Media & Entertainment

London Book Fair 2014: Should Publishers Even Care?

Like many people across the business world, publishers have a skeptical view of so-called Big Data, seeing it as “the next big hype.” This is especially understandable in that book publishing has always been a “gut business,” as Ken Brooks, senior v-p, global supply chain management, at McGraw-Hill Education, puts it. Data-driven decision-making is simply 180 degrees away from a business model based on intuition.

Business has always run on data—in publishing, sales data has always been important to decision-making. But beneath the hype about new data, is there new value? Just in the last six months, Big Data has been the cover story on publications as diverse as Science, Foreign Affairs, and Harvard Magazine (not to mention scores of IT trade magazines). Has the time come for publishers to focus on data and analytics, which prove to be powerful business tools in this era of digital transformation?

Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer, HarperCollins, has an answer. “Of course we are having to make investments in a new area. It is difficult convincing the business to do this so early on. So we put financial skin in the game from center down, to make the importance concrete. And, fortunately, our CEO sees the value.”

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