Books Front Matter

What Can Publishers Learn from Tech Start-ups?

The traditional world of publishing isn’t immune to digital disruption. Like every other industry, we have had start-ups plow into our rows, changing everything from how we share content, to subscription and distribution strategies, to technology itself. If there is one thing we can learn from the past decade, it’s that digital innovation is the new rallying cry for everyone in the publishing field. Maybe it’s time we sought insight from some of the digital disrupters. What can publishers learn from technology start-ups?

Publishers are risk takers

One of the key characteristics of a start-up innovator in the tech field is their appetitive for risk. Start-ups are a bold exploration of an idea or a vision. Today, publishers are forced out of their comfort zone in all kinds of ways. We’ve reinvented our content roadmaps, changed how we distribute our publications, and sought new ways to redefine ourselves.

Perhaps we’re more like tech start-ups than we thought.

Publishers understand and have an appetite for risk, just like start-ups, and they rank high in entrepreneurial abilities and acumen. They have to, if they want to survive in an industry that is rife with change. Instead of blaming technology disruption for our troubles, we’ve learned to adapt and take new risks to both survive and thrive.

What have we learned from publishing start-ups?

Every established publisher should pay close attention to their new digital competitors. These innovators leverage traditional content creation and distribution and combine it with digital technology to create bright, shiny, new, and sometimes profitable objects. Are you paying attention? You should be. Traditional publishers can learn from and adopt some of the techniques commonly used by publishing start-ups. This includes:

  • Crowdfunding engages a community in the success of the publication from start to finish. These tools allow publishers to seek support for a new book from a group of readers who help fund it. For marketplace buzz, it’s hard to beat this technique.
  • Agile methodologies are commonly used in technology builds but are now applied to publishing. Agile is an iterative approach that incorporates feedback, tweaking, deployment, and then more of the same until the goal is achieved. Publishers can use these tools to drive authors forward and engage both community and their internal staff.
  • Online communities are helping publishing start-ups fill in tasks by seeking free community input instead of spending precious funds on staff. Online start-ups help publishers reach out to a supportive community for help with marketing, editing, and more. Key to this process is audience engagement, which creates a natural following around a publication well before the release date.
  • Self-publishing can even teach traditional publishers a thing or two. These scrappy entrepreneurs use a variety of methods to get their works seen, and self-publishing sites like Amazon say self-published books now make up more than 31% of everything published on their Kindle e-book platform.

There is a nugget of knowledge in each of these innovative techniques that may help your publishing business. Publishers must glean what they can from these methods to stay current — and competitive. So, where does this leave traditional publishers that now exist within the brave new world of digitization?

How do publishers fit within the new digital world?

The world has changed. The reality for traditional publishers is that our flexibility is what will save us. Some publishers have successfully transitioned to the new models driven by our digital transformation. Others are still struggling with these changes. However, one thing is clear: Our audiences have evolved, and so should we.

Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation to discuss how Sheridan can streamline your publishing processes.

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