The internet is killing publishing - but publishing is thriving because of the internet. Globalisation is strangling the market - but more and more localised content is being delivered via digital platforms. The book can’t compete with multimedia - but in a world where we are glued to screens, the printed word becomes even more valuable.
I’ve simplified things somewhat, but these arguments - and many, many more - dominate the publishing world. They were all arguments that our Digital Publishing YCEs heard during their week insight tour to London, at Digital Minds Conference, London Book Fair and during meetings with UK based digital publishing innovators like Made in Me, Valobox and Unbound.
What’s interesting is how often these conversations are framed in the context of the Anglo Saxon world, and that’s where the input about global markets gets really relevant. For example, it’s easy to assume that Amazon is sweeping the world in its wake… before one discovers that in markets such as China they are far from dominant. It makes perfect sense that the internet is killing the book market… before you discover that in Brazil the book market is actually growing in the post internet age.
Our new generation of digital innovators, from UAE, China, Brazil, Colombia, South Africa, Spain and Russia brought these global insights to London, and some interesting and illuminating conversations came out of it. Conversations that we explored during a special panel on the future of digital publishing at the Hospital Club, where YCE Digital Publishing Entrepreneur of the Year Ricardo Almeida from Brazil joined former YCE Octavio Kulez from Argentina and, from the UK, Sarah Ellis from Royal Shakespeare Company and Julian McCrea from Portal Entertainment, for a future gazing look at what publishing might look like in 2024. Their future was global, localised, drawing from the past while using tech to engage people in classic storytelling techniques like revelation by using data driven content. The big questions from our global panel were ones of curation - does community collaboration empower the industry or does it weaken it? Does the capacity to facilitate more localised stories aid communication and understanding or does it make us more fragmented, without the benefit of a shared heritage of stories - a new Tower of Babel. How much does that matter anymore anyway?
Lots of questions - come back in 2024 to find out the answers… or even more questions. But I hope we won’t have to wait ten years to find out the impact that being part of the YCE community has had on our seven digital publishing entrepreneurs. We believe that one of the most important things the British Council, a unique global organisation with cultural relations at its core, can do in this connected age is to help facilitate these conversations at a more personal level. So we’ve connected our international entrepreneurs to each other through a co-coaching framework, developed by our UK partner Nesta, to continue these debates and share insight and market knowledge.
It’s an experiment that I’m very excited about. During the week I’ve seen an inspiring group of global creatives disrupt some of the truisms that some in the UK industry take for granted. Now they’ll help disrupt each others’ knowledge and share insights that will undoubtedly help shape a new global market place. I - and they - will be sharing the results soon. Watch this space!
The next intake to the YCE network will be innovators in live music. They will come from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Indonesia, Russia, Colombia, Brazil and Spain. They will be in the UK in May to attend The Great Escape Music Festival.