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Who said the days of print media were over? The publishing business who turned a $1500 investment into a $2 million turnover

Daniele Wilton

More, faster and cheaper – these three words could be used to describe our modern day media consumption habits, and the ever-increasingly accessible internet is here to feed them. With the average daily media consumption via the internet increasing by 105 per cent over the last five years, it’s no surprise that newspapers and magazines have declined over the same period with bookstores feeling the pinch.

The idea of a modern day publishing business experiencing substantial growth while still binding its books with stitching might seem inconceivable. But it isn’t. Dynamic Business spoke to Daniele Wilton, Co-Founder of Smudge Publishing, to find out how they are preserving the traditional art of book publishing with a modern approach and an old fashioned ethos.

FlavoursofQueensland_FinalCoverDaniele’s Bachelor of Communications degree, her mother’s publishing experience, a $1500 investment and a shared passion were all it took to get Smudge Publishing off the ground in 2009. Six years later, they are the proud publishers of the popular titles; Flavours of Sydney, Flavours of Melbourne and most recently, Flavours of Queensland. Having invested in immaculate presentation and striking imagery, they’d be hard to miss lying on any coffee table.

Daniele said “culinary travel is something Mum and I are both very passionate about…We published our first book on the Mornington Peninsula and included all the restaurants, wineries, breweries, producers and farm gates. We just loved visiting them all, tasting what they had to offer and chatting to the owners and chefs about their stories.”

Growing into a business with a turnover of $2 million in an apparently challenged industry with no additional funding surely begs the question – how?

Coining an old fashioned idiom, Daniele said “we believe if the job is worth doing, it should be done to the best of our ability.

“We go to great lengths to seek out the latest sustainable paper, preferably wood-free, and make sure the books are really worth their retail price.

“As a result, our books are seen as a treasure – something to hold on to for many years.”

According to Daniele, locals and tourists alike are attracted to the content offering because unlike other publications, their writers get behind the stories of their clients.

“Locals like to discover venues they either didn’t know were there or hadn’t yet realised the quality of their food offering, while tourists are excited about discovering the best places to visit,” said Daniele.

And with that in mind, here comes the modern approach – perhaps the crucial component of their success to date.

Daniele believes their success is owed to their unique distribution model which is unlike any other in the traditional publishing industry.

“We approach each of the venues in the books and ask them to sell the books from their venues,” Daniele said.

“This model works because everyone sees the value in collaboration: it lifts the whole industry or region, and subsequently you see our books everywhere, not just in bookshops.”

But Smudge didn’t want to be out of the online game entirely. Recognising the opportunities to provide more, faster and cheaper content in line with consumer habits, Smudge Publishing has introduced Smudge Eats to house all of their print content online as well as featuring new venues and stories that don’t fit in their books.

Somewhat of a marketing machine as well as niche publisher, Smudge is not a print publisher in decline. Daniele and her mother, Jonette, have big goals for Smudge.

“At the moment we are working on our first international book – Flavours of Bali,” Daniele said.

“There is no end to the regions we would love to discover in order to replicate the Flavours series all over the world.”