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An Architecture of Collaboration

Physical supply chains promote efficiency: intermediaries aggregate supply and demand in ways that streamline the market for providers and aggregators. But digital media is about more than efficiency: it gives publishers an opportunity to embrace alternative formats, different business models and new discovery mechanisms, all of which could help them hedge against commodification in the face of abundance.

The challenge imposed by increasingly web-based media
Keeping up with these new options is a challenge. Writing platforms that started with the likes of Pandamian and Symtext have expanded to include Medium, Atavist, Wattpad, Storybird and many others. Media that was once print, then eBooks, increasingly is web-based, affording both data and dialogue. Business models have expanded to include subscription, licensing, pay-as-you-go and other approaches to monetization. Discovery is tied at least in part to communities of readers that have been organized on platforms like Goodreads, Readmill and (once again) Wattpad.

Think outside the box / prevailing supply chain
In this environment, the market for reading may be expanding significantly, but the gains are seen almost entirely outside the prevailing supply chain. Fixed on the creation, management and sale of physical and digital objects, publishers view other forms of writing and reading as potential threats to their established markets.

Don’t be afraid of engaging with others; it may boost or even save your business
Before publishers can take advantage of this market growth, they need to develop what I’ve been calling “an architecture of collaboration”. Rather than see new entrants as competition, publishers should explore ways to engage with companies and communities that can help us understand and offer new sources and uses of what was once just book content.

By Brian O’Leary, Principal, Magellan Media Consulting

Brian O’Leary is principal of Magellan Media Consulting, which works with publishers seeking support in content workflows, benchmarking and financial analysis. He writes extensively about issues affecting the publishing industry and was a speaker at several Publishers’ Forums in Berlin, organized by Klopotek, such as the 2014 conference. Findmout more at www.magellanmediapartners.com.

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