Leander Wattig

"Because it was so easy to join Host Europe and the administration is straightforward, I now have all my projects there."

Leander Wattig - Orbanism, Organizer and Publisher

A love of books is in Leander Wattig’s genes; his grandfather was a bookseller. Innovation is in his blood, too. Wattig’s grandad was known for always finding new, interesting, ways to encourage customers into his shop.
Today, after studying book retailing and publishing, Wattig is shaping the future of the German book industry, just as his grandad tried to do before him.
His mission? To help bring the publishing business into the 21st century by giving publishers across the world access to products that complement their hard copy book publication process.
We met up with Wattig to talk video content, virtual reality and social media.
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Do you prefer to meet other people digitally or classically, face to face?

I use both digital and analog opportunities for networking. I try to use the most diverse digital instruments but I also do things like attend re:publica once a year. It’s an annual conference dedicated to blogs, social media and the information society. Change doesn’t happen without the emotion and connectivity that comes from personal contact.

Was digital innovation part of your studies?

The topic of the internet never actually officially appeared in my studies of book trade/publishing management. But during my studies from 2003 to 2007 I had great personal interest in the new developments that were taking place online and wanted to understand what was going on with this internet. This interest was also the biggest driving force for me when it came to getting into self employment right after the end of my studies. I didn't want to get stuck in a sales or marketing assistant role in a book publishing company. Ten years ago, these were not exactly the most flexible companies, and I simply had the feeling that I could do more as a self-employed person. Without my interest in the internet I would not have gone this way. But this way I could approach companies from the very beginning and help them in a relevant way even without professional experience in this new field.

At the end of your studies Facebook and Twitter already existed, but not necessarily in this country. What did you base your business on back then?

During my studies I was already interested in marketing, and social media is, in many ways, nothing more than direct marketing. In the beginning, I also offered other consulting services, such as customer surveys. But I soon realized that social media was the topic that attracted me the most, because the fact that we can now all write so easily on the net is ultimately the driver for all possible changes. The potential was clear and I found the resulting topics like eReading and self-publishing just as exciting. Not necessarily the technical aspects, but how this changes people's behavior. As a blogger, I have also been a credible example of these changes from the start.

How did the book industry react to the developments that you were working with?

When you arrived at a publisher with Facebook in 2008, they usually looked at you as if you had just landed from Mars. The benefits were mostly strongly questioned. You had to do some persuasion work, and that didn't really change until a few years later. The same applies to the subject of self-publishing, which the book industry always rejected at the beginning due to concerns over quality. It was not taken seriously until there were examples with really relevant sales figures. The situation is no different when it comes to events. Events must therefore be designed in such a way that they generate value in the form of customer loyalty, marketing gains or even innovations.

What role does innovation play in the book industry?

Innovations are a very important topic for the book industry, because it often has no idea what is happening outside its core business that would help it. In its own way, the publishing market has always been very isolated. The barriers to entry have always been high. Now, we’re in times of change. Nowadays, it's no longer just a matter of printing books, but of reaching a target group, preferably 360 degrees. The classic business model of a publishing house must be expanded to include video content, direct marketing, merchandising and virtual reality. You also need people who can't be found in the classic recruitment pools of the book industry. This is a challenge for companies.

"It's still important to me to have my own online presence where I can do and try everything."

One could criticize the German-speaking network scene in a similar way, which also always revolves around its classical structures and hardly develops influence or its own innovation. Do you see parallels?

Yeah, that's what's wrong with some of the net scene, too. Six or seven years ago, the blog scene had a completely different standing, whereas nowadays it is hardly noticeable in many areas. The problem is that very few of them have managed to develop a sustainable economic foundation for their blogs and expand it accordingly with the time that this frees up. I can think of Sascha Pallenberg as a positive example, but he is also rather the exception. In the USA there are more examples of blogs that have managed to develop from lone warrior platforms to magazines with a real editorial staff and functioning business enterprises. That's what we lack, and that's why the German-speaking net scene doesn't have a strong voice in society. But there is also a lack of marketing models for niche reach, which stands in the way of professionalization.

How did you manage and use that as a blogging freelancer?

I've always read blogs and later started my own. This has always served me to make myself more visible as a consultant and lecturer, in addition to the actual discussion of the content, which is enormously helpful. But I have never blogged in such a way that it has become a source of revenue on its own. In this respect I am also part of the described situation of the blog scene. For me, my blog has always been synonymous with me as a person and has always changed accordingly with me. In addition, I started other projects on a blog basis in 2009, which now serve as a direct source of income for me.

How did you come to Host Europe?

When I wanted to set up my first own WordPress blog in 2008, I had seen Nerdcore using René Walter Host Europe. So I went there and built the blog in one day. Because it was so easy, the administration is uncomplicated and I'm satisfied overall, I now host all my projects through Host Europe. When I test a project, I often start with a Tumblr blog and, if successful, pull it over to WordPress on Host Europe. It is still important to me that I have my own online presence where I can do and try everything. The net and the media world are a laboratory today, and it simply needs this experimental space.
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