Summary of the presentations from the symposium on September 16th 2021.

by Frania Hall | 28 September 2022

Photo credit: © Andrew Hobbs

This CIMRH event took one of the sectors the research hub covers to consider the ways innovation is managed in the Publishing Industry. The event included a number of presentations covering a variety of recent research from the UK and Europe exploring different aspects of innovation in publishing in both book and magazine sectors.

Topics included examining the digital transformation of the book publishing industry in small nation states, the way effective collaborations can lead to further creative innovation in book publishing, the impacts of social reading platforms, the way the magazine industry is innovating in light of changes in the business environment as well as innovations in digital printing.

The event was introduced by Professor Jonathan Hardy and chaired by Professor Andrew Blake.

We were delighted to include a short PhD track with students from Edinburgh Napier and from the University of the Applied Arts Vienna – their work is included below.

Below you will find brief abstracts of the presentations. For those interested in learning more about Laura Bousquet’s work there is a more detailed separate post.


The Relative Innovative Dimensions of Social Reading

The transcript for Laura’s presentation is available as a separate post on this blog. Below is a brief summary.

This presentation looked at social reading platforms as a online activities where people connect over their reading. These sorts of activities are sharing reviews, annotations, reading lists, discussing books or receiving recommendations for instance. It explores different definitions, some discourse focus on the lone individual reader connecting online, while links to the book club can also be identified; the literature tends to suggest there is innovation in the nature social reading itself. The presentation then explored how social reading platforms are developing focusing on the way publishers have developed online social platforms to connect readers, suggesting this a a site of innovation, exploring the motivation and business model for these as they represent social marketing spaces. The research examines the way publishers use them as a media to improve discoverablity, similar to other uses of media in pre-digital arenas; they are less used as sources of rich data on reading. Thus social platforms are innovative in their commercial function as book promotion approaches, but less innovative as a new style of reading.


Innovations in Magazine Publishing

In recognising the contribution to the academic study of magazines by books such as the Routledge Handbook of Magazine Research, the editors of Innovations in Magazine Publishing noted, however, that most texts aimed at students of magazine media as focused on either journalism, design or cultural studies. In addition, knowledge and insights of the contemporary field of magazine publishing are often inside the research domains of private enterprise or inside media bodies such as Magnetic or FIPP (The International Federation of Periodical Publishers).  At a time where digital technology and internationalisation have transformed the media business in the UK (a place where many industrial and employment shifts have occurred in just five years), the rationale for Innovations in Magazine Publishing was given: In the wake of a discourse of ‘decline’ of the magazine format, the editors saw a counterpoint to this narrative, namely in the changing fortunes of magazine publishing giants such as Future plc and a global renaissance of print magazines by young creative ‘independents’ around the globe. 

A research project started at the beginning of the Coronavirus epidemic of 2019, the presentation of Innovations in Magazine Publishing to CIMRH outlined four areas of exploration, along with four key insights gained by the submission of the book in December2020 – a time when some trends were brought into sharper relief by the global pandemic. By summary of these, the changing business models of digital ‘bundle sales’ (print and digital apps), events promotion and 3rd party subscriptions (via Press ReaderReadly and Apple) were described. A second innovation identified was the decline of display advertising sales (lost to Google and Facebook) as publishers’ primary source of revenue – replaced by e-commerce and content marketing. Finally, in the new local-but-global world of independent magazines, these content marketing innovations (and the ‘studio model’ of customer publishing) were explained as a method to support quality specialist content creation – something theorised as needed more than ever in the era social media inauthenticity. Such original voices in the independent sector were hailed for their historic role too in promoting more marginalised groups and ideas, something that the mainstream publishers might aspire to, given the challenge of racial diversity revealed in the book’s discussion of mainstream and fashion publishers’ mastheads.;;


Innovation and collaborative mindsets

My paper explored the challenges that publisher’s when trying to innovate -not just about format but also about digital forms.  While ebooks essentially replicate print books, experimenting with digital content in more complex ways to product interactive story telling products or flexible multimedia websites is important for publishers; consumers are changing, consuming more digital content in different ways and the industry needs to attract new diverse audiences. However innovation requires a different range of skills and project management styles; it also requires new relationships with a wider range of partners to develop creative collaborations. This research explores ways to collaborate effectively, in entrepreneurial and exploratory ways. Building on network theory and theories around collaborative working, and using 4 in depth cases studies from different publishing sectors, the research presents two concepts that may help companies innovate effectively. The first is paraorganisations – a way to manage innovation that does to disrupt the day to day business of the company; the second is around how to create a collaborative mindset that facilitates the sort of creative connectivity that can support the development of new networks and innovative activity.


The future is unwritten – E-publishing in small nations in Europe

Digitisation, together with the spread of the internet, has initiated a transition phase in publishing. This transition not only affects the production process but also the way of communication, the product itself and its distribution. International corporations have entered the digital marketplace and transformed the whole publishing network. Research has shown from an industry perspective that digital disruption forces established firms to adapt in order to capitalise on new opportunities digital technologies offer and to survive in an increasingly complex and competitive global environment. However, whilst the impact of digital technologies and their potential for disruptive innovation in publishing has been studied in a wider industry context, there is a lack of comparative research focusing on smaller markets and how legal frameworks, language market and firm size affect the ability of publishing houses to adapt and the adaption process itself. So this paper will focus on the impact of digitisation on small trade publishing houses in three small nations in Europe with differing market characteristics: Austria, Scotland and Slovenia. 

To investigate how strategies, mind-sets, market characteristics and policy frameworks shape the ability of publishers to innovate and adapt their publishing practices, I chose the business model as a framework, which allowed me to study this adaption to digitisation holistically, at the firm and industry level. Following an explorative approach, I conducted in-depth qualitative expert interviews and triangulated the findings with market statistics and secondary sources. 

The findings show that small publishing houses in small nations seem to profit from an international and multi-channel storytelling strategy with a focus on publishing in English online. Moreover, an entrepreneurial mind-set, especially when encouraged by adequate national cultural policies, is crucial for innovation while legacy procedures fail to encourage adaption. Hence extensive business model innovations originate at the fringes of the publishing industry while most established small publishing houses focus on incremental business model innovations.


What makes someone an author?

Historically, it has never been easier to write a book and thereby claim author status. Digitisation allows for easy production of both print and e-book formats and offers new possibilities to make authors visible in the context of a social media sphere. But who are the authors using these opportunities and increasingly gaining visibility, and what are their economic and sociocultural intentions? 

Within the framework of my transdisciplinary PhD research project rooting both in sociology and cultural studies, I am investigating current perspectives and practices of Austrian self-publishers to relate them to recent development in the national literary sphere. In a grounded theory-based study, I am condensing empirical material on authors’ attitudes to holistically depict the scene’s mindset and collective behaviour. In a further step, I will discuss the model against existing theoretical approaches to relate it to a broader social framework, taking into account specific innovations through digitalisation processes, their impact on social power relations and more comprehensive creativity concepts of contemporary culture. 

My PhD project will thus provide insight into current concepts of self-publishing and elaborate it as a newly visible form of author identity and practice against an established institutionalised literary industry. 


Innovation in Printing

Oswin presented practice based research stemming from a design brief to create a publication for the LCC public Programme ‘Our Algorithmic Lives’. This led to experimentation with coding languages and creating new ways of utilising digital print technology in consultation with printer FE Burman. This has now expanded into the development of software with the leading digital print company HP Indigo, which will be launched in early 2022, accompanied by a body of work from Oswin that explores and showcases the possibilities of these new ways of working.

Look out for further news on Oswin’s project early next year. Do also follow Oswin here: @oswintickler (Instagram and twitter);