Good info here about what search engines pick up. This online publishing organization is eliminating subtitles from its articles. They mess things up. Bloggers don't use them. Someone did a lot of useful research here. Thanks.
Those following the field know that Inc. magazine carried out an experiment in February: it sent everyone home to experience working virtually. Thanks to Virginia Adamson at Volvo IT, I just read Inc. Senior Writer Max Chafkin's very good article about it, "The Case, and the Plan, for the Virtual Company."
I've complained before about how thin most of the material about virtual working really is with the endless lists of "ten ways to" and "three things that you should do..."
Chafkin's article is thoughtful, extraordinarily well written for material in this field (admittedly dominated by techies not writers), and provocative. The set of things he comes up with are very important:
Crunch the numbers to figure out the savings and expenses associated with stashing everyone at home.
[For]Get the tech. He makes the argument so clearly. It really doesn't matter. Spend your time doing your work, not in training with new collaboration technology. While many people have advised us to change our old motto "90% people, 10% technology" to "80-20," I might go in the other direction after reading this: 95% people, 5% tech.
Settle in. Great stories about the tension of working at home. Reminds me of a family classic when our girls were little (we've worked at home since the dawn of internet time). Adorable little girls come into office to ask question/get a hug/aka interrupt. Immediate need met, I say, "Would you like to leave yourself or should I escort you out?" The older of the two says, "'Scort me out." She, btw, is now working two days a week from home with little people nearby who have quite limited vocabulary at the moment.
Master your emoticons and everything else about working online. Self-explanatory. Everyone interviewed for the piece, both within Inc. and outside, which is one of the great gifts of this story, struggled with isolation and loneliness even while benefiting from the ability to concentrate. This allows me to throw in another motto: "Isolate to concentrate; congregate to collaborate," which of course can be done at a distance or in-person.
Explain yourself. The publishing world, or at least a blogger at Columbia School of Journalism, interpreted Inc.'s experiment as the opening shot in its shutting down.
Consider your culture. Here's my beef with the piece, Mr. Chafkin. I don't agree that "going virtual means moving away from a culture of collaboration by a
group of competent generalists and toward one based on specialists who
are cheap, efficient, and good at meeting deadlines." Snope. Not at all. It's not the content/expertise of the collaborators that matters; it's the way they collaborate. Yes, you can limit virtual working to brain-picking for specific expertise; it's very effective. But the big mushies of collaboration can and do still take place virtually. In fact, generalists benefit from virtual working as they generally surf more. I have no data to back this up but think about it. The most interesting stuff I've picked up today has been on Facebook News Feed. I would not be seeing it if someone were looking over my shoulder. And, please, before you think I'm saying FB should replace real news...I'm not. Just an anecdote about how we spend "idle" time.
So...turns out that most of the Inc-ers wanted back to the office. (I failed to mention that they have 10,000 absolutely gorgeous square feet in downtown Manhattan. But then again, Inc. has always had great offices - I remember going to the waterfront in Boston when they were located here in '90s.) My read on this: of course. It was an experiment, not meant to last, with coming back together to reflect built into the test. Were Inc. to seriously go virtual, it would make a plan to address the tough stuff, to build a space-and-time spanning culture, to promote norms and perks that make it easier for people, and, most importantly, it would hire differently. Everyone in the experiment had been hired into a bricks-and-mortar position. Make that same position virtual and different people would apply.
I could argue a few more points but, geez, Inc., good for you. And really good for you, Max Chafkin. Very enlightening piece.
Author and blogger Cliff Garstang has figured it out. If you want to write a best seller, all you have to do is what he prescribes here. Please let me know how it works out for you, reporting back, in say, a decade or two. Well done, Cliff.
Motoko Rich has a thoughtful piece in the Feb 28, 2010, NY Times, "Math of Publishing Meets the e-Book." Worth the read as it lays out plausible numbers in an industry that is largely opaque to those who produce its product, ahem, writers.
For a printed book with a cover price of $26, the publisher gets 50% of gross revenues, or $13, out of which a whole lot of costs have to be covered:
The publisher pays about $3.25 to print,
store and ship the book, including unsold copies returned to the
publisher by booksellers.
For cover design, typesetting and
copy-editing, the publisher pays about 80 cents. Marketing costs
average around $1 but may go higher or lower depending on the title.
Most of these costs will decline on a per-unit basis as a book sells
Let’s not forget the author, who is generally paid a
15 percent royalty on the hardcover price, which on a $26 book works
out to $3.90...[leaving the publisher with] $4.05, out of which it must pay overhead for editors, cover
art designers, office space and electricity before taking a profit
For an e-book, it gets a bit more complicated as the model is still quite dynamic. But, for example, Apple (the retailer replacing the bookstore) is scooping 30%, i.e. for an electronic edition with a price of $12.99, the publisher gets $9.09:
Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about 50 cents to
convert the text to a digital file, typeset it in digital form and
copy-edit it. Marketing is about 78 cents.
The author’s royalty
— a subject of fierce debate between literary agents and publishing
executives — is calculated among some of the large trade publishers as
25 percent of the gross revenue, while others are calculating it off
the consumer price. So on a $12.99 e-book, the royalty could be
anywhere from $2.27 to $3.25.
All that leaves the publisher with
something ranging from $4.56 to $5.54, before paying overhead costs or
writing off unearned advances.
Clearly, the e-book leaves the publisher with more and the authors with less, even with royalties of 25% of gross, but it's hardly breaking news that authors get less. Period. And, as the article points out, barely 3-5% of the book market is electronic--at this point.
This quote in the article from our very first editor, Lindy Hess, who published Networking when she was still at Doubleday and who now heads the Columbia Publishing Course, is about as accurate as the math gets: “The truth about this business is that, with rare exceptions, nobody makes a great deal of money.”
Maybe there are a thousand of these online but first I've seen. You can read "Alpha and Omega," a poem in Tower Journal's premier issue randomly or "in a linear way." The transition between the two alone is worth the click. (Once you've clicked, choose "Alpha and Omega.")
Here's what worries me. Will Condé-Nast also take down Epicurious as a result of dropping Gourmet into the dispose-all? I'm not the only one worried. Just googled "what happens to epicurious now that gourmet is closing" and found two readers of the NY Times blog, Media Decoder, asking the same thing (see Chiara G's and Katherine's comments). Cooks know what I'm talking about: how do we survive if we can't look up recipes that we've made for a zillion years? This just in: CNN.com is reporting that the treasure trove of great recipes will remain up.
Media watchers knew that McKinsey was waving its steel over Condé-Nast's publications (if you're reading here, you most likely read or sub to one of them, everything from The New Yorker to Wired) but no one predicted that Gourmet would be de-boned completely. As recently as last week, The Times was predicting 25% cuts at the Condé-Nast pubs.
However, a recent publication from McKinsey quotes John Quelch, a Harvard Business School professor on the value of increased advertising in a downturn: "'Companies that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times.'" Naturally, McK has a model for this: "For each targeted group of customers, it measures 'Reach' (the number of customer contacts), 'Cost' (cost per contact or per thousand contacts), and 'Quality' (the contact quality of the channel or medium). Managers who have optimized their marketing mix using the RCQ model have seen advertising effectiveness increase by up to 15 percent."
Not the algorithm Gourmet managed to employ. Ad revenues fell 50% in the downturn. So the writing should have been on the wall but who looks at the wall when the next issue is on its way out?
I suppose McKinsey made a lot of money on this consulting contract, which brings me to my final thought for the moment: the hallowed consulting firm used to be known most for its strategy work, helping companies navigate rough waters. Cost-watching is of course a fundamental part of any good strategy but is that all? And, is The New Yorker next on the list?
I regularly post these announcements from my friends at Solstice because I know that if you go you won't be disappointed.
THE SOLSTICE MFA PROGRAM of PINE MANOR COLLEGE ANNOUNCES ITS JULY READING SERIES
[Chestnut Hill, MA, July 2009] The Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College announces its July Reading Series. All readings begin at 7:30 p.m. and are held in the Founder’s Room of Pine Manor College located at 400 Heath Street in Chestnut Hill. Copies of the authors’ books will be available for sale after all readings, and there is plenty of free parking!
Friday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m.: Author and illustrator Grace Lin (The Ugly Vegetables, and The Year of the Rat) & poet and fiction writer Steven Huff (A Pig In Paris and The Water We Came From).
Saturday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m.: Poet Kathleen Aguero (Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth and Daughter Of); novelist & young people’s writer Laban Carrick Hill (America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60s and Casa Azul); & fiction and nonfiction writer Randall Kenan (Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Century and Let the Dead Bury Their Dead).
Sunday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m.: Program Director and poet Meg Kearney (An Unkindness of Ravens and The Secret of Me); novelist Helen Elaine Lee (Water Marked and The Serpent’s Gift); & special guest poet Bruce Bennett (Funny Signals and the forthcoming Subway Figure).
Tuesday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m.: Program Administrator and fiction writer Tanya Whiton (published in Crazyhorse and Northwest Review) & creative nonfiction writer Michael Steinberg (editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction and author of Still Pitching).
Wednesday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.: YA novelist Laura Williams McCaffrey (Alia Waking and the forthcoming Lyla’s Flight); multi-genre writer Ray Gonzalez (The Underground Heart: A Return to a Hidden Landscape and Cool Auditor: Prose Poems); & poet & memoirist Anne-Marie Oomen (Uncoded Woman; House of Fields).
Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m.: Special guest poet Jeffrey Thomson (Birdwatching in Wartime and Renovation) & multi-genre writer Joy Castro (The Truth Book).
Friday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m.: Novelist Sterling Watson (The Calling and Weep No More, My Brother) & special guest M.L. Liebler (Written In Rain: New & Selected Poems 1985-2000 and Greatest Hits: 1984-2004).
Directions to Pine Manor College, complete bios of our authors, and more information about the Solstice MFA Program can be found here. ###
Her praise is unqualified for Everything Matters! (a prophecy cum coming-of-age set in rural Maine) and the set-up for many similar reviews to follow, which is just what a supremely talented writer needs in an era where publishing on paper is in peril, where people are watching every penny, and I'm sure there are three more phrases I can think of where all the important words start with p.
And the review is very long, sports a great picture of Ron, and makes all of us who've been on his team since before any publisher even knew who he was very happy. I love this guy so much he's a category here (one of a very small number of writers dubbed "Endless Knots Writers), even gave the book party for his first book, God is Dead."
Here's a taste of what Maslin says:
What these opening passages also announce is that Mr. Currie is a
startlingly talented writer whose book will pay no heed to ordinary
narrative conventions. His thoughts on cosmic doom somehow take the
form of a joyride. He survives the inevitable, apt comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and writes in a tenderly mordant voice of his own. He seems equipped to succeed at almost anything...
PS: Just tried to look up his reading schedule for the book and found this picture on his site, which I apparently snapped, taken in our dining room. Something very recursive about all this.He'll be at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., on July 8 at 7 PM. Other places too and I'll post as soon as he sends me the schedule (come'on, Currie).
It isn't often that a small number of people has the chance to meet, listen to, and sit so close to a force as great as this pioneering journalist, who's covered every US president since Kennedy, who was there when Khruschev banged his shoe on the table ("We will bury you!"), and who has so many firsts to her name that no American woman journalist is really her peer.
The Center for New Words sponsored a brunch with Helen today and some 75 or so people turned out to listen in the lovely Brookline home of one of CNW's board members.
Helen began by saying that "it's the worst of times for America and yet the signs of democracy are strong" with the election of Obama, allowing "black people to stand taller" and white people "to feel they've done the right thing."
She didn't shy away from the tough topics - she wants the US out of Iraq and Afghanistan now, believing that those countries have it in them to solve their own problems.
She "believes in Medicare for everyone," i.e. a single payer healthcare system. When people call that "socialism," she says, "What about roads, schools, and bridges?"
She is devastated by the demise of the newspaper industry, calling it the "greatest tragedy" of the economic meltdown, because "there's no democracy without a free press." She also pointed out what all serious reporters know: blogging is not journalism. We need editors for that and this ain't that.
"Words count," she said, more than once (how I love writers) and implored all of us, including Obama, to understand that "this is the time for quantum leaps," not careful steps.
She ended by responding to some questions about her career. "There's no such thing as making it," she said. "There's always another mountain to climb." When she came to Washington as a reporter, she couldn't join the National Press Club. It took Khrushchev's coming to Washington -- and a concerted effort on the part of women reporters -- to even be allowed to attend National Press Club functions.
Where were the women journalists invited to sit at the Khrushchev press conference? "Thirty women were allowed to sit on the floor at the National Press Club," she reported. "Everything has been a struggle. And I'm still carrying that anger."
Report on, Helen. We in your wake thank you so for what you've endured.
Photo of Tom Winship, editor of The Boston Globe for 20 years, from Intl Center for Journalists, which Winship helped found, posted here in honor of the Globe's truly remarkable heritage
Happened again. The morning newspaper actually arrived. The daily reports in the Boston Globe indicate that negotiations between The Times Co. and the thirteen unions, that's right, thirteen, continue. I hope they've brought in some people from the Harvard Negotiation Project (i.e. the "Getting to Yes" experts) or, lacking that, at least a few folks with well-honed street-smarts who know really quick ways to give some and get some. Newest deadline is midnight, tonight, with large concessions from unions being reported in today's paper.
While the recent unflattering profile of Arthur J. Sulzberger, Jr., in Vanity Fair clearly was settling a few scores, it offers some background on the leadership schema against within which all of this is playing out. I wouldn't want to be a newspaper executive right now but as we're seeing in other industries, some leaders have the touch for leading in difficult times while others are just plain flat-footed.
I wish everyone involved in the Globe negotiations a great deal of equanimity today, as things come down to the wire, and my heart is really with the reporters, editors, designers, pressroom folks, indeed, everyone who makes their living as a result of what happens in the storied building on Morrissey Boulevard.