Way back in early March 2020, we hosted an event in Bath for potential industry partners that we hoped would participate in a Bristol +Bath Creative R+D project to examine the potential, challenges, and opportunities of publishing. People from magazines, games, music, video, books – all manner of content and platform creators and distributors – gathered together and a terrific conversation ensued, as well as much excitement for working and thinking together.
And now, in April 2021, we’re finally ready to launch this new pathfinder which builds on the cluster’s growing strength in publishing innovation. And I’m delighted to announce our latest cohort of fellows and industry partners who’ll be joining us in our research.
Over the past year we’ve seen a sharp increase in content creation, with people making and publishing their own content on everything from TikTok to SoundCloud.
It’s become apparent that – despite our delay - the pandemic has intensified the need for R&D based on the issues and ideas raised and discussed that evening.
As the academic lead on this project, I’ll be bringing my own long history of working across both book publishing and multimedia literary experimentation to the cohort. My first book came out in 1989 - a book of short stories called Tiny Lies - and my first digital literary work – a web-based ghost story called Branded – in 2002. Since then, the sector has undergone enormous change both in terms of workflows, pricing, and distribution, while first the ebook, then the digital audiobook, increased the range of formats readers can access. As with many major traditional industries, book publishing corporations have been slow to innovate around content, lagging behind on issues around diversity as well as form. Audio is a case in point – it’s the independent sector that is seeing a dynamic culture of experimentation around binaural and/or personalised mobile and audio stories.
Personalisation of content feels like another great opportunity for serious R&D currently as audiences become increasingly accustomed to consuming what they want, where and when they want. What technologies or platforms will be our go-to places for absorbing and meaningful content in ten or twenty years?
The pandemic has forced many businesses and organisations, large and small, to focus on their digital provision while job losses across many sub-sectors of the creative industries are forcing a new wave of entrepreneurs to jostle for position. Creators are asking themselves questions about how they want to live, as well as how to make a living. The conversation about data ownership has increased in sophistication as we learn more about how tech corporations make money from what they know about us, and ideas behind the data commons and public service internet have come back into focus once again. The climate emergency is also focusing our attention on sustainable tech and responsible innovation in a manner that feels more urgent with every passing day.
There are many pressing questions for our Amplified Publishing cohort to address. What are the business models? Do audiences want super-short-form or super-long-form content, or both? What are young people interested in? Who are the new creators and where are their audiences?
We’re hoping to explore all these ideas, and more. And, as always with B+B Creative R+D projects, we’re asking questions around representation and diversity. Who is missing from this conversation? What is the next storytelling machine and whose stories will it tell? Join us to follow this conversation as we work together to imagine what the broad publishing landscape will look like in another ten years' time.
Image Credit: Jazz Thompson