Posts about Book

My new book coming to Medium: Free!

Starting today, I’ll be putting my new book onto Medium, all of it for free.

Screenshot 2014-12-03 at 9.35.05 AMGeeks Bearing Gifts: Imagining New Future for News is an essay that metastasized into a book. It is my attempt to answer the question I’m often asked: “OK, smartass, now that your damned, beloved internet has ruined news, what next?” When asked what I had to say about paywalls or advertising or the fate of the article or the ideas behind social journalism, I wanted something to point to. This is that. It is not a prediction or a prescription but instead a call to focus on the opportunities technology presents to news rather than the problems. A snippet from the introduction, which I’m posting today:

If I had a plan, I’d be eliminating possibilities. I’d be predicting the future and prescribing it. But I’m not trying to do that. If we define the future today, we’ll do so in the terms of our past. Horseless carriages. We still have more imagining to do. That’s what this essay is: an exercise in personal brainstorming — one I’d like to see undertaken by journalism students, journalism teachers, journalists, publishers, media companies, technologists, investors, activists, and anyone who cares about news and society. If we don’t imagine many futures, we can’t build any. We must start by questioning three key industrial assumptions about news, or we’ll never get past trying to preserve them. 

* First, that the natural role of the public in relation to journalism is as the mass, as an audience — or as my friend Rosen calls them now, the people formerly known as the audience. Who are they today? What roles can they play? How does this shift in roles affect the value of the journalist in this new relationship? In the first part of this essay, I will propose different perspectives for conceiving of the role of journalism in society: as a service, a builder of platforms, an organizer, an advocate, a teacher, an incubator. I will argue that journalism must learn how to get into the relationship business; that, I believe, can be a foundation for a new business strategy for the news industry. 

* Second, that the article is the atomic unit and necessary product of news and that journalists are storytellers. Articles, I am sure, will remain a key tool journalists will use to add value to a flow of information — with narrative, organization, context, summary, example, and discussion. But in the second part of this essay, I will try to move past the article or story to examine other forms news may take: as data (our current darling) and also as functionality, as platforms, as sets of information assets with many paths through them, as curation, as conversations. 

* The final assumption: That old business models can be recreated in a new reality, that newsrooms will (or won’t) be preserved, that print won’t (or will) survive, that people will or should (or won’t) pay for news, that advertising must (or can’t) support news, that media companies will control news (or die). I don’t believe that news is in jeopardy. We see increased access to news, interest in it, need for it, means of sharing it, and discussion about it online. I don’t think demand is the problem. Business models most certainly are a problem (though to say that business models are the only problem is to fool ourselves into thinking that the rest of journalism needn’t change). So I will concentrate in the third part of this essay on possible new models, including some we have been studying at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, which I direct at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. The goal is to find sustainable — that is, profitable — support for news. But that is not merely a discussion of replacing lost revenue; we also must examine new efficiencies in what will surely be smaller, post-monopoly news enterprises. Mostly, we must concentrate on where and how journalism adds value to a community’s knowledge and only then consider how it can extract value for its sustenance. So perhaps the news industry must think past the idea that it is in the content, advertising, and distribution businesses. Perhaps we should ask whether — like Google and Facebook — news instead should be a service that helps people accomplish their goals. Here I return to the relationship strategy for news and explore the opportunity to build new business models around value over volume.

I’ll be posting every chapter of the book on Medium, one or a few at a time, over the coming weeks. Of course, you can still make our publishing imprint and my bosses happy by buying the book or the Kindle or you can buy it directly from our friends at OR books.

This week at my journalism school, we held a summit on innovation and gave the Knight Innovation Award to Vice’s Shane Smith. My great and good friend Bill Gross started off the day with a keynote about what he has learned starting 125 companies. I recommend it highly. As you watch it, imagine what journalism could be if it were filled with entrepreneurs like Bill and Shane who saw problems at things to solve and found opportunities there.

I want to thank the wonderful Kate Lee at Medium and the great creative services team there for making Geeks Bearing Gifts look so great. I will be posting the first chapter tomorrow.

What Would Google Do?

What Would Google Do? is a month away. I know you’re not counting the days, but I am.

wwgd_jackeytHere‘s its web home, where you can preorder the book (thanks in advance) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, or Powells. Here‘s its Facebook page, where the discussion will continue, I hope. As a hoot, the publisher (Collins) made a CafePress store, where you can order WWGD? buttons, mugs, and T-shirt (I’m holding out for hats and bumperstickers). There’ll be an audiobook (for which I tortured the producers reading at three times normal human speed; they had to find 100 nice ways to tell me to slow down), an electronic book, a V-book (an E-book with video), a Kindle version, and a video version. I’ll soon be posting WWGD?: The PowerPoint for free. The publisher also plans to put up pieces of the book for free; more on that later.

The book just got a blog review
from bookseller and author Drew Goodman: “The scariest chapter for me, was when Jarvis re-imagined the book publishing and selling business. I work in a bookstore. I write books. As an author, you write books and hope people like your words enough to pay for them. As a bookseller, you help people find authors that appeal to them so that they will buy the books from your bookstore. What if my livelihood were suddenly changed by an influx of free books on the Internet, or offering only ebooks. Is this such a bad thing, Jarvis asks. I began the chapter by screaming “Yes.” I ended the chapter by realizing that the Internet actually helps my business, both in writing and selling books.”

I couldn’t wish for a better response. (If only they were all like that.)

So far, I have one trip scheduled to California for the book. When and if other events are scheduled, I’ll update the book pages.

Pardon the hype. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum (though your idea of minimum and mine may be slightly different). Now we return to our regularly scheduled snark.

: LATER: Here’s the publisher’s official page for the book and a post on the new Collins Backstage blog. And, for amusement, they put up a countdown widget:

SpringWidgets
HarperCollins Releases
Check out the newest Books from HarperCollins and bring them to your Desktop.

Sponsors for books, continued

For those who were interested in this post asking about sponsorship for my book, please see the discussion there and Rick Smolan’s answers to some of their questions and concerns.

Sound the trumpets

I sent the last of my first draft of the book to my editor last night. I believe the saying is, woot. I’m headed in this morning to go over it with him for my first revision. We’re on a fast track (for book publishing): It will be out in January.

The myth of the creative class

As I near the end of writing my book, one lesson that has struck me is about the will of most people to create, and the new possibilities the Google age brings us.

One survey I quote says that 81 percent of us say we have a book in us. Another survey says that a coincidental 81 percent of young people think they have a business in them. We make tens of millions of blogs. We take hundreds of millions of Flickr photos. A few hundred thousand people write applications for Facebook. Paulo Coelho (see the post below) asks his readers to make a movie of his book and they eagerly do so. Stephen Colbert challenges his viewers to remix John McCain and they do. Howard Stern doesn’t even ask his listeners and they produce no end of song parodies and anthems to Baba Booey. The art and entertainment of Lonely Girl 15 becomes not just the videos they make but the videos viewers make. Every minute, 10 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. People create T-shirt designs on Threadless and sneaker designs on Ryz and things of all descriptions on Etsy. BMW invites drivers to color a car and 9,000 people do. And on and on.

This has surely always been the case. The internet doesn’t make us more creative, I don’t think. But it does enable what we create to be seen, heard, and used. It enables every creator to find a public, the public he or she merits. And that takes creation out of the proprietary hands of the supposed creative class.

Internet curmudgeons argue that Google et al are bringing society to ruin precisely because they rob the creative class of its financial support and exclusivity: its pedestal. But internet triumphalists, like me, argue that the internet opens up creativity past one-size-fits-all mass measurements and priestly definitions and lets us not only find what we like but find people who like what we do. The internet kills the mass, once and for all. With it comes the death of mass economics and mass media, but I don’t lament that, not for a moment.

The curmudgeons also argue that this level playing field is flooded with crap: a loss of taste and discrimination. I’ll argue just the opposite: Only the playing field is flat and to stand out one must now do so on merit – as defined by the public rather than the priests – which will be rewarded with links and attention. This is our link economy, our culture of links. It is a meritocracy, only now there are many definitions of merit and each must be earned.

We have believed – I have been taught – that there are two scarcities in society: talent and attention. There are only so many people with talent and we give their talent only so much attention – not enough of either.

But we are shifting, too, from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance. That is the essence of the Google worldview: managing abundance. So let’s assume that instead of a scarcity there is an abundance of talent and a limitless will to create but it has been tamped down by an educational system that insists on sameness; starved by a mass economic system that rewarded only a few giants; and discouraged by a critical system that anointed a closed, small creative class. Now talent of many descriptions and levels can express itself and grow. We want to create and we want to be generous with our creations. And we will get the attention we deserve. That means that crap will be ignored. It just depends on your definition of crap.

This link ecology does potentially change the nature of creativity. It makes it more collaborative, not just in the act but in the inspiration. Coelho’s Witch of Portobello is the spark that leads to a movie made by its readers. Same with Stern, LonelyGirl, Colbert. Perhaps the role of the creative class is not so much to make finished products but to inspire more to be made. It is the flint of creativity. It’s the internet – Google, Flickr, YouTube, and old, mass media as their accessories – that bring flint and spark together.

I’ve long disagreed with those who say that copyright kills creativity, for I do believe that there is no scarcity of inspiration. But I now understand their position better. I also have learned that when creations are restricted it is the creator who suffers more because his creation won’t find its full and true public, its spark finds no kindling, and the fire dies. The creative class, copyright, mass media, and curmudgeonly critics stop what should be a continuing process of creation; like reverse alchemists, they turn abundance into scarcity, gold into lead.

When we talk about the Google age, then, we do talk about a new society and the rules I explore in my book are the rules of that society, built on connections, links, transparency, openness, publicness, listening, trust, wisdom, generosity, efficiency, markets, niches, platforms, networks, speed, and abundance.

I start by talking about business: how all this affects company, industries, and then institutions and how to react and find advantage in this change. But it will also affect life, and that is what I am writing in the last section of the book. I’m doing that starting today so, as always, I’d be grateful for your generous, wise, open, and abundant thoughts on the topic. Thanks.

: Other categories of ideas I think I’m dealing with in this ending on the impact of Google on society: its impact on our relations; on our attitudes, ethics, and skills; on our institutions and organization.

: LATER: In the comments, Sean says I should link to Richard Florida’s books on the creative class. I have to confess that I bought one of them but never got through it. Books are such an echo chamber.

Apologizing for the book

(recovered post; comments lost)

I’m sparing you drafts of my book as I write it and instead discussing the ideas here and getting smarter for it. But I thought I’d share just a few graphs from the next-to-last chapter, this one on the book industry asking What Would Google Do?

I confess: I’m a hypocrite. If I had followed my own rules – if I had eaten my own dogfood – you wouldn’t be reading this book right now, at least not as a book. You’d be reading it online, for free. You’d have discovered it via links and search. You’d be entering into a conversation around any point in the book. You’d be able to correct me and I’d be able to update the book with the latest amazing stats from Google. This would be even more of a collaboration than it already is. We might form a society of Googlethinkers on Facebook and you’d offer better advice and newer ways to look at the world than I have been able to. I might make money from speaking and consulting instead of a publisher’s advance.

But instead, I made money from a publisher’s advance. That is why you are reading this as a book. Sorry. Dog’s gotta eat.

And the truth is, I already do most everything I describe above – on my blog. I believe the two forms may come together eventually. But in the meantime, I’m no fool; I couldn’t pass up a nice check from Collins, my publisher, and all sorts of services from Harper-Collins, its parent, including editing, design, publicity, sales, a speaker’s bureau, and online help. That’s why publishing is still publishing. The question is, how long can it stay that way?

Ãœberpedia lives

In 2005, I suggested that an old-style publisher’s response to the crowdsourced publishing of Wikipedia should be to create a vetted version of it, to add value and publish the thing. Fred Wilson called it the Red Hat Wikipedia. I called it the Ãœberpedia.

Well, that’s just what is happening to the German Wikipedia thanks to Bertelsmann.

The idea is to use Wikipedia to capture the zeitgeist by selecting the most popular entries, Beate Varnhorn, the editor in charge of Bertelsmann’s reference works, said in an interview by telephone. “We think of it as an encyclopedic yearbook,” Dr. Varnhorn said, leaving open the possibility of new editions if the 2008 version is successful. . . .

Yet Bertelsmann says the project should not be judged as a re-creation in book form of what appears online, but rather as an attempt to harness the collective wisdom of Wikipedia’s users. “Most of the key words are related to current discussions,” Dr. Varnhorn said, whether the subject is the French first lady, Carla Sarkozy, “or a German best seller, a successful TV show or new electronic products — all key words you normally don’t find in a traditional encyclopedia.” . . .

Bertelsmann had a staff of 10 condense and verify the material found online, particularly the “most risky articles,” though Dr. Varnhorn spoke with respect of the amateur writers and editors on the site. “You find errors in the German Wikipedia, but they really try to keep errors as far away as possible.”

The material on the Wikipedia site can be used free under the terms of a license that, among other things, requires crediting Wikipedia as the source. Bertelsmann agreed to pay one euro per copy sold for use of the Wikipedia name, which will help support the site’s operation, according to Mr. Klempert.

But he added: “It is not about the money. It is a very good example of the power of free knowledge, so anyone is free to use the content and do interesting things with it. It’s a nice experiment to see if the Wikipedia content is good enough to sell books.”

New ways to tell stories

At an event last week, Disney head Robert Iger talked about technology providing new ways to tell stories. I came home and found a link from Springwise to this intriguing project at Penguin, the publishers in the UK, trying to do just that. The first in the series tells a tale via Google Maps. And here’s a story written live. Who says that stories must be books and that books must be books?