Newspapers as disruptors

That seems like a contradiction, doesn't it? After all, newspapers are the ones that have been disrupted the past several years. True, but Matt Sokoloff recently wrote a very interesting article suggesting that newspapers are about to disrupt local TV. Yeah, I laughed too when I first considered it. But do yourself a favor and read Sokoloff's piece. It's one of the insightful pieces on the newspaper that I've read.

He paints a picture of local TV being fat and happy while the newspapers are desperate for survival. And, true to The Innovator's Dilemma, which Sokoloff references in the article, the TV industry is likely to be caught completely off-guard by an unexpected competitor.

The disrupted becomes the disruptor. How cool is that?


Taking a page out of ESPN's playbook

If you missed this recent BusinessWeek article about ESPN you owe it to yourself to go back and read it. ESPN is so much more than just a sports network and their brilliant strategy offers plenty of lessons for publishers. Here's just one important indicator of their success: While the average network earns about 20 cents per subscriber each month ESPN is paid $5.13. That's more than 25 times the average!

Read more...


Another Missed Opportunity for Rich Content

I recently finished reading a terrific ebook. It's about the 1975 World Series between the Reds and the Red Sox and the title is Game Six. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed reading Game Six there was something missing. I remember watching that series, just like I watched every postseason baseball game growing up. The image of Carlton Fisk willing his game winning drive to stay fair is iconic. I can almost see Luis Tiant's herky-jerky windup and Bernie Carbo hitting that earlier homerun to tie the game up.

I say "almost" though, because 1975 was a long time ago and my memory is far from perfect. Game Six was fun to read but the author and publisher missed a huge opportunity to make it a much richer experience for their customers.

Why doesn't this book have a ton of links built in that point to related video clips and interviews? They're all over YouTube and many other sites but they're not curated in any manner. Search for "1975 world series game six" or "bernie carbo 1975 homerun" and you get all sorts of interesting results but there's no one guiding you to be sure and watch this one but don't bother with that one or watch this one before you watch that one. I would have gladly paid more for a richer edition of this book with all those links curated by the author included.

I should note that I read Game Six on my Kindle Touch. It's the last one I'll be reading on that device as I've moved on to the new Nook with GlowLight. The video links I'm talking about would have been useless on either device, but if they were integrated with the ebook I would have gladly read it with the Kindle app on my tablet. And just to repeat: The publisher could charge me more for this web-enabled version.

Notice I didn't say anything about selling or embedding these videos with the ebook. All I'm talking about is adding links to the videos that are all over the web, so there are no rights issues to worry about. This enhancement doesn't work for every book either, btw. Game Six is just begging for this enhancement though.

Publishers often complain about the prohibitive cost of creating apps out of books. Rather than going that far and spending a fortune, why not start with the inexpensive option of simply enhancing the ebook by curating everything related to it that already exists on the web?


TOC Podcasts: Now in iTunes

600x600_toc_podcast A month or so ago we decided it was time to extend TOC's reach with industry news, interviews, etc., in the form of video podcasts. I've already featured many of those segments here on the 2020 Publishing blog but now you'll be able to retrieve them in a more convenient manner.

Head over to iTunes and subscribe to the TOC podcast series using this link. Four of the first sessions are currently available via iTunes and more will follow shortly. Going forward we plan to create 1-2 new segments every week.

We're always on the lookout for new and interesting people, products and platforms to cover via this podcast series. If you know of any be sure to send them my way and I'll make sure the TOC team follows-up on them.


I Want QR Code Videos, Not Assembly Manuals

Powerspin290 My wife's doctor suggested she use an exercise bike to recover from recent knee surgery.  The one we wound up buying had a QR code on the box which takes you to a promotional video (the link is embedded in the QR code shown on the left).

I didn't watch the promo video before buying the bike and I'll bet most other prospective customers don't bother with it either.  It's nice to see manufacturers using QR code technology, but I can think of a much better application than on-box advertising: enhancing or replacing the assembly manual.

When I opened the box I found it contained the typical assortment of screws, nuts, washers, all the various parts of the bike and, of course, an assembly manual.  I hate assembly manuals.  They're often too vague and sometimes even include the wrong information.

A video, on the other hand, is generally worth a thousand assembly manual words.  Rather than providing me with poorly-written assembly instructions, why not show me how each part fits together?  Manufacturers could either simply add QR codes to the written instructions or dump the print instructions completely and just have a code on the box.  For viewing purposes, my iPhone is always handy and something like this would be far more useful than most of the hundreds of thousands of App Store products.

OK, I know everyone doesn't have a smartphone and some people would prefer to read the steps, not watch them; for those people, provide a url where written (and up-to-date!) instructions can be downloaded and printed.

When I replaced the cracked screen on my daughter's iPhone awhile back I followed video instructions, not written ones.  I simply watched a step, pressed pause, did that step on my own, pressed play again, etc.  That's exactly what I'd prefer doing for any sort of assembly project.

There's another benefit to manufacturer's with this option: they could ask every customer to register on their website.  I would have gladly given my email address for access to assembly videos for that bike, enabling the manufacturer to follow-up with me later with cross-sell and up-sell messages.

This idea isn't just for assembly manuals though, of course.  QR codes could be used in owner's manuals (how do I replace a broken tailight bulb on my car?) or any sort of how-to guide (how do I fix a leaky faucet?).  Yes, there's a cost associated with creating all these videos, but it's a terrific opportunity to (a) provide more help to customers and (b) establish a direct relationship with those customers.