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34 posts from February 2007

BusinessWeek Just Doesn't Get It

Dunce_1I've been a BusinessWeek subscriber for many years now.  Great magazine, good insights.  As many subscribers do from time to time, I saw an interesting article and used the ubiquitous "e-mail" link to send it to a colleague.

Later that day I got a message from my colleague saying he couldn't open the article because he's not a subscriber.  Huh?!  I've done this with other magazines I subscribe to and have never run into this problem.  What's worse, my colleague told me BusinessWeek forced him to "register for a free account" before they told him that "this content requires a subscription.  Get one at such-and-such link."  To quote my colleague, this was both "sneaky and lame."  I couldn't agree more.

Wow.  Does BusinessWeek really think they'll convert this sort of situation into a new paying customer?  If so, I'd love to hear what sort of success rate they're having.

RSS vs. Aggregation Sites

OmaboutBloglines is my RSS reader of choice.  I've tried Google's reader but I keep coming back to Bloglines.  I can't quite say why that is, other than I generally don't switch from one app to another unless there's a compelling reason to do so.  One RSS reader is as good as the next...

Then I read Om Malik's recent article in Business 2.0 magazine, "Aggregating the Aggregators."  I've gotten to used to looking at RSS feeds in the same old way that I never considered using something like originalsignal.  Take a minute and click over to that originalsignal link...

What did you think of it?  Pretty cool, right?  I liked it so much that I added it to my (growing list of) homepage tabs in Firefox.  Rather than having to click through every individual feed to see if anything looks interesting, I can quickly scan through one page of headlines from several feeds.  It's pretty customizable too.  You can move feeds around on the page so that the most interesting ones are always at the top.

Am I going to abandon my traditional RSS reader, Bloglines?  No way, but originalsignal will become yet another item in my toolbox and a handy resource to help me keep up on the latest developments.

Second Life Author Event

Sl_authorevent_2_2 Sl_authorevent_3_2As you may already know from previous references on my blog, our group recently published the first book on Second Life.  We also hosted an in-world author event for the book.  As Kelly Trent our marketing manager put it, "over 60 Second Life residents had the chance to "meet and greet" the authors, ask questions about the book, and learn more about their experiences in Second Life."

Wiley also has a virtual store in Second Life.  If you're already a Second Life member just head to this link and teleport to the store.  I took a look around it earlier and was duly impressed.  You'll notice a giant display at the front of the store for our Official Guide (see below, no comments about my tail, please...).  I wish it were this easy to create such attention-grabbing displays in the real world!  Thanks to Kelly and the rest of the team for coordinating this event.


Get Back in the Box, by Douglas Rushkoff

Get_back_in_the_boxI'll admit, it took me awhile to really get into this book.  Once I got through the first couple of chapters of Get Back in the Box though, I couldn't wait to read more of it.

The author, Douglas Rushkoff, feels that we're in the midst of a renaissance in creativity and collaboration.  As he puts it, "genuine creativity is a result not of out-of-the-box thinking, but of true expertise."  Here's a great example he used partway through the book: The person that decided (years ago) to put a VCR and TV into one device wasn't really innovating.  The person who came up with TiVo, on the other hand, was a genius and someone who truly had a handle on people's viewing habits.

He's got an entire chapter on what he refers to as "social currency."  The retailers featured as noteworthy examples in this chapter include B&N ("the store is a social hub"), Guitar Center ("it's a place to try out pretty much any piece of musical instrument there is--and to play on it for hours") and the Apple Store (described as "a little cathedral").  I tend to think Starbucks fits the mold as well.  In fact, this chapter got me wondering about what would happen if Starbucks and Apple ever decided to create some co-branded shops...

Here are a few of the other interesting tidbits I highlighted throughout this book:

...customers don't want to communicate with brands anymore...they want to communicate through them...

Although we claim we want more leisure time, we are much more likely to find an opportunity for genuinely fulfilling engagement and learning at work.

It's about learning to tinker, to tweak, and to test the most basic, underlying assumptions of one's core business or technology.

(Regarding focus groups...)  In the vast majority of the dozens of groups I've observed or led, the purpose was less to glean new insights than to confirm the insights already held.

This turned out to be a very enjoyable book with all sorts of great observations.  As I was writing my summary this afternoon, I visited the HarperCollins website and noticed a new widget they're promoting.  If you're familiar with the LibraryThing widget (also featured on my blog), think of the HarperCollins one as a single-title widget.  It gives you the ability to showcase a single book on your blog/website and offers "browse inside the book" functionality, similar to Amazon's.  To test it out, I grabbed the code off their site and plugged it into my blog.  You'll find it in the right panel, just above the "Recent Posts" heading.  Great idea, and kudos to HarperCollins for creating these title-specific widgets.

Our 6th Hit of the (Very Short) Year

Blender2007 is off to a blistering start for my editorial team.  Prior to today I was able to tout the fact that this group has produced 5 titles that have made Amazon's Top 25 on the Computers & Internet list.  Now we have a 6th: Introducing Character Animation with Blender.  This book was #24 earlier today and is currently #9 on the list.  Congrats to editor Pete Gaughan and the rest of the team that produced this hit!

For anyone who is keeping score at home (or is just curious), the other titles from our team that have hit Amazon's Top 25 in 2007 are: Windows Vista Secrets, Lifehacker, Second Life: The Official Guide, Skin and Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day.  We're not talking flash in the pan either...most of these have remained on Amazon's Top 25 to Top 100 since they were published.  Quite an accomplishment by a great team!

Check Out My Google News Bar!

Google2My thanks to Steve Rubel for hyping Google's News Bar widget in this post.  I just implemented my own with a few relevant search phrases (books, publishing, econtent, etc.)  Look in the left panel of my blog for the heading "Joe's Google News".  The widget displays the latest news on the first phrase in my list, "books", but you can click on any of the others ("publishing", "econtent", etc.) to have the widget switch to display the latest news on those phrases...all without ever having to leave the comfort of my blog!  Very cool.

Google has a code generation wizard for it here, so you can make your own news bar and drop it into your blog/website in about 2 minutes!

IBM's (Not-So-Great) Prescription for Old Media

No_lightI'm not so sure an old tech company is the best choice to advise old media companies. Exhibit A is this summary from MediaPost Publications today.  In it, IBM talks about how old media companies can solve their problems by creating a "Chief Consumer Officer" (CCO) position.

The IBM report goes on to say how old media outfits need to "put consumers at the center of your business and boardroom--create a consumer-obsessed culture and place a premium on continuous consumer feedback."  Is that really something new?  Don't most successful companies have a pretty strong consumer focus?!

What I object to most though is the notion that a new CxO-level position is suddenly going to change a company's DNA.  That's what it will take, btw, to get some (most?) old media organizations to adjust their course.  You don't accomplish that with some new senior executive position on an org chart.  You tackle that by first making sure the entire (existing) executive team buys into the vision.  Then you make sure the rest of the organization, from top to bottom, is on board.  This probably means bringing in some new blood at certain levels, but not simply adding a new executive position and naively thinking this new CCO will fix all the problems!

I think the folks at IBM need to read Patrick Lencion's fine book, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars...  It does a fine job explaining the ins and outs of this sort of thing.  (In the interest of full disclosure, this book was published by my employer -- regardless, it's still an excellent read!)

Michael Hyatt on Relationship Management

HandshakeQuestion: How often can you get advice from someone who is a publishing executive but has also been a literary agent and author?  Answer: Anytime you read Michael Hyatt's blog.  I wanted to call particular attention to recent series of posts Michael has made on Strategic Relationship Management.  It's a four-part series (so far) with an introductory post followed by posts on the ideal publisher, author and agent.

If you're an author in search of a good agent or publisher, use the (high profit, low maintenance) characteristics checklists Michael provides for each.  Don't forget to read the author checklist too...  The whole series of posts ought to be required reading for any publishing newbie (and not-so-newbie).

If you're an author, I'd recommend you consider turning some of those characteristics into questions you can ask any agent/publisher candidate.  For example, what percentage of that agent's clients typically recoup their advance?  That's a fair question for a publisher too (how many of their authors typically recoup their advance?).

Netflix for (Audio) Books?

CdIn an earlier post I suggested that a store/chain ought to take a page out of Netflix's business plan and create a book rental service.  I just read this article about a similar program, but with audio books, that's being launched in the U.K.  Why didn't I think of that?!  If problem #1 is the issue of mailing heavy books back and forth, why not build the program around the audio versions instead? Great idea.

Colin Crawford on IDG's Transformation

Cc_25I initially missed this post earlier this month but wanted to be sure to pass it along.  Colin Crawford, SVP of Online at IDG, talks candidly about the shift there from a predominantly print business to more of an online model.  Some of the more interesting excerpts are:

In the US, our online revenue now accounts for over 35% of our total US publishing revenues. Next year, for many brands online revenues will be greater than print revenues, in fact they already are at some of our key brands and by 2009 – approximately 50% of IDG’s US revenues will come from online.

...we face greater risks if we don’t transform our organization and take some chances.

The more enlightened in our media world will figure how to allow their audiences freedom to create and share their knowledge and content and to mash it up in a way that engages users.