Saturday, 28 May 2011

Who wants what from whom..?

When I dipped into Twitter this morning, a blog post (from @wayzgoose) entitled What Publishers Want from Book Bloggers, Reviewers & Readers piqued my sense of irony. It's a good piece of writing and like the best blog posts, brief (something I rarely manage), on point and reasonable. But what prompted my own wry response is that last night I was reading Robert B. Cohen's recent book Changing the Face of the Internet. (Note to American readers: don't be put off by the mention of Europe in the subtitle: the content is still relevant). Cohen is an economist with a particular interest in the impact of the Internet and virtual worlds. Those of us who take the Internet for granted, use it in our day-to-day personal and business lives, but don't think much about how it will continue to change, and (more to the point) will continue to change us - would do well to engage with this challenging read.

Cohen points to the fact that developments in online technologies are fundamentally altering the ways in which people organise themselves professionally and socially - and are increasingly drivers to both a different kind of service economy and new, less hierarchical corporate structures. Until last night I thought of software companies as product manufacturers. Now I think of them as service providers. Cohen shows how cloud computing has given rise to SaaS (Software as a Service). A change in the ways users access and utilise software that has restructured the business models of software companies. Just two of the many significant economic benefits arising are (i) that the cost base (capital investment in I.T. infrastructure) of start up businesses will be substantially reduced and (ii) work groups from across the globe can work simultaneously and collaboratively.

So what, you may ask, does this have to do with a post about what publishers want from bloggers, reviewers and readers? My thought is, simply, that it is a question that spotlights the tipping point publishers are heading for in a digital world that challenges our old workflows and self-images. A tipping point that is going to turn the question the other way around: what do bloggers, reviewers, readers (our audience) want from publishers? It seems to me that the answer - as with the software industry - is going to be delivered, and monetized, as service, not product.