What publishers can learn from Netflix's problems

Tim Carmody on the lessons from Netflix and the facade of inevitability.

In a wide-ranging interview, Tim Carmody (@tcarmody), a writer for Wired.com, Snarkmarket, The Idler, et al., looked at the lessons publishers and others can take from Netflix’ recent troubles, and he examined the ways in which technology shapes the reading experience. (Carmody will be a keynote speaker at TOC 2012.)

Specific highlights from the interview (below) include:

  • Inevitability isn’t inevitable, just ask Netflix — For a while Netflix’s continued ascendance appeared “inevitable.” That’s a fantasy, said Carmody, and the best lesson publishers can take is that “anything that looks inevitable now might not look so inevitable in six months.” Carmody said it’s important to disrupt your business — something Netflix has done well — but you must tread lightly because consumers are fickle. [Discussed at the 3:50 mark.]
  • Reading experiences are not confined to a specific form — If you spend your days crunching numbers on a screen, you’re likely “primed” to make a database of friends on Facebook. Play Angry Birds on your iPad? Carmody said you might gravitate toward game-like publications. Publishers need to understand that the context of all content influences what we read and how we read it. “We’re always making generalizations based on the broadest set of technologies that we’re reading,” Carmody said. “It’s never just within the medium or within the format. It’s everything. The way we look at street signs changes the way we read books, the way we read the newspaper changes the way we read magazines. All of these things are always operative.” [Discussed at 1:22.]
  • Kickstarter’s tier model can work for publishing — Bundling content and offering levels or tiers of content (if you buy tier three, you also get tiers one and two) is a powerful retail model that could work well in book publishing. [Discussed at 6:22.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

TOC NY 2012 — O’Reilly’s TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they’ve learned and join together to navigate publishing’s ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012


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