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Mini TOC Austin: SXSW Publishing Talks Liveblog
Friday, March 9th, 2012 | Comments | Latest Posts

Hi all! Today we’re bringing you a liveblog of Mini TOC Austin (hashtag #tocsxsw) as it happens. Here goes:

Josh Clark, Global Moxie: 7 Deadly Myths of Mobile
Context is not intent. Mobile is not less. Mobile apps and sites are not a product. Your product is content, and it needs to synchronize and standardize across devices, as well as flow appropriately to different content boxes. Your content is a service. Find the people who need it. (Content should flow like water, as Bruce Lee tells us.)

Kerry Skemp (me!), SoLoMoBooks: Driving discoverability with Mobile
Then, we spoke about mobile marketing for books, emphasizing the ubiquity of mobile devices (need proof? see our mobile marketing stats) and the consequent need for discoverability. Text messaging, social media, location-based marketing (social checkins), and QR codes can all drive engagement and sales for books, whether print or ebooks.

Clay Smith, moderator, DI(Almost)Yourself Author Panel (pictured above right!)
DI(almost)Y author panel supported social media use by authors, who confirmed its effectiveness in giving them ideas and helping them discover items they might not otherwise have found. Social media is sweet like candy, according to writer and performer Owen Egerton, due to the likes and retweets that you can see as instant feedback on your content. Writing books doesn’t provide feedback in the same way. There is a lot outside of your control when writing, but “You can control being proud of yourself when you’re done writing.” Writers interrupt their process when they use the internet for “research”: “I’m just going to Google apocalyptic sexiness.” “With sketch comedy, I’d write a sketch on Monday, rehearse on Thursday, get laughs on Friday,” says Owen Egerton. By contrast, writing a novel doesn’t provide that instant feedback.

Allen Weiner on Enhanced Books
Enhanced books: are they really increasing sales? Transmedia is a way to appeal across more platforms. Top transmedia tool is probably Storify. Platforms are a big issue. Interaction is a key component of transmedia. “Story Prism”: Provides different points of view on a story. For example, a prism could show how voters, pollsters, and candidates view a political election. How can systems like CMSs (or our mobile technology?) support this?

Jan Bozarth on Transmedia
Supplement your books with free content resources. Inbound marketing without the term. Branded clothing app for Fairy Godmother Academy. Fundraising and investors can support transmedia development.

What We Talk ABotu When We Talk About Publishing
With Clay Smith, Neal Pollack, Ed Nowatka
Pollack says being an author (sustained, profitable writing career) is different from being an author. Smith says that self-publishing is being looked down on, legitimately or otherwise, but may really need editors. Editing is a critical part of the publishing process. Selling self-published books is more difficult/complex for booksellers.
Nawotka says a publisher takes responsibility for another’s well-being (i.e., if author starves, publishers starve). Pollack acknowledges distribution was more difficult with self-publishing. “Every book festival I know of, we still need a physical copy,” says Smith. [Check Kindlegraph for ebook inscriptions!] Recognizing the ubiquity of the internet, Neal Pollack says, “The cloud is swallowing everything, like the mist in that Stephen King story.” He continues, “Publishers are cutting budgets… Darwinism is about being the most able to adapt to change. I don’t want to be left behind.”
“It’s the connection between writer and reader that we foster,” Smith says of book festivals.
“When the medium changes, the form of the story changes,” audience member comments regarding new formats.
Audience member comments on authors now having more choice, which forces publishers to offer more value. In response, Nawotka points to the commodification of the book industry.

Gender Diversity Panel with Miral Sattar, Maya Bisineer, Rachel Chou
Chou (of Open Road Media) comments that she knows enough tech to know when she’s being bullshitted; rest of panel agrees that’s the critical amount. Is there gender bias in publishing? Are people seeing changes in trends regarding hiring? Chou is seeing candidates of different genders across marketing and technical job openings. Need to learn to code? Maya emphasizes the confidence that being able to create something builds in you.
Suggested resources: Startup Weekend and other hackathons, Women 2.0, Lynda, Codecademy.

James Caras, Sapling Learning
STEM publishing and how digital tools can assist. Focus on putting more engineers in the workforce. More students switch out of science than out of other majors, in part because of course difficulty and lower GPAs. Lack of choice for students creates indifference in them. Integrating various online elements supports students best. Students participating in online homework have significant benefits realized in better grades. Professor responded, “Great–now I can make my tests harder.” Disparity between what students value and what they (are required to) pay for. Audience member suggests lack of control for instructors similar to lack of control for authors.

Todd Sattersten, Every Book Is A Startup

Authorpreneurs: author as entrepreneurs. Publishers (VCs) sending authors out to get their own customers. Agile approach: very scope, not time, cost, or quality. Going to market faster reduces risk. Build, measure, learn.

Megan Winget, It’s All About the Metadata
4 kinds of metadata: descriptive (retrieval and discoverability), management (administration and preservation, e.g., ONIX), structural (relationships, e.g., TEI and EPUB), (re-)use (browsing). Focus on structural and use, especially structural. Use structural metadata on a discrete entity, such as a book, magazine, or newspaper. Even individual articles could be such entities. Each object needs to progress from Print to text (ASCII) to formatted text (HTML) to structural objects (XML). Metadata can assist findability including SEO and link generation. Think of stories in terms of story structure and use metadata to transform content. Index locations to create maps or walking tours. Megan studies fan communities and participatory culture. How would this be useful to metadata? Fan creations are metadata of a sort. Established publishers are best suited to get content marked up appropriately.

Brian O’Leary, The Opportunity in Abundance
In 2010, Brian O’Leary left NYC for the Internet Archive in San Francisco due to content abundance forcing publishers to create weaknesses in content management and distribution. Content needs to become open, accessible, and interoperable. Not enough to win on price. Need to provide tools to readers. “We need to find a way to hang together or we will hang separately.” Publishing is the engine of the engagement economy. Make this happen with goals, rules, feedback, and a hook. Do we have the tools to come up with a new order in the publishing supply chain? Only 1/3 of magazines see human eyes. “We’re still trying to manage on agreements made 40, even 70 years ago.” Lack of engagement with text based reading leading to critical thinking (clarification: reading would lead to critical thinking, but we don’t currently have reading critical mass).
Need data-driven R&D efforts, as R&D is not just about technology: need better understanding of how readers interact with content.
Superstructures uniting disparate communities to address “superthreats” that organizations can’t address on their own. Industry-wide community could get more funding than smaller or disparate efforts.
“We sometimes act as if reading ‘should’ be hard.” Need to improve access to books and reading, make it look easy to read. Need stronger social connectivity.

Richard Nash, Following Your Own Damn Nose
Continues exploring the issue of abundance. Oprah has been responsible for demand generation in publishing for the last several years. Books are social glue. Amazon’s shopping cart and related data is only about books that you bought (from Amazon) within the last X years, not books that you read or books that you read in college or from the library. “The ‘Like’ is just too damn easy… the ‘Like’ has become a debased currency.” Demo of Small Demons cultural references, place references, all the components that make it up. Nick Hornby is the Kevin Bacon of Small Demons: closest connections to other titles. Reading is the best cultural exposure.

Clay Johnson, The Information Diet
Starts with map showing the progression of obesity in the U.S. Just as our food industry doesn’t give us nutrition, media doesn’t give us news, because tidbits are easier to produce. Everyone wants to be right, not necessarily to get good information. What we want tastes better than what we need. AOL’s requirement to sensationalize content to get goal 50% margin. Ideological intensification of the U.S. has occurred over time (Republican states more Republican; Democratic more Democratic). Johnson says it’s due in part to our self-confirming media consumption. “Confirmation bias is the new H1N1.” People with no information outperform people with useless information. Things to try to improve your information diet:

  1. Conscious consumption. Scheduled social media and email time.
  2. Consume information close to the source.
  3. Be a producer, not just a consumer.
  4. Content is not a commodity.
  5. Demand sustainable news. Clicks have consequences.

Summary: The common theme running throughout the day was an abundance of information and content, but also an abundance of ways to address it. Whether using mobile devices to find new information or making the decision to create your own content in addition to consuming it, technology not only provides challenges but also opportunities. I was honored to be a part of this event and hope that others gleaned as many insights as I did from the day. Many thanks to O’Reilly Media for putting on this fascinating mini conference.

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