The election pretty much ate November so we postponed marking the anniversary of PublishersMarketplace.com for a month — but it’s a big one, so it shouldn’t go unmarked. Improbable as it sounds, it has been just over 15 years since we launched our site. It’s a little comforting, in an odd way, in these charged and uncertain times, to remember that we launched at what would commonly have been considered the very worst moment in history to initiate a paid online content business, or a new business of any kind. The NASDAQ began its two-year collapse in late 2000 so the first dot com bubble had officially burst and was past its midway trip to bottom, and then came the tragedy of 9/11, just weeks before we made our URL live for the first time. Brill Media’s Contentville (which had tried to buy us) and Inside.com — which Brill “acquired” by taking over the site and its cash on hand — both closed at about the same, in October 2001. And the list goes on.
Note the standard clarification, however: The Publishers Lunch newsletter is close to 17 years old, beginning shortly before the bottom fell out in early 2000 — but when we started it, we didn’t know we were “starting” something lasting, so the exact point of origin is a little obscure. Building PM stands out, though, because it required additional effort, time, and even a tiny amount of cold hard cash, along with a launch vision. (Check out our early look from November 29, 2001 on the Wayback Machine.) And because uniquely, we set out to create brand-new databases and posting features that took advantage of what you could do with a website — it wasn’t, and still isn’t, just a web version of our news reports. (Over time it did also become the web home of Publishers Lunch and its archive, plus we added the world’s largest database of book news and links from all over.)
We had a purpose, we had a community, and we made a pledge to keep experimenting and building and working hard to drive information utility for our supporters, or as we put it then, to help “publishing professionals to find each other, and to do business better electronically.” (As the preserved pages indicate, we started with Member Pages, a very small Deals archive, and the beginnings of our Book Tracker, a Contacts database, and the Rights board.)
Even our wildest hopes and dreams at the time didn’t begin to envision what we’ve been able to become, since that’s really only been possible to achieve with the engaged, attentive and appreciate community that we are privileged to serve.
On the one hand all that work is practically invisible; this entirely digital creation is now fully virtualized and can hop from rented machine to rented machine around the world in 30 minutes or so. But by the numbers it stacks up as a monster: Almost 115,000 deals, probably comprising well over 10 million words; over 20,000 live Dealmakers pages; 100,000 databased reviews; roughly 750,000 lines of bestseller data; 20,000 ISBNs tracked daily; hundreds of thousands of page views a month for over 1,500 hosted Member Pages; close to 14,000 job listings; and the list goes. What all those numbers signify is tremendous amounts of value and efficiency created on behalf of members and participants.
But mostly what we like to do is look forward and keep building better tools and data to serve you. The last few years have been focused on big but not particularly glamorous infrastructure tasks: A custom search engine that looks across all those databases at once, for 10,000 searches a day; rebuilding our entire server infrastructure for a fast, stable site that’s there to serve you for a long time; and more.
Our latest big infrastructure project is just starting to reveal itself: As you may have noticed, we’ve been applying metadata to US Deals records, with a focus on deals from 2009 onwards, making associations for tens of thousands of records. That lets us pull in the jacket (with final title), link to live editions, and connect to our bestseller tables to fill out these records. But that’s just the first stage of a structure that will allow us to build powerful sorting tools and algorithms on top of that data in the days ahead. We just went live with clickable forms that let you submit data to us for missing titles (and to correct existing titles) so please join us in the build. We’re also deep in development in a new mobile tool that’s been a long time in the making, and are closing in on some other data expansions that members should find powerful.
Keep hope, keep inventing, and keep trying to build the future that you want to be a part of. With your allegiance and support it’s worked for us for just over 15 years now and our desire to continue the course is as strong as it has ever been. Thank you for walking the journey with us.