Saturday, May 16, 2009

Media Week 20: Harpercollins, NYTimes, Long Tail,

In the NY Observer this week Debbie Stier from Harpercollins and Harper Studio is asked about social and digital media (Observer):
“Change is easier for some people than for others,” she said. "You know how some people are hoarders and they don't like to throw anything out? I'm the opposite: I get this weird thrill from throwing everything out and having nothing." Ms. Stier is the head of digital marketing at HarperCollins, as well as the associate publisher of HarperStudio, the small imprint there whose stated mission since it formed last spring has been to question conventional industry wisdom concerning advances and returns, and to experiment with untested methods of promotion. Ms. Stier is among the most visible and energetic believers in the idea that publishers must stop relying on critics, journalists and talk show hosts for coverage, and instead start finding creative ways of reaching readers directly through emerging social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

“I’ve been running down the halls screaming ‘fire’ for a couple of years now, and you know, I feel like it’s only recently that people are starting to hear me,” Ms. Stier said. “It’s hard for me because I’m up here in my own little beehive of exciting stuff, and I forget that there’s a world of people out there in the rest of the industry who don’t believe. But there are definitely pockets of people who do, and those pockets are growing more and more, faster and faster, which is good.”
There is a lot of debate about the merits of the central arguments made by Chris Andersen in The Long Tail - that is, whether there is one. A new report (summarized here) looks at P2P and appears to debunk the Long Tail concept:
A study of P2P music exchanges to be revealed this week suggests that the ailing music business is shunning a lucrative lifeline by refusing to license the activity for money. Entitled "The Long Tail of P2P", the study by Will Page of performing rights society PRS For Music and Eric Garland of P2P research outfit Big Champagne will be aired at The Great Escape music convention tomorrow. It's a follow-up to Page's study last year which helped debunk the myth of the "Long Tail".

Page examined song purchases at a large online digital retail store, which showed that out of an inventory of 13 million songs, 10 million had never been downloaded, even once. It suggested that the idea proposed by WiReD magazine editor Chris Anderson, who in 2004 urged that the future of business was digital retailers carrying larger inventories of slow-selling items was a Utopian fantasy.
Via Mr Nash, here is the link to the whole document. (Link)

The brianiacs at the NYTimes are showing off some of their toys. (Nieman)
The R&D group is obsessed with the ability to seamlessly transition among web-enabled gadgets. They’re not convinced that the future will land on a single, multipurpose contraption — like some sort of Kindle meets Chumby meets Minority Report. Instead, they predict consumers will connect to the Internet through their cars, on their televisions, over mobile networks, and in traditional browsers, while expecting those devices to interact and sync with each other.
Reports in the Guardian from the Journalism Enterprise and Experimentation unconference in sunny Birmingham looked at hyper-local success stories (Guardian):
A session in a break-out room featured James Hatts talking about the London SE1 Community website. James was quite candid about getting different levels of support for the initiative from different organisations. Their patch covers Southwark and Lambeth. Southwark Council have, it seems, for years treated them as a news outlet on an equal footing with the traditional local media. By contrast, SE1 have found it difficult at times to even get Lambeth Council to send them press releases. Similarly, Hatt said that whilst Scotland Yard were forthcoming with information about serious crime in the area, the local police forces were more cagey.
The International Coalition of Library Consortia has weighed in on the OCLC data usage guidelines (ICOLC):
The member consortia endorsing this ICOLC statement add our recommendation to others in the library community calling for OCLC to withdraw the proposed policy and start anew to formulate a record use policy. Most notably we add our support to the January 30, 2009 Final Report to the ARL Board by the Ad Hoc Task Force to Review the Proposed OCLC Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records. It includes an extended review of the policy and six recommendations. We concur with the ARL report that OCLC develop a new policy based on widespread member library participation with a clear set of goals and explanations as to how the policy will achieve these goals and how member libraries will be affected operationally and legally.
Caroline Pittis from Harpercollins uses BookBusiness magazine to argue publishers must be less reclusive in order to thrive in the social economy (BookBus):
So, how do book publishers add visible value for their authors and consumers in new ways? What needs to change, and perhaps more importantly, what needs to stay the same? As both a publishing “insider” and a frequent reader of publishing’s critics, I am often struck by how the public discussion of these questions is fundamentally different than private ones, how the focus of those inside publishing houses is different from those in the blogosphere. Beyond publishers’ walls, the tremendous value editors and their publishing colleagues provide in helping an author create a publishable work is often unknown. Yet, the vast majority of publishing time and energy go into just this activity—the core of what publishers do.

In the blogosphere, some opine about how hidebound and irrelevant publishers now are, how slow to change and resistant to risks. It makes good copy sometimes—I know I always bite on the most critical headlines first! Rare are the critics, however, who have concrete, insightful, specific suggestions of how to evolve publishing without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Black-and-white thinking and talk of violent revolution distract many from the natural evolution that is both occurring and will likely be more sustaining for the “book” economy in the long run.

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