eBook Piracy will see a decline in Traditional Publishing and a rise in Self-Published Authors

Classic British comedy has often portrayed the working class in a favourably light with shows such as ‘The Good Life’, ‘Porridge’ and ‘Only Fools and Horses’.  Physical work, rather than intellectual delights, has always been attributed to such characters. Which may explain why during the London riots last year Clapham Junction’s Waterstones remained untouched by looters. The store kept its doors open famously remarking, “they might learn something”.

The digitalisation of books was inevitably going to cause online piracy. In the past, and to a lesser extent, audio books could be found on torrent sites. In a report by the Daily Mail it has been revealed that up to 20% of eBooks are sourced illegally as the Publishers Association issues thousands of legal threats to websites.

For the last year I have been keeping a watchful eye over the Publishing Industry due to its rapid evolution. The adoption of Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader had once only been the focus for innovators but now has found common adoption. Swaying readers away from classic hardbacks and paperbacks to instead digital formats. Inevitably this was going to cause a stir.

Debates still surround the pricing of eBooks as many still hold a price not too dis-similar from their dead tree cousins. The cost of producing a digital book formats only lies with the costs accumulated by the publishing house for its marketing, proofreading and commissions. The pricey cost of material and ink has been averted. The excessive commission which Amazon applies to eBooks can in many cases make the price irrelevant as a reason for choosing a paper or digital format.

Without wanting to share too much agreement with America’s controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) I do believe that Google has a lot to answer for online piracy. Whilst the attainment for free speech is integral online, often referred to as transparency in public relations, Google need to ask themselves serious ethical questions. Is it right for the world’s largest search engine to allow users to easily access sites promoting illegal file sharing?

A torrent site in No.1 spot. Even above Waterstones

I know there are countless other methods to find torrent files.
I know that the internet is causing industries to reconsider their business models.
I know that whilst eBook piracy is rising, so are the sales which are providing huge financial boosts for publishers and authors.

Sharing used to be word to imply generosity but the influence of the internet could begin to taint it. Could downloading an eBook be likened to lending a book to a friend or walking into Waterstones to steal a book? In a talk by Stephen Fry in 2009 at the Roundhouse in Camden (which I was fortunate enough to attend), he directly attacked the music industries’ approach towards online piracy. Stating that the pirates they were criminalising were also their customers. Ethics is not always so clear cut.

In my eyes books are different. Sharing books is a method to share knowledge but the book publishing industry can’t afford for books to be widely downloaded for free. One thing is for certain; we will witness the decline of traditional publishing houses and the rise of self-published authors. Piracy will be one of the factors causing this change.

What is the Real Value of a Facebook ‘Like’?

Back in the day of Facebook fans I became involved with a publisher who wanted to promote a new magazine they were releasing. Needless to say the magazine market is engulfed with various publications; to be niche allows tapping into small but potentially profitable audience. On the outset this factor set this particular magazine apart from the rest, only one competitor existed and they only published in the US.

For them the value behind social media was to attempt to generate real world sales and the director seemed to have a fairly sceptical approach to social media. The publisher had not tried it before – although previously tried and tested methods were becoming unaffordable (mostly real-world advertising campaigns).

Let me get this straight, social media is not free. The man hours it takes to constantly monitor, update and adjust networks is exhausting. When a client is involved they also require their say in the content and the approach in which an online campaign takes.

This social media campaign had a number of different approaches, including Facebook. We live in an age when a company will automatically request a Facebook Fan/Like Page. Industry, consultants and ordinary users create hype around the power of Facebook – in the past they may have had a point.

What I found was that Facebook was really struggling to generate any level of engagement (however you decide to measure it). Whilst the page received fans in triple digits a select few users commented. Despite this Facebook had a major flaw. It marks the dead end for a campaign.

Online driven traffic and real world campaigns direct users towards their Facebook pages but what exactly does the user do after that? Whilst they may follow the updates and reply to content being posted it is difficult to convert users even to a website address. Facebook has become a content based prison – unless it is streamed or attached then activity dies.

Some pretty controversial observations which I am unfortunately able to share against factual evidence as the publisher must be kept confidential. Although companies are starting to become sceptical towards Facebook. Listen to the whispers carefully; Facebook does not provide adequate user tracking and plays host to the outcome of a campaign.

Yes, there is one benefit. If the idea of your campaign is to find out how many Facebook users you can attract to your page then you have won. I can guarantee people may aimless ‘Like’ your page but equally this activity will not replace any real-world driven marketing efforts – the reach is too low even though Facebook has over 600 million active users. Your page will be a captive audience but one plagued with the noise generated by their personal news feeds.

Facebook needs a find a way to get users to convert. If their marketplace became popular then this may help…

FACT: Generating real world sales with social media is difficult and almost impossible to track (only a select few methods which require other platforms). At the same time I accept that each campaign is different and this is probably an example of a Facebook Campaign which didn’t work.

 

What have your experiences been with Facebook campaigns?

Have you tried Facebook advertising?

My thoughts on Madeleine McCann

Deciding to read Madeleine wasn’t easy. In many ways I feel cheeky to have said I’ve ‘read’ the book because I never actually managed to complete it. At the halfway point I had to put it down because the emotions portrayed behind the words represented a sadness only a parent could feel for losing their child, an emotion which all wish to avoid. Just reading the notes on Madeleine’s Wikipedia page show the extent of the media attention and in turn the parent’s grief.

After having listened to the emotional speech by Clarence Mitchell at an event in 2009 the topic of Madeleine has been on my mind for two reasons. Firstly this is a case which has dominated the newspapers since 2007. Due to the intense media attention the disappearance of Madeleine has served as an interesting case for PR Students to observe. I know this may sound heartless but I do say it with your confidence in mind, believe me I care about this case and respect the pain which has been delivered due to it.

When it was announced that the MCcanns would be releasing a book which would cover the behind the scenes details and their lives which followed on from their daughter’s disappearance I was immediately apprehensive. A week before the book was released it was at the top of the Amazon pre-order list and then that is when the intentions became clear.

Madeleine is not your usual biography and from the outset was inevitably going to be pages full of sadness. Which in turn explains my apprehension, releasing this book was a risk for the parents and Clarence Mitchell would really need to focus on the media’s response, this book was always going to generate heat.

Cynicism has cloaked many people’s minds now. The search for Madeleine has gone on for so long and many presume she is dead. Although the MCcanns have not yet admitted publically, though this haunting thought must be there.

Unfortunately the false reports of the parent’s murdering their daughter first circulated by the Portuguese media a month after the incident have resided with many. If the Madeleine case had not grown so large then these false allegations based on no credible evidence would have never materialised in the first place.

Since the book’s release I have come across one item of controversy which has remained splintered in my mind. The fact that some members of the public believe that it is wrong for the search for Madeleine to have continued on so long. That the case isn’t fair whilst other children remaining missing.

Why shouldn’t the focus be on Madeleine?

Many children go missing but that is not a reason to stop for the search for Madeline. Even if the search for the McCann’s daughter results in a body, at least a conclusion has been met. I don’t mean this in a cold way (although aware writing can come across as so) but instead the parents will be looking for closure. For as long as their daughter is missing it will be impossible to stop looking. It is a feeling I would have as a parent and I would generate media attention if it was necessary.

The release of the book Madeleine will have jolted the minds of many around the world. Its release which has already persuaded the British government to restart the search and perhaps the missing link will be found which will solve the case. Madeleine McCann has probably become the most recognised child’s face around the world. As each day goes by the search for her comes closer to reaching a conclusion.

 

My verdict about this case?

1)      Approach any criticisms about the McCann’s with cynicism

2)      Support the Find Madeleine cause if you can afford it

3)      Read Madeleine let me know if you managed to finish it.

4)      Many other children go missing. We must not forget them.

 

Social Networks: Personal Data Spending Habits

Wired Magazine made a fantastic point concerning online privacy in their February issue by uniquely constructing front covers containing personal details aimed at some of their readers. Channel 4’s Benjamin Cohen was one of their targets.

 

Funny Facebook Update (Bit Rude!)

Social Networks sit on a foundation of our personal data. Your very essence and life experiences are a currency which Wired Magazine was attempting to expose. Generally we are all too open about our lives online, we are careful with our financial spending habits and so why don’t we pay attention to our personal data spending habits?

Sometimes I think it is a self-obsessive trend; we generally think that people are interested in our lives. Unless you are a celebrity or a popular expert in your field then it is unlikely people will take an active interest in your life. Who really cares if I tweet “Travelling to Microsoft. Looks like a busy day is ahead of me”? I may get a couple of replies which may roughly be, “Yeah, I’m not looking forward to today either” but that would be about it. Yet I have traded my personal data to fuel the social network to carry on.

Social networks are full of useless information like this… except it isn’t useless. Companies will keep an eye on Twitter and monitor what you are saying. That single tweet of mine could have been seen by my manager, fellow employee or client… it provides them a perspective.

Freelance Social Media Consultants always comment to me that when they meet companies the client is always surprised how people are already discussing them or their brand online. Just because the company hadn’t figured out their social media strategy didn’t mean people would wait for their profile to appear before discussing.

What you reveal about yourself online is public (even private profiles – your data is still online) and companies can use this information. Are you comfortable of this? Social Media campaigns aim at the individual, based on a search of your personal data: think before you update.

 

A couple of questions for you (comment below 🙂 ):

  • What do you gain for sharing your personal details?
  • Is updating your details on Social Networks self-obsessive?

 

World Book Night 2011

World Book Night 2011 has begun. The event was inspired after the success of World Book Day, an event where thousands of school children in the UK and Ireland receive book tokens. My copy of the book below is one of 40,000 copies of the 25 titles which have been printed for World Book Night 2011. Do the maths and it will reveal that 1,000,000 books are being shared this year between friends, family, colleagues and strangers. Essentially the event sees 20,000 members of the public give away 48 copies of their favourite book.

World Book Night 2011: David Nicholls, One Day

For some World Book Night 2011 has been welcomed with all the joy of meeting their mother-in-law (It has taken me over 2 years to slip a mother-in-law joke into this blog. Too soon?). Controversy surrounds the outcome of this giveaway; will it harm small booksellers and authors or will World Book Night 2011 cause more to find the joy reading?

If I were an author then I would welcome World Book Night 2011. I have spoken with a few authors and none of them have listed money for the reason they write. With the costs of publishing and marketing there is very little money left to the author as profit. Instead the highest reason for writing is the joy of seeing your book on the shop’s shelf or seeing others reading your book. To see 40,000 copies of your book distributed as part of World Book Night 2011 as an author will only raise your profile.

Most the free books I received as a child were bibles or various translations, so I welcome World Book Night 2011 as a change. Once I have finished this book I’ll pass it on and hopefully get my hands on another copy of a World Book Night 2011 branded book. Now move away from your computer and read a book. 🙂

Microsoft: Broadcasting with Guidelines

For any students reading this blog who are into their social media platforms you will soon discover that many companies have blogging, tweeting or ‘digg-it’-esque guidelines. As the world’s largest software company, Microsoft is not exempt from such guidelines. When you sign that dotted line on the contract you are not only promised work for that period, maybe a salary but also personal discretion of what you are allowed to broadcast.

Recently I completed Microsoft’s Standards of Business Conduct 2010 which included a section tackling information leaks. I must make it clear that ‘information leaks’ doesn’t mean revealing unjust practices (if there were any) within the company but instead personally outing news before the agenda has been set. If Microsoft were to inform me of a new social network they are building and I revealed any details, even suggestions about it, before the PR department does then I would be in risk of losing my job. Better described as ‘contract termination’ when spoken with an American accent.

Anything I type on this blog must be classified as my own views and not the company’s. I must make a concerted effort to always keep mindful of any confidential information or indeed information which just wouldn’t be suitable for public ears. The official Microsoft guidelines highlight that these boundaries are too be dealt with on a personal level. That if I deem it suitable to reveal a piece of information then I may do so but I must have a process of reason behind it.

In a blog post I wrote a little while ago I highlighted one of the problems I had with traditional media as an employee of Microsoft. BBC Radio 2 phoned asking for my views to do with a particular website (which happened to be a competitor of Microsoft’s) and invited me to the studio to speak with Jeremy Vine.

Such an opportunity, especially at my age, was too resistible to turn down. Yet, after much advice and deliberation, I had to decline the offer. Working for my dream company has its sacrifices. I cannot speak over the radio and give the impression that all Microsoft employees have the same view or appear to be speaking on behalf of the company. Thus why I am taking an extended break from radio and instead writing upon this page.

I will never stop loving radio or abandon it as a possible future career but sometimes circumstance is more important than desire. If anything my love isn’t with radio but instead Journalism as a whole which is pushed forward by my love for writing.

Surprisingly social media guidelines stretch to popular (or perhaps un-popular due to recent news) websites like Digg. Microsoft regularly gets into the news and employees are told to never artificially create a sense of popularity on websites by ‘digging’ posts. Public popularity must be genuine.

The reason these guidelines exist isn’t because the company is full of corrupt people but instead to keep communication within Microsoft ethical. It is very easy for Microsoft, as a large company, to bully others with their market dominance but to do so is unethical, against guidelines and will cause the dreaded contract termination.

Social media guidelines are now always at the forefront of my mind. Not because I want to seem special because I may have privileged information but because I would rather not lose my job this year. The extent to which these guidelines may affect me are clear – I constantly blog and tweet about everything I do.

Today I attended a Q&A session with Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, in a virtual town hall session broadcast from MSN in London. To be one of 50 guests at the event does give you a sense of importance – I will not deny that. Although due to this I decided against taking a picture to upload to Twitter. I knew the journalists wouldn’t be uploading their pictures until ½ way through the session and so for me to jump the gun, as an employee and post to Twitter instantly just seemed a little cheeky and wrong. Everyone in the room was actually asked to put their mobiles away.

If I were to be a guest from outside the corporate world then this action would have been okay but reasonable indiscretion told me to leave the camera alone. Perhaps I have taken these guidelines to the extreme? Even if I have I hope you understand my position.

Having said that I will be attending a large Microsoft conference in London early September and I am positive that tweeting from this venue will be kosher.

The Digital Economy Act is Stupid

It was known as the Digital Economy Bill in the real world, #debill (now known as #deact!) on Twitter but from the 8th April 2010 bill became Act.

If there were ever an example of parliament not listening then watching the progress of the Digital Economy Bill pass through the House of Lords, House of Commons, to then be granted Royal Assent has to be the pinnacle. The Bill has received much attention from industry experts but was never granted a debate despite the pleas of lobbyists and opposing MPs (ie. The intelligent Ones).

For the hardcore readers among you the full details of the Act can be found here. The Digital Economy Act is aimed to continue upgrading Britain so that we may remain a country focused on digital industry.

The only problem with this, at first, brilliant tribute to securing Britain’s digital age is that the Bill was constructed by out-of-date sage’s and probably money pilfering entertainment bosses. It might be that because the Bill is so up-to-date that it was eagerly nodded through parliament by the people who can only smirk at the digital age before confessing, “I am too old to learn about that”. Don’t think that our political system is full of bright, reasonably, charming people – in many cases we are discussing the very idiots who used to sit next to us in school.

The Bill has two key areas of concern; the ability for OFCOM to get involved online and piracy strategies. Of course the Bill covers many areas such as the future of radio, broadband penetration and the role of Channel 4. As reported by the BBC, “The government says it wants to protect the UK’s creative industries, which it says is under threat from piracy.” It strikes me that the Act will proceed as a double edged sword, both protecting and harming the creative industry.

It is perilously simple to write clauses, a certain strategy of rules which the Act seems to be, but far more complicated to actually carry out procedure. Under the Digital Economy Act copyright holders will be able to complain to ISPs to report illegal file sharing of a user. Such allegations require evidence and such evidence can only mean following the footsteps of a user’s IP. IP stands for Internet Protocol, not Intellectual Property! IP addresses change (although changes are easily tracked) but cannot act as solid evidence. If somebody were to access my wireless router to download copyrighted material illegally then my IP address would show up. Thus insinuating that I should be to blame for the illegal downloading. However, I wasn’t torrenting but the ISP would still label me as a pirate, a hater of the creative industry and I would be charged accordingly.

Such piracy measures are unnecessarily heavy handed and will not protect the industry but instead harm it. It is wrong to label those who ‘illegally’ download as criminals. Stealing a handbag is not the same as downloading copyrighted material. There is ethically a vast difference which supporters of the Digital Economy Act must be blind to understand. In many ways downloading copyrighted material is done by those who love film and music. Perhaps students who don’t yet have enough money to purchase but as they get older, earn money, will built up a huge music or film collection completely paid for. Furthermore, if ‘illegally’ downloading content widens a customer base then technically should cause more sales in the long run. In many ways torrenting could be a great (but uncertain) marketing activity. Extremely counter intuitive in the short term but certainly something that deserves a little bit of research.

We are fortunate that although this Act could potentially leave its mark on the way the United Kingdom use the internet, it will take at least 2 years for anything to happen. Within the Digital Economy Act it has been said that although ISPs will need to mediate between OFCOM and the internet user, that OFCOM will need to write its own industry code for consumers.

In the mean time the internet’s landscape will continue to change. The websites that are popular today will not be the same in 2 years time and new websites shall emerge. This, without a doubt, will leave a written Act looking dated.

The best thing about the Digital Economy Bill is a website that informs you of the vote of your local MPs. Turns out that my local MP (although technically during the dissolution of parliament there are no MPs) in Cheltenham, Martin Horwood, didn’t bother voting for the Bill whilst my local MP in Surrey, Paul Burstow, opposed it. Martin, having not bothered voting, has given me even more of a reason to vote for Mark Coote on the 6th May.

The Digital Economy Act could be a real threat to the development of the internet. Pushed through parliament by wealthy creative industries without debate. I do not believe the measures within the Act can be fortified in reality. The Act deserves a debate and it is certainly worthwhile for everybody to call for a #deact.

Future of Newspapers: eReaders?

Murdoch

It would be an understatement to say we are living in changing times, revolution has called and Rubert Murdoch blew the final whistle. Murdoch has said that there is a plan to release a News Corp e reader which will be in direct completion to Amazon’s Kindle. The Kindle e reader allows books, magazines and newspapers to be wirelessly downloaded directly to the device.

Downloading of newspapers, the digital subscriptions to newspaper, purchasing news content; these are all goals for the journalism industry. As I have shown before, the sales of newspapers have been dropping steadily every year. The cause of this problem is simple, ‘Why buy a newspaper when news is freely available online?’

Rupert Murdoch has called the end of free news content online. “The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news websites.”

All of his publications will need a subscription from next year to view content online. In some parts of the industry Murdoch has been met with criticism but most praise this move. We are living between two very different ages. One day (people my age) will be telling our kids of how, in the past, newspapers were printed on paper. You could access news content free online and how those good old days have now passed.

It is easy for us as consumers to scoff and announce our total rejection of Murdoch’s money making scheme. I have to admit that paying to read The Sun online brings uncontrollable shakes of disapproval to my body. However, will paying for journalism online become a necessity eventually? If The Sun had an exclusive celebrity story, which could only be read from The Sun, would you be prepared to pay subscription? Alternatively you could buy The Sun newspaper and read the story that way.

Murdoch’s scheme is money making but is also a method to heal the journalism industry. To give the industry a new breath of financial life and have it fuelled by costs other than advertising.

Eco_journalism

The BBC is technically already doing what Rupert Murdoch has proposed. Our license fee to the BBC could be viewed as a subscription cost to BBC News. The example fails for anybody who doesn’t purchase the license fee; views the BBC from abroad but the BBC do receive payment for their news services. There is no doubt that the BBC will be the mainstream content against other news sites offering subscription as the BBC provides content without subscription. The license fee dominates the market and with Murdoch’s subscription plan, other newspapers will eventually move the same way and the BBC will certainty come under attack and criticism.

I am utterly convinced that paying subscription for newspapers online will be:

  • Only the first stages of reinventing journalism’s model
  • A necessity for being the only way to one day view newspapers

In 1984 there were 1000 internet devices in the world. In 2008 the number of internet devices in the world rose to 1,000,000,000. The amount of digital devices in the world is constantly increasing and with this will change how the internet will be viewed. The internet will become increasingly handheld and the majority of the content on the internet will one day be viewed through our PDAs, Mobiles (if a conventional mobile still exists then) and e readers.

In the UK e readers have hardly penetrated our market yet. Sony primarily dominates but the majority of people are still sceptical about moving away from paper books. What I can see on the horizon is a Harry Potter scenario, where ink will move on the newspaper’s pages and now we have the technology to do that.

eInk provides the technology for almost every e reader on the market. eInk essentially allows a digital paper display. This is achieved through positively and negatively charging ink molecules to change a position on a display. There is no glare from an e reader, it appears as paper and the battery is only needed when ink needs to change pattern. A charge is not needed for electronic ink to stand on a page. Due to this a single charge on a lithium battery will keep an e reader going for almost 2 weeks with heavy use.

The Amazon Kindle, which is currently only available in America, does more than read eBooks though. It allows you to digitally subscribe to newspapers and magazines; this truly challanges newspapers. Why carry newspapers, magazines and books around with you when you could use a paper thin device to host them all? Whilst the Kindle only allows subscription at the moment other e readers will follow suit.

Online subscriptions to newspapers won’t just be online. Eventually you will be able to subscribe monthly to receive newspapers on your e reader.

So am I dreaming? Not really. Amazon is working very hard to get their Kindle e reader over to the UK following their success in the American market. As we speak Amazon are apparently sorting out subscription deals with newspapers, magazines and mobile operators. The technology for e readers is constantly improving and Sony (the current leading e reader in the UK) is releasing further additions to their e reader product line.

Whilst e readers have not captivated a wide audience through the purchasing of digital books, I think they will change the way we read newspapers. I would like to believe that e readers will have an explosion of popularity this Christmas but alas I am an innovator. I will be buying the new Kindle when it comes out this Christmas, subscribing to newspapers and magazines but it may take longer for the majority of the public to catch up. I believe Murdoch is aware of the eNewspaper future. This might just be his first move, the industry’s first move, for properly accepting digital technology and journalism can work together.

plastic_logic