by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 4th 2011 6:49am
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 22nd 2011 8:27am
Crossing Paths: Published Author Goes Self-Published, As Self-Published Author Considers Big Publishing Deal
from the which-way-do-you-go? dept
Yet, as many people noted, the very same day that Eisler announced that he was passing on that big contract, lots of folks in publishing were buzzing about the fact that Hocking appears ready to sign a million-dollar-plus publishing contract, heading in the other direction. Some will suggest that this shows that self-publishing doesn't work. After all, if it did work, why would she sign such a deal? I'm not convinced that's actually true. There are plenty of reasons why she might be interested in this kind of deal, though, not all of them may be good reasons.
I think plenty of authors still think they need a big publishing deal to consider themselves to have "made it." Even if they're collecting tons of money elsewhere. On top of that, someone handing you a million dollars (or more) upfront sure must be difficult to ignore -- even if it comes with strings and may be less lucrative in the long run. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Honestly, though, if I were in Hocking's shoes, I'd realize that I have the leverage here, and that means a lot more than just getting the top dollar. She easily could be in a position to negotiate the key things she really wants/needs from a publisher, without giving in to the terms and strings that typically come with a publishing deal. The marketing support (if it works) could obviously help, even with the giant fanbase she's built up. But she could do a deal for just marketing, where she doesn't necessarily have to give up so much on the other side. Either way, this will be an interesting case study to follow over the next few years.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 7th 2010 11:47am
from the is-that-joe-mccarthy-or-joe-lieberman dept
Beyond the blatantly troubling statement that appears to go against the very principles of a free press (which we thought Lieberman was supposed to be upholding), it would appear that the bill Lieberman himself introduced shows that he already knows the NY Times did not, in fact, violate any laws in publishing that info. That's because the bill would seek to add liability for such actions, and we all know that you can't violate a law before it's actually been turned into a law.
In the meantime, when did Joe Lieberman become the reincarnation of Joe McCarthy? It's amazingly depressing to see a US Senator so blatantly in favor of direct censorship of the press.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 30th 2010 12:42pm
from the pricing dept
The Kindle ebook version is a whopping $18.99. Yet, if you actually want to kill some trees, the Hardcover is $10.51. The paperback is $11.56. And that's just if you order from Amazon directly. If you order from an Amazon partner, you can actually get the hardcover for $2.96 new or $2.49 used. And someone thinks it makes sense to price this book (of all books) at $18.99 as an ebook?
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 24th 2010 1:44pm
from the nice-work-guys dept
Yes, PC Mag published an article highlighting alternatives to LimeWire, just like a ton of other websites did. Anyone who was looking for an alternative to LimeWire didn't need PCMag to find them. In fact, many reports noted a noticeable increase of downloads of those alternatives pretty quickly after LimeWire went down. The lobbyists get pretty worked up about all this, though:
Let's be honest. The vast majority of LimeWire's users were interested in one thing and one thing only: downloading our music for free with the full knowledge that what they were doing was illegal. The harm done to the creative community when people are encouraged to steal our music is immeasurable. Disclaimer or no, when you offer a list of alternative P2P sites to LimeWire -- and include more of the serial offenders -- PC Magazine is slyly encouraging people to steal more music and place at risk the tens of thousands of music industry jobs -- including singers, songwriters, musicians and the technical professionals who put it all together. Even worse is offering a direct link to a "resurrected" Limewire as follows: "I went ahead and downloaded LimeWire Pirate Edition for *ahem* research purposes, and can report that it appears to be working very smoothly. In the event that you, yourself, would like to do some research, you can download the client here (direct link)."Yes, they're quite upset about that article about the LimeWire Pirate Edition (which we wrote about as well). Only problem? PCMag didn't publish it. Nor did any other Ziff Davis publications. It was actually in PC World, which is published by IDG -- a totally different company than Ziff Davis. Now, it's not hard to confuse PCMag and PC World -- lots of people do. But when sending an angry letter condemning a publisher, you would think that maybe one of these super powerful industry lobbyist/mouthpieces would think to actually check the sources before mouthing off.
Given this mistake, it should come as little surprise that the rest of the letter is also full of factually ridiculous claims, such as "job loss" numbers due to "piracy" -- numbers that have been widely debunked so many times that it's almost pathological that these groups still cling to them like some talisman. Also, it's kind of funny that they imply the publishing business would feel differently if it had also been decimated by free competition (they call it "piracy," but they mean free competition). Ziff Davis is, in fact, a shell of its former self due to exactly that situation. However, the company has been trying hard to resurrect itself by actually competing in the marketplace -- something the signers of this letter could learn from.
Of course, I'm sort of curious what these groups actually think they're accomplishing with a letter like this. If it's to pressure magazines like PC Mag (or, ahem, PC World) not to publish such stories, that won't stop the info from getting out there. It will only increase the irrelevance of those publications -- especially if they feel brow-beaten by a bunch of dinosaurs, who refuse to adapt no matter how many times it's been shown to them how they can embrace the future successfully. This really feels like the sort of letter that these guys signed onto so they can show their constituency that they're "doing something" by stomping their feet, rather than actually doing something helpful like helping those they represent to adapt and embrace new opportunities. The full amusing letter is included after the jump...
by Marcus Carab
Mon, Mar 29th 2010 10:33am
from the either-way-their-hopes-are-too-high dept
Jim Lillicotch points us to a post by MediaPost blogger Steve Smith, who was surprised by his 18-year-old daughter's immediate dismissal of the iPad. It may be, as he speculates, an omen of the device's future in general, but he also makes some points specifically related to the publishing industry that are worth highlighting.
"I need a keyboard. Even my phone has that." It is really all about input for her, and her focus on interactivity underscores a glaring limitation of the iPad. It is primarily a media consumption device, not an interactive device. Publishers think of digital merely as a delivery vehicle, but users think of digital as a communications and interactive platform. After a life of leaning in, why would she want to lean back and consume content just to make media companies' business models work for them?
Smith lists several drawbacks to touch-screen tablet input that probably haven't occurred to those who, like me, have never gotten the chance to use one. I still think that with the right interface and after some design iterations, iPads (and other tablets) will be excellent interactive devices, but Smith is dead right in his assessment of how publishers view them. The iPad magazine demos that some have shown off are compelling and cool, but they are mostly one-way media. This is exacerbated by the obsession with native apps, which Smith notes are much less likely to explode on the iPad the way they did on the iPhone:
Unlike the iPhone, where an app can clearly trump a mobile Web site experience, the iPad makes full Web browsing much more viable. Early audience research I have seen suggests that for even those interested in the iPad, Web browsing and email are rated far above app downloads as the device's main attraction. And so, publisher apps will be competing with their own Web sites.
This is a point we've made before: everything in these fancy magazine apps can be replicated in the browser (there is one small problem to do with scrolling that remains, but even that has nearly been solved). Publishers should be working to ensure that their product—whether it's books, magazines or newspapers—is available on every platform with minimum hassle, instead of building closed apps that frustratingly trap the user. Nobody is loyal to one publication anymore, and nobody wants a dozen different news and magazine apps littering their tablet or smartphone—they want to browse the web the way they always have. It's time for publishers to stop trying to alter user behaviour, and start learning from it.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 17th 2010 1:02am
from the not-bad dept
One of our free titles was the #1 download on Amazon for the entire month of February. The subsequent sales of books 2 and 3 in the series increased by a rate of 20 to 1. For this series, digital sales are approaching 20% of the total product sales distribution and growing. With the visibility of the digital sales on Amazon, we have seen a substantial increase in print sales to the brick and mortar book chains. In this one instance, digital is driving print sales.Basically, what this publisher realized is that with most books, obscurity is a greater threat than "piracy," and free helps deal with that:
Much of the talk by the big 6 publishers has been stress over cannibalization of print sales, or the idea of replacement sales, by ebooks. For midlist publishers such as ourselves, I believe we fight against substitution. We capture the "browser" market. If our title is not available or visible, a customer will simply substitute for another one in the genre. Free gave us the visibility that we could not purchase.
from the same-story-again dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 8th 2010 11:09am
from the get-over-it dept
Frankly, such a position is insulting (though, even more insulting was the way Ars staff responded to complaints in its comments, dismissing people who don't like their ads as not adding anything and actively telling them to go away). If you're reading Techdirt, and the ads we serve are not good, you have every right to use an ad blocker. It's your browser, do whatever you want with it. I, personally, do not use an ad blocker because I don't find most ads annoying -- but if you do, more power to you. You're absolutely welcome here on Techdirt.
If the ads are bad, it's bad for the advertisers
Back in December of last year, we signed an experimental ad deal to run a series of ads on the site, where a single advertiser would effectively have all the ads for a 24-hour period. As a part of that, there would be an ad at the top that temporarily "pushed down" the content for a few seconds, before pulling back up. Nothing was covered. Nothing prevented readers from getting the content. And the "pushdown" ad only showed once per visitor and never again. We went back and forth about it, but decided it was worth an experiment -- especially since no content was blocked or covered. I won't name the advertiser who was in the first test... but many of you did notice, and did not like it. We got a lot of complaints. So we killed the additional tests. I won't lie: these deals were for quite a bit of money -- a very large premium on the amount of money we typically make from advertising. But when we saw how annoyed our users were, we realized immediately what a bad idea this was and told the others who were scheduled to run similar campaigns, "sorry." We gave up a lot of money to do so, but what it came down to in our mind was that it wasn't worth it.
And when I say "wasn't worth it," I don't mean just to us or our community -- but to the advertiser. Most of the anger we saw over the original ad campaign wasn't directed at us -- it was directed at the company doing the advertising. So we told a bunch of companies willing to pay us a lot of money not that we didn't want their money -- but that they didn't want to buy that kind of advertising, because it would only damage their own brands.
Advertising that works, not annoys
Now, compare that to another "project" that we did late last year. As you may recall, UPS sponsored me doing a series of "whiteboard videos" about topics that we regularly talk about here -- one on the economics of abundance, one on the innovator's dilemma and one on the difference between innovation and invention. Before releasing these, I was actually a bit nervous about how people would respond. But these videos, which were clearly labeled as being sponsored by UPS, actually were a huge hit, and we received lots of compliments about them. Even more interesting? Numerous comments on the videos thanked UPS for sponsoring them and making them happen.
A similar thing happened when we launched our IT Innovation website, sponsored by Sun and Intel. In that case, those two companies were sponsoring us to develop more general content around a topic that we (and many of you) found interesting. The editorial control was still entirely our own, but Sun and Intel received branding on the website, and the ability to offer up some whitepapers to download in the sidebar. The end result has been wonderful, and we'll likely do similar projects in the future. Rather than annoying readers, we lined up everything in a way that benefited everyone. It really was a win-win-win sort of setup.
Those types of projects are the kinds that we love to do, and which add real value to the community and to the sponsors. Those are the types of things that we think all media publications should be looking at doing. Things that add value, not take it away. Oh, and if you're a company that wants to do a project like this that gets people excited, rather than annoyed by your brand, feel free to contact us.
Don't blame others for your failures
Mike Markson recently wrote up a blog post for entrepreneurs, talking about how every entrepreneur needs to learn the lesson that, whatever doesn't go right is your fault. It's a tough lesson for people (especially entrepreneurs) to learn. If you can't raise money, don't blame the investors. You were the one who failed to convince them. If you can't make sales, don't blame the sales people. You either hired the wrong sales people or didn't put together a compelling enough pitch or didn't have a good enough product. It's your responsibility as an entrepreneur to fix things. And I'm not saying this as a third party: I've been in both of the experiences discussed in this paragraph, and had to learn not to blame others, because that is the natural tendency. But it's not productive at all.
Along those lines, if you are running a media site, if you're having trouble making money, it's your fault. Don't blame your readers. Don't blame your community by telling them they're "devastating" a site by blocking ads or failing to pay for a paywall. As the producers of that site, it's your responsibility to do things to get that site paid for. If you don't like what we're doing on Techdirt, go ahead and block our ads. Sure, just like Ars, many of our ads are paid for based on impressions and we may make less money from those ads, but that's our problem and the problem of advertisers who aren't willing to do more unique, creative and compelling projects that benefit the community rather than annoy it. We want the advertisers, sponsors and partners we work with to get the best results possible in a way that everyone wins. And that's not by forcing people who don't want to see their ads to see them, or by pissing off our readers by blocking them if they use ad blocking. It's by taking on the responsibility ourselves to put together compelling programs that make everything more valuable for all participants.
There's lots of ways to value a community
And we value you as readers even if you're not seeing any ads at all. That's because you take part in the community. You share links to our posts. You comment. You tell others about what we've written -- and that's all incredibly valuable to us and the rest of the community -- much more than any CPM value we'd get from a few extra ad impressions. If you don't see an ad, that doesn't mean you have no value. Quite the opposite.
Claiming that ad blocking is harming sites is like the recording industry claiming that piracy (or home taping) is killing music. Or it's like the newspaper industry claiming that aggregators are killing them. It's passing the blame. If you run a company, it's your responsibility to put together a business model that works. And if people are somehow figuring out ways to do what they want where you don't get paid, then it means you're doing something that needs to change. A good business model is one where everyone is happy with the transaction, not one where one party feels forced or coerced into accepting something they don't want.
So, let's get past this idea of blaming others, and focus on building business models where everyone benefits.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 3rd 2010 8:29pm
from the that's-not-how-it-works dept
In addition to Mathew's points, however, I'd add that Sargent seems to think that pricing is done by producers, rather than the market -- and historically when companies in competitive markets think that way, they end up being in line for a very rude awakening. Economic forces don't work the way they do because someone wants them to work one way -- they work because that's how markets function. And if you price something too high, the market lets you know. But Sargent doesn't seem to get that. Instead, he's trying to set up totally artificial and made up pricing -- which becomes really evident in his idea that "hardcover" ebooks will get one price, while "paperback" ebooks will get another. It's not difficult to understand Sargent's thinking here. He's still thinking in terms of protecting the traditional windows and the traditional profit margins, and that means high-priced hardcover books for a year or so, then lower cost paperbacks later, in an attempt to segment the market. But with ebooks, that's going to lead to frustration and confusion. As someone named CM Harrington noted in a comment on Sargent's own blog post:
So how much more expensive is hardcover e-ink over paperback e-ink?One of the reasons why economic forces work the way that they do, and the reason why infinite goods with zero marginal cost get pushed in price towards zero, is that buyers implicitly understand the difference between scarce goods and abundant goods. They implicitly recognize the marginal cost of making another good, and they mentally price products accordingly. Pretending that consumers don't do that is assuming that consumers are stupid. And that's an even bigger mistake than looking backwards instead of forward.
Your model is doomed.