The future of Christian publishing should be considered on two levels: Technology and Ideology.
In this post, part 1, we’ll discuss technology.
The future of Christian publishing is, technically (referring to technology, not homogeny) the same as the future of secular publishing. That is, the changes technology have facilitated in society, and in the transmission of ideas, present the same challenges and opportunities in Christian publishing as they do in secular publishing.
What does this mean for Christian publishing?
Here are four ideas on which to anchor our technology strategy:
Don’t confuse mission with tradition. Our product isn’t a book; our product is a message. Printed books are a medium, not the message. Printed books have been the main carrier of ideas to the masses for almost 600 years. They’re still a major player, but other options (e-books, audio, video, interactive, serial, mobile and other media) have sprung up that, in their own ways, are cheaper, more convenient, richer in content, and easier for our “readers” to digest. We are in the ideas business. Thinking we’re in the “book” business guarantees our eventual obsolescence.
Take advantage of the technology. Understanding that we’re in the ideas business and that books are just one form of media we employ opens us up to every other medium for sharing our ideas in forms that the world can and wishes to receive them. Because of technology, it has never been easier (never even been possible) to craft our ideas into multiple mediums, on multiple platforms and channels. We can create print, digital, audio, video, blog, Social and interactive all at the same time, as part of our “publishing” process. When we share a “book” with the world across multiple platforms the reach and effectiveness of our message grows exponentially and the reader’s/listener’s/viewer’s/user’s experience is made dramatically richer.
Understand who we’re trying to reach. Our audience is the reader, the listener, the viewer, the “fan.” These are the people for whom our message is created. They’re the reason for the message. We’re not trying to reach “the trade” or “the market.” We’re trying to reach Bob and Sally and Ramon and Leticia and Isaac and Ahmed. For the first time in history, technology allows us to reach the masses by reaching the individual. In reaching individuals we reach the world.
Target those who will consume our message. We don’t have to target increasingly obsolete mechanisms (“the trade,” bookstores, distribution systems, mass media) hoping they will “push” our message to our audience. We can simply target our audience directly and let them decide which medium and distribution system fits their needs best. Technology allows us to transcend borders (geographical, political, socio-economic, societal, religious, ideological) and reach individuals, en masse, with our message, almost for free. Technology aggregates people around interests and messages, it allows us to easily identify and interact with those aggregates, those groups of like-minded people. Technology also allows us to personalize our message … to Bob and Sally and Ramon and Leticia and Isaac and Ahmed, and it allows those who we reach to reach back to us. It allows us to complete the loop of sharing and receiving. It allows community.
We have a wonderful message. Use the mediums and reach technology provides to share it with a wider audience, more effectively, with a richer user experience, in a way that creates a community of believers, not just a market of consumers.