“TOC was a great ride…”

“TOC was a great ride…”

With those words Tim O’Reilly CEO of O'Reilly Media brought the curtain down on seven years of Tools of Change with the shock announcement of the end of both the TOC conferences and the TOC blog.

The statement published on the TOC blog last night came completely out of the blue and caught most people in the publishing industry by surprise. Major TOC conferences took place annually in New York, Frankfurt, Bologna & Buenos Aires along with smaller TOC gatherings in other locations. All of these will now cease with immediate effect.

Explaining his surprise decision O’Reilly wrote: “we realized that a conference was no longer the best vehicle for us to contribute to publishing’s forward movement.”

Many  industry commentators and publishing folk responded with bemusement at this decision. Especially as it comes at a time when other publishers are looking for ways to leverage their brands into new revenue streams of exactly the sort that O’Reilly has now unceremoniously pulled the plug on.

O’Reilly took special efforts to heap praise on Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer the driving forces behind the sustained success of TOC over the years. “I especially want to thank TOC program chairs Kat Meyer and Joe Wikert for the passion, creativity, and commitment they brought to their work. I wish them well, and am confident that they’ll continue to help shape the publishing industry’s future.

Certainly for other conference producers, like myself, TOC has set the standard to which we’ve all tried to reach. And on a personal level, I have learned most from Kat and Joe’s focus on TOC being as much about connecting people as it is about sharing ideas. We are a people industry after all.

So it came as no surprise to see an immediate outpouring of affection for the TOC brand and vocal support for both Wikert and Meyer, two hugely influential and well respected figures who have played important roles in driving publishing forward.

When O’Reilly first announced Tools of Change 7 years ago he said then “Our goal is to bring together people who are pushing the boundaries of publishing and those who want to learn from them, and to provide a table of contents (TOC), so to speak, on what modern publishers need to know.”  

Most people would agree that TOC fulfilled that brief and many in the industry will mourn its (some would say, premature) passing.