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28 posts from September 2007

Amazon Widgets: What's Missing?

Amazon_blackI was glad to see that Amazon recently announced a collection of widgets that are ready for use on your blog or website.  The list includes some very useful tools and much of the functionality you'd expect from an Amazon widget.  I had one idea in mind and was all ready to install an Amazon widget to implement it on my blog.  The problem is it doesn't exist, at least not yet.

I was hoping Amazon would offer a widget that would display a list of 5 or 6 of the books I've reviewed on their site.  Covers would be displayed and as you hover over each one with your mouse a small pop-up window would appear and show the full text of my review.  No go.  This sort of widget wouldn't be that hard to create but I have no idea whether Amazon plans to offer one with this functionality.  I used their "What do you think?" link at the bottom of their widget page to suggest the idea.  I'll let you know what I hear back...

P.S. -- You could use the same widget to do some other cool things too.  For example, let's say you find another regular Amazon reviewer who you've grown to trust.  Why not feature their recommendations on your blog/website using the same widget?

Purdue Confirms Notre Dame is as Bad as Advertised

Purduend_2I thought the 22-point spread was a bit insulting to poor Notre Dame.  In the end, Purdue should have won by much more.

I got to spend yesterday afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium watching Purdue beat up on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  This in-state rivalry always brings out the funniest t-shirts and banners.  One of my favorites from this year was a large sign at the game which read "Even Rudy Could Start On This Team."

Purdue was fortunate to escape with a win though.  After getting well within the red zone several times in the first half they wound up settling for far too many field goals, although it was good to see Chris Summers knock 'em all down.  Trading 7's for 3's allowed Notre Dame to get back in the game in the second half though.  Of course, despite their 5-0 record, Purdue fans know this isn't a second-half team; lots of yardage and points have been given up by Brock Spack's defense after halftime.  This game was no different.

If you're a Purdue fan, be concerned.  Local columnist Bob Kravitz is right to ask whether these guys are for real.  Ohio State comes to town next Saturday and should give Purdue their first true test of the season.  Call me a fair weather fan but I'm not holding my breath...

Looking for an Editorial Director in San Francisco

Crowd_2A fellow VP/publisher here at Wiley just asked me if I'd post some information about a job opening in his San Francisco-based group.  Here's his summary:

Wiley, a 200 year old company with the energy and growth of a teenager, is looking for an editorial director to lead the professional program in leadership, management, and HR. The editorial director will head an editorial team of 7 in acquiring, developing, and successfully publishing 65 new print and online titles a year under the Jossey-Bass and Pfeiffer imprints. We need someone with college, university press, or academic press experience, knowledge and interest in online/electronic as well as traditional print formats, and a driving ambition to grow the business globally.

If you're interested in the position be sure to connect with this team by sending a message to

The Amazon MP3 Store

Amazonmp3_2Hooray for Amazon!  My family owns nothing but Creative Labs MP3 players so iTunes has never been a viable option.  Plus, with DRM being a major hassle, I'll always opt for buying and ripping a CD over paying for a limited-use download.  Always.

The few songs I have bought over the years (for my daughter) came from, which has always proven to be a reliable service, btw.  When Walmart recently announced they were breaking free from the DRM chains I figured life couldn't get any better.  And then Amazon announced their MP3 store. Totally DRM free.  Works on any MP3 player.  Most songs are 89-99 cents.  Outstanding.

Sure, a couple of the major labels are still missing from this deal; as long as they choose to remain wrapped up in DRM I won't be buying their music online anyway.  Let's see if Amazon can help me make a dent in the  10 gig of free space I currently have on my trusty Creative Labs player...

HarperCollins AuthorAssistant

Hc_3I've got to hand it to the folks at HarperCollins (HC).  Earlier this year they announced their Browse Inside widget and now they're rolling out a new author website service called AuthorAssist.

Although most technology book authors have already started their own websites or blogs, there are plenty of non-tech authors out there who haven't and could use some help.  AuthorAssist will make it much easier for HC authors to establish a web presence, but it will also enable HC to play a role in that presence, which could include an advertising income component at some point.

So for a pretty modest investment, HC creates a fantastic service for their authors and something that could become a valuable online resource center down the road.

The Future of Microsoft...In Book Format

Ms_20_small At the end of their current fiscal year (6/30/08), Bill Gates is scheduled to turn the Microsoft keys over to Ballmer, Ozzie & Co. while he focuses on other endeavors.  That's a pretty significant step for such a giant of technology, so what does the future hold for the folks in Redmond?

Other than Microsoft's own high-ranking executives, Mary Jo Foley is probably the most highly qualified person to answer that question; her All about Microsoft blog is closely watched by analysts, skeptics, fans and Microsoft insiders around the globe.  Fortunately for us, Mary Jo is putting her thoughts into a new book that will be published by our group here at Wiley next Spring.  You can read more about Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era in this announcement which Mary Jo posted on her blog earlier today.

Murdoch's Free Campaign

Wsj2While it's a bit disappointing to see that The Wall Street Journal might abandon their online subscription model, it's not exactly surprising.  The kicker is that is often referred to as "evidence that a paid online content model can work", so why abandon it?  Reach and growth, for starters.

Like so many other content businesses these days, I've got to believe the WSJ is struggling to attract younger customers.  Any recent college graduate has more or less been raised with the assumption that plenty of free content is readily available, so why pay?  Let's not forget that the WSJ also caters to a professional readership, many of which rely on the paper's content for their day-to-day jobs.  This customer segment would likely pay much more than $99/year for online access to the Journal (especially since their company pays for it, not the individual), but the more they exceed a $99/year price tag the less likely they are to lure in a broader, less professional audience, hence the dilemma.

On the surface, I think Murdoch's plan to make the Journal free online is pretty darned smart.  Parts of the Journal are freely accessible today anyway so what's the harm in making the whole paper free?  Are they worried about the loss of the $99/year they're getting from all those professionals today?  Set it up so that today's paper is free and searches back a week are also free, but searches further back require a...wait for it...paid subscription!

That's right.  They'd still be able to get $99/year from all those professionals who need archive access to do their jobs.  Heck, you might even convert a non-paying customer or two into subscribers if they find enough value in the archives.  What's not to like?!

The Economist: Seeding Content via Blogs

EconomistSmart move by The Economist.  They're working to leverage the blogosphere by providing early access to content.  The goal is to generate buzz about upcoming content before it appears in their magazine or on their website.

Smart, but tricky.  The key to success here will be to see whether they can truly engage the blogosphere rather than appearing to simply use it.  That probably means dedicating resources to work with each blogger and not just doing mass e-mailings of pre-pub information every month.  Will they make it easy for the bloggers to interact directly with writers, editors and others associated with each article?  This will be crucial if they expect the bloggers to spark discussion about this material.  Few of these high profile bloggers will be patient enough to wait for answers back from a "PR spokesperson" or anyone other than the person who wrote or edited the material; they'll expect the same sort of transparency from The Economist that they're trying to promote through their blogs.

Again, provided The Economist is approaching it with the appropriate level of attention and investment, I think it's a fantastic idea and I look forward to reading more about the results in the future.

Book authors: There's a tip in this for you as well.  It's always a great idea to see if you can leverage the blogoshpere for your upcoming book.  Work with your editor/publisher to see whether they'll help you (or at least support you!) by providing final, edited chapters or other excerpts for this sort of thing.

Newspaper Widgets

Newspaper_stackNewspapers continue to see subscriber and advertising bases shrink but some are experimenting with news content distribution models.  This AP story was picked up by my local paper (The Indianapolis Star) today and is evidence that The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post are just three examples of papers that "get it" when it comes to widgets.

A critic could argue that there's no clear way to monetize this sort of model.  The optimist in me sees that these papers aren't content to sit on the sidelines and watch as their brands become even more marginalized.  So what if they can't make money right away?  As the article notes, at least they're getting their content in front of a much younger crowd, often the audience segment they're least likely to reach in print.

The irony in all this is that my local paper runs the story but offers no widgets for their own content distribution.  I'd like to feature a widget from The Indianapolis Star to give my blog a bit of a local feel to it but there are none to choose from.  OK, I'll bite...  I'm going to leave a comment about this on the Star's website to see if they respond...

Tribal Knowledge, by John Moore

Tribal_knowledgeI mentioned John Moore's Tribal Knowledge book in an earlier post as a great example of how to build an effective companion website.  I finished reading the book last night and give it high marks for being full of valuable information.

Each chapter is very short and focuses on one particular lesson learned from Moore's years as a marketer with Starbucks.  Unlike that other Starbucks book I read and reviewed earlier this year, this one reads much more like an unauthorized account as opposed to "official corporate policy."

Moore concludes each chapter with a series of relevant questions.  Here's one that really jumped out at me, for example:

If you freed up advertising dollars to be spent elsewhere within your marketing budget, how best would you allocate the money to focus more on being and doing rather than saying?

He also explains how Starbucks continues to challenge itself.  Rather than being content as the leading coffee shop chain, they look at "making the transition from Starbucks as coffee 'brand' to Starbucks as beverage 'icon'."  So instead of owning the majority market share in the coffee world, they prefer to look at themselves as "an upstart, competing against the old-school beverage icons like Coke and Pepsi."

Moore gives great insight to the human side of Starbucks and what characteristics are common in the best employees.  He also talks a bit about why employees leave.  As he puts it, "people quit people, not companies.  It's the person on the ground, not the board of directors on the eighth floor of corporate headquarters, who represents the company to your employees."  How true.

If you're looking to get the inside scoop on what makes Starbucks special, this is the book to read.  But I'd also recommend it to anyone who wants to learn countless bits of wisdom that can be applied to just about any business.