Consumer focus – teaches us a lesson.

Posted on: February 26, 2009

Last time I highlighted three points publishers should focus on in an increasingly digital business; pricing, new competencies and distribution. Today I want to share  some recent industry news that support my position. It is all about the consumer, he is in the driving seat. We need to focus on him and only on him. Here is why:

Let’s start with pricing again. You probably recall my point about how consumers will demand a $9.99 price tag for ebooks. Check out this entry (one of 1313 up until today) on an forum called  “boycott everything over $9.99”.

Jeanette says: I agree. I think this is just bad news for us. I want to order a book the other day and found it as 11.99. I won’t buy it. I went to the library and go a audio book version. I tried to download it onto my Kindle and it is in secure WMA format and Kindle won’t except it, so I put it on my MP3 player. The selling point of this device was that NO BOOK WOULD BE MORE THAN 9.99. What happened to that???

This is a powerful force not to be underestimated. If you read “The Groundswell” you might be aware that this is unstoppable. So instead of talking up the value and defending our old pricing model we should listen to our customers and change the status quo.

What about competencies and distribution? Knowing what readers wanted to read was and still is a competency publishers claim for themselves. Correctly so, I believe. There is more content than ever and giving consumers some guidance has a value. However, in an increasingly digital world, it is not only about what the consumer wants to read but also how he wants to read.  Whether it is on a Mac or PC, an iPhone, G1 or Blackberry or even on a dedicated reading device, publishers have myriad ways now to reach out to their customers  and help them to find the stuff that matters to them. The focus has to be on what consumers want and how they want it.

A promising new model is This new digital marketplace for ebooks, magazines and other content allows users to purchase, preview, share and create content for every device. No locking in tricks, no empire building just consumer focus. It is integrated with all major social networks, let’s you buy single chapters of a book, create mixes (like playlists on itunes) and share stuff with your friends. You can preview chapters or upload your own work and build communities. This is what I call consumer centric. OK, shortcovers is born out of the initiative of Indigo, a Canadian book retailer and you could argue that this is their business. Fair enough, but the point I want to make is that the line that divides who does what in our industry becomes more and more blurred and that publishers could (should) have made an effort to gain access to consumers too.

We have retailers moving into the device business (amazon), device manufactures moving into retail (apple), search engines into advertising (google), book retailers into self-publishing and community building (shortcovers). When do we have a publisher moving into anything? Everyone understood that the internet kills the middlemen (Jeff Jarvis). It is time we understand this too.




1 Response to "Consumer focus – teaches us a lesson."

I could not agree more. Particularly with this statement:
“Publishers could (should) have made an effort to gain access to consumers too.”
It doesn’t necessarily mean taking the retailers out of the picture, but it’s time that publishers have a voice and dialogue with their consumers, and that they also listen to the consumer and value the feedback provided.


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