Archive for May, 2011

24
May
11

Amazon started signing authors!


The Shatzkin Files

Amazon’s news of hiring Kirshbaum is a helluva start for BEA
Posted by Mike Shatzkin on May 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

Amazon dropped a shoe last week when they announced their new mystery imprint, Thomas & Mercer Books, and started signing authors, including self-publishing evangelist, Joe Konrath.

Last night they dropped the other shoe, which turned out to be a very heavy boot. They signed former Time Warner Publishing (the company that is now Hachette Book Group) CEO Larry Kirshbaum to head up a new general trade imprint for them.

The next thing to drop will be a few pennies as the industry wakes up to a very new day.

Konrath complained in a blog post over the weekend that independent bookstores planned to boycott the Thomas & Mercer imprint. It would appear Konrath (who, in his pre-ebook-evangelist days worked hard to promote through independents) took very personally what was meant to be resistance to Amazon.

One would suspect that the books Kirshbaum is going to acquire will be very hard for any bookseller that wants to serve and keep her customers to avoid stocking. In other words, the Kirshbaum signing might have cured Konrath’s concern.

Where did this arise before? Many times, many places. Borders stopped buying Sterling books when the independent publishers was acquired by B&N. The relationship between Sterling and Amazon is more complicated, but it would be safe to say that sales of Sterling books were not Amazon’s highest priority and sales through B&N’s biggest competitor were not Sterling’s.

Amazon briefly (for a couple of days) turned off Macmillan’s buy buttons in January 2010 in an fleeting and unsuccessful attempt to persuade the big houses not to go to agency pricing.

When Barnes & Noble bought Sterling, they stated clearly that they did not intend to publish precisely the kind of books Kirshbaum is now going after: “non-fiction and literary fiction.” Although things have changed in what has been nearly a decade since that acquisition, Sterling was a “category” publisher when B&N acquired them and have never stepped aggressively into the high-advance, agented arena that is Kirshbaum’s natural milieu.

I’d say one of the pennies dropping might be at B&N, where they are probably reconsidering their title acquisition strategy. If their biggest retail competitor is going after the biggest authors directly, can they afford not to?

Five years ago we lived in a world where every book that mattered sold more copies at brick stores than it did online. Five years from now every book that matters will sell more copies online than it does in a brick store. The Amazon decision may mark the commercial turning point of that massive shift.

The edge in maximizing online sales revenues will go to the publisher that can manage online pricing and marketing most effectively. That not only means raising and lowering prices dynamically to get the most possible revenue, it might also mean experimenting with free sample sizes to see what delivers the best rate of conversion to a sale. It certainly also means having the best list of potential readers to alert to a book’s publication.

Publishers have a steep hill to climb to develop skills in that regard that Amazon has been honing for years. The announcement of Bookish, a community and information site for readers, seems like a weak counterweight to this Amazon announcement. I would imagine Kirshbaum will have signed away a few books the Big Six publishers wanted before Bookish even opens its doors.

Agents, who have just gotten a big new bidder to drive up the prices of everything valuable they have to sell, are having a very good day. Publishers, as they say: not so much.

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19
May
11

Social Media in the Renewable Energy World

A New Goal for the Renewable Energy Industry: Educating the Public

by Al Maiorino

In a world full of excess- from energy consumption to environmental pollution- it is only natural that companies explore alternative sources of energy. It appears that most people outside of the energy industry view renewable energy as the panacea to saving the world. Yet in reality, the public support of ‘clean’ energy is not as absolute as the industry may hope for. One of the reasons that may cause this gap between theory and practice is the fact that common knowledge of renewable energy production is rather limited. The majority of the public understands the dangers of environmental pollution and, thus, supports any initiatives to prevent or at least minimize it. The problem is that while most people comprehend what renewable energy means in theory, they know very little about the process involved in its production. They fear it as the ‘unknown’, and that stigma can act as a strong motivation to oppose a renewable energy development.

The answer to this problem lies in educating the public. During the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, people were skeptical of many innovations. Yet with time, as they had become familiarized with the new ‘technology’, they began to appreciate the improvements it brought to their lives. The same thing needs to happen within the renewable energy industry. If information about clean energy becomes more accessible, people will probably feel less alarmed around wind farms and biodiesel plants. Luckily, with modern technology and decades of creative advancement in media and public relations, getting the message out is as easy as ever.

When investing in a renewable energy project, any developer should launch an informational campaign that will educate the local community and prevent potential damaging misunderstandings. One of the best ways to achieve that is by employing the new technological phenomenon known as social media. Below are some of the reasons why a social media campaign is a crucial step in acquiring public support.

Two-way traffic

One of the main advantages of social media is that it provides a two-way channel of communication. Of course, there are many forms of promotion, such as print and television ads, that help you get your message out. However, traditional advertising is often limited when it comes to obtaining the public’s feedback. No matter how much research you do, you can never be sure what exact information your community needs to receive to understand your project. Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets allow your audience to respond, express their opinion, and ask questions. That communication is essential if you want to avoid opposition. You are given the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings people may have about the renewable energy industry and about your project. It also gives you a chance to show that you take pride and caution about the local residents’ opinions and their neighborhoods.

Making the Connection

Unlike most industrial publications, social media allows (and even often requires) you to use simple language that will be accessible to a larger audience. Describing your project, as well as the renewable energy industry in general, in basic terms will ensure a better understanding from your community. In addition, the informal tone will help bridge the gap between you and your audience. Chances are local residents will express less antagonism if they think of you as a ‘friend’ rather than a ‘developer’ or ‘corporation.’

Infinite possibilities

When using social media, the choices of how you convey your message are almost limitless. We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and social media allows you to use that to your advantage. Along with traditional text you can apply photographs, videos, sound clips, animation and more to get your message across to the masses. Imagine how much information you can relay in a five-minute YouTube clip versus a newspaper article. In addition, video gives you an opportunity to humanize your project by showing the speaker’s face, rather than a distant voice of a radio advertisement. Overall, the modern public seems to be more open and have a more positive reaction to messages carried out by digital media rather than ‘old-fashioned’ articles and ads.

Perfect Timing

Given the fast-paced lifestyle of the modern world, timing is everything. Sometimes, getting the information out quickly makes all the difference. Social media has no waiting period, no printing delays, and no broadcasting limitations. You can deliver your message to the audience in the matter of minutes, if not seconds. You can keep the local residents updated on project progress, legislative changes, scheduled meetings, and anything else that may be relevant to your support/opposition battle. In return, the community will appreciate your thoughtfulness and courtesy of communicating with them.

It has been established decades ago that educating your public is a crucial attribute for a successful outcome of any venture (especially in a young and controversial industry like renewable energy). The question is no longer why, but how. Regardless of whether you approve of social media as a part of our lives, it is a very useful tool when it comes to public relations. In addition to the advantages discussed above, social media is significantly cheaper than traditional advertising, which allows you to focus your finances on other areas that may require extra resources.

Our world may be far from perfect, but we (especially those of us involved in any campaign) should appreciate living in an era with social media and other communication innovations at our disposal. When it comes to facing opposition to your renewable energy project, a social media campaign is a beneficial, and even necessary, weapon to have in your arsenal. Use it to the fullest at an early stage and, perhaps, you will avoid opposition all together.

Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1996. He has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, power plant/wind farm projects, and housing/residential projects. Al received his BA in political science and a MA in American Studies from the University of Connecticut.

19
May
11

National Hurricane Center, FEMA chief encourage social media as part of disaster preparedness

MIAMI — Nobody is going to push the “like” button for a hurricane, but the National Hurricane Center hopes to get some Facebook fans for its storm advisories.

The hurricane center joined the online social network in January to give a behind-the-scenes look at Director Bill Read and hurricane specialists at work well before any storm starts brewing in the tropics.

The new outreach effort comes as the nation’s emergency management chief urges Americans to make social media part of their disaster preparedness plans.

People should know which local agencies disseminate information on Twitter or Facebook, and they should set aside extra batteries or solar chargers so that even in a power outage they can update their status with a simple “I’m OK.”

That can help reduce the volume of phone calls in a disaster-stricken area, leaving vital communication lines open, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate testified May 5 before a Senate subcommittee.

Fugate also urges local emergency managers to develop mobile websites to be viewed on cell phones, so that residents can both receive and contribute real-time updates during a disaster.

“Rather than trying to convince the public to adjust to the way we at FEMA communicate, we must adapt to the way the public communicates by leveraging the tools that people use on a daily basis,” Fugate said.

FEMA maintains 16 separate accounts on Twitter alone, including Fugate’s individual feed, in addition to Facebook and YouTube accounts.

The National Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Florida Division of Emergency Management also are among the federal and state agencies that post severe weather updates, warnings, videos, behind-the-scenes photos and other graphics on the major social media channels.

Justin Kenney, communications director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tweets on his individual account about the agency’s marine, weather and climate research, along with interesting tidbits of information related to severe weather news, such as aerial images of recent tornado damage in Alabama.

Social media channels help NOAA update the public about events such as a pod of pilot whales stranding in the Florida Keys, even after those events stop being breaking news, he says.

The informal posts often also boost traffic to NOAA’s official website. One such spike was recorded after animations illustrating Japan’s tsunami in March were posted on its YouTube channel and relayed on Twitter, Kenney says.

“Yes, there’s a lot of information that useful as one-time information, but I think it’s useful to try to continue the conversation,” Kenney says.

The hurricane center’s Facebook page supplements its website, email alerts and a mobile website for cell phones. Posts so far have showcased hurricane hunter aircraft, individual forecasters and the center’s reports on the 2010 hurricane season.

By posting a link to an updated tropical cyclones preparedness guide or writing a note about how much storm track forecasts have improved in recent years, shrinking the “cone of uncertainty,” officials are trying to address concerns and answer questions well before coastal residents need to consider evacuating, says hurricane specialist Dan Brown.

Starting June 1, the official start of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season, daily updates about conditions in the tropics will be posted on the Facebook page.

“When there is a threat you’ll see an increase in our postings. We’ll talk about watches and warnings, but truly what I think it’s going to be is directing people to our website for all our storm information,” Brown says.

Hurricane center officials say that by engaging the public informally through Facebook, they hope to combat complacency in coastal residents skeptical of storm warnings and evacuation advisories after five years without a major hurricane making a U.S. landfall.

The bottom line of most postings is “be prepared,” urging readers not to join the millions who don’t stock up on nonperishable food or water until a storm is imminent, stressing the system and risking the possibility of having to recover from a hurricane with few or no resources.

“We can certainly always try to reach more people. It’s an excellent tool to educate the public not just during an event,” Brown says.

Some Floridians who have befriended the hurricane center on Facebook say they’ll add the page to the online forecasts and maps they regularly check during storm season.

Lois Crockett, 60, in Coconut Creek, who works for a local pest control company, says checking the hurricane center’s Facebook page is part of her preparedness plans. She already checks online resources, TV news, the Weather Channel and the newspaper for storm information, and Facebook is just another tool to stay up to date.

“I’ve found that NOAA is the best source because these are the facts, not the hype, so this (Facebook page) will be a little memory jog to go to the NOAA website,” Crockett said.

But she said she’d only be checking Facebook before a storm, not during and certainly not after if the power was out. She doesn’t have a smart phone, but she does plan to get a backup generator this year, and she would plan to check Facebook for updates only after she had power.

Non-traditional communication streams such as social media have proven lifesaving, emergency officials say.

After an earthquake leveled much of Haiti’s capital in January 2010 and left roughly a million people living under tarps or flimsy shacks, many feared heavy winds and flooding from Hurricane Tomas would cause thousands more deaths in early November.

Read says he was relieved when the death toll in Haiti topped out at 35. The storm’s heaviest winds and rains had remained offshore, but Haitians also had been able to request help from emergency responders and get storm information through text messaging.

In spite of the catastrophic earthquake damage to Haiti’s government and infrastructure, its cellular capability bounced back quickly, and mobile messaging proved helpful for everything from search and rescue to aid distribution, Read and Fugate said.

08
May
11

Transmedia Storytelling

Seven Myths About Transmedia Storytelling Debunked
BY FC EXPERT BLOGGER HENRY JENKINSFri Apr 8, 2011
This blog is written by a member of our expert blogging community and expresses that expert’s views alone.

Over the past few years, transmedia storytelling has become a hot buzzword in Hollywood and Madison Avenue alike–“the next big thing” or “the last big thing” depending on whom you ask. Last year, the Producer’s Guild announced a new job title, Transmedia Producer, a decision that has more or less established the term as an industry standard. More and more companies are laying claim to expertise in producing transmedia content. But many using the term don’t really understand what they are saying. So let’s look at what people are getting wrong about transmedia.
Myth 1: Transmedia Storytelling refers to any strategy involving more than one media platform.
The entertainment industry has long developed licensed products, reproducing the same stories across multiple channels (for example, novelizations). Increasingly, broadcast content is also available on line. And many films are adopted from books (or now, comic books). None of these necessarily constitute transmedia storytelling. In transmedia, elements of a story are dispersed systematically across multiple media platforms, each making their own unique contribution to the whole. Each medium does what it does best–comics might provide back-story, games might allow you to explore the world, and the television series offers unfolding episodes.
Myth 2: Transmedia is basically a new promotional strategy.
Yes, many early transmedia experiments were funded through marketing budgets. Transmedia has been closely linked to the industry’s new focus on “audience engagement” and sometimes uses “viral” (or “spreadable”) media strategies. But, the best transmedia is driven by a creative impulse. Transmedia allows gifted storytellers to expand their canvas and share more of their vision with their most dedicated fans.
Myth 3: Transmedia means games.
The rise of alternate reality games coupled with mass media properties is part of what’s generating excitement here. Transmedia properties combine cultural attractors (which draw together a highly invested audience) and cultural activators (which gives that audience something to do). Games are a good way to give your fans something to do, but they are by no means the only model out there.
Myth 4: Transmedia is for geeks.
So far, most of transmedia has been designed for early adapters–folks at home with digital applications, with disposable time and income, and especially the 18-27 year old males who have disappeared from the Nielsen Ratings. So far, much transmedia content has targeted children through cartoons or geeks through science fiction, horror, and fantasy franchises. But, there are plenty of signs that transmedia experiences may appeal more broadly. For example, some believe transmedia strategies may be key to the survival of soap operas.
Myth 5: Transmedia requires a large budget.
Fans now expect transmedia content around blockbuster films and cult television series, but there are also many successes with using transmedia to build audience awareness around low budget and independent media productions–from The Blair Witch Project to District 9 to Paranormal Activity. It’s about developing the appropriate mix of media for the genre, the audience, and the budget of a particular production.
Myth 6: Everything should go transmedia.
Many stories are told perfectly well within a single medium, and the audience leaves satisfied, ready for something else. Transmedia represents a strategy for telling stories where there is a particularly diverse set of characters, where the world is richly realized, and where there is a strong back-story or mythology that can extend beyond the specific episodes being depicted in the film or television series. Transmedia represents a creative opportunity, but it should never be a mandate for all entertainment.
Myth 7: Transmedia is “so ten minutes ago.”
The first generation series to push transmedia, (Lost, Heroes, Ghost Whisperer, and 24) ended last season, and some of attempts to replace them–from Flash Forward to The Event–failed. But many of the big hits–including Glee, True Blood, and The Walking Dead–model new transmedia strategies to attract and sustain audience engagement. Transmedia storytelling is still about the stories and if the stories do not capture the imagination, no amount of transmedia extension can repair the damage. But, we will see innovative new approaches because transmedia as a strategy responds to a media environment that rewards being everywhere your audience might be and giving your fans a chance to drill deeper into the stories they love.
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Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communications, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California. His book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, has been credited with inspiring much of the buzz on transmedia. On Monday 4/11, he is moderating a session on transmedia at the 2011 NAB Show, the annual media & technology industry conference in Las Vegas, which features a dream team of transmedia experts: Starlight Runner’s Jeff Gomez, Red Faction’s Danny Bilson, The Ghost Whisperer’s Kim Moses, The Walking Dead’s Gale Anne Hurd, and Conspiracy for Good’s Tim Kring.




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