bad news for traditional book publishers but a big win for the reading public.
Brands hold the keys to the future of publishing
A move like this further solidifies that the future of publishing belongs to brands. Here’s why:
Brands are focused on building long-term relationships, not unit sales. Publishers are designed to do one thing: sell books to bookstores. Brands are focused on how publishing can help them improve lifetime value (LTV) models for all customer segment groups.
Brands already understand market segmentation and customization. Publishers are struggling to survive in small niches. Most traditional publishers need to invest in projects that cast a very broad net. They can’t afford not to do that. Brands know that to survive they need to provide a customized experience based on user engagement data.
Brands don’t need to make money on every publishing venture. Traditional publishers need to make money on every project (even though they don’t). As margins continue to shrink and bookstores continue to close, this will become even more important. Brands understand that marketing isn’t always a direct cause-and-effect relationship. When you don’t have to make money on every publishing project, it gives you a great deal of freedom. If a $40,000 book project leads to a $500,000 professional services sale, it’s absolutely a worthy “cost per sale.”
Brands are already adapting to digital channels while publishers simply aren’t engineered to do so. The market wants to engage with products and content that is native to their consumption habits, not what is most efficient for the brand to produce. Brands are already engineered to parse content across video, digital, social, and print distribution channels.
Brands can fund projects in a variety of ways. One way brands support their publishing efforts is through sponsored content. This is where you invite others to help fund some or all of a particular publishing effort. The benefit is how this can connect complimentary market segments and platforms to provide a bigger value to the intended audience or reader.
Brands believe that recency and frequency are essential to success. Publishers typically take 12–18 months to release a book project. That speed creates a unique challenge when trying to meet the intersection of demand and opportunity. Brands can react quicker and bring a product to market faster.
Brands based publishing on data, not just great ideas. Relevance is defined by the demand of the market. Since brands are typically more sophisticated at developing and implementing listening channels to the market (SEO, SEM, keyword analysis, buyer data, demographic details, etc.) they can make more informed decisions about language, structure, and function of publishing projects. Even the best ideas are lost if no one is searching for that topic.
Brands are stronger at developing and managing social profiles for key personalities. Publishers expect the author to do this in addition to writing the manuscript. Brands know that people buy people first and organizations second. Brands already fund the ongoing support of these personalities as part of their “go-to-market” strategy.
Brands have the capacity to test experimental publishing techniques and land on something very different that current models. Publishers rarely have enough margin for research and development. Every project has to make money. That’s why you see a common formula applied: well-known personality, well-developed and established platform, talking about a subject that is “one-size-fits-all.” Brands believe risks are necessary to uncover new market opportunities.
Brands want to test a lot of ideas in “soft ways” to limit exposure. Brands can test ideas through systematic processes with minimal investment. Even if the idea doesn’t stick, the publishing product is still a touch point with the market which helps maintain that long-term relationship.
Traditional publishers aren’t the enemy. In fact, I hope they see the needs of brands and adapt their business models. Brands aren’t going to wait long for publishers to do that, though. They are used to creating their own paths and have the cash to do so.
Time to get ready for the brand publishing revolution
Maybe one day brands and publishing will kiss and make up. If not, Amazon.com’s new eBook subscription service (and others) will drive them to redefine everything. There is a revolution taking place. The democratization of publishing will offer new avenues for brands to engage with the market in ways that are predictable, measurable, and systematic.
How is your brand preparing to become a publisher? Hint: Your competition is already moving in this direction.
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