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English, Gestión del conocimiento, Gestión e innovación, Proyectos

On the future of publishing and sundry other thoughts, mostly related

Llega un punto en la vida de un hombre en el que te encuentras con dos ventanas de Chrome permanentemente abiertas, y literalmente 37 pestañas sólo en la primera de ellas. Aparte de un ejemplo de estabilidad y buen uso de memoria por parte de la aplicación, significa que hay demasiadas cosas pendientes de bloguear.

Or, in other words, it’s been too long since I took the time to empty the “write-about-it-later” bin.

1. The Economist, Apple, Amazon, Google, and the game of thrones. The Economist is a sure-fire bet: they never pick up a thread early in the game, but when they do pick it up, it is clearly a) currently relevant and marketable, and b) well-synthesised and documented. They’ll never spot the next Google until it’s already halfway there, but on the other hand they won’t have you goose-chasing Google wannabes. A case in point is a recent, extremely well-written piece that sums up the main “wars” going on in technoland, be it in the identity, conteng or ecommerce arenas, called “Another game of thrones“. A must read and a fun one.

2. Editorial revolutions. You might know (or not yet :-)) about my new project, MAGMA, an iPad publishing platform. It’s coming along surprisingly well. In the process, I’m boning up on the latest editorial thinking, and becoming a bit of a partisan of a particular school of thought. An extreme example of it is described in the piece about Subcompact publishing by Craig Mod, focused on Marco Arment’s (on Instapaper fame) “The magazine“. Not to be taken without a pinch of salt, but loaded with good sense. “The magazine” itself is an effort to explore a niche “category between individuals and major publishers” that I understand is about to explode, and I hope to be there too doing a bit of exploding. Indeed, I am already if with more conservative artillery. I’m not alone in seeing this as a next-big-thing… although not quite as big as the one that will follow.

3. Content-based marketing works. On the other hand, there’s a nice trend toward using deep, serious content in other ways. Coca-cola is an example of it. They try to convey messages about the brand and its meaning, and not just through jingles but through complex stories. You can’t tell that on any old place, so they’re actually reinventing the corporate magazine in a web shape. By the way, the new web is not available in every language, the old gizmo-social versions are in effect in Spain and most other places.

4. Digital-first publications work. The Atlantic is a nice example of a magazine forgetting about tradition and thinking clearly in the digital age. From a flagging periodical into a flourishing mixed-media business that runs several webs and happens to publish a print mag. The point, IMHO, is that you can’t make the more complex part of a business (digital) a subsidiary of the simpler (print), because print’s priorities and habits are deadly for digital… and indeed for print. Of course they do have an iPad version.

5. Lean works, apparently. You may also know I’ve done a little bit of starting-up, both in first person and as a gun for hire (lately as interim CTO for Yaysi.com). But times they are a-changing, and where we used to experiment, fumble and burn cash (those glorious G2E days), in the last few years there’s a more systematic, hard-headed methodology en vogue that fits well with my bootstrapping instincts but avoids strangling the baby through penny-pinching (Macuarium.com is an example of a thus permanently brain-damaged business, albeit a healthy operation in any other sense, while iPhoniac.com died in infancy despite glorious traffic and good revenue).

The MAGMA project (see 2. above) has been started using an ample serving of concepts from this “customer development” and “lean startup” generation of thinking. The fun thing – we’re getting results as advertised. I like to think that it’s mostly due to my daring vision and superb organising skills plus my associate’s innovative and insightful coding, not to mention a suicidal work rate and hitting on palpable pent-up demand, but hey… we got a minimum viable product, we got early customers, we got a business plan that’s attracting money, we’re on schedule, and we haven’t spent a dime over budget. Hell, we haven’t incorporated yet and we already have industrial partners pushing in. My wife’s still nagging, but I’m sure there’s a chapter on that. I look forward to the rest of the book. And hereby promise to bore you with it.

Even if Mr. Ries spouts obvious platitudes like this. Talk about rediscovering the wheel… and the myth of omniscience.

6. Creativity… works. It’s fun how much stress gets placed on “being creative” these days, especially in crisis-stricken Spain. Personally I think innovation is “a feat not of intellect, but of will”, to use Schumpeter’s words (another source I’ve revisited of late – feistier than Kawasaki if less down-to-earth). Ideas are nice, but if you need some, I can give you a dozen. Implementation is the hard part. On the other hand, there’s a great difference between a flight of fancy and a detailed, serious vision. To get the creative juices flowing in a practical way, there’s a very nice selection of TED talks that could be helpful.

Variegated. You might have spotted a trend in this post. These are the odd ones, or maybe not.

– The Society of Publication Designers’ PUB48 is on and accepting entries until Dec 21st. This is a competition to recognize the best publication design, print or digital. And they’ve been taking the second half seriously for a while now. Hope some of our customers are up to it by next year.

– I was to Adobe’s presentation of Creative Cloud for Teams day before yesterday in Madrid. I took the chance to grill them on tools, standards, strategies, and the future of all of them. I love the way they’re betting the house on a new business model, and I like the way Muse is shaping to be usable in our plans for MAGMA, but the older, .folio-based approach still makes me nervous. Because it works, however inefficiently.

– Google’s been doing research about actual tablet usage habits. While mixing Androids with iPads skews results (they don’t even have the same user profile, let alone usage patterns) the details are very interesting.

– The old archives of Marc Andreesen’s former blog yield some nuggets on the link between age and creativity. This is a theme I’ve been burrowing at for a while now, both here and in other venues. Comes from becoming 41. And research does kill many preconceptions.

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