Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/11/2014

In Publishing, which is Most Important: Technology or Content?


In publishing – new tech needs content to flourish!

Not only traditional publishers – but digital publishers as well – are struggling with the new publishing industry virus ‘CD’.

Now, just what is ‘CD’? It is the ‘Constant Disruption’ caused by rapid-fire changes in publishing and media technology and their impact on content strategy in old and new publishing circles.

Content in a printed, fixed-form format dictates much of the story — the font used, the subtleties of the fixed page design, etc. What some have called the ‘story container’.

But, as media channels and formats have mixed, merged, morphed and multiplied at warp speed – the necessity of format-free content is rising forth!

But, despite the format, the content still holds more weight than the ever-evolving technology. After all, “Great storytelling is great storytelling, whether it’s on a tablet or a cave wall.” – Say Media’s CTO David Lerman.

Just as they did when desktop publishing replaced typesetting and manual markup, writers and editors need to develop new skills!

Why? You will find out why by reading tonight’s research article.

Key excerpt: “Web-led, and cloud-based content systems are clearly on the rise, despite the present stopgap of turning print page layout systems into tools for generating native tablet and smartphone apps. Nimble content creation and management tools are still in their infancy, and will improve dramatically over the next five years. However, we cannot afford to forget that content engagement depends on the art of the story, and that great storytellers can thrive in spite of (or hopefully with the aid of) the tools they use.

 

Technology or Content: Which Comes First?

John Parsons, FOLIO magazine

 

Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum tells us that the form of a medium is inherently part of the message itself. Content in printed magazine form, for example, dictates many aspects of the story-from its written style and word count to the subtleties of fixed page design. The shape of a “story container” leaves its mark on the story itself.

Now, however, as media channels mix, merge, and multiply at breakneck speed, the idea of format-free content is an attractive one. If only content could be created once and output more or less automatically to multiple channels. To test the practical implications of that idea, we spoke with a number of publishers. At the heart of our discussion were content authoring and management technology, plus the chicken-and-egg question that makes modern content strategy so difficult.

It’s About the Story

We spoke with two traditional magazine publishers (Source Interlink and Forbes) and two pure-play digital companies (Say Media and Glam). Although the four represent wildly diverse audiences and demographics, some common themes and strategies emerged.

Most agree that effective narrative remains as the essential ingredient for success, no matter how strange and distracting the various media channels and platforms may seem. “The tools and tricks change with the medium, but the fundamentals of storytelling never do,” says Say Media’s CTO David Lerman. “Great storytelling is great storytelling, whether it’s on a tablet or a cave wall.”

Each company we interviewed is embracing the disruptive nature of an always-connected audience, both in terms of content creation technology and in dealing with the implications for its writers and editors. The traditional publishers are concerned about
the continuing role of print, but are remarkably upbeat about it.

“Long term, the future of print is as a premium format,” says Source Interlink’s chief content officer Angus MacKenzie. He notes that the diversity of brand-centered content made possible by new media platforms can now be curated to produce a vastly superior “best of” printed edition. Such a product, he reasons, would have enduring financial value to subscribers and advertisers.

Content curation is also a common theme. Glam Media CEO Samir Arora notes that only professionally created content-curated for quality and discoverability-could create lasting value for a brand. “Social collecting, sharing, and remixing of information can be done by any consumer,” he says. “Content creation should be from professional content businesses, authors, and studios.”

Expertise Matters

We spoke with Forbes Media’s chief product officer Lewis D’Vorkin, who is enthusiastic about both the core expertise of the company’s content creators and the technology they use. Forbes writers, editors, and contributors use the company’s Falcon publishing platform and a customized version of WordPress to create and edit content. Users may search for details of their own and related content, incorporate photos from a secure library, embed elements such as video, and publish selected content to Forbes channels and social media. The permission-based, on-screen editing tools have significantly compressed journalistic time frames, and extended the reach of Forbes’ team of journalists and contributors, D’Vorkin notes.

Although the right tools are important, D’Vorkin emphasizes that a rigorous onboarding process has resulted in the team of experts who are at the heart of Forbes’ content strategy. “Once we vet contributors, we give them the tools to self-publish, without there being a gatekeeper in the way,” he says. “Our system, both human and technological, is designed to monitor content very carefully and quickly-after publishing it.”

Part of the feedback involves subscriber feedback, which each content creator is required to monitor. “In every layer of our system, there is a built-in ‘meritocracy filter,’ which includes the audience,” he adds. “Our commenting system requires that the author engage with comments from the community. He or she can simply say ‘yes, I approve this comment,’ meaning that it’s productive, or disagrees with me in a productive way, or it takes the story forward.”

See also: Media Execs Share Game-Changing Tech Initiatives

Once the author approves the comment, it’s displayed with the article by default. “You can find the comments of anybody who’s just yelling, screaming, and being irrational, if you want, but it’s an extra click,” D’Vorkin says. “Because of that system, most people have figured that out. They then decide not to comment-unless they’re going to bring their A game.”

Continue reading here

 

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10/06/2013

A Dreadful Year for Publishers? NOT!


A funny thing happened on the way to the new publishing industry maturing and understanding — All the publishing doomsday forecasters and naysayers have been proven wrong due to unforeseen fallouts resulting from the onslaught of digital and tech changes redefining the old traditional publishing (TP) business models.

Damn, I like that sentence — It sort of says publishing is as complicated and unpredictable as Homo sapiens, themselves — And I DON’T mean ‘complicated’ in the confined, restricted, smoke & mirrors sense that TP defenders use to defend why the old TP model was so slow or inefficient (Pssst, actually it sucked to the Nth degree – especially for writers/authors).

But, I can understand why those who grew up in the TP system (actually the only viable system existing at the time), learned how to survive in it and made a living through it, would defend it to the death.

Hot excerpts from tonight’s researched source:

“A flood of self-published books washes ashore. Bestseller prices are down significantly. Bad grammar speeds through the ether at a faster pace than ever before.  This should be a dreadful year for publishers.  Only it’s not.”

“Self-publishing is a huge and disruptive force in the publishing industry, but contrary to popular belief, it’s largely benefiting publishers.”

Note from John: I don’t agree with the word ‘disruptive’ in describing self-publishing – I prefer the word ‘redefining’.

Why Did Self-Publishing Tip?

Fifty Shades lit a fire under everybody. No matter what you think of the book, the numbers were so phenomenal that it made everyone rethink things – Meg Kuhn, COO Kirkus Media”

“The question is: why has all of this chaos helped publishing instead of hurt it?

The short answer is that robust competition has done what it nearly always does – improve market efficiency.  Readers, authors and publishers all see benefits.  Here are the four surprising trends from the past year:”

To get the four surprising publishing trends continue to read the following Forbes article by David Vinjamuri:

 

Is Publishing Still Broken? The Surprising Year In Books

 

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10/11/2012

What is a Global Publishing System ?


Harper Collins is going to implement such a grand system — and goes into the generalities in the following reference — BUT, the details that would tell us just how this system would deliver the touted results are conspicuously absent, as far as I am concerned.

You tell me.

You know, sometimes I feel the older I get the dumber I get — That’s why I need things explained to me like in the ‘Blah Blah For Dummies’ series 🙂  

Excerpt: “It is our responsibility to provide our authors with the broadest possible reach through our global print and digital publishing platforms, regardless of where their books originate and what format they take,” said Larry Nevins, Executive Vice-President, Operations. 

This offered in Publishers Weekly:

Harper To Implement Global Publishing System

Harper Collins is to roll out a new global publishing system, which it claims is “one of the largest undertakings of its kind to be implemented by a trade publisher.”

Developed in partnership with Publishing Technology and built on its advance platform, Global Product Manager will enable the unifying of editorial, marketing and business data around the world, widening the reach of HC’s print and digital publications in its core target markets. By integrating systems and assets across the globe, the new system will provide the company with the long-term infrastructure needed to maximize its extensive catalogue of books, ebooks and apps, empowering HC staff to explore current and future content delivery types and business models, while enabling better metadata management to improve discoverability.

The system will be rolled out first in the US, followed by the UK and subsequently Canada and Australia, as well as to the Christian Publishing Division through 2013.

Read and learn more

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08/11/2012

Insight Into How SEO Affects Publishing and Content (and Ultimately Book Marketing)


In days prior, one who understood how to juggle (fool) the search engines with keywords, etc. could fool robot search crawlers into promoting shit content into digital/online best sellers.

Well, google is working to make content king in publishing once again with last year’s Panda release and the more recent Penguin release. Google is going to flip SEO on its head.

How will they ever find the algorithms or formulas to rank content itself? 

Details are provided by Yaron Galai [you’ll find this guy quite interesting 🙂 ] in AdAge.com :

How Google’s ‘Penguin’ Update Will Change Publishing, for the Better

Over the past decade, the publishing industry been swinging on a pendulum created by the effects of search engine optimization (SEO). In the old, primarily print days, the most successful publishers were those that could produce great content for a specific audience and keep that audience engaged via subscriptions or at the newsstands. More recently, the kings of publishing were those that could best engage web crawlers and monetize their sites through a windfall of free search traffic. The focus has been less on creating great content and engaging readers than on producing lots of words on lots of pages to engage web crawlers.

But there is a silver lining to all of this. With last year’s Panda release, and the more recent Penguin release, Google is going to flip SEO on its head. If Old SEO enabled some to fool a crawler into indexing borderline junk content to get high rankings, New SEO looks likely to take any notion of fooling anyone out of the equation. 

New SEO will put all publishers on more equal footing, favoring those that produce quality content that is highly engaging to a certain audience. If SEO was previously a linear method of feeding a crawler with words and links, Google’s results are now the result of a feedback loop: show them that you can produce quality content that people are attracted to, and free search traffic will follow. 

There are two ways for a user to arrive at content — the first is actively searching for it on a search engine like Google or Bing. The second is to discover or stumble onto it via a link on another website, an e-mail from a friend, a link shared on Twitter or Facebook, etc. “Discovery” encompasses all those times we reach a page without first typing a keyword into a search box.

Read and learn more

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06/04/2012

Need Funds to Write/Publish a Book? More on Crowd-Funding


Crowdsourcing

I have previously posted on the crowd-funding or crowdsourcing phenomenon on both The Writers Welcome Blog and more recently on this blog

 A commenter to one of the above posts (that appeared on one of my Linkedin groups) said he did not want to give up any writers’ rights to use the Kickstarter crowd-funding site. To answer his concern, users of any of these crowdsourcing sites do not give up any copyrights.

Crowdsourcing sites usually charge between 3 to 5 percent of the successful amount funded. This is how they make their money.

RocketHub, Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, Funding4Learning, ArtistShare, FundRazr are just a few of the hundreds of these type sites that are popping up worldwide.

About 450 crowd-funding sites raised 1.5 billion dollars last year. 

“The gradual success of many projects has validated this as a real option, a real way to make things,” says Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter. “The Internet is incredible for harnessing organizational power.”

More details such as how to apply, how much they cost, etc. are provided by Roger Yu, USA TODAY:

Need cash? Ask a crowd

While studying abroad in Ghana in 2006, Meghan Sebold often roamed local textile markets and marveled at the surplus of colorfully patterned fabrics that were left unwanted.

After she returned home to San Francisco, her thoughts kept drifting back to the faint but enduring idea of producing a clothing line that used textiles and talent from the West African country. She had few concrete plans on how to start a business — and even less money.

Then, a chance encounter at a seminar in New York with the founders of start-up RocketHub, a crowd-funding website, stirred her hopes. At the urging and guidance of Brian Meece and Vladimir Vukicevic, Sebold wrote at length about the business idea on RocketHub.com, accompanied by a video, and asked for direct financial contributions from family, friends, and friends of friends.

Her modest goal of raising $4,000 was achieved in about two weeks. Her first set of dresses, funded by the donations and made in Ghana with local labor, sold out online and at local pop-up stores. “It gives you more credibility than saying ‘Hey, Uncle, can you lend me $20?'”

Entrepreneurs and dreamers such as Sebold are flocking to crowd funding, an emerging field of finance that, by using the Internet as an efficient middleman, often manages to be both more intimate and more high-tech than traditional means of raising seed money. The idea has existed for years but is receiving renewed attention now that social media, online networks and payment technologies increasingly strip away legal, psychological and logistical barriers for money solicitations.

RocketHub, Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, Funding4Learning, ArtistShare, FundRazr and hundreds of other sites call on individuals to pool their money, by way of the Internet, and support others’ artistic, educational and business efforts, as well as charities and disaster relief. Some sites, like Kiva, specialize in small loans.

“The gradual success of many projects has validated this as a real option, a real way to make things,” says Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter. “The Internet is incredible for harnessing organizational power.”

While they get a sense of fulfillment at seeing the campaigns they support continue, donors typically receive neither a stake nor artistic/operational input. That could eventually change. President Obama recently signed a law, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, that would allow individuals to buy equity stakes in companies via crowd-funding sites under certain rules, likely effective next year.

A few dollars here and a couple of hundred bucks there can add up quickly. About $1.5 billion was raised in 2011 by about 450 crowd-sourcing Internet sites worldwide, says a report by Crowdsourcing.org, a site tracking the industry. That’s expected to double this year, the report forecasts.

“This expands on the angel investor model” in which a wealthy individual puts up money in return for equity, says David Rubenstein, partner at accounting firm WeiserMazars. “There is some good to this. This will ultimately result in growth of companies and additional jobs.”

The business is also good for those who operate successful crowd-funding sites. They make money by taking a percentage of the money raised — typically about 3% to 5% — and a per-transaction fee.

Kickstarter, one of the largest crowd-funding sites, has so far counted $200 million of pledged contributions, though not all were given to fund seekers. Fund seekers on Kickstarter get their hands on the money only if they can meet their goal. If a campaign fails, money is returned to donors. About 20,000 Kickstarter campaigns have met the goal, or about 44% of all campaigns.

Rival RocketHub sees about 1,000 campaigns a month launched on its site, Meece says. RocketHub allows campaign creators to keep the funds they raise even if they fall short of the goal.

Many campaigns, such as for Sebold’s Ghana-inspired dresses, are quirky, artistic or creative, but modest in their financial goal. Successful Kickstarter campaigns average about $5,000 in funds raised. “Kickstarter changes the question of funding from ‘Is this a good investment?’ to ‘Do I want this to exist?’ And that’s a much lower bar,” Strickler says.

Read and learn more

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10/28/2011

Hyperink – A New E-Book Publishing Model


Topsy-Turvy Publishing Model

Instead of selecting books to publish from author-submitted manuscripts … how about selecting them from hot, trending topics on the internet and then contract authors to write them?

Introducing Hyperink … they do just that in their new kind of topsy-turvy publishing model. An interesting concept indeed; and one that will also redefine a shorter book as acceptable. Hyperink also distributes the books to Amazon, Nook, iBooks and other sites as well as through its own website.

Here’s more details from Tomio Geron in Forbes.com :

Hyperink’s E-Book Model Turns Publishing On Its Head

The book publishing industry has been going through a transformation as physical books move to digital.

Building on that growth, a new start-up Hyperink is a publisher of  digital books that are targeted to specific niche audiences. “We’re directly taking on Amazon and trying to disrupt how the entire book publishing industry works,” says Hyperink cofounder and CEO Kevin Gao.

In a change for the book industry Hyperink generally does not select from books that are submitted by authors. Instead, the company finds topics that are in demand through analysis of things like Google search trends. Then it seeks out authors for those topics. “It’s the reverse of the traditional book publishing industry, which is supply-driven, where you get manuscripts and pick from them,” Gao says. Does that sound like blog writing, where a bunch of similar stories all target certain hot keywords? In some ways, Gao says, but Hyperink’s books are structured, organized and written by experts in their fields. Instead of spending one or two years to publish a physical book and trying for big mega-hits, Hyperink is going the opposite direction. It focuses on fast publishing–it can churn out a book in a month at one-tenth the cost of physical books, Gao says. It’s also going after the “long tail” with topics such as “Getting Corporate Law Jobs,” “Dating For Singles Over 40,” and “Marketing Your Android App.”

Because of its model Hyperink can get much more specific with titles than typical publishers. For example, instead of a book on “How to get into College,” Hyperink has a book, “Harvard Law School Admissions.” Hyperink’s books are typically 30 to 75 pages. “Book publishers generally have generic topics that are 200 pages because it looks good on a bookshelf and because of all the overhead costs,” Gao says. “We want to get really specific and really long-tail to give consumers the books they really want to read.” While the books are largely non-fiction now, Gao says the company could do fiction as well.

Read and learn more

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09/10/2011

Publishers’ Why’s and Wherefore’s When Migrating to Digital (are all the damn apostrophes correct?)


Karina Mikhil - Publishing Executive

Indeed, when the current publishing upheaval began (it seems  just a little while ago in the scheme of things) and the conqueror ‘Digital’ came swaggering into the publishing world, publishers were at first completely devastated; then were bombarded by all kinds of options and questions for their very survival!

You can just imagine publishers’ mental angst deciding “Should I get out of this rapidly changing fireball of an industry or should I admit that the old ways are going down the drain and commit to learning a whole new process … dealing, perhaps, with an entirely new and separate tech industry?”

Karina Mikhil , a publishing executive with a Master’s in Publishing from New York University, has some excellent questions and analyses that will help these publishing execs and their firms reach a viable decision.

From Karina Mikhil in Publishing Perspectives:

Migrating to Digital Publishing? The Six Key Questions to Ask

Here are the six “Ws” you need to ask yourself before transitioning from the old to the new: why, who, what, when, which, and where.
 

The publishing industry is not generally known for being agile or quick to change, yet it is facing one of its biggest times of change probably since the invention of the printing press. At the heart of this is the migration to digital.

Prior to this migration, a time-tested process and structure existed for getting books printed: from acquisition, copyediting and typesetting, to author reviews and proofreading, to print. Although hiccups occurred and no two companies had the exact same workflow, the foundations were the same and ensured quality products got released in expected time frames.

Whether publishers are dealing with online content or e-books, digital only or both print and digital, publishers are now faced with more questions than answers as to how to incorporate the new with the old. Below I provide a framework for those questions, using the traditional 6 Ws: why, who, what, when, which, and where.

Why?

Of the six questions, this is the easiest to answer. No publisher can afford to ignore the digital any longer: the tipping point has come and gone; more and more e-books and e-readers are being sold weekly; and authors will begin demanding this, if they haven’t already. And traditional publishers need to offer all things digital to compete with the emerging “digital publishers.”

Who?

Even prior to the migration to digital, publishers would do one of two things to keep costs down: outsource as much as possible, keeping headcount down, or the reverse, which is hire talent to keep all services and costs internal. With digital, publishers have to make this decision anew. Should they invest in new talent from other industries (e.g., technology) or in educating existing talent, those who are eager to learn and have a background in publishing? Or should they turn to one of the many conversion and content solutions providers that exist in the market?

What?

Read and learn more

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09/01/2011

Print’s Alive, but Publishing Still in Trouble? (Actually it’s NOT)


 

Is Publishing in Trouble or Not?

Apparently, a main theme coming out of the July 2011 Yale Publishing Conference was that ‘fear’ was at the center of all the chaos in the modern publishing world.

This is true … But, duhhhh, who didn’t already understand that! Of course it’s fear of change that is holding publishing back from being all it can be.

Fear of change and the unknown (or not understood) has always been a prevalent weakness for most Homo sapiens. 

Stefanie Botelho, writing for FOLIO Magazine, covered the conference:

If Print Isn’t Dead, Why is Publishing Still in Trouble?

Reasons why explored at Yale Publishing Conference.

At the Yale Publishing Conference, which took place last month in New Haven, CT, big names in magazine publishing were in attendance, both as students and teachers.

The session began with Richard Foster, senior faculty fellow at Yale School of Management and managing partner with the Millbrook Management Group, LLC. He philosophized about the term “creative destruction”, focusing its various implications in correlation to the publishing world.

Subsequent sessions led by Michael Clinton, president and marketing/publishing director of Hearst; president of Dwell Media Michela O’Connor Abrams; and Glamour editor-in-chief Cynthia Leive ran the gamut of print, digital and staffing challenges.

But the biggest theme, prevalent in how speakers addressed the crowd and the audience pressed the presenters for immediate solutions to admittedly complex problems (the transition to digital, etc.), was not listed in the printed program.

It was fear.

And that may be the largest issue the publishing industry is facing today: fear of the present, fear of the future, fear of the audience and, perhaps the most crippling, fear of change.

While not as easily palpable in the speakers (who each provided case study after case study of success within their companies), both lecturers and audience members rippled with it. Age jokes were dropped at a noticeable rate (O’Connor Abrams quipped she and only one other staffer are over 30) and tales of staff let go because of unwillingness to convert to the digital age (and assist in the bevy of products unrelated to actual print issues) were some of the most poignant of the day. The message was clear: get onboard or get out, because there are plenty of others to take your seat at the publishing table—many of them young enough to still be crashing with Mom and Dad.

Read and learn more

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05/31/2011

Publishing Acquisitions Faulty Strategy: ‘I Love You, Now Change.’


"If you change, I'll love you"

“What makes a small publisher’s books interesting is usually the first thing that disappears when being acquired by a larger company.”

Why is that? Instead of expounding the acquired publishers’ unique successes, the acquiring firm often wants to immediately make it over in its own image…an image which is often suffering and in need of the spark that attracted the acquiring firm in the first place!

More insight by Edward Nawotka of Publishing Perspectives :

Why Do So Many Publishers Say “I Love You, Now Change”?

“I love you, now change,” is something we’ve all heard before in relationships. It’s likely that instead of actually being in love with the person as they are, you’re in love with the person as you imagine them to be. The desire to shape them into the perfect creature is not unreasonable.  Illusion is, frankly, a part of love.

The same goes with publishers. In the micro sense, they often covet a writer (and poach them) or, in the macro sense, they covet a publishing house and merge them. Publishers are by nature in love with the possibility of something, instead of something as it is. Sometimes they can genuinely improve on a writer’s work and career, but just as many times they can radically alter an author’s career path for worse. The same goes when publishing houses merge and absorb a smaller firm. Often, what makes that smaller firm’s books interesting in-and-of themselves — perhaps it’s branding, perhaps it’s an eclectic list — is the first thing that disappears into the larger entity. Does it have to be this way? Of course not. But as with today’s feature story about the rumors swirling around the merger between Aufbau Verlag and Eichborn Verlag in Germany, things can get sour fast.

Read and learn more 

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05/26/2011

Many Authors Don’t Take Their Publishing Seriously?


Not today. Not in this new era of empowered publishing. Everyone is running to just get their “baby” published and get their name out there in web-land.

And, of course, their are the usual carnival barkers just trying to sell something through print.

The serious self-publishers today (and they are in the minority) do strive to learn all they can about the publishing craft…INCLUDING traditional publishing standards and guidelines RE editing, copyediting, layout, design, etc…

More details at Publishing Perspectives.com by Justine Tal Goldberg :

200 Million Americans Want to Publish Books, But Can They?

Some 200 Million Americans say they want to publish a book, but lack of attendance at the IBPA’s Publishing University at BEA suggests a disregard for the craft of book publishing.

It’s often said the book fairs are no place for writers. But what about at a conference organized specifically to help writers publish?

According to writer Joseph Epstein, “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.” That’s approximately 200 million people who aspire to authorship. Excluding those who want and never do, and those who do but never publish, we’re still looking at millions of folks hungry for the literary limelight. In light of recent trends in publishing — the fact that self-published titles have dwarfed traditionally published works nearly 2:1 — one would expect that the Independent Book Publishers Association’s 27th annual Publishing University, a concurrent event with BookExpo America at New York City’s Javits Center this week, would have been swarming with author-publishers on the prowl for a much-needed literary education. Strangely, it wasn’t.

Read and learn more

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