Publishers need service providers for more than their everyday business needs. They need them for the optimisation of their own companies. Forum Production in Publishing has been focussing on this topic for years. Markus Wilhelm, Curator of the Forum, explains the most important issues for this year’s Fair. And there’s one topic that’s particularly controversial.
Forum Production in Publishing
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fbf: Mr. Wilhelm, Forum Production in Publishing celebrates its twelfth anniversary this year. How has it changed over those years?
Markus Wilhelm: On behalf of Frankfurt Book Fair, I’ve been curating Forum Production in Publishing for three years now. Nevertheless, I’ve been involved in the Forum since it started. Back then, I served as a moderator and speaker. The industry and its service providers have undergone substantial change over the years, which can be observed in the selection of topics addressed in the panels. It is very important for us to keep up with current trends, and to take on and discuss the resulting challenges..
fbf: Who are the new players in the field?
Markus Wilhelm: The players active in the field have changed along with the development of topics. Still, the Forum has kept to its proven structure and focus: four panels a day on the topics of strategy, processes, production and design. We are more interested in competence and expertise than in famous personalities. When selecting speakers, we’re not just seeking to impress with prominent names. We also look to get the driving minds of publishing houses and service providers on our stage.
fbf: At the Forum, twelve panels are dedicated to the discussion of design, production and the most important technologies for the publishing world. How do you make sure the debates stay on point with the latest trends?
Markus Wilhelm: We take multiple approaches. We listen to our customers very closely: what are their worries, what are their main pain points. We visit countless conferences and specialist meetings, and go to many events that are not directly related to publishing. And, of course, we rely heavily on our network, which includes the Forum’s cooperation partners like Bitkom, Germany’s digital association, along with other service providers, from whom we learn the current concerns of their customers. It is also very important to observe international markets, like the USA, the UK and Asia. Basically, it’s the wide range that counts. Because there are so many channels of information and knowledge in the industry.
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fbf: Your own company, Publisher Consultants GmbH, provides consultation in many areas: strategy and organisational development, as well as procurement and supplier management, to name a few. Has the demand for consultation changed or shifted in recent years?
Markus Wilhelm: The publishing industry has become much more open to consulting. Nowadays, publishers will go to a consultancy at a much earlier stage than in the past. We’re seeing much more demand in the areas of IT and publishing systems, as well as IT in general, workflow and processes, and supplier management. There has been much greater need for consulting in recent years, particularly due to the fact that publishers are moving faster, and they want the solution that’s right for them to come quickly. Of course, it helps to get assistance from external experts, who can dedicate themselves completely to the individual tasks and immediately contribute the needed experience.
fbf: Your portfolio also includes outsourcing, a very controversial topic at the moment. How would you respond to the naysayers?
Markus Wilhelm: I fully understand the controversy, particularly when you consider all the concerns with personnel and staffing that are associated with the topic. But I want to be very clear that these concerns are in many cases unfounded. What’s more, outsourcing creates unbelievable opportunities: the company becomes more competitive, workloads decrease, creating space for new ideas. There’s a reduction in costs, and production hikes are mitigated. In the end, you have a company that’s faster and more efficient. One very important aspect of outsourcing is choosing the right supplier in connection with “clean” processes and the appropriate change management. After all, if the employees are not on board from day one, you’ll have to face worker anxiety and the resulting resistance to your plans. And, finally, an outsourcing project needs to be managed externally, rather than in-house. It will certainly be one of the main topics at this year’s Forum Production in Publishing.
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fbf: What other topics are on the agenda?
Markus Wilhelm: In addition to outsourcing, we’ll also look into IT strategy in publishing, as well as business model development. We’re already planning a panel on “print on demand versus digital printing versus off-set”. And we’ll also offer something in the field of design. The programme should be finalised sometime between the end of June and mid-August. Up until then, we’ll be on the lookout for new topics.
Markus Wilhelm, Publisher Consultants GmbH
Publishers need service providers
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fbf: Can we expect anything new this year?
Markus Wilhelm: There’s going to be a get-together at 5 pm on the Thursday of the Fair (20 October 2016). We’re already looking forward to it. We’re also offering our first guided tour of Hall 4.0 this year. I’ll be introducing some of the hall’s most innovative and exciting service providers. Registration will open in the autumn at www.book-fair.com/tours.
fbf: What makes the Frankfurt Book Fair special in your eyes?
Markus Wilhelm: The fact that customers and service providers come together, and it results in a lively exchange. That’s what sets Frankfurt Book Fair apart. In Frankfurt, every publisher finds what it needs. After all, we mustn’t forget that publishers need service providers – whether it’s software developers and printers, translators and illustrators, or anything in between.