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A seminar at the London Book Fair (April 15th 2013) asked the question: how will publishing interact with technology in the future? Stephen Devlin, CTO of Macmillan, had the fascinating answer: via product owners. The product owner, is the person in the organisation who defines the demand for digital systems, and, intriguingly, is not only not a technical person, and would not be based in the technical area, but at the same time not an editor. Why not? Because editors can never finish things, can never let go (I hasten to add that this was Mr Devlin speaking, not me!). If an experienced editor was given the role of product owner the product would never be completed.

I expected all the editors at the seminar to walk out in disgust at this remark, but nobody did so. Probably the only people in the room were the product owners themselves.

The product owner, he concluded, “is one of the most crucial roles, if publishers are to have a future – and one of the hardest to recruit”.