5 Questions for Timo Boezeman [INTERVIEW]

Timo BoezemanTimo Boezeman is the Digital Publisher for De Arbeiderspers, one of the largest publishers in The Netherlands. He is involved in creating enhanced e-books, apps and hybrid projects (books + apps). Their recent launch, Earned Attention, has done just that – earned the Dutch publisher lots of attention. Being nosy, we wanted to find out more …

1. Your multi-platform title launch is getting a lot of attention; why did you decide to publish across all available platforms rather than testing each as you went along?

The whole idea was to create a platform which exists of a diverse range of product types, to: a) make all the content we had available to the reader, and b) to do this in the best possible way for each type of content. This resulted in a print book for the complete story from A to Z, an iPhone app for all the complete audio-interviews of every interviewed visionary (complemented with complete profiles) which is a great addition have beside you while reading the book, a blog with new developments, stories and interviews with new visionaries (because the story never ends, and this is a topic that is still in development), and an iPad app that combines all of these in one (the complete book, including its design, the audio-interviews and profiles of the visionaries, and a lot of extra links to additional content, interviews or a more in-depth analysis of something that is only touched briefly in the story, elements made interactive, creating Post-it like notes and a lot more).

So basically, we wanted to create the best possible title (in form and execution). And that meant we had to do it all in once, and not first the book and later on the other product forms.

2. From a storytelling angle Earned Attention is interesting, as it is the story that never ends … any clues about how we get to finish the book?

Well, the book is finished when you have read it to the end. But the story of earned attention (the topic) isn’t finished with that. Simply because the marketing world is experiencing a gigantic shift at this moment (just like the book world is now making the shift from paper to digital, and from bookstores to more direct selling to consumers. To name just two big changes). It’s a topic that is still relatively new, and new insights, learnings, stories, proof of concepts and models are more than welcome to every marketeer. That’s why we decided to create the platform this way, so the story doesn’t have to end, and that the platform is able to grow in content. On the blog you’ll find all sorts of new content when it becomes available, and the apps will be automatically updated with new interviews once they’ve come available. And that is also why the print book still makes sense in all of this, because the basics will not change. It’s all that’s around it that changes (in terms of growth: more examples, more visionaries, more content).

3. Part of your role is to spot new trends in publishing. What have you spotted recently that we should know about?

There are a couple of big trends I see coming. A big one for us European publishers is that we should stop comparing the US with our markets. The main reason for that is, besides different markets (with different dominant players), that the US is very conservative in their vision on the future. In short: P is doing fine, E is doing fine, so why look any further? And that scares me. Because at some point it will change further, and then? By doing nothing, we’re heading the same way as the music industry did. And we shouldn’t want that. I see that European publishers are more innovative in experimenting with new products and more innovative in thinking about their future. Another trend, which kind of relates to the first one, is the changing behaviour under consumers with digital media. It’s moving from ownership to access. That’s something that will happen with books as well. And yes, by that I mean a Spotify for Books (or whatever you’d like to call it). It’s coming sooner or later, and I’m guessing it’ll be rather sooner. The last trend I’d like to mention, is one of the biggest problems that lies ahead: rights and territories. Consumers don’t care how rights are arranged. They just want to read a new title at the same moment like any other. This will especially become a problem (if it isn’t already) for the English and Spanish language. But it goes for any other language as well. Make your titles worldwide available (in your own language) at the very same time. If we don’t serve our customers in a way they want it, they’ll find other ways. Again, the music industry showed us what can happen then. As with the movie industry, or games, or software.

4. In terms of business models; how have you been able to shape the business model of a traditional publisher, to fit in with some of your digital projects?

It’s an ongoing process. I think the most important part to mention here, is that my projects are seen as any other (traditional) title we publish. Which means that it’s a title on its own, which has to have potential and should be able to earn its investments back (and hopefully of course: better than that, make a profit). Obviously it’s still a very new domain, so we can’t foresee exactly how things will work out (although, with books you cannot do this as well for a 100%). And there’s also a part that consists of investing in knowledge, creating building blocks with every new digital project we create, so the next one will be easier, and therefore cheaper, to create. But the main thing is, that I don’t have a (big) budget to play around with, but that I have to come up with titles that could exist on their own.

 5. What knowledge would you pass onto other digital publishers, looking to implement similar models.

Two things: be smart and creative in what you develop and how you’re using it. If you already work closely with other publishers (because you’re part of the same group) for print, do this for digital (development) as well. And re-use elements you’ve created before. But, besides that, you should also dare to innovate. Don’t react and wait what’s going to happen, but try out something new. And if you fail? Learn from it, adjust and then do it again. And again. And again. Of course, this is not something any publisher can do (as much as we do). But then again, it doesn’t always has to be big. It only has to be a great idea. And for great ideas is there are always possibilities to make them happen. It’s about the mindset that has to be right.

Thanks Timo, we are now off to start reading, might just never return …

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