Extending The Publishing Paradigm: Book As Souvenir

Innovation guru John Wolpert is always pushing the envelope. And so it comes as little surprise to learn that he is innovating again.

This time his innovation is within the publishing arena with the release of his first novel, The Hidden Stage.

Set in a civic theatre not unlike the one in John’s hometown, he was inspired to write this story by a trip to his local theatre in 4th grade. He recalls how he had to go to a play there, and thought he was too cool to go.  He remembers having a serious attitude about it.  But half-way into the show, he became totally mesmerized.  The end of the first chaper of The Hidden Stage has a moment for the main character, Alex Cole,  that is not dissimilar to something that happened to him – and it changed his life.

John believes that a lot of professional writers are starting to wake up to the notion that you don’t have to print heaps of dead tree in advance in order to publish.

The new way – and while the concept of this isn’t new, the practicality of it is very, very new – is to focus on your maven market (in the case of The Hidden Stage, the 100,000 volunteers and professionals at civic theaters in the US), go viral with them, and give them the ability to order the book on Amazon.

He found that using Scribd.com was also a huge bonus.  He is able to tell exactly how the book is doing online.   In ten minutes, he had the whole book – all 450 pages – online and embedded for reading on both his own site and on Scribd.com.

John’s strategy was to first write a compelling book that was a page-turner and then to really lower the barrier to reading that first page.  As reading any book is a serious investment of time, the cover and the site were fundamental to getting that first page read.

He scripted a Flash website to give potential readers a really good sense of what they would be getting if they embarked on reading the story.  Then he gave them a simple one-click path to reading the whole book online, and finally there is the link to Amazon.

John also points out that there is an alternative through Amazon, which is not self-publishing, but simple print-on-demand through BookSurge.  Instead of authors having to put up $$ to do mini print-runs, finally print-on-demand is here.  He says it costs a little more for the book buyer, but it is great that we can finally get books into readers’ hands without having to line the pockets of publishers…all the rest is tapping the market and knowing your audience.

What he’s seen so far from feedback is that people start by reading the first page just to see what it is about.  Then they read a bit more, because the story is exciting.  If the whole story was not available for free online, he suspects that he would not be getting readers to even try the first few pages…it’s psychological.   But then they decide they want the printed book, and can get it from Amazon.

As they say:  “If your idea isn’t good, you lose.  If your idea isn’t viral, you lose.  If people don’t want to buy your souvenir, you lose.”

Broadband To Leapfrog Australia To Head Of The Tech Pack?

I’m writing this from my Sydney home, being back in the country for a few weeks over the summer. My wireless is running on iinet, which draws from the Telstra backbone and despite support calls it’s as patchy and slow as can be. I am comparing this to the speeds I get back in Silicon Valley, of course, and by no means would I even think to add South Korea into the mix.

Yet, I am reading in Fortune about Australia’s broadband savior, Sol Trujillo. If you are to believe this article, this white knight has single handedly changed the course of the country’s “tech scene” by “shaking up” Telstra, the dominant telco and steering it to invest in a next generation network.

I like what he is saying about “high-speed, near ubiquitous wireless broadband” being a game changer, but remain sceptical that we are talking about the same playing board.

Telstra totally dominates the telco arena in Australia. Their pricing is not globally competitive – before moving to Woodside, I was paying US$25 a month for all you can eat ultra high speed broadband in Palo Alto. “Broadband” in Sydney costs easily 3x as much and it’s capped. I cannot begin to compare what it would cost to run an iPhone in Australia!

It’s great to see companies like Momentum, which is mentioned in the Fortune piece, continuing to build their business in the country, but I wonder how much stronger they would be today were they playing on a more level playing field. [Disclosure, I was an investor in Momentum]

I’d love to hear from Australians what they think about this article – truth or a pr job…is Telstra helping or hindering your company’s business?

Succeeding In Liew Of The Recession: 5 Tips For Internet Companies

Lightspeed Ventures partner, Jeremy Liew has written a great piece as his first Wall Street Journal guest column entry in which he explores a number of trends that will emerge in the new year.

His first point is that “even in a recession, people still want to be entertained”. I’d ratchet that statement up a notch – “especially in a recession, people need to be entertained”. Humans have a wonderful ability to side channel their consciousness to avoid discomforting things and escapism is rampant when times are tough.

He goes on to make some great points that are well worth reading. I look forward to reading more of his thoughts in further columns.

iPhone Emerges As Clear Cameraphone Leader

Back in August I posted a chart from Flickr showing the most popular cameraphones being used to post photos. It’s instructive to compare these charts again some four months later. The iPhone has torn open a huge chunk of white space from other cameraphones. It will, however, be interesting to see how the slight dip in the last week trends.

DeWolfe Talks Up MySpace

Speaking at the Reuters Media Summit, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe forecast advertising revenue growth in 2009. While advertising in general has slowed, he points to a continued switching trend form off to online media.

Still one of the world’s largest social networks, MySpace enjoyed an 18% year on year growth in revenue last quarter. It will indeed be impressive if they are able to keep this up.

There is growing speculation that MySpace may move towards a subscription model, something that DeWolfe does not corroborate nor does he rule it out.

He further points out that now is a good time to be contemplating acquisitions for cashed up companies (and private equity players looking to put their funds to work) as valuations are dropping off significantly.

Yahoo Dips Into Single Digit Territory

This morning YHOO dipped to 9.83. This is a major inflection point for a company that could’ve sold itself to Microsoft a few weeks ago for at least three times that price per share.

Kara Swisher has weighed in asking questions regarding the company’s board. After Jerry Yang’s deer in the headlights performance at the Web 2.0 Summit last week, you’ve gotta wonder – where to from here guys?

World 2.0: Al Gore’s Purpose-Driven Web And Rupert Murdoch’s Maelstrom

There’s a new puppy headed to the White House. Unites States President-Elect, Barack Obama has promised his children this.

Al Gore, made reference to Barack’s promise in his closing keynote at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco yesterday. He reflected upon his earlier days as a reporter and how he had been in the process of choosing a puppy for his kids.

He brought in someone to help him and his wife choose the type of puppy and the first question he was asked was, “What’s the purpose of the puppy?”

“You see”, said former US Vice President, Al Gore, “a puppy’s got to have a purpose.”

And so it is with our current puppy – the Internet. I was both fortunate enough to be around when this puppy was born, and to have been at the Palace Hotel yesterday and a part of the crowd that gave Al two standing ovations as he made it crystal clear to all of us: the Internet puppy now needs to be given a purpose.

Gone are the endless summer days when you could tweet about your innermost whimsies. Gone are the halycon days when you could simply garner a user base for the sake of doing so.

This puppy needs to be harnessed and made the most of.

As Barack proved with his campaign – a clear purpose, a driven determination and the power of the network can achieve what may appear unachievable at the outset.

Al has predictably urged us all to use the web for the higher purpose of setting the balance right with mother nature. I agree, but I also think this is not enough.

I believe if we keep the status quo, our silo’d nation states based on geographical boundaries and our us/them ideologies and try to solve our environmental problems then we will fail.

We need to change how we view our relationships with one another and with the planet as a whole. We need a true World 2.0.

Al used another analogy in his talk. He spoke about the retrofitting of factories during the industrial age with dynamos. Because these factories had been set up to work optimally based on an outmoded technology these upgrades had minimal impact. It was only when the factories were replaced with more modern ones specifically fashioned to work with dynamos that there was an order of magnitude improvement.

Similarly, while there have been some benefits since the launch of the Internet we have not seen an order of magnitude improvement to date. Instead we have numerous countries censoring web traffic, while others create monopolies for their own benefit to the detriment of the rest of the world.

What we need is to move beyond our current retrofit and architect a whole new way of operating as one world. If we truly want to move beyond, what Elon Musk called yesterday at the Summit, the “market armageddon”, if we truly want to tackle our pressing environmental issues then we need World 2.0.

How can we rely on nationalistic governments to get us out of the mess we are in? Many would argue they got us there in the first place. But this is not a blame game. We don’t have time for that.

We need to recognize that the current systems are an anachronism and that we need a step change now or we will truly be plunged into a time of true darkness.

In a talk he is giving tomorrow, Rupert Murdoch will point out that “we are in an era of unprecedented creative destruction”. He will call on all of us to embrace new technologies. His take is that “technology is ushering in a new golden age for humankind”.

I agree with him. We are at a critical point in our history as a planet. A point when we have but one true path ahead of us, a path that will require us to coalesce into one world and collectively tackle the hugely destructive forces that are all around us.

It is time for World 2.0 – how will you play a part? Will you sit back on your couch and wait to read about it in the New York Times? Or will you seize the moment and drive this forward?

Look at the change that “recovering politician” Al Gore has been able to achieve in a limited time and on a limited budget.

Isn’t it time we took this one giant step further! Let’s give this puppy a real purpose.

Social Network User-Placed Videos Get Auditude With MySpace and MTV

Palo Alto-based Auditude is a startup focused on identifying videos, and parts of videos, uploaded to the web and then overlaying ads within these clips. They’ve amassed a database of over 250 million videos and 4 years of TV content and have now done a deal with MySpace and MTV that will allow these parties to monetize the videos being uploaded by MySpace users.

As MySpace’s president of sales and marketing is quoted as saying in the LA Times, “This is a game changer.”

No longer are the content players swimming against the tide – if this holds as a precedent, we should see a complete about face and some strong strokes as they all try to pull ahead in the race to monetize their content.

RockYou Raises More Funding To Climb Virtual Superwall

Eric Eldon at VentureBeat has a great piece on RockYou’s move into the Asia Pacific region courtesy of another round of funding from strategic investors in the region, namely Softbank and SK Telecom.

Why Asia Pac you might ask? The answer is – virtual goods.

Cracking the formula for monetizing social networks via virtual goods is the current holy grail. Where better than China to learn the ropes – bigger than web advertising, virtual goods are a $1.2bn business there already.

In addition, Softbank ploughed $400m into Xiaonei – a socnet similar to Facebook, but ahead of the curve: they recently introduced a virtual currency system. Teaming up with these players is a smart move.

UPDATE: Facebook has started to head down a similar track – they’ve moved to a micropayments system as of today.

Web Advertising Rates Cross The Rubicon

Ad-optimizer, The Rubicon Project has reported that CPMs dropped by 11% from Q2 to Q3 across their advertiser and publisher networks.

Nicholas Carlson, writing for the Silicon Alley Insider notes that:

Particularly hard hit: social networks (down 3% q/q), young adult (down 8% q/q), music and entertainment sites. News and reference sites actually saw a 36 percent increase.