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.
Posts about books
My Guardian column this week is an interview with the Googliest author I know, Paulo Coelho about the power of free and friendships online. The lede:
Paulo Coelho certainly has nothing against selling books. He has sold an astounding 100m copies of his novels. But he also believes in giving them away. He is a pirate. . . .
I’m writing the section of my book about publishing and exploring new models. Would love, as always, to get your thoughts on what I’m writing:
Rick Smolan has found another way to support his gorgeous and thus expensive collaborative photography books: sponsorship. He is best known for producing America 24/7, a book chronicling one week in the life of the U.S. with 1,000 top photojournalists. More recently, he produced America at Home, with a companion for the U.K., and it was underwritten by an obvious sponsor: Ikea. (He also had another innovative idea: You can pay to get the book with your photo on the cover.)
So here’s the question: Why shouldn’t books have ads to support them as TV, newspapers, magazines, and radio do? Ads in books would be less irritating than commercials interrupting shows or banners blinking at you on a web page. Would it be any more corrupting to have ads in this book than next to a story I write in Business Week? Well, you’d have to tell me. If I were to have had a sponsor or two for this book, who would it have been and what would you have thought of my work as a result? If Dell bought an ad—because, after all, I now have nice things to say about them—would you have wondered whether I’d sold out to them? I would fear you’d think that. What about Google itself? Obviously, that wouldn’t work. Yahoo? Ha! Who might want to talk to you and associate themselves with the thinking in this book while also helping to support it? I’m not sure. Let’s discuss that for the paperback I hope gets published. Come to my blog and tell me what you think.
….So that’s what I wrote in the manuscript. But, of course, we can discuss this now. Do you think I should take a sponsor or two for the book (I’m not saying it’s an option; this is a discussion)? If so, who would make a good sponsor? Who wouldn’t? Would it affect your thinking if a sponsored book cost less? Should I then wish for a sponsor not only because it reduces the risk for the publisher and me but because it means more books could be sold at a lower price spreading the ideas in the book farther?
: If we had any guts – and we likely don’t – we could auction a sponsor position on eBay. How’s this for a model: The sponsor, like a publisher, pays an advance but commits to pay a CPM based on copies sold but on a scale that’s reverse that of publisher commissions (the more copies that are sold, the lower the CPM goes).
Maybe that could be a model for news sponsorship, too: Sponsor a story and the more links it get, the more audience you get, the more you pay at a lower rate.
: LATER: Rick Smolan asked that I add this note from him responding to some of the comments:
1) I completely understand the skepticism many of your readers expressed at the mental image of a sponsored book – what comes to mind is a product dripping with logos and not so subtle product placement – an annual report disguised as journalism.
2) The truth of the matter, at least as it pertains to the books that we produce, couldn’t be further from that. Don’t think advertising – think PBS Special: “The Following program is made possible through a generous grant from X Corporation”. That’s it. Period.
3) As far as logos and credits for sponsors, if you look at AMERICA AT HOME or any one of the other books we’ve produced, the first page of the book carries the logos of the sponsors and at the end of the book is a page explaining their contribution to the project. That’s it.
4) Because of the support of our sponsors (which include Apple, Google, Ikea, HP, Fedex, Kodak, Adobe, and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies) more than five million copies of our books adorn peoples coffee tables around the world.
5) Every single book we’ve produced for the past 25 years has been sponsored. Why? Because no publisher would publish our first book, “A Day in the Life of Australia” we went to the business community in Australia and self-published the book – it went on to become the #1 book in Australia and sold 200,000 copies (in a market where 10,000 was a best seller).
6) After that first success we certainly had publishers interested in being our publisher but our projects (which usually include not only a large format illustrated book, but also a TV show, website, exhibits and worldwide PR) cost millions of dollars each to produce and no publisher is willing to risk such large amounts on a single title.
7) In terms of journalistic integrity, our agreement with sponsors is that they get no editorial rights of censorship or input. In order to be able to engage the talents of photographers and editors from Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, National Geographic, The Washington Post, etc we have to ensure this editorial independence.
8) The fact that Time, Newsweek, Fortune and US News regularly feature our books on their covers (and even mention the role of the sponsors as part of the story) speaks volumes.
9) In addition to the funding our sponsors also run full fledged marketing campaigns to promote their sponsorship. Kodak for example has run full page ads in the Wall Street Journal promoting the fact that they were the sponsor. Nikon ran full page ads in Newsweek. Apple created promotional videos.
10) Ironically, a company has a much greater chance of having its products featured in one of our books if they AREN’T a sponsor. That’s because we actually remove any photo that contains a sponsors products to avoid the impression that we are doing product placement. Our current book AMERICA AT HOME is a perfect example – it was sponsored by IKEA yet there isn’t a single photo of an IKEA product in the book.
The one nod to IKEA is that when book buyers order a customized book featuring their own family or home on the cover those personalized covers carry the IKEA name (note: about 21% of the people who purchase this book are actually customizing it – an amazing trend in publishing). Not a single person has complained about this – probably because people seem to have a great deal of affection for IKEA.
(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?
Charlie Beckett’s Supermedia, Saving journalism so it can save the world has been pubilshed in the UK and soon will be in the US. It’s really a treatise on networked journalism.
I was honored to have been asked to write the foreword. Snippets:
First, let’s get this straight: No one says that amateurs will or should replace professional journalists. That’s not what networked journalism is about. Instead, networked journalism proposes to take advantage of the new opportunities for collaboration presented by the linked ecology of the internet. Professional and amateur, journalist and citizen may now work together to gather and share more news in more ways to more people than was ever possible before. Networked journalism is founded on a simple, self-evident and self-interested truth: We can do more together than we can apart. . . .
By joining and creating networks of journalistic effort – helping with curation, editing, vetting, education, and, yes, revenue – these news organizations can, indeed, grow. Newspapers can get hyperlocal or international. TV stations can have cameras everywhere. Investigators can have many more hands helping them dig. News sites can become more efficient by doing what they do best and linking to the rest. Reporters can get help and corrections on their work before and after it is published.
The tools journalists can use are constantly expanding. Links and search enable journalism to be found. Blogs allow anyone to publish and contribute. Mobile devices help witnesses share what they see – even as it happens – in the form of text, photos, audio, and video. Databases and wikis enable large groups to pool their knowledge. Social services can connect experts and communities of information.
This, I believe, is the natural state of media: two-way and collaborative. The one-way nature of news media until now was merely a result of the limitations of production and distribution. Properly done, news should be a conversation among those who know and those who want to know, with journalists – in their new roles as curators, enablers, organizers, educators – helping where they can. The product of their work is no longer the publication-cum-fishwrap but instead a process of progressive enlightenment.
So the means, economics, architecture, tools, and technology of journalism all change. What I hope changes most, though, is the culture. I hope journalism becomes more open, transparent, inclusive, flexible. I do believe that journalism will be stronger and more valuable as a component of networks than it was as the product of professional priesthoods. I also believe the amateurs who help in this process will be stronger for learning the standards, practices, and lessons journalists have learned over the years. Both will be better off for realizing that we are in this together, we are members of the same communities. But even with all this change, the essential task of journalism is still unchanged: We want to uncover what the world knows and what the world needs to know and bring them together. . . .
That power – the means, opportunities, and implications of networked journalism – is explored most ably in the pages that follow. Until now, networked journalism has been the subject mostly of blog posts and conference panel discussions. The idea and practice of networked journalism needs this thorough examination and this manifesto in its favor. And I second Charlie Beckett’s contention that we in the news business and in society need networked journalism not just to protect but to expand journalism’s future.
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.”
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?