Much has already been written about the New York Times’s leaked internal report on innovation, and many have applauded the paper’s vision. Dig a little into the fallout and you’ll find a lot of naysayers – but if I were one of the big publishing players jockeying for position at the moment, looking to make the best mergers and alliances to scale whilst simultaneously, as one journalist put it to me recently, implementing strategies ” driven primarily by the desire not to fuck up”, I’d find much to cheer about within the document’s eminently digestible 96 pages.
There’s a good reason for that: it is very practically relevant. Not just in terms of protecting unique assets and communicating a simple core belief ( for “winning at journalism” read “publishing the very best books we can”). But also for the focus on necessary structural changes (although some of the larger global conglomerates are further ahead than others at properly integrating creative commissioning and digital). All the talk of mining the archives, of creating influencer maps (this isn’t about marketing departments as a link in a chain but about anyone who knows anyone utilising that relationship) and of personalisation and packaging are directly applicable to the copyright owning leviathans.
It is as easy to fall into the trap of equating large publishers with stasis as it is to assume that only scale and market share allows you to innovate and experiment. But this blueprint from within an industry even more disrupted by digital than the world of books is refreshing in the tangible strategies it offers up, to contribute towards a difficult and somewhat belated process of cultural change.