Be different, be good

James Evelegh’s editorial from the January / February 2019 issue of InPublishing magazine.

By James Evelegh

Be different, be good

Do you remember the old days, when travelling into work, you could either read a book / newspaper / magazine or look out the window? In those halcyon days, publishing was a license to print money. We were virtually the only show in town.

Consequently, if a particular title enjoyed success, then rival publishers would rush in and copy it and there was more than enough money to keep all these me-too titles comfortably afloat, fuelled by advertising dollars from big brands with far fewer options for communicating with their customers than they have today.

Me-too publishing might have been formulaic, but it was profitable. Thirteen years ago, we ran an excellent article by David Hepworth entitled ‘Spice of life’ bemoaning the glut of sameish titles on the market, but it wasn’t the business case David was complaining about, but the fact that it was downright boring. “For the moment, it works. Keep doing the obvious and you will keep the customer satisfied, at least for the moment,” he wrote. That moment has passed.

In 2006, copycat publishing was boring but profitable. Now, I’m afraid, it’s boring and un-profitable. The simple reason is that people now have a world of alternatives available to them through their smartphones. Publishers are competing against multiple other calls on peoples’ time and the fact that our erstwhile advertising clients can now communicate direct with their customers or choose to advertise on platforms, like Facebook, that occupy more of their customers’ time than we do.

The bar has been raised. For publishing success today, quality is all: you need the best writers, the best design, the best everything, and you need to be different! If your title is not differentiated, if it has no self-evident USPs, it will not flourish. The days of easy money are over.

Publishing brands must provide top-drawer content and an exceptional user-experience, be easily available, have a big-enough audience and a robust revenue model and be differentiated from everything else.

Of those requirements, quality content is the most important. Your content has got to be exceptionally good, entertaining and / or useful, credible and better than everyone else’s. Once upon a time, publishers could make money simply by being as good as other publishers. Now, you not only have to be better than every rival publisher, but also every other competitor for your readers’ time. And that is not necessarily all bad, for as much as we all like easy money, producing exceptional content is ultimately more rewarding and sustainable.

Finally, you will see inserted with this issue, our 2019 Publishing Partners Guide (PPG) – containing 48 in-depth profiles of some of the industry’s leading suppliers along with some great articles. Please do take the time to look through it, and keep it as a year-long resource. If you are looking for new service providers at any time during the year, then the PPG is a great place to start your search.

As always, thank you to our advertisers, in the magazine, the PPG, the newsletter and on our website. Please call them.