Are ad impressions killing serious journalism?

This is a very interesting and challenging article. What’s Really Killing Digital Media: The Tyranny Of The Impression.

If you support your content with online ads, that means you have to play the ad impression game. You need to re-jigger your content to get more ad impressions for each word for each visitor. What does that do to your content strategy?

It makes you chop up your content into little bits, and it makes these little bits of content more valuable than serious, long-form articles.

But … more valuable to whom? It’s not more valuable to the reader, and probably not to the advertiser. It’s more valuable to the website owner, but only because of the distortion caused by the ad impression game. And it might not be good for the publisher’s brand.

What’s the solution?

[A] growing coalition of publishers and advertisers, especially those who make high-quality stuff, want to ditch the impression altogether. Rather than try to sell ads using metrics that reward lots of clicks, these publishers, and a number of marketers, want to start selling their ads on something very different: time.

You’re already aware of the “visibility” problem with ads. A website ad that is served outside the viewing area of the page isn’t doing the advertiser any good. So there’s been a lot of work to change the metrics to only count visible ads.

But what about an ad that’s visible, but flies by so fast that nobody sees it? Is the amount of time the ad is displayed a better measure of the ad’s worth to the advertiser?

“The only way you can actually look at the amount of value someone’s placed on content is how much time they’re spending with it,” said Brendan Spain, the U.S. commercial director of the Financial Times, one of a growing number of publishers that has begun selling ads using time-based currency; it uses cost per hour.

I’m sure you noticed the slight switch in the topic in that quote. Spain is speaking about the value of the content, but the advertiser is interested in the impact of the ad. Do the two correlate?

[T]ime spent is still a kind of proxy for the thing that marketers really want, which is readers’ attention. “It is very hard, without elaborate and expensive neuroscience, to measure attention,” said Sherrill Mane, senior vice president at the Interactive Advertising Bureau. “Time spent,” she noted, is the best available proxy.

Is that enough? Is measuring how long the ad is displayed a better measure of attention?

Web designers have trained web visitors to ignore ads. We all know where they appear on the page, and we simply skip over them. So while time spent might be a better measure of attention to the content, is it a measure of attention to the ad? There’s still the issue of the “ad blindness” of the reader.

There are other issues addressed in this very fascinating article, and I recommend that you read the whole thing.

The illogical thinking that plagues digital publishing

This article — Publishers: Weigh The Risks Of Platform Content Distribution — makes a lot of good points about the dangers publishers face when they put their content on a platform.

Unfortunately, it starts off with a very common but fundamentally misleading argument.

First, nearly two-thirds of digital media time spent in the US is on a mobile device. Second, most of that time is in apps. That’s not all. Most consumers spend that time in only five different apps.

While the apps vary by person, the trend is clear for publishers: In order to achieve scale, their content needs to be accessible through the apps that people use every day. This means that there is a strong incentive to partner with digital companies that dominate the top five for a critical mass of people.

Do you see what’s happening here? “Digital media time” is presented as the pool that publishers need to be in. Once you accept that premise, the rest follows — e.g., most digital media time is on a few apps on mobile devices, so that’s where you need to be.

The thing that continues to amaze me about this line of argument is that it completely misses what people are doing during this “digital media time.”

Sure, people spend half their life on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever useless time suck appeals to them. But they’re on Twitbook to find out what their high school friends are up to, or to get the latest gossip, or to rant about some political topic. They’re not involved in serious reading.

If you publish data on commodities transported by rail, Facebook is irrelevant to you. It doesn’t matter if your market fritters away 90 percent of their day on the thing. What matters is where and how they expect to consume your information.

“Everybody’s on Facebook, so your content needs to be on Facebook” makes about as much sense as “everybody’s watching the Superbowl, so you should sponsor the halftime show.”

People at the Superbowl aren’t in the mood for serious content. They’re in the mood for beer and jokes and whatnot, but probably not for what you’re selling.

Some publishers are doing the sorts of things that fit with the Facebook ambiance. That is, they’re simplifying complex stories and making mock of things they don’t understand. The Onion should make a killing with Facebook. The Journal of Neuroscience probably not.

And it doesn’t matter if every neuroscientist in the country is on Facebook for half the day. The question is not how much “digital time” that group spends on social media, but whether that’s where they want to consume the information. It’s entirely possible they want to catch up with their nieces and nephews on Facebook during the day, but read about neuroscience out of a print magazine in their arm chair at home in the evening.

The logic behind digital publishing has been skewed for years, and publishers need to make distinctions and parse out what’s really being said.

It doesn’t matter if 90 percent of web traffic is on smart phones if that includes third world data, and you don’t publish to the third world. It doesn’t matter if 86 percent of “digital time” is spent on apps, if that means Angry Birds and chatting with friends. (And yes, I just made up those numbers.)

The question is not “where do people consume content these days?” because “content” is a ridiculously broad term. It includes reading tweets and recipes and social media silliness.

You need to find out where your market expects to get the kind of information that you’re selling. Don’t be distracted by other things they’re doing just because it can be called “consuming content.”

Marketing can’t be replaced by software …

… but some tech companies have tried.

That’s part of the message in this fantastic article: Everything the tech world says about marketing is wrong.

I’ve explored the same general theme before, but Samuel Scott has gone wide and deep with it, explaining that analytics and algorithms can’t replace creativity and basic marketing know-how, and that marketing has suffered as a result.

The quest to measure everything — and the fact that computers are, as my brother likes to say, glorified adding machines — has caused an influx of technical people into marketing, and they don’t know the basics of marketing. Rather, they’ve “fallen into an echo chamber of meaningless buzzwords.”

Among these “meaningless buzzwords” is a very trendy one: “Content marketing.”

The use of these and other buzzwords has caused a new generation of marketers to enter the field without knowing even the basic terms and practices that underpin our industry.

But there’s no point in me rehashing it all. Just go read the article. It’s long, but it’s worth it.

Challenges marketers face: Identifying the right technologies

Last week I took a look at issue #1 in 8 of the Top Marketing Challenges Marketers Face (And Their Solutions). This week I’m going to discuss #4, “Identifying the right technologies for my needs.”

Obviously there’s no single answer to this problem because everybody’s needs are different, but here are some general guidelines.

1. Ask if technology is really the answer.

Technology is great and allows us to do amazing things. But remember that when your only tool is a hammer, you want to bang on every problem, and when your only tool is technology, you want to program it all away. Sometimes the solution lies elsewhere.

For example, if you’re having trouble getting web visitors to sign up for your premium content, you may need to do A-B tests on your sign-up form, or you may need a better registration process, or you may need technology to target the offers more carefully.

Or maybe your content stinks.

Before you sign on with some whiz-bang technology answer, make sure somebody on your staff takes a hard look at the problem the old-fashioned way. It’s too easy to believe that the new gadget will solve your troubles. Sometimes there’s no substitute for doing the hard thing.

2. Hire a marketing technologist.

Somebody on the marketing staff has to understand technology. I’ve written about this before, and at the bottom of that article you can see links to some rather awful videos where I reviewed my notes for a German friend.

3. Write an incredibly detailed requirements document and go over every single point.

When you decide that you do need a technology solution to a problem, download 100 white papers, product comparisons, blog posts and various mind dumps that deal with the issue, get on an Amtrak to some city that’s three or four hours away, and read every single word. Get one of those fancy pens with a highlighter on one end and a regular pen on the other and note issues, features, problems, difficulties, questions, etc.

When you get where you’re going, have a sandwich, review your notes and take a long walk. Let the stuff settle in your brain for a while.

On the trip back, sit in the dining car and get a couple beers. Start organizing your notes into an outline.

Yes, I’m serious about the beers. At this point you’re trying to think creatively. How will this thing fit in with your system? Where are the likely problems? What are you going to do about Alfred in IT who insists on programming everything himself? How will this interface with your other technologies and vendors?

Go home and sleep on it. Every day for the next week you’ll come up with new things you didn’t think about. Jot them down. Incorporate them into your outline.

On Friday, set the thing aside and try not to think about it all weekend. You’ll fail. When something occurs to you over Sunday breakfast, email it to yourself and go on trying not to think about the topic. On Monday, look it over again and prepare something close to a final document.

Now, and only now, you’re ready to talk to vendors. Send them your document and ask what you’ve missed.

They’ll try to snow you. They’ll try to sell you 10 times more than you need. They’ll tell you it’s easy, that they’ve done these integrations before, that they can work with everybody, etc.

Don’t believe a word of it. Get past the sales guy and talk to one of the operational people — the ones who know how the system works. Get them on the phone with your operational people. Talk through every single detail of your requirements document. Don’t accept “yes, we can do that.” Probe. Find out how they do it, because the devil is still in the details.

After you’ve done all this and you’re pretty sure you’ve got it all figured out, realize that the devil is one sneaky fellow. He’s still hiding in those details, and he’s gonna get you.

4. Have a workaround.

Despite your best efforts at figuring out every possible glitch, there will be glitches. If possible, have a way to work around them.

For example, if the data doesn’t flow from vendor A to vendor B the way it’s supposed to, make sure you can download and upload it yourself. If it turns out that widget #3 actually isn’t compatible with the server software you’re running, have a back-up option for that process.

Think creatively. Don’t get boxed in. And don’t believe anything anybody says.

What, … you thought it was going to be easy?

Troubles marketers face — calculating ROI

This article is worth your time: 8 of the Top Marketing Challenges Marketers Face (And Their Solutions).

They compiled their list of challenges from a survey, and this is what they came up with.

  1. Proving the ROI of our marketing activities
  2. Securing enough budget
  3. Managing our website
  4. Identifying the right technologies for my needs
  5. Training our team
  6. Targeting content for an international audience
  7. Hiring top talent
  8. Finding an executive sponsor

Today I’m going to comment on #1.

ROI is very important, but you have to remember that it’s a bit of a myth.

It’s tempting to think that ROI should be easier on the internet. After all, websites run on computers, and e-stores use databases, and we can track links and clicks and such, that when you boil it all down it’s just binary math stuff. We should be able to link A to B to C with mathematical certainty.

Not really.

ROI matters. You can’t go investing in marketing efforts without knowing that they’re doing any good. At the same time, you’re kidding yourself if you think you can tie costs to results with very much precision. Despite the best technologies, there’s a whole lot of fuzziness to the equation.

Consider retargeting as an example.

Retargeting works by displaying your ads to people who have visited your site. It’s what causes ads for cordless circular saws to follow you around the internet after you did some online browsing about cordless circular saws. Yes, that can get annoying, but the idea is that the constant reminders will make you come back and buy.

The trouble is, linking a specific purchase to your retargeting ad campaign isn’t easy. In an ideal world, the sequence would go like this.

  1. A visitor comes to your cordless circular saw page and gets a cookie that will identify him across a broad ad network.
  2. Your non-buyer goes hither and yon on the internet, sees your retargeting ads and thinks, “You know, I need to finish that fence in the back yard, and a cordless circular saw would make it easier.”
  3. Your now re-engaged prospect clicks on the ad and goes to your landing page.
  4. Your now reclaimed visitor completes the purchase.

That sequence is very trackable. The trouble is, that’s not what happens in the real world, mostly because people don’t click on ads. What they often do is see the ad, then google the thing all over again. If you’re running an Adwords campaign, you may now have two marketing efforts that want to take credit for the same transaction.

There are other common practices that mess up retargeting, like when people delete cookies and when they use different devices. E.g., I may casually search for cordless circular saws on my tablet, so the ads might follow me around there, but I might complete the purchase on my desktop (because it has a real keyboard).

The messiness of actual human behavior can foul up your ROI calculation.

There’s another thing to bear in mind with retargeting, which is that some portion of the people who visit your site are going to come back and buy anyway. So how do find out how much of a lift you get from the retargeting ads?

A few years ago I tried to answer that with an A-B test. We split our website visitors into two groups. The first group got our retargeting ad while the second group got a public service announcement. We then compared the behavior of the two groups.

What we found was that the retargeting ad provided a 33% boost in conversions. That is, some of the people in each cookie pool came back and purchased, but 33% more of the people in the retargeting pool did.

That means the retargeting campaign did have an effect, but the number of conversions reported by the retargeting campaign were wildly exaggerated, since only a third of them should have counted.

With careful experimentation and planning you can make your ROI calculation better, but you’re never going to get it exactly right. It is, at best, a good estimate.


Q: How is the printed page like a tombstone?

A: Probably not the way you’re thinking.

Today’s BoSacks email has this curious headline: “On PRIMEX and the Proven Haptic Power of Print.”

Haptic has to do with the sense of touch, and the lesson in the email is that touch does more than you think — on an interpersonal level, of course, but also with learning.

Not only is there a physical permanence to print, but also our brains perceive print as permanent. Both the fact and the perception of the physical permanence of printed products increases our ability to learn and remember.

By contrast, things online aren’t permanent, they’re just part of a flow. They go by and they’re gone.

He continues …

… the part that I don’t/didn’t understand is the haptic feeling regarding holding a digital substrate. … I am holding, touching and feeling the weight and presence of a physical product in my hands when I read on my smart phone or tablet.

That is, you touch print, but you also touch your smart phone, so why is the one more “haptic” than the other?

My guess is that it relates back to the perception of permanence. When something is carved in stone, you take it seriously. When it’s written on paper, less so, but there’s still a perception of permanence. When words are streaming by as lights on a device, they seem far less weighty.

If this is true, it raises interesting questions for publishers. Perhaps we shouldn’t view delivery method as simply a question of convenience. To some extent, the medium is the message.

A long time ago — before smart phones or any of that — I was studying to be a pastor in a small Presbyterian denomination. The church’s “book of order” was published in a 3-ring binder.

I like 3-ring binders. They’re very convenient, and I often use them. And at that same time I was studying to be a pastor, I was the editor of several loose-leaf services that were published in 3-ring binders. That format was incredibly convenient for the subscribers because we could change out the pages as new regulations came along.

It was precisely that lack of permanence that made me think it inappropriate to have a church’s books of rules published in a 3-ring binder. It sent a message that everything is up for grabs and likely to change.

As another illustration of the idea, you probably wouldn’t think much of a digital tombstone that flashed your final stats to the world. There’s something very fitting about having such information carved in granite.

Print vs. digital, hardbound vs. softcover, or … dare I say it … etched in stone …. It’s not a superfluous detail. It says something about the content and how seriously we should take it.

Newsprint is just for today, and it’s flimsy stuff. A paperback is a little more serious. A hardbound book with gilt edges is for stuff we cherish. So … what are we saying about our content when we publish it digitally?

I don’t mean to imply that there’s only one answer, or that serious things should never be published in a digital medium, but I do think it’s something to consider.

P.S. — I couldn’t find a link to today’s missive from Bo, but you can sign up for his email service on his website,

Wanted: Suckers to provide content for Facebook

I’m still in Facebook detox right now, so take all this with a grain of salt, but I predict that in a few years publishers will look back on “Instant Articles” the way many of them currently look back on their decision to put content online for free. Both decisions will be seen as sucker moves from desperate and short-sighted execs who were fighting yesterday’s battles.

The lure of Facebook instant articles is a big temptation for publishers, and now this: Facebook Will Likely Open Instant Articles to All Brands, Publishers, Grandmas

Isn’t that so very nice of them? They’ll take your surrender on gentle terms, and they’ll provide you some very nice cat videos to watch when you retire because your publishing business is gone.

Think of the logic here. Publishers aren’t getting enough advertising revenue from their content, so they load up their web pages with more and more ads that make their sites look like animated NASCAR. That sends their visitors scurrying off to other sites, or to find a good ad blocker, which hurts their revenue even more. Publishers then wonder if they can support a paywall, but … usually they just wonder about it.

But there is a ray of hope, they think. One of the sites people run to (having been scared off by NASCAR) is Facebook, which is taking over the internet. Everybody (except me — I’m in detox) is on Facebook, and they have lots of genius programmers who can make things fast and simple and furry and lovely, even on smart phones.

The other good thing about Facebook is that they have the volume and the demographic data to make ads more sensible. They can be targeted more precisely, and publishers have the possibility of reaching a wider audience.

And … how could it be any better … Facebook offers to host the publisher’s content and (they’re so very nice) they allow the publishers to sell their own ads to be displayed with their own content.

Gosh they’re generous.

In any event, Facebook is kindly offering publishers a flashy version of yesterday’s business model (selling cheap ads against expensive content) so the publishers can give Facebook the raw material it needs to pursue tomorrow’s business model, which is user data.

Once again, publishers will be the suckers and kids with keyboards will take their lunch.

I showed this article to my son and explained a little of the background, and he asked, “Well, what should they do?”

There’s a relatively straight-forward solution that I’ve discussed before, but … let’s set up the case a little bit.

Here are some of the problems publishers are facing.

  • Declining ad revenue.
  • Difficulty attracting and keeping audience.
  • Difficulty selling their content (e.g., through a subscription or a paywall).
  • Competition from the screaming crazies.
  • Difficulties with scale.
  • Difficulty maintaining the publisher – subscriber relationship.

Facebook is a phony solution, because while it helps with some of those problems, it exacerbates others.

The true solution is for some entity — a large publisher, an alliance of publishers, or some independent organization that actually works with the publishers rather than against them (such as, for example, a fulfillment bureau) — to create a content distribution network that allows publishers to get the benefits of scale and still maintain their relationship with their customers.

I realize that probably isn’t going to happen, so publishers will continue down the well-trod road to complete suckerdom.

When retargeting fails

We’ve all had the experience of looking at a pair of shoes online, then seeing those shoes follow us around the internet. That’s called retargeting. The theory is that you decided not to buy, but you might change your mind. And sometimes it works.

But more often than not, in my experience, retargeting is just silly. I buy my son some hockey equipment as a Christmas gift, for example, and hockey equipment follows me around for months.

The purchase is done. I’m over it. Stop bothering me.

Here’s another example. I was reading Scott Adams on Trump (if you’re not, you should be), and this was in the margin.

retargeting fail

Not only do I “already own” the book on the bottom left of the ad, I wrote it.

In a way, that’s somewhat comforting. It means that the data truly is anonymized. Amazon knows perfectly well that I wrote that book (since they have the kindle version), so that means their cookie pool is not quite precise enough to be that spookily accurate.

“The Membership Economy” by Robbie Kellman Baxter

Last year at the SIPA conference I heard Robbie Kellman Baxter speak on “The Membership Economy,” which is a model that is becoming increasingly popular, especially with online businesses. A simple illustration of the membership model is the difference between a video rental store and a Netflix subscription. The key points being …

  • There’s a recurring payment that continues until you cancel (what Baxter calls a “forever transaction”)
  • Members benefit from the organization, but also from one another
  • The pool of members generate data that is a benefit to the organization and/or the members

Some of the material in Baxter’s book of the same name is familiar territory to people who have been in the subscription business for a while, but there are some interesting distinctions between subscriptions and a membership model. I’ll review some of them here.

First, two words of warning. Too often I’ve seen publishing colleagues latch onto some new business model or concept and think that it is the key to their success. “This is the new thing. We have to do it or we’ll be left behind.”

Well … sometimes. Publishers do have to innovate, but there is no single model that works for every business, and the crucial thing is to pick and choose the aspects of the new model that will work for you and your customers. Trying to force a model onto a situation it wasn’t designed for – or isn’t appropriate for — is a good way to ruin your business.

Also, what I’m saying here is my take on Baxter’s book. I may not be representing her views exactly the way she would like, so if you want to eliminate the middle man, read her book, or watch one of her Youtube videos.

With that out of the way, I’ll highlight the key takeaways I got from Baxter’s book, under four headings: make it easy, make it personal, get members involved, and focus on member success.

Make it easy

Baxter advises removing friction from transactions whenever possible. Most people in publishing know that, but we have to remind ourselves from time to time, because there’s a constant temptation to try to get more data. And for good reason. Data-driven companies tend to have higher value in today’s economy.

So, while it would be nice to know the age of your users, every field you add to the sign-up form makes potential users less likely to complete it, and every time you bug them you’re adding friction to the process. Err on the side of making things easy.

One of the big questions with the membership model is when to use a free version. Baxter says a lot about that, but I’ll highlight a few points that seemed particularly on target for subscription publishers.

With a membership there may be an implicit assumption that the dues or subscription fee will remain constant forever.

Well that’s annoying.

Many publishers have an introductory and a regular price. You come in at $8/year, but we bump you up to $19.95. It’s not that we’re greedy. It’s the only way to make the numbers work. The publisher can’t get enough new subscribers at $19.95, and can’t pay the bills at $8.

Making this work with a membership model may take some tinkering, and once again raises the question whether a freemium will help.

The utility of a free version is to get more trials, to generate viral marketing and networking, and to add value by the content these users provide. Free makes sense “when users themselves, by using the service, create incremental benefits for future users,” or when they help in attracting new users.

When those things apply, it may make sense to use a freemium.

However … “If people had already proven that they were willing to pay for the service, then developing a free service as a means of increasing trial might not make sense.” Unless it’s hard to get enough volume on the paid side, and the free version is necessary to widen the top of the acquisition funnel.

“[F]reemium makes sense when it generates three key benefits: viral marketing, the network effect, and up-selling.”

Another way a publisher might be tempted to “make it easy” is to use an existing platform, like LinkedIn or Facebook. “The risk,” says Baxter, “is that the organization might lose control.” To which I say, precisely. In the margin I wrote “Facebook is not your friend.” Those other platforms exist to further their own business model, and they not only don’t care if you go out of business, that might be part of their strategy.

Make it personal

A membership differs from a subscription in the attitude the member has towards the organization, and vice versa. A membership model may apply when the product or service is personal in some way. That is, it can be customized, or it’s part of the member’s self-image, or his professional identity.

I’m a member of my church, but I don’t want a “membership” for the tea I drink. That’s just silly. At least it is for me, but there are memberships around coffee (Gevalia) and “member-like” structures for selling consumables like tea – where you get an automatic shipment every so often. The point here is that “membership” isn’t an on-off thing where you have to implement every aspect of “the membership economy” or forget about it. You’re allowed to pick and choose. Do what makes sense for your product or service and your audience.

Another way a membership can be personal is if the members rely on their membership status for professional affiliation and/or prestige. This is a way to transition from publisher to membership. E.g., don’t just sell guides to the FLSA, provide training and certification.

Different models manage membership status differently. Sometimes it’s analogous to continuing legal education, while other times it’s just being a gold member, or being a top commenter. I usually find those things rather silly, but Baxter says “Members are more reluctant to cancel memberships when they’ve achieved status.” So it’s worth thinking about.

Get members involved

When it comes to true membership models, the first 30 days are crucial. You need to have systems in place to get members engaged, and you need to monitor engagement to see how you might need to nudge people along – with automated emails or other reminders.

“Members who participate heavily in the first few months of the membership are much more likely to renew than those who merely lurk.”

Member involvement can mean different things for different companies. Sometimes it means the members create content for one another. They may also provide feedback and suggestions on your content, or they may post reviews and ratings, e.g., on movies or books. Sometimes members help other members understand how to use the service, or they may help enforce the community rules.

“Enable your best members to teach one another your content. Bring them together to talk about what you do so well and how others can do it.”

Customer-generated content is a tricky thing, IMO, and I have a strong feeling that “crowdsourcing” may be close to jumping the shark. Baxter is quite right to condition her statement: e.g., “enable your best customers ….”

It’s nice to believe that “everybody has something of value to contribute,” but an hour on Twitter or Facebook will cure you of that. Some people are idiots. You’re going to have to work hard to create an environment where people can contribute something of value, and you might have to monitor things to keep out the garbage.

Members can become evangelists and recruit / train / police other members. Or they act like a mob.

“An organization’s most loyal customers disproportionately drive revenue and profitability.”

This is one of those rules you might have to be skeptical about. I’m sure it’s true for coffee, but is it true for a newsletter? Sometimes the “most engaged customers” are a drain. You might be able to come up with clever systems that target their “loyalty” in a profitable direction … or you might not.

I liked this as an idea for a new revenue stream.

“Consider an in-person event once you have reached critical mass in a particular region.”

Focus on member success

There was a plaque in our old building that said something like “We expect our subscribers to act on our advice and profit from it.” Our chief editors truly have that mindset. They’re in it for helping the people they write for.

In some cases that means giving people what they want, but … not always. There are situations where you really should only listen to the experts. I don’t want crowdsourced advice on doing my taxes, but I do like to hear what the hoi polloi say about the latest Bond movie before I rent it.

An ideal membership organization can find the right balance, where members can genuinely contribute to one another’s welfare, and the organization itself can facilitate that process. This usually requires constant tinkering.

“Subscriptions can lull organizations into a false sense of security, convincing them that they don’t need to adjust their offering or improve service because the members seem happy.”

Right. Because a traditional subscription model doesn’t give the sort of constant, normal feedback that a membership model can. Subscription publishers can monitor renewal rates, customer complaints and letters to the editor, but in a membership model the publisher can get a lot more data and fine tune accordingly.

Baxter says, “Innovate like an anthropologist. Watch what your members do, and adjust your approach.”

I hope it doesn’t say anything too bad about me that her statement conjures up images of Jane Goodall.


P.S. — as a follow-up on last week’s email, take a look at this. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram massively over-rated by marketers, says Prof Mark Ritson.

Why a kindle book should never be more than $3.99

I’m coming to the conclusion that a kindle book should never be more than $3.99. Here’s why.

sample prices

The book isn’t really 44 cents, of course. There will be a shipping charge of $3.99, so the total cost of getting an actual paperback in your hand will be about $4.50.

That’s almost always the way it works. In rare cases there won’t be old copies on sale for pennies, but … there usually are.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both print and digital books, as I’ve discussed in more detail here. In the end, I find it to be somewhat of a wash, and I only buy kindle books when they’re cheaper than the paper version. And in order to be cheaper than paper, they need to be $3.99 or less.