This week, I’ve been thinking about the future of publishing and the power of going deep.
The idea that the future of media depends on serving niches rather than being all things to all people is not new, but it becomes more meaningful when you meet people who are living that concept in real life.
I met some such people at Digital Storytelling in Alberta, a “speed-dating” event at Guru Digital Arts College on Oct. 6. The purpose was to get digital folk, publishers and filmmakers together to talk about the future of publishing. It was put together by Lyn Cadence, a Calgary publicist and the publisher of the newly formed Frontenac House Media, and was hosted by Owen Brierley, who runs Guru and sits on the board of Digital Alberta (and is at the centre of the photo you see above).
Here’s what I learned.
There’s no shortage of books in the world. There is a shortage of time to spend reading them. So publishers have to go after those people who love their books so much that they will drop other things to spend their precious time with them. They need to provide those books in every format those fans like. And they need to provide other opportunities to engage with those creations (and make money from them), whether it’s through film, graphic novels, games, conferences, speeches, newsletters, forums, podcasts, social media or whatever else comes next.
Big guys like Seth Godin already do this. But there’s nothing stopping little guys from doing it, too – in fact, it’s probably even more important for little guys, who have few resources and a smaller market to start with.
All of what I just said applies to journalism, too. Broadsheet newspapers were built on having something for everyone, and their websites tend to be the same. But that’s not the way of the future. Inch-deep, mile-wide coverage won’t cut it, especially as the culture of recommendation takes over from Google-gaming as the way to get your stories in front of the people who want them. Specializing in doing a few things very well, deeply and vertically, has more hope. It’s also way more fun.
I had lots of great conversations – thank you, Ron Manke, Karen Gartner, Faye Boer, Gary Whyte, Tamara Stecyk and Kieran Flynn – but the most inspiring chat was with Merle and Jerome Martin of Spotted Cow Press.
Spotted Cow is very small, and judging from its titles, it doesn’t put out a lot of bestsellers. But three things impressed me about the Martins:
- They love what they do.
- They don’t waste time seeking grants; they bootstrap everything.
- They aren’t afraid of trying something new. They sell e-books. They offer free downloads. Jerome has a blog and is on Twitter. They are doing on a small scale what everyone needs to be doing, and they’re hungry to learn more.
So I’m adding the Martins to my heroes list. Thanks to Lyn and Owen for a delightful time. If you were there and want to share what you learned, please comment on this post.
And now, rounding up:
– Meshwest Edmonton on Oct. 4 was another opportunity for future-of-media ideas to burble. I really enjoyed hearing Ali Asaria, founder of well.ca. He is unabashedly focused on Canada, not because it’s the patriotic thing to do but because it’s the right niche for his business. Customer service is at the core. He also had interesting things to say about cultivating a creative workplace. So much of what he said has applications to the media business. For more recapping, see Justin Jackson’s excellent post. The next Meshwest is in Vancouver on Dec. 5.
– Meshwest also brought social media superstar and GigaOm writer Mathew Ingram here. He shared some nice Edmonton pictures on Instagram. Every little bit helps, when it comes to promoting our fine city.
– Tickets are on sale now for the FIERCE awards, Mom Magazine’s night to honour “women who make a difference in the lives of others, whether it’s within their own household or on a global level.” By the looks of the nomination list, it will be quite the night, orchestrated by Tamara Plant, one of the fiercest women I know.
– There’s a whole blog post (or 20) to be done on the good works going on in Edmonton’s social media circles. Here are a few that have crossed the transom: User Created Content is raising money for the Stollery Children’s Hospital by playing video games for 24 hours; The Going Blue 4 U campaign aims to raise money and awareness to fight mental illness; John Winslow and others are raising diapers for the Terra Centre; and the list goes on. Check out KikkiPlanet’s #yegenda for more.
– It has been both heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch the Twitter community’s embrace of Jason Konoza after the death of his beloved wife, Wendy. Jason’s response has been remarkable. You can donate to the Wendy Konoza Memorial Award in Education at the University of Alberta. Rene and Kari Mayer set up a site to gather help for Jason and his kids.
– The next Girl Geek Dinner is on Oct. 13. I’m bringing my daughter with me to hear Victoria Arbour talk about dinosaurs. This is an all-ages affair, with an amazing speaker and yummy food at Chianti’s. And it’s about DINOSAURS. Plus it’s on Dana DiTomaso’s birthday. How can you not go?
– Finally, the one and only Sally Poulsen has made me a website! I cannot begin to tell you what a pleasant and educational experience it was to work with Sally – I highly recommend her. Shout out as well to Janice Belyea of Crayon Creative, whose business-card design became my logo. Thank you, ladies!