“Doing a thousand things one percent better.”
That is Tesco’s summary of their recovery plan. It also captures the current mood of the whole supply chain from publisher through to retailer.
While there are some very small signs that the UK may be starting to edge out of recession, ongoing cost control and the headache of managing multiple channels are the dominant issues running through this issue…..
With a new wave of digital kit on the way, the options are becoming wider and even more confusing for consumers as they are for publishers.
The fact that Tesco needs a recovery plan at all is a sign of just how tough the environment is, but also of the grocer’s own obsessively high standards which will ultimately drive more change in retailing.
Retailers are experimenting with a whole range of formats and innovations aimed at making shopping more convenient, exciting and engaging: from click-and-collect through to virtual stores.
Booksellers are trying to mix ebooks and print books in-store into a bigger “book buying experience.” HMV’s new lifestyle format may crash and burn, but is there a similar vision of how to make buying newspapers and magazines more exciting?
News International, often the radical game-changer, has played safe with its wholesale contracts which now stretch out to 2019, giving Smiths and Menzies more leverage and all the remaining publishers and distributors less room to manoeuvre.
In the USA, Time is taking a massive risk in trying to drive up the retail sales of People magazine – and with it, the rest of the magazine business is the hope. Where is there a similar boldness in the UK? What has happened to the flow of big launches which once powered the UK magazine business both in terms of sales and creative drive?
Behind all this publishing-related activity, companies such as Amazon and Spotify are shaping the consumer landscape, sometimes in a dangerously haphazard way. Yet there is nothing haphazard about Amazon’s tiny 1.3% profit margin as it continues to take a frighteningly long-term view and to drive its progress through scale and professionalism.
“Doing a thousand things one percent better” is a practical and sensible approach: a good place to start. Yet on its own, it could become a recipe for mediocrity, driven by an obsession with the bottom line and the short-term view. The genius of Amazon is to combine doing a thousand little things well in addition to doing a few big things brilliantly.
Does publishing need a few more of its own “big things”?