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Review // Michael Bhaskar, author of The Content Machine, defines publishing across the digital network

book cover
book cover

Written by
Helen Carney
Published date
25 February 2018

The author of The Content Machine and Digital Publishing Director for Profile Books Michael Bhaskar visited London College of Communication students recently to share his views on the meaning of publishing in the digital era. MA Publishing student Daniela Pérez reports.

“What is publishing?” This was the big question Michael posed to the lecture theatre’s audience to get the discussion started. In a scenario where the internet has changed the game for publishers, especially for digital books, he explained how in 2010 he started asking himself this very question.

“The traditional definition is to make something public”, the author said. However, while researching the topic, he realised that being a publisher in the digital era meant much more than just that. This is what he explores in his insightful book, where he delivers a theory of publishing which analyses how it has fundamentally changed from the printing press to the digital network.

Michael headshot

To explain his theory, Michael began with what he thinks is the heart of publishing today, namely content. “Publishing must be about framing the content… and this doesn’t only mean the distribution of the content, but also includes the subjective qualities around it”.

From there the author developed a more nuanced definition for today’s digital publishing based on three key concepts. First, he highlighted that all content that is to be published must be filtered. Then, he explained how publishers need to frame the content, and finally, how publishers need to ensure that a piece of work is amplified enough to be widely encountered.

Amplifying the content was a significant aspect of Michael’s presentation. In his opinion, the main challenges for publishers today lie here. With the massive amount of content that readers have to deal with, especially online, discoverability is hard to achieve. This is where the biggest efforts are being made.

Aware of this challenging scenario, Bhaskar also shared his views on trends he sees happening in the publishing business. He highlighted that “marketing is becoming content and content is becoming marketing”. An interesting future development he noted was the start of the subscription revenue model for digital networked books, an adaptation of the methods of academic journals. Examples he mentioned include innovative new ways of publishing such as Unbound, The Atavist, and Touch Press, amongst others.

These examples of how the industry is adapting and innovating reinforced his positive view of the future. “Publishing is an essential activity and it’s changing and evolving with time. Publishing is not going to die or end – this must be the most booming moment for it”.  The students left the lecture theatre equally upbeat, looking forward to their careers blossoming thanks to the new opportunities presented by the digital network.

Words by MA Publishing student Daniela Pérez

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