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44 posts from March 2007

Wiley is #1 Visual Studio 2005 Publisher

Vs2005Almost two years ago we decided to invest heavily in Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 programming tool release.  We especially wanted to emphasize our WROX imprint, which is geared for the programming crowd.  We planned numerous day-and-date titles on ASP.NET, Visual C#, Visual Basic and many sub-topics within Visual Studio 2005.

Now that Visual Studio 2005 has been out for well over a year it's time to look at the results.  Based on the top 750 computers/internet titles, Wiley is clearly the leading publisher on Visual Studio 2005.  The numbers show us with anywhere from 40-44% of the market share by units life to date, depending on which week you analyze.  The closest competitor only has about a 30% share and everyone else is at 10% or less.

Congratulations to the entire Wiley team -- this accomplishment is the result of a coordinated effort between our authors and Wiley's editorial, marketing and sales groups.  Well done!

The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne

SecretThe Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, is the latest rage in the book publishing world.  I kept hearing about the book and got curious one day in a local store when I didn't see it; it turns out they couldn't keep it in stock and more copies were on order.  Heck, even Oprah is all over this one, and aside from that little issue with that James Frey book, A Million Little Pieces, she's never wrong, right?...

Up to now I've never reviewed a book that I didn't finish reading.  I'm making an exception in this case because I'll never finish reading it.  I got about 10 pages into it, saw what "the secret" is and couldn't believe anyone bothers reading any further.  Harsh words, I know.  Let me explain why I'm so disappointed...

As I sat down to read this one I kept thinking how I've already read the same book before.  I did, and it was called The Power of Positive Thinking.  Good book, btw, and I'm all in favor of trying to maintain a positive attitude regardless of the situation, but...  The Secret would have you believe there's some mystical power involved.

How about this excerpt from page 6:

People who have drawn wealth into their lives used The Secret.  Their predominant thoughts are of wealth.  They only know wealth, and nothing else exists in their minds.

Then, a bit further down that same page:

You may know of people who acquired massive wealth, lost it all, and within a short time acquired massive wealth again.  ...their dominant thoughts were on wealth...then they allowed fearful thoughts of losing the wealth to enter their minds, until those fearful thoughts of loss became their dominant thoughts.

Um, OK... So you're saying Bill Gates, for example, has been obsessed with wealth all his life and that's how he's gotten to where he is.  Uh huh.  I suppose being a brilliant technologist with a passion for software had absolutely nothing to do with it.  As he donates more and more of his wealth to his foundation he becomes less wealthy.  Does that mean he's let a bunch of fearful thoughts enter his mind?

Or how about the person who lost a small fortune in any of the stock market downturns over the past 30 years?  Was this also the result of being overcome with thoughts of fear before the downturn?!

How about this example: There's a local fellow here in Indianapolis who owns a small business that was cruising along just fine until one of his employees embezzled several hundred thousand dollars.  He's now on the verge of bankruptcy.  Can we blame some sort of fear that apparently overwhelmed him prior to this employee's embezzlement?

Just how gullible is the book-buying community?  I too get a kick out of get-rich-quick stories and magicians, but I always try to keep in mind that the girl isn't really getting sawed in half and the audience volunteer didn't really catch a speeding bullet in their teeth.

I think the real "secret" here is this: "Buy the book, lose $20."  Oprah, how did you get duped on this one?!

Dealing with a Changing Revenue Model

MoneyThis article in Publisher's Weekly highlights an issue most people don't want to talk about: The online revenue model is considerably different from the print model we've all come to know and love.  The Time, Inc. example shows that "while a subscriber to a print publication generates about $118 for Time annually, online users generate only $5."  So Time loses about 96% of its revenue base going from print to online.  How many media operations can survive on 4% of their current revenue levels?

The answer to that question is, of course, "none."  But that 96% erosion rate shouldn't be considered a fait accompli.  Countless websites have pressured traditional content publishers by providing customers with a more attractive value proposition.  That's just a fancy way of saying that a lot of websites are providing content for little to no cost to the consumer.  It's no different than when a new Walmart opens up and forces existing retailers to rethink their strategy.

This is far from a hopeless battle though.  Existing publishers and other content providers can not only survive this shift, the smart ones will find ways to grow significantly as a result of it.  How?  I can think of (at least) six tactics that should be employed:

  1. Look beyond the current touch points you have with your customers and work to establish new ones.
  2. Take lots of small risks rather than a small number of big risks.
  3. Start building new income streams with your content, even if the revenue and margin levels aren't what you're accustomed to.
  4. Spend more time and resources tapping into and leverage existing communities and less time trying to create new ones of your own.
  5. Do what you do best and outsource the rest.
  6. Think "video."

I'll expand on each of these in follow-up posts in the coming days.

Is Mark Cuban Shorting Google?

FinancialsGiven Mark Cuban's seemingly endless fixation on Google, I can't help wonder what his hidden agenda might be...

Is he bitter that he didn't come up with the world's leading search engine?  Or that he didn't create YouTube, or the legal equivalent of it?  Both of those are reasonable guesses, but the more I think about it, the more I'm starting to feel that he's just playing the stock market.

Cuban has been outspoken on shorting tactics in the past, so is he doing it right now on Google's stock?  The guy has a huge platform and his negative comments about Google certainly aren't helping its stock price.  Heck, if he started shorting back when Google was hanging around $500 a share he's doing quite well for himself!

ASIDIC Spring Meeting

Asidic_1I had the privilege of speaking at the 2007 Spring ASIDIC meeting earlier this week.  My only regret is not being able to stay longer than the half-day I was able to attend.  I saw a couple of sessions after my own and was very impressed with the speakers and the presentation content.

Mike Buschman of Microsoft helped provide a better glimpse into Microsoft's Live Search for books and got me thinking about ways we might be able to tap into it.  I was also intrigued by what Joy Moore of Nature Publishing had to say about their focus on community and leveraging it for her journals business.  And while everyone did a fine job, Josh Hallett of Hyku really stole the show.  He's a bright, energetic speaker with loads of hands-on experience in the media world.  You'll also want to check out his blog.

If you're looking for a conference with an interesting mix of content/publishing people you owe it to yourself to consider future ASIDIC meetings.  Thanks to John Blossom of Shore Communications for inviting me to speak at this -- it was well worthwhile!