Coding in Paradise

About Brad Neuberg

Publishing Vs. Community, Books Vs. Databases

Mike Shatzkin has a great writeup on a small trade publisher realizing how they need to change their approach when it comes to going digital:

The thing that was most striking about our conversation with Roger was the frequency with which he referred to “our industry”, by which he did not mean the book business! He meant the lawn and garden business, which is the vertical that Cool Springs Press serves. This is a nuanced but massive differentiator. If a company thinks of itself as a “book publisher”, it is already off on the wrong track. If it thinks of itself as a content- and information-provider for an industry or a community, its self-image will lead to it doing the right thing much more often.

He also talks about the need to tag and curate old information, turning it into a repository that can be treated like a database:

Waynick’s key insight was that the lawn and garden customer was looking for solutions. And solutions, to be practical, had to be local. So he constructed a taxonomy around plants (roses, gardenias) and around actions (planting, weeding) to tag the content in his state-specific books. Waynick estimates that, since reacquiring Cool Springs in 2007, he’s spent a dollar on upgrading, tagging, and curating old content for every four dollars he has spent creating new books. And he invested that money upgrading his content repository with faith, but no clear plan about how he’d get it back.

In a formulation that echoes what we’ve heard earlier from Harvard Common Press talking about cookbooks and recipes, Waynick said he needed to see his content as a database of information, not as a collection of books. And just like Harvard Common, he looks at his database for “what’s missing” to direct him about what new content he needs to acquire.

Reminds me of the HTML5 microdata that Inkling mixed into Modernist Cuisine at Home's recipes so that we could do interesting UI tricks on it.

I went to the website of the publisher mentioned in the article, and noticed something really cool on it as well:

Looks like this is a way to re-purpose a bit of that tagged and curated content out across a network of sites on the web. I bet this increases awareness and drives traffic back to this savvy publisher's site. Very clever SEO.

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