10 Take-Aways From the O’Reilly TOC Conference

By • Feb 13th, 2009 • Category: 26th Story, Big Ideas, Book News and Publishing

TOCI spent the early part of the week at the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference. I can attest that despite all of the bad news in book publishing these days, there are still a lot of inspiring people making great things happen. I’d highly recommend watching the videos. Standouts for me are Corey DoctorowJason Fried, Sara Lloyd and Tim O’Reilly.

Biggest take-aways from the week (besides DRM is dead) are:

1) Content should be customizable. The free version, premium version, phone version, etc. can all exist together. Let the customer drive the format and delivery and tell you how they want their content. Listen to your customer. Content needs to travel with a lot of functionality and social potential. Mobile reading is going to explode. Phones are everywhere.

2) Free and paid can co-exist. Don’t get caught in the “nobody will pay” mentality. People are paying for access to information. The internet is not free! People pay for basic service. “Paid is coming back big time.” — Tim O’Reilly We have to reinvent what it means to add value. As American Express says, “Membership has its privileges.”

3) Curation still matters. The job of a publisher is to confer status.

4) The tribalization of business is extremely powerful because it’s letting humans behave the way we were built to behave. Communities done right are self-perpetuating and don’t need ads or marketing. They will recruit on their own, are passionate, and want to be with others.

5) If you have an IT department that can’t make it happen the next day, you’re in trouble.

6) How do you NOT find time to be on Twitter? (Tim O’Reilly)

7) Don’t just make announcements. Talk about issues that matter to you.

8 ) Share what you learn. Be disclosive.

9) Read the Digitalist blog.  I have been a fan, but when I saw Sara Lloyd speak on Manifesto 2.0: What Does the Future Look Like For Publishers, it was a profound experience — not to mention that 8 out of 10 of her top TOC list would have been the same as mine  had I not gone to read her blog before I wrote mine. Now I can add a few others.

10) “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Tim O’Reilly

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  • http://www.folkmedia.org Joel Mark Witt

    Hi Debbie,

    I’m disapointed that I didn’t get to make it to TOC this time around. But you did a great job highlighting the things you took away from the conference. Would you be willing to elaborate on point #3 and #5. I think I get the idea of curation still mattering. After all publishers are like a filter for content. But what do you mean by confer status?

    Also by having an IT department ready the next day – are you talking about social media content or actual technical aspects of the website? Are you meaning that an app should be developed the next day or someone should be able to install a new server? Just curious what context this is in.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Joel Mark Witt

  • http://theharperstudio.com Debbie

    Hey Joel. My understanding of #3 ……and it may even be a direct quote from Tim O’Reilly…….has to do with brand equity. For instance, Tim O’Reilly publishes a certain kind of book really well, and he’s known for it. If you’re looking for a tech book, and you see the O’Reilly imprimatur, you know you’re getting a level of quality. If you’re looking for a book on a tech subject, and you see two: the O’Reilly book, and another by someone you’ve never heard of — his brand means something (i.e. it confers status). Does that make sense?

    And on #5 — That was another Tim O’Reilly quote — and in fact, I think Sara/Digitalist got it more closely: ‘If your web department says, ‘We have to have a specification’, you’re lost in today’s world – Tim O’Reilly, on the need for agile development.

    Does that clarify?

    Let me know.

  • vodkamom

    I’m only commenting because I love the name Debbie.

    (from Debbie)

    okay,…..I’ll admit i love the list- but love the name even better.

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  • http://www.dreaminggreenbook.com lisa

    Hi Debbie,
    I did not go to TOC this year and I appreciate the terrific crib notes.
    Let’s get together soon at the office
    Happy Valentine’s Day check out my green books blog post on front page of Huffington Post Green Vertical

  • http://www.bookweb.org/blogs/aba/ Dan Cullen

    Hi, Debbie –

    Thanks for following the spirit of point #8 and putting together this post! — Dan

  • george russ

    I just think that you Bob and the gang should stop posting here, because it is likely that Harper is going to delete HarperOne much as they did with Collins. Instead of posting all day to a blog, I would be thinking about how to make money on the books that you acquire. You are not turning a profit now and the idea that you are going to change the world by getting retailers to keep books with no returns is just a pipe dream, especially in this economy.

    I am amazed that you spend a lot of time writing on this blog> That does not make money and pretty soon you will be hearing those immortal words spoken by Donald Trump….

  • http://www.i-m-bitter.com Bitter

    Thanks for the list! :)

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  • Joan Miller

    There is nothing to fear but fear itself, except when you work in publishing. The poster is right–look out the axe is coming your way.

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  • http://www.37signals.com Jason Fried

    Thanks for including me on the list, Debbie. It’s always fun to shake things up a little. I’m not sure how most of the audience absorbed the talk, but I’n glad you enjoyed it.

  • http://thedigitalist.net Sara Lloyd

    Thanks for the very nice feedback, Debbie. It would have been great to meet at TOC and I’m sorry we didn’t. I have to say, reading your Top Ten I’m now reassessing mine! I might have to change it to a Top Twenty! There really was a lot to take away from the conference this year, wasn’t there?

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