Getting to the consumer, getting the right content to that consumer, and then making this consumer pay for that content: these were the main concerns raised at Digital Minds, the London Book Fair's digital conference, held on Sunday (15th April) ahead of the show.
Jim Griffin, m.d. of OneHouse, was the first keynote, setting out the problems faced by publishers transitioning to digital. "We live in a time when it is voluntary to pay," he said. "I don't pretend it is legally right to not pay, or morally right, but in fact it is a choice people make, they choose whether they are going to pay or not, and increasingly that choice is becoming more viable."
Griffin also warned that even if you could convince the user to pay, they may not have the time to engage either with the content, or with how to get to that content legally. Every click is another hurdle, Griffin said, which leaves customers behind.
Griffin advised setting up collecting agencies, similar to how authors are rewarded for photocopying. "When actual control begins to fail us, we do not answer with more control, we move to actuarial economics, a fancy phrase to mean a pool of money that can be divided up." To make this work, however, he warned, "we must know who to distribute the money to, we must know who owns these works, and we must record this information". Publishing he said was already quite good at this, but needed to get better.
Andrew Steele, creative director for the website Funny or Die, highlighted another strategy: creating professionally produced content that users wanted to pay for, or at least attracted enough users to bring advertising in. Playing to the publisher audience, Steele said there was "no way user generated content is going to win because there isn't enough good stuff out there", adding that "the best people are generally the professionals, you know who the real artists are".
Pottermore chief executive Charlie Redmayne [pictured] backed this view saying that what the creation of Pottermore (e-books, and the experience) has shown was the continuing "power of the publishing brand".