Meeting Of Minds

A group of people attending a conference with a table that has stationery, glasses ,waterbottles etc.

April 21, 2017:

The recent  annual BookNet Canada Tech Forum in Toronto saw the industry gather to discuss and debate the next trends and developments in the industry, one of which was the matter of how best tor publishers to repurpose their content.

With the huge advances in publishing technology and distribution of content  (from apps and audio books to eBooks and web syndication), new developments mean that content can now be repurposed in different ways to reach a variety of new audiences.

However, things are never that simple. It isn’t a case of re-publishing and hoping for the best. Publishers not only need to repackage content to meet the audience’s expectations but they need to think creatively about the content itself. BookNet this year showed that publishers have different visions of how to do this effectively and how to use the technology to their advantage.

forum panel of five discussed the opportunities that are being presented if you are prepared to be flexible with your assets. Panelist Veronica Thompson of Inkling noted that the first question to ask when looking at a text is: “How can I use this across three different publications?” Publishers are understandably looking to get more ‘bang for their buck’ so the logical step is to consider how to create new books from existing material. Thompson noted that to do this effectively, you not only need to stop looking at each book as a whole and begin to see how they can be fragmented, but you also need to look at your entire collection in this way; “but to pull from many books, requires an algorithm,” she added.

Fellow panelists Franco Alvarez of Brill and Rachel Di Salle of Rogers Media agreed, noting that the key to successful fragmentation is to identify the wealth of content that you already own and think creatively about how it can be repackaged. Could sections from different works create a new book of recipes or a book on parenting advice for example? Alvarez noted that a chain of grocery stores had approached a publisher for recipe content to promote its product line and had then requested metadata tags to boost the visibility of this content online.

It isn’t just books that are ripe for repurposing and repackaging either. Di Salle noted that the entire back catalogue of Maclean’s magazine (from 1905) was being digitized and made available as a reference app. This new service would benefit journalists and historians alike who could now search and access stories from Canada’s weekly current affairs magazine with a few clicks rather than contacting the publisher or trawling through library material. That, and the publisher benefits from finding a new use for the back catalogue that’s been gathering dust for 100 years…

Panelist Kris Vetter Tomes of Lerner tells a similar story – Lerner’s archives had turned up large quantities of artwork and audio files that had never been used. The artwork is currently being repurposed to illustrate new titles, “without spending any money on art” and the audio files are being repurposed as audio books. It’s the publishing equivalent of clearing out the loft and finding some really useful stuff.

So savvy publishers are considering creative ways to fragment content in order to reach new audiences and they are embracing technological opportunities to breathe new life into their back catalogues. That’s smart thinking, however you look at it.

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