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A lot of these figures are coming from a study conducted by Deloitte and Beelinelabs: Tribalization of Business Study

How are companies measuring success? (in order of prevalence)

  • Greater awareness (50%)
  • Number of new ideas (43%)
  • More referrals (25%)
  • Increased sales (25%)
  • Others…

Biggest obstacles to making communities work (according to survey respondents)

  • Getting people to engage
  • Finding time to manage the community

This is an interesting point emphasised by the presenters. “Getting people to engage” implies that you are trying to get them to do something you want them to do, which belies the true dynamics of communities. Finding time to manage the community is similar, in that if you are getting the funadementals right, a lot of the work in managing a community will be done by the community itself.

How companies are incorporating communities:

  • Usually managed by marketing department, not a job for interns, take it (and resource it) seriously
  • 58% of survey respondents are spending less than $50,000 on community management
  • Investment in community building is relative, $50,000 may be ample if the fundamentals are right

Takeaway #1: Communities are about delivering game-changing results

  • Communities can increase revenue per customer dramatically i.e 50%
  • Communities will increase product introduction success ratios
  • Communities amplify everything you do – increasing effectiveness and decreasing costs

Takeaway #2:

(missed this one, was too busy twittering, sorry)

Takeaway #3: The need for new management thinking

  • Mismatch between community goals and associated investments
  • Major gaps between community goals and what is being measured
  • Communities have to combine with major talent initiatives
  • Communities will transform most business processes. (You can start communities without changing the way you work, but eventually it is going to impact on the way you work)

Takeaway #3.5 : The worst practices enjoy wide adoption

  • The build it and they will come fallacy
  • The let’s keep it small so it doesn’t move the needle phenomenon
  • The not invented here syndrome (especially applicable for newspaper and magazine publishers – people already have a vibrant social network on facebook, myspace, bebo, they do not want to rebuild networks on your site. Engage people where they are.)

Early predictions

  • Many community initiatives will continue to fail
  • Communities will eventually transform the role of the the CMO
  • Early adopters will force industry-wide changes
  • Companies will find out how to build predictable communities

Prediction #1 for publishing industry: Have your community cell-phone ready
(*Based on data from Deloitte’s “State of the Media Democracy” Survey, 3rd Edition)

  • A third of US consumers are using their cell phone to entertain themselves, over half of Millennials
  • Almost 50% of consumers, 40% of Boomers, and a surprising 35% of Matures are interested in ease of access to product information via product bar code scanning on their cell phone/hand-held
  • Although a very small percentage, almost 5% of every generaiton considers cell phone advertising as being the MOST influential form of online advertising

Prediction #2 for Publishing: Media will never travel alone

  • In order to optimize subscriber and ad revenue potential, media companies must create new product development and advertising strategies
  • Package of channels around content, not separate and distinct, but integrated, convergent

Prediction #3 for Publishing: You will need to provide the full capabilities of the digital media menu

  • Customizable interface
  • Personalized content
  • Personalized recommendations
  • Extensive content selection from all sources
  • Sophisticated content search
  • Active/Passive viewing
  • Free/Ad supported option
  • Supports multiple platforms
  • Same menu on each platform
  • Transfer content license across platforms
  • Integrated cross-platform builling
  • Purchase, rental, free w/ads
  • Off-line viewing
  • Single integrated sign-on
  • High speed, real-time streaming
  • High reliability
  • [Wow, that’s a lot to be ready for!]

Key message: “Social is embedded in everything.”

Advertisements

NOTE: This started to be a very long post, so I’ll split up into chapters.

Some notes from the Buliding Online Communities seminar on Day 1…

Dynamics at work in communities

  • Let people behave the way they are hard-wired by evolution to behave: in tribes and social groups
  • People will spontaneously form communities whether you are involved or not
  • The community will do your work for you if you align yourself with them in the right ways
  • The more CONTENT you have the more members you will get.
  • The more MEMBERS you have the more CONTENT you will get.
  • The better you match CONTENT and MEMBERS to MEMBER PROFILES the more MEMBERS and CONTENT you will get.
  • The technology infrastructure of the community is important
  • The social infrastructure of the community is more important
  • The easier it is to do TRANSACTIONS the more MEMBERS you will attract.
  • Communities work because they bring value to the users. The job of companies who want to build (and possibly monetise) communities is to work out how to align their business goals with what community users are trying to transact/do/achieve.

What are the human motivations making this happen?

  • People want to connect with other people
  • People want to help and be helped – it’s a reflex!
  • People operate either in one of two frameworks: social framework and market framework
  • Success happens within a social framework. Switching to a market framework screws up the dynamics of your community

 Reasons companies use communities:

  • Amplify word of mouth
  • Canary in the coalmine – an early indicator of customer service issues
  • Market research
  • Long tail sales
  • Idea generation
  • New product Devleopment
  • Employee communications
  • Reputation management
  • Customer service

Which areas of the company typically have communities under their control (in order of prevalence):

  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Produc development
  • Customer Service
  • IT
  • Sales
  • Employee communications
  • R&D
  • Finance

Overnight, Authonomy site administrators posted a response to the criticism on the forum:

This will be another free feature of the site. It certainly isn’t about exploitation. It won’t be compulsory. It is part of the authonomy toolkit. Like forums, messaging, RSS feeds, watchlists etc., we won’t be forcing anyone to use these features, but if you want to, then they’ll be there. For you.

Read the whole post here.

My initial thought is that if HarperCollins really are introducing the POD option simply as another feature of the site which adds value for its members, why bother to go to the expense and effort of building your own solution? Why not simply partner with an existing service, such as lulu.com, which is bound to be more efficient and less costly?

Bren MacDibble alerted me on Facebook to  some grumblings about HarperCollins’ Authonomy site.

Authonomy participant, Alexander McNabb, fought his way to a top 5 ranking on the site, spurred on by the promise that each month HarperCollins would read the Top 5 ranked manuscripts. What he got was not what he expected.

But the HC review of my book (next to the gold star on the book page) was slapdash and odd. And many other writers who’d got to the top of the ‘greasy pole’, as some called it, got the same feeling. Now, over 25 chart-topping reviews, five months, into the exercise, HC has not asked for ONE full read from a writer whose book reached the top, let alone taken anything further to any degree.

Yesterday, HC sent me a note offering me the chance to put my books up as POD (Print on Demand or Publish on Demand) books on authonomy. Soon, according to the email, all books on authonomy will be available as POD books but for now only ‘a few early adopters’ have been offered the opportunity – and a ‘gift’ of the first 10 books free.

For those who’ve not discovered it yet, Authonomy is HarperCollins UK’s social networking experiment for authors. Authors can upload all or part of their manuscripts to an online community. The best ranked submissions, based on the community’s votes, are read by HarperCollins editors. Members also have  chance to converse and swap critical feedback.

I’m not a member of Authonomy and am certainly not in a position to judge whether Alexander’s account is accurate. But regardless of whether HC editors are reading full manuscripts or not, the move toward POD sales of members’ books is disquieting.

My best friend‘s favourite adage is “It’s all about managing expectations.” HarperCollins have clearly encouraged certain expectations among aspiring authors flocking to the site.  Authonomy’s tag line is “Beat the Slush” which holds out to authors the promise of catching the attention of publishers who are seeking fresh new talent. In the original media release that accompanied the announcement of Authonomy, HarperCollins stated:

For aspiring authors the site is both a new route to publication with a leading publishing house and a genuine base from which to build a long-term following online.

Authonomy also reinforced this expectation on the site itself, both in the FAQs and in its own “HarperCollins response” thread on the forum:

We thought this would be obvious, but perhaps we need to spell this one out: Our editors _do_ browse the site looking for manuscripts that meet their requirements and if we like something we follow up directly. (To pre-empt the sceptical who seem to doubt everything we say – yes, we’re in dialogue with a number of authors from authonomy).

HarperCollins have at no point promised any author any outcome at all, other than to read the most popular content posted to the site. But all of these messages create a very strong expectation: that Authonomy was set up as a pathway to publication for aspiring authors.

If it’s true HarperCollins will now be offering members the opportunity to sell their work to the community via print on demand (presumably for a fee, or by ceding some rights and sales revenue), members would be justified in feeling their expectations have been betrayed. Many Authonomy members have posted their own reactions on the site’s forums. Here are a few:

“Authonomy has moved from potentially innovative to concretely exploitative.” Richard P-S

“Slow-moving slush pile is one thing… but captive market and preying on our desires to be published is another thing. It’s just cruel. Lulu already exists… and at least you know what you’re doing when you sign in there.” macdibble

“If I wanted to POD, I’d have gone (as I think Diane said) to Lulu by now. I don’t. I thought that, no, was led to believe that authonomy was a genuine effort to create a peer-reviewed, community based filter for publishable writing. And by publishable, I don’t mean POD.” alexander

I will emphasise not all responses from Authonomy users on the forums are negative ones. For balance, I recommend you read through the threads yourself to assess what the reaction has been, but to me it appears the majority of users (at least those bothering to voice their thoughts on the forum) are feeling misled.

At the heart of this anger and disquiet in the Authonomy membership is HarperCollins’ failure to understand online communities. Authonomy has all the trendy social networking bells and whistles. It’s got well-trafficked discussion boards and user-generated content. But social networking platforms at their most vibrant cede control to the community, they don’t (in fact can’t) hoard it for the platform developer. (Which is why Facebook is having trouble monetising itself) Authonomy users came to the site because of an expectation they were sold by HarperCollins. Having built up a successful community, those users don’t now wish to be told by HarperCollins to do or be something else especially when it’s transparently about making money for HarperCollins. Or, as put by an Authonomy member:

‘Hidden agenda’? How about a rollout plan that hasn’t been shared – an intent to create a site in phases without sharing with, or consulting, the people that populate that site? How about misrepresenting the site to those people as you do your rollout? What does that make you? alexander

I wonder what HarperCollins’ answer will be?

Nick CaveVia Booksquare, Scottish publisher Canongate has announced it will digitise its entire back catalogue and make 450 titles available as e-book downloads by the end of this year. One of their more interesting digital projects is a simultaneous physical and e-book release of Nick Cave’s first novel in 20 years, with added extras such as a soundtrack and unabridged audio book narration by Cave.

Canongate has gone from strength to strength since Jamie Byng rescued it from near-bankruptcy in the mid-90s. It has acquired some big titles in the last few years, including UK and Commonwealth rigths to the Obama memoirs.

But for me, this Nick Cave project is the most exciting recent news. It perfectly exploits Cave’s multiple talents and reaches out to several audiences simultaneously, with the possibility of introducing new consumers from each to Cave’s various music recordings and novels, not to mention his poetry and films.

In many ways, Nick Cave is the perfect example of an artist in a position to commercialise digital content for modern audiences, a Renaissance man for the 21st century. He produces content across a range of media and artforms, he has an established and loyal fan base, he can derive additional revenus streams from touring and merchandise opportunities and he can cross-pollinate audiences from books to music to film.

Kudos to Jamie Byng and Canongate for a well-considered digital product.

“We’re doing some really cool stuff that will turn some heads and break ground in the area of e-books,” said Jamie Byng, the managing director. “We are using the medium, not just replicating content. That’s where the real opportunities lie.” Jamie Byng quoted in Sunday Herald article

Graham Nunn at Another Lost Shark has been doing a fascinating series of interviews with various Australian small press poetry publishers. There’s an interesting array of opinions here, some consensus but also a lot of divergence on issues such as the value of electronic publishing and the commercial opportunities for small presses.

Small presses have arisen in response to the decline in interest by the corporate publishers, to meet the need for poets’ voices to be heard and read. I doubt if any of them actually make money out publishing, but that’s not the point of it, though it would be nice. Lyn Reeves, Pardalote Press

I was interested that more poetry publishers, such as John Knight at Post Pressed,  are not turning to print on demand to help with the economics of small print runs. I’ve also been wondering for a while if Australian poetry as a genre is ripe for a cooperative marketing/distribution arrangement between small publishers. This worked particularly well in the independent music scene in the last 10 years. Ralph Wessman in his interview suggests that the Small Press Underground Collective (SPUNC)is not focused on assisting with distribution, yet distribution is the key problem to solve of all creative industries. I could imagine a successful collective that pools its resources to promote and sell (for best results, online and probably POD) poetry in all forms – chap books, full collections, CDs, digital downloads and merchandise. And yes, marketing is an issue. You’d have to work hard to drive an audience to such a site, but I imagine that would be a lot easier to do working collectively as part of a co-op than for a small press and/or their poets to do on their own.

Another reason for publishers to stop getting tunnel vision about the Kindle.

ReadWriteWeb reports on data from AdMob showing that Apple has a 48% market share of the mobile web in the US market. Interestingly, the iPod Touch has contributed as much to this growth as the iPhone. As RWW rightly points out, this demonstrates that Apple’s interface (largely the same for the iPhone as the Touch) makes for a happy web browsing experience for mobile users.

Given this data, it’s obviously not a coincidence that the most common search query that leads visitors to this blog is actually “ebooks ipod Touch”.

Publishers considering market channels for ebooks should note these stats and look for ways to connect their content with mobile users. At 48% of the market (or for that matter, more than one half of the population of the world) there are a hell of a lot more potential book buyers with a phone than there are owners of an ebook reader.

Map of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jess Haberman has been musing about where to base herself as a publisher. I find this fascinating because I live in a large Australian state that is very decentralized.

Quick geography lesson: Australia is about the same size in land area as the continental United States, but with only six states and two territories. This makes most of our states extremely large, but Queensland (my state) is the second largest. In fact, at 1,852,642 km2 Queensland takes up one quarter of the total area of Australia. It is further from Brisbane to Cairns, cities both in Queensland, than it is from Brisbane to Melbourne, three states away.

Despite being the third most populous state, we are also decentralised. In nearly all other states and territories a high percentage of the population (65% or more) is clustered in and around the capital cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. In Queensland this figure is only 45%.

Quick publishing industry lesson: Similar to London and New York, Australia’s publishing industry is concentrated in one major city, Sydney. At least, that’s how it is for the major trade publishers, the big six: HarperCollins, Hachette Australia, Pan Macmillan, Random House, Allen and Unwin and Penguin. By extension, that’s also where most of the literary agents are.

But here’s something interesting… some of the most innovative and energetic publishing in Australia is taking place outside of Sydney, and outside of traditional industry networks. At the mid-size level of the industry, a swag of publishers are really performing above and beyond what might be expected for their size, particularly UQP (Brisbane), Scribe and Text (Melbourne) and Fremantle Press (Western Australia). Melbourne is also the locus of a vibrant, exploding small press scene, with small independents flourishing in every other state, such as Small Change PressTiconderoga, Wakefield Press, eatbooks and Pulp Fiction Press.

There are any number of conclusions you could draw from this spread of the publishing map. For publishers, I would suggest that it doesn’t matter if you are located close to the hub of industry activity or not. There are now few if any barriers to publishing damn fine books wherever you are. Jess Haberman offers good arguments for not being based in the city at all, adopting a friendlier small town lifestyle which is likely more supportive of small businesses. But more than this, I wonder if the evidence in Australia demonstrates you’re actually better off not being situated in the swirling vortex of the publishing industry at all. If the publishers listed above are anything to go by, perhaps the distance lends some kind of perspective or inspiration for excellence and new innovation.

For writers, I think isolation is a tough burden and geographical isolation in Australia can be acute, especially in Queensland. Writers don’t need to be physically close to agents and publishers to sell a book, nor do they need to be physically close to other writers to participate in vibrant social networks. They just need a reliable internet connection (that’s a whole other story)

But I’ve seen the lightbulbs go on over authors’ heads when they attend a seminar or panel with publishers and agents and hear directly from industry professionals how the business works. I’ve seen the spark of new connections and relationships. I wonder if the mushrooming of small publishers in regional towns across Australia could, in turn, further support the development of writers in those communities.

What are your thoughts? I’m keen to hear from publishers and regional readers on this one.

[Note: Here’s some bonus material on the Australian tourism debacle that inspired the title of this post]

New MatildaMy decidedly awesome brother, Ben Eltham, has published an excellent round up of New Matilda‘s recent essay series on Australian culture.

Your Cultural Policy Has Expired
by Ben Eltham

He even includes publishing in his survey of cultural sectors:

It was Apple’s iPod that drove much of the massive format shift in contemporary music to the MP3. Publishers will also soon be faced by a credible “killer app” that will allow readers to download books at the touch of a pad. It probably isn’t Amazon’s Kindle, but one is likely to emerge in the next generation or two of the industrial ecology. At this point sales of whole product categories of books will plummet as the market migrates online. Of course, as John Hunter has argued, for nimble independent publishers this could prove a massive opportunity, allowing them to access much larger markets than a small print run ever could. Even so, many publishers will have an organisational issue adapting to the new paradigm, and will disappear. This could be disastrous for many Australian writers, who (as Jeremy Fisher has told us) are already doing it tough. This will particularly apply to those in marginal niches — like novelists, who will now have to either publish with small domestic independents or find rare success with international publishers. Change is never painless.

Read full article

Every now and then I use Google Reader’s recommend function to find me a list of blogs I might add to my feeds. My list of regular feeds changes over time so it’s good to reach out for new content based on what I’ve been reading lately. When I did that today, Google Reader recommended the Puffin Blog.

I hadn’t come across this one before but, despite my interest in young adult fiction, I will not be adding the Puffin Blog to my feeds. This is an example of the all-too common “blog as marketing channel”. Most companies fail dismally at this, and publishers are no exception.

You can spot a “blog as marketing channel” a mile away. Firstly, there are no comments.  A blog is a social media platform. You know it’s achieving its purpose when you can see evidence of social behaviour, of conversation, of engagement. Regardless of how many people may be subscribed to your RSS feed, if you’ve got zero comments your readers don’t care enough to engage with your content or with you. That’s bad news for a company hoping to use a blog to reach out to customers. It’s also a waste of time and resources.

Another telling feature of the blog as marketing channel is the ubiquityof product mentions. On publisher blogs, this means almost every post is a book plug. Sometimes this is dressed up with witty banter or disguised within a personal anecdote by a company executive. Sometimes, in an attempt to show that the organisation is staffed by real, flesh and blood humans, you’ll see a variety of employees posting, everyone from the book designer to the receptionist. You’ll rarely see real analysis or opinion, or a sense of the company’s understanding of its place within a community of customers, readers, authors, and industry players. The result is pervasive sense of PR fluff and lightweight content.

It used to be common wisdom that content is king. But the popularity of social media has demonstrated that what internet users are really seeking is connection. A blog may be a cheap and easy way of publishing web content but its biggest strength is that it is a platform for conversation.

Are there publisher blogs that get it? Over at the 26th Story, I think HarperStudio has understood the opportunity and challenge of a company blog very well. There is real opinion, meaningful engagement with issues relevant to the HarperStudio brand and active encouragement of community discussion. The same is true of Soft Skull News and Abbeville Manual of Style.

These are blogs that still manage to showcase their authors and upcoming titles, but also maintain a place in a lively community of readers and other bloggers. Most importantly, these bloggers realise that conversation is taking place everywhere simultaneously. There’s no way to control it, only to participate in it.  I don’t need to take a sneaky-peek at these blogs’ Google Analytics results to know they’re more effective than a “blog as marketing channel” promo site.