I used my own modest platform to build a following for DBW's Twitter account and early content. Rather than blow a limited marketing budget on traditional channels and standard registration promotions, I built our email list by producing three free webinars ahead of the first conference, and promoting them via paid emails to used Publishers Weekly's email list. I also launched a weekly "webcast" called DBW Roundtable where a panel of industry colleagues discussed the topic of the week, not only steadily building our audience and email list, but also serving as a test lab for potential conference programming and speakers. My content strategy wasn't to make DBW another traditional media outlet, but a trusted platform for informed opinions and industry expertise that offered the kind of actionable insights we promised at the annual conference—on a year-round basis. In doing so, it would not only ensure the continued relevance of the annual conference, it would also become a steady source of new ideas, content, and voices while also developing additional revenue streams.
While I've written about building and maintaining platforms myriad times, I've never purposefully looked back on the platforms I've built and examined how and why they deteriorated over time. Over the next few weeks I'm going to organize my thoughts and write about three of the most important ones—partly to properly document them, and partly to offer any relevant takeaways I might have.
Another notable factor that publishers seem to have trouble acknowledging is that books—especially ebooks—don't exist in a vacuum, competing only with other books published that month, but they fight for attention and discretionary income with every other immersive media format, too. Movies, TV, and gaming have all seen their own versions of digital disruption—not to mention other areas of publishing itself—so the idea that the one compelling villain to blame a decline in consumer ebook sales on is public libraries would be laughable if it wasn't so short-sighted and suicidal.
Yesterday's announcement that O'Reilly is retiring TOC came as a bit of a surprise at first, but in retrospect, it makes sense. Its focus on tools was a strength in the early days of the digital transition, but as the new shiny wore off, self-proclaimed "disruptors" faded away quietly, and viable business models came to light, it became clear that the tools of change that counted most were the people in the trenches, not the provocative pundits with plenty of ideas and little or no skin in the game.
All good things do eventually come to an end, and for me, on the heels of an amazingly successful DBW11, I realized I was coming upon a crucial fork in the road, and while the DBW path will surely continue to be an exciting one for those continuing on, it’s one I realized would ultimately take me away from my true passion: Books, Authors, Readers and the myriad connections still to be made between them.