Ask us a question about content marketing or self-publishing a book. No need to leave your name if you’re shy. We’ll answer in a blog post.
Ask us a question about content marketing or self-publishing a book. No need to leave your name if you’re shy. We’ll answer in a blog post.
As we rapidly shift so much of our working and private lives online, questions are being raised about who owns what, how content can be passed to heirs, and how to effectively archive and preserve what’s important.
First, there’s content generated by your digital profile, the stuff that isn’t necessarily packaged and sold but that you create day after day: things like your Facebook feed, emails, Twitter updates, Flickr photos and more.
It’s important to know what will happen to this content, of course. But for knowledge product creators, the issues go deeper. Creating revenue from a book, an audio series or a member-based website takes hard work and commitment. It makes sense to protect that revenue stream. Here are a few questions to prompt your thinking.
One way to ensure your wishes are known and can be carried out it is to create a manual on how to continue or shut down your knowledge product empire. Include log-in details and passwords to your various online accounts, such as your shopping cart, PayPal account, Twitter feed, newsletter management system and so on. Make sure at least one person is familiar with the manual’s contents and have them keep an extra copy.
Knowledge products are a wonderful way to create a lasting legacy of your life’s work. Not only do knowledge products capture your expertise so that current and future consumers can benefit even in your absence, they’re also a form of intellectual property. Don’t let it slip through the fingers of future generations or fade away unnecessarily into obscurity.
Crowd Accelerated Innovation recently hit my radar. This is the concept described by Chris Anderson in his TED Talk on web video, which I blogged about not long ago.
Today, I stumbled across a connecting link. Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From, says this: An idea is a network. Innovation most often occurs when people can share and discuss ideas freely, in coffeehouses, in break rooms and around water coolers.
If you tie Steven’s findings to Chris’s idea, you see why web video facilitates innovation so well: it allows people from all areas and walks of life to share and access new ideas rapidly. It also partially explains the explosion of innovation that has occurred with the rise of the internet, why social networks are useful, why blog comments are important. An idea is a network.
Here’s another look at Steven’s work on where ideas come from.
Where do your ideas come from?
Today I watched a TED Talk from Chris Anderson on the power of web video to spur global innovation. On the surface, the idea didn’t seem too mind-blowing to me: yes yes, global sharing, people watch a lot of video, yadda yadda.
But I can’t stop thinking about the talk.
Chris opened with the example of a 6-year-old Japanese boy showing off eye-popping dance moves in a home video. He explained how watching that clip was a watershed moment for filmmaker Jon Chu, who realized that the internet was evolving dance:
Dancers have created a whole global laboratory online. Kids in Japan are taking moves from a YouTube video created in Detroit, building on it within days and releasing a new video, while teenagers in California are taking the Japanese video and remixing it to create a whole new dance style.
Something clicked with me. I caught an exhilarating glimpse of what web video might represent.
As the talk continued, a second idea caught my attention: Chris spoke of web video representing a communication shift as powerful as the invention of the printing press.
For millennia, humans have communicated face-to-face. The rise of the printed word a few hundred years ago allowed us to spread our ideas farther, sharing them with more people. Now we have the technology to bring those two worlds together: the power of face-to-face communication and the ability to spread that communication far and wide. Even better, we can distribute that communication instantly.
The globe is responding eagerly.
So many search queries are made for YouTube content that it can be considered the #2 search engine in the world. Did you catch that? Apart from Google, there is no other site that users search more often for content. Other staggering statistics: Users collectively upload more than 35 hours of video to the site every minute of every day. And the world watches 80 million hours of YouTube video per day.
Before watching Chris’s talk, I’ll admit I considered video an adjunct strategy for disseminating information. I know some people like to acquire information through reading it, some by hearing it, others by seeing a live demonstration. There are also the people that like to learn by conducting their own experiments. Well and good. This is why it makes sense to package your intellectual property in multiple formats, to appeal to multiple learning methods.
But now I think web video represents a much larger and more significant opportunity than I previously believed.
Watch Chris’s talk and see what you think. How could video blow your industry wide open? What could you share in a video that would allow people here and abroad to collaborate with you in advancing the world’s pool of ideas or processes or skills? What could Highspot share?
I’m excited to hear your thoughts.
Singles are meant to be 5,000 to 30,000 words, and you can tell from the way Amazon describes them that they expect Singles to work best for non-fiction topics. I haven’t heard much buzz about them in the content world, which seems strange to me. I thought experts and authors would be all over the opportunity.
Singles are faster and less expensive to create than a book. You can use them to serialize a book in progress, or experiment with content to gauge reader reaction. You can publish your special reports as Singles. And all along the way, you can generate revenue.
I didn’t really think of the Kindle as a platform for publishing articles, but the other day I came across a report from Kate Harper on how to write and sell articles through Amazon. She talks about articles of 3,000 words and up — even shorter than the suggested range for Singles.
Harper’s article (available through Amazon, of course, for $.99) is definitely worth checking out. It outlines everything you need to know to get started selling short-form material on Amazon and the Nook. Lots of attention is paid to formatting your content, but Harper also covers how to price your material, how long it should be, and how to describe your article so people know what they’re getting.
The success Harper has had selling articles confirms it: There’s a sweet spot between blog post and full-length book that non-fiction readers are hungry for, something long enough to fully explain an idea but fast enough to be consumed in under 30 minutes. In other words, short-format content is valuable.
I’m off now to take a look at what Highspot might package for Kindle reading. What’s your short format strategy?
1. How do you do what you do?
You likely spent a great deal of time and effort learning how to do what you do. Others will pay for that knowledge—to shorten their own learning curve, avoid costly mistakes, and achieve greater success than they could on their own.
2. Have you created new ways of talking about old issues?
For decades, people have been writing about how to lose weight. You’d think everything there was to say had already been said—yet new diet books come out every single year. That’s because people are always coming up with new theories, methods, stories, or perspectives. You can do the same in your industry.
3. Do you have new insights into your business, industry, or clients?
Share them. Hint: You don’t have to wait for insights to hit like lightning bolts. There are ways to cultivate them, such as looking to completely unrelated industries to see what ideas can be adapted to your own business to create new approaches.
4. What do people outside of your industry not know?
What’s standard knowledge within your industry but virtually unknown outside of it? Open the door on this insider information. It’s fertile ground for training and education products.
5. Can you ask questions that will help others come to useful insights?
You don’t need to have all the answers. Often there is value in asking the right questions and helping people find the answers themselves.
6. Can you anticipate the future?
Look at what’s happened within your industry in the past. Examine factors that contributed to its formation and growth, revolutionary changes that have altered the field, and important developments that have already occurred, especially over the last 12 months. If X led to Y, and Y led to Z, what can you guess about where Z might go? Help people prepare for, or participate in, that future.
What are some other questions that have been helpful to you in developing knowledge products?
A number of years ago, I attended my very first country auction. It was so exciting to listen to the auctioneer and watch the flurry of bidding on each item. I decided to bid on an issue of Cosmopolitan magazine from 1907—and I won it!
Cosmopolitan magazine in 1907 wasn’t like the Cosmo of today. It was a family magazine full of short stories, essays, investigative journalism, and genteel illustrations. One thing it does share with its modern day counterpart, however, is its abundance of advertising.
As I flipped through the ads, I was struck by how many of them offered information enticements to drive business. With the advent of e-books, downloadable reports, digital audio, and all the other modern methods of information delivery, it’s easy to forget that marketing a business with knowledge products has been around for a long time.
Booklets, books, and magazines were a staple of marketing back then, and the same principles still work now. Take a look and see what 100-year-old lessons you can draw from them.
Click on any thumbnail to enlarge and read the ad.
A brilliant ad from start to finish, it offers a $1 book for free. A dollar was a lot of money in 1907. Pay attention to the use of testimonials, the list of subjects covered (an early version of the bullet point lists so common today) and the closing paragraph:
“Not like any other book ever published…can be had from no other source…This book is not an advertisement…”
Six Months Free
This enterprising fellow started a magazine that he sent for free for the first 6 months. Why do you think he would do that? This is the 1907 version of a free e-zine. Check out the personal branding with the large photo of the author.
“…every issue is filled with interesting, helpful articles…”
Here are two ads offering information products about the poultry business. The first charges 15 cents for a 220-page book on the care and feeding of chickens, but the text is pretty blah. The second book is free for the price of postage but — here’s the pitch — describes the publisher’s 30 varieties of chickens available for purchase.
Only Brainy, Steadfast Students, Please
Advertising as a profession was still in its infancy at the turn of the last century yet 100 years later good copywriters are still in demand. I love this line from the seventh paragraph:
“Powell graduates are preferred all along the line to the theoretical ad writers of the old-fogy school plan. “
So there, old fogies!
Look for the offer of two free books in the last paragraph.
What do you think? Is there anything 21st-century knowledge product marketers can learn from these antique ads?
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal underlines what we’ve been saying for years: the book makes the expert. Business people with books get noticed.
Think of it this way: When it comes to your business reputation, you’re either a rock star or a wannabe.
If you’re like the vast majority of the people in your industry, you’re virtually anonymous. You might have lots of expertise, great ideas, and new methodologies, but you’re not making the most of them. You feel frustrated because you know you could take your business farther—you just don’t know how.
Rock stars, on the other hand, are celebrities. They stand out in their market against a sea of faceless competitors.
Very few business people ever garner the reputation of a rock star. But you can bet that those who do, have knowledge products of one kind or another. A book is still the most prestigious but other products work, too. What’s important is that these products serve as springboards, continually pushing their author’s message to more and more people, and continually propelling the author’s reputation to new heights.
Is it time for you to break out and become a business rock star? (Or, as we like to say here at Highspot, a thought star™.) What steps will you take in 2011 to get you there?
Helienne Lindvall, a columnist for guardian.co.uk (who also happens to be a musician), recently wrote about people who advocate for free content but charge high fees to share their expertise. In her view, this practice is “ironic” and she decries the fees such speakers earn “peddling a utopian, and some would say fictional, business model to increasingly desperate music and media companies.”
Lindvall has entirely missed the point. The speakers she targets — Cory Doctorow, Seth Godin, and Chris Anderson, among others — aren’t suggesting everyone give everything away at no charge. They’re not saying people don’t deserve to get paid for their creative efforts. What they’re offering is the idea that giving something away for free can lead to making money on something else.
Take Seth Godin for example. His book, Unleashing the Ideavirus, is the most downloaded e-book in the history of the internet. Let me repeat: in the history of the internet. It’s a free download and always has been. The visibility and reach that the free e-book has given him has generated far more for him than selling the e-book for $10 a pop ever could. In this instance, free works for him. But he also sells print copies that he does charge for. Is this irony? Hardly. Godin simply recognizes that free can work wonders.
Authors can choose to give books or other content away for free and often they do so precisely because there’s some other sort of payoff: exposure, reputation, the ability to charge more for consulting, an increased demand for consulting, or even — gasp! — paid speaking engagements.
In fact, Doctorow, himself a guardian.co.uk columnist, wrote that while giving content away for free may not always help the bottom line, it certainly can’t hurt. (Read Doctorow’s thorough and articulate rebuttal to Lindvall’s article here.)
Have you tried giving away content for free? What were the results?
Gino Wickman, business leader and coach, wanted to publish a book that shared his successful system for helping companies get what they want from their businesses. The ultimate goal was to increase implementation of his proprietary Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) by getting his message out to as many people as possible.
Gino drafted a manuscript that captured his passion for EOS and his determination to share its tools, model, and process with entrepreneurial businesses. His first thought was to find a traditional publisher—but after many frustrating months of shopping the work around and finding no takers, Gino decided to explore self-publishing as a way to bring what he knew was a valuable idea to the market.
Making It Happen
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business launched as a hard cover book in November 2007 and as an e-book in 2008. Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other leading retailers, the book has sold over 10,000 copies.
As a result, Gino has seen an upswing in his business. In the last two years, he has added 20 new EOS implementers to his team and successfully helped more than 200 companies implement EOS.
“There’s no question about it,” says Gino. “We’ve leveraged our business model because of this book. Our long-term goal is to help 10,000 companies run on EOS. Every book we sell gets us closer to this goal.”
Gino is now working on a second book, excited to repeat his positive experience from Traction.
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