Profile: George Walkley, Head of Digital for Hachette UK

Profile: George Walkley, Head of Digital for Hachette UK

I am pulling together profile pieces from digital publishing professionals. The profiles explain their job responsibilities and all of the digital touch points within their roles. I would like profiles from professionals covering all areas of the industry. If you would like to be involved, please email me at sam.missingham@bookseller.co.uk

I am delighted that our first Futurebook profile is of George Walkley, Head of Digital for Hachette UK. Here is George's profile:

The joy of my role is its breadth: it’s a cliché, but no two days are the same.

I’m Head of Digital for Hachette UK, a job that includes a quite wide range of responsibilities – from developing digital products, managing trading relationships with our customers and reviewing standards and policy, to online marketing and websites and working with senior colleagues to set out and implement the digital strategy for the Group. The dimensions of the role are quite broad too, as Hachette is one of the most diverse and federal publishing groups in terms of output and culture – every part of the group has different capabilities, and challenges particular to its market, and one has to be sensitive to those factors. 


Nevertheless, there are huge opportunities to benefit from a more joined-up approach to aspects of our digital publishing.  Over the last six months, I’ve been particularly focused on building a central digital team to support the Group’s publishing divisions.

We’ve placed a great emphasis on communications and sharing knowledge. I spend time with the individual divisions, and also participating in Group meetings such as our Digital Board. In September we’re holding a one-day digital conference for several hundred colleagues which will be a great opportunity to share best practice, discuss common concerns, and enthuse people about the possibilities for digital. Outside of the Group, I’ve also had the opportunity to speak at a number of industry conferences, such as TOC Frankfurt and The Bookseller’s Futurebook, and I am fairly regularly interviewed and provide comments for a variety of media, including Radio 5, The Times and The Guardian.
 
It’s intensely satisfying to see an ever-growing range of titles available to readers through our customers and on a range of devices from smartphones to tablets, and also to see the creativity and innovation of colleagues and business partners in coming up with new product forms – for example, I love the Michel Thomas language learning application that Hodder Education developed (lest I be accused of being partial, I should clarify that I wasn’t involved in the development). We’re very focused on using digital as a marketing channel, and my role is coordinating the sharing of best practice.
 
Digital publishing is rather like an iceberg: what’s visible is the smaller proportion of it. Huge amounts of work – and the commensurate investment – goes on beneath the waterline, in areas such as developing Hachette’s systems and infrastructure, and supporting work by standards bodies. I do a lot of work in this area with our IT teams, who are every bit as creative as those working on smartphone apps and social media – it’s just their work sometimes isn’t as visible. In terms of the wider publishing world, I represent Hachette on a couple of industry groups at the Publishers Association, and also sit on BIC’s Operational Board. Again, this isn’t work that tends to set the blogs alight, but it’s no less important, and where appropriate it is good to find common ground with competitors on issues such as copyright infringement and bibliographic data.