The Final Word: NYU’s Publishing Board Sounds Off

NYU Publishing Student Felipe Cruz with Stephen Riggio,CEO and Vice Chairman, Barnes & Noble

Pathways to publishing can be very convoluted, we learned as members of the Board of Advisors of NYU’S Center for Publishing convened at the Midtown Center recently to tell graduate students in the M.S. in Publishing program about their backgrounds and share their thoughts on the industry.

All Roads Lead to Publishing

As the Board members introduced themselves, it became evident that some of them began their professional careers in divergent fields and had serendipitously landed in the publishing industry. Jamie Raab, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Grand Central Publishing, had originally studied city planning, but wanted to be a diplomat; she admitted that she now exercises her diplomatic  skills running her division of the Hachette Book Group. Martin Maleska, Advisory Director to Investcorp, with various holdings in media, initially supervised the construction of polyester plants in Brazil before starting a long career at Macmillan Publishing, Simon & Schuster and other companies. Martha K. Levin, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Free Press, an imprint of Simon &  Schuster, fell into a publishing career after exiting law school.  David Ball, Vice President of Consumer Marketing for The Meredith Corporation, earned a degree in urban studies before enrolling in the NYU Publishing Program and landing his first job working for The Forbes Magazine Group.

However, Stephen Riggio, CEO and Vice Chairman of Barnes & Noble, said his passion had always been in print retail; he recalled opening his first bookstore to service the NYU community more than 35 years ago. Similarly, print media was also the main calling for Frank Lalli, Chief Content Officer of The Rooster Group, who  has held positions as Managing Editor of Money magazine and Editor-in-Chief of the International editions of The Readers Digest Group.

NYU Board Members Raab, Riggio, Maleska, Ball, Levin and Lalli address graduate student

The Printed Word in 2010

In the Q&A portion of the program, Steve Riggio, responding to a question about the recent media blitz surrounding the iPad, stated that content owners will have a bright future again as technology continues to develop and evolve. “The e-Book will be the new mass market format for books,” he affirmed.  Meanwhile, Martin Maleska observed that the new e-Reader technology could be particularly beneficial to the educational sector, replacing heavy, hardcover textbooks. David Ball explained that his company is already experimenting with 16-page niche supplements to be sold on e-Readers.

When asked about shifting reader habits, the panel conferred that the behavior of the core consumer has changed dramatically over a relatively short time. “Consumers today are inundated with free information from multiple sources, so the challenge for content publishers is to marry data and create value-added work solutions,” said Martin Maleska. “The need to market directly to the customer was recognized long ago by many authors,” noted Jamie Raab, who cited author websites as key to publicizing a book and reaching the customer. “We all thought consumers would be so interested in our elaborate publisher websites, but that’s not always the case,” she added. Martha Levin urged the audience not to forget the basics. “In this age of unprecedented competition, our job—now more than ever—is to focus on producing the best content and nurturing our authors, ” she said.

In closing, when asked to give advice to those seeking to enter the industry, Frank Lalli observed: “Writing has become only the first of many skills that one will need to succeed in the business.” He mentioned video production as another key skill needed in the digital age. “Now more than ever, print editors are simultaneously planning web stories, so new entrants will have to be flexible in order to flourish in the coming years,” conferred David Ball. With their netbooks, smart phones and other digital media at hand, the NYU publishing students in the room could not have agreed more.

by Felipe Cruz

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