Friday, August 20, 2010

Hmmm ... Where Have I Heard This Before?

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal contained an article titled "Get Ready For Ads in Books" here.

Ron Adler, a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and William Vincent, a former book editor at Houghton Mifflin, predict that publishers are going to turn to placing ads in books in order to stay profitable.
... physical books can't compete with other print media for advertisers. Digital books can ...

Google has taken the first steps in this direction. Its Google Books archive--a collection of over 10 million scanned books from the world's largest libraries--displays advertisements next to search results. It's a small step to imagine Google including advertisements within books ...

What would the world look like with ads in books? For consumers, the free samples of digital books now available would surely include ads ... Seeing ads in the sample may also convince a reader to pay for a premium, non-ad version of the full-length book. The old market segmentation of paperbacks and hardcovers will be replaced by ad-supported or ad-free books.
I might have been more impressed by the article if Chris Anderson (editor-in-chief of Wired) hadn't said the same thing over three years ago. In my post of June 10, 2007 here, I described a talk that Anderson did for Book Expo America:
... radio, magazine and newspaper content is given away for virtually nothing because they make their revenues off advertising. Books are an exception to this. Books charge readers a price. However, [Anderson] points out that it would be possible to offer a physical book supported by advertising. A book can cost $19.95 for an advertising-free copy or nothing for a copy that includes advertising.

Also, e-books cost close to zero to re-produce and could be offered for close to zero. You could also offer a page view model online that runs advertising alongside content for free. Or you could offer a downloadable book that is locked to all but specific readers.
Chris Anderson is a very, very smart man. Prior to working at Wired, he worked for The Economist. Although I think he occasionally stretches a bit too hard to make a point, I keep both his books on my shelf. The first is, of course, titled The Long Tail and the second is Free: The Future of a Radical Price.

I've said repeatedly that the publishing industry's focus is too narrow. Publishers need to think beyond the four corners of a book to the wide world beyond.

As an example, imagine tying an e-book, GPS and advertising together. Facebook and Twitter users can now tell their friends where to find them in the physical world. Imagine an advertising campaign that tied an ad in an e-book to the reader's immediate proximity to a location selling the item being advertised in the ad.

Imagine a time-limited ad that promised a 40% discount on fall boots to a teenager and five interested friends at a store near her home. I guarantee you my 18-year-old niece could produce her entire drill team in an hour for a deal like that.

The possibilities are endless.

Instead of fighting over the date of release of an e-book versus a p-book or about digital rights management (DRM), publishers need to be forming alliances and figuring out how to take advantage of the latest technology.

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