So I was idly browsing LinkedIn, as you do when you’ve had one of those weeks. Or, in my case, several of those weeks. By this stage in life, I’m quite prepared to accept that, when it comes to working for a living, the problem is with me, not them. I don’t like work; but then again, as a former colleague shrewdly pointed out to me, that’s why it’s called ‘work’, and also why no one gets up in the morning and bounces cheerily out of the house saying ‘I’m off to fun!’
Anyway, because I have absolutely no idea of what I might want to do instead of what I currently do, and because I’m sick of banging my own thoughts again the solid wall of my own ignorance, I’ve started browsing sideways on LinkedIn. I do this by simply clicking on a job that looks vaguely possible, then clicking on the ‘other jobs like this’ link. In a few clicks, that can get me to an interesting content/technology intersection, but away from publishing as we know it, Jim.
What I noticed is that everyone traffics in content these days. Of course they do, because everyone has a website and websites host content . No matter who the company is, or whether the website is internally or externally facing, I can guarantee you that the content pretty much consists of some combination of words and images. There might be multi-media and social networking stuff too, it might be user-generated or editorially curated, but the fundamentals are the same.
What that means is that a whole slew of companies is edging its way into being content creators, curators and distributors, whether they, not to mention the publishing industry, recognise it or not. Content is not spontaneously created out of the ether and it does not miraculously reveal itself online. Thus that same slew of companies is installing content management systems and steadily building up a body of staff with primarily digital publishing skills to generate and deploy content.
So what happens when, say, Sainsbury’s, realises it has all this ability plus a ready-made distribution channel and a well recognised brand? Taking e-books out of the equation for the moment (I know, I’m a heretic, so burn me. No, wait. Bite me.), why wouldn’t they start publishing beyond their magazine? They could go with born digital content and start a bit of brand extension in a whole raft of ways. This is the dirty secret of publishing, after all: when you really break it down, anyone can do it. And they are already are.
Update: Today I was in Waitrose. In key POS position, a Christmas stocking-filler book; publisher, Waitrose. I rest my case.