In my (next to) last post, I talked about print versus screen reading, and at the end made a comment about publishers. I want to extend that comment here, and to do so I need to go to Pine & Gilmore’s Experience Economy.
I’ve talked about it before, but the premise briefly is that we’ve moved from selling services to selling total customer experiences (the pre-sales, the sale, the product or service, the support). Hence the success of Apple, which creates amazing experiences, generating great customer loyalty and satisfaction. So how does this bear on publishers?
The hoary old cliche’ is that publishers need to realize that they’re not about books, they’re about content (the analogy being to the railroad companies who suffered when they didn’t realize they were in the transportation business). On the other hand, the current discussion in industry is that now context is king. The point is that content can be customized to the immediate need. What the experience economy tells us is that the differentiator will be the overall experience. So, is experience or context king?
I want to suggest that the answer is ‘yes’. Contextualized content creates a positive experience. However, I want to argue two facets to this. Publishers do need to move to where content is semantically tagged for when there are smart systems that can contextualize it. However, I want to suggest that they also need quality information design to create a good experience even when it’s unable to be customized.
That’s come into play with educational publishers. Pine & Gilmore have argued that the subsequent economy will be the ‘transformation economy’, with experiences that transform us. I want to suggest that quality learning design will be the differentiator, and it definitely means going beyond traditional instructional design and incorporating cognitive science research and emotional engagement. I immodestly suggest that Engaging Learning is part of the solution, but the point is much bigger. It’s about reorganizing content to focus on meaningful outcomes, and then aligning the experience to achieve those. While incorporating the semantic hooks as well.
So, I’m arguing that the content business needs to look to both quality in design, and elegance in implementation, to support either or both scenarios: customized and quality experiences.