O'Reilly's Tools of Change for Publishing Conference will be held February 13-15 in New York, bringing together people from a wide range of companies to discuss innovative business models, share knowledge, and explore strategic objectives. Program chairs Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer talked to PW about what we should expect from the conference this year.
PW: What new features have you added for TOC 2012?
Joe Wikert: After looking at our target audience's needs we decided it was time to lay out tracks for different roles. At next month's TOC in NY we'll have sessions for managers, marketers, and makers. The first two are pretty self-explanatory as the former is for anyone who leads a team or owns a P&L while the latter covers not just marketing but sales and distribution as well. The makers area covers all aspects of content acquisition, development and production. We've also focused the agenda on four areas we feel are most important right now: data, design, development and deployment. Each of these are important in the e-content world but I'm particularly focused on the data piece. In some cases we're not gathering enough data to determine what's working and what's not while in others we're simply ignoring the data we have. Among other things, TOC NY 2012 will offer a number of sessions to spotlight the best lessons learned in the data space.
Kat Meyer: In addition to laying out tracks and focusing the programming in specific areas of data, design, development and deployment, this year we've added a number of activities, and are bringing new spins to old favorites. Attendees will be treated to hands-on displays and demos of the hottest new devices and platforms in our "Digital Petting Zoo" (co-curated by Joe Wikert and the Digital Reader's Nate Hoffhelder). Veteran industry visionaries Richard Nash and Kassia Krozser will be presenting several intriguing new companies and businesses who are taking their companies in new directions in our "Innovator's Program" track. TOC IGNITE will be back - and will be curated by IGNITE founder, Brady Forrest. The Publishing Start-up Showcase introduced last year, is back and will feature 10 publishing start ups competing for the opportunity to present their business models to the entire TOC audience during the closing keynotes. And, the TOC Attendee party will be taking place in the esteemed New York Public Library - with a host of publishing-related activities for all to enjoy.
PW: What issues and topics do you think will be the hottest this year?
JW: Four areas jump out at me: Android vs. iOS, Amazon's dominance, EPUB 3 and, again, data. On the Android vs. iOS front, it appeared that the iPad was going to be the runaway winner but it's clear the Fire is stealing share. That, of course, leads to the second important topic, Amazon's market dominance. This is something that concerns me because I'm seeing Amazon do more things that are not good for the broader publishing ecosystem. I know they've been accused of this before but they've really stepped up some of their harmful, and some would even say, predatory, practices recently. Our industry needs to come together to discuss and address this as best we can. Next, EPUB 3 is an extremely important technology that should allow for much richer content than before; now we just need the major e-reading app vendors to adopt it. Finally, as I mentioned before, data and data analysis needs to become such an important part of every publishing professional's arsenal now. The market is changing way too fast to ignore the signals we're able to pick up from the data all around us.
KM: I'd add in that Ecommerce, global markets, digital content pricing, and discovery are all key issues we'll be talking about at TOC. All of these issues are inter-related, but I think Ecommerce has gotten the least attention in the publishing industry, and is one to which we need to pay attention. Everything from shopping cart software to government regulation will increasingly impact the bottom line for publishers.
PW: As the industry becomes more comfortable with technology, how have you changed the tone and/or scope of the conference?
JW: I think more attendees are looking less for the pie-in-the-sky theoretical products and now they want practical evidence of what's working and what isn't. It's also great to see more and more attendees with tablets and other mobile devices in front of them these days. And because of that trend we're also thrilled to announce that this will be the first TOC NY event that features a robust conference app, making session scheduling and social networking much easier than before.
KM: TOC has always featured a blend of high- and entry-level content in relation to our technical programming. This year, we definitely felt freer to include a lot more "high-level" content. I'd say we haven't changed the scope of the conference as much as the industry has really embraced technology across the board. As Joe said, attendees are looking for more practical application, but I'd counter much of what we shared at the first TOC - content that seemed quite "pie in the sky" at the time, is now common practice. While we have a very solid amount of practical programming, expect to see plenty of speakers giving a glimpse of the future at TOC 2012.
PW: What do you hope attendees get from the conference?
JW: My goal is that they come away from TOC loaded with all the information and resources needed to help get their organizations to embrace change, experiment with new forms of econtent and ecommerce and share those results with the rest of the industry.
KM: In agreement with what Joe said here, but would add I really hope attendees continue to get what they have from day one at TOC 2006 in San Jose. A sense of community, inspiration, and renewed commitment to pulling together to make this industry we love survive and thrive with the changes.
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