Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Location, location, location

Events surface intentions to buy. The "location" of the event itself is the best sales venue for aftermarket digital sales. Rather than "shop" in a "store" (and confront up-sells, cross-sells, and superficial reviews of questionable authority), the web encourages communities to form around common interests where friends can recommend what to buy and how to use what is bought. Here's one example of events and social media working together to help buyers discover and act.

We see the power of social selling each time USRowing produces race videos and makes them available for sale through twitter announcements. Their target markets are the contestants themselves and their immediate friends and families. Over and over again, we saw video files going into our system, the offers being generated, the tweet go out, and then, BAM.

For several days following a given regatta (some which generated hundreds of races), sales consistently picked up around 3pm every day, with no further announcements from USRowing. Often, hand-held devices were used to make the purchase. Our analytics consistently revealed races downloaded in clumps of purchases around a given time. And now, even though the 7-minute race ended almost a year ago, we get sales going through the system long after all the excitement has died down. Viral networks at work!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Publisher's Perspective on Piracy

Tim O'Reilly was interviewed about digital publishing in the most recent issue of Forbes magazine. Anyone considering selling their own ebooks or other digital content should read the article and consider what he says about building direct sales channels to buyers.

"I see publishers bemoaning their fate and saying that this is the end of publishing. No! Publishers will recreate themselves. My entire class, if you like, of computer book publishers were all self-published authors who then extended their services to other people. O’Reilly, Peachpit, Ventana Press, Waite Group Press—we all emerged about the same time in the mid-eighties and all of the others were eventually bought; we’re the only one that’s still around as an independent publisher. But all of them were self-published authors that turned into publishers. And I will guarantee you that the next crop of publishers will be successful self-published e-book authors who start offering services to other authors."

The full interview transcript suggests the value of building channels to buyers.

"If you look at our channels today in e-books, our direct sales are our largest channel. Our second-largest e-book channel is Safari, which we also control. So we’ve been building channels for some time."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Five C's

When we first started, we quickly figured out the profile of a publisher who's likely to succeed. In no particular order, a successful publisher has the Five C's:

Who and where is the community that you'll market to? If you can say "Surfers on Facebook" or "Romance authors at books.com" then you're way ahead of the game. Or, if you have an email list, which is an audience, that's good too.

You've got to have interesting and compelling content, no secret there. It can be great photography, a children's story, a video documentary, or a guitar lesson. Later I'll talk about good production when it comes to video & audio. Test the content by sharing with someone who is in the target community, preferably NOT a friend so you get honest feedback.

Do you have (or control) the sales rights to what you are selling? Sounds obvious, but you need to confirm. The place where most people get into trouble is either by using music without the rights, or shooting video in a venue that is not a public area (like in a sports arena). If in doubt, check it out.

Sales are tied to your credibility. If you're a known and trusted voice, people will be at least familiar with the name, so lowering the barrier to "yes". If not visible, start publishing free portions of your work to gauge your reception and so people get to know you.

Once is not enough! To build your business, you must commit to continue publishing. Think of them as consumables, so that after each one, people are ready for another one. It may be daily, weekly or monthly, but the more you produce the more revenue you stand to make. After the first few products are out, it's common to feel like "this is alot of work". That's where most people drop off, never to be heard from again. Plan your production schedule and work your plan!

Technology Platform

We are publishers. The founding team at Bitmenu is made up of video podcasters, all publishing our own independent content. We found that there wasn't a viable way to sustain our publishing efforts through advertising, and set out to build a platform to solve that problem.

Bitmenu's technology stack stands on the shoulders of giants, including Amazon's AWS, PayPal's Adaptive Payments, Google's GWT, Apple's iTunes, and Facebook's Social Plugins. It is constantly evolving, as we add and iterate new features, but the fundamental building blocks are the same: servers in the cloud deliver content to buyers all over the world who download the files using any kind of device. In turn, sellers have the tools to engage their community and audience to make their content better, and buyers have a simple and clean purchase experience.

The platform has a lot going on behind the scenes to make your experience as a publisher, or as the audience, as simple and easy as possible. We'll be posting snapshots of aspects of the platform in the coming weeks, to give a glimpse behinds the scenes. Subscribe to our feed and follow the story.