The eBook Revolution - More Than a Digital Photocopy

E-bookExtinction - We’ve studied about it from our early years in elementary school and we’ve observed it almost continuously throughout our lives.

Growing up in the shadows of the smokestacks of the mammoth Pittsburgh steel industry, it seemed like there could be no end to the dominance of Jones & Laughlin, US Steel, Babcock and Wilcox, and their ilk.  But they, and their stacks, and their smoke are seen no more along the rivers of Western Pennsylvania.

78 rpm vinyl records gave way to 45’s. Then LP’s. Then 8-tracks. Then cassettes. Then CD’s. Then mp3’s and other digital downloads.  Now, music no longer requires a hard media at all.  What became of those who produced the high tech of their day?  They adapted, withered, or vanished.

And what of Eastman Kodak, Fotomat, and even MySpace?  In 2006, MySpace was bought out for $580 million dollars.  Then came Facebook.  In 2011, MySpace sold for an estimated $35 million.

In recent years, having ravaged dozens of stalwart companies and destroyed entire industries, the gods of change began to focus on the publishing industry with one of their favorite weapons, technology.

The response from the industry was much like the other dinosaur industries of music and photography…”this too shall pass.”  But it didn’t.  It isn’t.  And it won’t.

And so, publishers began to reluctantly adapt to digital technologies, but in essence, their best efforts have been to produce digital photocopies of the paper and ink variety of books.  And charging a handsome fee to boot.  Most are still missing the landscape of the new technology.  And that is...interactivity.

With its iPad, Apple redefined the publishing business.  The Kindle at that point was a good reader for the digital photocopies of print books that publishers were producing.  But Apple laid out a new challenge to publishers to produce eBooks that were beautiful and aesthetic throughout. eBooks where there could be a mix of text, slides, maps, video, audio,  - a panorama of media.  And the biggest game changer of all, a book experience that is interactive. 

While 64% of publishers are creating digital books, only 21% are actively creating these “enhanced” eBooks.  And maybe the greatest change of perspective needed to avoid extinction will be for the book industry to realize they are no longer in the publishing business, but in the “experience” business.

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on this phenomenon.

The change that is upon us is far more than the digitizing of text to be read on a screen that mimics the page of a hardback book.  The entire experience of “reading” is changing.  Reading is becoming much more than merely decoding text.  

Your children and grandchildren will be profoundly affected by these changes in the way they consume knowledge.  In the way they learn and think. And we will be as well.  

What happens to education when the professor can be embedded in the textbook along with discussions among students unlimited by geography, links to other knowledge resources, notes from other readers…?

Pretty exciting, eh?  It’s big. Perhaps the biggest thing since Gutenberg?

This video gives a glimpse of the impact of interactive eBooks on the curriculum of the future.


Inside Online Video Advertising

Online-ad-v-tv While online advertising fell overall in 2009, ad spend on online videos grew 41%.

And, with good reason.  Nielsen Research has recently released a report based on 14,000 surveys to measure the impact of video advertising online vs. video advertising on television. 

The patterns they uncovered were consistent:  video ads run during online full-episode TV programs yield deeper brand impact than corresponding on-air TV ads, with the difference most pronounced among younger viewers age 13-34.

"What accounts for this variation in impact between online video and traditional TV? Data shows that web video viewers are more engaged and attentive to the programs they are watching, which is likely a function of the viewing environment and the oft-required active mouse-clicking to initiate and continue content. Online video is also still a relative novelty compared to traditional forms of media.  Further, and most significantly, reduced ad clutter and the inability to easily skip ads are considerable recall-enhancing factors."

Another conclusion - "online video ads help to reinforce and strengthen the impact of a traditional TV campaign."

More data and analysis here.

The Inauguration

I just finished listening to President Obama's speech.  As always, his oratorical skills were magnificent.

If you've followed the cultural shift driven by generational cycles at much in the past few years, you can recognize that the President's speech was replete with "civic" generation language and devoid of the idealistic speech of the previous 40 years.  The themes of shared sacrifice, the renewal of responsibility...

A new cycle is in place, cemented by the cataclysmic economic meltdown of 2008.  Some day the children of this emerging generation will rise up, declare that their parents had it all wrong, and a new president will ride the wave of an idealistic generation into office.  But for now, we have about 35 years of a civic cycle to ride, and it matters less who is President and more the social and socio-economic cycles that carry us.  I'm glad for the change, especially since it is inevitable.

Best wishes to our new President.  Let's just not expect that he has the ability to countermand cycles, walk on water, or turn lead into gold.

When did America become a marketing proposition?

An interesting marketing/sign-of-the-times article from the Boston Globe, "We, the Target Audience."

"Nothing is off-limits from the dumb hard sell anymore - even things that aren't identifiably for sale. The long-lamented creep of commercialization has now crawled outside the bounds of commerce entirely, till real experiences and events have become promotional versions of themselves.

When public and governmental institutions are the ones doing the marketing, it's especially unsettling."

Read the entire article here.

A Test of Authenticity

067 A few weeks ago I was considering living in a cave until the morning of November 4, when I would emerge to vote and then re-enter society, thereby avoiding what seemed destined to be a painfully lackluster campaign season.

Then McCain nominated Palin in a move that would fit under my definition of strategically outrageous.  There’s still plenty of time for it to backfire, but even if it does, it was a sound strategic move, much like Chamberlain’s ammunition-less charge at Gettysburg.

I’ve written here often about the shifting culture and the emergence of a new more civic generation to supplant the idealistic cycle that ended in 2003.  One of the bywords of the civic generation is “authentic”.  Being authentic, not just appearing to be authentic, is a key to winning hearts and votes in this rapidly morphing culture.

Back in primary season, I thought Obama had the authenticity to overcome the old school tactics of Hillary.  But suddenly and stunningly, I believe the key perception regarding authenticity has tipped to McCain’s favor.  And here’s why.

Obama is a great orator and an excellent performer on stage.  Those are generally wonderful qualities for a candidate.  They were enough to dislodge a powerful Clinton.  But perhaps Barack came across with a little too much spit and polish?  His speech at the DNC was a brilliant performance.  Was it too brilliant?

Then there’s his selection of Joe Biden.  For me this is a real yawner.  If there’s a bastion of old school politics, and someone who comes across as a plastic and even pompous communicator, it’s Joe.

McCain on the other hand was a rather mediocre performer in oration.  But, his lack of polish and the imperfections along with his conversational style in talking about his country, his service, and his motivation… I think he actually came across as more authentic than Obama.

And Palin is at this point a rather refreshing portrait of authenticity, in the totally surprising package of conservative womanhood.  She’s hot in a very cool way. We’ll see how it turns out, but Grandpa John may actually turn back the popular and youthful Senator.  In the 60’s when Kennedy won, the country was in the early stage of the emerging idealistic generation.  People wanted Camelot, and the Kennedy’s delivered.

But now, it’s about being real, somewhat flawed, and having cogent and realistic plans about how to solve real problems.

I’m putting the cave plans on hold… for now.

Catching a Wave

061 One of the haunting memories of the 2004 tsunami was the phenomenon that immediately preceded it.  The oceans receded and scores of curious individuals wandered out into the waterless shoreline to inspect this peculiar development.  Had these folks had any experience with a tsunami, they would have been running the opposite direction rather than sauntering about with the crabs and other exposed marine crustaceans. 

The economy is in a down cycle.  Profits, revenues, investment, credit - these all appear to be receding.  This scares a lot of people who still seem to expect that the economy should move in only one direction - up.  But this cycle will be followed by another wave, and in the same way Google was born in the depths of the dot com bust, this is a time of great opportunity.

I was reminded of this again in a recent post by Seth Godin.

It's a good season for entrepreneurs.  Be on top of this next wave, not under it.

Is Hillary Caught in the Generational Shift?

059I've written before about the shift in our culture being caused by the 40-year cycle of generations.  Remember, a generation is a period of time, not a group of birth cohorts.  2003 was the tipping point from an idealistic generation to a civic generation.  In the sixth year of the transition we can expect to see stunning evidence of the massive cultural shift similar in many ways to 1968.

As a result of this shift in the way people view the world, things that used to work don't work any more.  Bill Clinton was perhaps the best campaigner of the previous generational cycle.  Now, those same techniques are not working any more and even Ted Kennedy is jumping to the Obama camp.  Obama is being seen as fresh and new, someone who gets it, and most importantly as someone who is not stuck in the "old ways."  In spite of her huge war chest and her enormous political experience, Hillary is being viewed as old guard, and with Super Tuesday looming she doesn't have much time to rebrand.  What worked for Bill won't work for Hillary.  It's a different day in more ways than most of us imagine.

At this point, I think the Republicans have little chance this year unless they nominate someone who won't be seen as stale dated.  In that regard it seems like Mitt Romney would be the best choice.  But choosing the candidate most likely to win the general election is not what the nomination process is about.

I'm not endorsing anyone, but it seems to me that Obama is in the best position to ride the wave of cultural change into the White House.  A question for you and your organization - "How can you catch this wave and be on top of it rather than under it?"

Thoughts on 2008

Rather than make New Year’s resolutions, I’ve opted to make predictions instead.  Resolutions require effort and accountability on my part, and any failure is ultimately personal.  But predictions, unless I am foolhardy enough to make any about myself, either happen or don’t happen independently of anything I do.  So whether an asteroid hits Mars or not, most people won’t remember and those who do will just view a miss as a bad guess, not a lack of personal discipline and willpower.

If you’ve read any previous posts about the generational cycles at work and the recent tip from an idealistic cycle into a civic cycle circa 2003, you will realize that 2008 is a significant year of potential upheaval, much like 1968 was for the idealistic generation.  So here are a few predictions for 2008 (actually they are guesses, but I have no hope of making the National Enquirer unless I label them predictions):

Continue reading "Thoughts on 2008" »

The Shift Goes On

We are in the midst of a major cultural shift, one of those 40-year generational changes.  (It’s important for context here that generations be viewed as time periods and not a group you were born into). 1963 was the year when western culture moved into an idealistic cycle.  You see it in the music, the arts, the technology, clothing, etc.  It takes about 5 years for the new ideas to really take off, as you can see from the explosion of racial conflict, anti-war demonstrations, rampant drug use, free sex, etc. from 1968 forward.

The year 2003 marks the tipping point from an idealistic generation into a civic generation.  Instead of just talking or singing about change like the last generation, this generation will be focused on doing something about it.  Plastic performances like Miss America and Britney Spears are in decline.  Real is in.  Relevant is essential.  Authentic is mandatory.  And this will only increase during the next 15 years.

In addition to this major cultural shift, in which the younger generation will teach the older generation a different way to look at the world, there is a major shift in media and technology that is providing the engine and the rails for progress.  Mass media is losing its mass.  Print is in decline, especially newspapers.  Television is fragmenting.  People are spending more and more of their time budget for media consumption online. 

To me, this is the most exciting time to be alive since I have been around, because great change breeds great opportunity.  Thus the birth of BizDreams.

An excellent article on this subject by Roy Williams.