Are you an observer or a participant?

First published June 4, 2008

It seems this time of the year finds me frequently boarding planes, and this spring has been no exception. This year, it has been a bit different as I've been both an attendee and a presenter. Both the K-12 publishing industry and the independent publisher industry are experiencing tremendous change. Both industries can look to evolving business models, changing consumer patterns, and the effect of the Internet for much of the cause and solution to their current challenges.

Recently, I attended SOBCon 08 in Chicago which was billed as biz school for bloggers. SOBCon is the moniker for "Successful Outstanding Bloggers Conference" co-founded by Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker.  It was a tremendous learning experience with a group of people who had similar personal qualities but worked in a array of industries. The thing we all had in common was that we were bloggers.What I realized there is that professionals in every industry are grappling with the same issues we are in K-12 publishing. The biggest change is not just centered around how we gather information or the quantity of information now available to us but about how we use that information to build communities around common interest.

When you attend a K-12 ed tech conference, you can walk away with the idea that every school in the country is clearly focused on integrating technology in the classroom. While it's understandable that attendees draw that conclusion, it is not yet the reality for most schools. I discovered the same principle at work when you spend time with professional bloggers – many of whom have been blogging for years. Concluding that you were the last one on the planet to start blogging after being with a group like SOBCon  would also be an erroneous conclusion. We are just beginning to glimpse the kind of impact hundreds of thousands of bloggers will have as they blog about individual topics.

For whatever reason, blogging for K-12 publishing folks has been slow to adopt blogging as a communication tool. It is ironic that  ed tech publishers  often chastise teachers for being late adopters when you realize that there is only a handful of blogs been written today by industry professionals and there are literally hundreds of thousand teacher and classroom blogs congregating at sites like Edublogs, edublogger and We Are Teachers.

So, today I head out to the annual Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) meeting whose topic this year is: Publishing for the Digital Future. K-12 publishing professionals will spend the rest of the week grappling with a host of issues surrounding this topic. In my session on Friday morning, we will be talking about how publishers can use some of the current Internet tools to focus and develop customer relationships while growing their business.

One of the intriguing questions for me is, what is the impact on your publishing business when everyone becomes a publisher? This is such a large question that you can understand why most companies have been slow to put their blogging toes into the water. But it's clear this is not a passing fad. It's also clear that if you want to help focus the conversation, you have to participate in it.

So, are you ready to take a dip?


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