publishing

Programatic trading of media is clever automated technology that is spawning (AI enabled) services which will automate the creation of ad messages as well – more efficiency and cost reduction then. (This does not matter a lot as most ads- online- are fairly formulaic response/offer type stuff already)

But Programatic also attacks one of our most important beliefs in brand building – that it matters where you are seen not just what you have to say.

Stripping communication of its context is not good from a psychological point of view – we know that the human brain has evolved to notice context ( see Kahneman et al). Indeed all judgements that we make about people and brands are contextual.

Brands are now being drawn (by the lure of cost effective sales) into an online version selling out of the back of  a van on a rainy trading estate. What to do ?

Well two answers

-When buying programmatic, cost effectiveness can’t be the only metric – a smarter programmatic is needed that controls for quality too. Brands need to demand this – and not merely the reassurance that they will not appear in some tawdry click baity site ( or worse)

-Control your own context by becoming a publisher online. This difficult for brands and not for everyone. This piece (just published  in Aurora) explores how, why it is difficult and some of the insights into how to do it well from a really useful new book by Laz Dzamic ( declaration of interest- i worked with him at Google)

 

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So many useful business books and so little time – was the thought that occurred to me as I was teaching this week. Here are my top tips for students in extracting the useful knowledge in these books with minimum cost and maximum ease.

(Publishers should avert their eyes at this point)

Google- “title of book PDF”.  For the really successful business books, someone has often made a summary of the key ideas and saved it as a PDF. So if you are working on a challenger brand you will want to get Adam Morgan’s ideas, Google “Eating the Big fish PDF” and and you get this

Or if you want one of the the foundation texts of marketing effectiveness try googling “how brands grow PDF” – and you get this

Google “title of book PP.” And the chances are you will end up on slideshare where someone has made a PowerPoint of the Key ideas. Take, for example, Daniel Kahnemann’s great book “Thinking Fast and Slow” which is a must read for all people in communications but , let’s be honest,  hard work to get through. Well there are two PowerPoints covering the key ideas on slideshare

Slideshare and Amazon are useful search engines in their own right so it can be useful to go straight too them and have a browse

30 minute summaries. You have to pay for these but they can be worth the money if you want to know a bit more. Go to Amazon and search “title of book 30 minute summary” . There is a good one of Kahnemann’s book 

Youtube it – Youtube is also a search engine in its own right.Writers of the really good books (and even the not so good) go in the speaking circuit and their talks often get videoed and shared. For example the most powerful brands of our day sit as apps on our smartphones- they are in the business of habit forming. Nir Eyal in his book “Hooked” has insightful explanations as to how they do this. Here he is doing a TED talk 

For the 20 anniversary issue of Market Leader I looked back to the predictions made by The Economist in 1998 (what did they get right and wrong ?) and brought it up to date with 2018 predictions.

Looking back was fascinating – The Economist got a lot right but on a couple of things they got it completely wrong – especially when it came to the Queen v Tony Blair

This article is reproduced with the permission of WARC.com. See Link to PDF

018-019 Saunders

Pundits say that anyone who claims to know what the digital revolution will bring is engaged in a confidence trick. My experience of publishing books and articles about digital futures suggests four things

-We can’t predict a decade ahead with any confidence

-A technology trend that is against the grain of human nature will most likely fail

-We do i think know what the shape of communications will be for the next three or four years.

-Futurology may be closer to fiction that sober analysis: but it will never go out of fashion as we can’t help wondering about the future

I have just published this slice of futurology in Market Leader. It contains five lessons learnt from my last attempt 10 years ago as well as nine predictions for the future. It is called The Surprise Generating Machine – a line stolen from Professor John Naughton.

Do add your predictions.

44-47 Julian Saunders 2nd proof

is the title of an enlightening and helpful little book by BJ Mendelson.

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It helps you sort out the crap from the hype. Some things that rang bells

Beware cyber hipster’s thought leadership

A whole class of cyber hipsters is busy creating and spreading hype because it helps their own business/raises their fees as public speakers. Heard of web 2.0? Yup. Tim O’Reilly – an uber cyber hipster -came up with it (probably) and has built a consulting business and a regular expensive conference on the back of it. He can stand for a whole class of cyber hipsters who swim around in the same pool and scratch each others backs- no different them from other walks of life then.


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There are very few pure social media successes

Many so called social media success stories – Think Old Spice man – are not really that. They also had big ad spend and top quality media production behind them.

Cui Bono ? is always a good question

Who benefits from the idea that social media are powerful in building brands?It’s the big platforms themselves- like Facebook and Twitter-who are trying to grab their share of the advertising pie.You’re a dinosaur if you are not using social media aren’t you? well, arent you?

Cue all sorts of “innovations” from these platforms to win more adspend – sponsored tweets/native ads-all of which will be boosted as the next big thing

Talent alone rarely wins out

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Beware the Justin Beiber myth- this is idea that someone with talent (yes he has got some painful to admit) can come from nowhere and break through big time. It is very rare. Mostly when you lift the lid on successes there are big media partners and/or adspend and various other (paid for) boosters behind it.

BJ Mendelson book is useful in helping you develop your bullshit detectors.

The Internet is so young that it is bound to be teaming with hucksters and charlatans- he calls them out.

But he overstates the case.

It may be naive to think that talent alone or great content will win through. Yet yet yet.. access is greatly increased.Everyone can now be a publisher/creator/filmaker/Writer now. You can build a following if you do it well – i.e. you are relevant and/or interesting. Bear in mind though if you have any success you will have to trade with big media and other big beasts of the Internet to get to the next level.

One other good reason to read this book is he has a whole section on how to “game the system” – i.e. get seen as an expert and win profile and followers.

Which rather proves the point that the system is much more open than before

Nick Biltons newish book ( which I have as an eBook)  sets out to study what we can learn from the porn industry (among other things)

His reason? The industry always been innovative and adaptable (premium phone lives and web chats got an early boost from porn)and so they might act as a testing ground for revenue generating techniques.

He notes that the industry, like others affected by the digital revolution, has seen revenues hit hard by amateurs posting stuff/free websites and piracy. But some are innovating their way out of a corner

Some quotes

There’s one other thing I discovered the next-generation consumer will pay for online: better experiences, which often grow out of better storytelling.

 Once visitors engaged in conversations on the porn sites, many of them no longer felt comfortable stealing and sharing the work of people who were trying to make a living. They simply saw them in a different light. Personal stories add one dimension, but great storytelling on the screen or the page consistently stands out.

 The next generation of porn and storytelling will be hyperpersonalized, placing you almost directly in the scene. That will give you control over what you see—almost like you’re standing on a holodeck, a room that uses holographs to simulate reality.

What can writers and publishers take from this?

 Personal connection reduces piracy. Makes sense- we are less likely to steal from those we know or have some kind of relationship. So authors should combine events and online to create personal connection with readers many authors hate this feeling it gets in the way of the work, especially the more literary types. But if you want to succeed you have to engage

 Live reduces piracy The pirates don’t have time to pirate and the personal connection reduces the desire to steal. Hence the appeal of serialization- back to the future then

People pay more for quality production. The current eBook on amazon is a bog standard low cost production.Care, love and innovation will add value to ebooks. People will pay for a treat or a pleasureable experience- My eBook are only convenient and functional. Don’t believe people who tell you that is all they want.

Niche Marketing. The other thing that porn teaches us is the value of niche marketing-and I mean niches of niches here. Nick Bilton, being an American cannot quite cast off the mask of political correctness in order to get stuck in and analyse the porn industry’s niche marketing strategies. ( His wife – he makes sure to tell us – knew what he was up to and vetoed him meeting porn stars.)I hankered for a German or Scandinavian writer at this point who would cast a cool ,considered and unembarrassed eye over the industries innovation in niche marketing.

Definitely worth a read- only available in hardback in UK at the mo so better go for the eBook

The Guardian/Edinburgh Book Festival debate about the future of books (in the age of Kindle) garnered over 200 posts on the Guardian website- thanks mainly to an excellent and provocative piece byEwan Morrison.

One big question left hanging is how much can authors charge for an eBook? Most authors are too busy to think about “pricing strategy” so here are some thoughts-

This is one of those important but boring topics as it can be the difference between having a livelihood or not-

How much can you charge for ebooks?

In theory at least it should be possible to hold up the pricing on eBooks and avoid a race to the bottom. By this I mean not charging 99 p but several pounds for a new book. Just what the price elasticity is on a new book is unclear and the waters are being muddied by Amazon (See why below)-It may not be the price of a new paperback but nor should it be the price of a download from Itunes. It is somewhere in the middle- and the extra cash and margin make all the difference (Especially as explained in earlier post Amazon are offering good terms to those who publish with them-Publishers hate this but it could be good for authors. In theory they could charge less and make more)

I know that sounds odd but bear with this

Every book is a unique product. If I want a William Boyd novel (just to take an example) I want a particular book. I don’t want something like it. I like his work, his way of plotting and writing. I don’t want someone else. I want the new Boyd. Boyd may decide not to charge as much for an e-book as for a paperback but as there is less cost in a digital file than in a printed book (cheaper to make and distribute) he should in be able to make as much margin or even more and still charge a reasonable price. A price that is good enough value not to invite mass piracy

Note on piracy. Global studies show that the levels vary enormously around the world- very high in emerging economies but relatively low in the USA-the country which ironically brought us Napster and so had a hand in promoting piracy as something that was not a crime but that people felt was their right. Anyway back to the plot

Boyd can set the price- and may have more control over the price that if he sold through Tesco or Waterstone- who have for some time discounted heavily to compete with each other

So far so good.

But why does is not working in practice right now?

Several reasons

A) Who controls the cash register?

The likes of Amazon control the cash register. In fact whoever controls the cash register whether it is Tesco or Waterstone or Amazon is in a strong position to set prices. They also compete with each other so it is not just a question of driving down supplier prices but also being competitive with each other-they don’t like to be undercut.

 B) The short term pricing tactics of Amazon

Amazon is buying market share with a cheap device (The Kindle) and cheap eBooks. Recession is a good time to buy market share and they are trying to establish themselves as the eBook seller with scale and reach (soon opening in India). There is little hope for out of copyright authors which are being pushed out very cheap or free to get people into the Kindle habit-so cheap in fact that most people will not bother with piracy. Once you have the complete works of Jane Austin for less that £1 or nothing there is no way back.

Having said that as the market grows it will segment. Take the Jane Austin example. There will be some opportunity for a deluxe added value eBook- including (say)pictures of Jane and her times /contemporary reviews etc-in future (full colour) kindles and other e-book readers. This may add a bit of value-and there will be a market for people who want a more visual pleasure, more care and extra interest than the bog standard e-books (that Amazon currently pushes out for out of copyright authors.) Although it must be said ROI will be an issue- if you spend a lot on developing such a deluxe version you need to be careful that it can be priced in such a way as to make your money back

What hope is there?

A) Amazon in the longer term

Amazon is a retailer and so, unlike Google, does not really want to be providing free things. Google doesn’t care if it gives the world away for free as long as you use their service and they can therefore sell advertising. Amazon will want to publish and sell products that are valued and not commoditised. Once it has secured its dominant position it will want to trade up. Remember Tesco under Jack Cohen used to pile it high and sell it cheap- now it Tesco’s sell Tesco’s finest and all manner of premium brands.

 B) Authors develop their own followings

The digital revolution is not just something that has made the likes of Google and Amazon uber-rich. It has also put control in the hands of authors. Authors can connect directly with readers using any number of free and low cost platforms (Or they can hire people to help them do this. It is time consuming after all)

With a bit more money you can do a JK Rowling – and take complete control as she is planning with Pottermore. She is not just doing this because she is rich. Communicating and selling on digital platforms is much cheaper than before and is coming down in price all the time and she wants to keep control of her creation not just see eBooks knocked out at 99 p and knocked off by pirates.

Once you have a following- what marketing types call brand loyalty-you are in a position to set prices.

I expect a new generation of writers who know about social media ( and enjoy its potential for connection) to emerge and do well- they have a power to reach their readers that the previous generation did not have. Amanda Hocking is much cited and John Locke has secured a book-publishing contract through self publishing with S&S.

Readers like to follow the authors they like. They are interested in their lives, influences and how they work. Go to any book fair and you will hear authors asked questions about these topics. Some authors may be uncomfortable with this and see it as just extra work- but it has always been hard work to get published and then have to do the promotional tour.

So, simply put, part of the solution is to have what brand managers call “a communications strategy”

 C) Don’t think “discounting sells “

New books do not have a known price-unlike milk or bread- so the price is what you say it is. (Members of the art market are past masters of this-boosting value by managing perceptions)

Pricing also positions your work. If you say you are cheap, people may assume that it has not been produced with much care. So your new novel may not cost as much as the new Boyd – but don’t knock it out for 99p.

You need something else that brand manager’s have-a pricing strategy. If you price the same as Boyd it says that you are a quality author. You can come down in price from there. It is difficult to go up from 99 p

A new kind of publishing company?

Authors then need different kinds of advice today.

Better on digital communications and how to sell off the full range of digital platforms including social media

And much more hard headed when it comes to issues of price and margins.