The Game of Risk

The idea that "we're all publishers now" seems to have receded, as it's become clearer than ever that what publishers do is assume and manage risk on behalf of authors and readers.

Aside from the publishers many of us immediately think of when the word is used, as well as traditional publishers we don't always think of immediately (e.g., music publishers), there are new publishers in our midst. WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are publishers in that they assume risks for their authors and readers. They allow authors to perceive themselves as "publishing" because they have very high rates of acceptance.

This game of risk publishers play is increasingly difficult, and the rules keep changing. The Internet changed the rules in ways we're still figuring out, as the rule book is something the players have to discover as they play the game.

As an added complexity, it's unclear who exactly is inventing, influencing, and implementing the new rules. Technology companies, funders, government agencies, and the public -- both actual and talismanic -- have influenced the risk game significantly, and are revising the rules explicitly and implicitly, with intention and accidentally.

So, be glad we're not all publishers now, because publishing is a complicated game to play, and many novice players would simply lose outright very quickly.

Opportunists enter the game from time to time, and what offends the invested players is how these opportunists sit at the table, sometimes trying to fit in by dressing and acting like the other players, but without serious intentions. Or, if their intentions are serious, these are not the same intentions as the other players', much as card counters arrive at blackjack tables determined to win, but not really to play. And there is no "house" monitoring the game. Again, the rules and their enforcement require self-policing.

One thing about the game is clear -- the winners are those who last the longest. In that regard, there are many current contenders for endurance, with publishing houses and societies having spent decades if not centuries playing this game of risk.

With so many sources of new risk, how is your organization faring? What is your risk profile? Do you understand the new rules of the game?