Innovation of Distribution and Retail in Italy’s Publishing Industry

Innovation of Distribution and Retail in Italy’s Publishing Industry

Innovation in Distribution and Retail of the Publishing Industry in Italy should focus on the integration of old and new channels to target correctly customer needs and allow sales to grow again.


This short analysis suggests how integration between traditional and new channels will address the slow growth in sales of the last 5 years. The traditional channel of distribution fails to correctly support the marketing functions in a context where customers’ preferences are constantly changing, with the result that most of the companies in the industry have digitalized their content but not fully succeeded in developing real digital products, Bain (2011) and DataMonitor (2013).


1.1 Use of an Integrated Content Portal

The publishing market has been always shaped by the supply. The use of technology to publish media products through an integrated content portal (similar to for instance) is an opportunity to propose a centralized point of access to information of the wide kind. Inside the portal, different publishing brands can coexist offering links to traditional material (bundles, collectibles, gadgets, long read, etc) that can be purchased in the traditional channels (newsagents, supermarkets or libraries), and customer tailored products that can be consumed using new technologies. The information gathered in the last case will point, article after article, to the actual and current needs of the customer. The satisfied reader will increase purchases because the offer will adapt to his/her tastes and needs. Collateral products will be purchased in the traditional channel increasing the flow of potential consumers.

1.2 Points Against Integration

It has been remarked that sales are not increasing because consumer spending is not growing, DataMonitor (2013), and that product are already marketed in the technology-enabled channel. Moreover changing the way of gathering and addressing customer tastes will substantially change the products, devaluing their brands and flattening the offer with the result of an increase of the available switching choices.

The argument fails to justify the increased expense of families in new technologies and related products (like smartphones, tablet, subscriptions, etc). New technologies will be used to gather updated information to develop and to market new and customized products in both channels. Adapting content to the current preferences of the customer will increase loyalty’s rates reinforcing the perceived value of the branded products.


2.1 Product Driven Process and Innovation

The traditional channel does not offer the granularity of information or the frequency of update (supermarkets collect data for each sale) which are available in other industries. Products are developed with specifications that do not always reflect trends because data is gathered on panels not representative (in quality or even in composition) of the customer base. Customer preferences are averaged on different issues of the product without relating the customer and the sale with the content and its parts, failing to adapt the substance of a product which can sell daily, weekly or monthly. BarNir (2003) pp. 795.

2.2 Customer-Driven Process and Innovation

The purchase of an entire issue or of a single article from an integrated content portal consents to relate the sale to the customer and to obtain feedback about while allowing product differentiation to coexist through brand and content. Content will adapt to the customer after each feedback because the relative information will be available to the publisher immediately after the product has been consumed (as Amazon does), new products can be submitted for evaluation on the same base. Collateral material and paper versions available in the old channel will be customized on the general trend reducing the number of unsold products (usually around 60%-70% of the printed copies) that the supply chain must manage.


3.1 Companies Made of Brand, Values, and History

Every journal and every publisher has a history which binds the content and the perspectives of its writers. Authors are grown in an environment where the publisher’s concepts and values are reflected in the content required. Independence of view is surely granted but the substance is that the product offered is branded and bound to the publisher implying a consequential perspective. Thus changing the content requires (in most of the cases) changing the values and the culture of the company. See also BarNir (2003) pp. 790-791.

3.2 New Model Built Around the Customer

Efforts required to modify a publisher’s values and culture are not sustainable to manage change’s rapidity of customer’s preferences. Products’ content has traditionally offered to assume consumer preferences as bounded to values and formats of the publisher. Changes in consumer’s tastes are incorporated with a slow process that starts collecting information from the traditional channel. Quick trends can shift the customer from a product to another and need to be taken into account to increase the customer base. Reducing the editorial’s components to the core and employ external content’s writers will allow authors’ full independence of view, free skills development and access to wider and differentiated perspectives while offering a consistent branded product. See also Lin (2005).


An integrated content portal will enhance sales in both channels allowing the acquisition of updated marketing data that will permit the development of winning products. The process of generation of new content requires a change in the structure of publishing organizations to support and manage the flow of this new data. Moreover targeting the consumer with the right product will reduce the number of unsold copies which has flooded the old distribution channel.


DataMonitor (2013). Publishing in Italy. Market Line, April 2013, Ref. Code 0171-2129

Bain (2011). Publishing in the digital era [Online]. Bain. Available from (Accessed 28 October 2014)

Lin, C. Y., Zhang J. (2005). Changing Structures of SME Networks: Lessons from the Publishing Industry in Taiwan. Long Range Planning, 2005, Vol.38(2), pp.145-162 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

BarNir A., Gallaugher J.M., Auger P. (2003). Business process digitization, strategy, and the impact of firm age and size: the case of the magazine publishing industry. Journal of Business Venturing, 2003, Vol.18(6), pp.789-814 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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