This evening I attended the annual 'Historic Hill' merchants meeting held at the (utterly gorgeous) Vanderbilt Hall Hotel around the corner from our offices in Newport RI. I felt a little weird because that very afternoon I'd pasted letters reading "PRIVATE OFFICES" onto our glass front door because we'd already had one too many interruptions to our working day. As I sat down, the head of the group called for a vote, "How many of you will chip in $100 for this summer's new brochure?" I wanted to yell out, "I'll pay $100 if you promise to leave us out of the brochure!"
But, one of the reasons I moved our offices into a storefront was to have a greater connection with the energy of the street and neighborhood, even if passers-by aren't remotely in our target marketplace. So, I figured it would be cool to join the merchants' association to make new friends and feel a greater connection to the place, even though we don't sell "from" our local storefront.
We were all doing that going around the group thing where everyone says what they do. Antique dealer, art gallery, art gallery, jewelry store, lawyer, art gallery, etc. Then I say, "Publisher." And every head in the place swivels my way. "We publish business information, mainly online, " I add, but that only makes the crowd look more confused.
"So, you're a web designer?" "No, but we hire them. We're a publisher." "Oh, so you're a printer?" "No, printers print some of our stuff, but we are the publisher." "So, where do you get the things you publish? Are you an agent? Are you an author?" "No. We're a publisher - we have reporters and editors on staff. We create our own content and then we publish it. You know, like a publisher?"
Everyone looked doubtful.
I wasn't so surprised because it's a conversation I've had repeatedly with civilians over the past couple of years. Nobody has any idea what a publisher is, let alone an online publisher.
It's so clear to me. It's so damn obvious. You're a florist, you're a gallery owner, and I'm an online publisher. Hey what's the problem people?
Sometimes, in idle moments, I toy with the idea of announcing that we're a 'media company' instead. 'Online media', yeah. Well, no. I bet that would be even more confusing to outsiders. Let's face it, we may belong to a multi-billion dollar industry, but nobody has any idea what a "publisher' let alone a 'media company' is.