Content still king, children's publishers told

<p>A major gathering of children&rsquo;s publishers has been urged to stay focused on content despite the increasing familiarity children have with new technological advances.</p><p>This was the key theme of The Bookseller&rsquo;s fourth annual Children&rsquo;s Conference, which attracted more than 200 publishers, agents and digital experts to the British Library last week. </p><p>Speakers included publishers and experts from digital and media companies. Despite their diversity, the overall consensus was that content remains king. </p><p>Neal Hoskins, managing director of Winged Chariot Press, said: &ldquo;Good stories and good images will sell regardless. It&rsquo;s easy to get lost [in digital publishing] and forget about the story and how important that is to the child.&rdquo;</p><p>Mike Richards, head of marketing and publicity at Egmont, said that when publishing digitally, the product needed to be true to the original book: &ldquo;Enhance it and do it genuinely. Don&rsquo;t just &lsquo;add something&rsquo;. Understand why children like the original book&mdash;it&rsquo;s content first and the digital technology second.&rdquo;</p><p>Matt Locke, acting head of cross-platform at Channel Four, warned that companies could get trapped into focusing on the delivery platform and not the quality of the content. He said: &ldquo;You need to design for the attention of your consumer, not the platform. Facebook in five years may mean nothing.&rdquo;</p><p>Dan Martin, director of strategy at web developer Chameleon Net, said publishers needed to be wary of how fickle children and teenagers could be. He observed the emerging trend of parents &ldquo;friending&rdquo; their children on Facebook. &ldquo;Facebook is the majority player in social and web and will be for some years. But teenagers have no problem migrating to other platforms if they suit them better.&rdquo;</p><p>He suggested that publishers needed to supply digital content that straddled video, search engines, social networking and mobile internet. &ldquo;You need to communicate fully online, or you are not communicating as fully as you could,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Teenagers are fickle, highly brand-influenced but not brand-loyal. The best companies have strong websites and strong social networking.</p><p>&ldquo;The opportunity for publishing is overlapping areas of the above four mainstays of digital communication. If you have content on your site you want to make sure it is shareable and accessible.&rdquo;</p><p>Fionnuala Duggan, director of Random House Group Digital, envisaged three places where people would read digital content&mdash;e-book readers such as Kindle, smartphones and tablets, and the web. &ldquo;The potential is for millions of Kindle owners, tens of millions using smart phones and tablets and billions reading on the web,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Justine Abbott, director of Aardvark Research, outlined how technology was now firmly part of even pre-schoolers&rsquo; lives. She said: &ldquo;Nurseries are encouraging computer use from age two. Technology is becoming part of the toybox.&rdquo; </p><p>However, Adrian Hon, founder and c.e.o. of entertainment production company Six to Start, cited recent Scholastic data that said 66% of children still want to read books on paper. &ldquo;Publishers still have strengths in marketing, production, branding and working with authors in ways that technology companies do not,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;As more storytelling goes online and becomes more interactive, that requires new skills.&rdquo;</p><p>Kate Wilson, managing director of publishing start-up Nosy Crow, said modern-day children&rsquo;s publishers needed to be seen to curate, connect and create. She said children should be brought into the publishing process, noting that Nosy Crow books will feature reviews from children in the blurb. &ldquo;We have to communicate with customers in a language they like and ways they choose.&rdquo;</p>