Penguin Random House c.e.o. Markus Dohle has said the biggest task for the publisher is solving the discoverability issue in a world where physical bookshop numbers are declining.
Under questioning from editors of trade journals in Europe and the US, including Philip Jones from The Bookseller, Dohle told an audience at Frankfurt Book Fair yesterday (9th October) that the combined Penguin Random House needed to focus on increasing its reach to readers and creating awareness to ensure publishers remain “relevant”.
He said: “We must crack the code of discoverability. We want people to choose books in the future, not Netflix. Awareness and communication in a more direct form will create the relevance in publishing going forward . . . Relevance equals reach.”
However, Dohle also said he was aware that running the world’s biggest trade publisher came with a high level of responsibility. “We have opportunities here, but we have a big task too,” he said. “The team also feels the responsibility to get this right for publishing as a whole because we would not want to mess this up.”
Despite an emphasis on marketing directly to consumers, Dohle said print would continue to be the main business of Penguin Random House going forward. “In the UK, growth rates of digital are flattening out at 25% of our business. But even at [a print/digital split of] 60%/40%, print will always be a big chunk of our business.”
He added: “Our basic strategic idea is that print will always be important, while digital will also be important too. We are saying even in 100 years, print will be important . . . that means we continue to invest in print. We call it zigzag strategy. When everyone else moves away from print, we invest in it. They go zig, we go zag.”
In response to a suggestion earlier in the week from agent Andrew Wylie that publishers should remove books from Amazon if they weren’t happy with the terms, Dohle said: “Fundamentally—and this is always my mantra—the reality is about co-operation, not confrontation . . . [Penguin Random House and Amazon] are aligned and the rest is terms of sale and you name it.”
Industry stalwarts in the audience included Pan Macmillan’s Anthony Forbes Watson and agent Ed Victor. The latter said Dohle “proved to everyone he was the man for the job”. He added: “It was a smooth presentation from Markus . . . but it’s mythical to talk about what publishing will be like in the next 100 years, when we don’t even know what it will be like in the next 10.”