Mobile, social is where it's at

Day two of the Tools of Change conference and it's becoming clear that mobile and social are the buzzwords this year. Gavin Bell, of our very own Nature Publishing Group, argued that publishers are in a strong position to aggregate, host and curate the digital 'conversation' that is already going on around our books online. In a fascinating and informative talk which included intelligent critiques of some existing publisher web sites (including some too often held up as paragons of virtue: the Penguin site and 5th Estate blog), Gavin made a simple suggestion to all publishers: that we take a digital asset that we all have - a digital 'catalogue' - and create a 'social catalogue'. By adding social tools around authors, genres or brands and pulling in social content from blogs, book tagging and cataloguing sites and even Amazon reviews, publishers could instantly provide a richer environment and build a bigger 'digital footprint' for themselves to support social interactions around their books.

'Digital footprinting' came up a lot. In his rousing 'Free is more complicated than you might think' presentation Tim O'Reilly inspired us all to think about our digital strategy in a much less narrow context than many publishers do today. Tim sees free digital content (from his excellent and highly visited blog) to sponsored magazine style content as a strategic tool with which to build a digital footprint to support and enhance his publishing brands. Perhaps the most interesting sentences he uttered in his speech were, "For O'Reilly, IP is no longer our core asset. We use IP to create community and support and extend the brand. Products then come out of that."

And while the eBook discussions were already sounding tired by Day 2 (the still endless arguments re which device, will it be one device anyway, how should eBooks be priced, and does the market really care?), the excitement was around mobile, with a number of presentations suggesting there really is a lot more to come in this area.

Sophia Stuart, mobile director of Hearst Magazines, demonstrated how they have used their understanding of and connection with their readers to produce highly tailored, highly targeted mobile offerings supported by advertising. Lesson for book publishers: know your market much, much better. Which brings me back to social, and community, and the digital footprint.

Quote of the day:

"If your digital marketing strategy is still all about your web site, about 'pages', you're screwed." (Gavin Bell)