Direct action

<p>Travel agents know a thing or two about disintermediation. Beginning with the rise of the internet in the late 1990s, the high street travel shops gradually saw their market share eroded as customers went direct to airlines, effectively cutting agents out of the picture entirely.</p>
<p>Now the D word is affecting the publishing industry. I&rsquo;m increasingly hearing concerns that content creators can now sell direct to their audience, which could render the publisher&rsquo;s business model obsolete. But rather than a threat, publishers should see disintermediation as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How? By sticking to what they do best. If publishers continue to focus on their core competencies: the selection of high-quality content, editing, design, production, and marketing of titles, they will be well placed to capitalise on emerging trends.</p>
<p>The biggest change, however, and the most valuable opportunity for publishers, will be the launch in 2010 of Google Editions. Google will not require consumers to be tied to a specific device or format. This move will increasingly fragment the market for retailers but could expand the sales channels for publishers, provided they seize the opportunity. Small publishers, in particular, will benefit, because Google Editions will enable any content seller who has not already created a digital platform to enter the market quickly and cheaply. While there may be increased competition from specialist e-book sites and author groups created by non-publishers, publishers will continue to be in a strong position because they already house the content and the rights to it.</p>
<p>Historically, publishers have been reluctant to compete head to head with retailers but with a giant like Google entering the market, perhaps they will finally be more proactive with their electronic content. Apart from Google, there are massive opportunities for publishers to make their content more discoverable using the so-called semantic web, which facilitates the rapid and easy tagging of online content.</p>
<p>In order to win greater market share, publishers need to embrace the opportunities. They should create specialist sites and stores that sell electronic content. They should retain a deep connection with their readers by being the bastions of quality and selectiveness.&nbsp; In the digital world, they should feel comfortable in treating their authors and content as brands and selling them direct as well as via partners. <br />
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