Guy LeCharles Gonzalez's Blog: loudpoet.com, page 3

July 24, 2012

6815827169 1ce19258a2 The Unbearable Stiffness of Formal Poetry and Writing for the Page

Bird Cage Theatre by Loren Javier, via Flickr


[Helen Vendler] knew about gardens and nightingales, Grecian urns and Christian theology, but not about hip-hop or comic books, and these provide the material, or at least the glue, for many of today’s poems. Poetic subjects, voices, diction, and tone change. And forms, like subjects, change as well.


“Has Poetry Changed? The View From the Editor’s Desk,” Willard Spiegelman


An essay in the Spring issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review by the editor of Southwest Review, Willard Spiegelman, makes some compelling points about how poetry has changed over the years. While the second half derails a bit, offering a lukewarm defense of formal poetry (“Perhaps it would increase an appreciation for poetry’s difficulties.”), the first half is an interesting read for its insights into the challenges old-school editors and critics face in grappling with the work of younger poets, and Spiegelman offers some telling anecdotes on how submissions have changed over the 20+ years.


His basic premise syncs pretty closely with my own experience, having belatedly connected with poetry via contemporary voices I wasn’t exposed to in grade school, where “the canon” is forced down your throat with little context beyond “these are the greats!” Willie Perdomo and Patricia Smith were the first two poets who had a notable and lasting impact on me, starting in the late 90s when they were more likely to be dismissed as “slam poets” or “urban poets,” and continuing today where both have been embraced, to varying degrees, in more traditional circles, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine Smith ultimately being officially canonized as one of our generation’s best.


Interestingly, Spiegelman nails the underlying problem with poetry in general, though he seems to imply it’s a flaw related more to a poet’s level of experience with form rather than an inherent flaw in poetry in general, but especially that written for the page:


When a poet has fulfilled all the formal schematic requirements, she may have composed a sonnet, but not necessarily an interesting poem. She has neglected the tropes for the schemes; the language is flat, the sentiments banal. Nothing in it surprises; she has forgotten the metaphors.


While formal poetry has never been my cup of tea, the vast majority of poetry — formal and free verse, written and oral — actually bores me to tears for the exact reasons Spiegelman notes.


READING A POEM OUT LOUD IS A MORE IMPOSING CONSTRAINT THAN ANY FORM


The poetry slam scene was a gateway drug for me, a vibrant, energetic forum that welcomed all voices and styles, wherein the “competition” was a ruse, and connecting with audiences and getting them excited about and engaged with poetry was the real point. Philosophically, at least. In reality, it was/is as much a mish-mosh of good, bad, and subjectively terrible as any literary journal (and often even more pretentious), but there was undoubtedly something special about getting on stage, reading a poem out loud, and getting immediate feedback, good, bad, or indifferent.


Hearing a poet read their own work is always a revelatory experience, and reading out loud was always part of my own editing process. A first draft wasn’t complete until it had been tested on an open mic, or at least read out loud in a workshop. I do the same thing with essays and fiction (aka, talking to myself while I write!), needing to taste the words in my mouth, ensuring they’re effectively communicating what I want to say and not getting tripped up in flowery language or smoke and mirrors vagaries.


Even the best poems die a little bit on the page, embalmed and stripped of context; but read aloud, even if the poet isn’t a great performer, they tend to have a spark that cannot be replicated in print.


For several years, the slam scene was my creative outlet, both as a writer and an organizer, and besides meeting and working closely with a number of up-and-coming contemporaries (particularly Roger Bonair-AgardLynne Procope, and Marty McConnell, among others), my own tastes and writing (and performing) style evolved over time. I was especially fortunate to be able to visit various parts of the country at the peak of my “slam career,” and mingle with poets from all over the world every summer at the National Poetry Slam, exposing me to topics and styles that, contrary to popular belief, didn’t have an outlet of note in the chaotic New York City poetry scene, and I’d eventually even come to love the canonized likes of Charles Bukowski and Langston Hughes, too.


During my short-lived online literary journal experiment (Spindle), and a few years later, introducing poetry to Horticulture magazine, I read hundreds of poems, most written by people who’d clearly never read them out loud and/or were guilty of focusing too much on schematics over metaphors, and it ultimately soured me on poetry in general.


#bbpBox_227543610369908736 a { text-decoration:none; color:#FF3300; }#bbpBox_227543610369908736 a:hover { text-decoration:underline; }@about 15 hours ago via HootSuite Reply Retweet Favorite Guy L. Gonzalez

In a Twitter discussion yesterday, I “joked” that “I find 93.7% of poets and poetry annoying and pretentious,” including half of my own work.


Despite the “loudpoet” moniker, I typically hesitate to refer to myself as a poet (and “retired poet” sounds pretentious and misleading), as I haven’t written a new poem in years; rarely do public readings of my own work; and, most egregiously, can’t bear to attend a poetry reading for longer than 30 minutes without comparing everything I hear to the poets I came up with, usually not favorably.


BUT…


 Even now, most online literary magazines are comprised of static text organized into distinct quarterly or semi-annual “issues,” complete with tables of contents. Sometimes they’re even organized to look like print publications, with animated “page turning” effects. All of these aspects are unnecessary holdovers from print culture. Reading these magazines, I sometimes feel like I’m watching a silent film where the camera is fixed in place and the actors, because they are trained for the stage, gesticulate wildly and unnecessarily. Watching old films like that drives me nuts. I want to scream, STOP! What are you doing?!?! Stop waving your arms like that! There’s so much more that film can do!!


“How I learned to stop worrying and love online publishing,” Sean Bishop


All that being said, whenever I think about myself in a publishing role and all of the possible genres and/or communities I might focus on, I’ll be damned if more than half the time it doesn’t come back to poetry!


I’ve often said poetry is the one form that could benefit the most from digital platforms, not simply to reach wider audiences than is typically possible via minuscule (and expensive) print runs, but to completely rethink what a poem is and how it’s presented, much like good spoken word and performance poetry do in the physical world.


Coincidentally, at the same time I was reading Spiegelman’s thoughtful essay, I got an email from my webhost that my spindlezine.com domain was automatically renewed for another year, and, inevitably, the wheels start turning again.


All these amazing digital opportunities for poetry and so few are tackling them, largely because there’s really no money there. Arguably, though, there’s no money there because poetry lives on the periphery of our culture, and on the rare occasion it breaks through, it’s usually gimmicky and short-lived.


*cough* Def Poetry *cough*


In a world where a silly photo-sharing app that makes pictures look old is deemed worth $1B, surely there’s a $1M angle for poetry that speaks to a broader audience without dumbing it down or sacrificing metaphor for mediocrity?



 The Unbearable Stiffness of Formal Poetry and Writing for the Page

About Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

"As in guillotine." Old/New Media Pragmatist. Writer, Reader. Marketer, Publisher. Father, Husband. NY Mets, NY Jets. Bourbon, IPA, Malbec.

Mail | Web | Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+ | YouTube | More Posts (1867)About Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

"As in guillotine." Old/New Media Pragmatist. Writer, Reader. Marketer, Publisher. Father, Husband. NY Mets, NY Jets. Bourbon, IPA, Malbec.

Mail | Web | Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+ | YouTube | More Posts (1867)

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Published on July 24, 2012 07:54 • 67 views

July 20, 2012

3865066 7e7c548929 Penguins Modest Self Publishing Gamble

Risk by Parl, via Flickr


In 2011 Author Solutions generated revenues of approximately $100m, growing at an average annual rate of 12% over the past three years. Its business is split broadly evenly across three key areas: publishing, marketing and distribution services, with revenues generated primarily from services to authors.


Yesterday’s news that “Big Six” trade publisher Penguin’s parent company, Pearson, had acquired the biggest “traditional” self-publishing player, Author Solutions (ASI), for a mere $116 million caused quite a stir among publishing’s chattering class, and my own first reaction was pretty cynical, based on the press release spinning it as related to “ASI’s expertise in online marketing, consumer analytics, professional services and user-generated content.”


My cynicism was driven partly by my own experience working with several of ASI’s units, before and after they acquired them (back when I worked for Writer’s Digest in 2007-2008), and partly based on their relatively low revenues of $100m in 2011, spread across 11 different brands and services, while employing 1,600+ people in Bloomington, Indiana and Cebu City, the Philippines. While ASI almost definitely has more experience with digital marketing and analytics than Penguin does, those skills could easily be internalized for much cheaper than $116m, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a lot of that work is being done by staff in the Philippines!


[EDIT: I found this breakdown of ASI's 2011 revenue from Publisher's Weekly after I hit publish, but it's both fascinating and disturbing, and it confirms my snarky comment about outsourced staffing: "Its workforce totals 1,565 full-time employees with by far the greatest number, 1,215, located at its facilities in the Philippines which handles not only production but sales and marketing as well."]


Seriously, though, being sold for only slightly more than the revenue you brought in the prior year isn’t exactly a signal that anyone believes the company has a lot of growth potential, especially not one whose roster theoretically covers the full gamut of shiny author services so many seem to believe are publishing’s revenue streams of the future. Plus, ASI was apparently on the block for a while with no buyer, so I find Penguin’s CEO John Makinson’s claim odd, as reported by Publisher’s Lunch, that he expects there will be a “new and growing category of professional authors who are going to gravitate towards the ASI solution rather than the free model.”


Jane Friedman, former publisher of Writer’s Digest (whom I worked with, and remains a good friend), pretty effectively dismantled that notion last year in her smart essay, “The Future of Self-Publishing Services“:


There will always be some level of demand for full-service, fee-based publishing companies. But it’s now a mature business that has seen its peak, and that will sharply decline. Given the transformational changes taking place throughout the industry, very desirable industry professionals (agents, editors, many others) will find ways to offer high-quality services that can make a perceptible difference to an indie author’s book marketing and sales.


Makinson also seems to be ignoring the burgeoning middle ground of services that are carving out a niche between pseudo-DIY via Amazon’s KDP, et al, and ASI’s overpriced vanity publishing services, like The Atavist and Hyperink, two of the more intriguing ones among many others.


BUY IT… OR BUILD IT?


Meanwhile, Penguin already has one foot in the self-publishing/author services pool with Book Country, an online community for aspiring genre writers that launched a suite of self-publishing services last fall in the inevitable step towards monetizing its modest user base:


 The BookCountry.com site has attracted more than 120,000 unique visitors since going into public beta in May and has close to 4,000 members who have posted over 500 works of genre fiction and offered thousands of constructive critiques of those works…


While there are dozens of book packagers and self-publishing sites, Book Country is the only one that allows writers to create an eBook and a print book in one simple flow. Book Country combines a robust peer review process, a staff with decades of book publishing experience, and groundbreaking browsing tools to help writers be discovered. Book Country also provides a cover creator tool and suggests fonts and styles that would be appropriate for the book’s genre. And unlike other self-publishing sites, the author can make up to 15 free formatting changes if they need to make small refinements late in the process. Three options—user-formatted eBook only, user-formatted eBook and print, and professional eBook and print—are available. Start to finish, the Book Country self-publishing process is streamlined and simple, while offering flexibility and customization.


Oddly, during the same conference call where Makinson claimed there was a future in the ASI fee-based model, he admitted they “haven’t thought in detail” yet how the acquistion might affect Book Country, but he expects it will benefit from “gaining access to all of the functonal skills within ASI.”


#bbpBox_225978224797171712 a { text-decoration:none; color:#FF3300; }#bbpBox_225978224797171712 a:hover { text-decoration:underline; }Perhaps Booktango, Author Solutions' ebook platform, is what Penguin really wanted? http://t.co/1EjvrOAP h/t @July 19, 2012 11:39 am via HootSuite Reply Retweet Favorite Guy L. Gonzalez

In the spirit of half-full glasses, I’m going to give  him credit for being a little too cagey for his own good, and make the assumption that the BookTango platform is solid and the ASI acquisition is really an infrastructure move, bolstering their digital platform across all of Penguin, and expanding upon whatever positive signals they’re presumably getting out of the Book Country experiment.


A MODEST GAMBLE, WITH NOTABLE RISKS


Laura Dawson, one of my favorite people in publishing, seems to back this line of thinking up in her own take, via two key points:




Penguin emphasizes infrastructure. This is something I know from previous experience with them – as an institution, as part of its corporate culture, Penguin is actively investing in workflow and interoperability between divisions. To a company who values infrastructure, $116 million for services and tools that are proven in the marketplace is a solid investment.
Author Solutions certainly has its own brand(s), but one of its core strengths is providing white-label solutions.


Looked at from that perspective, the acquisition is a relatively modest upping of the ante on Penguin’s part, though one fraught with several notable risks, not the least of which is the potential for brand confusion as Author Solutions isn’t exactly the most beloved of brands.


Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss nails several of them, including:


- Will ASI begin to advertise itself more transparently? So far, the company has put out twowhitepapers that promulgate the misleading claim that it is an “independent publisher” (along with other inaccuracies about the publishing industry). Other less-than-transparent marketing efforts include maintaining sites like Findyourpublisher.com, which purport to be utilities to help writers choose a publishing company, but which all default to ASI brands.


The press release says “Author Solutions will be integrated into Penguin’s back office and technology infrastructure but will continue to be run as a separate business,” and in a new post today reflecting on the deal, Friedman skeptically notes that “it seems unlikely that Pearson would meaningfully change any business practices that made ASI profitable in the first place.”


What struck me as particularly odd is how quickly ASI was able to slap “a Penguin Company” onto their logo, while Book Country seemingly went out of its way at launch to keep itself at an arms-length distance from its parent company, and even today only references Penguin in the footer of their site, not above the fold as part of the logo.


While I don’t agree with some observers that this is a particularly “innovative” move for Penguin — pitfalls aside, the upside is incremental, at best — it’s definitely an intriguing one that’s worth watching. It also represents one of many examples of traditional publishers not standing still, but exploring all avenues, experimenting with different models, and risking failure, things they’re so often criticized for not doing by pundits with no skin in the game and pageviews to accumulate.



 Penguins Modest Self Publishing GambleAbout Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

"As in guillotine." Old/New Media Pragmatist. Writer, Reader. Marketer, Publisher. Father, Husband. NY Mets, NY Jets. Bourbon, IPA, Malbec.

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Published on July 20, 2012 09:15 • 62 views

June 8, 2012

5229118580 e65e3de1c3 Big Change for GOOD: When Publishing Content Isnt Enough

336/365 By DorteF, via Flickr


GOOD was founded to do as much good in the world as possible and doesn’t feel like simply publishing content is going to accomplish that goal as much as it would like. We need to mobilize and organize a larger community of people than we employ and we felt like asking people to get involved without giving them a way to get involved (via a one-way, publishing-only platform) was very hypocritical. We feel the need to go beyond just telling people what to do or bringing things to their attention; we want to start finding ways to not only inform people but also to give them ways to make a difference.


Douglas Sellers, CTO of GOOD


I’m still pondering last week’s surprising news that GOOD laid off most of its editorial staff and was making a controversial pivot on an intriguing business model I’ve previously argued could never exist in the world of corporate publishing:


Equally important, they treat their advertisers like partners not just a revenue stream, exhorting them to “authentically engage” their audience, not just pitch products at them. In their media kit they state that they are “working to create partnerships that help businesses make money and do good while engaging our audience in a powerful way.” There is no rate card.


In the world of corporate publishing, where faceless investors with little to no experience in publishing make short-sighted decisions to squeeze every potential drop of life profit out of their “portfolio”, a magazine like GOOD could never exist. That it does anyway offers hope for anyone willing to think a little differently.


A large part of GOOD’s appeal (to me, at least) was its unique business model, its compelling mission, and its target audience: “For People Who Give a Damn.” While not replicable in any scalable way, it had a far more noble mission than the mercenary and fickle “connecting advertisers to eyeballs” model of most magazines, and it looks like that mission ultimately forced a complete and radical rethinking of the magazine itself.


 Journalism was increasingly tangential to what the GOOD founders saw as its mission, staffers say…


“Why hire Ann [Friedman] if you don’t want really ambitious journalism?” [former Managing Editor Megan] Greenwell said. All the prospective editorial staffers had to write memos about their vision for the magazine, and Greenwell, a former Washington Post reporter, said [co-founder, Ben] Goldhirsh was receptive to the one she laid out. “I don’t think they were lying about anything when they hired us,” she said. “I think it changed over time.”


(Interlude) The Vexing C-Word: Containers


Without a shift in mindset, we are vulnerable to a range of current and future disruptive entrants. Containers limit how we think about our audiences. In stripping context, they also limit how audiences find our content.


Context First, Brian O’Leary


A few years back, in the midst of a huge downturn in ad revenue across the industry, I was Ad Director for three extremely print-centric magazines, none of which had a dedicated publisher, and at one point I presented the staff with a simple question: “What happens if three years from now the print magazine goes away?”


It was a jarring question, especially for the editorial teams, because our entire structure was built around the print magazine, from subscription and ad revenues to workflow and resources. A lot of magazines (and newspaper and book publishers, too) are in the same position today, struggling through the difficult process of transforming workflows, rethinking context, and dodging “disruptive entrants” every step along the way, many of whom don’t have any reliance on print-centric revenues, nor the burden of print-centric expenses.


It’s a challenge that comes with myriad potential solutions, and few proven successes, but it’s one that can’t be dodged.


The Controversial C-Word: Change


Some companies choose to go about change incrementally, while others, like GOOD, choose a more aggressive route. Only time will tell if they’ve made the right choice, but Goldhirsh’s email to remaining staffers, and co-founder Casey Caplowe’s public follow-up at least suggests a clear understanding of the enormity of the decision:


“I’m really proud that we made the tough decision here, have put the turmoil behind us, and I’m so stoked about all that lies ahead,” Goldhirsh wrote.


In an email late Monday night to Poynter, Caplowe shared Goldhirsh’s sentiments: “Tough decisions are made for a reason though, and I have never been more confident about our future – the people who work here, the community we’ve built, and new tools and offerings we have in the pipeline.”


More importantly, though, there’s a consistent throughline in their comments (including Sellers’) of a clear-eyed focus on their underlying mission:


“GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward. Since 2006 we’ve been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn. …This isn’t easy, but we are not afraid to fail. We’ll figure it out as we go.”


About GOOD


Unlike most media brands, GOOD was never defined by the magazine it published, but rather the magazine was defined by GOOD’s underlying mission, one which remains unchanged despite this tactical shift, and they clearly believe it will become more achievable because they were willing to make some tough decisions, unafraid to fail as long as it was in support of their mission.


While their business model may not be replicable for most magazines, that uncompromising focus on their mission most definitely is. It might simply require thinking about things a bit differently. And actually having a mission beyond connecting advertisers to eyeballs.



 Big Change for GOOD: When Publishing Content Isnt EnoughAbout Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

"As in guillotine." Old/New Media Pragmatist. Writer, Reader. Marketer, Publisher. Father, Husband. NY Mets, NY Jets. Bourbon, IPA, Malbec.

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Published on June 08, 2012 11:04 • 20 views
5229118580 e65e3de1c3 The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers)

336/365 By DorteF, via Flickr


GOOD was founded to do as much good in the world as possible and doesn’t feel like simply publishing content is going to accomplish that goal as much as it would like. We need to mobilize and organize a larger community of people than we employ and we felt like asking people to get involved without giving them a way to get involved (via a one-way, publishing-only platform) was very hypocritical. We feel the need to go beyond just telling people what to do or bringing things to their attention; we want to start finding ways to not only inform people but also to give them ways to make a difference.


Douglas Sellers, CTO of GOOD


I’m still pondering last week’s surprising news that GOOD laid off most of its editorial staff and was making a controversial pivot on an intriguing business model I’ve previously argued could never exist in the world of corporate publishing:


Equally important, they treat their advertisers like partners not just a revenue stream, exhorting them to “authentically engage” their audience, not just pitch products at them. In their media kit they state that they are “working to create partnerships that help businesses make money and do good while engaging our audience in a powerful way.” There is no rate card.


In the world of corporate publishing, where faceless investors with little to no experience in publishing make short-sighted decisions to squeeze every potential drop of life profit out of their “portfolio”, a magazine like GOOD could never exist. That it does anyway offers hope for anyone willing to think a little differently.


A large part of GOOD’s appeal (to me, at least) was its unique business model, its compelling mission, and its target audience: “For People Who Give a Damn.” While not replicable in any scalable way, it had a far more noble mission than the mercenary and fickle “connecting advertisers to eyeballs” model of most magazines, and it looks like that mission ultimately forced a complete and radical rethinking of the magazine itself.


 Journalism was increasingly tangential to what the GOOD founders saw as its mission, staffers say…


“Why hire Ann [Friedman] if you don’t want really ambitious journalism?” [former Managing Editor Megan] Greenwell said. All the prospective editorial staffers had to write memos about their vision for the magazine, and Greenwell, a former Washington Post reporter, said [co-founder, Ben] Goldhirsh was receptive to the one she laid out. “I don’t think they were lying about anything when they hired us,” she said. “I think it changed over time.”


(Interlude) The Other C-Word: Containers


Without a shift in mindset, we are vulnerable to a range of current and future disruptive entrants. Containers limit how we think about our audiences. In stripping context, they also limit how audiences find our content.


Context First, Brian O’Leary


A few years back, in the midst of a huge downturn in ad revenue across the industry, I was Ad Director for three extremely print-centric magazines, none of which had a dedicated publisher, and at one point I presented the staff with a simple question: “What happens if three years from now the print magazine goes away?”


It was a jarring question, especially for the editorial teams, because our entire structure was built around the print magazine, from subscription and ad revenues to workflow and resources. A lot of magazines (and newspaper and book publishers, too) are in the same position today, struggling through the difficult process of transforming workflows, rethinking context, and dodging “disruptive entrants” every step along the way, many of whom don’t have any reliance on print-centric revenues, nor the burden of print-centric expenses.


It’s a challenge that comes with myriad potential solutions, and few proven successes, but it’s one that can’t be dodged.


The Hardest C-Word: Change


Some companies choose to go about change incrementally, while others, like GOOD, choose a more aggressive route. Only time will tell if they’ve made the right choice, but Goldhirsh’s email to remaining staffers, and co-founder Casey Caplowe’s public follow-up at least suggests a clear understanding of the enormity of the decision:


“I’m really proud that we made the tough decision here, have put the turmoil behind us, and I’m so stoked about all that lies ahead,” Goldhirsh wrote.


In an email late Monday night to Poynter, Caplowe shared Goldhirsh’s sentiments: “Tough decisions are made for a reason though, and I have never been more confident about our future – the people who work here, the community we’ve built, and new tools and offerings we have in the pipeline.”


More importantly, though, there’s a consistent throughline in their comments (including Sellers’) of a clear-eyed focus on their underlying mission:


“GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward. Since 2006 we’ve been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn. …This isn’t easy, but we are not afraid to fail. We’ll figure it out as we go.”


About GOOD


Unlike most media brands, GOOD was never defined by the magazine it published, but rather the magazine was defined by GOOD’s underlying mission, one which remains unchanged despite this tactical shift, and they clearly believe it will become more achievable because they were willing to make some tough decisions, unafraid to fail as long as it was in support of their mission.


While their business model may not be replicable for most magazines, that uncompromising focus on their mission most definitely is. It might simply require thinking about things a bit differently. And actually having a mission beyond connecting advertisers to eyeballs.



 The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers)About Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez works in publishing by day, world domination by night. Over the years he’s lived in Staten Island and South Beach Miami; served in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, US Army, and Dennis Kucinich’s ‘04 Presidential Campaign; won poetry slams, founded a reading series, co-authored a book of poetry, and self-published another; prefers Pumpkin and India Pale Ales, Buffalo Trace and Four Roses Bourbons, and Dona Paula Shiraz Malbec. He’s a devout Mets fan from the Bronx now living in New Jersey, and has a beautiful wife and two amazing kids.

mail The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers) web The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers) twitter The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers) linkedin The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers) google The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers) youtube The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers) wordpress The C Word: Change (aka, GOOD Puts Context Before Containers)


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Published on June 08, 2012 11:04 • 33 views

June 1, 2012

4831093720 d3db59cf67 Random Thoughts on a Summer Friday (In Which Ive Buried the Lede)

Tracks go under the railroad bridge, by By DDOTDC, via Flickr


Over many years (10 as of next February!) and many iterations, this blog has typically been reflective of my most passionate interests of the moment, and after an emotionally exhausting year of following the Presidential election back in 2008, I shifted gears to focus on publishing and marketing and have been on that track ever since. It’s been a particularly rewarding track that arguably led to my last two jobs (“platforms” are for more than selling books, you know), the latest of which has often found me too swamped to blog with the depth and frequency I tend to prefer.


Here, at least.


While Google+ hasn’t been the personal Facebook or Twitter killer I’d hoped it would be (yet), it has become my primary blogging platform of late, where I don’t feel as limited on topics nor as compelled to deliver in-depth posts. Unfortunately, Google still hasn’t seen fit to offer a native RSS feed, so it feels a little isolated, but I recently found a way to hack one together, and you can subscribe to it here if you’re so inclined.


Recent posts of note that I’d recommend:



Traditional Media’s Value in a New Media Era?
How Did GameStop Get Right What B&N and Border’s Got So Wrong?
Desperate Times Lead to Fear-Driven Decisions: Collusion Edition
The Subversive Dismantling of Public Education
Dear Hipsters: Please Don’t Ruin New Orleans For Me

MOVING THE INDUSTRY BEYOND “AMAZON SUCKS”


Part of the reason I’ve not been blogging here as much is that I’m tired of talking about the publishing industry. It’s the same feeling that led to my departure from Digital Book World last year, a desire for more doing and less talking, especially as the topics and major players have barely changed (Gamechangers? There is no spoon.), and the tone of the debate is as short-sighted and dominated by those with little skin in the game as it ever was. I’m particularly bored with the reflexive “Evil Amazon” meme that runs through almost every tweet, blog post, and ill-informed bit of media coverage, as if some people seemingly really believe that fearing Amazon is an effective business strategy.


One of the more disappointing developments of late is the well-intentioned but seemingly misguided “Why Indies Matter” PR initiative that plans to feature and promote “unscripted and impromptu testimonials about independent bookstores from authors, customers, and indie supporters around the country,” and post them online in hopes that… um, they go viral and people suddenly feel guilty about shopping at Amazon?


Compare this:


The crucial role of indie bookstores to their communities, to publishers, and to the book world as a whole is front and center, however the campaign also allows leaders in community Local First movements to spread the “Why Indies Matter” message beyond the book world.


To this:


“Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.”


That “Local First” angle is what disturbs me the most, latching on to a legitimate movement whose most compelling hook focuses on locally sourced goods and sustainability, to support booksellers whose primary focus is usually selling the products of multi-national corporations who treat them like second-class citizens. The bookstores that are true pillars of their communities don’t need hollow slogans and dreams of going viral on YouTube, because they prove on a daily basis why they matter to their communities to the people in their communities.


It’s the old fashioned “show, don’t tell” approach, and it still works.


It’s also worth noting that Amazon is systematically disarming one of the more legitimate complaints against them, as they’ve recently come to terms with CaliforniaArizonaTexas, and now on the sales tax issue, and they’ve turned each deal into a (politically speaking) win-win scenario:


It’s one more example (California was another) where Amazon essentially blinked in its standoff with a state that wanted it to begin collecting sales tax. Yet Amazon still wins, because it builds the new distribution centers it needs to expand its operations. Bezos has perfected the art of architecting the win-win situation.


Amazon isn’t indie booksellers’ main enemy, and much like the publishers who blindly lash out at them, the collateral damage is their relationship with potential customers who happily and strategically spread their purchases around and don’t think Amazon is evil.


But I digress…


#bbpBox_208325304245157888 a { text-decoration:none; color:#0084B4; }#bbpBox_208325304245157888 a:hover { text-decoration:underline; }I don't actually want to talk to 100000 people. I want to talk to like--five or ten--really smart ones.bird Random Thoughts on a Summer Friday (In Which Ive Buried the Lede)about 16 hours ago via TweetDeck Reply Retweet Favorite Ta-Nehisi Coates

UPCOMING STUFF OF INTEREST


Next week is Book Expo America, right before which Team Library hosts two of our own events (LJ and SLJ‘s respective Day of Dialog gatherings), and then two weeks later, it’s time for the ALA Annual Conference. In the midst of all that, we’ll be launching two major new projects, one (Book Verdict) a complete overhaul of the review database we’ve had in closed Beta for the past 6+ months, and the other a backend platform that will ultimately integrate and manage all of our subscriber data, ecommerce, and digital product fulfillment. We’ll also be opening registration for our big annual virtual event on ebooks and libraries, with a more expansive program that looks at what’s beyond the horizon of the digital shift that’s making a mess of the industry I’ve worked in for almost 20 years now.


(Also, a quick shout-out to The Horn Book, the little sister of Team Library, who’s been kicking ass online ever since their relaunch last Fall. Librarian or not, if you’re a fan of children’s literature, check them out.)


Beyond the day job, my criminally neglected ebook, Handmade Memories, will be getting a little attention as I’ll be participating in the Bordentown Library Summer Reading Program: “Artists & Authors” series on July 5th, wherein I’ll read a few poems, talk shop, and answer questions. If I can find the time, I’m hoping to put together an old school chapbook, too, for attendees. If you’re in the area, mark your calendar and come say hi!


And finally, on a more personal note, I participated in my first Tough Mudder event this past April, and it was awesome! I’m planning to do it again this October, and before that, I’m doing a Warrior Dash event in July. If you’re into that sort of thing, let me know, especially if you’ll be participating in either event.


TGIF!



 Random Thoughts on a Summer Friday (In Which Ive Buried the Lede)About Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez works in publishing by day, world domination by night. Over the years he’s lived in Staten Island and South Beach Miami; served in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, US Army, and Dennis Kucinich’s ‘04 Presidential Campaign; won poetry slams, founded a reading series, co-authored a book of poetry, and self-published another; prefers Pumpkin and India Pale Ales, Buffalo Trace and Four Roses Bourbons, and Dona Paula Shiraz Malbec. He’s a devout Mets fan from the Bronx now living in New Jersey, and has a beautiful wife and two amazing kids.

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Published on June 01, 2012 07:37 • 54 views

April 23, 2012

5145992776 fd80e01cce Why DRM is a Toothless Boogeyman, Ebooks are like Video Games, and Amazon is the Winner

Kindle 3 by kodomut, via Flickr


“Problem is, this is too little, too late and will have almost no effect on Amazon and Apple. These companies are far too popular (and, by the majority of customers, well loved) for the removal of DRM to make a difference. Did Apple’s removal of DRM from songs on iTunes have much of an impact on either Apple or the competition? No. Did the fact that Amazon came into the MP3 market with DRM-free music right from the start torpedo iTunes? No.”


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, ZDNet


Repeat after me: DRM will not save publishers; neither using it, nor dropping it.


Based on the steady increase in ebook sales over the past few years, it’s reasonable to conclude that the average reader doesn’t really care too much about DRM. They’re apparently bigger fans of the platforms Amazon, B&N, and to a lesser degree, Apple, have built to purchase and read ebooks, and the ebooks themselves don’t have the same emotional connection as those they buy in print to keep on bookshelves. As such, legitimately or not, from the consumers’ perspective, “lock-in” isn’t the factor many think it is, or desire it to be.


More importantly, though, beyond the shiny gadgets and apps, readers are fans of authors and genres (and, sometimes, even publishers), and while selection varies amongst the major e-tailers (especially Apple), there’s an interesting comparison to video games that I’ve been mulling over for a while now. It’s an imperfect but workable analogy, where the big hits are almost always cross-platform (including PC and, increasingly, mobile), while the exclusives tend to align with each platform’s respective strengths and core audiences (especially mobile).


In console gaming, exclusive first-party titles are often among the perennial best-sellers (especially on Nintendo’s platforms),  while third-party games fight it out for gamers’ limited time, attention, and disposable income. The biggest sellers often spawn successful franchises and spin-offs, but even more frequently, a ton of copycat, rip-off shovelware, similar to the mobile space where, pre-KDP, Apple successfully leveled the playing field for independent game developers and the app store has been flooded with me-too apps.


In PC gaming there’s a bit of a twist, where Valve’s Steam platform is effectively the Kindle, DRM included, though, as I understand it, lacking Amazon’s strongarm tactics, perhaps because Valve was first a successful “traditional” game publisher, including some extremely popular franchises like Half-Life and Portal.


I think that you either embrace the new approaches or you go away. I mean Sega and Atari and lots of other, you know, Vectrex, Commodore, you either figure out how to move forward or you get left behind and I don’t think it’s any different. As soon as Valve stops doing interesting, innovative work we’re gonna be left behind and we’ve all been around long enough in the game industry to know that and you have to be pretty myopic not to realize that just because something used to work a certain way there’s absolutely no reason for them to expect that that’s going to be the tickets to being successful in subsequent iterations.


Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director, Valve


ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: AMAZON WINS?


In publishing, Amazon’s Kindle is the only “platform” currently in a position to challenge its “third party developers” (aka, traditional publishers) for content in any significant way, adding their own imprints to the flood of “independent” self-publishers who arguably helped drive the Kindle platform to its current dominant position. B&N doesn’t have the resources to compete on that front, and Apple clearly lacks the interest.


It’s not a huge stretch to posit Amazon as the reverse-Valve of the ebook world, constantly pushing the envelope in unexpected ways, aggressively experimenting with pricing, developing a core of popular franchises, while staying focused on delivering and optimizing the best consumer experience.


[NOTE: All of those links go to examples of what Valve is doing, and each one has an Amazon equivalent, to varying degrees, as well as offering lessons to traditional publishers on how to compete. I'll leave the "What Publishers Can Learn From Valve..." post to someone else.]


Amazon has a potent mix in its diversified arsenal that presents an unenviable challenge to traditional publishers who don’t have their own platform to compete with them (a la Steam), and who have yet to figure out how to balance the digital needs of their brick-and-mortar partners (independent booksellers and libraries) with the powerful demands Amazon feels entitled to put forward.


At least three major publishers seem to be banking on the still-delayed launch of Bookish, but if it doesn’t include a robust inventory of content, competitively priced, with a user-friendly, cross-platform distribution strategy AT LAUNCH, it’s likely as DOA as I predicted last summer.


Now, the $100,000 question is: If Amazon has truly won this round (and I think they have), does that automatically mean traditional publishers have lost the fight? I don’t think so, but how they choose to get off the mat this time can’t be related to DRM, pricing schemes, or rope-a-doping the “traditional” business model.


Bookish might ultimately be a wild roundhouse that misses and leaves them open for a body blow, but I believe the underlying desire to connect directly with readers and provide them with a valuable service is the right strategy. Finding the combination that works, though, is going to be the tricky part, and the recent charges of collusion, legitimate or not, are only going to make the need to move towards aggressive co-opetition even harder to pull off.




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Published on April 23, 2012 09:44 • 46 views

April 12, 2012

I attended an interesting seminar on Facebook advertising earlier this week, presented by Jordan Franklin, Director, Social Solutions at Clickable, as part of the Social Media Society's Social Media Smarts Breakfast series. Franklin's approach was refreshingly pragmatic, and included an insightful overview of the history of Facebook's monetization schemes:



Their ill-conceived Beacon (which violated users' trust);
Their ill-fated Conversion Tracking (which inadvertently proved they couldn't compete with Google);
Their current, loosely defined "social metrics" (which shift the analytics goal posts from conversion to reach and engagement, attempting to align Facebook as more of a competitor to broadcast media than search.)

The latter is likely no surprise to anyone who doesn't buy into the search vs. social debate and understands that the two are, and always will be, complementary. Look no further than how Google is using G+ and the +1 button to enhance search results, not replace them, and presumably by extension, improving the relevance of the ads they serve.


The bulk of the presentation focused on how to best leverage Facebook ads, including some practical tactical advice as solid takeaways:



Facebook ads focus on awareness & branding, engagement & fan creation. Less emphasis on performance, conversion, and direct response.
Split-testing ads: separate campaign/audience simplifies reporting, removes Facebook's algorithm bias from test.
Facebook is prioritizing content ads (sponsored stories) over headline/image/text unit.

During the Q&A session, I asked about a valid testing scenario for a Facebook campaign and a Google AdWords campaign, and Franklin advised it was an apples-to-oranges issue, in line with his perspective on Facebook's shift away from conversion metrics. That led me to thinking about how best to use Facebook Pages now that Timeline is the default and tabs are even less useful than ever.


Content is, as it's always been, the current and future King.


Is Facebook the New Inbox?


Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them… Permission doesn't have to be a one-way broadcast medium. The internet means you can treat different people differently, and it demands that you figure out how to let your permission base choose what they hear and in what format.


Seth Godin


4921781480 95cc1d68a2 m Rethinking Engagement: Facebook and Permission Marketing

Inbox Zero badge, by David Lima Cohen, via Flickr


I'm a firm advocate for the power of permission marketing, and I've never boarded the silly "email is dead" bandwagon, but there's no question that competition for attention in the inbox is fiercer than ever. Facebook has made several missteps over the years, abusing the trust its users (often ignorantly) place in the platform, and while I expressed concern about their Open Graph initiative's possibly heralding the "death of permission marketing," based on their continued growth and ability to drop $1B on one of the most inane tech acquisitions ever, they are arguably winning the battle to make social sharing as frictionless and pervasive as possible.


Of course, what's troubling for me personally as a digital skeptic, has to be explored professionally as a potential opportunity, and Franklin's presentation inspired some thoughts about how to effectively leverage Facebook without being evil.


Franklin posited that a 'Like' isn't a statement, "it's the start of a transactional relationship with a brand," which I immediately translated to "permission marketing." Unlike clicking 'like' on a post somewhere out on the wild wild web, when someone likes a brand's Page on Facebook itself, while they may in fact be making a statement, much more importantly, they're giving that brand permission to appear in their news feed along with updates from their friends and family.


Permission is a privilege to be taken very seriously, no matter the channel that permission grants access to. Whether it's the inbox, the news feed, or the living room, the best way to ensure that your permission doesn't get revoked is to consistently deliver value.


Of course, while email marketing has evolved into an art with clear metrics to define its value and direct its evolution, social media still struggles to prove that it's worth the investment of time and resources to do it right.


#bbpBox_189707012005834752 a { text-decoration:none; color:#FF3300; }#bbpBox_189707012005834752 a:hover { text-decoration:underline; }Hard to talk about Twitter ROI b/c "they made up their own metrics. Not conversions or sales, followers and RTs." aka, Branding. #smsmartsbird Rethinking Engagement: Facebook and Permission MarketingApril 10, 2012 9:30 am via HootSuite Reply Retweet Favorite Guy L. Gonzalez

Leveraging Social Metrics to Give Good Content


While Facebook Insights offers solid post-level analytics, they aren't quite as actionable as standard email metrics, but are more like web analytics with a twist. eg: You can't communicate directly with everyone who liked or commented on a specific post, but you can retarget email subscribers who took a particular action and send them a relevant follow-up message. Like your website, though, you can get a similarly granular view of how your content is performing, and use those signals to refine your content strategy.


Similar to an email newsletter, the potential lifespan of a Facebook post isn't limited to the moment it's posted, and more like a website, content on Facebook can be staggered throughout the day and the week. As with a website, individual Facebook posts are also far easier to share and/or engage with directly, whereas most newsletters are typically designed to drive traffic to a website where sharing and engagement (or commerce) can happen.


My general approach to Facebook follows three basic rules of thumb, none of which include spending time or money on pimping out your Timeline or creating custom tabs:


Be Strategic



3-5 posts/day, spread out from morning to evening
Use Insights to identify the topics that get people talking; refine timing for optimal reach and engagement
Experiment with Facebook Sponsored Stories (particularly "Page Post Like Story" and "Domain Story") to extend your content's reach and attract new fans

Be Engaging



Don't just post links, always offer commentary or context; ask a question, solicit feedback, or play devil's advocate
Beyond links, solicit and share user-generated content, including photos, reviews or commentary on issues of the day

Be Present



It's called SOCIAL media; engagement is a two-way street. Don't just post; participate!
"Whomever posts it, monitors it." Let no conversation go unrecognized. (Exception: Not every conversation is worth having.)

If you think of a "Like" as an opt-in, you're as close to the value proposition of an email list as it gets outside of actually acquiring that email, and you should treat the content you post to your Facebook Page with as much care and attention as you do your email newsletters. Even better, think of your Facebook Page as a key component of your brand's overall audience development strategy, complementing your website and email program, and as your audience there grows, leverage Facebook Insights as aggressively as your web analytics to inform and evolve your content strategy.




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Published on April 12, 2012 14:37 • 31 views

March 6, 2012

357105400 7742bbce74 Ebooks and Libraries: Is it Worth the Effort?

No Public Access by fuzzcaminski, via Flickr


From HarperCollins to Penguin to Random House, libraries have been caught in the ebook crossfire and the collateral damage hasn't been pretty. While I understand publishers' concerns about the impact library lending of ebooks might have on sales, what I don't understand is putting the onus for disproving that speculative notion on libraries' plates.


"We are requesting data that libraries can share about their patrons' borrowing patterns that over time will better enable us to establish mutually workable pricing levels that will best serve the overall e-book ecosystem."


–Stuart Applebaum, Random House


Translation: Prove to us that lending doesn't negatively impact sales. (Because, honestly, we don't have a clue.)


Two years after "standing up" to Amazon by handing Apple instant market share in the ebook space, and jumping through hoops to supply every other harebrained ebook startup with shoddily formatted content, with nary a thought given to device interoperability nor optimal user experiences, and in the wake of the #2 domestic book retailer finally going bankrupt, libraries have seemingly become the one kid on the playground publishers think they can bully into submission.


In an age where physical retail shelf space is shrinking everyday, and virtual shelf space is growing exponentially, like a black hole, why would you go out of your way to alienate arguably the most loyal and dependable partners you have?


These organizations, wildly irrational in economic terms and massively underwritten by public resources, acquire the world's literature and then make it continually available, without discrimination, through free circulation. Through libraries, we optimistically assert that knowledge uplifts us all, and that our culture becomes richer when it is shared. The famous inscription on the main branch of the Boston Public Library, "FREE TO ALL," is true in the instance, but only because we all make contributions towards its realization.


–Defining "Library," Peter Brantley


Restricting libraries' access to ebooks, either outright or via licensing and pricing schemes, is effectively spitting on the idea that spreading knowledge is a good thing (also called "marketing" in some circles), and less surprisingly, it's putting short-term tactics ahead of long-term strategy. Of course, that's a philosophical argument that's not worth having when library budgets are being slashed left and right, and school librarians have to do petition drives to demonstrate their value to the powers that be. Publishers aren't operating in a vacuum.


PULL THE PLUG?


Since publishers are so concerned with the "perpetuity of lending and simultaneity of availability" of their ebooks, I have to wonder if libraries shouldn't just help them out and hit the STOP button themselves?


Stop buying ebooks across the board, at any price, under any terms. Let publishers fight it out with Amazon, and when the dust finally settles (it will) and a viable business model appears (maybe), begin negotiating anew, on solid ground, with whomever's left standing.


In the meantime, libraries can redirect those precious resources and finances being flagged for ebooks towards more tangible initiatives in their respective communities.


Surely every library has a service gap or three to fill that's more valuable than overpaying for temporary licenses to files and platforms they don't own, that may or may not work on their patrons' devices of choice, and whose pricing can fluctuate more wildly than that of crude oil and Netflix stock.


Is it the belief that without ebooks, libraries will seem irrelevant and antiquated? Should every library be expected to offer the same range of services as, say, NYPL?


My little local library doesn't currently offer ebooks, but they have a decent children's library and a variety of useful services that I'd argue are far more valuable to our community, and improving any of those things would rank much higher on my list than ebooks.


NJ librarian (and 2010 Library Journal Mover & Shaker) Andy Woodworth has some great suggestions for "Alternative Uses for the Pesky eBook Budget," including my favorite:


Build Something Cool! Like a Digital Media Lab. Or a recording studio. Perhaps not those things specifically, but something that reflects the needs of the community on a larger scale. These two examples represent something that people generally don't have in their own homes but are useful for their interests or hobbies. It doesn't have to be elaborate; it just has to serve a need that currently isn't being met.


As publishers and libraries seek to reinvent themselves for the digital age, the opportunities are so much bigger than ebooks, and it kills me to see the energy, passion, and resources that are being spent focusing on such a narrow piece of the big picture.


With all that's possible, is this really the best we can do?




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Published on March 06, 2012 14:14 • 32 views

February 13, 2012

book2 2012 Moving Beyond THE BOOK; Three Takeaways from #Book2

Book^2 Camp: NYC 2012


The latest edition of Book^2 Camp, a publishing and technology "unconference,"  took place yesterday, and while it lacked the star power of last year's Margaret Atwood appearance, it was another worthwhile Sunday afternoon full of thoughtful conversations about the future of publishing.


Three quick takeaways.


1) STOP IT WITH THE NEW SHINY!!!!


#bbpBox_168753971069063168 a { text-decoration:none; color:#FF3300; }#bbpBox_168753971069063168 a:hover { text-decoration:underline; }#book2 Social reading, marketing = two very diff things. Former needs to be enabled but not feel obligatory; latter can't be intrusive.bird Moving Beyond THE BOOK; Three Takeaways from #Book2about 23 hours ago via HootSuite Reply Retweet Favorite Guy L. Gonzalez

Seriously, people; stop the madness. Stop trying to recreate the wheel; stop trying to build things for which there is no demand; and please stop trying to force "social" into the reading experience!


Someone noted that there were few references to platforms like Copia, Small Demons and Pinterest throughout the day, and there's a good reason for that: none have proven themselves to be more than technological curiosities for which there is little to no consumer demand. Meanwhile, Goodreads is approaching 7 million members — READERS OF BOOKS!!!! — and people are still wondering how publishers can build conversations around their books and connect with their readers?!?! #cmonson


2) THINK BEYOND THE BOOK


I pitched and facilitated a session on (re)Building the Perfect Business Model, starting with the premise that it has to allow for relationships with booksellers, libraries, and direct engagement with readers, and account for a royalty-based system, not just work-for-hire. (Few were comfortable with the idea of turning authors into straight freelancers.) Beyond that, it was a free-for-all discussion that offered a few directional signals if not one solid model we could all agree on. Among the key pieces that seemed to have consensus was the need to publish fewer books, a point perfectly highlighted by a Big Six VP whose group publishes ~10 books/month but offered a "no comment" on what kind of marketing support that 10th book gets.


Another critical though controversial piece was thinking beyond the book, creating ancillary products and related experiences, like webinars, tours, events, etc. Someone made the great point that, instead of complaining about B&N's devoting more shelf space to toys & games, a savvy publisher should be mining their list for opportunities to launch (not license, LAUNCH) a related toy and/or merchandise line. These ideas were surprisingly (or not) met with some resistance along the lines of "that's not our skill set," to which the quick answer was hire someone with those skills!


Plenty of publishers have figured out business models that extend beyond selling books in bookstores, physical and virtual, and Harlequin, Osprey, TOR, and F+W Media were all referenced as examples. Of course, I threw in The Atlantic, partly to illustrate that it's not just an opportunity for genre publishers, and also to demonstrate that the skill sets DO exist in publishing.


3) REMEMBER THE FUNDAMENTALS


Publishing in the digital age isn't a zero-sum game. For some books, the traditional marketing toolkit of print ads, "professional" reviews and co-op promotions can still move the needle on sales. For others, a more targeted approach is needed, something that digital channels excel at. One marketer noted how five years ago she would dismiss book bloggers, and now they represent a key channel for reviews that can have greater impact than the NY Times, DEPENDING ON THE BOOK.


Of course, the best takeaways were the various conversations I had with people, especially outside of specific sessions. Book^2 Camp offers a unique experience that the big conferences can't really match due to their size and structure: the ability to engage with a variety of smart people within the main program (as opposed to the "sage on the stage" model and hallway conversations), and the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about business challenges simply can't be overstated.


At the end of the day, an unconference is what you make of it, and as far as I'm concerned, yesterday was time well spent.


Other #Book2 Posts:



Dan Blank has a good post that breaks down the "what," complete with pictures.
Mt. Vernon librarian Nishan Stepak shares his thoughts.
Delabarre Publishing's Jeff Rutherford covered three sessions I didn't attend.
Patti Henderson offers up a Canadian perspective.

I'll add others as I find them. If you attended, let me know your takeaways in the comments.




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Published on February 13, 2012 09:24 • 83 views

February 8, 2012

6117660537 47f8f6eded 5 Career Tips to Survive Publishings Digital Shift

PUSH By Steve Snodgrass via Flickr


Transition, transformation, disruption, disintermediation… whichever word you prefer, the publishing industry is undergoing a massive shift that’s being driven by the Internet, with the news and magazine sides arguably a bit further ahead of the curve than the book side, for better or worse, though few major players among them are seeing any light at the end of the tunnel.


The Atlantic is one of my favorite examples that I’ve cited often, and 2011 was the second great year in a row for the “legacy” brand that went all-in on a digital-first strategy in 2007 and are now reaping the rewards that include growth on the print side of the business.


“We decided to prioritize digital over everything else. We were no longer going to be ‘The Atlantic, which happens to do digital.’ We were going to be a digital media company that also published The Atlantic magazine.”


That must have been a frightening prospect for a number of people, I suggested in a conversation with [Justin Smith, president of Atlantic Consumer Media] at The Atlantic‘s offices last month.


“It’s easier to be ‘digital first’ when your legacy business is not strong, when you have nothing to defend,” Smith explained. “At the time, all we had to defend was red ink.”


Many publishers are in a similar situation, perhaps not quite as dire as defending red ink, yet, but with each passing year the turning radius to make the shift to digital-first becomes tighter and tighter, and even more so for staff. There’s no value in being the last man standing at a publisher unable (or worse, unwilling) to make the shift, and there are few job opportunities for those “good soliders” who can’t clearly demonstrate that they have at least tried to stay ahead of the curve.


We’re in the early stages of such a shift at the day job, and having just completed annual performance reviews and reporting on our analytics from last year, I started noticing a few things that were common to the people who really GET IT.


1) Shift, don’t Drift


Stop being a passive consumer and jump in the deep end of the pool. Try everything until you’re savvy and connected enough to figure out what to ignore at a quick glance. Even if a particular medium or platform doesn’t appeal to you personally, try to understand where it fits in the big picture and who the primary and secondary audiences are. (For me, Tumblr and Pinterest fall in that category.) Launch your own website on WordPress; get on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and LinkedIn and Goodreads. Set up a Google Analytics account and learn how to make the most of it; experiment with Google AdWords and Facebook ads. Sign up for Constant Contact or MailChimp and learn about email marketing. Get access to a smartphone, an ereader and tablet, download a few ebooks and apps, and understand what’s really happening in mobile. Don’t just rely on publishing industry rags and pundits; bookmark MarketingProfs, eMarketer, and ReadWriteWeb and understand what other industries are doing, many of which are way of ahead of the digital curve compared to publishing.


2) HTML 101


This Internet thing isn’t a fad, and it disrupts every industry it touches, no matter how mainstream or niche it might be. Don’t be that person who leaves HTML to the “digital guy,” or a junior editor or marketer; I’ve worked with too many people who did that over the years and have watched almost all of them eventually lose their jobs because their skills weren’t up-to-date. Learn the basics yourself and understand what it takes to build and manage different types of websites. Make liberal use of “Right click > View Page Source” and take a look at the guts of your favorite websites. Befriend web designers and ebook and app developers, in person or online, and learn from them. Sign up for Code Year.


3) Data is Your High-Maintenance Best Friend


“Crisitunity: Real-time data; it’s what we asked for.”

–Lou Paskalis, VP of Global Media, Content Development and Mobile Marketing, American Express


At the end of the day, the Internet is all about connections — people-to-people, people-to-information, information-to-people — and one of its byproducts is data. Metric tons of data! So much of it that we often don’t know where to start other than to place astronomical values on the companies that successfully acquire and curate it, or worse, cower in fear of them. In the digital age, there’s no need to rely solely on instinct and intuition, though both remain invaluable tools when they’re not ego-driven. Remember Einstein’s words: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” First step, determine what’s most important to your business’ success and measure it on a regular basis. Second step, don’t just report the data, analyze it thoroughly and translate the story it’s telling you into something actionable. Third step, TAKE ACTION!


4) Develop Personal Learning Networks


You don’t know everything and you never will. Thankfully, no matter where you live or work, you are not alone. The Internet is huge and has few borders, and in every nook and cranny you’ll find a community of people with similar interests and passions and varying levels of experience. Most of those people are willing to share their insights and hard-won experiences, especially with others willing to reciprocate. No matter how experienced you are, or aren’t, be a giver not just a taker and you’ll become a valued member of your community and ultimately get more value from it.


5) Impatience is a Virtue


Stop waiting for someone else to figure it out, whatever IT might be! If you’re facing an unexplored path, attack it with vigor and dare yourself to push past your comfort level. I’m a firm believer in “it’s better to seek forgiveness than permission,” as long as your approach is informed and well conceived. Embrace mistakes, but don’t set yourself up to make dumb ones. If you’re on to something, others will take notice and eventually follow. If you’re on the wrong track, you’ll learn from it and be able to teach others from the lessons you learn. And if you work somewhere where this approach isn’t valued, focus on the first four points, update your resume accordingly, and find a better employer.




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Published on February 08, 2012 05:41 • 27 views

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