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Five questions with Ariadne Capital’s Julie Meyer

If anyone has insights on what new business models may help the publishing industry thrive, it’s Julie Meyer, the founder and chief executive of Ariadne Capital. One of the BBC’s online dragons, Meyer judges the business ideas of budding entrepreneurs. I recently spoke with her about the innovations disrupting the publishing industry, and how we can encourage more of them. 

1. Why hasn’t the publishing industry been disrupted by entrepreneurs in the same way that the technology sector has? Or has it?

The publishing industry is being disrupted by self-publishing platforms such as Amazon, Wattpad, Figment and Movellas. It’s happening both by devices  (Kindle, iPad), as well as Ecosystem Economics™ (which means that the winners are those who are organising the economics for their ecosystem). “Fifty Shades of Grey”, which was originally self-published and has gone on to market success, shows the power of building a fan base online, and converting it to a “proper publishing” deal or relationship later.

2. What more could be done to encourage innovation in media and publishing?

Innovation in publishing will benefit from lessons in the music arena, and what will start to happen is that a lot of money will be earned through online means, and a tidal wave of interest will be unleashed. I can see the wave building. I had a very well-known personality disclose to me on Saturday that she has decided to self-publish to better control the economics of her content. A lot of writers will tell you that their publishers have added no value.  The more this “dark” information surfaces, the less the cachet of a publisher deal matters, and the faster the wave arrives. Economics trigger market storms. When people see that they can make money, they do things in a new way.

3. How can the publishing industry find more sustainable business models? What steps must be taken?

It’s all around the marketing. Distribution used to be in the store; now it’s online. So the deals to share revenue and the deals with online distribution platforms are the ones that are being fought over now.  The big deals have been announced, but there will be many new partnerships emerging as people simply download their books, and new entrants emerge. If I were a publishing firm, I would merge with a Speakers Bureau and develop a strong relationship with a higher education institution like University of Phoenix.

4. What do you think are the next big trends in digital media?

Social, local and mobile. It’s hard to think of an area of digital media that isn’t affected by those trends.

5. Yes, social media is a hot topic these days. Is the hype overblown? Or accurate? Why?

 The world continues to get more connected, and social media is the latest concentric circle to emerge that reflects how we’re living more of our lives online. There are definitely poorly run or badly developed social media firms, but this is not a trend which is reversing itself. To fail to understand how social media works today is to fail to understand how it has always been there – just taking a different shape today.   

At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther shared his new view of the Bible with pamphlets that were distributed far and wide, and saved him from being put to death. Pamphlets were revolutionary at the time as the printing press was the innovation that was changing the face of the world. Social media today is just the latest innovation in how we are communicating more broadly the messages of our lives.