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Wednesday, Dec 1, 2010

As both the record industry and publishing industry struggle with the question of how they’ll survive in the Net age, Scribner Books came up with an interesting idea.  This past September, they announced that they would be selling essays by Chuck Klosterman (author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto) for 69 cents at Amazon and other online outlets.  As the NY Times article notes, this seemed like a riff off the iTunes 99-cents-per-song model.  Sounds intriguing, right?  Especially since there’s no easy answers about how to keep the book biz (let alone the music biz) afloat, ideas like this don’t seem too far fetched.


When I recently asked Klosterman about this venture, he shrugged off the music comparison:


“People kept trying to compare this to the iTunes music model, but there’s really no connection (outside the specific price point). While it’s very easy to imagine the person who thinks, “I don’t like Taylor Swift, but I love that one song of hers I keep hearing on CMT,” there really isn’t a literary consumer who thinks, “I’m not interested in reading this man’s books, but I do want full access to his specific thoughts about Saved By The Bell.” Reading is such a different experience than listening to music. Moreover (and maybe this is ultimately the biggest factor), it seems like most of the people who might potentially download these essays already owned the books themselves.”


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Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010

The Beatles have done it yet again, making headlines with the long-awaited, inevitable deal with Apple to finally offer their music on iTunes.  And just in case you think that Gen X/Y/Z doesn’t care or that the Boomers don’t need the music they already have on CD, the Fabs zoomed onto the iTunes album chart at number 6 (Abbey Road), 8 (The White Album), 9 (Sgt Pepper’s), 13 (a $149 box set), 17 (the ‘Blue’ album), 18 (the ‘Red’ album), 19 (Rubber Soul), 20 (Magical Mystery Tour, my fave), 21 (Revolver), 25 (Let It Be), 27 (A Hard Day’s Night), 28 (Please Please Me), 30 (Help!)... You get the idea.  And mind you, this is only after it’s gone on sale about 12 hours ago.  Not too shabby.


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Friday, Nov 5, 2010

Well, according to this Forbes article, we’re on Facebook and Twitter instead.  Maybe not surprising since these two services have led the social media boom. 


But it also signals a shift in writers and their readers.  We’re gravitating there mostly because it’s easier and a more fun experience to jot down 140 character notes or easily share links and news with 1000’s of ‘friends’ through Facebook.  Blogging is so… last decade by now, right?  Admittedly, I’ve slacked off in this regard but I know I’m not alone- not just the Forbes article but more than one editor at various publications have told us bunch of lazy scribes that we need to be writing more blog posts.  And they have a point- we should, if only to help continue the conversation about arts/media.  But when print or TV media brag about their online presence, more often than not, they talk about their Twitter or Facebook accounts now and not a blog they do (even though many of them still have one, to their credit).


I don’t wanna give up on blogging- it’s still fun to share thoughts and ideas here in a longer form like this- but I have to admit that the allure and intimacy of social media is hard to fight off.  And now back to tweeting…


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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2010

While it’s nice to see Google investing five million dollars in news services, it’s not all altruistic.  After all, if respected news services dry up (as they’ve been doing for the last several years), Google won’t be able to aggregate good, solid news stories through its own service.  As the article also notes, it’s smart business-wise for Google since to keep their own news service linking to other news services, they stand to gain by giving something back: “(this is) a way for the organization to put some money where its mouth is when it comes to its relations with journalism.”


But the main problem is that as generous as the gift is, it’s not nearly enough.  That’s not to say that Google should necessarily have to pony up more money to these other news org’s (though it be nice if they would) but that even an amount like five million is a drop in the bucket compared to all the money that the news industry has lost in the last several years.  I’m sure that Knight will find a good way to use the money but some publication LOSE about five mil or more each year.


While it’s good to have this money floating into the news pool, it’s not sufficient because unless you’re going to have a constant stream of high profile donations like this, it won’t be enough to sustain many news org’s.  Indeed, it’s probably unrealistic to expect such philanthropy nowadays (esp. in the States).  And with the current political climate, the thought of another American industry getting a bail out just ain’t gonna fly.


Which is why it’s (still) boot-strap time for news organizations and publications- they’re going to have to pull themselves out of this mess.  It ain’t a pretty prospect, especially since they haven’t shown a great track record for this and the only big idea which is seen as a cure-all right now is pay walls (which itself is a suspect solution).  But the ground rules remain the same- innovate, experiment and find new ways to engage readers.  That’s the only long-term way these pubs are gonna survive and not through the generosity of Google or elsewhere.  It’s tough love but it’s true.


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Thursday, Sep 16, 2010

Despite being boosted by Dave Chappelle (and doing a good guest shot at a Buddy Guy show I saw), you might not care much about John Mayer but I found it kind of interesting that he was opting outta Twitter. He’s not the first and won’t be the last star to do it. 


What’s really interesting is what this means for fans though. On one level, you could say that it’s a canny publicity stunt (it worked not just here but also had write-up’s in articles like this one from The Wrap). Remember also that Trent Reznor got fed up with some of his followers who were dogging him on Twitter, kissing it off but later coming back to it. Similarly, Soulja Boy got mad at people poking fun at him and split the service, only to return later. Also recently, Miley Cyrus decided to deprive the world of her 140 character or less wisdom, also taking down her Twitter account but unlike Soulja or Trent, she’s stuck to her guns and hasn’t rejoined the service (at least so far).


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