Markets for publishing: the creative economy?

So, to recap:  we’re looking for markets amenable to micro-business means of marketing. That is, we’re looking for markets that are (a) identifiable, (b) locatable, and (c) contiguous or networked.

By way of example: one area we have explored is the creative economy. There’s been a certain amount of policy-making and public sector interest in this area, particularly during the Blair years in the UK. And there is intellectual interest, notably from areas such as geography and regional studies: concepts such as creative cities, creative regions, and creative clusters have attracted research. More courses with titles such as Creative Industries and Creative Entrepreneurship have sprung up. So there are things going on. And it’s a sizable part of the economy.

But how does it measure up as a market, when assessed with our criteria?

It is identifiable, up to a point. But there is some fuzziness. For one thing, the various terms – creative (a) economy, (b) industry, (c) enterprise etc. – mean roughly the same thing, but not exactly the same. More seriously, there are different views over which industries are included. Everyone agrees that industries such as design, photography, music, and architecture count. But what about software development? Is that a different kind of thing? And in practice – in the curricula of creative industry courses, for example – the writerly activities (authorship, literature, publishing, translation, indexing etc.) are often excluded. So not so identifiable.

How locatable? Not very. Of course, you can very easily locate examples of creative industry activities and organisations. But locating it as a market is very difficult. The creative industries are so diverse and call themselves different things – and often in their own discourse avoid such terms as creative economy and creative industry. Architects tend to talk of architects and architecture, designers of design, and so on. And the different industries exhibit different patterns. So, frustratingly, the potential market, though very widespread, is nevertheless difficult to locate.

How contiguous – or networked? Not very. The creative industries typically rely heavily on networking activity. But the networks tend to be industry-specific. Each industry has its own set of networks. Where networks for ‘Creatives’ develop, the word tends to have a narrow extension, referring primarily to marketing, advertising, or new media.

It is true that creative industries tend to cluster. This was very evident, for example, in the maps produced to accompany the London Design Festival just ended. Districts like Shoreditch have attracted high concentrations of designers. The process of clustering has attracted the attention both of policy-makers and of academic researchers. In an earlier post in this blog I wrote about the incipient cluster developing in the publishing industry in Greater Cambridge. But this process shouldn’t blind us to the opposite: much creative industry is dispersed. Though industries such as design or publishing tend to cluster, one finds publishers and designers scattered all over.

Given the amount of interest the creative industries attract, it might seem they are under-served by book publishing: title searches based on phrases such as ‘creative economy’ and ‘creative industries’ indicate a fairly meagre offering (though there are some good books like John Howkins’ Creative Economy). However, the criteria of identifiability, locatability, and contiguity help to explain why. As a publishing market, ‘creative industries’ hardly stacks up.

So the next question is, what does? To be explored in the next post – but in the meantime, your suggestions welcome!

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