Innovate! And Don't Forget the Reader...

Last week the BISG hosted their annual Making Information Pay conference in New York. The theme of this year’s conference was From Experimentation to Innovation in the Digital Age with the keynote delivered by home grown Canadian, Michael Raynor of Deloitte Consulting. Raynor has a new book out called The Paradox of Strategy which attendees received in their very own grab bag.

Raynor’s talk was smart, funny, and even philosophical. His main thesis was that the future is uncertain and that it is through experimentation that companies will survive. He modeled a command and control hierarchy and applied a time horizon to the hierarchy that showed not the degree of difficulty at each level but the degree of uncertainty at each level. At the top you have the board whose strategies encompass a 10 year span and at the bottom the line manager whose strategy involves getting the product out the door and into the market. This time line is usually 3mths to a year.

Following Michael was Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP for Global Marketing and Operations at HarperCollins. Carolyn presented some details about the experiments going on at Harper including their browse inside widget that they use on their own site as well as to populate social networks. The widget unfortunately only supports scanned books but it is a start and analytics coming out of the experiment are promising. Other strategies that Harper is exploring are author platforms, better search results, and addressing consumer demand by providing fanlit sites, crowd ranked books, closing the reader/writer. As with all good experiments measurement is key and so Harper is aggressively looking at analytics from all of their experiments and asking the question, “What is a strategic experiment?”

Next up was the entertaining and entrepreunurial founder of Publishers Marketplace, Michael Cader who also sends out the daily Publisher’s Lunch highlighting new deals that are in the works. During his talk Michael showed the audience his original business plan for Publishers Marketplace. It was a blank slidethus humorously indicating the uncertainty principle. The key takeaway for publishers from Cader’s talk was to remember the reader! Using the Alex Rider series of books as an example, Cader told the story about wanting to make a purchase for his son: “I want to buy my son the third book in the series, and he wants to read it.” But just looking at the books on the shelf, “I can’t figure out which one is the third one.” These are books that are competing just fine with the Wii and MySpace and World of Warcraft, yet they don’t include an easy way to go from one book to the next. How do you buy a gift for someone? I think in the past you would ask a bookseller but on the consumer platform of the web you can’t count on that.

Up next was our own POD warrior Todd Anderson, Director of the University of Alberta Bookstore. Lets just say Todd rocked the same way he did at the BNC Tech Conference earlier this year.

And finally, a panel of Harlequin, John Wiley, Hachette and Random House spoke about their digital strategies and the innovations that are going on at their respective houses. Malle Vallik, another BNC Tech Forum alumnus (and superstar Canadian), shocked the audience with the naughty tale of a billionaire his mistress, and her spicy ebooks! Julie Grau, Senior VP and Publisher, Spiegel and Grau, Random House, Inc. untangled the tale of her successful foray into free-conomics and Oprah fame.

All presentations should be available soon at BISG site.