marketing

Wordpres vs. Wix – What You Need To Know

I built this website on a WordPress server app, but my last 3 projects are based on the Wix platform. Starting in 2017, I create many of my new web projects on Wix. It is a relatively mature platform. You save a lot of time in customer training. It is very easy to hand-over Continue reading →
Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, 0 comments

Looking for Comparisons? Here’s What You Should Know

Each year there are more and more platforms, systems and solutions available for almost any need that I can think of. Abundance of choice is not necessarily a good thing: it often stifles your ability to make a decision. This is why many, like me, rely on comparisons by experts Continue reading →
Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, 0 comments

Games As a Marketing Tactic

It’s not hard to gather why Accenture started developing mobile games. I mean, it is not exactly Accenture’s core business, but what exactly is its core business? Accenture is possibly the biggest consulting firm in the world, with revenues of almost $30B last year.

As a super successful company, it is successfully innovative in marketing: the game Sky Journey is designed to tell potential customers what exactly they can achieve with the company’s services, and how to use them. On top of that, the game also showcases Accenture’s own development capabilities, as the company owns a gigantic software division.

The Guardian’s Stuart Dredge recently reported about a marketing trend of mobile games developed for big companies. Among these, he tells of a Unilever game, offering mobile device players to experience a bleach substitute without getting their hands wet. This is a rather new trend, but it is no surprise: content marketing is the fastest growing marketing domain in latest years, and marketers are getting more and more creative in the battle over the consumers’ time and attention.

Accenture's Sky Journey

Games as a marketing tactic are an efficient method to convey a complex message, and even to tackle potential resistance to messages which are not necessarily acceptable to everyone: Early on this year, the game Music Inc. was launched. This is also a management game, where players try to run a music label, to “nurture” recording artists and to fight pirate-distributors of music. This game was developed for UK Music, the British music industry’s policing body. This organization, as similar organizations in the western world, discovered in recent years that it is being vilified and increasingly perceived as one to exploit musicians rather than contributing to culture. Such organizations use marketing games to paint a different world image, where they are the good guys.

Music Inc.

These two games are much alike: both are management games, both marketing mobile games and  both developed for big business representatives. Choosing to allow their customers the experience which represents their own point of view, these two marketers probably chose the simplest means to garner brand-identification by their audiences. But there are some differences as well: the first game is intended to simplify an experiential message, whereas the second game is intended to deliver a political message, not necessarily acceptable to the target audience. The first game was developed by the company which it represents, out of a a deep perception of strategic vision, whereas the second game was developed by a new media agency to solve an image problem.

Marketing games are nothing new. In the previous decade, various brands developed Alternative Reality Games, which were game events,usually circling a new product launch (a new Doritos flavour, for instance, brought  The Quest). But this kind of content marketing is an expensive,  one time event with usually no follow up and ultimately lacking the impact that regular advertising campaign might have brought.

New generation marketing games allow marketers to grab the customers’attention for longer periods as opposed to traditional advertising campaigns. It allows the to provide their audiences experiential reward, which brings the players as close as possible to the brands’ values. In short: this is powerful content marketing

 

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, games, 0 comments

How Products Form Habit (and Promote Addiction)

If you ever felt that it is getting harder and harder for you to disengage from social media, from your downloaded mobile game apps or any other new app, this feeling is not accidental.

Addicting games are in existence for years: Tetris had its share of putting many work hours to waste. But what is the difference between Zynga’s Farmville and Candy Crush? Aren’t they both highly addictive games? Free games that made a lot of money from addicted users? Well, while Farmville had its run to quickly become a formula game with predictable reward system, Candy Crush is packing surprises: Players don’t know whether they will pass the level and if so,why. In addition, every level introduces new behaviours, which limit the ability of the player to predict the coming development. Randomness and variable difficulty make an exciting and addictive combination, and it is hardly by chance.

Once there was need to explain to software developers how their consumers are using the products. Very little software products were developed with the help of User Interface experts and behavoiural psychologists. User experience design has become, along the years, an essential part of new products development. At a certain point, it seems as if game developers have shifted from programming their game levels into programming their players. More and more games, as well as other types of applications, are trying (and succeeding) to turn the consumers’ use of them into a regular habit, not to say an addiction. The goal: Coercive Monetization. The means: Developing habit forming products.

Hooked - How To Build Habit-Forming Products

Nir Eyal, and American UX designer and blogger, has recently published his book, Hooked. In his book, he explains his method of user habit forming. Habits, which are intended to convert the user from a casual user of a social media tool or a game, into a regular. Eyal obviously talks about “good” habits rather than a Candy Crush addiction. He discusses social media services use habits, such as Pinterest and Facebook, but you may want to listen when he describes the Variable Reward step in the habit-formig cycle he presents.

Trigger, Action, Variable Reward and Investment, are a lot like the vicious cycle of addiction, which is built around the triggering of the dopamine receptors in the brain. The stress which is entailed in the anticipation to the reward, is the thing that accelerates compulsive behaviour – whether it be the search for your drug, or even behavioural addiction, such as gambling, porno and, also, Candy Crush.

Hooked is intended for professional readers: executives, product managers, UX designers, who are looking for methods to create new products, products which will be profitable throughout a long life cycle. The book is not intended for consumers of those products. Eyal is cautious, apparently, about referring to the dangers of creating addictive products. There are good aspects for creating use habits and for creating products that cater to the users’ needs. But the science that allows us to pinpoint the reasons why users will want to return to using our products, enables addiction inducing manipulations.

What’s the solution to the problem of increasingly addictive products? There is none. On the one hand, there are product developers, like me, who want to create use habits and on the other hand there are consumers, who will have to learn how these manipulations work and will develop, with time, immunity to them.

To Nir Eyal’s Lecture

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, entrepreneurship, games, 0 comments

Yoovi’s Lesson In Viral Marketing

About a year ago I met Eytan at the Google Launchpad, a startup bootcamp of sorts, in TelAviv. A year has gone by and out of that bootcamp only a handfull of startups survived.

One has managed to recruit several million dollar from investors, some gave up and moved on to the next venture and some returned to the employee workforce. Eytan Levitt is one of the entrepreneurs who made it through the year and his startup, Yoovi, is now at the final stage of its product launch – a closed beta.

The idea behind Yoovi is a photo management and sharing service for parents. Yoovi is not an ordinary mobile app and its launch requires a considerable investment. The app is at the Apple App Store for several months now, but it is an invite-only service as yet. Eytan’s challenge is double: on the one hand, potential investors require guarantee of public demand. The goal that Eytan set are pretty straight forward: 20,000 pre-enrolls will get Yoovi enough funds to complete the launch. 100,000 will fund additional services. On the other hand, the public doesn’t know Yoovi and users are constantly bombarded with messages from dozens of competing products every hour. Photo sharing is something we do every day. An average mobile user has 3 to 5 different apps they use concurrently to do this: Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Path. Yoovi has a unique niche and it does answer a specific problem for parents who take loads of photos. But in such a big ocean of apps, who will notice a unique little drop?

Eytan’s solution to these two problems was a brilliant videoclip, where he presents the idea and asks the viewers to vote for the app by adding their emails on Yoovis website. The clip was shot at the end of January, cut and edited at the beginning of February. Now all that’s left is to distribute it and hopefully make it viral.

On February 18 Eytan released the clip on his personal Facebook profile and on Yoovis page. He needed to get the required number of users within 31 days.

In startup meetups, when seasoned entrepreneurs speak in front of new entrepreneurs, they talk a lot about “evangelizing” – the  need for an entrepreneur to become a preacher or a prophet for their own venture. This is exactly what Eytan did in the days that followed the release of the clip:

Launching the campaign was a live event broadcast on Yevvo. Within several hours, with the good help of friends, he already collected 700 emails.

The following day, Yoovi’s team opened a “war room” at the Google TLV Campus. It was a viral marketing hackathon, with beer and pizzas. Friends came over to show their support and within a day the number of emails collected surpassed 4,000. Eytan practically moved into the Campus. His presence there was put to good use: on the third day he spoke in front of a group of entrepreneurs from South America. It was February 20 and responses from all over the world were pouring: a guy from New Zealand sent a moving message, someone else sent a video of herself using Eytan’s clip in a lecture about viral marketing and Saul Singer, the author of Startup Nation enlisted to the campaign, posting about it on his highly popular Facebook Page.

Yoovi’s livecast was still going strong on the fourth day, making it effectively the first TV reality event of the Israeli startup scene. Meanwhile, responses continued to flow: Eytan reported about a twit fro Saudi Arabia sharing the clip and about a CEO from one of the largest parents’online communities asking for a beta invite. On the sixth day the count was already on 8,000.

Things changed on the seventh day. It was opened in Barcellona, at the World Mobile Congress. With all due respect to hackathons and friends’support, you still need the big conventions to meet investors and get media exposure. Here is what Eytan shared on his Facebook account:

 Hello friends, first I’d like to say thank you very much to everyone that’s supporting, helping, saying nice things, sending emails.. wow.. just wow..

Yesterday was my first day in the Barcelona conference – I was in the less successful venue but I still got the maximum I could, chinese investors that really liked Yoovi and offered to invest, I also reached 3 journalists – one of them from a really big publisher.

Things I learned yesterday:

1. Always provide value – the way I got to these 3 journalists was through a panel where the crowd was participating, and I really participated and asked question that made sense to the discussion. When the panel was done the journalists came to me(!!) and said thanks for participating. 

2. Everybody is trying to fight over media’s attention, my primary goal isn’t to pitch my story, but to create rapport.

3. The “second most important person in the room technique” – when everybody wants the attention of someone, look for the person that came with him – and talk with him. It’s gets amazing results.

4. Always help – I offered someone to charge his iPhone with my mac’s USB, turns out he’s the BizDev of Rovio(Angry Birds) and really helped.

5. The parties in the night just as important as the conference – my goal for today, get access to the most important party/

6. Someone told me a great sentance – “the most content I create, the luckier I am” – HOW TRUE!! I’m thrilled that our campaign continues going well, I find it a world wonder, I hope our attempts to get converage will be fruitful soon(they will).

Sorry for not live streaming as much, 3g and bettery are a real constraint on that.

That’s for now – HAVE A GREAT DAY!!

Eytan from Barcelona

February is ending and Yoovi achieved half of their target number so far, within just 10 days.

A campaign’s success is measured against its defined goals. As of today, the campaign is a success. Goals can be changed during the campaign. In the case of Yoovi, the Barcellona convention was a great opportunity not to be missed and a game changer. Talking about viral campaigns, it is hard not to refer to global phenomena such as Kony2012 , which received over 100 million views within 6 days on YouTube. But such a comparison would be unfair: Yoovi is a struggling startus, trying to pre-enroll potential users – not raise funds on Kickstarter or fight against child abuse in Africa. Behind Yoovi you won’t find massive donor support or an army of Twitter controlling Hollywood stars. Yoovi’s campaign is an excellent lesson for young entrepreneurs with limited resources.

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, entrepreneurship, 0 comments

How To Ruin Your Business With Blackhat SEO Tactics

Expedia has a newly introduced statement in its website’s footer, saying: “Expedia, Inc. is not responsible for content on external Web sites.” This statement is aimed at a single reader: Google and what it is saying is simple: If we are popular and receive many backlinks from spamsites, increasing our ranking in search result pages, we are not to blame. Backlinks from spamsites is the main tactic tool for what is referred to as blackhat SEO. This statement is also not entirely correct: Expedia is indeed responsible for content on external websites, if these websites are owned by Expedia, or operated by agencies hired by Expedia for promotion.

Search Engine Optimization, just like any other marketing practice, is about creating an advantage over your competitors. When it comes to search results for specific keywords, almost everyone with a website is your competitor. So it is kind of a rat race, and everyone is busy updating fresh “quality” content en mass. And just like in any competitive sports, there are cheaters. Blackhat SEO is cheating: creating a multitude of external links to a destination site and littering the web with fake content which is not really meant for real people to read, but prevents them from accessing relevant quality content.

Google is taking no prisoners in the war against Blackhat SEO. For Google, it is enough that a suspicion of cheating exists, to take action against those who possibly gained unfair lead. Since the beginning of the year we’ve heard about big media entities, such as Expedia and Vivint being taken off the Google search results for their sought keywords. In Expedia’s case it is keyword phrases like “cheap flights”. Both Vivint and Expedia are very big businesses worth Billions of dollars. Google didn’t flinch before shutting them off. This is encouraging: a company with the motto of “Don’t be evil” is punishing giants trampling over the smaller businesses. This is also worrying: the same punishment will be used against the smaller businesses when mere suspicion arises.

Search Engine Optimization is a marketing channel existing since the time before Google was even thought of.  Altavista and Lycos, Inktomi and others allowed SEO tactics for website promotion and in return gained easily indexed pages. Google introduced the popularity criterion, which, in turn, increased the presence of fake sites and link farms over the web. These tactics are eventually spotted by the search engines and their owners are punished. By the way, the same goes for innocent websites which have been linked to on link farms: They will also be blacklisted by search engines if they fail to notice that they are a part of a link farm.

 

Posted by Samuel Miller in entrepreneurship, 0 comments

Facebook’s Flat World

Facebook has been known for quite a long time to be flattening discussions among friends: Algorithms filter posts on the newsfeed according to interests, political affiliation and relationship. The outcome of this filtering is that we are exposed mainly to posts which cater to our immediate inclinations  and don’t really learn anything new, or having our views challenged. This problem was a minor one until recently, that is, known to few people and bothering even less. Makes sense, doesn’t it? People who visit Facebook aren’t really interested in debating friends from the other end of the political spectrum, or reading posts that venture way out of their known interests.

A new study reveals that this technological filtering is not that necessary: Users are actively self-censuring themselves to be more popular. The study, described in Daylidot, claims that “if you want to be popular in Facebook, you better shut up about politics”. The study shows a high correlation between having a large group of friends and avoiding political discussions on Facebook. The exception, obviously, are large political groups, where there is a political discussion, albeit one sided.

But popularity has become something that Facebook itself makes very difficult to leverage, in favour of promoting your business or cause. From the moment you open a Facebook Page, you become advertisers, and as advertisers, you need to pay for exposure. Facebook has effectively killed organic promotion. Even our friends aren’t exposed to posts from our page. You can try and force your friends to share each and every post with their friends, but it wouldn’t go too far and frankly? This is quite tiresome.

Derek Muller, a science video blogger, posted recently to Youtube a video describing The Problem With Facebook Today. The problem, he sums, is that we are exposed to the content posted by the highest bidder. Facebook doesn’t separate content creators from consumers from advertisers: We are all the same on Facebook. This could have been a beautiful egalitarian vision, but the actuality of it is far remote from openness, free information and exposure. Try, for example, typing the word Syria in Facebook’s search field. You will reach a fantastic existence where there is no civil war, no killing and no destitute. If you are looking for these, you may want to try Youtube and Twitter.

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, 0 comments

How to drive a product through a brick wall

The man who interrupted the speaker was supposedly the responsible adult. It was obvious that he wasn’t satisfied with the presentation and that there was seemingly something wrong with the product plan discussed. What followed during the next half hour was awful in terms of corporate culture. What followed two months later was catastrophic in terms of the product, customer satisfaction and trust.

It was an annual corporate product meeting, where all of the product division heads presented their market trends predictions, roadmaps and the coming shiny new features for the next 12 months.

The current speaker was Y, a division head and a colleague. Y lives, breathes and dreams his gaming product, knows about any movement in the market and knows what players want. But still, the COO wasn’t happy. No matter what Y envisioned, the COO deemed it an amateurish mistake. The claim was simple: You present a plan that is light years away from what our leading competitors do. In this state of things with our current market position, there is only one course of action: Follow the leader.

The market leader that the COO spoke of, was at that time busy launching new features on almost a weekly basis. Our product divisions were not built to produce in such pace, having a very slow moving mammoth using a waterfall methodology that allowed no more than two major releases per year. The plan that Y presented was focusing on internal change to allow more flexibility in the future. That was not enough for the COO. He dedicated the remainder of the meeting to shaming poor Y, yelling every once in a while.

For the rest of us, the meeting was turned into a scene from Game Of Thrones, where everyone attending needs to carefully consider their future if they are about to even sneeze. What puzzled me the most during that outburst, was that the COO referred to two competitors who were not in direct competition: one of them was deployed in a market that our company strategically avoided for legal reasons. The second one was not even in the same gaming business. At that point in time, we were one of the market leaders.

So, after the long monologue of insults, I gathered the nerve and asked meekly: “what happens if you follow the leader to become the leader? Who do you follow then? Do you change philosophy, or forever stay number 2?”

Hard pressed to quickly come up with new features that other companies already had, Y’s division had to deliver. There wasn’t enough time to change their methodology from waterfall to agile and reduce the release cycles. Two months to deliver the major version meant focusing on development and nothing else. It also meant white nights and no vacations for a massive multinational crew.

There is a price to pay when making fundamental changes to a big system in such a short time. You don’t have the time to adapt to a new methodology. You simply do the same old thing, only quicker, skipping a few important steps (code review, QA, proper regression testing, beta cycle) and to achieve the launch target, you probably deprive some people their well deserved sleep, causing more errors along the way.

Y made the release on time. For him, it wasn’t about following the market leader. He didn’t believe in this. It was about following commands. So the release was made and everyone prepared for the post-launch: gather metrics, provide support.

The new features worked quite well. The problem was in other parts of the system. At first, it wasn’t noticed, but soon enough players started to complain about not having their wins recorded. Other players complained about seeing winnings they did not earn and some other glitches were witnessed. A quick analysis revealed that the problems ran deep: the cost of the new features was breaking some of the system’s business logic. Worst of all bad news in the post launch analysis: rollback is not an option.

Panic spread all over: the players were worried about their money deposits, management was in crisis control mode and employees ran all kinds of scenarios to save the day. Eventually it all subsided and then came the reckoning: Y was sacked and so was his product manager. Their expertise, work experience, especially in regards to the latest fiasco, was deemed worthless.

Oddly enough, the feature rich competitor got into legal problems less than a year later. Finances were frozen, executives had to step down and customers couldn’t get access to their funds. All of a sudden it dawned on everyone in the business that customers don’t necessarily want tons of features. What they truly need is reliability, accountability and a damned good customer service.

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, 0 comments

The 5 Early Mistakes Self-Publishing Authors Make

Not so long ago a friend of a friend approached me with a request to help her self publish a novel she wrote. The draft, she said, was completed and fully edited, which makes it good for publishing. The help she needed was both technical, to publish the book in various online platforms, and marketing – to promote the book. The book was an English novel aimed at the American market and deals with the life of an American guy.

Without even reading the draft, there seem to be several problems: the author is not a native English speaker and she has also never been to America. Even more important, is that she has no knowledge, nor has she made any research, about the subject matter. Of course one does not need to actually cook crystal meth to be able to write an episode of Breaking Bad, but at least some research is in order, right?

William Shakespeare wrote about Italy, Greece and even Denmark without so much as traveling to any of these places. Maybe research is overrated. Maybe the poetic license is enough and it is alright to use the American male protagonist to reflect the psyche of the author. I shouldn’t judge before reading the draft.

Reading the draft reassured my early suspicions: It was too short to be a novel. It was too messy to be a structured story, that readers can find their way around it. Even worse: it was full of literal translations from Hebrew, as if translated by Google Translate. It wasn’t edited. It was spell checked. BUT without proper context, who would know to spellcheck for “causality” and not “casualty”?

Traditionally published books, for the most part, do not suffer such problems. For the self-published authors, there is no external system of checks and balances to help them. They are more susceptible to fall into potholes and trapdoors along the way. Combine ignorance if the adequate process of publishing, with strong determination: self-publishing authors can be hellbent on publishing, regardless what reservation others may raise. Of course there are many exceptions to this rule. There are very proficient writers out there who publish very successful books without going through traditional publication agencies. But the majority, so I assume, are people like my friend’s friend.

What are these potholes and trapdoors? what are the mistakes made by self publishing authors?

Admittedly, I know very few self-published authors and work or worked with even fewer. So I assumed that my experience was not all that comprehensive as I set out to write this post. The first thing I did,after writing my top 10 list, was to look for other such lists by better experienced bloggers.

Well, it seems that there is no canonical list of “thou shan’ts” as far as self publishing goes. This is probably due to the wide range of points along the route for publishers. This is starting from actually writing the manuscript to the marketing efforts after getting the virtual or physical shelf-space in the store. A lot of the lists assume that the book is well written and the mistakes that the author might make are mainly in the marketing, sales and design area. This is why I decided to focus on the early part of the writer’s journey to publishing. I feel that this is where the critical mistakes are made.

Publishing too soon

This is a very big mistake. I read many manuscripts which didn’t quite evolve from story research into a full blown first draft. But telling a would-be-author that their draft is premature is just like telling a teenage daughter that she cannot go to the party tonight: the reaction will be almost as violent and the critic, good intentions and all, has absolutely no control over the issue.

Getting absolutely no professional help

The “Never index your own book.” advice from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle  – Is a sound advice that is probably applicable to almost every aspect concerning the process of writing and publishing a book. Almost, since the one thing you seriously want to do yourself with regards to the book, is actually writing it.

As this rule may not apply to acclaimed authors and literature professors, new authors may not be aware of the necessity of editing and proofreading (and mostly confuse the two anyway.)

Getting absolutely no critique

Getting advice from friends and family is exactly like getting no advice whatsoever. As far as I am concerned, it stands to reason that my toddler daughter’s drawings should be displayed at the MOMA. And even if I would be aware that these drawings of my pride and joy are not suitable for such a prominent exhibition, I wouldn’t say as much for fear of discouraging her.

Now imagine that a 25 year old guy asks his mother for a critic of his soon to publish novel. Would she risk a lengthy monologue of “you don’t really understand the originality of my work”? I don’t think so. My guess is that an experienced parent will avoid an unnecessary confrontation.

It is important to get an honest review of the draft, by someone who will tell you the truth. Missing out on this will result in a self-induced intoxication, making the halfbaked piece seeming like a masterpiece.

Stephen King, in On Writing, advises the writers to set the first draft aside for at least six weeks. This is great, as it allows the infatuation with the manuscript to wear down and lets the writer read their words as if someone else wrote them.

Focusing mainly on marketing

This is not just a problem of putting the book on the shelf and starting to plug every forum, spam every mailbox and post endlessly on social media. This is not just about hiring a million people on Mechanical Turk to boost your amazon ranking. Nope: I see too many people who have not even wrote their book, but already know what is their target market is. They know that it is absolutely going to be a hit. They are set to create a new genre, which has not existed beforehand. They are going to change the face of literature forever.

Well, it’s not. Plus, it is going to be marketed in the wrong channels, which will deem any effort useless.

Other mistakes that didn’t make it to the top 5 list

These are some mistakes that I omitted from my main list, but are worth at least mentioning:

  • Publishing with subsidiary publishers – Mistaken frequently for regular publishing houses, they allow you to self-publish while taking credit, fees and sometimes royalties, while leaving you to sell the book yourself.
  • Publishing with the first service that you find – this can be an automated online service or a publisher that is “willing to lend a hand”. Would you send your kid to the first school you stumble upon?
  • Don’t protect your copyrights – Sending a sealed envelope in snail mail to yourself is not protection. Also, registering with the US Copyrights Office will not help you if you unwittingly sign you rights off when uploading to a free-based print-on-demand (FB POD) service.

I wouldn’t be doing a good service if I didn’t provide a reference to this great article: The Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors, by Kristen Lamb.

 

 

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, 0 comments

Content Is A Pauper King

There’s this company, see? And they are an online media company. Let’s just call them Original Marketing Giant for now, or OMG. So this company is brokering media space to advertisers, using Google ads. But it is not a monetization solution for the small businesses who have web presence. OMG has about a gazillion websites of their own, which compete against those small businesses for search result ranking. Fair enough, one might say, because this is a free world and whoever has the best content, which is most relevant to the user, wins at the end of the day.

OMG are masters of Search Engine Optimization. Their sites are mapped and validated, they have the right meta tags and the best snippets and the most pin-pointed titles and alt-tags and whatever. But for a gazillion websites, give or take a trillion, you need to have some content. They have some parenting websites and health care advice websites, and websites dealing with almost any other aspect of life that can be sold to advertisers. So they need the content for these websites.

Going over freelance job offers at elance.com, there are many requests for professional writers to provide hundreds of blog posts for this website and that. The requests are always similar: You need to provide articles of no less than 500 words with keyword saturation of 2%, keywords must be present in the title, the first and last paragraph, oh, and the text must be original. All this at a price of 5$ per article. OK, no one said that the articles need to be interesting, yes? and we can write the same article over and over again using different words. After all, the validation of originality is done by pasting the text onto one of those online tools that check for presence of the same text in the entire webdom.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of writers slaving away to feed the monster of web content. It has nothing to do with you or your life but it is there for you to stumble upon it, so that you will pause over the page for just enough time to register another ad impression, or even better, a click-through.

Now there’s another company. Let’s call them Little Or Less, or LOL for short.

LOL have the rights to use video clips from Holywood films for distribution over the web as content. OMG and LOL struck a deal to use the clips as content in OMG’s websites. Here is how it goes: OMG’s parenting website has dynamic content. if you click on any of the categories in the navigation menu, you will get a page which is automatically constructed of search results corresponding to the name of the category. There are two main types of content: blog posts and video clips. Let’s picture this scenario: You click on the category Mothers, and the page you retrieve has 3 clips for you to watch at the main position, the “prime realestate” of the page. The problem is that the resulting clips are not what the mothers who seek parenting resources will want to watch: There is that clip from 8 Mile, where Eminem and his friend discuss the fact that his mother is sleeping with his class mate. Oh, and there is another clip, where this dude from American Pie introduces the term MILF into the English language, definition included.

No one notices this and no one is considering this a problem. OMG has a gazillion websites, so why should they be bothered with just this one and the fact that the content in it means nothing to the target audience? Also, where there are already leading destination sites for any kind of topic, the bogus sites are there only to inflate the offering, adding much noise to the Googlesphere and creating the perfect background to push very few sites forward, while trying to shove competing sites backwards.

Eric Schmidt is quoted saying “If Content is King, Context is its Crown” (taken from his MacTaggart lecture in EdinburghTVFest). Thus, we have a perfect analogy for this situation, where the web is littered with so much worthless data: a king without the crown. This king is a pauper. It may be even worse before it will get better, because while we are waiting for good and interesting content without SEO terrorism, the need for fresh “original” content will drive startups to create pseudo AI writing machines. Oh, wait, this has already happened.

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, 0 comments

What is the Leading Genre in Self Publishing?

Just got off the phone with a friend’s brother. The guy completed writing a book and is in the process of translating it to English and wanted to know what options he has for selling the book online and reaching what he deems is his target audience.

He is the third one this week. It seems to me that more and more people are writing books these days.

Almost ten years ago I used to sit for hours on hours in this small neighborhood bookshop in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv. I used to flip through books, occasionally buying one, while mercilessly criticizing most. For a year or so I was sort of a local critic, mostly promoting books that I liked.

“Why don’t you write a book yourself?”, one of the ladies of the shop asked me. “I am a reader, not a writer” I said, which was not necessarily true at the time. Even then I had already written two books, but never published. Today these books still occupy valuable storage space inside the brain, but I still don’t take the first step of getting them out there.

More and more people realize today that publishing a book on their own is achievable. Some of them, like my friend’s brother are already published authors who simply want to take control over the publishing process. Most of them are people who have no experience and no notable writing skills, but they are hellbent on publishing their book. So who are these people and what are these books about?

If ever I thought that the self publishing market is full of autobiographies by people who can’t write and did not accomplish anything noteworthy in their lives, today I have a clearer view of this market. Recently I posted a question in Quora about this, as my startup idea is in the field of publishing. I received only one answer, by Karen Opas, referring me to This PR message from Bowker about self publishing market growth over the past five years. Karen also noted: “I speculate that romance and romantic/fantasy are probably the top selling genre in self publishing”. This statement took me by surprise – I always thought that the top two genres were autobiographies and recipe books. I have two autobiographies in my bookshelf written by members from my extended family.

Turns out that personal experience is no indicator for market trends: I went to SmashWords.com, which is one of the leading self publishing service providers, and did a head count of published books according to genres. There were, at the time of writing this post, close to 70,000 books in the fiction department with only 57,000 non fiction. I counted only 2650 biographies, about 30% less than in Business & Economics. Karen’s speculation was spot-on: there are 3 distinctly leading categories in the fiction department. These are Fantasy, with some 10,500 books, Young Adult/Teen, with 9,000 and Romance, with over 8,000 books.

My friend’s brother’s book is definitely a novel, which will be categorized under “literary”. The two other soon to be self published are a novel (redemption/journey) and a self improvement book dressed up as a story. Now one question remains: who are the people who self publish? Is this a women’s domain, as many claim, or is there an even spread of genders? How old is the average independent author? How well-off are they? Come to think of it, I don’t even have any such data about “regular” authors.

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog