Jeff Bezos: the king of content

Jeff Bezos wants Earth’s biggest online retailer to become the world’s mightiest content publisher and distributor.  In a recent interview with Steven Levy of Wired, Bezos shared how Amazon is creating a web content powerhouse through an a three-pronged, interlocking approach that encompasses the Kindle, Amazon Web Services, and publishing platforms for authors and movie makers. Bezos isn’t just CEO of Amazon or CEO of the Internet, as Wired calls him. In 2012, Bezos may very well become the king of content.

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How an independent bookstore rocks my world

If you like to discover books by exploring your local bookstore, you are a dying breed. And apparently I am, too. A friend recently shared with me this article about how e-readers are contributing to the demise of local bookstores in Minneapolis, one of my favorite cities for independent bookstores. And The Huffington Post gloomily reported on significant bookstore closings of the past decade. Now I’m not going to launch into an anti-Amazon or anti-e-reader or anti-anything screed. But I am going to give you two reasons why my family and I will continue to patronize our local bookseller, Anderson’s Bookshop of Downers Grove, even though there are times when we can get a better deal on books (and browse larger inventory) elsewhere:

1. Anderson’s is a vibrant part of my community. Anderson’s is among the Downers Grove stores that lets kids paint its windows at Halloween, and in the heyday of the Harry Potter books, Anderson’s owned Downers Grove with its own celebrated book-release parties. It’s also a community center. For instance, it’s a place where I go to meet internationally known authors in person — flesh-and-blood meetings where you can really sit down and talk with writers about what they do and how they do it. And it’s a gathering place in more informal ways. Just a few days ago my family bumped into two good friends, and we caught up with each other while our children plowed through books at our feet. But Anderson’s does something else, too: its people get to know the community. To us, Anderson’s isn’t a faceless brand but warm people like Bridget, Carmel, Don, Griffith, Julia, Kathleen, the two Nancys, Norma, Patricia, and Ryan, who suggest new books for our family both in the store or if we see one of them while we’re running errands at Target. Or they compliment my wife when they hear about one of her short stories being published in a literary anthology. Sure, you can get book recommendations from Amazon, but you don’t have conversations with real people who understand you, talk with you, ask about your family, and offer a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day.

Author Sarah Mylnowski and friend at Anderson’s

2. Anderson’s isn’t just the store for me; it’s a home for my entire family. As my wife and I can attest, Anderson’s has become my daughter’s playground. There are places with bigger inventories of kids’ books. But Anderson’s is not a hardware store with inventory; the kids’ section is a comfortable little nook where my daughter has grown up — by playing with a Thomas the Tank Engine track that snakes its way through one corner of the store (when she was younger) and by diving through a pile of books provided by the staff, with no pressure to buy anything or leave at anytime. Some day after my daughter has moved on, my wife and I will remember Anderson’s as a place where we grew up together and discovered the world — all of us, sitting on the floor, getting to know different sides of our daughter through her books. I tell this story not just for sentimental reasons but commercial ones, as well. At a time when marketing experts preach the need to relate to “me” in a personal way, Anderson’s includes my extended me  — my family –and at all stages of our lives. We’re an interconnected team influencing each other’s purchases and providing more revenue to Anderson’s as well because Anderson’s makes all of us feel welcome.

Treasures await behind this storefront at 5112 Main Street, Downers Grove

“But wait a minute,” you might be saying. “There’s nothing special about Anderson’s. I know lots of bookstores like that.” Well, do you? Please speak up about them. Unless you patronize them and share your experiences with others, your favorite store might not be there next time you visit.

Meantime, learn more about Anderson’s on Facebook.

iPad could unleash creativity


The unveiling of the Apple iPad has inspired much commentary among my Razorfish colleagues.  I’ve read tongue-in-cheek reactions from Amnesia RazorfishDomenic Venuto, head of the Razorfish media/entertainment practice in New York, has discussed the iPad’s implications for the publishing industry in a MediaPost article.  And emerging media director Jeremy Lockhorn in Seattle has assessed its potential consumer interactivity with Forbes.  At the risk of overgeneralizing, I’ve summarized here some prevailing impressions from the Razorfish media/entertainment practice:

  • The iPad will not just be another platform for distribution content but a means to unleash creativity.  That’s because the iPad promises to bring iPhone functionality to a larger device, which makes it possible to deploy richer experiences and immersive content interfaces on a reading device.  The iPad will not be just a larger screen for reading words.
  • The iPad will encourage more distribution of interactive video especially as video becomes easier to distribute across multiple platforms.
  • The iPad is especially appealing to Razorfish because we create experience that build businesses.  We can expect multi-touch capability to provide no end to the applications that can be created for businesses looking to connect to consumers or improve employee productivity.  What’s also going to change the way brand experiences get created is the likely capability that the device will support interaction by more than one person.
  • One of our clients is already looking to roll out iPad versions of titles, which shows how seriously media companies want to embrace the technology.  However, Razorfish counsels our clients to view platform developments like the iPad in context of one’s broader marketing and publishing strategies.  We advise clients against embracing the iPad just for the sake of saying they are deploying a content distribution strategy that utilizes the iPad.
  • Apple is not alone in upping the stakes for device readers.  Amazon’s recent announcement that the Kindle will support third-party application development in 2010 opens up the Kindle for experimentation and innovation.

I find these comments by Jeremy Lockhorn and Domenic Venuto to be instructive:

  • Jeremy as cited in Forbes: “[The iPad’s consumer interactivity] has big implications for advertising as an educational tool and as a sales channel . . . It means that when consumers watch TV shows and movies, they could potentially be able to do more than just play, pause and stop.  When viewing an episode of TV’s Mad Men, for example, consumers could tap on objects, such as Don Draper’s hat, to get more information about the items and where to buy them.”
  • Domenic as cited in MediaPost:  “We’re incredibly excited about the increased surface size we get to play with for a multi-touch device.  Whether it’s an advertising or publishing client we’re building new experiences for, this breathes life into the category.”

I don’t think you can overstate a simple truth: the bigger screen is better for consumers who like the interactivity that comes with devices like iPhones but are tired of squinting as they read hand-held devices.  Let’s face it: the older you get, the more likely you’re welcoming a bigger screen.  I wonder if Apple has found the right product at the right time for Baby Boomers?  If so, we’re talking about people with bigger disposable incomes.

Special thanks to Domenic Venuto, Jeremy Lockhorn, and Katie Lamkin for their ideas leading up to this post.

Who are the top 50 social brands?

Recently Infegy published its March 2009 list of of the hottest social brands on the market — the names that have the strongest reach across the digital world as measured by a number of factors.  Some observations:

  • The Top 5 are not surprising: Twitter, Google, Obama, the iPhone, and Facebook.  But four years ago, did you ever think you’d see the day when a U.S. president would battle Twitter, Google, the iPhone, and Facebook for top billing?
  • I counted three games inside the Top 20 list: XBox (ranked 14), Playstation (#15), and Wii (#17). Anyone surprised that Wii ranked behind XBox and Playstation?
  • It’s not surprising that Wikipedia made the list.  What’s surprising is that Wikipedia ranks only #44.  This is a brand that was created to be inherently social.
  • Look for Kindle (#42) to steadily climb the list — I wonder if Kindle will even gives Amazon (#16) a run for its money?
  • General Motors (#26) ranks ahead of MySpace (#29).

I did a double take when I saw GM rank ahead of MySpace and wondered if this list represented only the “most discussed,” not necessarily “top,” social brands.  But then my Razorfish colleague Megan Anderson told me about a lunch meeting she’d had at SxSW with Christopher Barger, GM social media director.  His team has been on Twitter since January 2008 and runs  Moreover, all GM brands have YouTube channels.

As Megan wrote to me in an email, “The thing that made the biggest impression on me was that their team is very dedicated to clarifying any questions or confusion regarding the situation [GM is] in right now.  When the [Federal] bailout was announced for the automotive industry, they were up all night answering tweets (@gmblogs).”   Megan also directed me to this SxSW panel discussion in which Christopher was a participant.

What do you think of the Top 50 list?