London Online Information 2013

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London Online Information 2013

The Collins Dictionary defines ‘Information’ as’ knowledge acquired through experience or study’ and after two days at the London Online Information Conference  – @OnlineInfo_13  – it became very apparent that what is important is not just the information itself but how we acquire it and what we are able to do with it. While this sounds daunting, it is actually very simple: all we need to do is ask questions.

Asking questions became a strong theme across the two days: we must interrogate our data, we must discover what our users do with our products, we must find out if our team has the necessary skills to use the data, we must query which information to focus on and which to filter out and we must ask what is possible and what is next?

From the initial keynote, we were encouraged to face up to the future and ask what we can do next. Mark Stevenson reminded us of the three types of technology: that which was invented before we were born, that which is invented between birth and the age of thirty-five and that which is invented after the age of thirty-five. While we are despondent to the first, we often get a job in or using the second and we are often terrified by the third. The Digital Revolution is not a new age to be scared of but rather a part of a continuing change in technology; a Digital Evolution. London Online exposed some fantastic responses to the possibilities that new technologies have posed by innovative businesses who are asking the right questions.

Something on everyone’s lips was: what is the role of the library in this Digital Evolution? Ellyssa Kroski, from the New York Law Institute, gave some great examples such as having a library card in the ‘mobile wallet’ and on demand services such as Hoopla, not to mention renting out the roofs as air space to generate extra revenue stream! Heini  Oikkoonen  from Helsinki City Library explained how asking questions of the users influenced their product development of the Pocket Library, an app which enables users to renew loans, loan from a friend and research the collection. Research showed that actually user to user lending was the least popular and people still enjoy the community atmosphere of the library. However new functions such as dating based on reading habits came out as something that users wanted to see! Innovative start ups such as Antigo seek to answer the question of the library’s new role through creating a platform for libraries to access publishers’ eBooks easily. Jonas Lennermo, CCO of Publit and founder of Antigo , explained how questioning why and how people consume digital content and the values they place on this as distinct from print, you can get closer to the answers and solutions you need.

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Asking the questions isn’t always simple and sometimes a lot of work needs to go on behind the scenes before we can do this. For example, if we type a question into Google, a huge amount of coding has happened so that we can have the answer. If we ask a user what they think of a product, a vast amount of tech work needs to take place for that product to be in prototype stage. Therefore, as a team we need to have technical understanding, market understanding and user understanding. With this blend of skills we can achieve real success and ride the wave of the Digital Evolution into the future. We’re not always going to get it right first time, after all information is knowledge gained through experience and some of the best learning experiences are from mistakes.

Be bold, face the future and ask!

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about.  We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter

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Byte the Book: What lessons can consumer publishing teach the book industry?

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Last night, as the rain finally began to clear, we made our way to The Ivy to attend the evening’s Byte the Book event; ‘What can Consumer Publishing Teach the Book Industry?’. The evening unfolded into a lively discussion on the difference between consumer, magazine publishing and the more traditional book publishing industry. The panel was strong and the points raised and addressed were food for thought.Image

First up was Alex Watson (@Sifter) of Dennis Publishing who spoke about the subscription model and how he supports it. Alex’s company publish 19 magazines and subscriptions are evidently growing. People want to pay for a continual service and not for once off content and, most importantly, want to be able to access this information on multiple platforms.

The conversation then turned to the use of technology to understand users and the advantages to be gained within this arena. Toby Wright (@tobywright) led the examination of this and we delved into how the interests, habits and needs of the readership/subscribers can be traced through monitoring every button they click. Like following a treasure trail of read data, a profile can be formed and, consequently, catered to. Content can be tailored according to what the readership clearly wants and the power lies in the hands of those who monitor the websites and who have access to the records.

Can the power be taken back if consumer publishers and book publishers work together?

DRM – a class of controversial technologies that are used by those digital publishers/copyright holders/hardware manufacturers to control the use of digital content after sales – is, according to Matteo Berlucchi (@matteoberlucchi) of Northern and Shell, a symbol of the problems within the industry. DRM locks up innovation and is too easy to crack. Instead of trying to  physically stop piracy (which is nearly impossible), publishers instead need to consider what leads people to pirate content and address the issues that lie underneath. An example of something to consider, if individuals are pirating content, this can be because the price does not match the perceived value of the product and is too high. Therefore, rather than publishers putting DRM on their products, they could look at offering things at a lower price and encouraging people to then purchase the content.

Justine Southall (@Justinenow), Publishing Director of Marie Claire, discussed the issue of advertising and the potentially problematic existence (or lack thereof) of it in the book publishing world. Would it take enjoyment out of a classic novel to have a batch of adverts in its midst? Justine posed the question, “Why not monetise areas of the book and not part of the product?” Having reflected on this, could book publishers use this as another revenue stream, the way magazines do? Alex flagged the dangers of this in a traditional book publishing industry – the focus on advertising should not be to add revenue but more towards strategizing to help grow the business model, i.e.,  by gaining this extra revenue, what could the publishers then give back to their consumers?

This shift in the discussion toward the issue of branding led to some interesting points from the floor in which people argued that in book publishing, the brand is the author. It is safe to say that traditional publishing is challenged by brands and with the birth and growth of online/digital publications, there is a simultaneously growing need to have a brand that resonates with certain groups of people. Media brands used to be the container and now they are churning out content too. What is the solution? How do we marry both worlds?

Justine stepped in to answer this one. In her opinion, brands are crucial to magazines and the brand relationship that readers have with them allows that reach into other platforms. Understanding the brand is also crucial and since the web has taken over, brands are now becoming more fragmented, (eg. magazine editions catering towards teens as well as the original), but there is a need to stick to the core values that made them a brand. Under every umbrella brand are the franchises and they give people a voice and a platform from which to use it.

The overall message of the night was that the two industries can help each other. As we spilled back out into the night, Alex Watson’s closing words resonated; we need to simply embrace this change, embrace the big Californian companies who provide this opportunity to know what a publication’s culture is and who know how to monitor who reads that content every day.

Perhaps the time has come for a marrying of the industries. Book publishers need to learn how to work better with large technology and consumer driven companies such as Amazon and Apple, as consumer and magazine publishers have done. Rather than focussing on what control companies such as Amazon have taken away from them, they need to think about what they have given them, which is a chance to sell their products in a new way that can reach larger audiences than ever before.

Redundancy – a talent ‘investment’ viewpoint

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Redundancy – a talent ‘investment’ viewpoint

So, your role has been made redundant! To be honest you feel like you’ve been consigned to the ‘junk’ heap!

Make sure you are talking to a recruitment agency who works with companies whose perceptions of redundant staff are not as ‘the junk bonds of the workplace’.  A recent article in “Recruiter” identified ‘junk bonds’, in investment terms, as the investment of last resort.

A ‘junk bond’ is a high risk investment vehicle unless you are trying to sell it, in which case it becomes a ‘high yield’ investment vehicle and that is what today’s companies need – high yield employees!

Senior figures in recruitment circles believe that the value of people who have lost their jobs in these circumstances is significantly underestimated.

Companies need to seriously consider that by employing you they have the opportunity to build loyal teams who are potentially over qualified or who bring fully qualified talent, at a reasonable cost.

Let’s debunk the myth that people who have been out of a job for 6 months or more are no longer at the cutting edge of technology. People currently without a job can often access subsidised training or can volunteer at organisations where their skills can be useful or where they can actually advance that skillset.

These people are not ‘falling behind’. They are actually keeping their skills current or, in some cases, advancing these because they have the time to do it.

Remember these positive advantages as you plan your campaign for that next permanent role and ensure that your covering letter or summary clearly makes the point that investing in your talent will bring ‘high yield ‘to the company.

Donald Smith, Deputy Managing Director, Inspired Selection

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