The balance has shifted

BalanceChessboard-ScotlandCommonsFlickr240wI was approached by a major publisher last week to write a book. Flattered, I asked what they had in mind. I figured they had a series of books that had a hole my expertise could fill.

Their reply? A generic book proposal form. “Here, think of something that you’re getting asked alot. Or something you want to write about. Then fill this out and we’ll see if we’ll work with you.”

Thanks but no thanks.

The shift is about access

I’ve written seven books now, two with publishers and 5 self published. It used to be that publishers had the access to readers. It was like that in every area of media:

  • If an author wanted to reach readers, they’d go through a publisher.
  • If a DJ wanted to reach listeners, they’d go through a radio station.
  • If a TV personality wanted to reach viewers, they’d go through a network.

Now that has totally changed. Authors can reach readers for free through blogs. DJs through podcasts. TV personalities through YouTube. Not only reach them, but grow a base of fans.

This shift has been going on for a while now. Since before I started blogging in the late 1990s. But it’s even more prevalent now.

Still a role for the “legacy” systems

There’s plenty of room for all of us in this game. One very important role for publishers, radio stations, and TV stations is filtering. Some call it “curating.”

Just because anyone can create content doesn’t mean all the content is great. Publishers and others can respond to the shift by focusing on credibility and trustworthiness.

To the content creator, they can emphasize the credibility they provide. Sometimes that is internal. It’s great to know I’ve been published by a publishing house. That makes me feel more “legit.” And there is still the external credibility, that to readers, of having a publisher’s name on your book. That is the trustworthiness. Legacy systems could say, “You don’t need to sift through the chaos of information out there. We’re saving you time by doing that for you and bringing you only the best.”

But I’m not seeing that shift yet. Instead, I’m seeing legacy systems trying hard to make what worked last century work today. And being surprised to find that it no longer works.

It used to be that they held the upper hand. It seems to me that we’re now closer to being peers. But I wonder how the legacy systems will adjust to realize they now need to market to both the content consumers and the content creators.

Much is about marketing

I wonder if that is the key. If much of the shift in balance has to do with marketing rather with access. Access alone isn’t enough. We all have access to each other. But only those who market well get heard.

If the legacy systems like publishers were good at marketing, then going through them would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, they’re not. A couple years ago, I was excited to write a book with a publisher because I wanted to learn how to launch the book. I knew there had to be a system for marketing books and I wanted to find it.

I did work with three rounds of editors. That was an important process for me to experience as an author. But the “launch” never happened. Rather than having a marketing system, they seemed to be making it up as they went along. All that access I thought they had? They appeared to think I’d had it all along and were looking for me to give them access to my audience. Worse, I don’t own the content I created with them and they won’t even send me copies of my book despite repeated promises. (Copies I’d be charged for.)

Still room for a mix

I still believe there room for a mix of legacy systems and whatever we call the new reality. Micro-publishers? Content creators? Free range publishers?

But it needs to start with us playing the game more as equals. What about you? Have you found legacy systems that realize the shift of balance has changed?

Daddy bragging

As a social media guy, I’m so proud of how my kids are using email and starting audio and video recordings.

Over the last couple days, my 10 year old son — on his own initiative — “borrowed” my wife’s camera and tripod, designed this scene, and took the over 500 pages that it required. He even knew what song he wanted it paired with. AND he was determined to have it uploaded to YouTube.

Yep, I’m a proud Dad.

Storytelling, Journalism, and a Brave New World

Guy Kawasaki justed tweeted about a “must read speech on the new journalism career.”

Guess what? It’s not just about journalism.

Here are some of the thoughts that struck me:

“I don’t think the communications revolution that we are going through is about some reinvention of storytelling or journalistic creed.

The way we tell stories has evolved over the years, but beginning, middle and end still works. Ethical and accurate information will still rule.

I think the revolution is happening because of access. Access to powerful tools and access to global distribution in an increasingly connected planet.”

“As old business models fail, I expect to see an influx of independent, purpose-driven collaborations. Small teams with passionate experts operating for the public good. The new world of open access makes this possible.”

“Marc Andreessen sent an email in the Fall of 1993 to only 12 people. Mosaic, the first web browser, spread virally and changed how we communicate with each other.

Connectivity is the new killer app.”

“It’s true that less people care about Congo than Britney’s belly button. For me, it’s not about reaching the largest possible audience; pandering to the lowest common denominator. It’s about reaching the right audience with a relevant message.

Today, there is a robust infrastructure in place to reach these specific audiences and to create real change.”

I firmly believe this is one of the most exciting times to be alive. We live far more connected than ever before, so our stories can have a far bigger positive impact than ever before.

Especially if they’re told well.

How will you be telling your story in 2009?

[Warning- the following is a shameless plug: If you work in a nonprofit, check out my fundraising seminar on nonprofit storytelling. It covers the basics of crafting effective stories, how to categorize stories to make collecting them easier, and how to help your board members and volunteers tell the stories you are. Good stuff! The shameless plug is over.]

Getting started on Twitter

I’ve been having a lot of fun learning to use Twitter for nonprofits and fundraising.

And I’m pleased that some folks from my local Rotary Club are getting into the game! Well this morning, one of those guys tweeted “I need a Twitter tutor!” I passed that on to some twitter stream. Here are some of the responses I got:

SCATJ @marcapitman for your friend @chrisgaunce: follow others for a while and jump in when you see something that strikes a chord with you

Bobbiec @marcapitman for your friend, http://tinyurl.com/6a5exs. Don’t judge, whole site not done yet

seanbohan @marcapitman start w/ tweetdeck – dashboard view of all/replies/directs & has search, can make groups, etc. .. and write 1 tweet/day minimum

Great advice!

Over a year ago, Chris Brogan wrote Newbies Guide to Twitter.

One of the most important things I learned from Chris Brogan is to use the same “identity” across platforms. For me, that meant I started using “marcapitman” for

…well you get the picture. 🙂

I even use “marcapitman” for fun sites like: Wordle and MustLoveBeer.com!

Personally, I think one of the best ways to get started on Twitter is to follow alot of people and see how they’re using it. Twitter user Mark Hayward has a great list of 97 suggestions in his blog post 97 Remarkable Ways to Diversify Your Network in a Down Economy.

And you can use tools like search.twitter.com and Twellow. They’ll let you see who’s tweeting on topics of interest to you. Or find people in particular careers or in specific of the world.

I’m finding Twitter is

  • helping me as a development professional at the Inland Foundation
    • it’s much less expensive than actually going to some of the conferences people tweet from!
    • I get real-time feedback from people just like my hospital’s donors
    • I get alerted to the latest fundraising blogs and podcasts
    • I’m getting to meet hundreds of folks doing the same thing I’m doing and get real-time help
    • I’ve even received help doing database work and cost-to-raise-a-dollar analysis!
  • helping me sell my fundraising book
    • I’m getting to connect with readers one-to-one
    • and tools like TweetLater help me automate some Twitter actions so I can focus on those in the evening. (I also write my blog posts in the evening but publish them so they get tweeted during the day.)
  • helping me connect with really cool people in the media and other professions, and
  • even helped me do goofy things like name my beers.

Twitter is really helping me expand my network from right here in Waterville, Maine USA. I now am in regular communication with people all over the world. I was already talking to people around the world with my fundraising ezine. But now they get to talk back to me. During the Olympics I was even tweeting with the NBC folks in China! Sure made the games seem a lot closer?

I’m going to pass this on to Chris. I’m not exactly sure it’s the “Twitter tutor” he was hoping for, but it’s a start!

What would you recommend he do if you were his Twitter tutor?