As had already happened to us during our stay at the Frankfurt Book Fair, at the Scandinavian Executive Publishing Meeting in Copenhagen we also somehow managed to find ourselves in a hotel in the red-light district. “Oh yeah sure… a coincidence…” say our friends to whom we tell of the two trips… But this time, the hotel was excellent and the area was rather lush, almost no longer a red-light district. I say almost because this was the view from my window:
At the welcome dinner, on Wednesday 19th November, for the first time in our lives, we found ourselves dressed the smartest. Lorenzo was the only person with a tie. Having overcome the embarrassment and arguing our Italian style, we began to meet the directors of Schilling, the biggest Scandinavian company for business solutions in the editorial world. The company develops technology, logistic and rights management projects and is extremely well organised and busy. Also to the dinner came representatives of various publishing houses, bookshop chains and Scandinavian online stores. Since 2002, these people have been meeting each other every year in Copenhagen at the Scandinavian Executive Publishing Meeting, a truly important event for their market.
Publishers from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden consider themselves a single group: three of the languages (Danish, Swedish and Norwegian) are linguistically very close and, what’s more, everyone speaks perfect English. We were also taken aback by the average age of these executives, who all seemed about 35. From their conversations we gathered that Amazon has not yet arrived in their countries but that it likely will soon. At the moment, Scandinavia is protected by the language barrier and by the rather meagre size of the market (that is, 25 million people, split between four national markets, which although are similar to one another, harbour considerable differences as well). On Thursday we went to the conference, which is held in the city’s old slaughterhouse. The building, which has been completely restructured, hosts a number of events and offers a great deal of services. The audience, all of whom were executives, consisted of less than one hundred people: a small, but important public.
The first talk, by Peter Bardenfleth-Hansen, Scandinavian Director of Tesla Motors, was very interesting even though it did not deal with issues which regarded us in particular. After this, we listened as Ikkel B. Rasmussen, EU Director of ReD Associates discussed several themes with which we were better acquainted. In his talk we recognised what we had previously discovered ourselves, i.e. that it is essential to meet one’s clients and that it is not enough to base oneself on studies and statistical reports alone! It is necessary to speak with one’s users, to pay close attention to their answers and to watch closely how they act and react in their surroundings – be it a bookshop or an online store. Ikkel’s message was clear: these days, publishers and bookshops do not know their readers and this presents a huge problem. Surviving a blast like that of Amazon or Google on such fragile foundations becomes a truly difficult task.
After a small break the third panel began. We were first to present, Raphael de Souza, Director of Business Development from Searchmetrics came second and Tom Williams, Marketing Producer from Touchpress came last. Twenty minutes each followed by questions from the audience.
The morning’s events had been arranged rather resourcefully. Firstly, the Tesla talk outlined new ideas in markets, which, in appearance, are unassailable. The talk by ReD Associates then confined the discussion to the centrality of the client in the publishing market and lastly, three different instruments, which are already “operational”, were presented.
You will already be familiar with our project from having read other posts so we will not repeat ourselves here (but you can find our presentation at the end of this post). It seemed very relevant to have invited Searchmetrics, a company from SEO and thereabouts: from our experience of working with Il Saggiatore we too understood how the contents of a book itself are a very rich source of information, unparalleled by anything else on the market. We understood how little this is used to promote the book itself and to keep it in circulation on the web. Moreover, it is also possible to detect important signs on the Internet, such as the demand for a new edition of a book (the most well known example is that of tweets which complain about a book being out of print). In any case, the idea is that to allow books “to breathe” (on the web as well) and to have a catalogue which instead of being permanent and unchanging, is alive and in full communication with the outside world.
Touchpress also gave us useful incentives: they are developing an app which is complementary to other materials, such as a book or a catalogue for a concert. These apps however, constitue independent products which are of a high quality and of a great value. The lesson we have learned is the following: a same content can translate and “flow” through different mediums and platforms so as to form new products.
In the questions from the audience a great deal of time was spent on the issue of language. On the one hand (alongside the rather restricted dimensions of the market) this has protected Scandinavia from the expansion of giants such as Amazon, yet on the other it has also isolated it before potential innovation.
The afternoon took off again with an “outline” of startup projects in the world of television, by Richard Kastelein, an entepreneur in that area who gave a broad summary of that very important sector. This was immediately followed by more specific presentations, which introduced three projects which were linked to the subscription model.
Ola Grahn, Country Manager of Readly described a subscription service which allows to download and read reviews and books on a number of devices, therefore allowing the user to have access even without an internet connection.
Morten Remmer, Managing Director Denmark and Sweden of WiMP Music, presented a music streaming service which is aimed at “high-loyalty users”, which manages to intercept a keen target audience, prepared to spend money for good quality. The spirit of his talk is summarised well by the sentence with which he opened his presentation: “quality content comes at a cost”.
Laura Groth, Country Manager of Storytel Denmark, discussed an audiobook service which is working very well in Scandinavian countries and which is now looking to expand in the rest of Europe.
The closing speech by Julian Stubbs, Founder and CEO of UP THERE, EVERYWHERE, was perhaps what struck us most: he told of how they built a creative global agency based entirely on the cloud. “No employees. No office. Just people.”
This Scandinavian Executive Publishing Meeting in Copenhagen was truly interesting and precious for us (we also hope to have opened a nummber of commercial ties, but regarding this last note we must remain silent and not try our luck!). To summarise: young average age of executives, perfect English, impeccable organisation in timing, procedures and details, stimulating and original presentations. We’ll be back!