Tag Archives: publishing

The End of Publishing? Not If You Tell It Like George Carlin

The late, great George Carlin had a way with words, no doubt. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your spin, he is best known for his famous “seven dirty words.” If you’re a follower of his, you know he possessed a fantastic ability to string together a group of words into thoughts. He used his rants not only to tell a story but to make a statement about our society as a whole. It wasn’t what he said but how he delivered the message that made him funny, poignant, and a staunch defender of the proper use of language.

According to George:

“Americans have trouble facing the truth. So they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it. . . . the language that takes the life out of life.”

“Sometime during my life, toilet paper became bathroom tissue. . . . Sneakers became running shoes. False teeth became dental appliances. Medicine became medication. Information became directory assistance. The dump became the landfill. Car crashes became automobile accidents. Partly cloudy became partly sunny. Motels became motor lodges. House trailers became mobile homes. Used cars became previously owned transportation. Room service became guest room dining. Constipation became occasional irregularity.”

In regards to technology, among other things:

“We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.”

“These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.”

Carlin was an accomplished writer as well. His “first real book,” Brain Droppings, was on the New York Times Best-Seller List as a hardcover edition for 18 straight weeks in 1997. The book had sold over 750,000 copies by 2001 and was published as an audio book in 2000, winning Carlin his third Grammy Award.

In 2008, Carlin was awarded, posthumously, the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for lifetime achievement for humor. Like Twain, he used language for social commentary, which  has had a far more powerful effect on his audiences because of expanded media options.

Carlin was a standup comic by trade, but he did not miss the chance to use publishing to get his word out. The future of publishing is considered dead by some, yet I contend it is just in another transition as was evident with his Grammy for his audio book version.

Consider now the following YouTube clip, “The Future of Publishing,” uploaded by PenguinGroupUSA. Since March 2010, this clip has had more than 788,619 hits and was originally prepared for a sales conference by the UK branch of Dorling Kindersley Books. The video was such a hit that it was shared externally, and when you view it, think of what George Carlin’s delivery might have been.

Check out this video, “The Future of Publishing.” You may have to watch it more than once.

Author: Tom Caska


Holiday Techno Decisions

In the world of choices to be made by less-experienced members of geekdom, deciding where to buy the stuff we consume on our shiny, new tech devices is overwhelming. Some things play nicely with others—music purchased from virtually anywhere can (usually) be plugged into another player or storage device. Video, subscription services, and e-books, however, are loners in the digital-asset playground and only like to play on their own turf and on their own terms. To the veteran mobile-content consumer, these content and consumption barriers are initially a pain, but work-arounds and the partitioning of certain content types to certain providers and apps become part of the everyday use of the technology. To the newbie—you, yes, you—sitting there with your new device, hesitant to remove the screen protector since the case you got doesn’t fit your device and/or is the wrong color, the glow and allure of the sexy, new techno gadget in front of you is enticing. But after you charge the battery and finish the configuration and get to the meat and potatoes of the device, my guess is the app store is your next stop. Hopefully, the gift giver gave you a gift card to the app store of your choice so you can dive in head first.

A few things to remember for both publishers and consumers:

 1. Solo OS Stinks
Apps that play well on one and only one operating system are poor sports on the playground of techno content consumption. You will want to gobble up all the bits you can across multiple devices, whether right now or at some point in the future. Manufacturers that provide multiple devices across different areas of the spectrum and provide the same experience using similar operating systems hedge the bet for app developers who focus on one and only one operating system to support. The downside is that as many more people adopt single-use devices, like the Nooks and Kindles of the world, these devices currently cannot complete other core functions (easily and cost effectively), like email or phone calls. The user is then left with different operating systems on different devices:  smartphones, tablets, notebooks, desktops, and/or smart TVs. You will consume content on multiple devices in the future, and being tied to only one operating system for the apps you love will hurt when you change. Be prepared.

2.   Device-Specific Experience Is a Gamble
Think about this: Before we wanted to consume traditional print publications on our tablets and smartphones, publishers produced titles with region-specific variations for both newsstand and subscription delivery. The traditional printing process changed for the most part at the end, with different variations of a specific set of forms printed within the larger print run. The process was heavily automated, and the variables, while seemingly significant, were relatively controllable since the press, roll width, and bindery restrictions were fixed. Once online distribution and multiple electronic variations were dumped into the mix, the traditional publishing model went awry. If we can assume that the vast majority of advertising and editorial content in today’s modern publications are actually worthy of multimedia additions, then the burden to produce a consistent experience across multiple devices over multiple operating systems—given very different hardware functionality—is a tall order. That said, device-specific subscribers to e-versions of traditional print titles may or may not have the same experience on another device mostly because of the hardware and software limitations of any specific device. Ultimately, this complicates the field of content to be consumed on your spanking-new techno device. While it may not matter right now in 2011, it may be a different story as  displays and the user experience continue to evolve while the hardware that we use to consume content continues to grow.

At some point you will muster up enough courage to pull off the screen protector and dive into the techno goodness that is behind the new device in your hand or lap. Just remember, consume wisely, not only for your wallet, but because someday in the not-so-distant future, the single-function device will be replaced and the electronic library that you have created may not play well with the devices and operating systems of the future.

Author: John Carew

Nook, Your Tablet Set My iPad on Fire. Are tablets killing the adoption of mobile computing?

Shortly after the iPad 2 launch, the late Steve Jobs welcomed the iMasses into the “post-PC era.” So, post-PC netizens, where are we now?

Let’s review. Apple has a mountain of apps, Amazon has its thunderous cloud, and Barnes and Noble has stacks of books, but who will win the battle of the single-purpose e-readers? The Kindle Fire has Amazon’s huge cloud presence plus some of the cloud-processing and storage services missing from the competition. The Fire lacks cellular data, which means you are tied to Wi-Fi with a petite data stomach; the Fire may leave heavy data-storage users hungry. The tablet and, more importantly, mini-tablet markets are changing, but does it really matter? No. Here’s why.

Mini-tablets comprise the growing market of devices that aren’t iPads or smartphones or laptops or netbooks. These devices tend to be large, pocket-friendly units that are multimedia consumption devices with single-use potential. Encouraging users to consume media and providing a pipe to the mothership’s storefront (an app store) is the operating strategy of these low-priced devices. Much like cigarette makers, the tablet manufacturers and marketplace shopkeepers hope to get users addicted to content for the shiny, colorful screen and then make them pay for all the new, delicious media pieces that the never-ending publishing, music, and movie industries can churn out.

Just how preposterous is this idea of mini-tablets? Let’s examine a few analogies.

Take, for instance, the car industry; assume that every car manufacturer also manufactures all the gas. In order to use your car, you must buy gas from your car manufacturer’s station in order to drive. I don’t think so!

What about a newspaper publisher? What if every publisher owned the store that sells the paper and you could only buy certain brands at one store or face paying a higher premium at a competitor for the same title? Doubtful!

But wait, there’s more.

Take my personal favorite, the desktop printer. First, when a consumer buys a printer, he or she is buying a single-purpose device to be used for one primary function: PRINTING! Yet in order to print, you must spend gobs of money on ink every time one of the colors runs out. (Check out this dated piece by PCWorld on inkjet costs.)

The tablet market is essentially the same. User buys tablet, user becomes addicted to multimedia content from the comfort of his or her lap, user shells out mountains of cash to consume the most current content. This is all fine and dandy until the user wants something that is exclusively tied to another marketplace or device. Then the user waits for the content to be available or consumes it via a different medium, say from a, gasp, bookstore or, double gasp, physical video distribution method like Redbox, Netflix (by mail), or a theatre. Add in the complexity of the app, not just the media content, and the tablet market is even messier.

Why are single-use devices to attractive to the byte-obsessed, always-connected, touchscreen-loving, SMS crowd?
Simple. They do one thing well (or so the advertising tells us). The lower the price at which a user can buy a device that does one thing well, the more attractive these media-consumption portals appear to be. Little do the users know (well, they probably do, but go with it) that once they get addicted to the sweet taste of femur-supported, organized pixel displays of pleasure, delivering virtually all their media requests, that either a big credit card bill or heaping pile of disappointment and frustration lies ahead. They have to choose: Cough up the greenbacks for more digital editions of Wired or The Daily or Mad Men or be left out in the Wi-Fi-required cold with too small a tank to hold their media fuel and no fuel in sight.

Warning, the following content is not suitable for all viewers. Viewer discretion is advised for those who can’t handle the truth.

Segmenting content into different marketplaces may be a great way to make a buck, but it kills the adoption of new technology.

Tablets lack innovation.
Other than the Motorola Xoom, no one has brought anything really cool to the table. Apple gave us the iPad and added gimmicky software, such as gestures and a magnet in the body of the tablet to turn the screen off. Don’t get me wrong––these are great, innovative features––but other than the iPad being the first device to feature them, what is their wow factor? Nothing yet. Make media consumption on my single-purpose device better, damn it. Maybe the 3D obsession was supposed to be a new source of amazement. Yawn… Palm was onto something with the TouchPad and its ability to transfer applications from one device (the Pixi or Pre) to another (like the TouchPad), but bad timing and poor management killed that tech. All we can hope for is that HP may revive it.

Non-smart, non-connected, non-location devices are pointless.
If the phone is the rowboat to all that is digital, then the tablet should be the luxury cruise liner, right? Well, why doesn’t what is on the market match the expectation that bigger should mean more functions? Ford Taurus drivers who upgrade to a Porsche expect more features, so when I upgrade my clunky desktop, laptop, VCR, or library card to a tablet, I should get more features (and not content fences). Likewise, users who have an iOS or Android phone expect more when upgrading to a tablet, but these expectations fall short with the Fire and Nook Tablet. Then again, it may not be an upgrade but rather a segmentation of function, essentially taking reading and watching from a phone and moving it to a tablet. The lack of GPS and cellular data kills the mobile function. Part of the enhanced reading experience is the ability to interact with rich multimedia and content from the web or to pop out to a web browser to follow a call to action in a piece of media. One question: Why don’t advertisers focus more on selling ads for rich, location-enabled devices and the platforms that they use?

There is planned tech obsolescence.
OK, planned obsolescence may be a bit extreme, but users who buy a mini-tablet and want feature upgrades like GPS and cellular data are left hanging. Their addiction to content makes them reliant on one marketplace, with few options for upgrading.

As of yet, we haven’t seen a tablet that changes the model with which we interact with content on a mobile platform. Many would argue that the mini-tablets and tablets have taken media consumption out of the house and moved it anywhere the user wants to go. This is true as long as the user has planned all the content he or she wants to consume before leaving the warm comfort of Wi-Fi. Single-purpose media consumption devices serve just one purpose––media consumption––but without data connection and a rich feature set, these simple devices are changing the behavior of users. What the future impact of these changes will be, we shall find out, but competition in the market is a good thing so far, as long as the jump from mini-tablet to smart tablet becomes shorter and filled with more options.

What say you––are single-purpose mini-tablets useful in widening the adoption of mobile technology and media consumption?

Check out some comparisons of the iPad2, Nook Tablet, and Kindle Fire here, here, here, and here.

Author: John Carew

Are cross-media hooks, hashtags, and social badges the new footer for advertising? A study of 7 magazines reveals that use of cross-media hooks is low.


The introduction of the Internet as significant competition for traditional advertising sources opened the door for wider adoption of hooks, or cross-media connections. Now advertising is containing more and more integrated forms of communication geared to take people from one medium to another. The medium in which advertising is consumed is a factor in the success of the campaign, which accounts for the massive advertising industry with its unique niches carved out by agencies vying for some of the more than $100 billion spent on advertising (last year’s figure) in the US. Whether in out-of-home mediums like rail and subway advertising or the sometimes-more-focused print magazine advertising, cross-media hooks like QR codes, social media badges, and hashtags are used today across various market segments. Based on a recent casual survey of the latest issues of seven magazines, however, cross-media hooks are not used as frequently as one might guess.


Cross-media hooks in these magazines included references to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn either by use of the traditional square badge, tag line (“Follow” or “Friend”), or URL. Among the seven titles reviewed, no one cross-media hook was used by more than 20% of the advertisements in each title. So here we have a market of 4.8 billion mobile phones worldwide, with 428 million units sold in 2011 alone, many of which may correlate to a significant portion of the 175 million Twitter and 800 million Facebook users worldwide. Why don’t more magazine advertisers focus on implementing cross-media hooks? In the age of the downward spiral of circulation and poor conversion to electronic media, why aren’t more magazines pushing the use of cross-media hooks in their advertising sales and internal advertising efforts?

The higher use of QR codes points to the prevalent misuse of the technology, as many of the codes in the sample group lead to non-mobile-optimized webpages. With the right social media metrics platform in place, traffic from cross-media hooks leading to social networks like Facebook and Twitter can lead to a better understanding of how particular market segments respond to advertising.

This all begs the question: With the massive expansion of social media and the use of cross-media hooks, are we isolating any one group of our target audience? Fifteen years ago, with use of the Internet rising, many advertisements contained references to mailing addresses and 800 numbers for consumers who wanted more information. Websites were in the minority, but now a company logo, tag line, and website (and legal disclosure) are standard for virtually all advertisements. In other mediums, like out-of-home advertising on mass transit, the use of cross-media hooks like hashtags and social media references are significant. They tell the viewer, “Look, we are trendy and current––find us on social media.”


Are we isolating the portion of the target audience who doesn’t get the contextual clues of a square of color with a letter or bird and an octothorpe (#) used in front of a word? Yes, we are, but the numbers don’t lie. The exponential adoption of Internet-capable devices with cameras and an operating system capable of supporting third-party apps shows that the collision of mobile, social, and local is the future of visual communication. Use cross-media hooks and integrate social media into marketing and advertising efforts to be one step ahead of the curve.

P.S. Infinite Utterly Orange points for anyone willing to submit a book report on the ISO 18004:2006 IT specification for automatic identification and data capture techniques––just the type of winter reading this author loves!

Author: John Carew

Facebook to Die Under the Knife of Magazines and Newspapers? Your Crystal Ball Is Malfunctioning.

Who doesn’t want a piece of the multibillion dollar US advertising pie? No one! According to a Kantar Media report, 2010 US ad spending topped $130 billion. Outspoken marketing and publishing veteran Bob Sacks, aka BoSacks, is “prepared to predict the death of Facebook. It’s lost its way … Over-commercialism and abuse will kill it.” That is why Facebook is moving toward what some are calling “the dark side,” abandoning its user-centric methodology for one where it can cash out and exploit its relationship with users to sell the most advertising.

Newspapers and magazines have struggled for over a decade to determine which strategy will bring them some, if any, long-term success. Between pay wall construction and destruction and various implementations of paid content, which future strategy will win: the gated newsstand (e.g., Apple or Amazon) or the app model (The Daily) or, better yet, some other combination with social integration?

The first big-league tablet experiment was News Corp.’s The Daily, with daily news delivery to mobile technology, i.e., the iPad. The Daily is an experiment in applying a news model to mobile technology with a subscription-based service. Rupert Murdoch claims that The Daily, first launched on the iPad in early 2011, needs 500,000 subscribers paying $0.99 per week to be profitable. As of October 3, The Daily publisher Greg Clayman reported only 80,000 subscribers. Murdoch’s experiment was on one hand a massive win for tablet proponents, who see this path as the future, but on the other a strategic failure. Applying broad-reaching, mass media to what is essentially a hyper-local online ecosystem where the social level drives the most relevant content is a fundamentally flawed approach. Staci Kramer of paidContent.org covered the basic accounting associated with The Daily and figured that, based on the first year’s figures with the current circulation, it cost a whopping $375 per subscriber to produce. It is not uncommon for a magazine title to take several years to mature to profitability, yet this venture sets an intriguing (and cost-prohibitive) precedent. More recently Courtney Boyd Myers of TheNextWeb.com reported that the app has been downloaded 800,000 times but has brought a loss to News Corp. to the tune of $10,000,000. On a side note to be filed in the “DUH” record books, UK online trade pub MarketingWeek reports that a recent qualitative analysis by Ipsos Mori of UK’s biggest women’s weeklies suggests that titles that reply to readers via social media gain more long-term interaction. While studying the business model and its successes and failures is interesting on an academic level for understanding how the news is evolving, the indicators for the advertising world and its link to new technology should be of more interest.

John Mehl covered the strengths and weaknesses of digital editions earlier on Utterly Orange. The bottom line is this: As long as competitive forces––like print magazines and social networks––exist in the marketplace, the print-gone-digital model for news and magazines is going to be a hard sell. The market was splintered with the entry of the i-era: the iPad and iPhone, the mobile and smart devices.

In August 2011, Utterly Orange discussed the technical challenges that Condé Nast experienced in its ventures into digital publishing formats. Applying a traditional, editorial business model to an electronic workflow is fundamentally flawed. NYU Professor Scott Galloway sees magazines “on the verge of a massive double dip.” Galloway points out that brands like Burberry, Gucci, and Chanel have positioned themselves as “innovative” front-runners in the world of social media. Facebook competes for eyeballs and more importantly lets anyone introduce content that can trump the magazines any day. Which model will win? Not sure, but you can bet on this: Social media is critical to the future, and Facebook probably won’t be the long-term winner.

Author: John Carew

What Is On-Demand Book Publishing, and When Should We Use It?

Many of us have most likely heard the term “on-demand book publishing.” Few of us, however, understand the process and know when to use it. In the literal sense, on-demand publishing means that nothing is produced until there is an order to fill. This order could be for one book or a million. The content for this book can either be predefined or submitted at the time of the order.

Amazon is one of the largest––if not the largest––on-demand book publishers. When you order a non-mainstream book from Amazon, the order is usually sent directly to a digital press to be printed and shipped to you.

Better than Amazon is Lulu. Lulu.com is a company devoted to online on-demand book publishing. Authors of all levels can sign on to Lulu and upload their books to be ordered in printed or even digital formats. Lulu also goes a step further and offers help with many services that surround successful book publishing that might not be readily available to all authors. These services include pre-publishing, marketing, and ISBN distribution. This is the key factor that has led many upcoming authors to Lulu instead of its competitors.

So, when is the right time to pursue on-demand book publishing? Basically the answer is: anytime you want to publish something that doesn’t have a large initial distribution plan or is not immediately time-sensitive. Or maybe you just want to print your family photo book for the holidays, for that is the fastest-growing segment of on-demand book publishing!

When was the last time you thought about an on-demand book publishing solution?

Author: John Mehl

Digital Versions More Expensive Than Print Editions––Why?

No one doubts that the iPad and other mobile devices have revolutionized the marketplace. As consumers start to embrace this new technology, we have seen magazine and newspaper publishers offer digital versions of their titles in the hope of saving their falling printed title sales. What took me by surprise is that, more often than not, the price for the digital version is at or above the price for a hard copy. So the question becomes: Is the digital version worth more than the print edition?

I say yes! But let’s go into detail. What do you get with the printed version of a magazine or newspaper? Basically what you get are articles and advertisements. But what most print advocates will say is that you get the “hands-on experience.” While I too agree that this experience––from touch to smell, and even quality––is bar none, I have to admit it’s impractical. Just taking a quick survey on my commuter train reveals no one with a magazine or newspaper in hand! All the passengers, including me, have their faces buried in their smartphones. So what has fueled this dependency on mobile technology? It’s the convenience factor. Having your magazines, newspapers, games, calendar, and email on the same device that never leaves your side is utter convenience.

Back on topic, so what is it that you get in the digital version of a publication that warrants the higher price? You get the same articles and ads that are found in the print version, and then there is the digital content. Sure, you can flip through the pages just like you would in the print version, but what happens when you touch a picture? This is the selling point for digital editions: Inanimate objects come to life! When you touch a picture, you get more photos, or even a video. When you like a product in an ad, you can spin it around to look at it from all angles. Lastly, when you are ready to purchase that item, you can do so right there. It’s now about more than just the articles and ads––it’s about interactivity. Keeping readers in the publication longer, interacting with the articles and purchasing products right from the ads they found them in––this is marketing statistics at its best. How would you like to know the minute someone looked at your ad in a magazine and then, moments later, purchased it? You can’t get those stats from print!

Again, it’s all about convenience. Gone are the days of the magazine bin at home constantly overflowing or the purse bursting at the seams while the passenger boards her flight. It is the quintessential one-stop shop, the device that will run your life (or maybe even find you a wife). You won’t see mobile devices strewn across the street or filling up a recycling bin. Your device will be by your side, feeding you the information only you want. Helping you save time or waste time, your device will be indispensable. So, what happens when you leave home without it?

Author: John Mehl