data

Go Read This | Nate Silver Interview: The New FiveThirtyEight — Daily Intelligencer

Much of interest here. I was thinking too that, at the very least, one could replace the word journalism with the word publishing and even now still be correct:

This is data journalism, capital-D. Within that, we take a foxlike approach to what data means. It’s not just numbers, but numbers are a big part of this. We think that’s a weakness of conventional journalism, that you have beautiful English language skills and fewer math skills, and we hope to rectify that balance a little bit.

via Nate Silver Interview: The New FiveThirtyEight — Daily Intelligencer.

That said, Nate’s book, the Signal and the Noise was less good than it mifht have been. A good third of it might have been left out to good effect. Hopefully with the new FiveThirtyEight he will build a nice platform.

 

(H/T @emilybell)

Go Read This | Hugh Howey’s Report On Author Earnings

A smashing example of how data can both clarify and obfuscate. On balance this is a fantastic piece that brings much-needed information to the discussion and what is more provides a free download of that very data. That’s almost unheard of! On the downside, I have some misgivings about the section dealing with income estimates based on unit numbers which are themselves estimates. This is further compounded by the fact that the royalty split is never as easy to assume as the current model assumes, for instance non-US authors may not earn 70% on all sales that would appear to be 70% sales for a variety of reasons. Even allowing for these complications the data gathered is very impressive indeed.

One of the most fascinating sections though is this conclusion here:

Our first thought was that top self-published authors can put out more than one work a year, while Big Five authors are limited by non-compete clauses and a legacy publishing cycle to a single novel over that same span of time. Indie authors are most likely earning more simply because they have more books for sale. Was this skewing our results? We ran another report to find out, and to our surprise, it turns out that only the handful of extreme earners have this advantage. Most self-published authors are, on average, earning more money on fewer books:

The_Data_-_A_Look_at_Author_Earnings_pages

This suggests that the earnings discrepancy will grow greater over time, as self-published authors develop deeper catalogs.

via The Report | AuthorEarnings.com

Go Read This | How in-app purchase is not really destroying the games industry | Sealed Abstract

On the face of it this is just a piece about the gaming industry, though a fascinating one. In fact this article raises issues for all content industries from games, to books, to newspapers, magazines and music.

It covers the gamut, the explosion of content, the role of market makers (in this case Apple – though to a lesser mentioned extent, Google), the use of price as a lever and the challenges of making money in markets that have become so large, diverse and saturated.

I’m reminded of two realities most forcefully when reading it, firstly that while digital unleashes greater freedom to create and make content of all kinds available, thus empowering the creator relative to the middlemen and women of the previous era, it also (in its current guise by power of platform) shackles them to the power of another middle-person (for books, mostly Amazon) AND makes a sustainable career even less likely because of the huge increase of content such freedom unleashes. Secondly, I am reminded of just how little information is publicly available to those looking at the book trade. Consider the information in this article about the nature of games sales in the iOS store and ponder how different our conversations might be about ebooks if these facts were more openly shared (some notable exceptions on that front would be Smashwords who share quite a lot of data).

Getting people to play your game in a market of 150,000 alternatives requires a different kind of marketing. For example, if the user can choose to pay $0.99 for your app, or pay zero for another app that’s probably just as fun, they’ll pick the free one. The result follows: 90% of apps are free in 2013 when weighted by monthly average users. And when you look only at those apps that use an experiment/test/data-driven approach for their pricing, you see a strong upward trend in more free apps. So the pricing experiments that these developers are running (you know, actual flipping research, not just speculating baselessly in an HN comment) are telling them it’s better to go free.

via How in-app purchase is not really destroying the games industry | Sealed Abstract.

Go Read This | New Startups Focus on Tracking eBook Reading Data

Interesting stuff this:

Analysing reading data is playing a crucial role in the evolutionary growth in Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For years, those two companies have been guarding their data and not relaying it to their publishing friends. This data is exploited to promote books that are fashionable in any given day and the ones people tend to read, cover to cover.

Scribd has only been offering their eBook subscription platform in October and already they are massing a treasure trove of data. The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all. “We’re going to be pretty open about sharing this data so people can use it to publish better books,” said Trip Adler, Scribd’s chief executive.

via New Startups Focus on Tracking eBook Reading Data.

Amazon & Goodreads

There’s been a lot said about Amazon’s latest move, the decision to buy Goodreads.

While I agree that Amazon has made a very sensible move in acquiring the company, it seems to be a far more strategic and defensive acquisition than anything else. The real value of the deal is in what it prevents rather than in what it enables.

All the talk about the data gained seems a little misplaced to me. Amazon, after all, has considerably more and better data on readers and via Kindle is getting even more as time goes on. Where Goodreads has only the expressed opinions and posted libraries of its users, Amazon has real sales and purchases and, increasingly, real reading data on readers not to mention reader class, book and book class level. No-one else comes close to that.

What the purchase does do though is prevent a valuable commodity from becoming a weakness in the future in the hands of a rival. In fact, almost all of Amazon’s acquisitions in the book space have been quite successful at keeping reader preferences and expressed opinion data at the global or non-publisher specific level from the hands of others. In many ways its minority interest in LibraryThing prevents a publisher from getting involved there too (I like LibraryThing and have a lifetime account).

So Amazon has gained a little but prevented a lot by removing yet another data-set from the hands of its rivals, whether it takes advantage of this data-set or not, it at least ensures that its rivals are considerably less data empowered than it itself is.

Go Read This | Amazon Is Not A Commerce Company

Fascinating stuff:

One common element ties Amazon’s online retail, cloud services and foray into the tablet market: data. For Amazon, the hardware does not matter. The goal is not to make margins on selling fancy consumer hardware and expensive equipment. Through efficiency, Amazon can experiment in retail, publishing and its enterprise service offerings.

I still have my doubts, though.  AWS is not infallible. Its repeated outages have given its competition plenty of room to differentiate against AWS.  And low margins do not necessarily mean success. It impacts revenues and its overall stock price — factors that can’t be ignored.

via Amazon Is Not A Commerce Company | TechCrunch.

Yet Another Bloomsbury Property Goes Digital

There’s a paragraph on Bloomsbury’s Strategy page on their website that always grabs me. It reads:

A key element to Bloomsbury’s strategy is to broaden the base on which it acquires and exploits intellectual property. This began in 1994 with retaining paperback rights and moving into children’s publishing. With the advent of the internet, the company identified a growing demand for quality on-line reference content which culminated in the development of our first major database, The Encarta World English Dictionary.

The reason it grabs me is that you can see the company put that paragraph into action very regularly. The latest is Reeds Nautical Almanac from their A&C Black division (the location of some of their most interesting properties).

I wrote before about Bloomsbury that:

It further occurs to me that nearly all the moves place them in a position to exploit the brand potential of all these properties and to do that through new digital avenues if and when they choose to

That still holds true and when you check the site out, you do begin to wonder why it wasn’t done before, but that’s not the point. This is strategy in action before our eyes. What’s more, it’s a sensible strategy that’s moving physical products and customers towards digital models in an un-hyped way.

It shows the value of intellectual property that has something that can be made available as an online service as well as a print product. Sure it brings its own worries and concerns, but it also offers opportunities and real hope for a future for publishing and publishers.

Maybe it should be more hyped! Or maybe more publishers should copy them!
Eoin