Reflections on the Digital Lunchtime Lecture by Dr Liz Marchant (#DLL15)

by Briana Haguewood

For students, it’s not often that a morning lecture leads seamlessly into the key perspectives of an afternoon guest speaker. Yet this is precisely what occurs as we hear from Liz Marchant, Head of Science Publishing at Pearson Education.

The first in a series of lunchtime seminars on digital publishing, this lecture seems particularly pertinent to us as we work to develop digital product prototypes based on Pearson content throughout this term. Needless to say, ears perk up and pens fly as Liz illustrates the company’s digital and ICT initiatives.

First and foremost when it comes to developing digital products, she explains, is making them usable and valuable. This, she says, takes knowing your user.

Already I'm reminded of our lecturer Nic Timbrell’s message to us in our digital strategy lecture just before: that the key element for a positive user experience is meeting consumers’ exact needs. A digital product, she said, should be simple and elegant – a joy for its user to own and to use.

And so we know that the concurrent messages must be true: where publishing meets digital, the user is absolutely central.

Next, Liz highlights the myriad of players in educational publishing, from those who write the curriculum, to teachers, to parents. Publishers must always take into account all of the different factors within the environment in which they are publishing. “If you don’t understand all of the dynamics happening, you could target a solution for the wrong thing,” she explains. To be successful, a product needs to resonate with its potential users.

This word – ‘resonate’ – is threaded throughout Liz’s presentation, a fact which is not insignificant. According to Liz, publishing is about translating what’s known about market needs into an affordable solution that is, above all else, compelling. A product’s benefits should be clearly illuminated – so that customers can see why they should buy it, so that it resonates. This, too, falls on the publisher.

Beyond developing his or her vision to a high quality, in a timely manner, and within budget, the most important role a publisher plays is creating something that people actually want to buy. Smiling, Liz reminds us that this is how we meet what is arguably the foremost objective of any publisher: “Ensuring we make a profit!"

As the presentation comes to an end, those of us hoping for advice from a leader at Pearson are not disappointed. When asked what she looks for in young publishers, Liz replies passionately and without deliberation: “Common sense, enthusiasm, and being proactive!”

She explains why. “In publishing, no one is ever going to simply hand you a piece of paper and say, ‘This is how you do it.’ Most of the time, you’re having to go figure it out!”

As a young publishing hopeful, I find this industry trait at once terrifying and invigorating. Yet as we hear from professionals and see publishing theories in a broader context, us students are collecting perspectives – a framework and a tool set which, I feel, is invaluable.


About the author of this article

Briana Haguewood is currently a MA Digital Publishing student and an intern at Bodleian Library Publishing and Oxfam GB. You can connect with her @brianahaguewood or check out her blog at

Edited by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 16 Feb 2015 around 9pm

Last edited: 18 02 2015