Frankfurt and the New Digital Appetite


By Stephen Bateman, Publisher and Managing Director, David & Charles Limited

It’s a beautiful crisp and sunny autumn day here in Devon, the sun reflecting off the yellow and red leaves and the perfect intro to the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, which begins next week. With any luck, the clement weather will grace the banks of the Maine and we’ll all be blessed with a Vitamin D Boost when we pop out from the halls for some refreshments!

My colleagues, Kate and Sam, and I are very excited about the Fair this year.  The fact we’re in a recession year will mean fewer visitors and those who are coming will want to justify the cost of their travel with a shorter stay, and a more intensive and harder-working visit. So, whilst the halls might feel quieter, it promises to be a serious and productive trip. It is worth noting that China is the guest-of-honour nation and they will have a 2000-strong delegation.

It is no mystery that Publishing has entered the Digital Age and the organisers of this year’s Fair have put a special emphasis on Digital.

That’s good for our sector. Even for us at David & Charles, stuck out in the wilds of Devon, we have been taking a radical approach to the digitisation of our assets. As a company we have moved from the traditional model of publisher to seeing ourselves as demagogue and activist within the communities that were the bedrock of our niche book clubs.

None of us can deny that in a short time the ability to search and locate online has become our enthusiasts’ preferred method of discovering information and for undertaking convenience shopping.  For our quilting or equestrian enthusiasts in the wilds of Northern Scotland or other far-flung places, the web offers connectivity and the chance to interact and stay on top of the latest trends and fashions. For community-focused providers of specialist content like us, going digital is a direct route to our audiences and to our fan base.

Suddenly our channel to our enthusiasts is wide open and the possibilities of rich media and interactivity are boundless.

Frankfurt, with its rich program of talks and workshops will provide us all with the opportunity to connect with like-minded activists. Frankfurt is always my opportunity to rekindle with my long established friends in the business: publishers, printers, literary agents and designers from all over the world. Frankfurt is THE venue to dialogue, share and collaborate with like-minded people and there is nothing more stimulating than being able to take a break from the screen or office to dialogue in person.

Hot Topics this year will be How to make money from the web, Online marketing, Twitter and Social networking, but also the clash of generations and the need for new blood at the top. I know that when I meet with some of the privately owned publishing houses of Europe, the bosses of those establishments will be opposed to dismantling what they have built in order to recruit new blood and build afresh. There has been a concerted effort at D&C and F+W Media to bring in open-minded marketers who consume media and entertainment in a different way, often reading off various electronic devices simultaneously, and accessing everything via their mobile.

I expect the news of the Google Android open source deal with Verizon will be a hot topic for the Amazons and Apples of this world. Turning to those organisations, how is it that the likes of Apple and Microsoft manage to undergo repeated revolutions and emerge stronger?

Responsiveness to change and the ability to lead change will, I believe, perhaps turn out to be the hottest and most potent topic. Whichever it is, the debate will be stimulating and the food appetising.

That’s how I would like to finish this post, on a Gastro note and, for the Gourmets amongst you, my final tip is to find time in your busy schedules to head for the Gourmand Cookbook Corner of the fair where you will have the chance to sample culinary delights served to you by celebrity chefs from around the globe.

Bon Digital Appetit!

Stephen Bateman is focused on change in the media industry and on providing ways to lead effective organizational change to better meet the needs of an entire generation of new media consumers, profitably. He is the Publisher and Managing Director of David & Charles Limited, an international publisher of illustrated non-fiction books, and a division of F+W Media, Inc.  He will be attending the Frankfurt Book Fair, and can be found at Hall 8 J911.

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