Conversation is Easy to Cite

Cory Doctorow covers a killer concept associated with Amazon's new author blogs:

Today there's the explosion of choice brought on by the Internet. All entertainments are approximately one click away. The search-cost of finding another artist whose music or books or movies are as interesting as yours is dropping through the floor, thanks to recommendation systems, search engines, and innumerable fan-recommendation sites like blogs and MySpaces. Your virtuosity is matched by someone else's, somewhere, and if you're to compete successfully with her, you need something more than charisma and virtuosity.

You need conversation. In practically every field of artistic endeavor, we see success stories grounded in artists who engage in some form of conversation with their audience.

It doesn't matter whether or not something is fair, it really only matters how the trends are changing and if you can adopt with how they change.

I sell a download-able ebook for $79. Is that too much to pay for a book? Maybe. It really depends on what you get out of it, but over the long haul the value is easier to justify and the sale is easier to make because there is topical engagement and conversation.

At times I absolutely screw things up, but mistakes usually teach me more than the things I do correctly. You have to try new things, and the more ways you allow your personality to be seen and connected with the easier it is to be successful being yourself.

Many people and companies fight the potential openness associated with some web based business models because they don't want the feedback or want to protect their rights and current business models.

My opinion is that if you consider markets as conversations and piracy a progressive taxation the way to have influence and create wealth is to spend far more time learning how to create additional value and distribution instead of focusing on how you are not getting your fair share.

The end goal is profit and satisfaction. While I am absolutely no good at many things I was stoked to see my site has been getting bookmarked in almost daily recently and I got this killer feedback there:

Without a doubt the most interesting blog on search engine optimization I've found. His book is excellent, and his writing is clear and transparent. You feel like you know Aaron when you read his posts.

Of course there will be readers of various skill levels and knowledge levels. You really don't want to read too much into your own reviews because you are more likely to get feedback from the biased edges while the people in the middle sit quietly.

Recently I started posting a few Q and As to create more content for the beginer level SEOs, but I will likely need to balance that with other types of post to keep the blog interesting to more advanced readers.

My mom has recently started blogging and reading some of my sites as well, so she should keep me on the straight and narrow if I am posting things that confuse her. My mom thinks we encrypt Threadwatch, but she thinks my blog about blogging makes good sense. I believe this site is typically somewhere in between the two. As far as making marketing concepts simple and easy I think Seth does a great job of posting things beginners can understand. To some extent I think I would rather post original beginner level stuff than posting about the same thing be posted about everywhere. If you can relate other old ideas and concepts to what everyone else is talking about right now then you are at least one step ahead of the me too posting crowd I frequently find myself falling into when I am bored and uninspired.

It is rather amazing how well this blog has done because when I originally created it I did not define a specific market audience or skill level I was writing for and I still have not. It may not matter if 90% of the readers are bored by 90% of the posts so long as they can identify with the remaining ones.

Google Killing the Press? The Press Fights Back?

Slate posts a worst case scenario for Google article:

It wasn't until Knight Ridder Inc.'s largest stockholder, Private Capital Management LP, called for the newspaper chain's breakup that the creative destruction of market forces turned on Google and began its rout.

Content Optimization Changes to Content Generation

A friend of mine mentioned how the noise level in SEO forums has gone from around 95% to about 99%. I think it is largely due to a shift from content optimization to content creation (and remember that this is a site selling a book on optimization, so me saying this is not in any way to my benefit).

Here is why there is a large shift from optimization to creation

  • The ease which content can be published: It took me less than 2 hours to teach my mom Blogger, Bloglines, rss, xml, etc. She now blogs every day.

  • the ease in which content can be commented on and improved in quality
  • the casual nature in which links flow toward real content
  • the massive increase in the number of channels and quantity of information makes us more inclined to look for topical guides to navigate the information space
  • the ease with which content can be monetized has greatly increased. AdSense, Yahoo! Publisher Network, Chitika, new Amazon Product Previews, affiliate programs, link selling, direct ads, donations, (soon enough Google Wallet for microcontent), etc.
  • contextual ad programs teach the content publishers to blend links, which has the net effect of...
    • short term increase in revenues for small publishers

    • until users trust links less
    • at which point in time users will be forced to go back to primary trusted sources (ie: one of the few names they trust in the field or a general search engine like Google)
  • it is getting increasingly expensive to find quality link inventory that works in Google to promote non content sites, and margins are slimming for many of those creating sites in hyper competitive fields
  • the algorithms are getting harder for people new to the field to manipulate
  • around half of all search queries are unique. most hollow spam sites focus on the top bits whereas natural published information easily captures the longer queries / tail of search
  • duplicate content filters are aggressively killing off many product catalog and empty shell affiliate sites
  • as more real / useful content is created those duplicate content and link filtering algorithms will only get better
  • general purpose ecommerce site owners will have the following options:
    • watching search referrals decrease until their AdWords spends increases

    • thickening up their sites to offer far more than a product catalog
    • switching to publishing content sites
  • and the market dynamics for Google follow popular human behavior, even for branded terms or keyword spaces primarily created by single individuals
    • the term SEO Book had 0 advertisers and about 0 search volume when I launched this site

    • this site got fairly popular
    • SEO Book is now one of my most expensive keyword phrases

As long as it is original, topical, and structured in a non wild card replace fashion content picks up search traffic and helps build an audience.

I am not trying to say that optimization is in any way dead, just that the optimization process places far more weight on content volume and social integration than it did a year or two ago.

The efficiencies Google are adding to the market will kill off many unbranded or inefficient businesses. One of my clients has an empty shell product site and does no follow up marketing with the buyers. I can't help but think that there needs to be some major changes in that business or in 3 to 6 months we won't be able to compete on the algorithmic or ppc front without me being very aggressive.

Google May Sell Ads for Chicago Newspaper Company

UPDATE: Google Weighing Test Of Print Ads In Newspapers

Google Inc. (GOOG) is considering testing print advertisements in Chicago newspapers, in a sign that the Internet giant, to date seen primarily as a threat to traditional media, could also become an ally.

If Google could take the inefficienies out of offline media they probably could end up making the papers more revenue in the short run. Long run is anyone's guess.

When Getting Published...

Keep in mind that 93% of all ISBN's sold fewer than 1,000 units.

After selling a few thousand ebooks those numbers make getting published seem far less appealing, especially when you consider that my prospective publisher told me they still wanted me to do most the marketing.

What is even more nuts is that I guaranteed the publisher that I would be able to sell more than that in under a year as an add on to my current book (even offering to buy that many off the start) and they still considered that to be small volume and would want me to more prominently push the physical book over the current ebook offering.

I don't get why so many businesses think it is ok to shift nearly all the risk onto another successful business just because they are smaller or new to the market.

Broadcast Television 99 Cents a Show

Comcast Cuts VOD Deal For Four CBS Shows

CBS and Comcast have signed an agreement that, beginning in January 2006, will make four of the network's shows--CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Survivor, NCIS, and Amazing Race--available on a video-on-demand basis for 99 cents per 24-hour window for each show.

Eventually the content floodgates will open. The question is who will own the distribution rights and at what cost? Does anyone think the baby bells or cable companies will be less monopolistic or more efficient than Google?

Amazon to Sell Electronic Book Access

Amazon to Google: we own books...

From the Journal:

[Amazon] is introducing two new programs that allow consumers to buy online access to portions of a book or to the entire book, giving publishers and authors another way to generate revenue from their content.

Although Bezos does not come right out and say it, clearly this is a shot across the brow at Google, especially with the timing of their recent print offering.

While Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos wouldn't comment specifically on the Google Print controversy, he said, "It's really important to do this cooperatively with the copyright holders, with the publishing community, with the authors. We're going to keep working in that cooperative vein."

After Google develops their micropayment system I bet they also directly broker a large amount of media.

Why People Use Each Search Engine & Lead Value Per Typical User

In Searching for why consumers use certain search engines Internet Retailer looks at recent Majestic Research as to why searchers are loyal to their favorite search brands.

The study shows most Google users primarily are there because they believe Google has the most relevant results (although the fact that Google has not had a longstanding portal as long as it's competitors may bias the study to conclude that result).

Of the other major engines Yahoo! was the only one which had significant votes for relevancy, but Matt Cutts recent post about Yahoo! hand coding probably does not help them much. Tim Mayer just did another Yahoo! update report, and a reader mentions that [online casinos] is just about as spammy as it could be.

In Following the Search Engine Referral Money Trail Jeremy Zawodny shows his search referral ratio, earnings ratio, ad CTR, and effective CPM per engine.

His site has a tech bias, so I believe that favors Google somewhat, but Google sends the bulk of his referrals. MSN and AOL users are much more likely to click content ads than Google or Yahoo! users. I believe that is a function of user sophistication. Less sophisticated people are click happy because they probably don't know they are clicking paid ads.

Getting Published by a Major Book Publisher...Is it Worth It?

So a while back a major book publisher read my ebook and said they loved it. They wanted to publish it & we went right up until the day I was supposed to get the contract with them saying that it shouldn't be a big deal for me to keep ebook publishing rights. On the last day they changed their mind on that front, and if I killed the ebook to make a print one it would likely kill the business model unless I started selling services or got big into AdSense & click pimping.

I may be able to segregate out the print book content stuff and the ebook content stuff and use the print book to upsell the ebook, but generally I am a bit uncertain as to what all should go in which.

My options are as follows:

  • turn down the publishing house, continue as I have
  • kill the ebook and just make the print book an amazing value for it's price
  • kill the ebook and sell a monthly newsletter service
  • try to add more advanced stuff to the ebook and maybe pull out most the for newbies stuff (but then it may be a bit hard for me to figure out where that line is)
  • if I altered the ebook stuff in any way those who are in on the ebook free updates would get whatever else I did instead (although I probably could not afford to buy and ship thousands of print books, so that would be treated as a separate product on that front)

If I got published the upsides could be

  • added distribution
  • those who wanted a print version or cheaper price point could get my book in a format that is more appealing to them
  • I would have more credibility / authority in the eyes of some
  • I would learn about the publishing process (which in turn would make it easier for me to publish future books if the idea sounded / felt cool down the road)
  • if the marketing worked synergistically then it would cause more flow
  • updating this channel and ebook is exceptionally time intensive compared to the time required to run a network of lower effort channels. If I changed my business model (doing lots of affiliate work and click pimping stuff I would probably make far greater profit)
  • if my ebook is pretty good then more people reading a print version would mean I could help more people

If I got published the downsides could be

  • if I did not update the ebook any longer or took large pieces of it out that could piss off many people who bought it already (and I am not willing to piss off past customers to gain market that is just bad karma)
  • it would take significant time
  • it could hurt the profitability of this site...since largely they would want this site to market the print book, and that could cause my added value higher priced offering to sell less
  • creating multiple price points, etc. is not one of my strengths & I think the simplicity of the current setup makes it easier to buy
  • print books have low margins
  • another company would control much of my content
  • there are already a number of print books covering the search space...I think most of them were printed to upsell services instead of another book or uncertain how much volume / demand there is for a print version
  • my potential publisher is one of the book publishers sueing Google, and I am not sure I would want my book publisher to do that
  • I have already sold more ebooks than the average physically printed book has sold. If I did self publishing or went with a smaller publishing house there would be added flexibility.

If my ebook was not my main source of income this would be a no brainer, but currently it is, and that makes the decision a bit harder.

I am not certain if I will say what I end up doing, but I like the idea of getting feedback.

More Google Print Lawsuits

Recently Google was sued by the Authors Guild for copyright infringement. It seems the Google Print product is making a few more enemies, as publishers sue Google as well:

Book publishers sued Google, escalating a nasty spat over the search-engine giant's ambitious book-indexing project.

The Association of American Publishers said it sued the Mountain View, Calif., Internet giant Wednesday morning after talks broke down.

McGraw-Hill, Wiley, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster are named as plaintiffs in the suit.

John Battelle sees no point to the suit:

I really don't get this. I have been both a publisher and an author, and I have to tell you, these guys sue for one reason and one reason alone, from what I can tell: Their legacy business model is imperiled, and they fear change. Of course, if they can get out of their own way, they'll end up making more money.

I wonder if Google will respond by blacklisting any publishers. Google only needs a few major publishers to start seeing increased revenues due to Google Print for the rest to follow along.