Mediabistro’s “eBookNewser” section reports on a problem that publishers are having in the advent of the iPad: finding digitally-skilled employees who also understand the publishing industry.

In a press release yesterday, Lynne Seid, Partner in the Global Consumer Marketing Practice at leadership advisory firm Heidrick & Struggles, said, "It’s a mistake to think that you can simply bring in a ‘new media person who is fluent in that world without being grounded in the traditional publishing model–even if that model is exploding. Organizations need talent at the top that can bridge the old and new worlds. Right now, there is a gap between what companies need and the leadership available to build this bridge."

The interesting thing in all this to me is that a few weeks ago I ran across an article in my RSS feeds (which, alas, I can now no longer find) about the trouble that staff of traditional publishers were having in moving into the digital publishing field—the longer they wait, the more trouble they’ll have as potential employers wonder why they waited so long to make the change.

Seems to me as if these are two problems that should cancel each other out.


  1. This is understanadble as the Publishers have put themselves in a position where they need to totally revamp their production processes to incorporate pretty much all the IT productivity increases of the last 20 years practically overnight.

    However, if the BPH’s think they can airlift in personnel that will wave a magic wand and make ebooks out of their existing “system” they are in for a rude awakening. This isn’t a job for headhunters, but for IT System architects.

    I expect Microsoft’s Sharepoint VAR’s will be making a killing airlifting in modern document management systems and providing training in contemporary workflow processes.

    I expect it’ll take them two senior management changes before they catch on to all of this, though.

  2. The flip side of this is that you also need people who understand eBooks and how to sell them to the different market segments. Many pubs have various lines of revenue; consumer, education and then these have different models as well.

    Pubs also need to look at this and figure out how they can leverage those that understand the different markets and run with it. Yes you need to get them produced, but each market will have different needs, therefore you need to make sure you develop with those markets in mind, otherwise you could still fail.


  3. I don’t think staff will have too much trouble convincing a potential employer that holding digital publishing back was the fault of higher-ups, not them… and that the job market delayed their leaving sooner.

    But finding new media people who “understand the publishing industry” shouldn’t be their priority, as the publishing industry needs to undergo serious change to keep up with the 21st century. They should be looking for innovators at the upper echelons, who can evaluate traditional and progressive systems and guide the publishers through modernization. Otherwise, all the digital wonks on the production floor will just be spinning their wheels on a motorless cart.

  4. This problem goes way beyond production staff, many of whom are evangelists for modernization. The real problem is coming from fears held by decision makers who don’t recognize an industry they have worked in for decades. The truth is, many publishers have made great progress in recent years. They’ve been helped by their channel partners who have met them halfway by moving toward standard submission formats– the problem is understanding the market, including the readers and the distribution channels. I really hope traditional publishers loosen their grasp on once was and embrace the exciting changes in how humans interact with information. There is no longer a need to look at the music industry for guidance, pick up a newspaper…if you can find one. The same fate awaits the less-than-dynamic publisher.

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