Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How do we find thiings anymore?

We are thinking about how social our kids books should be. Are we standing on the verge of the great social fatigue? Does everything have to be social? What is the best way to differentiate between the young reader and the parent and finally how important is this in building a brand.

In creating digital content, we are strive to make the best product we can make. We hope our eBook/app will engage a large number of happy readers and be something that people would like to recommend to others. Here is the tricky part. How and why do people recommend content to each other because everyone knows search is broken when it comes to finding new content.

You can't just search for "music I like" or an "Interesting book to read." The 64 Billion dollar question is really, how do we find new things.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wow, can't believe its been awhile since I posted something. We've been extremely busy both with production and biz dev activities but that is beginning to ease up a bit. 

February marks the end our first year and it brings both an opportunity for reflection and a chance to recalibrate our vision and direction. We are having a lot of conversations about the complexity of getting our digital content discovered. This is something everyone is the app business is talking about. There are a lot of challenges to successfully marketing digital content.

In the conversation this morning we broke it down in to two basic statements: 
1) There is the complexity of the app store environment and the marketing "surfaces" available. 
2) There are a range of considerations on the product / consumer side that affect content performance and purchase decisions. 

With over a million apps on the app store, everyone agrees discovery is near impossible. Putting a new app in the app store is like hanging a star in the middle of the Milky Way. You can only see it if you know where to look. Even then, it gets lost in the twinkle. Apple's decision to buy Crush is a potential solution but we are through the looking glass in terms of really understanding the impact that digital content has in the lives of consumers. How often do I actually watch the recommendations on the Netflix, if I am not at least familiar with the title; almost never. The truth is we have a deeply emotional relationship with our content. Digital content is like a comfort food. We have to know it's our kind of comfort before we buy it. 

 The Second area of challenges we identified covers the relationship between the product, the form factor and the consumer. There are enough facets in this consideration to make an entire book out of but for the purpose of brevity we'll focus on the relationship between our product and the consumer. We had a very big vision when we began to plan out our product. In January of 2011 we looked out towards what we knew was coming and then we tried to look beyond that. 

Our vision has always been to create a high quality family friendly experience and for the most part I think we have delivered on that. The struggle for us has been how do we build the audience and engage the community at the product experience level. How much effort should we put into creating a "social UI" component in our product, when we are essentially building something for a child to enjoy.

Over the next few weeks, we will be putting energy into this and I look forward to sharing what we discover.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What we are learning about digital publishing

Some of Our Story So Far

     As 2011 winds its way down, I am appreciating all of the accomplishments of the year. Over the last week, we have put the finishing touches on our second book in the O Story Story series. We have also submitted our first book, Wendy's Giant List of Things to Do to the Barnes & Noble app store. On Monday, we will be setting up our Kindle fires for testing. At the same time all of this digital activity is taking place, we have uploaded our files to an On-Demand digital printer for output as a hard cover book.

     The production team was assembled in May of this year. That means that all of our production process, as well as all of the content we have produced, has been developed in the last 8 months. During that time we not only set up our production pipeline, but we were learning how to make digital experiences. There's been a lot of learning. I often equate it to working on a car engine while it's running.

     Going forward, I want to share some of that learning. We've encountered many issues and we have solved many of them. But we are still learning and what we are learning is that apps are not books. In some ways there are more interesting and in someways they are harmful. It's interesting that content can be extending along lines of learning. Apps can be harmful in that its difficult to support and cultivate quiet focus. Are we conditioning our children for shorter and shorter burst of attention?

We are constantly trying to balance this as we create our stories and the experiences of our stories. One thing is clear. There is no answer and it will take years of exploration to discover the optimum use of technology a resource in child education.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Invention Of Noise- part3

In 1990 I worked on ‘Until The End of The World’, a film directed by Wim Wenders. It was one of the first films to explore using high definition video to do visual effects.  The movie was shot on film. It was also edited on film. The editor was a wonderful man named Peter Przygoda, a long time film editor with many wonderful films to his credit. I am forever grateful to Peter as he gave me one of the most important understandings of my career.

We were in doing post production in Berlin. It was late at night, I was getting readying to leave the office and Peter was still at work on the film table. Given the hour, he had a glass of red wine and a small plate of cheese on the table beside him. He was the self-proclaimed inventor of the “ stink cheese” method of film editing which involves having a good glass of red wine, a really stinky cheese and an quiet place to work.

As I was walking out the door, Peter called me into the editing room. Do you know what editing a film is all about, he asked. I said that I knew he would show me. Sit down and learn something, he said.

I walked over and sat down.  He turned back to the flatbed, took a deep breath and pressed the play button. As the film began to wind its way across the Steenbeck, Peter took a nice long breath. It only took a moment to realize that the editing of the film was tied to his breath. The pacing of the cuts was almost perfectly in sync with the natural rhythm of his breathing. I was stunned.

He turned to me and said, if you want the audience to relax, slow down the cuts. If you want them to feel nervous speed things up. Knowing this has completely transformed the way I watch films and it has continued to inspire me when I think about content.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Invention of Noise - Part 2

20 Minutes Into The Past

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future is 1985 television movie which had its origins in a music video. One of the plot points in the movie is that a reporter, played by Matt Frewer discovers that the television station he works for has created a new form of advertising called a "Blipverts". Blipverts are high-speed, highly concentrated, commercials that last a few seconds. More adds in less time means more revenue for the company but there is only one problem. Blipverts can kill.

Just to give you some idea of the state of web technology available during the production of Max Headroom, In 1986, the National Science Foundation funded NSFNet as a cross country 56 Kbps backbone for the Internet.  25 years later the speed of the internet backbone is closing in on 100 Gbit/s. My how things change!

For many of the last decades, broadcast television has been the dominant media platform. Television is the child of film and as such much of its terminology and function was inherited from the film world. Because of the intimate technology relationship between film and video, television inherited something else from its cinematic parent, rhythm. Until the invention of video editing systems and specifically, non-linear editing systems, film was cut and spliced together. This is slow, arduous, thoughtful work that is done by hand. It is in the truest meaning of the word, a craft.

Editing film has certain limitations to it. Film moves through a physical mechanism. Gears turn, sprockets move of the gears, film moves across the gate, light shines through the film. Because of its physicality, film had its own rhythm. During the 1960 the standard length of a television commercial was 1 minute. At some point, advertisers developed a controversial practice of “piggybacking” which meant putting two, thirty second commercials into a one minute time slot. These two commercials were for different products from the same company.
In 1971, 30 seconds became the standard length for a television commercial.

We interrupt this blog for a very important message:

Do you breathe? Are you aware of your breathing?

Science has shown that the average healthy adult at rest has a breathing rate between of 12 breaths a minute. Children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old typically have a breathing rate of 20-30 breaths per minute. Children (2-6 years of age) have a typical rate of 20 - 30 breathes per minute.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

The breath is the baseline function of a human being. It is the primary exchange we have with our environment. If you want information to be easily absorbed and integrated by your audience, align the rhythm of your information with the baseline function of a human being.