Communities: the next step for publishing

Why publishers need to look ‘beyond the book’

Peter Fisk presenting on stage at Future Book Forum 2018

Why people are the new publisher

The traditional publishing model is being challenged. The rise of social platforms and a distrust in media means people are finding new ways of creating and absorbing content. This creates a prime opportunity for publishers: to connect with their consumers on a more individual level.

Consumers are a brand’s most valuable asset. And publishers can learn a lot by getting to know their readers better – what content they’re most interested in, how and when they wish to consume it, which communication channels they prefer to use etc.

A cooking enthusiast might prefer a traditional printed cookbook for recipes from their favourite chef, but they might also want to watch a YouTube tutorial video.

Publishers must begin to use customer insight to its full potential, collecting all available data and using it cleverly to add value. It’s all about maximising customer engagement by appealing to their passions.

Group of colleagues in a meeting, looking at iPad

Building better connections

To understand what consumers want, publishers need to go where they are having conversations – within communities. Communities open up a wider conversation, engaging people beyond the sale of a product. Publishers evolve into facilitators, moving away from purchase transactions to creating valuable and meaningful relationships.

It’s no longer about putting a price on a product. The value lies in having access to a community where the printed book is just one part of a richer, extended experience. By being part of the conversation, publishers have the chance to offer content-rich products and services beyond the printed book.

Looking to other industries is a great source of inspiration. For example a cycling company called Rapha, which started in London, now has ‘Cycle Clubs’. Cyclists can meet, have a coffee, go on bike rides and purchase books published by the brand. But consumers don’t just come to the club to buy products. They come to share their passion with like-minded people and for the experience they have co-created.

Group of friends completing puzzle on a table with coffee

Becoming a publishing innovator

We’re already witnessing the power of communities in other industries. Audiences play a crucial role in the creative process and are being influenced by what other consumers value. As a result, new content formats are making publishing more valuable and new business models and revenue streams are always emerging.

The good news is that print is taking on a new, premium role within the customer journey. Publishers can use print to connect with consumers on a more valuable and individual level with personalised content. They have the opportunity to add more value in new ways, be it through books that allow people to indulge and share their passions, or in content and services that go beyond what we currently think of as a book.

But, they need to be ready for change and look at the bigger picture. The biggest opportunity for publishers to grow is through communities, engaging people in what they love and enabling them to get more value out of their relationship with a brand.

Written by Peter Fisk, a global thought leader on growth, leadership, innovation and marketing, and Keynote Speaker and Moderator at Future Book Forum

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