The Future of News

Or "Reality Bytes"

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Publishers: Ditch your apps; focus on mobile Web

More coverage of the comScore app research:

Publishers: Ditch your apps; focus on mobile Web.” Digiday

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When we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their [Facebook] News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.
News Feed FYI: Click-baiting,” Facebook Newsroom Blog, h/t to @tracysamantha

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Most smartphone users download zero apps per month

Most smartphone users download zero apps per month,” Joel Ryan, Quartz

Filed under app smartphones

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Organization site search is still not working

"To solve search we must think about finding, not searching. We must think content, not technology. At a fundamental level, we need to change the way we reward staff and manage findability. Right now, we reward based on inputs: hours worked, content created and published, projects launched. It is enough for a content professional to say to their manager: “Here is the content I’ve created.” The manager will not ask them: “How findable is your content?” Unless findability becomes a management metric then search will continue to fail."

Organization site search is still not working,” Gerry McGovern

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Google Analytics Introduces Bot and Spider Filtering

Introducing Bot and Spider Filtering,” Google Analytics

Filed under analytics spiders bots

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The User Experience is Everyone’s Responsibility

Having a UX department or UX title does not mean you are practicing UX. To achieve an exemplary user experience, coordination must be achieved among multiple disciplines, including product management, development, marketing, content, customer service, graphic design, and interaction design. In other words, everyone is responsible for looking out for the user. Take users’ needs into account during every step of the product lifecycle, by keeping your users at the center of your design efforts.

An orchestrated approach across many disciplines and stakeholders must be achieved to create a truly effective user experience and for the company to thrive. For a product to be truly successful, user-centered design must complement (or even drive) business objectives.

UX Without User Research Is Not UX,” Hoa Loranger, Nielsen Norman Group

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Amazon e-book price fight with Hachette uses profits and paperback analogy to woo authors

This morning, I received an email from “Kindle Direct Publishing” titled, “Important Kindle request.” It’s not really a request from Kindle, but from Amazon, which wants authors to help them in their fight with Hachette over the pricing of e-books.

Amazon starts out by saying Hachette’s resistance to lower e-book prices is not very different from the publishing industry’s previous resistance to paperback books.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

The email’s authors — “The Amazon Books Team” — acknowledge that this is a fight between industry giants trying to rally authors to their side of the debate. And the email provides contact info and copy for those authors to use when contacting Hachette.

But, this is a fight everyone should watch. As readers, we are all directly affected by the outcome; those of us in the publishing industry will feel the wake of the decision on our pricing strategies; and watching giants slug it out has been an interesting entertainment option since before the creation of Greek and Roman gods.

Amazon has two main arguments — the potential of higher profits for all and the inevitability of change.

In the first, Amazon posits that a lower book price means higher profits for everyone.

E-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more….

Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

In the second, Amazon reminds us that the fight is bigger than the incremental revenue of higher e-book prices. It is a fight for an audience that has more and more interesting entertainment options. Lower e-book prices, according to Amazon, allow e-books to compete for time with everything else. Again, it’s not just a win for Amazon, but for everyone involved in the creation of books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Neither Amazon’s email nor it’s fight with Hachette are altruistic efforts for the good of mankind. They will benefit handsomely from cheaper and more books on their digital shelves.

But, they are right. 

The reality is that organizing words into new thoughts and ideas generate a product exceptionally built for constant disruption — the number of containers customers use and will use to read words are and will be as endless as our imagination. Words flow into devices that pictures, video, video games, roller coasters, and Broadway shows just cannot, or cannot without losing their full entertainment potential.

The truth is, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” is no less amazing when read on my mobile phone than it is when read in hard cover.

Until publishers of all stripes realize this and embrace disruption as the norm and change as constant and inevitable, they will forever be battling themselves to remain relevant to their audience, in a time when that relevance becomes harder and harder to define.

And as Orwell might agree, resistance, while comforting, is futile.

When a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

If the book publishing industry doesn’t come to the table with a better plan, they’ll be left behind and only Amazon will remain.

And no one will miss the publishers. Not even Orwell.

* * *

The whole email is below:

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
- Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.
The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com

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Google Starts Giving A Ranking Boost To Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites

Google Starts Giving A Ranking Boost To Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites,” Barry Schwartz, SearchEngineLand.com