Monday, May 07, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N19): HuffPo's Aggregation Model, Espresso Books, FT on the state of Publishing +More

From the Columbia Journalism Review a long review of how Huff Po came to define the news aggregation 'business' (CJR)
Before its purchase by AOL in February 2011, HuffPost was not a property that had produced much in the way of revenue; it had posted a profit only in the year before the sale—the amount has never been disclosed—on a modest $30 million in revenue. Aside from scoops from its estimable Washington bureau, it did little in the way of breaking stories, the industry’s traditional pathway to recognition.
Huffington Post, which had mastered search-engine optimization and was quick to understand and pounce on the rise of social media, had been at once widely followed but not nearly so widely cited. But that is likely to change now that it can boast of a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting—the rebuttal to every critic who dismissed HuffPost as an abasement to all that was journalistically sacred.
Arianna Huffington liked to boast that the site that bore her name had remained true to its origins. The homepage’s “splash” headline still reflected a left-of-center perspective; it had thousands of bloggers, famous and not, none of them paid; and while there was ever more original content, especially on the politics and business pages, the site was populated overwhelmingly with content that had originated elsewhere, much of it from the wires (in fairness, an approach long practiced by many of the nation’s newspapers). But Huffington Post had evolved into something more than the Web’s beast of traffic, blogging, and aggregation. These days, Arianna Huffington has a regular seat at the politics roundtable, which speaks not only to her own facility on TV but also to the prominence her organization enjoys.
Power can be felt, even if it defies measurement. By the winter of 2012, Huffington Post could lay claim to a widely shared perception of its growing influence—the word Huffington prefers to power, which, she says, sounds “too loaded.” For better or, in the eyes of its critics, worse, Huffington Post had assumed the position of a media institution of consequence.
Taking a look at the Espresso Book Machine at Powells (Mercury)
When I was at Powell's, before I went up to look at The Machine, I spent a few minutes talking myself down from buying a Poe Ballantine novel published by local house Hawthorne Books. I almost bought the book half because I want to read it, and half because it was pretty—Hawthorne puts out lovely books with distinctive covers and classy French flaps (when a soft-cover book folds in on the sides like a dust jacket). It's often suggested that with the increasing popularity of ebooks, publishers should/will move toward the McSweeney's model of publishing, which emphasizes "book-as-object." The Book Machine is a step in the opposite direction, back to book-as-collection-of-paper-that-has-words-on-it.
Mercury Film Editor Erik Henriksen—a regular Kindle user—expressed extreme bafflement at the existence of such a machine. I'd use it, though: Despite owning and liking a Kindle, I still have a stubborn preference for reading in print, and all other things being equal (price, convenience, availability) would always take a print book over a digital one. Plus, being able to create physical copies of hard-to-find/out-of-print titles is pretty amazing in its own right.
Warren Adler op ed in (you guessed it) the HufPo on The Coming Battle of eReaders (HuffPo):
There are thousands of categories that e-books support, running the gamut from instruction to politics and every thing in between and beyond. Works of the imagination, meaning fiction, cover numerous genres aimed to specific reader requirements. The so-called mainstream novel, the work I have labored to define, is the toughest category to monetize, especially in today's environment, which tempts creative writers to replicate and attracts the self-published.
The mainstream novel is also challenging to the author, who must be branded as a serious contributor in order to attain enough status to attract interest and sales where outlets for recognition and discoverability are shrinking.
While it was easy to make a prediction about the future of e-books it is no simple matter to predict the fate of the serious novelist in the ever-accelerating rough and tumble world of e-books. I suspect that most authors in this category will have to shoulder the task of relying on themselves to publicize, advertise, promote, and project his or her authorial name and titles, whether his or her books are published by a traditional publisher or via self-publishing. Authors of this material will either have to learn how to promote their own works or risk the ultimate curse of artistic endeavor... obscurity and dismissal.
I wasn't sure whether to pull this reference to the FT on the current landscape in publishing or not.  eBooks are big, Technology is a driver, publishers being sued, etc, etc.  You be the judge (FT):
As deep-pocketed tech companies tout ebooks to sell Windows 8 devices or Kindle Fires, iPads or gadgets running Google’s Android software, reading habits will change further, with profound consequences for retailers, publishers, authors and consumers.
The pace of change is already dramatic. According to PwC, the consultancy, US consumer ebook sales will grow 42 per cent to $2.5bn this year, or 11 per cent of the American consumer books market. But this may understate the growth. The Association of American Publishers said on Friday that ebooks accounted for 31 per cent of all adult trade sales in February, up from 27 per cent in the same period a year ago, with their share of the children’s and young adult market jumping from 10 per cent to 16 per cent in a year.
In Europe, ebook sales will grow 113 per cent, PwC estimates, but will end the year as less than 2 per cent of the market. In Asia, ebooks will be more than 6 per cent of the market by December, it predicts.
However, this comes at a heavy cost to print. Adult hardback sales fell 17.5 per cent last year, according to the Association of American Publishers. In the UK, The Publishers Association said this week that consumer ebook sales leapt 366 per cent in 2011 to 6 per cent of the total, but print declines left the total market down 2 per cent.

Joking about textbook prices (Link)

From my Twitter feed this week

The Man Who Revitalized 'Doctor Who' And 'Sherlock'

BISG’s Making Information Pay Conference:Beyond “Business-as-Usual”;The Age of Big Data,by Lorraine Shanley /PubTrends

A universal digital library is within reach

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