The Freakonomics blog moved yesterday from its own dedicated site to a new home at the New York Times. Stephen Dubner has a long post explaining the reasons here.
I guess we should not be too surprised. The value of a site and community like Freakonomics is very clear. The monetizing potential must be high. Sites like it are the model most publishers think of when they think of online communities built around books and authors.
All in all I think this is both a good day for digital content publishers (and book publishers in general) but a bad day I should think for the actual publisher of Freakonomics, William Morrow. Surely they must be reluctant to see such a property go to another publisher, even one as powerful as the NYT. They are left with a much less attractive site to promote the book itself? Was there a deal done int he background?
Thoughts on digital
Watching a fascinating (if worrying) documentary the other night on Tsunamis [Yes it has been said to me that between my obsession with documentaries of all sorts, my extreme non-fiction bookshelf and my actual daily work I come close to being the real life nerd] and the potential for a devastating one in the aftermath of an earthquake in thePacific Northwest and a certain point struck me squarely. That was that the idea that the real cause of damage and change is not the initial wave front which is devastating in itself but the flow of water often at the same of slight lower levels as the initial wave front. The quote below from Wikipedia illustrates what I mean:
Most of the damage is caused by the huge mass of water behind the initial wave front, as the height of the sea keeps rising fast and floods powerfully into the coastal area. The sheer weight of water is enough to pulverise objects in its path, often reducing buildings to their foundations and scouring exposed ground to the bedrock. Large objects such as ships and boulders can be carried several miles inland before the tsunami subsides.
And why is this relevant to Digital Publishing and Digital Content?
Because the real damage to the traditional model is not the initial wave of digital content. That after all has been around now for some time and Publishers (Newspaper, Music, Film and Books) are still robust and profitable. It is the wave after wave after wave blows that have followed that initial front that are doing the damage. The only difference is that this wave is not going to subside or reduce or return to its normal flow, this tsunami is going to continue to flow.
So what are the signs of real change?
Well for one Adobe have launched a new e-reader and so have Sony. The Adobe product is software and based on your desktop. It is slick and flashy but I don’t like it. I guess that just me. You can get it here but be warned it is still a BETA product.
The Sony product gave rise to rumours of $500,000 sales of e-books in the first weeks of its Sony Connect Store.
It is a tough world out there. Paidcontent.org one of the shrewdest sites and certainly the most prolific poster of news had two interesting pieces on the economics/realities of digital publishing for the newspaper industry. One pointed out that a pessimistic view of online revenues would suggest that it would be: 30 Years Till Online Represent 50% of Total Newspaper Revenues while another highlighted how the: FT Editor Mulls ‘High Stakes’ Of The Digital Evolution.
But some people get it. If you think that the Sony Connect story is real then here is the Real GETTING REAL. 37signals, the web applications company behind backpack (A service I use and love) recently published in PDF format their story. Since it was released they have sold 23,000 books at $19.00. Now that is $437,000 in revenue from one title, with little or no production cost and only the cost of downloads and site maintenance. The actual paper copy will cost $29.00 an amazing price for such a slim volume and I imagine they will get it! Good for them. The real kicker here is that they did all this in digital first not print and then digital.
So what to make of it all?
You may make of it what you will but from it all I draw this:
1) Digital will continue to pound traditional.
2) It is likely to be profitable (Scott Karp wonders how profitable)
3) Traditional Media will have to move more rapidly
4) WOW you can sure sell e-books when there is a demand!
5) Sounds like what I have been saying for a while.
Enjoying the length of this post.
I love Google Reader
I know I have been quiet the last few weeks but I have made one huge change and I love it. I have shifted all my blog reading to Google Reader.
It is actually the business and enables me to do something I have longed to do for some time. The real hint for this though i have to admit came from Robert Scoble who writes the phenomenally successful blog Scobleizer.
I now have a links blog.
You can access it here
I will still be highlighting some features that just are too good to leave in the side column but I love this feature and really want it to work out well. The selection will be much more diverse than the focussed Links of Interest (At Least to Me) posts so do check it out.
I have a post in the works on the Coming Digital Tsunami. More soon!
Wondering at my poor poker play.
Change is Afoot
When I read this news it gave me a little shock. Thomas Nelson, a publisher which began its life in Scotland in the 18th Century is to cease using its 18 imprint names and instead from 1st April 2006 switch to a single brand and identity Thomas Nelson Publishers. From the Publishers Weekly piece:
In a move called the One Company Initiative, Thomas Nelson is eliminating all of its imprints and reorganizing its publishing functions around strategic publishing units keyed to BISAC category codes. The company’s 18 imprints (as well as the three it just acquired with its purchase of Integrity) will be phased out effective April 1
At first I was stunned that such a venerable publishing would almost callously discard tried, trusted and tested brands. But on reflection the logic of Thomas Nelson’s move is unquestionable.
On this blog I have said before that the drive of the industry will force publishers into more and better branding; both of themselves and their authors.
This move can be seen as a crucial first step in that process. No need to spend money identifying a new imprint or establishing a profile for it. You brand the publisher and ensure quality then build each author and each book separately.
Those of you who wonder about that and the decision made should read some of Michael Hyatt’s views on his excellent blog Working Smart. You will see that he is perceptive and thoughtful and would not have made this move without due consideration.
I wonder will this start a trend to towards consolidation of publishing within companies and under one central imprint?
Wondering why I haven’t blogged in so long
[Via Terry Whalin’s blog]
Oh what a wonderful world. I have been getting really annoyed at the links and links and more links that The Big Bad Book Blog have been serving up (I am conscious of the hypocrisy/irony here) and then today they served up a wonderful piece going in depth into the mysteries of buying/getting front table exposure in superstore Borders.
I found some interesting news today on a newly discovered blog called New Media Trends. The post covers the fascinating changes in the Danish Newspaper industry. Well worth reading and really offers a perspective on what the world of rapid innovation looks like.
Jeff Jarvis posts some nice thoughts on the whole Google/YouTube thing.
Two others that really deserve a look: The Rejecter is a literary agent’s assistant’s blog and Working Towards the Betterment of Publishing is by a government contractor and amateur novelist.
And last but not least: Google Docs & Spreadsheets.