Who’s a publisher?

Facebook and Twitter are social publishing platforms. As Adrienne Lafranche points out in The Atlantic (“Facebook is Eating the Internet“) publishers are now putting their content directly on Facebook, rather than attempting to funnel traffic from there to their own sites.

In a sense, these publishers, including the New York Times, are letting go of the fundamental principle that content should always lead to the provider’s domain, preferably in the fewest steps possible. Instead, content publishers are resigning themselves to a share of Facebook-mediated advertising.

This opens the question of what the value is “homesteading” on the social web. For our workshop on self-publishing, we’re looking forward to discussing how social media works as a publishing platform for writers. For example, is the blog still an attractive format if we can get more readers for our content using Medium with Twitter, LinkedIn and the like?

Join the conversation at our upcoming event The New Space of Publishing on 20 May (Register via Eventbrite).

‘The New Space of Publishing’ 20 May 2015

Creative Conversations is looking forward to an evening of discussion on 20th May with key figures in the publishing industry.

Steve Carsey, Director of Original Programming for Audible, Katrina Hopewell, marketing consultant in broadcast and digital publishing, Kate Pullinger, award winning novelist and digital storyteller and Jeremy  Thompson, MD of independent publisher, Troubadour and its self publishing arm, Matador, will be joining panel chair, Justine Solomons of Byte the Book to give their views on the opportunities and challenges for writers, publishers and other industry players in the rapidly shifting landscape, which is contemporary publishing.

On one hand – massive consolidation of mainstream publishers, on the other – the ever growing phenomenon of self-publishing. A multitude of new business models and new forms of content are emerging in the space in between.

Some of the questions we hope our panel will address:

Maybe it’s never been easier for writers to publish, but how easy is it for them to make money?

What does it mean to be an ‘authopreneur’?

How are the traditional roles of writer, agent, publisher and publicist changing and what new skills and relationships do they need to develop in order to succeed or even survive?

How far have we gone in the journey towards industries defined by content (food, travel, fiction/drama), rather than platform (books, newspapers and magazines, television, radio, web) and what will happen when we get there.

Come and join the conversation!

Date: 20th May 2015

6pm welcome drinks

6.30-8pm discussion

8-9pm wine reception

Venue: Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, 11 Stockwell Street, Greenwich, London SE10 8EY (DLR stations Cutty Sark or Greenwich, 20 minutes from central London)

Entrance is free, but places are limited. Please register for the event at Eventbrite 

London Book Fair 2015

This  year’s London Book Fair brought to the fore the many ways in which the nature of publishing is expanding and new business models, modes and platforms are emerging. It featured a ‘creative industries day’ which focussed on new opportunities for the expansion of intellectual property across media. Self-publishing was also high profile, with many seminars devoted to it and the mood resolutely upbeat. One independent author declared it to be a golden age for writers. The writer as brand and the ‘authopreneur’ were also much discussed.  New business models were unveiled, such as Quarto’s new venture to publish personalised cookbooks, designed and printed on demand by the buyer.

New Directions in Film and Television Production Studies

The New Directions in Film and Television Production Studies Conference last week put the focus firmly on collaborations between academics and media industry workers and addressed some of the questions that arise from such research. These include questions about confidentiality and ownership, about who funds the research and whose interests it serves. In a particularly interesting panel about research methodologies, Hanne Bruun examined some of the  issues faced by researchers using qualitative interviews in their research. She raised questions of access and power and also the difficulties involved in researching problems and failures in media industries. Since people are understandably more willing to be interviewed about successes than problems or failures, the range of research that a researcher might carry out using this method is potentially threatened. Eva van Passel discussed some of the challenges involved in a project in Flanders to analyse remuneration for screenwriters, directors and actors, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods. What existing data is useful and how can it best be used to establish such a variable and context dependent measure as what constitutes ‘fair’ remuneration? Van Passel suggested that the best way to proceed might be to start from establishing what is definitely ‘not fair’.

In another panel on Changing Technologies and Practices, discussion centred on the breaking down of boundaries between marketing and core content, focussing on Channel 4 as a case study.

In an industry panel discussion on research, Kate Ogborn of Fly Films said that she would be most interested in  research into what makes an independent production company successful. Laura Marshall of Icon Films agreed.

Final Keynote John Caldwell returned to the themes of concealment and disclosure, official, informal and unauthorised (such as the Sony hack) and their role within production studies research.  He explained how he has examined both the information exposed by the Sony hack and the reaction to the hack, as well as social media presence and other data sources and what they might reveal about the media industries. He pointed out that academia was part of, not separate to, the same corporate culture and neoliberal political economy in which media industries exist and stressed the importance of academic researchers clearly defining their relationship with media industry workers and organisations within any research project.  Are they discussants, investigators, collaborators or co-authors? However he also gave examples of ways that these roles can in fact shift and collapse and highlighted the number of researchers in this area whose personal background and identity straddle the boundaries between academia and production.

Caldwell also elaborated on his concept of para-industries (the ‘subterranean levels’ of media production that go into producing pitches and other development and promotional materials, such as ‘look books’ and ‘pre-script novels’, in order to get a project into production). He pointed out that it was important to recognise what is not being researched and aspects of production that remain invisible. He said he was particular interested in the way that every media production was a link in various chains of individual and organisation brand production and how creative labour on any particular production, rather than being supplied simply in exchange for financial compensation, was therefore often part of complicated deals and exchanges that exceeded the context of that particular production. Caldwell proposed collective creativity and consensus building and opposing forces such as dissensus, downsizing and outsourcing, as fertile areas of research, suggesting that studies of incoherence, as well as coherence, are potentially of great use to media organisations, as well as of interest to academics.

‘Optimism is woven into publishing’s business model’

Writing in The Guardian this Saturday, Jennifer Rankin finds justification for optimism about the future of the printed book. She cites a recent report from Nielsen, which found that, although e-books account for 50% of adult fiction sales, overall the decline in print sales is slowing down and children’s/Y.A literature saw a 9% increase in print sales in 2014.

Rankin highlights the increasing focus on the printed book as ‘lavish object’ or ‘luxury model’, with the e-book as the more disposable, cheaper version. The many implications of this trend are only beginning to play out, but multiple editions  of books seem likely to become commonplace, with variations available to suit everyone from the casual reader to the committed super fan.

Co-operatives and the P2P economy

The emerging P2P economy potentially has a lot to learn from the co-operative as business model, according to two recent discussion panels at FutureFest on 15th March and last week at City University’s Department of Culture and Creative Industries. At FutureFest, Dave Boyle and Michel Bauwens discussed the co-operative as the business model that could make peer to peer business truly merit the title of sharing economy, while at City University Sion Whellens pointed out the fit between the co-operative model and collaborative practice in the creative industries and Rhiannon Colvin of Altgen floated the potential of a co-operative for freelancers.