Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

06/06/2013

Seems Traditional Publishers Are the REAL Vanity Publishers


Vanity prevents admitting decline of traditional publishing industry

The main question popping out of Books Expo America (BEA) 2013, just held 5/29/13 thru 6/1/13 in New York, was ‘What in the world were the participants smoking?’ — Surely they had gotten their hands on some quality weed and inhaled it into the deepest innards of their beings.

From there they all seemed to enter a never-never land and were issued rose-colored glasses!

According to some of the keynoters and other presenters, ALL is just hunky-dory in traditional publishing! After all, they made it through another year and this assures their survival, right?

Talk about vanity — Thus traditional publishers are becoming known as ‘vanity’ publishers.

A librarian, attending BEA from Pennsylvania, broke the great news that “Publishing is not dead.” Meaning the old TP business model of publishing is not dead — Now, as noted by NYT best-selling author, Michael Levin, a little later on in this post: ‘How in the hell would a librarian know if publishing was dead or not?’

Even when the big traditional publishers were at the top of their game, and the only player in the playground, they failed miserably at fulfilling what a lot of idealistic daydreamers thought or wanted to believe their noble cause was — mainly to discover, nurture and mentor new talent, as well as make money.

TP’s lost their way when they started putting the almighty buck and profit margins ahead of being the true gatekeepers that discovered and curated new artistic literature and culture. I now sometimes doubt that traditional publishing EVER had this as their true goal and was ALWAYS a hard-nosed money grabbing endeavor.

At any rate, when they ditched the noble-cause-clothes (if, indeed, they ever wore them) and donned the money-grabber garb, the only thing they had left of true value for new writers was the double shot of  marketing and distribution — and that was wrested from them by independent publishing!

I was so taken by author Michael Levin’s style and comic relief approach to this subject that I just had to pass it along :

Posted by Michael Levin in Huffington Post’s Blog:

In New York, The Real Vanity Publishers Converge

I haven’t had a drink or smoked pot in more than two decades, but I am more than willing to toss away my sobriety if the publishers who gathered at BookExpo America last week would share with me some of the high quality ganja they were undoubtedly passing around.

They think that just because they’ve made it through another year, that their ongoing survival is somehow assured.

Wrong.

If you sell enough fiction, maybe you start believing in it.

The reality is that bookstores are disappearing. That book readers are finding other things to do with their time and money. That independent publishing has stolen the raison d’etre of major publishing houses, who have lost their twin hammerlocks on the marketing and distribution of books.

New York publishers also continue to undermine the value of books by publishing mediocre books by mediocre authors who have large social media followings and therefore permit lazy publishers to publish books without needing to make the effort to market them.

This is a market strategy known as trying to fool all of the people all of the time.
It was last applied, with equal success, to the Edsel and more recently, to New Coke.

The New York Times, of course, treats Book Expo America with the solemnity due Puxatawnie Phil on Groundhog Day. It quoted such worthies as a librarian at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to the effect that “Publishing is not dead.” With no disrespect intended to the librarians of Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who are undoubtedly masters of the card catalog, the Dewey Decimal System, and shushing, how the hell would they know whether publishing was dead or not?

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09/19/2011

02/16/2011

Is Content King or Pauper? Value or Valueless?


Some are trying to redefine what content REALLY is…or isn’t. They are doing this by trying to separate content from any measurable value of it’s own and essentially saying that the mass availability of any content somehow makes it valueless.

 Au contraire! In this writer’s humble opinion, content CANNOT be separated from it’s own inherent value…which is simply what the content portrays to each of us. Some peoples dislikes are others love affairs.

Look at basic content (say raw data and facts alone) as a blob of clay (to be shaped later into a unique sculpture) or a painter’s blank palette (to be transformed into a work of visual art)…the content blob has inherent value on its own because it is the substance or heart of what will be (refined content, if you will). Basic content is like the living cells of a larger being. The ability to create this larger literary being is talent loaded with value.   

It’s how the content is structured, analyzed and presented that adds more overt value, insight, viewpoints, education and entertainment to the basic content. It becomes a living, breathing piece of readable gold…And this is the intellectual capital of the author-artist and it is literally PRICELESS!…And deserves proper compensation and copyright protection.

Jeff Jarvis of the HuffPost seems to harbor a different view (if I’m interpreting this correctly) even though he is restricting his comments to news and media…Hell, content is content:

Please read my yesterday’s post on the Writers Welcome Blog  (Is Copyright a Relic?) for more background on what Jeff Jarvis is referring to in his featured article here:

It’s Not All About the Content    

In his New York Times column complaining about Huffington Post and the new economics of content competition, I think David Carr makes two understandable but fundamentally fallacious assumptions about news and media: that the value in journalism is in content and that making content must be work. Because that’s the way it used to be.

In their op-ed the next day in the New York Times complaining about copyright losing its hardness, Scott Turow, Paul Aiken, and James Shapiro extend the error to entertainment, assuming that content is entertainment and content is what content makers make.

Not necessarily.

Pull back to view the true value of these things: information, knowledge, enlightenment, amusement, experience, engagement. Content can be and has been a vessel to deliver their worth. But it is not the only one. That is the lesson of the internet — indeed, of Huffington Post itself. I have argued that the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the BBC, and other media should have but never would have started the Huffington Post because they, like the gentlemen above, still see content as value in itself and further believe that content is their own franchise (granted by their control of the means of production and distribution). So the benefits of content cannot come from others — bloggers, commenters, citizens, amateurs — as new wine in new casks. They instead want to put their old wine in the new skins (witness The Daily). (John’s note: I do believe good content can come from others — bloggers, commenters, citizens, amateurs, etc.).

That is why old media people are missing new opportunities. It’s not about the content (stupid). It’s about the value.

We can be informed now by many means: by our neighbors telling us what they know, enabled to do so by the net, at a marginal cost of zero, doing so not because it is work (and work must be paid) but because this is what neighbors do for each other (John’s note: This has always been the case, even before the net…nothing new here). We can be entertained by many means: by clever people making songs and shows and telling stories because they love doing so and because they are compensated in attention rather than royalties (and that attention may well lead to money when they can finally detour around the gauntlet of old media’s closed ways to find audiences on their own). (John’s note: Again this has been the situation since the beginning of time).

Why do people write on Huffington Post? Because they can. Because they give a shit. Because they like the attention and conversation. Because they couldn’t before. Why do they sing their songs on YouTube? Same reasons.

Is there still a role for the journalist, the professional, the artist in this? Perhaps. I think so. That’s why I am teaching journalism school. But I’m not necessarily teaching them to make content. (John’s note: you can’t “make” content, it already exists due to human existence; you can only interpret and write about it). That is now only one of many, many ways to meet the goals of adding value to information, time, and society. Some of my entrepreneurial journalism students are, for example, creating businesses that will use data to impart information; they will add value by gathering and analyzing it and making it possible for you to find the intersecting points that matter to you. Other of my students are creating platforms for you to get more value out of your own data. Others are creating platforms for people to connect around interests and make and find their own value. Others are finding new ways to sustain reporting and the making of content. They are all valid if they bring value.

If you concentrate on the value, not the form — content — then the possibilities explode.

Turow et al shut down the idea that opening up information can yield greater value that protecting it. Sharers are…

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02/08/2011

Investing in News Media Publishing has been a Sucker’s Game…EXCEPT for…


By now, most have heard that HuffPost was sold to AOL for 315 million! God bless Arianna Huffington and her success…She is the first to score BIG money from any kind of a media investment in six years…But, she worked hard, was hands-on and sharp on surrounding herself with knowledgeable, intelligent people. (There is a little confusion on just how much of the money Arianna received. Forbes mag discusses).

Aaron Elstein,  of Crain’s New York Business, details a little history of past and present media investors…including Rupert Murdoch (WSJ), Warren Buffet (Wash. Post), Philip Falcone (NY Times) among others…and their successes and failures. Two of the three high rollers I just mentioned are in the media investment losers’ column (two are definitely investment losers and Murdoch is struggling).

This is an interesting, insightful and revealing article: 

HuffPo’s profits are rare these days

by Aaron Elstein

Back in the spring of 1995, renowned money manager Mario Gabelli bought a 6% stake in publisher Pulitzer Inc., owner the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other newspapers. Over the following years, Mr. Gabelli added shares until he owned 40% of the company.

In early 2005, Mr. Gabelli scored big when Pulitzer agreed to be acquired by rival Lee Enterprises for $1.5 billion. The investor’s stake by then was worth no less than $600 million.

This almost-forgotten deal wouldn’t be worth recalling except for this fact: It was the last fortune made by an outside investor in the news business. Until Arianna Huffington and her partners scored earlier this week with the $315 million sale of her website to AOL, that is.

Mind you, when reviewing big investor scores in media-land, I’ve disregarded the Bancroft family, which owned Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal for over a century until Rupert Murdoch blew them away in 2007 with a $5 billion bid. The Bancrofts inherited their stakes and were such passive owners that it seems more fair to call them “dividend collectors” than investors.

For nearly everyone else, investing in news media has been a sucker’s game for years.

One of the biggest losers is Warren Buffett, the Washington Post Co.’s biggest stockholder, who has seen his stake fall by more than half over the past six years, to about $800 million. (He plans to leave the company’s board soon.)

Philip Falcone’s investment in the New York Times Co. has been a tremendous bust. Starting in 2007, the hedge fund manager began acquiring what eventually became about 20% of the Times’ stock. But the stock has sunk, and Mr. Falcone’s stake has shrunk to 2.6% as he’s unwound his position: Last November, Mr. Falcone sold 7 million shares for less than half the price he paid for his original investment, according to a regulatory filing.

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