I was asked to participate in the ISMTE conference in Philadelphia this month. Aside from the sweltering heat, it was a good conference. I shared a session with Kathey Alexander, who discussed the business aspects of society publishing and, in particular, the economics of working with a larger publisher, a topic that has been given some play here at the Kitchen. I addressed the matter of strategy and how it fits into the business operations of an organization. My argument is that (a) strategy is not something that sits outside a company’s operations but is an integral part of those operations (b) all business activity must be measured at all times against a company’s overarching strategy (c) strategy is not generic but most be highly particularized for the specific needs and circumstances of a single organization and (d) lofty expressions of goals in a company’s vision, mission, and strategy statements interfere with the hard and unpoetic work of building a successful enterprise.
I am pasting in the slides below and would welcome comments and, of course, the standard criticisms.
5 Thoughts on "The Future(s) (plural) of Publishing"
Just a footnote to mention that many university presses are required to participate in the strategic planning of their parent universities and conform their plans to the structure of the overall university’s plan. This may limit the freedom of the press to adopt a kind of plan that might best represent the interests of the press.
The same is true for heritage publishers. If they sit within a parent museum or gallery, they similarly have to adapt their programme to fit within the overall ambitions of the organisation. A strategy that might be obvious from a publishing perspective does not necessarily work when set against other competing priorities. (In fact, if these are national/public/federal organisations, further layers of complexity are added.)
To use the language of the slides: publishing *isn’t* a subsidiary of Apple or Google, but in some sectors publishing *is* a subsidiary of a larger body with agendas set accordingly.
Sorry I couldn’t hear your actual comments on: “Too often publishers let other companies (e.g., tech companies) set their agenda.” Curious about this. While corporate strategy shouldn’t be a reflection of one of those giants, it is impossible to structure a company’s strategy without strong consideration of the current (and potential future) moves of Amazon, everyone’s largest customer, Google, who is essential for driving people to our work, and Apple, who requires us to make our material accessible on mobile devices.
Joseph, just to comment on “why would you want to sell chapters” example. Some books – edited books, proceedings – are naturally perceived as a “collection of chapters” – and, like in a journal issue, people would want to read one chapter, or a couple of them, but not the others. Of course, not so many people would buy them for 25-35$, but that’s pricing aspect:)