Publishing: Providing value via vetting rather than distribution

This 26-Year-Old Is Making Millions Cutting Out Traditional Publishers With Amazon Kindle.

Interesting story about a writer publishing her novels directly to the Kindle via Amazon and apparently making quite good money at it. Without an official publisher.

One thing I’ve noticed on Amazon is that a lot of these indie novels are crowding out those by mainstream publishing houses in the ‘Recommended for You’ lists. I’ve found with the few indie novels I’ve sampled that they are poorly written and/or edited, which makes it hard for me to get into the story.

Publishers going forward are really going to have to embrace their role as a filter of good stuff, making sure that what they publish is truly good. Anyone can make their own content available. Publishers are going to provide value through vetting much more than distribution.

Elitist? I don’t think so. When everyone is online, those that help find the signal in the noise are going to be in a good position to provide value.

Online and On Mission Interview

My new book is coming out in a bit over a week. Titled Online and On Mission: Practical Web Strategy for Breakthrough Results, you can pre-order from the publisher now or pick one up in person at ASAE’s annual meeting in Toronto.

Seth Kahan, who helps visionary leaders get traction for their big ideas, was kind enough to interview me about the book last week. I have added the video to the Facebook fan page I set up for the book. Watch the vid and become a fan to get updates on content and events related to the book.

Two Resources for You Today

How did it get to be Wednesday already! Fast week.

Here are two resources for your data and social media needs.

First, Wes Trochlil’s book on data management had just been released by ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership this week: Putting Your Data to Work: 52 Tips and Techniques for Effectively Managing Your Database. You can get it in ebook or dead tree versions. If you manage membership data, you should buy this book.

Second, the archive of my webinar on increasing social media participation for associations is now available from Boston Conferencing: They Built It and We Were There: Maximizing Participation in Association Social Media Programs. If you want to increase participation in your social media programs, you should buy the recording. You can hear some free follow-up podcasts on this session here and here.

Last Call for NPO Exec 2009 Web Goal Survey

This week is your last chance to get a response in to the survey I am fielding on NPO top web goals for 2009.

The survey is to support a book I am writing on web strategy for non-profit organizations. Respondents will receive an executive summary and an invite to a free teleconference where I will report on the results.

Here is the link to the survey and a link to my original post with the full details.

Join the 50+ executives who have already responded! Survey closes on Saturday morning.

Very Brief Survey on Your Top Web Site Goal for 2009

I am writing a book on web strategy that ASAE & the Center is going to publish later this year. The working title is: Bringing Your Mission to Life Online: A Practical Guide to Web Strategy for Associations, Foundations and Charities.

As part of my research, I am fielding a survey for non-profit executives to state their most important goal for their web site this year. If you give me permission in the survey, I may quote you by name in the book. If you do not give that permission, I may paraphrase your entry but it will not be associated with your name or organization in any way and I will edit out anything in the submission that might inadvertently identify you.

That said, if you are secretly planning world domination for evil purposes via your web site, I suggest you skip the survey. 🙂

In return for your participation (the survey takes no longer than 5 minutes to complete), I am offering the following to all who complete the survey:

  • An executive summary of the results, discussing trends, commonalities and my recommendations for achieving those outcomes online.
  • Invitation to attend a one-hour teleconference, at no charge, where I will go into the results and my recommendations in much more detail.
  • A signed and personally dedicated copy of the final book to anyone I quote by name from the survey.

Below is the link to the survey. Please do me the favor of completing it today. (It really is very short!)

Please forward this to your NPO colleagues and friends.

Thanks for your assistance!

DRM is Hazardous to Your Revenue

I answered a question yesterday about tools for applying digital rights management (DRM) to electronic products such as PDFs and digital video files.

The short answer is that you do not need to act like an big media executive in how you offer digital products. Applying DRM to your electronic publication products is counter productive in most cases. I offer a few more thoughts on this in the short slide presentation below.

As an aside: I’ve been having fun with this past week, as you may have noticed. The key to using this as a medium for sharing your ideas is to design for it. Slides from my presentations are optimized to support my talk. Slides on slideshare need to stand on their own.

Update: This set of slides is currently featured on the home page. Nobody can resist a good DRM smackdown.

Rapid and Participatory Publishing

Here are the slides from another presentation I gave at ASAE’s Great Ideas conference: Rapid and Participatory Publishing. In this presentation I discuss two cases of traditional book publishers who have leveraged the Web to enhance and extend their publishing efforts. These models are a great fit for most associations that have existing publishing operations. The short-form ebook model could also be a good option for an organization looking to get into book publishing.

I have an article discussing this material forthcoming in ASAE’s Journal of Association Leadership. The new issue with my article should be out this month.

Areas of Responsibility for Web Positions

One of the most popular pages on my site, getting hundreds of views a week, is my article on crafting web job descriptions. There are surprisingly few resources for this online. Given the demand, I’m working on expanding the article into an ebook on the topic: The Web Job Description Toolkit. I’ll cover more areas of responsibility in more detail, offer sample interview questions, job titles, discuss advertising positions, etc.

This book is targeted squarely at organizations that are not primarily web companies. For many of these companies, creating web positions can be a challenging task since they usually don’t have a lot of experience with the Web at the executive level, let alone in human resources. The purpose of this book is to help them understand the potential roles for web staff and how to design positions that will contribute the most value to their overall goals.

I’m working on the areas of responsibility that I’ll cover in the book. Below is my working list, with short descriptions. I recognize that many of these overlap or could have different labels. I appreciate any comments you may have on the list. Am I missing anything? Suggest another label for a section? Looks great? Let me know.

Anyone who comments and includes their full, real, name with the comment will get a thank you in the book! Include your e-mail and I’ll give you a free copy when it is published. (I reserve the right not to include spammers or abusive posts in this offer at my sole discretion.)

An important note about the list: the section labels are not job titles. They are areas of responsibility that can be mixed and matched to create position descriptions.

Here is the list, which is somewhat different from the original article:

These deal with setting overall direction for your organization’s Web efforts. What are your goals? How do they support the overall goals of the organization? How do you intend to go about achieving them?

This covers the day-to-day management responsibilities for running a Web team and the site. It also includes hiring, coaching and developing staff.

Content is King, but someone has to be behind the curtain. This includes content authoring, editing and management duties. I’ll define this to include video, images and audio as well as text.

This section will focus on marketing your web site. It will include search engine optimization, e-commerce, keyword advertising, etc.

This covers the basics of web design, including developing overall look and feel, templates, user interfaces and supporting assets. It can also include interactive media such as Flash if your site requires it.

This is all about helping people to find your content once they are on your site. It covers information architecture, search engine tuning, navigation, etc. This could fit under content management as well but I think it’s important enough to break out.

Usability is important for any site but especially so for those that include a lot of data-driven applications or e-commerce. This section will identify responsibilities related to increasing the usability of your site. I will also cover accessibility here. This overlaps significantly with other sections but it is another one that deserves special attention, in my opinion.

User Support/Online Community
This section will cover the basics of user support tasks as well as more advanced Web 2.0-style community liaison roles.

Technical Administration
Keep the servers up and running. I’ll cover the basics here but it won’t go into the depth that this one topic deserves. That’ll have to wait for another book.

Same as above, I will cover the basic responsibilities for developing web applications here but won’t go into great detail.

Thanks for your comments!

And finally, if you would like to receive periodic e-mail updates about the book, sign up using the form on this page. I will not use your e-mail for any purpose other than Toolkit announcements unless you sign up for other e-mail newsletters on my site.

Big Book Stores and Amazon

So, when you compare Amazon to Barnes and Noble or Borders (just on book selling), how are they fundamentally different?

All three sell online and, while Amazon is still the best, the other two have reasonably easy interfaces for selling books. What is left? Physical stores. B&N and Borders have the liability and asset of a physical retail presence in many communities across the country. However, they fail horribly to the leverage the two together to improve overall sales.

If you are looking for a physical retail store, it is likely because you want to buy a book right away. If you are willing to wait a few days, you can just order online. But if you want it right now, say before you catch a flight that afternoon, you want to know if the store near you is carrying the title before making the trek out there. Making retail inventory available for search by store seems like a no-brainer. It relieves floor staff from having to answer as many phone calls and enables customers to find out if they can buy more immediately.

However, Borders buries this feature several levels down in their site and B&N doesn’t even offer it. What a wasted opportunity.

The ideal interface, I think, would be to set a cookie for the user’s zip code at some point and then offer local retail inventory results along with online inventory.

Gee, that sounds simple. Why don’t they do it? My guess would be that their performance measures don’t reward cross-selling between physical and online operations.

Releasing CSS

O’Reilly Media has published a new PDF book (their Short Cut series) that brings us up to speed on IE 7 CSS support and how it differs from IE 6. Looks like a good resource if you want to make sure your design translates well into IE 7. Releasing CSS:

In an industry that communicates with terms such as “Browser Hell” and “browser wars,” a web designer can be excused for having some anxiety over Microsofts recent upgrade of Internet Explorer 6 IE6 to Internet Explorer 7 IE7. Web designers should ask the following questions:

  • What problems does IE6 possess and what fixes does IE7 provide?
  • What part of the Cascading Style Sheets CSS specification does IE7 for Windows support?
  • How can web designers work around any problems that exist within IE7s support for CSS?
  • While web designers are testing their designs on the latest browser, how fast will IE7 be adopted by their clients audience?

This Short Cut attempts to answer these questions to allow web designers a smoother transition to IE7 and, hopefully, an escape from Browser Hell.