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(Photo: Steve Bartel)

Brandishing a whip and clad in gold lame pants, mediabistro.com founder Laurel Touby reprised her ringmistress role as she welcomed hundreds of media types to the second annual Mediabistro Circus, which kicked off today at the TimesCenter in New York City. The theme of this year’s media-meets-technology confab, explained Touby, is “Extraordinary Impact: Do More with Less.” The focus of the doing? Data, data, and more data, according to many of the day’s speakers. But don’t count out design.

ferriss.jpg“Data is king,” said self-promoter extraordinaire Timothy Ferriss, who lives to generate buzz and deduce ways to prolong visitors’ stays on his many websites. “The big idea, the one big bet favored by Madison Avenue, is not only irrational, it’s also expensive.” For Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek (now in its forty-first printing in the United States, he noted), technology and social media offer ways to constantly analyze, adjust, and re-analyze everything, from how to create a successful blog post (aim for evergreen content, omit dates, people enjoy watching short and ideally incomplete videos about how to peel hard-boiled eggs) to how to sell a book (try for the least crowded-channel: face-to-face communication). Thanks to Google analytics, crowdsourcing, and click patterns, life is one long beta-test.

Where does this leave publishing? In flux, according to “From Gutenberg to Movable Type,” a panel discussion ably moderated by Dan Costa, executive editor of PCMag.com. Panelist Eileen Gittins, founder and CEO of Blurb, the self-publishing company, is a believer in the power of branding to best communicate with niche markets. “Gone are the days when you have to guess who your audience is,” she said of Blurb’s print-on-demand model, which eliminates warehousing and adds a new agility to publishing. “Books no longer need to be static things, where you print one—kerplunk—and then maybe come back later with a second edition. Books can now be the starting point of communication.”

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