When asked why we reorganised our senior team at Pan Macmillan at the end of May, I explained that it wasn’t an end in itself but an important step on a long journey.
Any publisher who says they know what the industry will look like in five years time overestimates the control they have over their environment. We have no idea of what's going to happen next, our influence is limited and our forecasts are usually wrong and soon out of date. The closer our contact with our changing market, the better we will understand it and respond as we substitute new skills and tools to prioritise speed of action and response, get used to a shorter planning horizon and develop the agility to adjust. These challenges place a premium on a joined up senior team. Back in May, I said,
'The market now demands that we deepen and extend our relationships with our authors and develop more meaningful direct relationships with our readers, and that we act fast, flexibly and decisively.’
Our decision to remove DRM from our science fiction and fantasy lists in the summer is an example of this: a clear response to the wishes of both readers and authors, made within a very short lead time, and an experiment from which to learn. So far the reader and author response has been very enthusiastic, with no (although we continue to monitor it closely) noticeable piracy effects. There will be more such initiatives.
We simplified our adult and children's publishing structure, each under one publisher, to create larger entities to pool a richer mix of talent and facilitate cross-functional working. We shifted our focus towards authors and readers with appointments of a creative director and a digitally-led marketing & publicity chief, to understand better and re-form these key stakeholder relationships. We need to re-imagine the role of the author, a vital element alongside social media in our response to the challenge of discoverability and platform creation, and to robust brand development in a volatile environment.
Real reader engagement will enable a new market understanding to seep into us, will change the language we use inside the company to describe what we do and will inform our values as publishers. We must all be commercial, collaborative and open to change; we will need to work bravely, acknowledge change as it happens, know what we don't know, start again when something doesn't work, learn from each other, and share information. Openness is creativity and we have many pieces still to join up.
We're all working twice as hard as we used to. While our e-businesses mushroom, p-books aren't going away and the dimensions of competitiveness have multiplied. Competing on costs is tough but straightforward, and competing on product is something we work on all the time. A great strategy is harder to compete with as it involves linking separate strands effectively, but an integrated, collaborative and focused working culture which reflects our increasingly interlinked marketplace, is an enduring strength but hard to do. Our re-organisation was one step on that long journey.
This is the transcript of a speech given at Publishers Launch Frankfurt, on 8th October 2012
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