Saturday, January 24, 2009

Loyal Fans Will Buy Stuff

Use the web + social media + events + TV + whatever else to identify loyal fans. Then sell them stuff. The easiest thing to sell them are books and posters. To see what I mean click to He's a PC, but He Likes Small Niches.

The lede:
Interesting interview with John Hodgman in Wired. Hodgman — probably best known today as the PC in the “I’m a Mac” commercials — is a former literary agent, and he talks about his travails trying to get a book by B-movie actor Bruce Campbell published.

Newspaper Folks: Consider This Next

The very interesting discussion about the News continues at A recent thread was started with a post titled Does Following the News Work? 15 comments as of this morning.

In any case, here's what I said
In addition to the bad journalism there is a problem with the medium. Pride and Prejudice, the novel is not equivalent to the movie or the TV series or the Cliff Notes. Yet it is all the "same" story.

It becomes a little more clear if the medium is placed in the communication ecology in which it exists.

"Breaking news" became the newspaper's value with the rise of the telegraph and then the telephone. It was driven by war reporting which created the necessary focus for a large audience. The importance of speed was also fueled by financial speculation where an information advantage is not only power, it is money.

Before that the newspaper was not primarily driven by advertising, but by subscription. With mass industrialization there came mass marketing and here we are. But in the era when debates, lectures and religious revivals were a significant form of "entertainment", newspapers would routinely serialize what later became novels.

Today, newspapers are not read, they are viewed and scanned. Too much other distraction and too many other media to scan -cable TV, Google news,Search. Readers for any particular story are a small percentage of the people who scan the media. The value added of the great writer/journalist is to craft the 1000 words or less that gets to the crux of it for those few who have the time and interest to focus on that story.

The purpose of a wiki is a resource for the writer/journalist. It uses the "crowd" to investigate, the wiki to organize and store, and the writer to write for publication.

I've been on a soapbox for a while that newspapers should sell stuff, instead of trying to sell information. Given the latest advances in Print technology, it is practical to offer that "366 page book" to "scanners" who want to become readers for that story.

My bet is that every important story about education, health, government and local economic development would find fans who would willingly pay for a physical book that puts it all in one place. The price would depend on the story. The sales would depend on offering it when the focus is high. With that model the Print newspaper would be optimized for scanning and selling local ads.

Headlines + a lede and two paragraphs + a link to the website + 1 or 2 "feature stories" + lots of pages of local ads. When the time is right, use the wiki to write the book and sell it through the website
Designers: Someone has to design these books. Consider getting in touch with the ultra local niche newspaper in your area.

Printers: Someone has to print those books and/or other Print Products for those newspapers.

Technologists: How about a platform - in a Software As A Service that lives in the Cloud - to get the busy work done, so that writers could concentrate on writing, instead of cutting and pasting.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Newspaper Folks: Do this Next

Read this discussion at The title is The Newsroom's Information Surplus. It's worth the click so I won't summarize.

But this is what I said after a really great comment by Tim.
"I just want to add the Print piece to your very reasonable model.

You say "...Ideally, a news web site *could* use the tools of the blog and the wiki to address the problem of timeliness and interestingness -- and focus their editorial energy on importance."

Ideally the content in Print should be determined, NOT on a calendar schedule, but a news event schedule. The Product is still delivered on a regular schedule. But editorial gives up chasing the "breaking news".

A sometimes undervalued feature of breaking news is that it creates focus . . for a moment. If journalists had 24/7 access to a wikipedia type site, focused on the local region and it's many ongoing stories, it should make it a lot easier to write the story that will "get the right information, to the right person at the right time in the right form."

It might be the way to deal with the fact that "general interest" news is best delivered by groups forming on the web and Search.

Newspaper Folks: Do this Next Part 1

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Newspaper Folks: Do this Next

With all the blablabla about the "End of Print," it's sometimes hard not to get distracted by all the noise. But here is a radio station in Central PA that seems to be getting it right.

While at the laundromat, I picked up a copy of "Good News - Bear Country Radio's Monthly Magazine." The tagline is Celebrating our eleventh year of bringing "Good News" to the Susquehanna Valley. You can take a look for yourself at

The version in hyperspace is 56 pages. The physical copy is 48pp. I'm holding it in my hands, and recounted twice. Anyway it is an appx 8 by 10 4 color newsprint glued and trimmed product, printed on a cold set web Press.

Of the 48 pages, 31 1/2 are ads.

Since anything I know I got from scanning the Print product the following numbers are not meant to be exact. Here's what they say in Print.
"Business Cards Ads - Just $15 - Call 570-769-2327. " ,"Combine your RADIO advertising with PRINT. . .Call us for Special Packaging Rates! 570 769 2327.
It's hard to tell what money changes hands for what. The back of the envelope is 15 "Business Card Ads" on a page, so let's say lowest net per page at $225. Thirty one and a half pages of ads at $225 per page. Now consider the cost of a cold set web magazine product with minimal distribution costs. Now consider that the staff listed on page 2 is 1 editor, 1 editorial assistant, 2 contributing editors, and 4 sales people. Do the math.

Hint number 1.
Look at the product very closely. At the bottom of every page is "Please Patronize These Advertisers." On page 6 of the Print versions is a "SPOTLIGHT ON: A local Business Success Story! And my personal favorite, under the copy about each Radio show, "Please patronize this fine sponsor of "To Your Health" - page 8 in Print.
Hint number 2.
If you think this can't be done in your area, consider how many natural groups of 25K to 100K people among your readership. Where do they live? Where are their laundromats?
Sometimes you can learn more in a laundromat then in at an expensive conference listening to really smart people taling about the Future of x,y,z . . . Ain't Print grand?

To our printer and designer viewers.
I'm pretty sure you can take it from here. The printers are probably too busy printing to spend the time. But, designer friends, how many local newspapers - not the NYTimes, etc.- do you think that you could contact?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Printers: What You Should do Next!

Read this book: Renewing the Print Industry. It's written by Dr Joe Webb. You can download it for free here, or buy the print version in black & white or in color.

To our Designer and Newspaper viewers:
The book is a fact based analysis of the Print industry. There's lots of stuff you will probably find useful. In any case, if you want to connect with each other and your local printer, assuming of course that he will answer the phone, it's a pretty good framework for a useful discussion. Maybe if you all get together you can figure out what kind of stuff your readers, customers and clients will willingly buy.
The free version is free, except you have to give MindfireInc your contact info. I did it, but no spam so far. It's only fair as they underwrote the costs of the report. It's a PDF, about 150 pages 8 1/2 by 11. It has graphs and charts in color. Print it out. Give it to your sales manager or the smartest person in your outfit. Tell them they have to read it and give you a summary of what your company should do. If you tell them they have to give a presentation at your next sales meeting, that will get their attention. In any case, there is at least a 40-60 chance that it will get them thinking.

Or if you don't have the time to download, print and/or talk to your sales manager. Go to, and buy the book for $50. It's less than you would have to pay for Dr. Webb to visit your outfit or for a special research report from WTT or the latest and greatest from any trade association that gets your dues. Have the book delivered to your home. Let it sit around for a couple of days until you have the time to scan it. While watching TV usually works pretty well.

Then next time you are in the office say,
"I just read this book over the weekend. Take a look and let me know what you think we can use. And by the way, I want you to give a presentation at our next sales meeting."
The "you" should be the smartest person in your outfit. It might even be your sales manager. More likely it will be a CSR, your receptionist or someone in Prep.

If you really want to get something done, tell everyone in the company that they are going to get a multiple choice test on the contents. Then set up Survey Monkey for the test. Then give the winner an iPod or an iPhone.

Or if you have about three hours to invest, you can read the PDF on the Internet. Or if you just can't make the time to read it or if you need some help figuring out how to apply what's in it. Get in touch with Dr. Joe. Maybe he can fit you into his speaking schedule.

Disclaimer: I get no comp on this. I'm just a blogger. I'm still trying to figure out what kind of stuff my viewers might buy.

Reading on the web.

Mostly I think that web is awful for reading. I now think I was wrong. Still suboptimal, but most definitely not impossible . Darn those designers!
It's President Obama's speech.
After I posted this am, I found this in my Gmail.
Your readers may also be interested in some similar flows:
(the more inspirational of the two IMO)

To our newspaper publisher viewers:
Consider putting this link on your website. Then track who goes there. That will give you a sense of the 2 or 3% of your viewers are readers. Maybe it's more. Maybe it's less. At any rate, it will tell you the IP address they come from. They you might be able to sell them books with those long, complex stories. Keep open the newsprint for ads. Make some money from selling stuff.

Don't Sell Service. Sell Stuff Part 1

People don't buy service, except of course for the "oldest profession." Would you pay for more for a good salesperson in a store? Or an upcharge for the help desk to do their jobs? Sometimes yes. But mostly no. A nice "thank-you" and coming back for more are the more appropriate responses.

But, people will willingly exchange money for stuff. Print objects are great stuff. A friend forwarded some spam he got yesterday,
As a Wired reader, you are eligible for this exclusive offer from GQ.
Subscribe now and get GQ for only $12! That's over 74% off the newsstand price.
Plus, you'll receive a FREE special edition Barack Obama Man of the Year Cover Print ready for framing.
Somebody thinks a Print "ready for framing" is valuable stuff.

To our designer viewers:
Every great designer I know wants to get into the selling stuff business. It's that alluring long tail. They all have at least 50 ideas of stuff that people will buy. Probably one or two of them might actually work.

So, consider becoming your printers partner, instead of their customer.

Printers have the machinery to make stuff. Right now they are searching for new sources of revenue. Many have lots of unused capacity. If they have digital machinery, the cost of prototypes is trivial.

Of course finding a printer who gets it is hard. But there are some of them out there. Next time your sales rep comes buy to "just touch base", pitch her on your latest greatest idea that will change the world.

Hint: Talk to them as a co developer. Let them share in the upside, and they might be willing to take some of the risk of the downside. At worst, you'll both get great portfolios pieces that you can use to sell your service, while you continue to hunt for the right stuff to sell.

I picked this up a a couple of days ago.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune profiles Mark Jessen of Jessen Press on his journey to save his printing business from declining profit margins.

Jessen turned to a partnership with a marketing savvy neighbor to develop a new business and a line of novelty printed map products. The map business generated 10 percent of Jessen Press 2008 sales of $4.5 million.

Read the the StarTrib article for all the details.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Print is the Next Big Thing Part 1

I found this over at The Buzz Machine. It's a really interesting post, but this is one part that caught my eye.
When I was last in London, I was shocked to hear that the Telegraph makes a third of its profits from merchandise sales: wine, garden sheds, and hangers (honestly). The Wall Street Journal has started selling wine.
Here's what that has to do with Print.

The Internet is getting old. The "land grab and the laying the tracks" part is pretty much done. Now the job is moving from the designer to the engineers. The basic principles of GUI are pretty much out there. The action is now shifting to SEO and building server farms.

Print, on the other hand, is ready to reenter the ring. In the next year or two the cell phone is going to connect Print to the Internet. It's become pretty clear that the CPM model only is going to work for some.

Here's the point:

The web is the most efficient way to buy stuff ever invented in human history. Evidently, the Telegraph in London has discovered that people will willingly buy stuff. It's a sustainable revenue model that doesn't depend on access to information or advertising.

Print, unlike the web, is wonderful stuff. If designed and engineered and delivered correctly, people will willingly pay for Printed stuff.

Print is the Next Big Thing parts 2, 3, 4, . . . To come.

A New Growth Market for Graphic Design

It's not advertising. Unless you are a tech involved in SEO. Besides Brand Advertising is probably over for most of the world of ad supported publications. Check out SeekingAlpha to sere what I mean.

The new paradigm for advertising is the early Sears Roebuck catalogs. Useful information delivered in a clear way to people who want to buy stuff.

The new opportunities are in education, health and government. Education is the one closest to my heart, so I'll talk about that here and leave health and government for another day. The next industry that is going to fall is textbooks. Everyone knows they are dumb. They don't work. The kids don't like them. The teachers don't like them. They are expensive and slow.

Consider if a really smart editor at a newspaper, say the Science editor, assembled a team to focus on science, not for daily publication to some ill defined audience called their "readers." The science editor at a good newspaper is a trained experienced professional who can translate specialized language into stories that people can understand. Kids in K - 12 are people.

The missing piece is the standards in place in formal education systems. The good news is that finally those standards are being translated into normal language. Google "Berks County Intermediate Unit Standards" and you'll get to a PDF that you have to download. Once the standards are accessible, the good journalists have exactly the right skill sets.

The remaining hard problem is inventing just the right forms that delivers the information to students in K-12 (and college, by the way.) Solving hard problems earns real value.

Go get'em. The story continues here and here and here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Designers + Printers + Newspapers = new value?

Interesting conversation about newspapers breaking out at PrintCeoBlog. 28 comments as of this morning. It was started by BoSacks with a post called the Publishing Canary Theory Revisited. Most definitely worth the click.

Anyway after a while I said,
It’s not newspapers that are broken. It’s the idea that advertising will support anything with reach Here’s an excerpt from Seeking Alpha

“Pundits will argue that with increased ad targeting, profiling, and all sorts of other algorithmic alchemy, online ad revenues will be boosted. In my opinion, such talk is nonsense insofar as brand advertising (not direct response) is concerned. Rather, a seismic shift is underway – one that will not only change the nature of advertising, but will also show that the last century of offline advertising witnessed a tremendous amount of money being flushed down the toilet. We are a lot smarter than we were 50 years ago, and those analog dollars really should have been analog pennies all along.”

Now that the advertising game is coming to close, magazine publishers and newspaper publishers are going to have to invent stuff that people will willingly buy. Given how much people love Print, it shouldn’t be that hard, but it is a different way to think about it."

A little later Andy McCourt said.

. . Digital, multiple-site newspaper printing will alleviate much of the timeliness, environmental and delivery issues. Micro publishing, hyper-localisation and of course localised advertising, will provide the economic modelling. As with all targeted, ‘rifle’ media, as opposed to ’shotgun’ - we will see fewer copies printed because what you are eliminating is the wasted shots.
And then he said,
There are more horses in the USA today than at any time pre-automobile. It’s just they are not used for transport, unless you are Amish. Most are beautiful fine thoroughbreds or leisure animals. They are looked up to and respected, treated well and regarded often as ‘noble’ and ‘dependable.’. . . That could be print communications in the future…noble and respected, not used for the bulk of information/knowledge dissemination, but still widespread and powerful.
And then a little later, Andy continued
, ...Oz is Australia, where wizards live. Wizards in print anyway. We’re right next to the cheapest sources of printing (Asia) and still our industry manages to fight on, invest, survive although one could not say prosper right now. APN who I mentioned do a lot of magazine printing (heatset) both for their own (coldset)publications and contract work, but they do have a successful sheetfed operation too. . . .
Once a newspaper goes combination heatset/coldset and can switch between the 2, it should open up certain commercial opportunities but these are likely to be from their existing client base or for publications they control, such as tourist guide ‘newzines’ in areas where they also publish a daily/bi-weekly/weekly. Their sales people can then offer the new product to existing newspaper advertisers, with the added benefit of longevity, higher quality and broader distribution.

Main limitation is in the finishing - often plain vanilla, maybe with a ‘fudge’ topping, in newspapers.
Then I asked:
1. Does it make sense for newspapers to network with commerical printers. One to share sales people. Printer salespeople could cross sell advertising. Get a normal commission from the newspapers. And sell commercial print at their normal commissions from the Printer. The second would be for newspapers to act as Print brokers according to standard industry protocols.

2. I believe that if some creative design talent started from the “plain vanilla” finishing, they could innovate new products that are of same form, but meet the needs of new markets in education ,health and government with appropriate content and design.

The discussion continues at PrintCeoBlog among many other places on the web.