Monday, December 28, 2009

Media Week 52: Magazines, Stealing, Reader's Digest, SONY, Translations

A little late this week.

Further compounding the mystery about consumers likes and dislikes and purchase patterns, is news that Martin Amis does indeed pass the free test (NYTimes):

Apparently the thieves have not yet read the “Thou shalt not steal” part — or maybe they believe that Bibles don’t need to be paid for. “Some people think the word of God should be free,” Bercu said. As it turns out, Bibles are snatched even at the Parable Christian Store in Springfield, Ore., the manager told me, despite the fact that if a person asks for a Bible, they’ll be given a copy without charge.

But this holiday season, the Good Book is hardly the only title in danger of being filched. At independent bookstores, thieves are as likely to be taking orders from Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book” as from Exodus.

Fiction is the most commonly poached genre at St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village of Manhattan; the titles that continually disappear are moved to the X-Case, safely ensconced behind the counter. This library of temptation includes books by Martin Amis, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo and Jack Kerouac, among others. Sometimes the staff isn’t sure whether an author is still popular to swipe until they return their books to the main floor. “Amis went out and came right back,” Michael Russo, the manager, told me.

At BookPeople in Austin, titles displayed with staff recommendation cards are a darling among thieves. “It’s so bad lately that I feel like our staff recommendation cards should read: ‘BookPeople Bookseller recommends that you steal ________.’ Apparently the criminal element in Austin shares our literary tastes, or are very prone to suggestion,” Elizabeth Jordan, the head book buyer, wrote in an e-mail message.

The Universtiy of Rochester has developed a vibrant translation publishing program (NYTimes):

Though it might have initially been conceived as a marketing device, Three Percent has turned into a lively clearing house for everything related to literature in translation, and logs more than two million page views a year, with obvious commercial benefits for Open Letter. Readers can post their own reviews and learn what foreign publishing houses are up to, and translators can discuss their craft and check to see which works are available and which have already been snatched up by colleagues.

“It’s very difficult in the present economic climate for a publishing house to be totally dependent on university funding, and in the press, editors have less space for reviews and translations,” said Peter Bush, vice president of the International Federation of Translators, who is translating a collection of short stories from Catalan for Open Letter. “But there are readers out there communicating with each other about translation, and through Three Percent, Open Letter is plugged into the new media and is using that space to find new readers and sell their books.”

Interview with Michael Lynton - he used to be in publishing but went on to greater things at SONY (TimesOnline):

Sony is a prime mover in the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, a consortium that includes Warner Brothers and Fox — part of News Corporation, parent of The Sunday Times — which will let consumers store movies in “the cloud” to access them from a range of devices. The hope is that viewers will be happy to pay for the convenience.

Lynton hopes the collaboration will help the studios strike back at Apple. Analysts at Screen Digest predict its iTunes store will account for 60% of all US online movie transactions this year, even though it is only compatible with Apple’s own gadgets.

The studios’ historic markets are disappearing fast. Although cinema admissions are thriving in Britain, the value of DVD sales fell 7% in the first 11 months of the year, according to the British Video Association. Annual volumes are flat at about 250m units, even with the explosive growth of Blu-Ray discs.

Adam Peneberg in Fast Company thinks about the future of publishing (Fast Company)
For the non-fiction author therein lie possibilities to create the proverbial last word on a subject, a one-stop shop for all the information surrounding a particular subject matter. Imagine a biography of Wiley Post, the one-eyed pilot from the 1930s who was the first to fly around the world. It would not only offer the entire text of a book but newsreel footage from his era, coverage of his most famous flights, radio interviews, schematics of his plane, interactive maps of his journeys, interviews with aviation historians and pilots of today, a virtual tour of his cockpit and description of every gauge and dial, short profiles of other flyers of his time, photos, hyperlinked endnotes and index, links to other resources on the subject. Social media could be woven into the fabric of the experience--discussion threads and wikis where readers share information, photos, video, and add their own content to Post's story, which would tie them more closely to the book. There's also the potential for additional revenue streams: You could buy MP3s of popular songs from the 1930s, clothes that were the hot thing back then, model airplanes, other printed books, DVDs, journals, and memorabilia.
A long discussion in the NYTimes about the prospects for Reader's Digest - needlessly catty in places (NYTimes)

As Ms. Berner tries to persuade the world to rethink this company, she apparently also needs to re-educate employees. Much of her time and boundless intensity is spent prodding her staff out of its entrenched, slow-motion ways — no easy task, given the eccentric and insular culture of this company, a legacy of the long stewardship of DeWitt and Lila Wallace, the Reader’s Digest founders.

Beyond agitprop, Ms. Berner’s continuing internal campaign has included some let’s-put-on-a-show enthusiasm and some merciless cost-cutting. Lines of authority have also been redrawn, integrating the print and online realms. “Silo busting” is a phrase you hear a lot.

To lead this revolution, Ms. Berner has hired an impressively credentialed group of women to the company’s top jobs, a coterie known around the building collectively as “the blondes.” Strictly speaking, they’re not all blonde, but they have brought high-heel chic to a place that resisted, or actively shunned, that style for a long time.

“It was hilarious to see all those Prada shoes on that campus,” says Jackie Leo, the onetime editor in chief at Reader’s Digest magazine whom Ms. Berner eventually replaced. “It’s such a Manhattan group in such a suburban place.”

Hollywood remake eyes global hit for 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' (CNN): I looked everywhere in London last week for the DVD but only found it on Ebay for $54! I think I would rather see this version than the 'remake':

The Swedish-language adaptation of Larsson's book released earlier this year, "Man Som Hatar Kvinnor" ("Men Who Hate Women") was sleeper hit, grossing nearly $100 million in Europe, according to Variety.

Now producers are hoping a star-powered English-language adaptation can turn the already successful Swedish adaptations of the "Millennium" trilogy into a truly global phenomenon.

"The English-language films will be a more international story than the Swedish ones," said Mikael Walleen, Managing Director of Yellow Bird Pictures, the company producing the original Swedish adaptations.

Magazines Get Ready for Tablets (The NYTimes):

The new approaches depend on two assumptions: that consumers will finally embrace the tablet computers that manufacturers have promised for years, and that they will want to read magazine-style content on them. Publishers are creating magazinelike products for these devices, but different mediums lend themselves to different reading styles, as the Web showed.

Thomas J. Wallace, the editorial director of Condé Nast, said he expected the design of the magazine app to evolve, reflecting how people used it. “As time goes on, we’ll find our way with this, but we need to have the thing — we need to have the consumer using the thing — to tell us what’s best. So we start with who we are.”

In the Esquire app, articles are recreated in documents that the reader scrolls through. A tap calls up more photos or video, a navigation screen or a search box. Because Mr. Granger has a sponsor — Axe — for the first three issues, he hasn’t had to figure out how to incorporate and measure print ads.

Mag Bag: 2009 Round-Up Of Magazine Closures (MediaPost):
These are just the latest in a long casualty list of magazines closed in 2009 -- a total of 433, if you include 64 titles that ceased print publication to go online-only. MediaFinder noted that this number is actually down from previous years -- 526 in 2008, 573 in 2007 -- but the victims include a larger proportion of big titles. Among the high-profile magazines to close this year were Country Home, Teen, Wondertime, Domino (January), Hallmark (February), Best Life and Blender (March), Portfolio (April), Nickelodeon and Vibe (June), Southern Accents (August), Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride, and Elegant Bride (October), Fortune Small Business, Metropolitan Home (November) and National Geographic Adventure (December).

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