“The thing that Publishers Weekly hasn’t figured out is they’ve got what the other guy doesn’t,” a literary agent emailed me yesterday, reflecting on Reed Business Information sales speculation. “Everytime I list a deal on Publishers Marketplace, I get a flurry of really stupid queries from people who are clearly just querying anyone with a live email address.” (She claims she isn’t alone, and that more and more agents have stopped including their email addresses in deal announcements because of all the useless queries.)
“What PW has is exclusivity,” she says. “If they had a deal database available only to the magazine subscribers, it would be a huge success, because to have a PW subscription means you’re not a one-horse operation… I’d love to report deals to the trade only.”
Getting more insular may seem like a counterintuitive strategy, but to borrow a page from Seth Godin, it’s about “spending all your time finding products for your customers instead of searching for customers for your products.” It’s an approach that requires cultivating intense customer loyalty; you might lose some customers by narrowing your focus, but you should be able to make it up by being the source for the objects of desire your customers all have in common. And, as today’s anonymous source points out, sometimes what doesn’t come with your services can be as attractive as what does… Whether it’s the right approach for PW and the other brands in RBI’s portfolio, though, remains to be seen.