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Archives: August 2008

Do Ads Really Need to Be Clicked On, Anyway?

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M.J. Rose has some thoughts about online advertising after yesterday’s post on whether clicking on ads really helps the blogs you read. Rose says she agrees with Seth Godin about creating “the most robust ad environment” possible, but she’s got a slight twist.

Godin emphasizes a scenario where advertisers have more opportunities to convert slightly interested consumers into purchasers, while Rose argues that conversion isn’t even the point—it’s about the increased exposure that comes with cheaper ad rates for online eyeballs. Most books, except for a handful written by established bestselling writers or dealing with hot topics, “won’t sell via an ad,” she says. “They will interest a reader via an ad,” though, and that should be enough: “Why are we suddenly judging ads by the most difficult criteria when for years publishers didn’t have any way to judge their ads at all?”

Anybody in the online marketing departments got any thoughts on this? And, circling back to the issue that started this whole discussion, is this vision of affordable ad territory really Good for the Bloggers?

UnBeige: Scotland Declares War on Connery

0825beingascot.jpgHere’s another fun item from UnBeige, mediabistro.com’s design blog: Sean Connery has written a book about his cultural identity called, simply enough, Being a Scot, and it’s left lots of Scots tied up in knots.

“There are no hilarious anecdotes, brilliant portraits of Hollywood greats or outrageous personal confessions here,” warns the Times of London, more like “a series of lengthy and scholarly chapters each with a title suggesting a doctoral thesis by some particularly earnest and bespectacled cultural studies student.” And, as UnBeige editor Steve Delahoyde discovered, lots of thoughts on where Scotland’s gone wrong that have aggravated his fellow citizens, most notably in the city of Edinburgh, which he apparently accuses of pandering to tourists. Now they’re starting to complain that he hasn’t even lived there for 50 years and attacking him for being contradictory. “In terms of architecture,” says one defensive fellow, “he says he is a fan of Allan Murray, and Allan Murray has done a lot of the architecture, so I think there’s a mixed message.”

Not necessarily. One could, for example, be a fan of Sean Connery, and still have little good to say about every film he’s made in the last 17 years starting with, let’s say, Highlander 2, with Finding Forrester as the exception that proves the rule.

Another Take on Crystal Mangum’s Memoir Plans…

After reading yesterday’s GalleyCat item about the plans for Crystal Mangum‘s forthcoming memoir, Brian Halley had some thoughts on the decision to publish independently:

“What piques my interest is that [Vincent Clark of fire! Books] seems to be developing this niche that could be just plain exploitative or it could be legitimate, in trying to publish voices getting maligned in the press who are problematic but are also, to some extent, in a position in society in which [they] are marginalized. They responded perhaps in an unhealthy way but that does not make their voice worth silencing, and they could offer an interesting perspective on a story we all, as a nation, know due to media hysteria.”

Halley goes on to observe that this publishing strategy isn’t necessarily any more opportunistic than, say, scooping up a book by Michael Phelps as soon as he’s won a bunch of gold medals—or, one might add, rushing a book for or against Barack Obama to market so you can capitalize on his presidential nomination. “Trying to jump on a media sensation and capitalize on it while the iron is hot, knowing that many of those million books you print will end up on remainder tables and/or in used bookstores for years to come… must be hell,” he muses, “You are just producing crap over and over.”

For now, Halley’s reserving judgment, to see how effectively Clark is able to present his clients’ stories to readers without resorting to exploitative promotional tactics. But what do you think: Is a desire to “tell your story” by putting a book together really all you need to succeed, or will you ultimately have to put more of yourself out there than what’s on the page?

Another Look at that YA Morality Clause

Remember last week’s item about Random House‘s YA morality clause? That clause, which Random’s UK division was inserting into contracts in order to give itself leverage over authors who “act or behave in a way which damages your reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children,” wasn’t showing up here in the States, according to one agent specializing in young people’s literature. This morning, another agent with a similar focus confirmed that initial impression, observing such a clause would be like Random refusing to publish Norman Mailer because he’d stabbed one of his wives.

“I can’t imagine anything to do with behavior that I would let get through a contract here, and I can’t believe too many UK agents are letting that get through,” this agent said, adding that in his experience publishers are usually as wary of anything that smacks of censorship as agents and authors. “Something must have happened to spark that,” he said. “I would imagine that Random House had been burned somehow, with something coming out about an author that left them stuck with thousands of copies of the book.” Though he had no direct knowledge of any such incident, he continued, it could have been anything from inappropriate behavior at a signing to “getting caught in bed with a fifteen-year-old and having it splashed all over the Sun.”

How about it, UK readers: Anything like that happen in recent memory?

Accuser in Duke Rape Case Ready to Tell Her Story

crystal-mangum-headshot.jpgFishbowlLA editor Tina Dupuy stumbled onto a report from a North Carolina news station that Crystal Mangum (right), the woman at the heart of the controversial prosecution of three Duke University student-athletes of rape and assault, is releasing her memoirs in October: The Last Dance for Grace: The Crystal Mangum Story. Her publisher? A new company called fire! Books, run by co-author Vincent Clark.

vincent-clark-headshot.jpgThe publishing company, Clark explained by email over the weekend, is an offshoot of fire! Studios, a film production company he created two years ago. (Clark has been active in documentary filmmaking for more than two decades.) “I was introduced to [Mangum] by a friend who thought I might be able to help her,” he recalled. “At the time, she wasn’t looking to publish a book. She wasn’t exactly sure what to do. She was being approached by people who said they could help her make a lot of money and all of them seemed to be a little slick and shady. I just talked to her about what she wanted to do with her life. We developed a good working realtionship and we worked on her just getting back to a normal life. I filmed some of it but it seemed too intrusive. So, I just started having her write down what she thought and it turned into The Last Dance for Grace.”

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The Olympic Memoir We’d Like to See

While most of the publishing industry was getting ready for the penultimate early weekend of the summer, Free Press announced that it had signed a deal with Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps to publish Built to Succeed, a memoir offering “the secrets of his success and… his approach to training, competition, and winning,” according to the announcement in Publishers Marketplace.

Considering this deal, and the news from across the Atlantic about possible book deals for British medalists, another potentially attractive possibility presented itself: What about a memoir by American marathoner Ryan Hall?

Hall had already gotten significant attention from the media, including Peter Hessler‘s New Yorker profile and Michael Perry‘s Runner’s World cover story. Enough of the runner’s personality comes through in both articles to suggest that he could tell his own story in an equally compelling manner if he chose to do so, and his pre-Olympic blog offers further evidence. The more you learn about Hall’s strong Christian faith and his participation in Team World Vision, an organization that helps poverty-stricken communities raise themselves to self-sustainability, it’s easy to see him writing a book that combines the best elements of Tony Dungy‘s Quiet Strength and John Woods‘s Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. Hall’s home page already had the perfect title, one with extra poignancy following his tenth-place finish: More Precious Than Gold. If you want to understand how powerful this story could be, watch the following video.

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Doubting the Web’s Power to Save Us All from Ruin?

clipart-senior-readers.jpgAfter reading Friday’s item about Business Week columnist Sarah Lacy‘s recommendations for using social media to revitalize book publishing, Cindy Weaver emailed to call attention to what she viewed as a major flaw in Lacy’s thinking: “The online marketing sounds all well and fine,” Weaver writes, “until one realizes that the vast majority of people who read books today do not find their information on books via the web. Most readers of books are 45-plus and [the] even more important demo is 55-plus. If you ask most people in their 20s and 30s, they will tell you that books are so 20th-century.”

Weaver seems to be assuming that older people don’t use the Internet much—but as early as 2004, Nielsen polls indicated that 63.4 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 55 was online—and so were just under 81 percent of the men and women between the ages of 35 and 54, as compared to 76.3 percent of the men and women between the ages of 25 and 34. And bear in mind that a Zogby survey released earlier this summer reported that 43 percent of book buyers of all ages turn to online vendors as their most frequent point of purchase—that’s in addition to the 77 percent who say they’ve bought at least one book online. And then there was the Reading Tub survey in July where 43.1 percent of the respondents said they learn about books to read with their children online—one might well anticipate a similar response to questions about how adults discover books they want to read on their own.

clipart-young-reader.jpgNow, technically, it’s true: If 43.1 percent of the population are learning about books online, 56.9 percent aren’t, and you might even go so far as to call that a “vast majority.” Still, the numbers cited above are not insignificant—and, more than that, true marketing visionaries recognize that you don’t just market to today’s audience, which eventually dies on you, but with an eye on tomorrow’s. Sure, you can look at last year’s NEA survey and conclude that the youth have abandoned books, if you’re so inclined, and it’s entirely possible our schools may not nurture a love of reading, but does that mean book publishers should give up on the young men and women who do escape from high school still knowing the pleasures of a good book and are need something to entertain themselves for a good part of the next half-century?

UnBeige: Alex Bogusky Dishes on America’s Weight Problem

0822dietbook.jpgOver at UnBeige, mediabistro.com’s design blog, Steve Delahoyde notices adman Alex Bogusky‘s The 9-Inch Diet and raises an eyebrow—because what’s a partner at the firm that repositioned Burger King for the 21st century and has just begun work on a campaign for Domino’s doing writing a book about, according to Powerhouse Books promotional materials, “the conspiracy to make you fat”?

Pondering that question, Delahoyde cites speculation in the pages of Creativity that this is all part of some elaborate marketing campaign for some food company or another. Creativity also runs some sample material, including a page that offers the theory that Americans have gotten fatter because the average dinner plate is three inches wider in diameter than it was forty years ago.

Why Click On Ads If You Don’t Feel Like It?

Last Friday, marketing expert and bestselling author Seth Godin suggested on his blog that “ads are the new online tip jar.” If you read a blog without ever clicking on its ads, he warned, “you’re starving great content… If you like what you’re reading, click an ad to say thanks.”

“If every time you read a blog post or bit of online content you enjoyed you clicked on an ad to say thanks,” he said, “the economics of the web would change immediately.” Yes, several critics answered, it would—for the worse. J.D. Roth offered a particularly thoughtful response on his Get Rich Slowly blog: While there’s nothing wrong with following up on ads for products that genuinely interest you, “there are long-term ramifications to empty clicks,” he explained. “If an advertiser spends money on a campaign that doesn’t work, it’s not going to renew it.” Instead, Roth proposes, if you like a blog and you really want to help it flourish, you should take active steps to strengthen its audience—get your friends to read it, for example, or mention it on your own web site if you have one. “Trust me,” he says, “if new readers come, revenue will follow.” Instead of creating a extra chore for readers (“I haven’t clicked on an ad here in a while, I suppose”), websites should strive to inspire readers to “spread the word” without thinking twice about it.

This is where authors, publishers, booksellers and others who have built websites, with or without the “support” of advertising, should ponder one question carefully: Why are you cultivating that audience in the first place? Are you creating a pool of potential customers for yourself, or one that you can rent out to the highest bidder? (OK, that was two questions, and, yes, I suppose you could answer the last question with “both.”)

But Godin wasn’t done explaining his theory yet.

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Blogs.com Loves Books, Will Feature Them One Day

The folks at Six Apart, whose Movable Type software keeps websites like this up and running, recently launched blogs.com, a new hub site promising “the best in blogs.” It was nice to see GalleyCat mentioned in one of the site’s recent media roundups, but Karen Templer of Readerville.com was disturbed by what she didn’t see there. She wrote on her blog:

“It’s always interesting to see whether books get tucked under the heading of ‘Entertainment’ or ‘Life.’ At Blogs.com, the answer is… neither! While the web is positively awash in book-related blogs, there’s no place to find them at this hot new hub. There isn’t even a single Top 10 list on the subject.”

anil-dash-headshot.jpgThat prompted a reply from Six Apart vice president Anil Dash: “Don’t worry, we’re just getting started!” he commented. “We will definitely feature book blogs and book-related Top Ten lists as soon as possible… Back when we launched TypePad five years ago, the built-in category list had tv, movies and music all in one category, and books all by themselves. As a company all about helping people share words, and with a flagship product that’s actually called Movable Type, we’d be crazy not to love books!”

An email inquiry to the blogs.com editorial team got a response from product manager Andy Wibbels, noting that “‘Books’ has been the number one requested category since we launched!” He promises that they will be added to the site soon, probably under a new “Culture” category heading, and also assures that the current “guest author” features, which have included authors like Stephanie Klein and Tim Ferriss, will continue.

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