New Ways to Read


You’ve heard it all before. Startups, new websites, and even big powerhouses are all developing technology to disrupt how we collaborate, publish, and read. Today I want to focus on all the new ways we can read and absorb content. Sure, there are e-books, and there are even enhanced e-books with videos, but I’ve compiled a list of sources that have created either new ways to organize content, interpret content, or take in/learn content. Continue reading


NYU Media Talk: Social Content, What’s Working? What’s Not? What’s Next?

Last night’s NYU Media Talk was informative, and one of the most entertaining talks I’ve attended. The topic was on social content, and how social media affects publishing. It was moderated by New York Times Media Equation columnist David Carr, chief strategist and editor-at-large for WaPoLabs Rob Malda, editorial director for Flipboard Josh Quittner, and editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed Ben Smith. Continue reading

More on Penguin

NYU published its blog post about our recent trip to Penguin’s Media Suite. I posted an example of what they do in “Penguin’s Video Lab” and you can also see me in the last picture in NYU’s post (I’m the one in blue). Enjoy!

NYU Pub Posts

Podcasts. Audiobooks. Videos. Apps. Digital media has fast become an integral part of book marketing strategies, and it keeps growing in importance. So what’s a leading publisher to do? Last week students in the M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies learned how Penguin Group (USA), Inc. solved the problem: they created their own media suite!

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Visit to HarperCollins

My interactive media class was held at HarperCollins today. I don’t have the best photo of the building, but we were told to wait outside until 6:30 p.m. so as not to overwhelm security, and it was freezing. Below freezing, in fact, it was snowing, and we were waiting in a wind tunnel, longingly looking in at the cozy looking HarperCollins lobby.

Our guest speaker was Carolyn Pittis, the SVP of Global Office Services in the Digital Division at HarperCollins. “2010 is the year that things really shifted in book publishing,” she said.

Her emphasis was on data and data gathering. Book publishing has finally gone digital, and they are the last of the media to do so. But it’s tough trying to get a grasp on what all the changes mean. As Carolyn put it, “We are in an economy and an age of infinite choices.”

Fortunately, since books are the last to go digital, the industry can learn from the mistakes of others. For example, Carolyn said we learned from print media that free is a marketing model, not a business model. From TV she said we learned that people are willing to pay for content, and from film she said we learned that we should look outside of the US to grow.

The real challenge for publishers right now, is to prove to authors that they are still relevant and useful. Amazon is currently looking very attractive to those considering self-publishing, but publishers still have a much wider reach than Amazon, and are still better marketers. Still, the way publishers handle authors and how they determine their success is changing everyday. “We need new types of skills in publishing. We need innovation,” Carolyn said.

This is great for people like me who are just starting in the publishing business. As Carolyn said, “I’m very optimistic—for you.” Right now, the key is change. “Change it all! I think you should change everything. Do it quickly, because we need as much help as possible.”

The Future of Publishing, According to Richard Nash

Today in my Interactive Media class, we had guest speaker Richard Nash. Nash, former publisher at Soft Skull, is now launching a start-up company, Cursor, which is a social approach to publishing.

Anyway, he was a very interesting speaker, so I’d like to share some of his thoughtful quotes.

“Of all the media, games and books have the most in common with one another because of the time spent engaging in them”

“The revolution currently transforming publishing is really desktop publishing”

“We’re really in the middle of a 2.0 revolution that has it’s 3.0 revolution yet to come”

“Not only can social media be used to sell books, but books can naturally be plugged into social media”

“There’s not one original thing that I’m suggesting. But the reality is no one is doing it (systematically)”

“What we want to own are the readers, but only if the readers are willing to be owned, because we’re giving them a sense of belongingness, challenging them in interesting ways”

“We’re not in a transition from one state of the industry to another state of the industry that is stable. Effectively the media business is shifting to a state of permanent self re-invention.”

“We [the publishing industry] are not going to find an answer, and that will be the answer for the next 15-20 years.”

Regarding the sort of post-partum depression writers feel after being published: “Being published is not the thing. Being read and loved and understood and engaged with was the real thing. Having your book published by a big publisher was a means to an end only.”

And lastly, my favorite, because I am a writer and so far all I’ve heard is about how lonely a professional writing life is: “Writers aren’t particularly asocial. And there is nothing in history that suggests writers could have been asocial.”

Finally, an Optimistic Look at the Media

View of Washington Square from the Kimmel Center at NYU

That’s basically how the mandatory The Case for Media Optimism panel was described to us NYU publishing kids. I was skeptical about how the panel last night would go. After all, for the past five years of so all I’ve heard is about the death of print, the death of journalism, the death of media, etc. But I was pleasantly surprised.

The panel was moderated by David Carr, the media columnist for The New York Times, and participants included Dennis Crowley, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Foursquare, Steve Grove, the head of news and politics of YouTube at Google, David Eun, president of AOL Media and Studios, AOL, Inc., and David Karp, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tumblr.

If this group of people accurately represents the current media and technology industry, then there are a couple interesting observations. First, this panel was entirely comprised of men. For the most part, they were men under 30 or at the most, in their early 30s. Only two of them wore suits, the rest were in jeans, and one even came in a hoodie (which seems promising for someone like me who doesn’t like getting dressed up but wants to get into the publishing industry). Also, three of them were named David. There was going to be a fourth David, but he had to cancel last minute and instead was replaced by Grove. So it seems in order to be successful in this industry, I have to be a young man named David.

But all kidding aside, the top people in publishing seem to be men. Publisher’s Weekly cites that 85 percent of publishing employees with less than three years of experience are women. And yet, woman on average make $64,000 per year whereas men in the industry make $105,000. In the case where media meets technology, I suppose it makes sense the top people are male, since it’s mostly men who do computer programming. Still…

Also, the publishing industry is getting younger. The lines between media companies and technology companies are blurring–each of these men considered their company to be a bit of both–and unlike the old days, no one starts small and works their way up the corporate ladder anymore. Which makes now a great time to be in the business. Instead of asking for permission, you just go for it.

“These are people who saw something and built it, who thought of something and made it,” Carr said.

Karp, from Tumblr, said that from the last 10 years, blogging has matured into Tumblr. In addition to sharing your own content, you can easily pull in content from other people and feature it on your own blog. Videos, songs, quotes, photos–you name it, you can easily add it to your Tumblr blog. Newsweek started a blog a while back called Equality Myth. At first it was just a feature story meant to run in the magazine, but the author decided to create a blog and ask the community for input. It has since turned into a huge hit, that according to Karp, “will possibly survive Newsweek.” The key to its success was that it was a great thing for the community.

Grove, from Google, called YouTube a “platform.” “We’re defined by our users who upload content to our platform,” he said. The point of YouTube is to increase access to information and to improve consumers’ experience. But it is also important to bridge technology and media. Writers are still important.

According to Grove, “No technology completely on its own is going to get news right. You need journalists.” (whew!) With this in mind, Google recently donated $5 million in grants to journalists. $2 million went to the Knight Foundation, and the rest will go to international news.

Crowley from FourSquare had, I think, the most interesting company. According to him, “it’s all about the places you’re at.” I’d noticed recently how people on my newsfeed on Facebook kept “checking in” to places, though it wasn’t until last night that I knew what it meant. Basically, FourSquare lets you tell your network where you are at any given moment, and if you happen to be at the same place, you can easily meet up, or you can learn tips from them about the place, such as whether the food was good, how to flirt with the bartender to get free drinks, etc. It’s all about the insider information, to make your night more interesting and turn your life into a sort of interactive game, where you pick up different badges depending on your activities.

However, “the side effect of having all this information is you know where all your friends are […] it’s like your Maurader’s Map on your iphone.” I’m not completely sold on this idea yet, I guess I still value some privacy.

On the bright side, by “adding a layer on top of the real world,” FourSquare has “found that if we made badges people wanted to get, we changed their behavior.” This means that because of FourSquare, more people have actually been going to the gym more regularly. Carr had mentioned earlier that he was at a media event in Austin, TX earlier this year, and he was at the bar, when all of a sudden 200 people just got up and left. He found out later they had seen through FourSquare that the after party had started, and he said he had never seen anything move people so quickly as social media.

Eun at AOL said the company has been revamping and he considers it to be a starter-up. They’re trying to get the best of both worlds: media and technology. “We’re really equal parts,” he said. “We’re taking a look at how we can bring media and technology together to serve our consumers.”

What was really surprising to learn is how, even with Twitter and people’s shorter attention spans, there is still room for in-depth content.

Carr expressed concern that writers want people to have an intimate relationship with their content. He asked, “Brevity may be the soul of wisdom but is it really for the word business, should we be scared of this?”

Grove agreed that “we live in a clip culture” but that most people, if they find a topic they care about, will delve deeper. He thinks the media has to think more about marketing, since there are more sources, people can be more selective.

Crowley said FourSquare uses the short-form as a filter, and that consumers “boil everything down to nuggets.” He said the next step will be to run these nuggets through algorithms, so consumers can make sense of all this information.

According to Carr, people spend on average 70 minutes a day getting their news and entertainment via various platforms. So are all these companies competing with each other?

No, was the unanimous answer. In fact, Karp described the web as being an “ecosystem” and all these companies are complementary of each other. Partnerships are key, and so is being open to trying new things.

“We’re competing for attention, for audiences, at some level,” Eun said. But, he also added, “In this day and age, you’ve got to be confident working with other folks and making a one plus one equal three.”

I think the main point though, is that everything is still changing. It’s an exciting time, and digital media is still evolving. The Internet may have been started by male engineers, but now it’s about enhancing the experience for everyone, making advertising and content work together, and reaching out to as many people as possible. The media is not dead. It’s just going through it’s adolescence.