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Publishing in the Digital Age

Seth Godin's "Purple Cow"

Seth Godin's "Purple Cow"

If you’ve been reading this blog or attending any of my presentations, it’s no secret that I’m a fairly big fan of Seth Godin. I watched a 30 minute video of his presentation, “Using New Media, New Marketing, and New Thinking to Create 10 Bestselling Books.”  The timing of this was interesting because it came a couple of days after a discussion at the ISA Fall Leaders Meeting in which I was struggling to reconcile my assertion that the overall value of information is approaching zero with the fact that book publishing (at ISA and elsewhere) is holding strong compared to subscription media like newspapers and magazines.  Enter Godin with his ten stories about ten marketing strategies for ten books he wrote.  In it, he talks about the successes and failures of these various strategies.  More to the point, however, he summarizes these at the end of the presentation and, from his typically unique perspective, the reasons why they did or didn’t work.

So, why am I talking about book publishing in a technology blog?  First, it fits into a recurring theme of mine that Web 2.0 technologies are democratizing information and streamlining communications in a way that affects any organization whose primary mission is knowledge transfer; which includes just about any professional association.  Second, since publications is such a significant aspect of what ISA does, I wanted to highlight this presentation.

Since this video is thirty minutes long, I am summarizing his closing points:

  • Books are souvenirs:  “There is nothing in a book that I can’t get faster, cheaper, and quicker online.”  He exemplifies this by asking how many people proudly display their audio book collections.
  • Permission the only asset: “The only asset you can build on the Internet is permission. The privilege of delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who want to get them.”
  • Marketing is conversations: “If you can make people talk about what you’re doing because you wrote the right thing, then you win.”
  • Words for readers, not readers for words: “You’re not in the business, any more, of finding readers for your words. And the reason is that readers are too hard to find. You’re in the business of finding words for your readers. Once you build the permission base, you get to say, ‘OK, what do my readers want next?'”
  • Blogs work: “The very nature of dripping ideas into a place where they can spread.”
  • It’s not about selling books: Godin doesn’t try to sell books any more than Disney tries to sell T-shirts. If you’re in the idea business, the books are going to sell themselves.

The full video is embedded here and even if you can’t spare the full thirty minutes, I still recommend watching at least the first few minutes.

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