Video as a Book Promotional Vehicle

This article in The New York Times talks about how some book publishers are starting to experiment with videos on the publicity front. The enormous traffic levels for sites like YouTube are irresistible, and book publishers are trying to steer some of those eyeballs to their own products.

I think the idea definitely has merit, but I’m not sure how many books/publishers will create enough buzz to rise above the noise and make it work. After all, the majority of the people going to these sites are looking for the latest teenager-dances-like-a-ninja-warrior clip. The article talks about how these book videos will have some sizzle, but the real measure of success will come through in the viewer statistics.

It’s great that some of the videos are being made as part of a contest open to the amateur video world. Better to ask the community to come up with something really wacky and creative than to try and dream it up in a corporate conference room. Given how inexpensive it is to produce a decent video these days, I’m sure the results will be interesting.

Mark Cuban Wrestles with the Movie Business Model

Mark Cuban has a job waiting for you…all you have to do is solve the movie business model that seems to be haunting him. He poses the following question:

How do you get people out of the house to see your movie without spending a fortune?

He goes on to talk about the outrageous amount of money that must be spent to manufacture a blockbuster movie.

I think he’s going about this all wrong. The problem is in the phrase “out of the house.” Let’s face it.  Movie theater attendance is down, mostly because most people don’t want to leave their house. They’ve found great ways to entertain themselves without ever leaving home. Look at all the money that’s been and is being spent on home theater systems, high-end televisions, etc.

Cuban needs to get out of the model that worked in the past and focus instead on the future. Or, another way to look at it is by saying that he’s still trying to apply the blockbuster mentality in a long tail world. I know because I often face the same challenges in the book publishing business, especially when working with brick-and-mortar accounts vs. online ones.

Sure, there will be more blockbuster movies later this year, next year and in the years after that. But they’ll come at a price, and Cuban has correctly noted that the price is ridiculously high. So rather than fighting within the parameters of the existing model, break through and completely changing the playing field.

Build a new model that’s centered on the home entertainment experience, not the theater. Cuban has stated before that he wants to break the system and not force customers to go to a theater to watch a new release. Great. Now make that an irresistible proposition. He talks about an affiliate program for theaters. Forget about that and build one for home rentals/viewing. Figure out how to fold in some sort of snack component so that people can really “stick it to the man” by not having to pay an arm and a leg for stale popcorn and a bucket-o-Coke. The solution here is right under his own roof, not at the movie theater.

Old Media In Denial: Movie Theaters

Mark Cuban’s production company, HDNetFilms, is trying to reinvent the movie business. This isn’t exactly news, but I got a chuckle out of a recent Wired interview with Peter Brown, CEO of AMC Entertainment. Go ahead…click to the link and read the brief answers Mr. Brown gave Wired…I’ll wait.

OK, now that you’ve read it, did you laugh too? My favorite quote was in response to Wired’s question, “Why deny theatergoers the chance to see Bubble?”:

We want to put up on the large screen a product made with that format in mind. Bubble, and some of these other direct-to-video titles, are simply not. We want to serve steak, not hamburger.

Oh please! This statement is still remarkable even after you scrape off all the excessive arrogance. How do these guys measure quality anyway? I’d take a great story with less than optimal video quality over a weak story with amazing video every single time. I wonder if Mr. Brown has spent any time watching some of the truly lousy movies that find their way into theaters every single month. I know I have and that’s why I go to the theater less and less each year.

No, this isn’t about video quality. This is all about Cuban’s desire to change the playing field, disrupting the model that’s made the theater owners fat and happy. Cuban’s model makes a ton of sense. Why can’t a movie be available in any and all formats from day one?

Good luck Mark – I hope you hang in there and turn the industry on its ear!

Brainstorming at Alias

I just returned from a great visit with one of Sybex’s key partners, Alias. After spending a couple of days with the team at their Toronto offices, all I can say is “wow!”. I can’t tell you the last time I saw such incredibly high levels of passion and energy at a software company. It was quite impressive. Do yourself a favor and poke around a bit on their website; their products are the tools behind the special effects of many of the movies you’ve undoubtedly watched over the past several years.

I’d like to thank Michael, Danielle, Carla, Lorraine and the other folks at Alias for their hospitality this week. We covered a lot of ground and came up with quite a few interesting new ideas. Here’s to a great future for Alias and Sybex/Wiley!