April 20, Five ways free can go wrong

In Will new app Rook be a useful pawn in the publishing game? Anna Baddeley says this.

Experiencing something for nothing, or next to nothing, can be the start of a fruitful relationship between consumer and producer.

Yes, it can. Sometimes. But in my experience, “free” is a dangerous thing that can easily misfire. “Free” can be a useful part of your marketing strategy, but you have to be careful with it. It can go wrong in many ways. Here are five.

1. It’s free because it has no value

Remember when a cup of coffee was 50 cents? Then Starbucks decided that coffee should be $1.50, and people said, “Gee, okay. I guess it must be better then.”

Now we’re paying more for coffee everywhere.

Obviously there’s more to the story than that. Starbucks stores are very nice places, and a lot of people think their coffee is better. But there’s still an underlying message in the Starbucks story, which is that a large component of price is expectation.

Raise expectations, raise your price. And vice versa.

Given that, what happens when you give something away for free? Some people will think it has less value.

There are ways to make a free offer that get around that problem, but it is something you need to consider.

2. Free gets you the wrong customers

I don’t read Sports Illustrated. It doesn’t interest me. But if somebody is handing them out on the street, I’ll take one.

That’s good, right? Sports Illustrated might possibly hook me and I might subscribe. They’re reaching someone they wouldn’t otherwise have reached.

It’s at least possible that I’ll subscribe, but it’s also possible that I’ll toss it in the trash, which, aside from being a wasted copy, broadcasts “no value” to other people. And what if I post a negative review online, or make fun of the writing, or ….

I don’t mean to diss Sports Illustrated. I’m sure it’s a very good publication. The point is that it’s not a good publication for me, and there are risks in getting it into the hands of the wrong people.

3. Free offers clutter up your list with unqualified prospects

Imagine that you want to start a business selling NBA jerseys. The Sports Illustrated subscriber list might be good group for you.

Unless I’m on it.

Many publishing models rely on their ability to monetize their customer names — by renting lists, by cross- and up-selling to the people on the list, or by selling access to their customers to advertisers.

If it’s too easy to get on the list, the list loses value. Or, IOW, free offers get less qualified prospects.

4. Customers you get with free offers are less likely to be brand ambassadors

A good customer has a lot more value than the revenue you get from that customer. A good customer can give you feedback on your product or service, and can even promote your brand to friends, colleagues, or on online reviews.

An unqualified prospect who got your product for free is less likely to give you a good review.

Someone who doesn’t like tea isn’t going to buy tea, but if it’s being given away for free they might take it just to try it. Do you want that person reviewing your tea on Amazon, or telling his friends what he thought of it?

Self-published authors struggle with this issue when they consider offering their books for free on Amazon. It might be a way to introduce new people to the author’s work, or it might be a way to attract unqualified people and get bad reviews. IOW, a person who wouldn’t buy a book in a particular genre might download it for free, not like it and give the book a bad name.

5. Some “free” people are just cheap

Some people simply love to get things for free. It’s like a game. It’s not that they like the things, or value them. They just like to get a good deal.

These people are not interested in buying any of your products. Not only are they cluttering up your lists, but you’re wasting marketing resources to try to get them to buy.

The bottom line is that free can work for you or against you. It breaks down barriers and can get your foot in the door, but sometimes barriers are a good thing. You might even say that another word for “barrier” is “qualification.”

Free customers are not as qualified as paying customers, so they’re not as valuable to your business.

April 13, Publishing to a digitally distracted world

Digital Disruption and the Death of Storytelling says that Professor Douglas Rushkoff studies …

… people’s inability to connect with another person or an ideology … while they’re immersed in this era of multitasking and digital chaos.

How many times in the past week have you seen someone stumbling around with their face in a smartphone screen? How often are conversations interrupted by a text message, or an app update, or … something really serious, like a Candy Crush Saga message?

We’re told that successful content these days has to surf this sea of distraction. Digital experts lecture us on the shelf life of a tweet, or on how long you can keep someone’s attention online. The assumption seems to be that publishers should try to compete in that environment.

Why is that the right conclusion?

[Rushkoff] … researches how digital disruption interferes with social interactions and society’s value creation.

Value. What an old-fashioned word.

If value is what you’re after, do you want to be on stage with the wet t-shirt contests, the Onion parodies and the cat videos?

If you want to have a meaningful conversation with your market, why are you trying to do it in a place that doesn’t facilitate meaningful interactions?

“But,” you say, “that’s where the people are. We need to reach them.”

Maybe, but only if you find out that they’re truly your people. Are the people in distract-o-verse the market you’re trying to reach? It’s worth asking the question.

Even if they are your market, that doesn’t mean you have to try to reduce your content to that level. Find them there if you have to, but then move them off to a quiet place, away from the beeps and the noise, and ask them to pay attention for a while.

Yes, people really do that — even in the age of Twit-face-insta-mania.

If you want your publishing business to revolve around slideshows about Taylor Swift, then by all means swim in the ocean of distraction, and good luck to you. But if you want to publish meaningful stuff that requires attention and concentration, the trick is going to be finding people in the distractosphere, then inviting them to another place — another site, another device, another time, another format.

Marketers have been fine-tuning that process of finding and inviting, but it seems to me that the biggest challenge is the next piece, which is finding a way to get your target audience to calm down, step away from the crowd and curl up for a while with your content.

To prime your brain for the challenge, consider the way you consume content. You probably do different things at different times, on different devices.

Consider your own reaction when you click on a link expecting a serious article, and you get a ditsy slideshow. Or, in the alternative, consider how tedious a long article can seem when you’re not in the mood for serious thinking.

This is the challenge in the fragmented world we face. People have to be in the right place and state of mind for your type of content.

For myself, I can’t watch a 20-minute Youtube video at work (because I have a job), or on the train (because I don’t have a data plan on my iPad). I watch those on Sunday morning over tea, or when I’m on the elliptical.

During the week I scan headlines and give short articles a quick read. If I’m interested in something longer, I clip it to my Evernote and read it later — during lunch or on my commute.

But that’s just me. Your mileage may vary, and your market won’t be like either you or me.

Unfortunately, your market probably has subgroups that do things very differently. Some will prefer videos, while some will prefer to read on their kindle. And yes, some will prefer to read in print.

The answer to storytelling in the age of digital disruption is to move people from distract-o-verse into the place where they can stop, listen, and pay attention.

April 6, Keep your book covers simple

Help! My cover is awful

I usually discuss professional publishing on this blog, but I’m also interested in book publishing (self-publishing), so from time to time I’ll talk about that side of the publishing world.

I’ve published lots of books. You can see them on my Amazon page. Most of my books get pretty good reviews, but my sales are not doing very well. I have to assume that people like my writing, but I’m clearly doing something wrong on the promotional side of things.

There are lots of ways a self-published author can fail, but one of the biggest challenges is the cover.

I can write, but I’m simply not an artist. I can’t draw for beans, and I’d rather have somebody else pick my clothes for me. Don’t worry, I don’t wear the striped tie with the plaid shirt, but … I simply don’t have an artist’s eye.

And that’s only part of the challenge. It’s one thing to have a nice-looking cover, but people absolutely do judge books by their genre expectations. The cover has to fit what they think they’re getting in the story. E.g., a sword and sorcery book has to have a different cover than a political thriller.

I have a decent sense for such things (at least I think I do) but some people have an absolute knack for that kind of stuff.

Here’s a person who does. Lessons from a great book jacket designer.

Genius comes in all forms, and Peter Mendelsund is supposed to be a book cover genius.

I may have done myself wrong by putting art on my covers. Here’s what Mendelsund says.

If in doubt, stick with typography. Make sure the typography is legible. Use your handwriting if your handwriting is decent. If not, use a font. Any tried-and-true standard face will do (Bodini, Baskerville, Garamond, Helvetica, Trade Gothic). Pick a pretty color for your background. Voila.

When you start to incorporate illustrations, photographs, etc. the amateurishness of the work begins to show. But there’s no need for any of that stuff. Many of the best book covers are simple as could be.

Or, in short, keep it simple.

How could I have missed such an obvious thing!

March 30, The genius app idea that will make you millions, don’t let Facebook steal your demographic data, and “trust, not traffic”

Combine SubscriptMe with Evernote …

I saw this from Subscription Content. SubscriptMe Takes the Hassle Out of Managing Subscriptions.

It’s awful to admit this, but I don’t have very many subscriptions. Managing the few I do have is not a big deal, so this new app doesn’t do much for me.

For a person who does have a lot of subscriptions, something like SubscriptMe may be a good idea.

Now … of course what they should do is combine this with a reader app so that the user can get all his subscriptions information as well as the content in one place. That would be a good service.

Here’s the idea. I think the genius company that decides to do it would (1) brand themselves as a forward-looking advocate for publishers and readers, and (2) create a new source of revenue.

As everybody in the subscription publishing industry knows, selling content on Apple and Amazon isn’t the greatest deal because those companies want to keep the customer information — and the customer. That undermines the publisher’s business model.

(Note: this is a problem for subscription publishers. Selling books is another matter.)

The trouble facing publishers is that magazine consumers expect to be able to access their subscriptions on any device. This creates conflicts and tough decisions for the publisher. It’s good for the consumer to let them get their subscriptions on iPad and Kindle, but it can be bad for the publisher because Apple and Amazon steal the customer.

As they wrestle with this decision, many publishers wonder if they should create dedicated apps for their content. This also has problems, including (1) putting the publisher in the technology business, and (2) the problem of “app fatigue.” Or, as a friend expressed to me one time, there’s a growing chorus of “No, I don’t want your stinkin’ app!”

Many consumers don’t want to have a Sports Illustrated app, a Kiplinger app, a Time app, a Better Homes and Gardens app, etc.

Large publishers could streamline this a bit by having one app that includes all their titles, but … consumers don’t know or care who the publisher is. A Hearst app, or a Time app, would mean nothing to them.

Rather, the consumer just wants a reader app. I.e., this is where I put all my stuff that I read.

Consider Evernote as a starting point. A user can clip articles from the web to read later in their Evernote app. They can forward an email, or a pdf, to their Evernote account and then read it on their iPad, on a desktop, or on their smart phone. There’s lots of things an Evernote reader can read in Evernote — except for subscription content!

Well … at least not directly. They can clip content into Evernote, but that’s asking the user to take extra steps, and it might not be in the publisher’s interest, because it’s easy to share content from Evernote.

Imagine if Evernote had a tab for “my subscriptions,” which used an API to connect to the publisher both for authentication and to pull in the latest content. To satisfy Apple’s app requirements, there would be no sales in the app. The sales would take place with the publisher, but the content would be available in Evernote.

This provides a great benefit to the consumer because he has one place to read all his stuff. He stores his SI login, his Kiplinger login, his Time login, etc., and he can get all his subscriptions — plus other things he likes to read — in one place. The terms of the sale are set with the publisher. All the app is doing is providing a place to get the content. It’s a super-charged reader app.

I pitched this idea to a guy at Evernote a little while ago. He liked the idea for a couple reasons. First, it would increase usage of Evernote because people would be using it for even more content. Second, it would give Evernote a lot of exposure, since publishers would be pushing their readers to them. Evernote would become the default app for access to subscription content.

I thought it was a no-brainer, but they declined to pursue it because (I’m pretty sure this is the reason) they feared it would sour their relationship with Apple.

I can understand that, but I think they were catastrophizing. There’s nothing about this app concept that would violate Apple’s terms.

So, here’s the idea for you app developers out there. Create your own reader app, somewhat like Evernote, that provides a platform for free and paid information. You might consider partnering with SubscriptMe to handle that side of the business.

The developer of the app would charge the publisher a small fee for delivery of the content, which would cover the costs of keeping the technology up to date. This would get the publisher out of the technology business.

Such an app would be like Flipboard, but better. Like Evernote, but better. Like a dedicated reader app, but better.

So … what’s stopping you?

Facebook says “All your user data are belong to us”

(Search “all your bases are belong to us” if you don’t get the reference.)

Years ago, Amazon and Apple told publishers “all your subscribers are belong to us,” and naive publishers said, “uh, okay then.” Now Facebook is getting in on the act. Will publishers wise up?

I doubt it.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned this article, and how it should transform your ideas about content. What We Got Wrong About Books says that data about readers is valuable.

If you publish your content straight to Facebook, guess who’s getting that data?

Publishers — don’t be suckers yet again!

Build trust, not traffic

This is worth your time: Why You Should Be Building Trust, Not Traffic.

March 23, Social media mania, don’t believe statistics from advocates, and try fewer images in your emails

Is there at least one social media outlet that does not have a marketing angle?

Every time some new social media thing catches on, some marketing genius is going to tell you how you can use it for your product or service.

At a certain point it gets a little ridiculous. I just saw an article about using snapchat for marketing. Give me a break.

People don’t get on social media to shop. They’re trying to chat, or read about cats, or catch up with old high school friends or something like that. Each social media outlet will have a different focus, but generally speaking it’s about people, not about products. Hence the word “social.”

Most of these “marketing implications of social media” things seem like nonsense to me. Or, rather, they’re ways for young marketers to try to make a business case for their social media addiction.

Don’t fall for it.

Lies, damned lies and the push for mobile apps

“People spend 86 percent of their time on apps, therefore you need to build an app for your magazine!”

Have you ever heard something like that before? It makes about as much sense as this: “People spend 1/3 of their time sleeping, therefore you need to make a dream version of your magazine.”

How to Lie with Statistics was not supposed to be a guidebook!

Yes, people spend lots of time on apps — those apps being Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga, etc. They are not reading news or other professional content!

Never try to base your publishing strategy on rolled-up stats about general internet behavior because the vast majority of internet behavior has nothing to do with publishing!

Don’t ask “how many pages are viewed on mobile?,” or “how much time is spent on mobile?,” or “how many people have a mobile device?” People who use such stats are trying to deceive you. Often they’re trying to get you to buy their app-making software or service.

Rather, ask questions like this.

  • “How many of my customers (and people like my customers) who read the kind of content I produce read it on a mobile device?”
  • “When my customers, or people like my customers, read on mobile devices, what kind of stuff do they read, and can I re-target my content to be like that?”

Those are the most important questions. After you’ve addressed those two (and only after you’ve addressed those two) ask this.

  • “When other people (who aren’t my customers) read content on mobile devices, what kind of stuff do they read, and can I re-target my content to be like that?”

The mobile-first, everything digital, “we love disruption” crowd will try to do this completely backwards. They’ll tell you to do new content for a new audience on a new platform.

Sure, do that. But do it last. First, only change one thing, e.g., new content to your current audience on your current platform, or your current content for your current audience on a new platform.

You can’t go to new people with new stuff in a place you’re not known and expect to do well.

Here’s an article that makes some similar points and is worth your time: News Media Should Drop Native Apps.

More images, fewer clicks?

Here’s an interesting study from Constant Contact. Study: More Images Means Less Clicks for Email Marketers. (Argh. It’s “Fewer,” people, not “Less.”)

… the Constant Contact study found that when an email has more than 3 images, the click-through rate greatly drops.

March 16, A few outside the box ideas to rev your creative juices

What if everything fell apart?

Every once in a while it’s a good idea to ask yourself how you would keep your company going if all your existing sources of revenue disappeared.

So, for example, let’s say you publish a magazine and all of a sudden nobody buys magazines any more. What assets do you have, and how can you create a new product to keep your company going?

You may not be in the magazine business, but the concept applies to any revenue stream. What if advertising dries up, or subscriptions disappear completely, or …. You get the idea.

Here are some crazy thoughts to get you started.

Email search — Provide a service where your subscribers can send an email with search terms and you reply immediately with an email that contains articles related to those terms.

Why would a subscriber want such a thing? Why can’t they just search google?

Google gives all sorts of results — the good and the bad, the trustworthy and the garbage. You’re offering carefully researched articles from a trusted source.

So then, why can’t your subscriber just log in to your website and do the search there?

Who wants to do all that? Open a browser, type in the URL, find the search function (which your web designer moved last week), enter the terms, sort through your crappy search results page and then click on individual articles (that are cluttered with ads)? No thanks.

Sending an email is simply easier.

Imagine that Kathy is one of your subscribers, and she’s an HR manager. She’s sitting in a boring meeting and some personnel topic comes up. She knows there are HR implications, but she’s not positive she has all the details right. She quickly sends an email to your service. Five seconds later she has well-researched, professional articles that address her situation. And she didn’t even have to get out of her chair.

Short guides, formatted for the smart phone — The tablet is becoming old news. People are doing more and more on their smart phones. But so far the smart phone hasn’t been a great option for reading — mostly because documents aren’t formatted for that size device.

Change that. Create short, easy-to-read and easy-to-skim articles formatted specifically for the smart phone.

But how will you make the sale and deliver the content? Forget about Kindle and iTunes and all those guys. They keep the purchaser’s information, and you need that as an asset to grow your business.

Sell these reports yourself, deliver them by email and give your customers extensive help on how to get the documents into their preferred reader –whether that’s Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Evernote or whatever.

(Yes, you can get documents into those readers without going through the vendors’ walled gardens.)

Give away content, but track how readers use it — This article will challenge your ideas about the value of content. What We Got Wrong About Books.

What’s more valuable, a $10 magazine subscriber, or the fact that you know he reads every one of your articles about DIY home repairs, and he lingers on photos of Italian sports cars?

Imagine a future where all content is free, and then imagine ways you can still monetize your content by collecting data on the people who are reading it.

I know it’s creepy, and I’m not comfortable with all that data collecting either. I’m just trying to stretch your mind here.

March 9, Why the cool kids misunderstood the actual kids

Newsflash: College kids don’t like e-textbooks

The “everything’s going digital” crowd must be very confused. After all, for years they’ve been telling us that all content is moving to digital. Yes, they’ll admit there are a few Luddites who still cling to print — because of some deranged emotional attachment, perhaps — but sooner or later their numbers will dwindle and everyone will be reading everything on shiny little devices.

Why then are so many young people reading printed books? See Why digital natives prefer reading in print.

Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning …

I suspect there’s a lot of hand-wringing and … shock, actually … that this could be the case. Aren’t these “digital native” folks the very ones who were supposed to usher in the Age of Digitarius? Why are they turning aside from the mystic digital vision?

Perhaps we need to reconsider the “everything’s going digital” mantra.

The digital advocates figured that since kids are on devices 24×7 they would naturally want to read on those devices. The reason the predictions of lots of new digital readers haven’t panned out as planned is that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. There are lots of reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is quite simple. For some purposes print is simply better.

There are other factors, too, like the very low price of used (print) books, and the fact that a used book can be helpful — especially when key sections are already highlighted. (If you’re in potions, you really want the half-blood prince’s book, right?)

I read on my iPad just about every day, but I would never want to study for a test on one because I know that memory is tied to other senses. I can picture myself, sitting for the exam, thinking, “The answer to this question was in the front of the book, on the bottom right of an odd-numbered page, and I highlighted it in yellow. There was a picture of barchans right above it.” (I studied geology in school.)

Those things help.

Think of the time you tried to remember someone’s name and you got to it by remembering around it. You started to think of things close by in your memory, like where you met the person, or when you last saw him, and somehow your brain circled in and got back to the name — because memory is tied to associations.

The physical position of words on a page can help you remember the content on that page. The feel of the paper even helps, and the heft of the pages to the left and right.

Also, a book doesn’t beep at you when some app wants to update, or when you get a text, or … a hundred other things. Digital devices can be annoyingly distracting. If you want to hunker down and study, print is better.

Maybe some day we will have digital versions of textbooks that will actually be better than print, but we’re still a very long way from there. And even at that, Jean-Luc Picard will still read printed books. (In the Greek, if I remember correctly.)

Publishing has been plagued by a group of people who promote a simplistic digital good, print bad mindset. We need to get beyond that and start thinking about serving a need with the appropriate tool. Whatever that tool might be.

This article makes some similar points, and is worth your time: 8 Lessons From the Failure of Digital Magazines to Revolutionize Publishing.

March 2, Don’t believe the media about media, and why subscription revenue will save magazines

Not even the media gets the media right

Remember when the iPad first came out and some magazine publishers were rushing to get their product into the iTunes store? There were stories of disputes between the publishers and Apple, especially about the rules for approval of their apps. Many of those stories said the problem was the remit — i.e., the percent of the purchase price that the publisher gets.

Nope. That wasn’t it. Apple’s 30% cut of the purchase price is quite fair. The dispute was (and is) about who gets the customer information.

Pimping your brand to advertisers is a losing game

Magazines are losing ad pages to digital, so they’re scrambling to come up with new ways to please advertisers, which is why there’s so much attention on “native advertising.”

I think it’s the wrong way to go.

I don’t like to use this kind of language, but in this case it simply fits, so please pardon my French.

Magazine publishers need to be their own bitch.

Rather than trying to find new ways to please advertisers — who are always fighting to get more and pay less — find new ways to please your subscribers. And charge them for it. People will pay for good content they can trust.

Along those lines, this otherwise depressing article has a kernel of truth in it: Time Inc.’s Q4 and Full-Year Results Show a Company in Decline.

Somewhat promising though, are subscription revenues. Although they were down 7 percent in Q4 2014 versus Q4 2013, YoY revenue only fell by 1 percent. That’s critical considering chairman and CEO, Joe Ripp, recently stated at the American Magazine Media Conference that he expects subscription revenue to become a big piece of the pie.

Publishers made a huge mistake when the Internet first caught on. They put their content out there for free, hoping that digital dimes would make up for subscription dollars. Then digital dimes became pennies. It was a fool’s errand, as most people realize now.

Or … you would hope they realize it. Unfortunately, many publishers are making the same mistake with apps and Facebook and Flipboard and various other free internet services. They keep selling their birthright for a dish of pottage.

My opinion: quit feeding the beast! Stop giving away your valuable content for flighty ad revenue.

Create something of value and charge for it. Make the digital version of the magazine an upsell. Get more revenue per subscriber by charging for “all access.” Quit allowing companies that don’t create any content to profit off of your content.

I mean that as a preference, or a mindset, not as a fixed rule. The ad-supported model does work for some things. But publishers need to resist the temptation to make ad-supported the default. Rather, make subscription revenue the default, and don’t be afraid to charge for valuable content.

Feb. 23, To expand your business, play to your strengths

If it works, do it again

I’m not a golfer, but I heard an old guy talking about the advice he used to get from a friend who was a golf pro. He’d see the pro in the locker room, and the pro would ask, “Is it working?” The old guy would say, “It’s working,” and the pro would say, “Keep doing it.”

Obvious, right? Along the lines of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” (The old golfer’s point was that Americans are practical and are more interested in results than methods.)

There’s an analogy in publishing, which my friend Ronn Levine mentions in this post: Taking a Publishing Cue From Hollywood Sequels.

If you have created a successful initiative — be it a webinar, white paper, daily publication, etc. — it makes sense to offer people some sort of part 2 or next chapter.

This reminds me of a chart I prepared for a talk about product development.

likelihood of success with new product idea

The idea is that your best customer is your current customer, and the best topic to cover is something you’re known for. If you launch a new product on a new topic, people who know and trust you are better prospects than people who don’t know you. And if you launch a new product, on a new topic, to a completely different audience, you have very little going for you.

Or, as Ronn would put it, write a sequel.

Your best options for product development are spin-offs from existing publications. Dig deeper into the topic you already cover, or branch out … but not too much. The closer you can stay to your current customer and your current expertise, the more chance you have to succeed.

Feb. 16, Why publishing companies will survive

Can self-published authors really do all this?

If you want to know why book publishers will continue to survive in the era of the Kindle, self-publishing and ebooks, just read this article: 55 Digital Branding Tips for Authors. It’s a lot for an author to take on.

And if that’s not enough to make the point, read David Gaughran’s Let Get Digital and see the list of all the things he says self-published authors need to know. Here’s a partial list.

It’s a lot of stuff. Some of it is technical, but some is the sort of thing that you either like or you don’t like. It’s stuff that pushes people out of their comfort zone. Some writers will jump right in, while others will read a list like that and say, “ew. Never mind. I just want to write.” So if being a Twit-face-insta-tumblr pro is the entrance fee, they won’t pay it.

Some few people will be good authors and will also be able to do all that social media and branding stuff. I suspect those people are the current rock stars of the self-publishing world. They can write, and they can also play the game.

But there is no reason to believe that those two skills — good storyteller on the one hand, and good social media / Amazon whiz kid on the other — will go together in most or even in many cases. Rather, it’s almost a dead certainty that these skills will specialize. And when they do, where will they specialize?

In publishing houses, of course.

The publishing house can afford to hire the guy who hates social media but knows cover design like nobody’s business. And across the hall from him is the analytic expert who knows how to beat the Amazon algorithms, but would never be caught dead on Twitter.

This is the way things go. As time goes on, skills specialize. For example, there was a time — maybe 200 years ago — when a man could be pretty well educated in most subjects. Somebody like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson could keep up with intellectual developments in a wide variety of fields. But as knowledge increased, people had to specialize.

Today, a scientist may be an expert on one very small area and know almost nothing about anything else, or a historian may know all there is to know about farmers in 1820s France, but know very little about the rest of history.

Early in the ebook revolution a few talented souls could know enough about a lot of different topics and become self-publishing rock stars. As digital publishing evolves, that will be less and less possible, and that’s why we’ll need publishing houses that can hire experts in all the little specialties.

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