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Cover Blurb: “Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
Sweet but never boring. Intense but never overdone. Inspiring but never preaching. Loving but never raunchy. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a rare novel, one that comes into our life without a sound, but leaves having made an imprint on our soul.
Such an odd, cumbersome title, and one that may have never appealed to me personally except Random House professionals, Susan Kamil, SVP, Editor-in-Chief, and Jane Von Mehren, VP, Publisher, Trade Paperbacks, came to my NYU SPI class to share their experience and the road to success. This title is globally recognized as this book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List since publication in 2008 (read the inside story of how it achieved such fame in my column on Beneath the Cover, “The Making of a Bestseller”). Small in stature (the trade paperback a mere 274 pages), this book may initially be cast-off as a whimsical historical fiction novel until you try to put it down… I dare you to leave it untouched for a full 24-hours once you’ve begun.
The characters are lively, quirky, and lovable as they communicate via hand-written letters in 1946, as they rediscover themselves and their world post the trauma and impact of World War II. You find yourself wanting novelist Juliet Ashton as your own pen pal and quiet Dawsey Adams as a neighbor. Twists and turns are discrete and natural so that you almost don’t realize when a revelation occurs and the impact in the character’s life.
This novel celebrates people who love books and the written word. Text, language and history are embraced within remarkable friendships.
Though the era has passed, issues of love, hope, and the kindness of the human spirit will always be timeless and this book (I wager) is destined to become a classic alongside the titles of the authors celebrated in the text, including the Brontes, Austen, Shakespeare, etc… This book appeals to a wide audience, as it is told from multiple perspectives allowing a glimpse into different psyches. I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote, above, to give yourself the gift of this book.
- NovelWhore’s Grade: A
- Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
- Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
- Publisher: Random House
Brian Murray, President and CEO, HarperCollins
Though he may not be as recognizable as Brad Pitt, George Clooney or A-Rod, I think he’s more deserving of his fame. Is he famous, or is that only my skewed, publishing-obsessed view?
Now off to class to see other amazing speakers, hope this teaser holds you over until I can get back and give you a review of Murray’s “What’s A Book: The Digital Transformation of Publishing” speech!
“I am not a Media Person” -Chris Anderson
After hearing Chris Anderson speak this morning, I have to heartily disagree with his own statement, above. Before becoming entrenched in the media world, Anderson was an active physicist (not sure exactly what this is, but know smart and scientific) when he was approached by Conde Nast. Hard to believe he had never heard of this huge media conglomerate, but knowing my own Robotics/Aerospace/Mechanical “enginerding” family I’m not totally shocked. Through his rise to the best-sellers list and award-winning EIC of Wired magazine, Anderson has maintained his scientific background through his robotics company, GeekDad.com and the technology apparent in his magazine.
In his hour and a half speech, I had to scribble to try to write down even half the things I wanted to remember. Including, but not limited to, these enticing little tidbits:
- We live in a messy world, and it’s only getting messier.
- Atoms increase in worth; bits decrease (digital moving to free)
- We need to make the most of the Old World while exploring the New World.
- No business in their right mind would go to a 100% paid online model.
- You can only make money off scarcity. Time, experience, food, land is scarce; digital content is not.
Anderson was generous enough to give us a copy of his book that’s not released until July 7 (quite a thrill in holding a book not available in public!), which is titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Radically, the digital version and full length audio book are free, though the premium content of abridged audio and hardcover title come with a price tag.
Though Anderson came to speak about his magazine work, I was enthralled by his book publishing knowledge. He shared interesting insights, from not wanting to receive royalty checks (since that means the advance wasn’t high enough), to making money from speaking as opposed to the selling of his books, to how once the coherency was decided for his book he can’t even remember the actual words pouring forth.
Another note-worthy comment made by Anderson is his openness to a digital Wired. In fact, he made the bold statement of “If the Kindle is [made in magazine form] I will stop killing trees immediately.” I asked about the digital magazines available today, through Zinio and the like, and Anderson explained he doesn’t think people want to read a magazine on a computer or need the physical pages, but need it to be mobile. So my next question is: Who will be first with the mobile mag reader? There have been rumors about Conde Nast, or will Amazon lead the pack yet again?
Anderson is highly optimistic in his views. Believing in the monetization emotionally – writing etc. for fulfilling reasons vs. financial, as well as future brand extensions, he in no way sees the death of publishing (an obvious sigh of relief).
In case you weren’t aware, Romance is the most successful genre of books; it’s also the most popular/successful type of EBook purchase. Coincidence? I think not. This PostSecret “secret” really touches on the secretive nature of the new digital mediums that are allowing people to read whatever they want without anyone knowing. The conservative Christian reading Chelsea Handler? The heterosexual reading about being gay? The wife looking into divorce? Handheld devices have really returned reading to a private endeavor.
Interesting insight in an amusing/frivolous way. Now if I could just get someone to donate an EReader to me so I could explore what non-socially acceptable books I may enjoy…
It’s a media company, not new TV show
I was at class by 9:30 today, without coffee since my little pot decided to be on the fritz, so it was a huge tease when Seth Familian came on screen, with his video projected straight from San Fransisco with a clear image of his steaming mug.
Familian is listed in our program as “CEO, 8020 Publishing”, but apparently as of very recently (last night, perhps?) he resigned from the position due to different thoughts on the business. So that made me realize a) I can’t believe he is out of bed at all and not ridiculously hung-over after quitting and b) 9:30 NYC time is 6:30am SF time, so Seth, I applaud you.
I also applaud the new revenue models Familian was generous enough to share with us this morning. With experience at Zinio (another company I admire) and an MBA from Berkeley, he’s definitely an authority on media.
JPG Magazine, “Your World in Pictures,” is the title for which Familian was responsible. Living in both the digital and print realms, JPG is submitted hi-res pictures from a global community. jpgmag.com boasts more than 200,000 active members, with 20-25 page views/returning users while the magazine has more than 35,000 submissions/issue.
Quick look at the concept: Photographers submit hi-res pictures falling within certain categories, which are then voted on by the other members on jpgmag.com, with the winning images appearing in the print magazine.
Where does the name “8020” come from? That’s the split in content: 80% of work done by users, with only 20% being editorial contributions.
The 8020 concept is new by itself, but combined with the 3 Key Strategy Mechanisms Familian presented, it’s ingenious:
- Theme-Based Content
- Community Driven Curation
- Diversified Monetization
1. Theme-based content may be the cornerstone to success. It gives users the parameters for what to submit, so compares like things to one another.
2. Community Driven Curation gives power to the users and drives growth. This involves social layers on top of content interactions – not only can users vote on their favorite image, but can contact each other and see what others have “favorited”, establishing common ground. Also compliments and constructive criticism are exchanged, resulting in what Familian says is an extremely friendly space.
3. Diversified Monetization is the ah-ah moment; the light bulb in the head. Obviously, we all know content is not free. But, in this case, with UGC it mostly is. Not only that, but Familian found ways to stabilize the cash flow using on-demand options and price differentiation.
While print on demand still isn’t as cheap as the mass print runs, it is risk neutral. So instead of just offering digital “issues” of the prints that didn’t make it into the print magazine, Familian has worked with POD agencies to offer it in book form. By selling the book it generates profit, and the users/photographers featured end up being JPG’s marketing agent by WOM saying that their image can be found, published.
Whatever venture Seth Familian finds himself in next I have no doubt it will be a success. He seems to be the rare person with a firm grasp on media’s potential as well as the business and finance facets of a company.
I am so far from a photographer with hi-res images, though I plan on joining the jpgmag.com community just to interact with other talented people and communicate in the universal language of pictures! I encourage you all to try it.
So I used to have quite the girl crush on Chelsea Handler (hilarious, clever and oh-so inappropriate), but now my tastes have matured and moved to these two emulating-worthy women: MaryAnn Bekkedahl, EVP/Group Publisher, Rodale and Jill Seelig, VP/Publisher, O, The Oprah Magazine.
Coming from a background in the creative/content-generating side of advertising, I admit to having had a somewhat snooty view on advertising sales. After listening to these two women present, my views may have shifted to more of a “wow, I would love to be her in 10-15 years”.
MaryAnn Bekkedahl first got my attention when discussing the seven “media franchises” she’s in charge of, aka magazines (Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention…). But, in this age, they are much more than just magazines and have evolved into brand empires. I have understanding and respect for brands more so than sales (sales people always have an agenda), but seeing how they’re so intricately connected had me at the edge of my seat.
“The Role of the Publisher” as Bekkedahl depicted really has control and responsibility for the brand/magazine. The Publishing team is composed of the Publisher, with the Research, Marketing, Sales, Business Management/Production and PR teams reporting up. I could do that- I want to do that; be the business side of publishing.
In fact, the Sales force is what really appealed to me among those divisions. Dad always told me I should be in sales since I can convince people to buy things (he’s the perfect example, you should have seen my white convertible!), but I held such a negative stereotype I couldn’t move past. Bekkedahl shot that stereotype out of the water as I found myself drawn to her earnestness and humor, thinking maybe I could do advertising sales after all…
Jill Seelig was the last speaker at the end of yet another long digital day, and I was seeing all sorts of pleasant images in my head instead of the screen (manicure, massage, wine… you get the picture). She really got my attention (and adoration) by opening up her “Multi-platform Marketing to the Advertiser- the 360 Strategy” with the line:
Print is not dead; it is here to stay.
Seelig went on to support this statement with stats stating that magazines are the #1 medium of engagement, and there is an interdependency between print and digital. Magazines contribute to the effectiveness of advertising when added to the media mix; and she should know, since she launched “O” as part of the Oprah Winfrey media empire.
Moving up through the ranks of ad sales in Self and Vanity Fair, Seelig helped instigate “O”‘s immediate success in 2000. She presented a case study of Intel’s partnership with “O” and showed the magazine’s ability to make a (boring) technical brand be more human and emotional to her female readers. She seems to be living the “O” tagline: “Live Your Best Life.”
Also, as a side-note, all the high profile people we’ve heard from have been very attractive and in good shape – is the magazine industry shallow; do they not have time to eat, hence the toned-ness; or do these people just happen to age well?! None look old enough to hold their titles and have the experience they share!
All Webbed-Out: Summary of eight hours of digital content
I have had the most ridiculously filled day of digital content. Of course it’s all new, all interesting, and all slightly overwhelming. From discussing new business models, to Twitter blurring the line between social media and all media, along with insider tips on SEO strategies, I feel as if all my new knowledge makes me quite the digital princess.
During class my digitality (made-up word) began when Hearst Digital Media (yes, Hearst of the Media empire) was generous enough to share with the NYU SPI class three of their top officials to discuss “Websites Gone Wild” and “Get the Work Out, Get the Traffic”:
- Chris Johnson, VP Content and Business Development, Hearst Digital Media
- Beth Ellard, Content Director, Hearst Digital Media
- Dan Roberts, Senior SEO Strategist & Analyst, Hearst Digital Media
The session with Johnson and Ellard focused on the different ways Hearts utilizes the web to drive traffic to their 12 magazine branded sites and 8 digital-only entities. These 20 Hearst owned sites reach 10% of the total internet audience monthly. This massive digital reach translates to about 1/3 of all their magazine subscriptions coming from the web. 80% of the traffic on their magazine sites looks at pure digital content; not the re-postings of print editoral.
Roberts is a self proclaimed “Data Geek” who has knows how to match Hearst’s content with what people search for, aka Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Hate to say it to you naive websurfers out there, but the first hits that come up on Google don’t appear by chance, but a well-orchestrated plan. Roberts is a fan of NOW Media: More than the “new media” we’re used to hearing about, as that’s already dated, this is the current digital landscape that’s constantly changing.
Advantages of NOW Media:
- Distribution has never been easier
- We (my generation) are experts
- We know what works
NOW Media reality/challenges:
- Rules are constantly changing, techonology always evolving
- There is micro-attention (aka Twitter) and mega-noise (digital clutter)
- You can’t always control the message – your brand can be discussed in user generated content that is beyond your regulation
The digital-ness of my Wednesday was made complete (after getting lost on the Subway for an hour- DO NOT use Google maps for the NYC transportation system, it lies!) by attending Mashable NextUp NYC: Social Media Marketing 101 (thanks to @TheUndomestic!). The two keynote speakers were obviously incredibly smart and web-savvy: Steve Rubel (SVP, Director of Insights for Edelman Digital) and Mashable’s Founder and President, Pete Cashmore.
Rubel spoke first on the five digital trends to watch (bear with me, my notes are quite scribbly after one very strong vodka soda):
- Satisfaction Guaranteed = Customer Service + PR: brands must audit online experiences
- Media Reforestation: Paper is going digital.
- Less is the new more: People are no longer gorging on media and often choosing selective ignorance. More impotant than ever to shape search shelf.
- Corporate All-Stars: People within your company standing by your brand in the digital space. Ex: @ScottMonty, as Ford on Twitter
- Power of the Pull: Write for searches, not for readers.
Then Pete Cashmore got on stage with his nice accent and talked to a panel of other professionals about their web opinions. Wow they’ve done a lot for charity – check out and contribute to Charity Water; they’re doing incredible things.
Whew now time for bed, hopefully I’ll get to write up the other amazing speakers from Rodale, Seventeen magazine, Time Out, and People Style Watch tomorrow.
Today in class we spent two hours listening to the cutest pregnant woman give a two-hour talk about the launch of a new magazine. Not just any magazine launch, but a new title that became successful in the midst of this recession, and the incredibly talented pregnant woman was responsible for this miraculous achievement.
Food Network Magazine is the title, and Maile Carpenter is the EIC who has managed to surpass the original estimate of 400,000 views to an astonishing 900,000 with only three issues having been published!
Coming from the successful launch of the Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, Carpenter managed to find a hole in the already crowded cooking magazine market. She was able to do this quickly with, what she notes, is Food Network Magazine’s major point of difference: It comes with a built in network of celebrities, from Rachael Ray herself, the Iron Chef, Guy Fieri, Paula Deen and more, along with their popular personalities, brand recognition and established trust and loyalty.
While this magazine is in partnership with The Food Network, it is not biased toward the show and its merchandise. Carpenter and her small staff go behind the scenes and to write as if the TV station weren’t included in the name, such as the well-received article “Secrets of the Iron Chef” (appreciated by fans as well as the crew). More than 100 recipes at all levels are in every edition, and while there is content available on foodnetwork.com, the companion magazine site is still under construction.
This “pop culture approach to food” has already been much more popular than original estimates, and after hearing Carpenter speak realize I am going to subscribe to this magazine as well (add it to my list, along with Esquire… Don’t think I can afford all these!), for the recipes as well as support of an admired talent. To subscribe yourself to what I promise will deliver delicious recipes and mouth-watering food shots (Carpenter promises none of the spray glue tricks I was used to in advertising!), click here.
Additional thanks to the panelists in “Building a Brand: a Wheel with Multiple Spokes”:
- Bill Stump, VP, Digital, Rodale: Made me excited about his/Rodale’s tactics of allowing inexperienced employees to generate videos for websites such as Men’s Health. Emphasized to those of us entering the job market to attempt any task you’re given.
- Gail Horwood, SVP Digital Programming & Strategy, Martha Stewart Omnimedia: I wonder how much personal impact Stewart has on her brand, but they are all quite successful. Shared the secret that the craft section is most popular. I believe it, there are directions to make a really cute message board in the June edition of Martha Stewart Living.
- Frank Lalli, EIC, International and Magazine Development, Reader’s Digest Association; ED, Purpose Driven Communication: Reminds that you are your own brand. Spoke about launching the magazine/360 approach to Pastor Rick Warren’s A Purpose Driven Life. For Bible Studiers, obviously I’m not in the target. Did get the chance to ask him why Reader’s Digest changed their cover design years ago from the Table of Contents and made it look just like every other magazine- he said the team thought it needed updating, while I thought it lost its identity and individuality.
- James Jacovides, VP, Licensing & Syndication, Time Inc.: If you have any questions, ask him I think he thinks he knows everything. In reality, he is very smart and he works for a very successful company and he knows it and isn’t afraid to share. He discussed how magazines go international and the different methods Time Inc. uses to ensure an immediate profit.
- Jaimee Zanzinger, Deputy Editor, Real Simple: I personally like Real Simple, though it hasn’t helped me de-clutter my life. Zanzinger spoke about their commitment to helping make an easy reading experience, from short articles to the included book mark and pictures that help tell the story. Interesting to note, the photos in Real Simple are styled after every article is written, not scrap art. Must be incredibly expensive for the shoots and talent, but the effort comes through in print.
Off to my first NYC party!!! Some launch for some music reality show from what my friend with the tix told me. Concept sounds like it may be lacking, but I could use a few free drinks after these long days. Woohoo.