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An Interview with Jonathan Glasspool, President, Bloomsbury USA

We speak to Jonathan ahead of the Digital Strategy Innovation summit

11Aug

Bloomsbury is one of the world’s leading independent publishers. Founded by Nigel Newton in 1986, it’s since opened up offices in New York, Sydney and New Dehli.

Digital’s become something of a strategic dilemma for traditional publishers. Most have yet to be convinced by e-books - a recent survey identified that 62% of 16 to 24 year olds prefer traditional copies to digital ones - but there’s no doubt that they will have a presence going forward.

Bloomsbury saw its digital sales rise to 10M in 2013, up from 71% in 2012. Their involvement in digital, however, goes far deeper than the production of e-books. Distribution methods have also been transformed, with the publisher reporting that in 2014 12.1% of its titles were sold online. Perhaps best known for publishing the Harry Potter books - now the highest selling book series ever - the series saw its digital sales rise by 21% in 2014 as well.

Ahead of the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit, we spoke to Jonathan Glasspool - Managing Director, Bloomsbury Academic & Professional; President, Bloomsbury USA - about his role within the publisher’s digital strategy.

Amazon’s digital strategy is commonly used as a model for success. Jonathan doesn’t disagree with this, stating that he felt the online retailer - especially in regard to its prime service - was by far and away the market leader in regard to digital. He also mentioned the Financial Times and John Lewis as standout digital strategists.

In order to match those companies, Bloomsbury know that they must plan for digital’s development so that new phases don’t pass it by. They plan for the long-term, but set incremental tasks within that time period - Jonathan feels that due to the constant evolution of digital that short-term goals are imperative - with a separation between long-term ‘goals’ and short-term ‘strategies’.

Achieving these goals is dependant on a number of things. Jonathan states that the companies which don’t ‘invest in skills, competences and practices that characterise a digital service business’ will find it difficult to succeed, encouraging them to put money and time into projects now so that they reap the reward later.

For Jonathan digital is Bloomsbury’s strategy - it’s no longer just a component of it. He will be talking about this in his presenting slot at the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit, which when asked what people should expect from his keynote, he says ‘a war story’.

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