Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How technology is changing publishing and entertainment

I posted this a while ago but I'm bringing it back and updating it.

Re: The article about Seth Godin in the Wall Street Journal going his own way, I was thinking about how digital technology affects writers who haven't published yet. Seth Godin has published books through traditional paper publishers before and every one of his books has been a bestseller. So he's left his publisher and is partnering with Amazon, the largest digital bookseller.

But the most important thing that the article mentions is that he "has a significant following online" (though he might prefer to call it a tribe). His point for the last while has been this: selling a book (or spreading any idea) without followers is tough. If you're an author, you create an audience by posting stuff on a blog your audience likes and returns for. Artists in other media are also using blogs and doing other things to connect their audience to the work.

Bands are putting up more and more of their own stuff (albums, bootlegs, tweets, merchandise) on their own. When they tour, everyone who follows them on twitter or Sidekick knows where they'll be. And it is becoming a whole other way to enjoy music. Look what Phish did.

The comedian Adam Corolla has been on TV for while. He was also on the radio with CBS before he was fired. He has a podcast which is very funny and free. The podcast is so popular that when he does anything, he alerts fans, and they turn out. When he goes on the road, his shows sell out. When he writes a book, it becomes a bestseller.

Not everyone is good enough to get that many people to follow his or her podcast or blog - Adam Corolla is smart and funny - but a blog is a step into the audience for any author. Seth Godin will be very successful with Amazon, but it still doesn't seem entirely accurate to say he's publisher-free like the headline of the article does.

Update: Since the WSJ articles was published back in February, more information has come out about the partnership. Seth and Amazon have opened up The Domino Project, which is just brilliant (see below). The key is publishing digitally and spreading ideas.

From one of his blog posts.
The Domino Project is designed to (at least by way of example) remap many of these foundations.

1. There is no middleman. Because there is infinite shelf space, the publisher has more control over what the reader sees and how. In addition, the Amazon platform allows a tiny organization to have huge reach without taking significant inventory risk. "Powered by Amazon” is part of our name—it describes the unique nature of the venture... I get to figure out the next neat idea, and Amazon can handle printing, logistics and the platform for connection.

2. The reader is tightly connected with the publisher and the author. If you like the sort of things I write or recommend, you can sign up here (for free, using your email) and we can alert you to new works, send you free samples and otherwise make it easy for you to be smart about the new ideas that are generated. (RSS works too).

3. Pricing can vary based on volume, on timing, on format. With this project, I’ve made the decision to ignore the rules that publishers follow to get on the New York Times bestseller list. There’s no point in compromising the consumer experience or the product merely to get a nice ego boost and a small shot of promotion. More on this in a future post, but I'll let you use your imagination.

4. Digital goods and manifestos in book form make it easier to spread complex ideas. It’s long frustrated me that a blog post can reach 100 times as many people as a book, but can’t deliver the nuance a book can. The Domino Project is organized around a fundamentally different model of virality, one that allows authors to directly reach people who can use the ideas we’re writing about.
Read the full post here.


  1. Very interesting, thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  2. Good info. Yes, the (publishing) world is changing and probably for the betterment of eveyone who writes. Thanks for the post.