A Branding Lesson from a Radio Station

I recently took a tour of a local Christian radio station. The radio host conducting the tour explained that the station’s main audience was women 20 to 50 years of age.

The host went on to state that many listeners had requested that their radio station do programs for children and men. However, while the station thought these were great ideas and noble programs, the station managers had decided that they could not be all things to all Christians. Therefore, this station had decided to focus on one audience. That audience is women, mostly Christian moms.

This station’s goal is to be there for their women listeners 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That way, no matter when a listener tunes in, she will hear what she is expecting: uplifting Christian music and encouragement.

This Christian radio station understands the power of branding! They also have identified their target audience. Rather than trying to reach every Christian with their music, they have picked one Christian audience, focused on that audience, and served them well.

Christian publishers can take a lesson from this radio station. Many independent publishers I know offer such a wide diversity of books that their marketing message and branding becomes too diluted.

Instead of publishing just historical romance, Christian living nonfiction, or Christian biographies, these publishers publish a wide range of topics both fiction and nonfiction. Each book produced has a slightly different target audience. As a result, the publisher has to develop a new audience and marketing strategy to reach consumers for each new book published. Most often, because the publisher is already overworked, these marketing campaigns are not targeted effectively and end up being less effective than desired.

Consider Summerside Press. This Christian publishing house began their publishing journey by producing a series of Christian romance novels called Love Finds You in… Each novel in the series was set in a town in North America. It was not until Summerside Press had developed a loyal following of Christian romance readers (women) that they began to expand their offerings through adding romantic suspense novels and devotionals for women.

Doing one thing and doing it well creates a strong brand and allows publishers to develop a targeted, loyal audience to promote their books to.

If you are a new publisher, think seriously about your brand and the audience you want to reach. Don’t reinvent the wheel with each new book. If you are an established publisher, it is never too late to start afresh.

Do one thing and do it well!

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Societal Trends and the Print Book

I recently visited the homestead of James Buchanan Duke and discovered some interesting things about his brilliant man.

James Buchanan Duke was a North Carolinian who made his fortune in tobacco. In the late 1800’s, Duke supplied 40 percent of the American cigarette market and created the American Tobacco Company, which later was ruled as a monopoly by the Supreme Court and dissolved in 1911.

Duke and his brother also founded the Catawba Power Company and the Southern Power Company. Today, these companies are known as Duke Energy, a leading producer of electrical power in North Carolina. In spite of these great achievements, perhaps Duke is best known for his philanthropic endeavor as the founder of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

What I found to be one of the most impressive things about James Buchanan Duke was his marketing prowess. His tobacco company was growing during the time that advertising was just taking off in the United States. James did not hesitate to put the power of advertising to use. However, he did not just advertise the cigarettes he produced; he created a brand and used the brand to change people’s buying habits.

Not afraid to spend money on advertising, Duke created a campaign around the “Lucky Strike” cigarette. Using the slogan “Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco,” he changed people’s buying habits from asking for cigarettes to asking for “Lucky Strikes.”

Yet even with great branding and a brilliant entrepreneurial mind, James Buchanan Duke could not stop the advancement of societal trends. One hundred years after his hey day with tobacco, the American sentiment toward tobacco has changed. The vast tobacco farms, tobacco warehouses, and cigarette factories no longer exist in North Carolina.

I cannot help but reflect: will publishing go the way of the tobacco industry?

Twenty years from now will the printing shops and the bookstores stand empty? Will books no longer be printed on paper? Will there be an entirely new model for the publishing industry that is completely digital?

I think it does not matter what great pieces of literature we publish or what outstanding branded marketing campaigns we run. We cannot change the advancement of society. Our society is moving rapidly toward digitalization. One day in the not too distant future, printing companies and physical bookstores, along with the print book, will be a thing of the past.

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The Unseen World

There is a whole new world on the Internet. Right now it is unseen to me and millions of other Internet users.

In this world, a conversation is taking place. If you don’t have the tool needed to be part of the conversation, you don’t even know it’s there.

It is sort of like the spiritual battle that rages around us. The Bible tells us that everyday there is a spiritual battle going on around us in the unseen world. This battle is occurring between the angels that serve God and the fallen angels (demons) that serve Satan. Most of us are utterly unaware of this battle. We can’t hear what these spiritual beings are saying or see what they are doing.

But I’m not talking about an unseen spiritual battle. I’m talking about an unseen conversation on the Internet. Just as those who don’t know Jesus Christ are oblivious to the spiritual warfare taking place, most Internet users are oblivious to a conversation that is happening on the Internet.

I’m talking about a tool called Google Sidewiki. This little tool is an add-on to your Internet browser. Put it in your browser and you can tune into the conversation. Without it, you are left out. You don’t even know that a conversation is taking place.

Google Sidewiki allows Internet users to comment on any website on the Internet. The comment does not actually “stick” to the website. It stays in the Google Sidewiki. The average person visiting the website cannot read the comments made with Google Sidewiki. To read and reply to comments, other Internet users must also have the Google Sidewiki installed in their Internet browser.

People who love the interactive aspect of the Internet love Google Sidewiki. With Google Sidewiki, you can read and reply to any comment that another Google Sidewiki user has made on any given website.

Those without Jesus Christ are unaware of the struggle in the spiritual realm and those without Google Sidewiki are completely unaware of the conversation that is happening in cyberspace. If you have Jesus Christ you recognize the signs of the spiritual battle and if you have Google Sidewiki, you can know exactly what anyone is saying about any website you visit (including your own).

While I would rather have Jesus Christ than anything else, Google Sidewiki might be a nice tool to add to my repertoire.

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My eBook Experience: Part 2 of 2

Just how easy is it to pirate library-loaned ebooks? That was my question as I embarked on the journey of checking out an ebook from my local library.

At home, I headed online to the library’s ebook catalog and found out some interesting things.

The first thing I discovered was that the library system in my local city subscribes to three ebook service providers: Overdrive, Netlibrary, and MyiLibrary (Ingram Digital’s service).

Netlibrary and MyiLibrary allowed me to read ebooks on their website, but not download them to my computer. In other words, when I went to my library’s ebook page, I could choose which service I wanted to “check out” a book from. When I choose MyiLibrary or Netlibrary, I these sites only allowed me to access books directly on their website. Hence, I had to read the book on the Internet through my local library’s website. These sites also restricted copying or printing of their books to 10 pages at a time. So, in essence, I could only personally use portions of the books.

The third provider, Overdrive, was set up so that I could download ebooks directly onto my computer for a three-week period.

Overdrive stated that I could download a PDF version of the ebook to my computer. I did this, but discovered that this PDF version could not be read by my standard Adobe Acrobat Reader. Instead, I had to download a special Adobe Digital Reader from Overdrive. This Digital Reader allowed me to use the book on one computer, unless I registered the Adobe Digital Reader, then I could use it on multiple computers. So, while I could burn the ebook I checked out from my local library to a disk, I would need the special Adobe Digital Reader installed on a computer to read it.

I also discovered that the PDF ebook that I downloaded from Overdrive had a built in expiration date. The day after the due date, the book “expired” on my computer. The file showed up as “expired” and I could not open it.

What my experience showed me is that ebook loans from my local library are not as easy to pirate as I had suspected. It is comforting for me (a publisher) to know that Overdrive, Netlibrary, and MyiLibrary have all implemented systems to make pirating difficult; requiring a level of technological savvy beyond your average reader’s ability to accomplish.

My conclusion is that publishers should not overlook this avenue of book sales. As ebooks become more popular, libraries will increasingly spend more money on ebook purchases and ebook services. Don’t be left behind.

[P.S. Want to know what my experience with downloading an ebook reader for my “borrowed” ebook was like? Check out the cartoon over at http://www.bradcolbow.com/archive.php/?p=205, it depicts my experience to a tee.]

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My eBook Experience: Part 1 of 2

Publishers Weekly recently ran an article on piracy of ebooks. The article reported that Attributor, a company who monitors the Web for illegally posted content, tracked 913 books in 14 subjects in the final quarter of 2009 and estimated that more than 9 million copies of books were illegally downloaded from the 25 sites it tracked.

With the advent of libraries making ebooks available on loan to their patrons, I wondered how easy it was to pirate books through library ebook loan programs. Since I had yet to borrow an ebook from a library, I decided to do a little research on what this process was like and to find out just how easy it would be to pirate ebooks this way.

Here is how I proceeded.

My first step was to visit the website for the library in the city where I reside. The website clearly had an ebook section. I checked it over and discovered that I could indeed check out ebooks through the library’s website. However, I had a couple of questions I wanted answered before I downloaded an ebook from the library’s website to my computer.

My next step was to drive to my local library. I entered the building and approached the circulation desk. I told the librarian on duty that I had some questions about checking out ebooks from the library. “You have to do that online,” she told me.

I informed her that I was aware of this, but that I had some questions about how the process worked. This librarian told me she did not know anything about how the process worked and passed me off to another librarian. The next librarian said that she had no experience with the library’s ebook system and sent me to yet another librarian.

The third librarian I talked to told me that she did not know much about checking out an ebook from the library (having never checked out an ebook herself) but that she would attempt to answer my questions.

“I assume the check-out length of three weeks applies to an ebook,” I stated. The librarian confirmed this.

“How do I return an ebook?”

That stumped her. “I think it automatically is considered returned after the three weeks unless you renew it,” she finally decided.

“Does this mean that it disappears from my computer after three weeks, or do I have to delete it myself?”

“I’m pretty sure you have to delete the book yourself,” she replied.

“Then my ‘returning’ the ebook is completely on an honor system,” I mused. “In other words, I could keep the book on my machine forever if I wanted to.”

“Yes,” she replied, “but most people don’t want all those extra files taking up space on their computer, so we assume they will want to delete the book once they have read it.”

“But if the file is on my computer, then I could burn it to a disk before I delete it off my computer. That way I would have it forever.”

“I suppose that is possible,” the librarian conceded. “I guess it really is an honor system. The library does have to purchase each copy of an ebook we make available for loan, just like print books. When one patron checks out an ebook, if we only have one copy of that ebook, no other patron can check it out until the ebook is returned, just like with print books,” she added.

I left the library with the feeling that ebook loans were still a rather new idea and service to this library. Granted, I do not live in one of the most literate or technologically savvy cities in the country, but neither do I live in Podunk Ville.

One thing I learned from this experience was that ebook loans from a library appear to be on the “honor” system. Fearing that this meant they might be easy to pirate, I decided I needed to take the plunge and check out an ebook to find out.

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