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Sunday, January 31, 2010

I-Pad Needs Media Deals

The iPad is much more than an iPhone that won't fit into your pocket...and David Carr of the New York Times explains this well in his article today:

Short of landing in a flying saucer and having a tablet teleported into his hands, there was no way that Steve Jobs could have lived up to the hype before last Wednesday’s iPad announcement.

But he came pretty close. By the time the bells, whooshes and clicks died down, I couldn’t say the future had arrived, but I’m pretty sure we can see it from here.

“It was like someone came back from five years into the future and handed this to us,” said John Gruber of Daring Fireball, a respected tech blog.

The iPad’s promise was hinted at before Mr. Jobs hit the stage. The set was dominated by a large, comfy chair. Since the birth of the personal computer, we have been hunched over, squinting at screens — great big terminals, laptop displays, tiny screens on PDAs. With the iPad, the screen has come to us as we lean back in ease.

Critics who suggested that Apple unveiled little more than an iPhone that won’t fit in your pocket don’t seem to understand that by scaling the iPhone experience, the iPad becomes a different species. Media companies now have a new platform that presents content in an intimate way.

“Looking at it through the lens of whether or not it has new features and applications misses the point,” said Craig Moffett, an analyst at Bernstein Research. “It is nine times larger than an iPhone, and that is fundamentally a new application.”

That application isn’t work, not without a keyboard (touch-typing with all fingers on a virtual keyboard is miserable) or a camera. This is a device for consuming media, not creating it. So are the media providers ready to deliver?

Yes and, sadly, no....Read more http://alturl.com/psjk

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Amazon Removes All Macmillan E-Books

More drama and intrigue in the publishing world!

The pricing wars have begun since the iPad was unveiled by Apple last Wednesday. Macmillan scheduled a meeting with Amazon to discuss eBook pricing and Amazon's response was to remove all their books! A bad move, in my opinion, since Amazon sells it's Kindle based on it's large selection of eBooks and Macmillan is one of the largest publishers in the U.S. You just know other publishers will be wanting to negotiate with Amazon!

Anyway, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Geoffrey A. Fowler of the Wall Street Journal had this to say:

Amazon.com Inc. has removed all e-book titles published by Macmillan from Amazon and its Kindle e-reader site in a battle over pricing, according to a statement issued by Macmillan late Saturday.

The move follows this week's launch of Apple Inc.'s new iPad device, which is expected to shake up the publishing industry by competing directly with Amazon's Kindle reader and by enabling publishers to set their own retail prices on their books.

Macmillan CEO John Sargent said he visited Amazon on Thursday in Seattle to discuss "new terms of sales for e-books" and that by the time he returned to New York, he'd been informed that Macmillan's e-books would only be for sale on Amazon.com "through third parties," according to the statement, which appeared as an advertisement on publishing industry Web site PublishersMarketplace.com.

An Amazon spokesman didn't respond immediately to a request for comment regarding Mr. Sargent's statement.

People familiar with Amazon's action said the move by the online retailer signals its unhappiness with the prospect that e-book prices may be rising in coming months. Amazon has made discounted e-book prices a cornerstone of its digital strategy.

Macmillan, a unit of Germany's Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, and one of the largest publishers in the U.S., boasts such top sellers as "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay and "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel.

Neither was available for purchase on Amazon's Kindle e-reader on Saturday. Instead, customers saw this message: "Tell the publisher! I'd like to read this book on Kindle."

How long Amazon will continue not to sell Macmillan titles – and whether the move will spread to other publishers who also want Amazon to charge more for e-books – remains unclear. The move could be only temporary. Amazon has marketed its Kindle e-reader by trumpeting its wide selection of books.

Macmillan was one of five major publishers which announced they would begin selling their e-books on Apple's new iBooks store, a key feature of the iPad. Publishers have agreed to a new pricing model with Apple, under which they will set their own e-book prices, with Apple taking 30% of the revenue. They are expected to price many e-book titles at $12.99 and $14.99, with fewer carrying the $9.99 price that Amazon currently charges on most best-sellers.

It is expected that publishers will now seek to do business with Amazon and other e-book retailers on the same terms as with Apple. By setting their own prices, publishers would be able to eliminate discounting on Amazon and elsewhere that they believe threatens the long-term business model of publishing.

Macmillan e-books were still available for sale on Saturday at the e-bookstore at Barnes & Noble.com, a unit of Barnes & Noble Inc. Kobo, Inc., a Toronto-based e-book retailer, also said that it is continuing to sell Macmillan's e-book titles. Added Bob LiVolsi, the founder and CEO of independent e-book retailer BooksOnBoard.com, based in Austin: "As a matter of policy we won't do anything to shut down a publisher because of pricing."

Friday, January 29, 2010

1 To 5 Million IPads To Sell First Year?

Boy, the predictions for the success of the iPad are all over the place; but Stan Schroeder of Mashable has rounded up some interesting forecasts from Wall Street analysts and I am pleased to present them here:

We can talk about the Apple iPad as much as we want, but we all know that cold, hard sales numbers will do the real talking. When iPad lands in stores, if it doesn’t fly off the shelves, it will be further proof that Apple has made a rare stumble this time.

AppleInsider rounded up some predictions from Wall Street analysts, and boy, do they not agree. Some of them are calling the iPad “risky”; some are saying that it “has potential” and some are saying it’s “another winner”. How does that translate into numbers? Anywhere from one to five million in the first year.

Mike Abramsky from RBC Capital Markets forecasts first-year sales of five million, claiming the iPad is “a revolutionary e-reading, browsing, media, gaming experience,” but also noting that it lacks certain sought-after features, like multitasking and a camera.

Kaufman Bros’ Shaw Wu didn’t predict sales, but claims that Apple intends to build five million units in the first year, and 10 million by the end of the second year. Analyst Charlie Wolf from Needham & Company is predicting that Apple will sell four million units in the first 12 months, but Oppenheimer’s Yair Reiner and Brian Marshall from Broadpoint.AmTech are far more cautious, predicting 1.1 and 2.2 million units sold in the first year, respectively.

Apple has surprised us many times in its history, and no one can be certain just how well the iPad will sell. If it beats these estimates, though, it will cement its place in history as one of the most successful tech companies of all time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Books on iPad Offer Publishers a Pricing Edge

The iPad offers publishers more control in setting eBook prices...Much more so than Amazon with their restrictive $9.99 cap. Motoko Rich, writing for the New York Times, puts it this way:

With a few notable exceptions, the print world welcomed Apple’s new iPad on Wednesday, eager to tap into the 125 million customers who already have iTunes accounts and are predisposed to buying more content from Apple.

We have learned that it is never wise to stand between a consumer and a preference” for how they get their content, said John Makinson, chief executive of Penguin Group, the book publisher.

The iPad may offer an even more attractive prospect: the chance to reset the downward spiral in e-book prices.

When Steven P. Jobs announced the new iBooks app, he said five of the six largest publishers — Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster— had signed on to provide e-book content for the new tablet.

In negotiations with Apple, publishers agreed to a business model that gives them more power over the price that customers pay for e-books. Publishers had all but lost that power on Amazon.com’s Kindle e-reader.

With Apple, under a formula that tethers the maximum e-book price to the print price on the same book, publishers will be able to charge $12.99 to $14.99 for most general fiction and nonfiction titles — higher than the common $9.99 price that Amazon had effectively set for new releases and best sellers. Apple will keep 30 percent of each sale, and publishers will take 70 percent.

One book publisher did not sign on to the iPad: Random House, the world’s largest publisher of trade books. Stuart Applebaum, a Random House spokesman, said the company would “look forward to our continuing conversations” with Apple.

In the short term, authors and publishers will most likely earn less from book sales on the iPad. On the Kindle, Amazon subsidizes the $9.99 price by paying publishers a higher wholesale price equivalent to what booksellers typically pay for print editions. But publishers were concerned that Amazon, as the dominant player, would eventually demand lower digital wholesale prices.

The agreement with Apple gives publishers leverage to negotiate with Amazon on future pricing.

Publishers acknowledge that digital content should be priced lower than the print content. “We listened to what consumers have said,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster.

Amazon and others are likely to continue selling e-books through the Apple app store even after the iBooks app arrives. No publisher wanted to discuss publicly what would happen if Amazon and others continued to charge $9.99 for new releases. But once Apple begins selling e-books at a higher price, publishers could withhold titles if Amazon continues to discount books to $9.99.

Antitrust attorneys suggested there could be legal complications if Amazon claimed that publishers were colluding to set prices, or dictating prices to retailers, which is illegal under a 2007 Supreme Court decision.

Newspapers had mixed reactions to the iPad. Martin A. Nisenholtz, senior vice president for digital operations of The New York Times Company, said the combination of iPad and app “joins the best of print with the best of digital.”

The Times has not struck any deals with Apple yet, making it too soon to say whether the newspaper would charge for the app or solicit subscriptions on the iPad.

But Christian A. Hendricks, the vice president for interactive media at McClatchy, which publishes The Miami Herald and The Kansas City Star, said, “We haven’t seen tremendous interest as far as demand for newspaper subscriptions on it.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple's Jobs Introduces iPad To The World

Steve Jobs has introduced the "tablet", or as he calls it: "iPad", to the world... And it looks like a blockbuster with more apps (including an iBook app) than expected AND a lower price to boot (starting at $499)! The only thing that wasn't mentioned was an app for newspapers and magazines...But Jobs left the development of this app open to them.

From ChannelWeb's Damon Poeter:

It's official -- the long-awaited tablet from Apple (NSDQ:AAPL) is an ultra-thin, "intimate" Web browsing device called the iPad. Apple CEO Steve Jobs lifted the curtain Wednesday in San Francisco on perhaps the most anticipated new product from the Cupertino, Calif.-based company since the iPhone.
"It's so much more intimate than a laptop," Jobs said of a device Apple will pitch as "sitting in the middle" between smart phones like the iPhone and notebook computers, according to reports.

Bashing netbooks, the ultra-small mobile PCs that some believe also fill that gap, he said the iPad will be "better" than either smart phones or laptops at tasks like Web browsing, e-mail and reading e-books.

"Netbooks aren't better for anything," said Jobs, a longtime critic of that product category.

The iPod will come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models. There will be three models which support only WiFi and three that come with WiFi and 3G support.

The iPad will launch with two data plans from AT&T (NYSE:T): One with a monthly data cap 250MB a month for $14.99, the other with unlimited data for $29.99. Both plans include the free use of AT&T hotspots.

These plans are prepaid and don't require a carrier contract, enabling users to cancel at any time if they're not satisfied with the service. In addition, the iPad 3G models come unlocked and support GSM micro SIMs. Apple is working on carrier agreements in other countries and plans to share details in June, Jobs said.

Pricing for the 16GB iPad without 3G is $499, while the 64 GB model with 3G and Wi-Fi is $829. This is well below the price range that was speculated and decisively answers one of the biggest questions around the iPad in the run-up to the launch event. Wi-Fi models will ship in 60 days and 3G models will ship in 90 days, he said.

"We had a very aggressive price goal, because we wanted to put it in the hands of a lot of people," Jobs said.

Like the iPhone, the new iPad features a multi-touch screen that can be viewed either vertically or horizontally simply by turning it in your hands. Jobs emphasized the experience of viewing photos on the iPad, which allows users to flick through an album as with the iPhone, but on a significantly larger, 9.7-inch screen.

The iPhone's tiny keyboard isn't conducive for typing, but the iPad's much larger keyboard is "a dream to type on" and is "almost life size," Jobs said.

More specs: The iPad gets a very attractive 10 hours of battery life, about four hours more than is possible on most notebooks. It's half an inch thin and weighs in at 1.5 pounds. The iPad has the same full-capacitive, multi-touch screen as the iPhone.

Ending quite a bit of speculation, Apple revealed that the central processor powering the iPad is in-house hardware, presumably from its P.A. Semi subsidiary, a 1GHz fourth-generation ARM-based chip. The iPad has 16GB of memory and options for 32GB or 64GB of storage on a solid state disk.

Much of the speculation around the iPad has centered on its potential as an e-reader, and Jobs showed off a new application called iBooks that's based on the open ePub standard. Jobs noted that Amazon (NSDQ:AMZN) has done "a great job of pioneering this technology," but the writing certainly appears to be on wall for Amazon's proprietary Kindle format.

As expected, Apple also launched iBookstore, an online bookstore where iPad users can download content from a wide range of publishers. The iBookstore joins the App Store and iTunes as content options for iPad users.

Jobs demonstrated three iWork apps that Apple has built specifically for the iPad, and said Apple is now offering and SDK to developers to start working on their own iPad apps. Most iPhone apps will work on the iPad, and Apple will also highlight specific iPad apps on the App Store.

"It's phenomenal to hold the "Internet in your hand," Jobs said.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oh Boy! A Geek's Guide to the Apple Tablet Event

The big unveiling of the Tablet is just 24 hours away! I'll be glad when the damn thing's over and we all know just what in the hell the new thingy will do and what industries' bacon it will save...if any!

Ian Paul outlines tomorrows unveiling event for us on PC World:

We're just about 24 hours away from the most wonderful time of year, when Apple is expected bestow an exciting new product on tech enthusiasts. By most accounts, Apple's new gadget is going to be a 10-inch touchscreen tablet designed for consuming a variety of media including video, news, books, and music.

Apple's event starts at 10 am Pacific time on Wednesday morning. Here are a few ways to stay on top of all the action, even before the event starts.

The Live Blog

Tune into PCWorld's live blog on Wednesday morning for blow-by-blow coverage Apple's event. The live blog, which uses the Cover It Live software, is complements of MacWorld's editors, which will be attending the event along with PCWorld's editors.

Of course, PCWorld will not be offering the only live blog of the event. You can also check out Harry McCracken's coverage over at Technologizer, and the team at Gizmodo is a good source as well.


With so much speculation and rumor out there, it's no wonder the Apple Tablet is already considered one of the most overhyped tech products of all time. Everybody's got their favorite predictions and pet theories about the Apple Tablet, and now you can keep track of all the top rumors with an Apple Tablet prediction scorecard created by software developer David Weiss.

To play along, just download the PDF and make your predictions. Give yourself one point for every prediction you get right, and zero for every prediction you get wrong. If you're competing against friends, and two or more of you end up in a tie, the person who lives furthest from Cupertino wins.

There are 38 questions, with all kinds of predictions, including whether we'll see Bing replace Google on the iPhone, New touchscreen Macs launched, or a new iTunes Web App. You also have to place your bets on the name of the new device choosing from: Apple tablet, Apple iTablet, iSlate, iGuide, iBook, iPad, or Canvas.

The iPhone Apps

Weiss' software company, Unweary, is selling an iPhone app for $2.99 called Prediction that is perfect for all you rumor junkies out there. Prediction aggregates the latest tech rumors for a wide variety of tech events including tomorrow's Apple event, Mobile World Congress 2010, E3 2010, and more. You can also use the app to share your own predictions with others. I haven't tested it out so I can't vouch for how comprehensive the app is, but if you're like to stay current on all the tech rumors, this might be the app for you.

Cover it Live doesn't have a downloadable iPhone app, but the popular live blogging service does have a mobile Web app to help keep you updated on the fly. Just point your mobile browser to coveritlive.com/mobile.php or make your selection from Cover It Live's event listings.


Apple has clamped down on pirate video streams broadcasting from Apple events. Nevertheless, it's always worth a look over at UStream or Justin.TV to see if anyone was able to sneak a hat cam into the event.

After the product launch, Apple will post its presentation on the Quicktime Guide Website, and you can also download Apple events as a podcast on iTunes.


If you want to follow live tweets from the event as well as commentary from the twitosphere, one of the best things to do is create hashtag searches in your twitter client for things like #apple #appleevent, #appletablet, #tablet or #appleislate. Eventually, one or two hashtags will become the preferred choices and you can just follow those.

You can also follow a variety of Twitter accounts to stay current. There are far too many possibilities to list here, but here are a few suggestions: PC World, MacWorld, MacRumors, Technologizer, Gizmodo and for a dose of tech comedy check out Fake Steve Jobs and Mosspuppet.

After the event don't forget to check in with PC World for post-event coverage, and a complete breakdown, and analysis of every part of Apple's product announcements.

Join PC World on Wednesday, January 27 at 10 AM Pacific/1 PM Eastern for live blog coverage of Apple's product launch from Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Are Anticipated Features Going To Make iTablets Viable?

This Wednesday Apple will unveil it's much anticipated Tablet. Will the price be prohibitive? Will it have enough apps to combine/function with existing mobile devices and their OS's and content?

Ryan Kim of the SFGate thinks the Tablet will exceed all expectations and more with his review article:

Three years ago, the technology world came to a standstill as Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, a game changer that remade the already fast-growing smart phone market.

Now, all eyes are on Apple again this Wednesday as Jobs is expected to reveal a new Internet tablet computing device, which will blend features of a laptop and the iPhone. But unlike the launch of the iPhone, which boosted an already healthy category, Apple will be trying to resuscitate the long-neglected tablet form factor.

It is, in many ways, a taller challenge, persuading consumers to buy a product that doesn't fill a readily apparent need. But many industry observers agree if anyone can make tablets viable, Apple has the best shot.

"Apple has a proven track record in delivering great user interfaces and easy-to-use functionality combined with the ability to launch products. If they're not best positioned here, they're very close," said Steve Hasker, president of media products at the Nielsen Co.

To be sure, this Wednesday's Apple press event makes no mention of tablets and only invites reporters to see Apple's "latest creation." And what details that have dribbled out have been unconfirmed.

But taken together, a picture emerges of a 10-inch multitouch device that works like a big iPhone or iPod Touch. The device - potentially called an iSlate, iPad or iTablet - would connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi and most likely through 3G cellular data networks as well, enabling a full browser and many of the more than 125,00 software applications found in the Apple App Store. And it could include a Wi-Fi Web cam for video conferencing.

The tablet - running on the iPhone OS or possibly a hybrid with the Mac operating system - would presumably display iTunes content such as music and videos. Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, said that alone could vault Apple's tablet past a passel of competing slates emerging from rival companies.

"There's a digital wall that's hard for people to climb over and get media in a way they can use it," Munster said. "That's the big difference between this tablet and others."

But the tablet appears intended to do much more than giving people a bigger mobile browser or another way to play iTunes content. Observers believe Apple has designs on revolutionizing the print and TV industries as well.

Apple is reportedly in talks with publishers to bring books to the tablet, creating a potential showdown with e-book readers such as the Kindle. Analysts such as Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies have posited that tablets could give rise to not just digitally formatted books, but true multimedia titles that blend video, animation and graphics with text.

Industries hopeful

The magazine and newspaper industries are also watching the announcement closely in hopes that Apple's tablet could lead consumers toward a new model of paying for slick tablet-optimized publications, much the way people pay for iPhone apps. Apple is reportedly in talks with some publishers including the New York Times and Conde Nast.

"Apple builds beautiful products so the anticipation is quite incredible for something no one is sure is coming," said John Squires, an executive vice president for Time Inc.

The company also is rumored to be talking to broadcasters about bundling network and cable content into "Best of TV" packages, allowing viewers to pay for smaller video packages than those offered by cable.

Gaming is expected to figure heavily on the new slate device, in keeping with Apple's newfound emphasis on mobile games on the iPod Touch.

Shervin Pishevar, CEO of gamemaker SGN, whose games are on 30 percent of iPhones and iPod Touches, said he's excited about the prospect of porting over his titles to a larger screen tablet. He said Apple's hypothetical tablet would continue a larger movement in computing toward mobile devices.

"Increasingly in the next five years, most of our computing will come through these connected devices," Pishevar said. "We're not going to be using the PCs of old. Those will be the rotary phones of our past."

For other software companies, the tablet provides a tantalizing opportunity. Design software company Autodesk found a hit in its SketchBook Mobile, which has been downloaded more than a million times. Amar Hanspal, senior vice president of platform solutions and emerging business for Autodesk, said apps such as SketchBook that can utilize a big touch screen could be bigger winners if Apple enters the tablet market.

Price range

But the biggest question and impediment to the tablet could be its price tag. Estimates range from $700 to $1,000, although a cell phone carrier subsidy could drop that down by a few hundred dollars. There are rumors that Apple is looking to partner with Verizon Wireless and AT&T for 3G data service.

Kathleen Maher, a principal with Jon Peddie Research, said Apple would clean up in the market if the device is priced closer to $300. Retailing for more than $600 will present more problems, Maher said. A recent survey by shopping site Retrevo found that 70 percent of people would not buy an Apple tablet if it eclipsed the $700 mark.

"This is something that's not your computer or your phone. You have those things already," said Maher. "At that price, it's a discretionary buy."

No one does it better

Even with a hefty price tag, Apple has a good shot at moving a decent number of tablets in the first year, thanks to its considerable marketing machine. Munster estimates that Apple can sell about 5 million tablets in its first year on the market, similar to what the iPhone sold in year one.

The company will enjoy a wealth of free advertising from this Wednesday's press coverage and then you can expect Apple's commercials and in-store demos to help hammer the tablet's message home. And, provided the tablet is up to Apple's usually high standards, it could take flight on the wings of customer testimonials.

"You can't rely entirely on branding and a big splash product launch, you need product demos in stores combined with good word of mouth," said Nielsen's Hasker. "There are people who do this well, but I don't know anyone who does this better than Apple."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How James Patterson Changed the Publishing World

Whatever you may think of James Patterson as a writer, he has almost single-handedly revolutionized the publishing process. Here's exactly how he did this per Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times Magazine section

Like most authors, James Patterson started out with one book, released in 1976, that he struggled to get published. It sold about 10,000 copies, a modest, if respectable, showing for a first novel. Last year, an estimated 14 million copies of his books in 38 different languages found their way onto beach blankets, airplanes and nightstands around the world. Patterson may lack the name recognition of a Stephen King, a John Grisham or a Dan Brown, but he outsells them all. Really, it’s not even close. (According to Nielsen BookScan, Grisham’s, King’s and Brown’s combined U.S. sales in recent years still don’t match Patterson’s.) This is partly because Patterson is so prolific: with the help of his stable of co-authors, he published nine original hardcover books in 2009 and will publish at least nine more in 2010.

There are many different ways to catalog Patterson’s staggering success. Here are just a few: Since 2006, one out of every 17 novels bought in the United States was written by James Patterson. He is listed in the latest edition of “Guinness World Records,” published last fall, as the author with the most New York Times best sellers, 45, but that number is already out of date: he now has 51 — 35 of which went to No. 1.

Patterson and his publisher, Little, Brown & Co., a division of the Hachette Book Group, have an unconventional relationship. In addition to his two editors, Patterson has three full-time Hachette employees (plus assistants) devoted exclusively to him: a so-called brand manager who shepherds Patterson’s adult books through the production process, a marketing director for his young-adult titles and a sales manager for all his books. Despite this support staff and his prodigious output, Patterson is intimately involved in the publication of his books. A former ad executive — Patterson ran J. Walter Thompson’s North American branch before becoming a full-time writer in 1996 — he handles all of his own advertising and closely monitors just about every other step of the publication process, from the design of his jackets to the timing of his books’ release to their placement in stores. “Jim is at the very least co-publisher of his own books,” Michael Pietsch, Patterson’s editor and the publisher of Little, Brown, told me.

Read more http://alturl.com/px2v

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rupert Murdoch, Paywalls and Why It's Hard to Charge for Quality Bagels

"Rupert Murdoch, Paywalls and Why It's Hard to Charge for Quality Bagels" Writers Thought for The Day on John R. Austin-Writer Get this inside analysis @ http://alturl.com/o77a

With Kindle, the Best Sellers Don’t Need to Sell

The latest on Kindle from New York Times columnist, Motoko Rich:

Here’s a riddle: How do you make your book a best seller on the Kindle?

Answer: Give copies away.

That’s right. More than half of the “best-selling” e-books on the Kindle, Amazon.com’s e-reader, are available at no charge.

Although some of the titles are digital versions of books in the public domain — like Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” — many are by authors still trying to make a living from their work.

Earlier this week, for example, the No. 1 and 2 spots on Kindle’s best-seller list were taken by “Cape Refuge” and “Southern Storm,” both novels by Terri Blackstock, a writer of Christian thrillers. The Kindle price: $0. Until the end of the month, Ms. Blackstock’s publisher, Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, is offering readers the opportunity to download the books free to the Kindle or to the Kindle apps on their iPhone or in Windows.

Publishers including Harlequin, Random House and Scholastic are offering free versions of digital books to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other e-retailers, as well as on author Web sites, as a way of allowing readers to try out the work of unfamiliar writers. The hope is that customers who like what they read will go on to obtain another title for money.

“Giving people a sample is a great way to hook people and encourage them to buy more,” said Suzanne Murphy, group publisher of Scholastic Trade Publishing, which offered free downloads of “Suite Scarlett,” a young-adult novel by Maureen Johnson, for three weeks in the hopes of building buzz for the next book in the series, “Scarlett Fever,” out in hardcover on Feb. 1. The book went as high as No. 3 on Amazon’s Kindle best-seller list.

The digital giveaways come as publishers are panicking about price pressure on e-books in general. Amazon and other online retailers have set $9.99 as the putative e-book price for new releases and best sellers, and publishers worry that such pricing ultimately creates expectations among consumers that new books are no longer worth, say, $25 (the average list price of a new hardcover), or even $13 (a standard list price for trade paperbacks).

Some publishers have tried to take control of pricing by delaying the publication of certain e-books for several months after the books are made available in hardcover.

Executives at some houses said that given such actions, offering free content amounts to industry hypocrisy.

“At a time when we are resisting the $9.99 price of e-books,” said David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group, the publisher of James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer, “it is illogical to give books away for free.”

Read more @ http://alturl.com/psmg

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Editor & Publisher" Went Bust But Will Now Get New Owner

Editor & Publisher owner, Neilsen Co., closed down this venerable newspaper industry information source due to declining revenues. But, was rescued at the last minute by new owner: Duncan McIntosh, Boating Magazine publisher.

From Reuters News Service by Robert MacMillan:

Editor & Publisher, chronicler of the U.S. newspaper business for more than a century, will live again after being shut down two weeks ago.

E&P, as journalists often call it, will resume publication after being sold to boating magazine publisher Duncan McIntosh, it confirmed on its website after Reuters reported the news.

The announcement came two weeks after Nielsen Co shut down the "bible of the newspaper industry" -- as it called itself on its website -- because of financial difficulties.

Current owner Nielsen Co closed the magazine and related website two weeks ago after agreeing to sell its Nielsen Business Media unit to a new company called e5 Global Media, formed by private equity company Pluribus Capital Management and Guggenheim Partners.

Editor & Publisher's own publisher, Charles McKeown, will keep his job, the website reported. Twenty-six-year veteran Mark Fitzgerald will be the new editor, the site said. He replaces Greg Mitchell.

Editor & Publisher closed after suffering the same financial difficulties as the U.S. newspapers it covered. Ad revenue and a drift of readers to the Internet have hurt nearly every U.S. newspaper publisher.

Duncan McIntosh Co Inc publishes magazines such as Boating World and FishRap. The company did not disclose terms of the transaction.

"Such a critical information source for a newspaper industry so desperately in need of help should not go away," McIntosh told Editor & Publisher. "I've been a reader of E&P over the course of 30 years and know its incredible value to readers and advertisers."

Editor & Publisher's closing was one of the most ominous events in the slow decline of the U.S. newspaper business.

Storied publishers from The New York Times Co to Gannett Co Inc and McClatchy Co have received steadily declining amounts of coverage in the news media as their fortunes have fallen.

Editor & Publisher continued to write tough stories about the business even as other media outlets decreased their coverage because they considered publishers to no longer be big enough -- or lucrative enough -- to attract investor interest.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

If You Publish on Kindle Your Content Can be Read on Other E-Readers...Maybe

This unnoticed change in Amazon's DRM (Digital Rights Management)policy is big and may signal bigger changes in the future for clients who use DTP (Digital Text Platform) to self-publish on Amazon's Kindle.

Frederic Lardinois, who writes for ReadWriteWeb.com, posted this today about Amazon's changing DRM policy:

Amazon quietly made a major change to its Digital Text Platform last week that went largely unnoticed: small publishers and individual authors who use the Digital Text Platform can now opt out of the Kindle's digital rights management (DRM) program. While this change only affects a relatively small number of publishers and authors for now, this move could hint at a larger change in Amazon's DRM policy. Right now, Amazon's DRM policy means that its customers can't transfer their books to a non-Kindle e-reader.

Update: Amazon just contacted us to let us know that a DRM-free option always existed for publishers using the Digital Text Platform. Amazon just added new functionality that makes it easier for publishers to set these options.

For Amazon, it makes sense to experiment with this new option on the Digital Text Platform. Given that this is a self-publishing tool, the company doesn't have to explain this change to its partners in the publishing industry while allowing the company to experiment with a DRM-free solution. Most publishing houses tend to be very conservative when it comes to DRM-free e-book solutions. In the self-publishing world, however, DRM-free books are very common. Self-publishing platform Smashwords, for example, doesn't even offer a DRM solution.

Right now, you can't take your Kindle e-books to a Sony Reader, for example. While the Kindle is a huge success for Amazon, the current DRM solution is surely holding quite a few potential customers back from making the jump to e-books.

The Beginning of the End for E-Book DRM?
If the e-book world follows the same path as the music industry, however, chances are that restrictive DRM solutions will disappear over the next few years. At least for Amazon, giving its self-published authors and small publishing houses this option is a first step in the right direction. For O'Reilly, publishing DRM-free e-book has turned out to be an advantage. Hopefully, other publishing houses will also realize that DRMed e-books do very little

Tip of the hat to Nieman Lab's Joshua Benton for noticing this change first.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Amazon Increases Royalty Rate for Books on Its Kindle E-Reader

The upcoming release of Apple's Tablet has spurred an interesting move by Amazon...substantially increasing royalties paid to authors and publishers.

Let the games begin!

By Motoko Rich of The New York Times:

In what appeared to be a clear bid to anticipate the release of the breathlessly awaited Apple tablet, Amazon announced Wednesday new royalty terms for authors or publishers who release e-books through its Kindle’s digital text platform, a direct publishing initiative.

Authors and publishers will be offered a royalty rate of 70 percent of the digital list price after “delivery costs,” typically about 6 cents per digital unit. This rate is similar to that currently offered by Apple in its app store.

Amazon’s move is also a clear bid to woo authors away from traditional publishing houses. Publishers typically offer authors a royalty rate equal to 15 percent of a hardcover list price and 7.5 percent of a trade paperback list price. On digital books, the emerging industry standard among the largest publishing houses is 25 percent of net proceeds from the sale of an e-book.

Amazon has set some criteria for authors or publishers who want to receive the 70 percent royalty. List prices must be from $2.99 to $9.99, a maximum that is much lower than the typical hardcover price of around $25. The e-book’s list price must also be 20 percent lower than the lowest list price for a physical copy of the same book and the same price as or lower than any competitor’s price.

Note from John: The last paragraph's listed criteria from Amazon seems a little over-the-edge, does it not?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

HarperCollins & Apple Talking E-books for Tablet

More intrigue and drama in the publishing world! The much anticipated "Tablet" from Apple may debut with one more asset it seems: The ability to read books and newspapers! Soooo, one multi-media device for watching movies & TV, playing games, surfing the internet AND NOW to read e-books and newspapers... Hummmm, sounds pretty interesting...

From the online newspaper The Business Standard :

Publishing giant HarperCollins is in talks with Apple Inc to make electronic books available for the IT major's new tablet PC-- expected to be launched later this month, a media report says.

Attributing to people familiar with the situation, The Wall Street Journal said, "HarperCollins Publishers is negotiating with Apple Inc to make electronic books available for the introduction of a new tablet device from Apple."

The tablet, which is expected to be unveiled later this month, is likely to be a multimedia device that would let people watch movies and television shows, play games, surf the Internet and read electronic books and newspapers.

The report stated that HarperCollins is expected to set the prices of the e-books, which would have added features, with Apple taking a percentage of sales, but details have not been spelt out as yet.

However, it is not known yet whether Apple would sell the HarperCollins titles via a new e-book store or through its existing iTunes Store, which sells music, TV shows and movies.

The WSJ report cited people familiar with the matter as saying that other publishers have also met Apple officials.

Yesterday, Apple invited the media to a San Francisco event to be held on January 27 at which it is expected to unveil its tablet PC.

In December, HarperCollins Chief Executive Brian Murray had said e-books enhanced with video, author interviews and social-networking applications could command higher retail prices for publishers than current e-books.

Monday, January 18, 2010

E-books Spark Battle Inside the Publishing Industry

Publishers want to maintain their disproportionate profit margins, writers want a larger share of revenue and readers want plentiful books at cheaper prices! A large order but one that is being brought into focus by the coming of the digital age and e-books.

Washington Post Staff Writer, Marion Maneker, nailed the archaic publishing industry in her article on 27 Dec 2009:

The evolution of publishing from print to digital has caused a schism in the reading world. There are now two constituencies: readers (and writers) on the one hand, and the publishing world on the other. And they don't want to hear each other.

Readers want books that are plentiful and cheap, publishers want to preserve their profit, and authors want a larger share of revenue. The conflict has created a strident internecine battle inside the publishing industry. At issue are the price and timing of e-books, and who owns the rights to backlist titles. While publishers, agents and Amazon.com bicker, there is little time for conceiving new content that satisfies customer demand. If the book business doesn't tune in to that demand, it could wind up as a transitional source for the e-readers.

We know that readers want content, because it's clear they're not dazzled by the device. Consumers have made Amazon's limited and rudimentary device a hit, which speaks to their desire for books that are cheaper and easier to obtain. It surely isn't the device's design or functionality. Both are closer to the computer aesthetic of the 1980s than today's digital world. The Kindle may have lots of titles available -- but good luck using the device to decide what to read next.

But publishers have ignored this demand. In response, several conglomerates have aggressively moved to protect their legacy. Macmillan recently announced a plan to delay the publication of e-books and offer enhancements that will justify a higher price. This tactic is aimed at Amazon's policy of trying to set $9.99 as the expected price for an e-book. Most are priced much higher -- but that's beside the point. Amazon and publishers are fighting over this fiction, not the reality. Because Amazon's customers have made it clear that $9.99 is still too high for their taste. Most titles in the company's list of top 100 Kindle bestsellers are priced below $9.99, and the most popular price point is $0.00. But publishers can't hear this, because they're a little distracted right now.

The New York Times recently played up friction between publishers and agents over the electronic rights to backlist books. Random House has sent a letter to literary agents claiming to hold these rights even though it lost a court case on the subject. But agent, e-book publisher and blogger Richard Curtis puts the issue in perspective when he points out that few books are actually at stake here, because electronic rights became a contractual standard in 1990.

The real battle here is not over who controls the backlist rights but what royalties the publisher will pay. Stephen Covey caused a lot of consternation at Simon & Schuster last week when it was announced that he was taking his best backlist titles and publishing them with RosettaBooks, the e-book publisher that tangled with Random House on the issue and won. RosettaBooks is offering Covey half of the publishing proceeds, not the 25 percent or less he'd get from Simon. Publishers want these backlist books to add dollars to their bottom line; authors want to get a higher royalty for the backlist titles because the publisher doesn't need to make any further investment to generate sales. There's not a lot of room here to meet in the middle.

The stalemate ignores an important shift that digital publishing accelerates. The success of the book business over the past two decades was about expanding the supply of books. Growth came through increased volume, more titles and more title availability. That's the story of the six big conglomerates and the growth of the superstores. But digital publishing inverts that formula -- its magic is in the way it meets demand efficiently.

Barnes & Noble discovered that recently when the first of its Nook devices landed in the hands of reviewers. David Pogue and Walt Mossberg have both judged it a dud. The device seems to be a great packaging concept (dual-screen reader) marred by sloppy execution (slow navigation and refresh rates) that may leave them forever playing catch-up. Just building a device is not enough to capture sales. Amazon's advantage is its customer base and brand loyalty. BN's was going to be better functionality. If the books-and-mortar giant cannot make the breakthrough, more devices are coming to market -- and one of them will make a meaningful move forward.

This doesn't need to mean the end of book publishing. Publishers can no longer be vast containers of intellectual property distributed in paper form to bookstores, supermarkets and warehouse clubs. But they don't have to be: They can become highly selective distributors to bookstores, supermarkets and price clubs. That's the lesson of the television, music and movie businesses.

But if the publishers want a role in the e-books business, they'll need to get over it and get on with it, embracing lower-priced e-books with higher author royalties. That seems unlikely. Because it's now clear that publishers just don't want to listen to what their customers are telling them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Role of Government in Journalism

Jim Gaines, the editor-in-chief of multimedia magazine FLYPmedia, has written a wonderfully insightful article on government's place in journalism for the January 2010 edition of FOLIO magazine...That place being in distribution, not content:

By Jim Gaines

Kicking off Day Two of the Federal Trade Commission’s recent hearings on the dismal economics of journalism last month, Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, declared that government would have to step in, “one way or the other,” to help the publishing industry survive a “market failure” that threatens independent journalism. He wasn’t specific about the nature of such aid, conceding “Congress can’t impose a solution.” But he left no doubt that he believes it’s the government’s role to spring to journalism’s defense.

This pledge appealed to some participants, like those representing public-media entities including PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “Congress should adopt legislation that would provide substantial additional resources to public-service journalism,” said Mark MacCarthy, professor of communications at Georgetown University, arguing that government involvement in the arts, sciences and other fields is “traditional, mainstream and all-American.” “This is not some weird, strange aberration and alien intrusion into our life,” MacCarthy said. “This is the way we do things in this country.”

Words of Warning

For any publishers tempted by such a government rescue, I would invoke six words of warning: Robert Mapplethorpe, Ken Tomlinson, Enola Gay.

These names are loaded for a reason. Mapplethorpe was a notable art photographer before he became a cause célèbre, one of several artists whose work caught the attention of conservative groups when exhibitions were funded by the National Endowment of the Arts. In the 1990s, the NEA received between $160 and $180 million to underwrite arts in the U.S., but under pressure its funding was halved in 1996 and has yet to recover. The NEA stopped funding individual artists’ work.

Ken Tomlinson was named chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by president George W. Bush in 2003 and immediately began hunting for “liberal bias” in public television, funding an investigation of Bill Moyers, and violating both CPB regulations and federal law by raising money to underwrite a program run by the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal.

The Smithsonian’s abortive effort to mount an exhibit around the WWII bomber plane Enola Gay was attacked by the Pentagon, veterans groups and members of Congress. This ended the tenure of the secretary and the curator of the Air and Space Museum, leaving the institution’s credibility in tatters. The new secretary was forced to cancel the exhibit to keep funding intact. It’s unclear what was foregone later to avoid political fallout.

All support comes with strings attached, of course. Corporate ownership of publishing can be chilling, and even philanthropists have friends in high places. By comparison with government support, though, such pressures are benign. Even the effects of advertising on journalism are mild in contrast, since the sources of revenue are multilateral.

Dual Revenue Stream Model Not Broken

Turns out, the dual-revenue stream model for newspapers and magazines is about as ideal as a business model can be, at least for independent journalism.

And that model still works. It has a bright future in the world of digital broadband to which magazines—at long last—are migrating. As the new generation of tablets and their descendents change the Internet from a “lean-forward,” desktop information utility to a “lean-back” immersion experience, all the video and rich media advertising that has been on the sidelines for lack of a proper home will find its way to those places where consumers will pay to be—and the best kind of public support, the kind that independent journalism can really rely on, is circulation revenue.

Will people pay for journalism? Of course they will. It is hard to imagine why this question persists. When have people failed to pay for what they want and need?

Government has a role here, but it’s about the distribution channel, not the content. Broadband penetration brings the digital divide issue into sharp relief. Where government funding is needed—indeed, critical—is to ensure universal high-speed access to the Internet and the broad availability, especially of broadband learning devices in schools. Until government can be trusted to take over the role of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable—and the health-care debate hardly suggests that moment has come—journalism should continue to make its own way.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Amazon Rolls Out Kindle Self-publishing Platform Worldwide

Kindle is debuting it's self-publishing component, Digital Text Platform (DTP), worldwide... Authors can now publish their own content almost instantaneously.

Desire Athow, writing for ITProPortal, puts it this way:

Amazon has announced the expansion of its Kindle self publishing solution, otherwise known as Digital Text Platform, that will allow authors to push out their own content.

The scheme, which was only available in the US previously, will support English, German and French languages, but neither Mandarin or Spanish, two more popular languages. Amazon has confirmed that it will be adding more languages to the Kindle in the forthcoming months.

Published works can then be sold through Kindle store to customers across the world who can download them to their Kindle devices over the air for a fee of which Amazon will keep 65 percent (ed: that is shocking).

However, the DTP is not without flaws, as reported by Betanews' Tim Conneally, Kindle supports only Latin-1 ASCII alphabet and ignores the nine other ISO 8859 8-bit alphabet sets.

The Kindle DX e-reader is expected to be launched over the next few days in the UK and in more than 100 other countries for around £350.

Observers anticipate that DTP might lead to a significant increase in the number of litigation as right holders dispute ownership of titles across various territories.

Amazon hasn't described the details of its vetting process but it is likely to have a simple, but effective one to cope with the massive amount of publications the system is expected to receive at launch

Our Comments
This is essential if Amazon is to make a head start in big-gadget consuming markets in Asian countries. Furthermore, Apple's forthcoming tablet is likely to be very adept at supporting the more complex and intricate Asian character sets.

Read more: http://www.itproportal.com/portal/news/article/2010/1/16/amazon-rolls-out-kindle-self-publishing-platform-worldwide/2/#ixzz0cnpzQOaD

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oxford Press Finds Profits in Prophets

In todays topsy-turvy publishing world there seems to be a little respite for some in the academia press...pumping out volumns on historical prophets.

This from Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune:

Bouncing around on the trend-tossed seas of 21st-century book publishing, Mormon scholarship seems to have docked at the granddaddy of all prestigious presses: Oxford University.

By all accounts, the unlikely partnership between the oldest university in the English-speaking world and an upstart American faith seems to be working. Mormon writers, particularly historians, get the academic credibility they crave and Oxford sells a lot of books.

Two years ago, Oxford University Press published Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr. and Glen M. Leonard, three LDS Church scholars . The harrowing account of the 1857 slaughter of 120 unarmed men, women and children by Mormons in southern Utah met Oxford's standards for thorough, honest research and evenhanded narratives -- and it sold thousands.

"Every university press in the country, if not the world, went in the red in 2008, but Oxford made money and it was the Mountain Meadows book that was the margin of difference," says Jack Welch, editor of Brigham Young University Studies. "So everybody was happy with that."

Oxford has issued more than a dozen Mormon volumes, from Richard Bushman's Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction to C. Mark Hamilton's Nineteenth-Century Mormon Architecture & City Planning .

This spring it will release a literary analysis of The Book of Mormon by Grant Hardy, an LDS professor of history and religious studies at the University of North Carolina in Asheville. Next year it will bring out a biography of early LDS apostle Parley P. Pratt and is considering a Handbook of Mormonism and possibly a multi-volume history of LDS theology. Every proposal is reviewed by established experts in the field, Mormons and others, to meet the publisher's scholarly requirements.

"People in the academy are beginning to have a broader view of Mormonism, not just as some sort of fringe group," says Cynthia Read, Oxford executive editor. "As an outsider, I see a desire on the part of the church to be more mainstream and transparent."

The internationally respected publisher didn't set out to corner the market in Mormon studies, says Read, who manages Oxford's acclaimed "Religion in America" series. But since there is no more American religion than Mormonism, "it was a natural for our list."

Long before Oxford discovered Mormonism, however, other publishers understood the importance and marketability of its founding prophet and history.

View beyond the mountains > In the mid-20th century, academic or trade presses outside of LDS population centers published important books on Mormonism.

In 1945 , Alfred A. Knopf offered No Man Knows My History , Fawn Brodie's provocative profile of Joseph Smith. Five years later, Stanford University Press brought out Juanita Brooks' groundbreaking history, Mountain Meadows Massacre . In 1957 , University of Chicago marketed Thomas O'Dea's sociological masterpiece, The Mormons , and the next year Harvard issued Leonard Arrington's magnum opus, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of Latter-day Saints 1830- 1900.

By and large, these were single books, not the development of a "series" or a publisher's "list."

That didn't happen until the 1970s, when Elizabeth Dulaney began to build a Mormon studies fiefdom at the University of Illinois Press. For almost three decades, Illinois churned out some of the most important works in Mormon history, including Jan Shipps' seminal exploration, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition and Bushman's Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism .

Illinois played a "crucial role in establishing the study of Mormonism, especially history, as a legitimate topic for serious scholars," says Philip L. Barlow, a Harvard-trained scholar who now is a professor of Mormon studies at Utah State University.

For nearly 30 years, the Midwest university dominated the LDS scholarly book world.

The British behemoth > Yet it was Oxford that published Barlow's book, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion , as its first foray into LDS history. Next the press picked up Terryl Givens' The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy . Both books received national acclaim and brisk sales, which gave Oxford confidence that its Mormon gamble paid off.

Meanwhile, Dulaney retired from Illinois so LDS authors turned elsewhere. A certain momentum developed as Oxford's weight in the academic and publishing worlds began to affect the landscape. Now other university presses, including Columbia, Yale, North Carolina and Oklahoma, are entering the market.

Academic as well as general interest in Mormonism never has been higher, says Givens, professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

"So many scholars inside and outside the church are now doing world-class work on the tradition," says Givens, who has published a half-dozen books with Oxford and has signed on for several more. "In addition to a general readership interested in things Mormon, members are voracious consumers of their own history."

Oxford is standing ready to pile their plates high -- with only the most seasoned dishes, of course

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Publishing E-pocalypse or a New Age?

2009 has just staggered out the door...but left behind a massive footprint of electronic publishing inroads and positioning for future inevitable victories.

M. J. Rose, a successful author of numerous books, including The Memorist and The Reincarnationist, discusses this New Age of E-Publishing in an insightful article for Publishing Perspectives. She relates her own experiences in and prognostications for the publishing industry. M. J. Rose was the first author to use the Internet to release an e-book that was picked up by traditional publishers. She is also the owner of the ad agency, Authorbuzz.com. Past Life, a dramatic series based on her bestselling novel The Reincarnationist, debuts February 11, 2010 on FoxTV.

By M. J. Rose:

As we come to the end of 2009 there’s only one thing we know about the future of publishing—it’s going to keep changing. Like it or not, no matter what industry you’re in and how hard you try to hold onto the past, fighting change is not only futile, it’s often what kills you.

When Change is Pain

The changes we’re in the middle of are cause for alarm for many people:

Kirkus is gone.

Fifty-four percent of people now find out about books via online ads. (Yes ads! Not reviews.) Sixty-seven percent of people buying a book didn’t know what they were going to buy before they walked in the store.

There are millions of readers who post about what they’re reading on their blogs and social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

People can read e-books on their iPhones on line in the supermarket, go home, turn on their Kindles and be instantly synced up.

HarperCollins has an online slush pile called Authonomy. Harlequin has a similar testing ground called Carina.

And Steven Covey, author of the perennial backlist bestseller Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, just gave exclusive rights to his e-books to Amazon and not his publisher.

Bookstores are publishers and authors are publishers and publishers are bookstores.

And yet, the one thing everyone seems to fear the most is Amazon’s slashing e-book prices and selling them at a loss.

Last week almost all the major publishers announced they would be holding back e-book releases on select titles until three to four months after the hardcover release.

Now? The time to have gotten involved in timing and pricing was two years ago before when the Kindle came on the market. When experimentation would have made sense. When there were no precedents set. But to do it now?

Kassia Krozser, at Book Square, blogged that the way some agents and publishers are reacting is fetishistic: “We must worship the all-mighty hardcover,” she wrote, “without worrying about the actual impact to overall sales. Without even considering the reader. Of course, why would publishing ever consider the reader?”

Why indeed?

As someone who has spent her life in advertising doing endless research about the end user, I’m continually shocked by the lack of information publishers have about readers. And even worse their lack of concern about the info they don’t have.

E-books vs. Hardcovers

There is a lot of information about readers that is key to what the future holds and how it’s going to play out. And we need to be paying attention to it.

For instance, 40% of hardcovers are either resold online two or three times or lent to friend and family two to three times. Or swapped two or three or more times.

None of those transactions pay a penny to the publisher or the author.

But e-books can’t be resold. Or borrowed. (Barnes & Noble’s Nook offers publishers the option to lend once, but few allow it.)

Read the rest of the article here: http://publishingperspectives.com/?p=9346

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mike Shatzkin Asks: "Are enhanced ebooks the CD-Rom era all over again?"

Mike Shatzkin (The Shatzkin Files) is one of my favorite go-to sources when I want to understand the real story and history of anything publishing.

Yesterday he posted an intriguing story that included a history of E-Readers and how they have, are and probably will affect this dynamic and changing industry:

Is this where I came in?

In the early 1990s, the computer manufacturers and Microsoft were doing everything they could to persuade businesses and consumers that they really, really, really needed CD-Rom drives. That Microsoft would benefit from them was very clear; the software they were selling was taking more and more diskettes to deliver in those pre-broadband, pre-Web days when all software was “shrinkwrapped.” If computer owners could take their new software on CD-Roms, the cost of delivering the product would drop dramatically.

Only a year or two before, Bob Stein had developed what we can now identify as the first “enhanced ebooks”. His company, Voyager, introduced the “Expanded Book”. These were the first efforts to use the book as the foundation to do something much more ambitious: linking in pictures and sound and video and databased information. No web links yet, because there was no web yet, but the Voyager Expanded Books really foresaw the possibilities.

Microsoft encouraged publishers to build on the Voyager Expanded Books example with CD-Roms, and, indeed, the Voyager product itself moved quickly from a diskette-based product to a CD-Rom, which gave it a multiple of the digital space to add content.

Publishers at that time had recent experience with new product forms. In the early 1980s, a few had experimented with software publishing, but that was quickly seen not to work and the publishers who tried it, like Wiley, pretty quickly got out. In the mid-1980s, audiobooks first came on the scene, however, and their acceptance, fueled by the ubiquity of tape players in cars and the relatively new Sony Walkman family of portable cassette players, was very rapid. With the encouragement of Microsoft and the hardware makers promising that all computers would soon have CD-Rom drives, many publishers jumped into what we can look back and see was an enhanced ebook business with both feet.

It turns out they jumped into an empty swimming pool. Many legs were broken.

The whole idea that people who wanted a cookbook needed video in the middle of the recipe or that people would “read” a book on a desktop computer because of sound effects in a CD-Rom version always seemed like a stretch to me. Sometime in the middle of the CD-Rom craze, I learned that McGraw-Hill had a big animal encylopedia on which something like 60% of the cost went into the sound. This was for a high-priced professional product. This made no intuitive sense. It wasn’t placing the investment where I thought anybody would find the value.

What seemed more likely to work to me at that time was to just put the book on a diskette (they were still much more common then than CD-Rom drives) to allow one to just read it on their laptop. The writer and enrepreneur Po Bronson might not remember this, but he and I discussed that idea at great length at the time. Meanwhile, I predicted in 1995 and 1996 that CD-Roms were going nowhere, that the “action” for book publishers would be online, and that the first important thing that would happen online would be increased sales of plain old printed books, all of which turned out to be utterly correct.

Now, as Yogi Berra allegedly once said, we have deja vu all over again.

In the later 1990s, the simple ebook delivery I imagined happened through online distribution, not diskettes. The devices of choice were plain old PCs (mostly reading PDFs) and handheld PDAs, reading the Palm Digital format, Microsoft’s new “dot lit” format (remember how revolutionary that was supposed to be when it first came out!), and then Mobipocket which, until Amazon bought them and largely buried them, was going to be the cross-platform standard.

Now that I had what I wanted, I was a happy guy. I started reading ebooks predominantly and I went out on the prediction limb again. I figured that PDA-reading would become widespread, and quickly.

Talk about jumping into an empty pool!

In fact, underscoring my misunderstanding, I wrote in about 2004 or 2005 that PDAs were the key to ebooks. If you carry a PDA, was my thinking, then you shouldn’t need anybody to explain the advantage of ebooks to you. It was transparent; you always had your book with you. And, conversely, I figured that if you did not have a PDA, there was no great advantage to ebooks. What I saw as the big advantage was not having to carry the book as an “extra.”

Still, ebooks just didn’t happen. I couldn’t understand it. A lot of people told me the problem was that ebooks didn’t really do anything that couldn’t be done with plain old print books. They didn’t take advantage of the opportunities afforded by digital books. No video. No audio. No web links. That didn’t seem like the answer to me. I remembered the CD-Rom fiasco.

Then Kindle came along. On the one hand, it proved me wrong because here was a device that had to be carried around (like a book) and didn’t do anything for you except let you read a book. On the other hand, Kindles sold well (particularly considering Amazon was the only place to get one) and, more important, Kindles sparked an explosion of interest in and uptake of ebooks. And that, I thought, proved that “just the book” was enough for many people to have a satisfying ebook experience.

But now it looks like market forces are going to tempt publishers to invest in enhanced ebooks all over again. We are awash in news of new ebook readers — meaning both software that can play on PCs, netbooks, iPhones, or various more dedicated devices and a slew of those more dedicated devices to choose from. So people are going to be reading books on devices that can do a lot more than a Kindle or Sony Reader can do.

Two other things happening at the same time also push for more complex ebooks. One is that the tool sets to deliver them — and even to allow any author working with a bright young person alongside of them to deliver them — are getting more ubiquitous. And the other is that publishers think they see a connection between more complex ebooks and higher-priced ebooks, and that makes them very interested in exploring the subject.

A lot has changed in the past 15 years since the CD-Rom era. I am not in any way suggesting that the CD-Rom disaster of the mid-1990s will be repeated in the enhanced ebook era we are heading to now. But nobody figured out what compelling consumer product could be made from a book with lots of digital space to play with then and we’d be kidding ourselves to think anybody’s figured it out now either. There will be a lot of trial and error work done by the industry in the next couple of years trying to find the book-into-something-better formula that works artistically, functionally, and commercially. The answers are by no means self-evident.

One cautionary tale from the CD-Rom era. One of the first big successes on CD-Rom was issued by Simon & Schuster and based on StarTrek. In retrospect, we can see that StarTrek was the “perfect subject”: the one thing that would work with early-adapting techie geeks even if nothing else would. Unfortunately, S&S read the StarTrek success as an endorsement of the CD-Rom product idea and rapidly expanded their new media division to do more titles. Nothing else came close to matching StarTrek’s success.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions About the ISBN

Everyone sometimes has questions about the good old International Standard Book Number so I will give some pertinent information about them right here right now.

You may be surprised what you didn't know about ISBNs.

Frequently Asked Questions about the ISBN

What is an ISBN?
What is the purpose of an ISBN?
What is the format of the ISBN?
Does the ISBN have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?
Why do some ISBNs end in an "X"?
Who can assign ISBNs to a publisher?
Who is eligible for an ISBN?
How long does it take to get an ISBN?
How much does it cost to get an ISBN?
What do I do when I receive the ISBN and where is it printed?
How & where do I register my ISBN?
Can a publisher have both an ISBN & ISSN?
How can I find an assigned ISBN?
How are ISBNs used in a Bar Code & how do I obtain one?
How do I select the correct amount of ISBNs?
What is the format of the new ISBN-13?
Does the ISBN-13 have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?

What is an ISBN?
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 10-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally.

What is the purpose of an ISBN?
The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

What is the format of the ISBN?
Every ISBN consists of ten digits and whenever it is printed it is preceded by the letters ISBN. The ten-digit number is divided into four parts of variable length, each part separated by a hyphen.

Does the ISBN have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?
The four parts of an ISBN are as follows:
Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers;
Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group;
Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title;
Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

Why do some ISBNs end in an "X"?
In the case of the check digit, the last digit of the ISBN, the upper case X can appear. The method of determining the check digit for the ISBN is the modulus 11 with the weighting factors 10 to 1. The Roman numeral X is used in lieu of 10 where ten would occur as a check digit.

Who can assign ISBNs to a publisher?
There are over 160 ISBN Agencies worldwide, and each ISBN Agency is appointed as the exclusive agent responsible for assigning ISBNs to publishers residing in their country or geographic territory. The United States ISBN Agency is the only source authorized to assign ISBNs to publishers supplying an address in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico and its database establishes the publisher of record associated with each prefix.
Once an ISBN publisher prefix and associated block of numbers has been assigned to a publisher by the ISBN Agency, the publisher can assign ISBNs to publications it holds publishing rights to. However, after the ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs to a publisher, that publisher cannot resell, re-assign, transfer, or split its list of ISBNs among other publishers. These guidelines have long been established to ensure the veracity, accuracy and continued utility of the international ISBN standard.

As defined by the ISO Standard, the ISBN publisher prefix (or "root" of the ISBN) identifies a single publisher. If a second publisher subsequently obtains an ISBN from the assigned publisher's block of ISBNs, there will be no change in the publisher of record for any ISBN in the block as originally assigned. Therefore, searches of industry databases for that re-assigned ISBN will identify the original owner of that assigned prefix as the publisher rather than the second publisher. Discovering this consequence too late can lead to extensive costs in applying for a new prefix, re-assigning a new ISBN, and potentially leading to the application of stickers to books already printed and in circulation.

If you are a new publisher, you should apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain. You may encounter offers from other sources to purchase single ISBNs at special offer prices; you should be wary of purchasing from these sources for the reasons noted above. There are unauthorized re-sellers of ISBNs and this activity is a violation of the ISBN standard and of industry practice. A publisher with one of these re-assigned ISBNs will not be correctly identified as the publisher of record in Books In Print or any of the industry databases such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon or those of wholesalers such as Ingram. If you have questions, contact the US ISBN Agency for further advice.

Who is eligible for an ISBN?
The ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs at the direct request of publishers, e-book publishers, audio cassette and video producers, software producers and museums and associations with publishing programs.

How long does it take to get an ISBN?
Allow 15 business days for non-priority processing from the time an ISBN application is received at the agency (not from the date sent by the publisher.) Priority processing is two business days from the time an application is received at the agency. Express processing is 24 business hours.

How much does it cost to get an ISBN?
There is a service fee to process all ISBN applications. Service fee information is contained on the application. Priority and Express processing involve an additional fee.

NOTE: The processing service charge is NON-REFUNDABLE.

What do I do when I receive the ISBN and where is it printed?
An ISBN should be assigned to each title or product, including any backlist or forthcoming titles. Each format or binding must have a separate ISBN (i.e. hardcover, paperbound, VHS video, laserdisc, e-book format, etc). A new ISBN is required for a revised edition. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. An ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a book above the bar code and on the copyright page.

How & where do I register my ISBN?
Once ISBNs have been assigned to products they should be reported to R.R. Bowker as the database of record for the ISBN Agency. Companies are eligible for a free listing in various directories such as Books in Print, Words on Cassette, The Software Encyclopedia, Bowker's Complete Video Directory, etc.

NOTE: Receiving just your ISBNs does NOT guarantee title listings. To ensure your titles get in the Books in Print database you must submit your title information.

Book titles should be registered with Books in Print at www.bowkerlink.com

Can a publisher have both an ISBN & an ISSN?
Both numbering systems are used for books in a series and with annuals or biennials. The ISBN identifies the individual book in a series or a specific year for an annual or biennial. The ISSN identifies the ongoing series, or the ongoing annual or biennial serial. If a publication has both, each should be printed on the copyright page.

How can I find an assigned ISBN?
The Publications (hard copy listings) in which the assigned ISBNs appear are Publishers, Distributors & Wholesalers of the United States, published by R.R. Bowker, and Literary Market Place, published by Information Today.

How are ISBNs used in a Bar Code & how do I obtain one?
The ISBN can be translated into a worldwide compatible bar code format. Publishers who wish to have their ISBNs translated into worldwide compatible bar codes can now make their request directly online at www.isbn.org or www.bowkerbarcode.com . Bar code scanning is a required step required for many retailers in the sales transaction process for book publications and book-related items. We hope that offering this service will save you time and enable you to meet all of your transaction partners' requirements.

How do I select the correct amount of ISBNs?
ISBNs are sold in blocks of 10, 100, and 1000. When purchasing ISBNs, we recommend that you estimate the amount of publications you will be publishing within the next five years, and select the block that best suits your needs. It is always best to select the block that will last you for a few years because you will be able to maintain one publisher prefix, and minimize the unit cost per ISBN. When purchasing a larger block of ISBNs, the price per ISBN decreases.

What is the format of the new ISBN-13?
Every ISBN will consist of thirteen digits in 2007. The thirteen digit number is divided into five parts of variable length, each part separated by a hyphen.

Does the ISBN-13 have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?
The five parts of an ISBN are as follows:
1. The current ISBN-13 will be prefixed by "978"
2. Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers;
3. Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group;
4. Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title;
5. Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Looking for Suggestions

A big hello and thank you to all my special followers and visitors...I'm going to take a few minutes today and ask for your input...It will be much appreciated.

I scour all kinds of publishing and writing industry data and resources to bring you the very latest insider-info, trends and predictions in this great industry...BUT, I want to know if you have any specific topics, not covered or otherwise, you would like to see researched and discussed here. If you have any wants or ideas, please leave a comment to this post and I will take action.

Again, I want to thank all my followers and visitors for your support and humbly ask that you invite all your friends and colleagues to visit the Writers Welcome Blog and become followers as well.

I am here to serve...and the more I can serve the better I feel!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Publishing Predictions for Next Decade

Richard Eoin Nash, former publisher of Soft Skull Press, has written an intelligent editorial for Publishing Perspectives deflating currently-held and often-times mistaken beliefs regarding the future of publishing. This is a must-read:

The New Gatekeepers

The endless media hoo-haa about the death of the book and the death of reading will slowly fade away, going the way of the articles of the last century about TV destroying radio and film and books. The death of the e-book, much like the death of the CD and the coming demise of the mp3, will provoke relatively few histrionics. As connectivity becomes ever more pervasive through 4G, WiMax etc, all text will be in the cloud, and the need for files vanishes.

It becomes clear that roughly the same percentage of the population continues to read immersive text-only long form narrative, and that the proliferation of multimodal forms in art, entertainment and education are precisely that, the creation of something new, and not the destruction of books, or painting. Many writers will choose to write in multimodal forms, just as many novelists currently write screenplays, and a few write videogames.

However, articles on the death of culture will continue. Any time technology has increased the number of people who can create, disseminate, and consume knowledge, the existing gatekeepers have decried it as signaling the end of civilization. This phenomenon goes as far back as we can keep track of this impulse, to Socrates bemoaning the use of the book to avoid memorization, and continues throughout history, through Gutenberg and the loss of control over translations of the Bible, through the 19th century and the panic over fiction destroying the minds and morals of young women, through the moral panic of the 1950’s over comics and the pulp novel, to the present reactionary idiocies of Sven Birkerts and Mark Helprin.

Yet more fuel will be added to the conservative reaction as increasing access to education and lower technical and economic barriers to entry is going to lead to an explosion of creative production in the developing world, as billions more Africans, Indians and Asians enter the middle-class and start reading and writing narrative, just as Westerners did in the past century.

Too much to possibly happen in a decade? Remember: two and a half decades from now, the iPhone’s computing power will fit inside a blood cell.

Takeaway: While companies are destroyed, modes of creating culture are not. In 2020 there will be more writers, more readers, and yes, more match-makers bringing them together, than ever before.

And in 2020, I’ll predict there’ll be yet more writers, readers and matchmakers in 2030.

Read the entire article here: http://alturl.com/ddfb

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Covers: Design and Production

Let's talk a little today about creating covers for printed (and digital) products. In the deadline business of magazine production, the cover is often times a last minute change (due to changing news stories) requiring a talented meshing of disciplines. Book covers, on the other hand, are easier simply because you have more time to think them through. Both books and magazines, however, share cover design and production similarities.

An insightful slice into cover design by Vanessa Voltolina, Design & Production @ FOLIO Magazine:


Issue: December 7, 2009
Frequency: Weekly
Launched: 1930
Circ: 850,523
Publishing Company: Time Inc.
Managing Editor: Andy Serwer
Creative Director: John Korpics

Last minute covers are an all too common occurrence in magazine publishing. But turning around a cover with all original images and a painstaking retouching process is a feat for even the best of them.

The December 7 cover of Fortune “was originally going to be something else,” says Fortune creative director John Korpics. “We had this great, creepy-looking mechanical bug drawing that we were going to use [on Intel being sued], but right before we were going to begin work on the cover, the case was settled out of court and the story got killed.”

Acting quickly, Korpics enlisted photographer Geof Kern, who was working on another issue feature, “How To Build Great Leaders.”

Kern began working on the “brick man” cover the next morning. The design, based on his earlier feature spread photos, “had to be cleaner in background than the feature spread in order to have room for cover lines,” Korpics says. “I think in the original sketch, the brick man was completely finished, but we decided to leave his head unfinished to give the impression that it was hollow and being built as we went.”

The final brick man image was created through photography and retouching and involved Kern shooting a male model wearing a suit and tie in the studio, who would become “the map of the future work in post, transforming his contours and their light into brick.”

He then photographed a brick turned in different directions to the camera and light because “the man is a contoured landscape, and I knew the bricks would have to make paths around contours in different perspectives, so we had to have many views of the brick with corresponding light quality.”

The amount of the retouching, however, was significant—Kern hasn’t worked on a magazine cover requiring as much as this one. To perfect the brickwork, Kern enlisted retouchers (Imaginary Lines) who worked on each brick, one by one, in Photoshop for three days.


"I love the conceptual illustrated cover and it¹s a great image for the feature story and will appeal to Fortune’s demographic. Aesthetically, the cover is too busy for my taste. With all the repetitiveness of the bricks, pinstripe, pattern of the tie and textures of the type my eyes just want to move on and not read the text. There are too many typefaces for my eyes to focus on what to read. I’m not sure where to go and there is no real domination of the feature story headline. It might have been saved with the lines on the left being smaller. Overall I like the cover as a conceptual execution, but think it fails on type legibility."

Holly Holiday | Design Director | US Airways Magazine

"One must admit, this cover is very well executed. Sans type, it’s a very impactful image. On a newsstand, it would make you stop, pick it up and see what they are trying to say. I love the idea of leaving the top part of the head remaining open, since it really opens up a lot for interpretation. The Fortune masthead really jumps off the page here, it’s very clean and has a nice backdrop for it to rest upon. The main cover lines could be in a bolder face to stand out from the rest. Yes, they are larger, but there is a bit of competition here with the inside story lines. The ‘Plus’ lines could be a smaller point size with no Italics. On a positive note, they wrap around our main image here very nicely. Bottom line, this is strong on impact and straight to the point."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gender Gap in Publishing Pay is Growing Wider

More insight into how much money positions in publishing are paid. AND how much more men are earning than women on the whole (there are exceptions).

Matt Kinsman, Executive Editor at FOLIO Magazine, wrote in the January, 2010 edition:

While magazine publishing is an industry that tends to have an equal number of men and women employees, it seems as though men often make higher salaries than women across almost every publishing discipline. And the gap widens with more senior titles: entry and some mid-level positions pay almost equal salaries for men and women but with management positions, the difference could be $20,000 or more.

There are many variables that go into salary range, including location (publishing employees in the New York City area earn far more than those in other parts of the country, regardless of gender), seniority (the more years in, the more money you make) and company size (those who work for publishers that make more than $10 million in annual revenue tend to earn more than those who don’t).

And, of course, there are exceptions. Peggy Northrop, editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, earns $790,189, compared to Frank Lalli, former editorial director of the now defunct Purpose Driven Life, who made $412,942 according to Reader’s Digest’s bankruptcy filing. In 2008, MPA president Nina Link made $740,713 in total compensation, compared to American Business Media president Gordon Hughes, who received $400,511 in total compensation, according to association filings. Of course, both Northrop and Link are in charge of much larger properties.

However, it’s significant that the closest salary gap across four major publishing disciplines in 2009 was $1,500 and that no position in any publishing category featured women earning a mean salary that was higher than their male counterparts, according to FOLIO:’s 2009 salary surveys.

Gender Gap

On the editorial side, managing and senior editors made about the same salaries (a mean of $66,000 for men, $64,000 for women). But by the time they reach an editorial director/editor-in-chief position, the mean salary for men is $92,100, or 8.7 percent more than the mean salary of $84,700 made by women.

While salespeople start off with a $7,000 gap in mean salaries between men and women, by the time they got to the sales director/publisher position, men took in nearly $21,000 more than their female counterparts ($121,000 versus $120,000).

The emerging position of audience development director and manager showed the widest gap, with males making a mean of $92,100, while females earned $69,300 (a difference of $22,000).

The smallest gap seems to come with art directors, where men received just $1,500 more in mean 2009 salary than their female peers. However, male production mangers made almost $8,000 more, while top male production executives made $15,000 more.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Help (understood or not) is on the Way for Print Media

Publishers need to become more committed to understanding the three-dimensional debth of multi-media products and the concepts of light, sound and motion to enhance "printed word" content.

Jim Gaines, editor-in-chief of multimedia magazine FLYPmedia, former managing editor at: People, Time and Life magazines AND corporate editor of Time Inc., discusses this impact topic in the December, 2009 edition of FOLIO magazine:

So far, publishers have demonstrated more fervor than conviction in their attempts to embrace digital innovation. With a few important exceptions—notably The Atlantic—general-interest magazine sites have given themselves over to opinion and aggregation, chasing the headless eyeball and revenue from desolate banner ads while leaving behind all trace of the narrative and design richness of the parent publications.

There is a desperate, shotgun quality to print-digital marriages, as well—like Entertainment Weekly’s “video in print” ad for CBS in September, GQ’s iPhone app in October and Esquire’s experiment with “augmented reality” on the December cover. Popular Science got there first in July, by, as they say, holding up the magazine cover to a computer’s webcam so readers can see “a 3-D landscape dotted with wind turbines popping off the page; by blowing into your computer’s microphone, you can even make the turbines spin faster.”

And as the song goes, you would cry too if it happened to you.

Help is On the Way

Happily, help is on the way, though at first glance, it has a decidedly menacing aspect. Like a hologram, it takes a little squinting to see it for what it is.

The much-rumored whatchamacallit from Apple (iTablet, iPad, whatever) will be just the ancestor of a new world of digital devices whose capabilities are going to lift the greatest burden of publishing (the cost of paper, ink and distribution) bringing HD video, animation, eloquent info graphics and the engaging arts of video gaming to the task of journalism and most other purposes of non-fiction story-telling, including education.

Just as transformative, the iWhatever and its descendants will liberate users from the lean-forward nature of the desktop experience by putting the screen in our hands. The Internet will still be the best way to find what you’re looking for fast, but it will be a great deal more than that, as well. Thanks to broadband penetration, print has lost its monopoly on ubiquity.

When I was the editor of People, I used to say magazines were safe until fiber optics made it to the bathroom. That was a long time ago. What I could not imagine then was how much more robust story-telling could be when liberated from paper and ink, or how you could ever feel like curling up with a computer.

Perhaps most importantly, multimedia story-telling will endow “print” journalism with the brand-enhancing asset that has kept advertisers investing in broadcast and cable: the engaging energy of light, sound and motion. Industry analysts have yet to make the leap from Web as a distribution channel to revolutionary medium.

“The strategies that make media companies successful will require new capabilities,” according to one recent study, which enumerated them: “tracking and research to gain deeper insights into audience interests, informatics to manage and direct Web traffic, database management, custom content and applications development, and the ability to manage a network of partnerships.”

Well, yes. But the way to enhance those relationships is not through database management, but by building trust and engagement—by telling great stories in a way that makes people want to read and experience them.

The Next “Magazine”

This will not be easy. ASME will need to get over itself and stop treating advertisers like enemy occupiers. ABC rules and circulation practices will need to change so that print brands can re-imagine themselves without losing credit for the loyal adherents who follow them there. Publishing giants will have to act like startups, inviting story-tellers from the worlds of film and gaming to join writers and designers with a serious claim on resources and the mandate to fail until they succeed in perfecting the crafts and arts of multimedia story-telling.

When that happens, some enlightened American company—publisher, ASME, maybe even an advertiser!—knowing that its brand equity is intimately tied to the values it promotes, will put its name (and money) behind the next great American “magazine.”

That could very well be a broadband multimedia experience whose mission is the same one that has always informed America’s publishing at its best—to share experience, in a spirit of generosity, to bear faithful witness, to bring coherence and light to the gravest problems and greatest purposes of American life.

Or, as Henry Luce once put it: “To see life. To see the world. To eyewitness great events ….”

Now that’s an app.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

News in the Age of Blogs

Stephen M. Saunders, an independent media consultant and the founder of Internet Evolution, contributed an intelligent article to FOLIO magazine suggesting how to spruce up popular blog material for inclusion on more traditional news sites that will appease the advertisers. I present it here:

Publishers all over the country are wrestling with how to incorporate popular blog material into their Web sites without losing credibility with advertisers.

It’s a toughie, because the siren song of the blogosphere is loud. If you build blogs into your network, so the Web 2.0 hype has it, the audience will come.

At the same time, publishers are rightly leery of the well deserved reputation that most blogs have acquired for being poorly written, fact-challenged and potentially defamatory.

And oftentimes the publishers’ in-house editors want nothing to do with blogging—climbing onto their ethical high-horses and lecturing about the importance of continuing to deliver “real news” in a Web world before going off to the bar to sulk.

The end result is the worst of all worlds. Most sites that deal in the business of news, or even news about business, now feature “split” home pages. One side of the page features regular old news analysis. Another page element, usually smaller and lower down, offers a handful of half-hearted blogs.

Right Problem, Right Solution

The fact of the matter is that everyone’s tackling the wrong problem with the wrong solution. In the upside-down publishing world created by the Internet there is no reason not to slaughter the sacred cow of “traditional news” and invent an entirely new type of news coverage—one that combines the best practices of news (dual sourcing, quantitative analysis, content and copy editing) with the attitude, qualitative opinion, gossip, and social networking benefits of first-person blogging.

This is the model that we have been employing on Internet Evolution since 2006, with great success (and I do say so myself).

Another hugely popular technology Web site, The Register, has effectively been doing this for years, as has The Guardian newspaper’s online “Comment” section, with its 700 or so contributors—not to mention The Huffington Post.

Implementing this hybrid of news and blogging allows in-house editors to focus more of their efforts on community-building activities (finding external writers to produce the news/blogs rather than writing them all themselves). And, having run both traditional online news organizations and a blog-based site, I can tell you it’s also much cheaper than maintaining a traditional news staff—and far more likely to generate traffic in a search-driven publishing online world.

The two main obstacles to implementing such a model are people: editors and bloggers (not readers, note, who love this format).

A lot of currently employed editors won’t buy in—especially older ones, who tend to suffer from an “information age gap.”

At the other end of the spectrum are the bloggers. When we rolled out the hybrid news/blog model on Internet Evolution, a couple bloggers balked at having their work edited and withdrew from the site, claiming that it ran contra to the fundamental tenets of blogging (spontaneous, uncontrolled, blah blah blah).

However, it was notable that the only ones who complained were also—how to put this delicately—not especially wonderful writers; draw your own conclusions about what was really driving their hostility.

Don’t Sing the “Blews”

The vast majority of bloggers, and we now have more than 200 contributors to Internet Evolution, welcome and enjoy the editing process, rightly recognizing that being content and copy edited by professional editors makes them look better (or is “good for their brand” as they like to have it).

Which just leaves one problem—what to call this combination of news and blogging? “Nogging” just doesn’t do it for me.

But one thing’s certain: Publishers that don’t embrace this hybrid are soon going to be singing the “blews.”