• Through one of my groups on Linkedin, I’ve been invited to join a new online community, and spent some time looking at its offerings, which has led me to muse whether the greatest threat to specialist, and trade publishers, posed by the internet isn’t the challenge of raising revenue, but the creation of much more integrated, and active online communities.

      One such group, which has spawned from Linked in, serves the Pharma industry, and with over 60,000 members, boasts a far higher readership than any trade publication. It also has the benefit of being global, and, perhaps in a nod to conventional publishing, offers a range of sub-groups that focus on specialist sectors within the industry.

      This particular website has a long way to go in terms of editorial management, and reducing the overtly commercial nature of its offerings, and in fainress its web design is a bit patchy.

      But if I were still running a publishing company it would probably be keeping me awake at night because groups like this aren’t facing the horrendous entry costs that are traditionally associated with launching a new publication, yet if they get their act together could seriously threaten my business model.

      It wil call for a complete re-think of the way that we have traditionally published, especially in terms of deadlines, issue dates, content management, reader engagement and revenue generation. But if you look at it from an advertiser’s perspective, and were able to sell advertising opportunities based on hard, trackable numbers, as well as take advantage of some of the seriously clever stuff you can do on the web, which we, and other agencies, are already doing for our industry clients, then the possibilities are boundless.

      It’s a wake-up call that while the publishing industry is busily debating the do’s and don’ts of digitising PDFs or creating new editions, people with no publishing background are merrily launching wholly new enterprises that could creep up and steal the industry’s lunch from under its noses.