Cashmore: 'Let marketers take risks'

Cashmore: 'Let marketers take risks'

Departing Blackwells digital director Matthew Cashmore went out on a high at FutureBook's panel session on the future of content retailing, urging the industry to emulate the runaway marketing success of the John Lewis Christmas advertisement.

Cashmore asked how other industries could be more successful at telling stories "when our shelves are rammed with the greatest stories known to mankind."

"What's our excuse for producing absolutely dire - sometimes - content for marketing?" he asked delegates. "We've got amazingly creative people in this room - but they are so often sidelined because an ad in the Tube will [reliably] result in x number of sales. We as an industry are scared of taking chances and unless we face up to that we are going to be broken very quickly."

Urging publishers not to farm campaigns out to agencies, he urged them to make best use of their own "amazingly brilliant" staffers, saying: "Our shelves are full of amazing content - please let your creative marketing people take risks."

Meanwhile Justo Hidalgo, founder of four-year-old e-book subscription company 24 Symbols, talked about the challenges and opportunities he faced in establishing his start-up, when each year people were telling him, "You're going to be dead." 24 Symbols is now established in eight countries, with "many more" coming, and Hidalgo said: "In many places subscription services are starting to work really well... With books on the cloud, you can create additional services, create different models how how books can be not just sold but read and experienced... We are now a mixture of technology and publishing." Hidalgo said the future of retail was for publishers, stakeholders and retailers to work more closely together, urging publishers to engage more in "honest conversations" to advance the business.

Software developer Chris Kubica, founder of online retailer Alternative Bookstore, urged book-related websites to focus on readers and the reading experience first, filling their homepage with book covers like bricks and mortar stores, rather than with company logos, sign-ups, "pretty graphic designs" and white space.

Meanwhile Klaus Renkl of Germany's Deutsche Telekom talked through the growth of the Tolino e-reader, now carried in 1,000 bricks and mortar bookshops across Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands and offering its technology platform to independent booksellers as a "white label e-reading ecosystem".

"Germany is the only market where Amazon is not number one," Renkl noted.

Vincenzo Russi, chief digital officer of Messagerie Italiane, backed up his point, calling Tolino "a real hybrid bookseller, an innovative digital project with a European dimension, enabling independent bookstores to have real business data and intelligence."

Russo suggested that the language barrier which separated the German, French and Italian e-book markets from the English-speaking markets offered an opportunity to think about the e-book market from a European perspective. "It could be an opportunity to launch something that can really provide an alternative [to Amazon]," he said.