One literary agent thought my characterization of Reed Business Information as “a portfolio of industry-specific information brands that are already staking out territory online” was overly charitable: “Dude, Publishers Weekly has already lost to Publishers Marketplace,” he emailed yesterday afternoon. “The PW ‘brand’ is almost irrelevant among anyone in book publishing under 50 years old.”
“Michael Cader doesn’t do much original reporting,” he continues, “but his daily newsletter and multi-faceted Web offerings are much more useful to most of us in the industry than PW’s thin reported content. All they offer now that distinguishes them are the reviews, which anyone with a few bucks could start producing tomorrow.”
(Note: Having frequently reviewed and written features for PW, my own perspective on the magazine’s content is slightly biased.)
This agent’s final assessement? “RBI may sell successfully, but whoever has to buy it will be well advised to throw out their entire on-line operation and start from scratch.” It’s not an entirely unfair assessment; as I observed Monday, compiling news is one of several services that book industry professionals clearly value, and the perspective that comes with that compilation—both implicitly and explicitly—is another. (And the observation isn’t even limited to Lunch; Shelf Awareness works this particular angle quite effectively, too.) Perhaps, in the long run, “services” might even be a better place to be than “media,” particularly when everybody’s chasing after the same publishing industry stories anyway. And that’s something that anybody thinking about buying part or all of RBI should be thinking about.
Along those lines, an independent publisher emailed me to wonder, “It generally seems like successful industry magazines run the primary conventions in the industry they write about. Makes me wonder why Reed didn’t put PW and BEA together more aggressively.”