Elephants, predictions & resolutions

On January 3rd I tweeted

Happy New Year. My resolution for 2013 is to write a post on no resolutions or predictions…

A number of my friends took the point. There seemed to be a greater than ever slew of new year posts saying either not much at all or forecasting (once again) the imminent end of the (publishing) industry.  Like many resolutions, mine was broken (through inaction). But I was reminded of my tweet last week when Michael Cairns posted his predictions for 2013. In that blogpost the ever-insightful Cairns (who tweets as @personanondata) remarks

 …anyone who thinks the big changes are behind us is probably fooling himself, and may be lulling himself into catastrophic inaction…

And that’s just the conclusion of the opening paragraph. Cairns proceeds to deliver an unsentimental overview of the shortening supply chain

…they need to undertake this effort because the publishing value chain is compacting, making it easy for content producers/authors to reach consumers directly which, in turn, is also changing the financial model on which publishing is based.   The functional areas where publishers added margin in order to make a profit – overhead, distribution, marketing & sales–are becoming less important (though not unimportant) when authors and contributors can reach their market directly.

Cairns concludes by making some audacious predictions for 2013, by which point he’s painted such a clear picture of the state of the nation, you can’t help wondering if even those that are tongue-in-cheek might just have a toehold in the realms of what’s possible.

Meantime I discovered Brett Sandusky’s mid January post Elephants in the Room - so the breakdown of my New Year’s resolve is now complete. (I’m intrigued that by far the best of the “new year” posts arrived mid-January. There’s a lesson in that, I’m sure.) Regardless of whether you’re prepared to be as vocal as Brett on Amazon’s status as the socking great wooly mammoth in the room, his piece is packed with thoughts that need to be taken out and looked out. Many of them could stand as sub-titles for the blog posts I’ve been trying, but struggling to write recently. Struggling because the subjects are different, but complex and interwoven. Which makes clarity in writing difficult. It’s no accident that neither Cairns’ nor Sandusky’s piece is a quick read and in some senses look at the same set of problems through different ends of the telescope.

But do take the time to read both. I’ll be blogging about ideas from them in the coming days – because they’ve provided a release-valve to an accumulating pressure of unexpressed ideas. I’ll be starting with product development: something I’ve been thinking about recently for practical as well as theoretical reasons. So for the moment, I’ll leave you with these thoughts from Brett:

We need to accept the reality of products today. Digital products are not physical products and vice versa. The are both great in their own ways and serve readers differently. It’s time to move away from doing things because “that’s how it’s always been done” and accept new products for what they are.

Everyone needs to learn about these new product and their capabilities. Only then can we step out of the dark ages, over here, and start building new, better products which organically incorporate technology. The products we use are not the same as those that we’ve used in the past. It’s a new world.

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