Sunday, January 31. 2010
eBooks should cost the same as paper books, says MacMillan CEO John Sargent - SAI:
John Sargent, CEO of publisher Macmillan, has taken out a full-page ad to explain why he is insisting that Amazon raise prices on its ebooks to $15 in some cases.
Its not quite so one sided as portrayed here - Amazon threatened at one stage to remove all MacMillan books, electronic and paper, from its listings. Amazon will now acquiesce, however - as the NYT notes. One wonders what it will do to the volumes sold?
Sigh - The Blodgett's views on economics always have to be handled with care (as many found out in dotcom days to their cost), but one does expect better of a physical media CEO who has observed this argument fail in music, journalism and now video. A little lesson in production microeconomics then. Consider the diagram above - a simplifies media value chain. There are 4 main cost buckets in producing a book:
(1) Content Creation - thats what it costs the creator (the author etc) to create he work
Now, on to the cost of production.
(1) Cost of creation is the same, irrespective of the media
So, assuming the market volume is the same. The costs are roughly the same, so the cost per unit will be similar. These are the costs in blue, above.
These are the red sections, and represent the difference in cost of production between a book and e-Book. I've drawn the 4 elements as roughly equal in size - in fact the cost of creation is fairly small, aggregation fairly large - but production and distribution are very material - at least 30% in nearly every case. That is a non trivial saving.
Now just to deal with Mr Blodgett quickly - the "marginal cost" is indeed near-zero once the full costs of the creation and aggregation have been met - but only when they have been met. That is true of both paper and e-books. Until then, they cost!
There is actually another cost, that of the consumer equipment required to read the media, but that comes after the cost to produce it and is not directly germane to the price. However, it is germane to the total cost of ownership. And shelling out several hundred dollars for an e-Reader is another factor arguing against equal pricing of book and e-book.
(Update - just reading some of the other articles, I think they are missing the fundamental point this shows - in other words there is a disruptive economic arbitrage between books and ebooks that will restructure the industry, whether it is wanted, fair, right etc etc is moot)
One thing does concern me though, and that is the potential lock in and DRM lock out that all these various proprietary eBook readers get.
Apple Fanbois are not happy that Other People do not love the iPad sufficiently, and at first reading I thought Fraser Speirs was going down this line:
one can't help being struck by the volume and vehemence of apparently technologically sophisticated people inveighing against the iPad.
But after reading the whole article, I come to praise, not to bury - his argument is essentially around reducing the level of difficulty in using new technology. He notes that:
The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get "real work" done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the "real work".
Amen to that - and its a powerful business model, as Apple sadly is able to keep on proving over and over again in various sectors, to the discomfit of the crusty incumbents in them. There is an interesting argument that Apple is able to this as it has near - dictatorial design authority. But future shock? I think that could just be a linkbait headline playing to the present hypefest - as is mine
(Our initial thoughts on the iPad are over here)
Saturday, January 30. 2010
OK, the obligatory iPad post............
The tech Apple fanboi press has been hyped to the gills, the tech journosphere has been shown wanting, the jokes have abounded - but what is the iPad's likely future - is it possible to predict? Is it "the most important thing Apple has ever done"?
No, of course not - technically it is using a lot of the technology already in the iPod and iPhone, in many ways its a fairly linear evolution ("gimme something like an iPod Touch but with a bigger screen"). Not only that, it doesn't define a new market - tablets have been dreamed of since PC's first emerged (and before).
But it is standard Apple strategy - take a confused market (eReaders, crap tablet PCs, Netbooks) and drive an iconic device complete with its own end to end content supply chain into it. and as a Cat among Pigeons play its rather good.
We worked on one of the next generation e-Readers (Plastic Logic's) 2 years ago, and research done at the time convinced me that there is a demand for a device that allows you to read and interact with media on a slim A4 style tablet with great print graphics.
By pushing the spec Apple has challenged the e-Reader market - why buy a pure e-Reader when you can get a device with some more interactivity (see the comparisons here). Its also says to the the Netbook and tablet PC market that there is a sort of boned down, lowest common denominator tablet design now in contention.
Is there enough market there to justify a new market, or will it bomb like the Newton? Our take is that 10 years later there is a bigger market to go after (e-Reader, Netbook, tablet) but its still not huge. But given that its an offshoot of existing technology (so low R&D costs) the business case makes sense, and it disrupts some potential competitors (who'd buy a Kindle, now?). So why not?
The one strategic weakness I see is that compared to other tablets this is low cost, that's not Apple's usual schtick - they tend to have smaller production (ie higher costs) of devices that can sell at a higher premium to certain sectors of the market who happen not to be price conscious.
But this device is priced low for a tablet, they may find that margins here aren't like they are elsewhere in the Appleverse, as competitors will (I am sure) come out quite fast now as happened with Netbooks. And this doesn't quite have the same lock-in as a phone.
So - nice play as an extension product, reasonable market to go after, but will be hit by increasing competition far sooner than in Apple's other recent forays. However, by integrating iPod and iPhone I'm sure it can insulate itself from the competition, for a year or so anyway.
Update - I see Dave Terrar has some interesting thoughts, and Google's Eric Schmidt agrees with us - eventually
Friday, January 29. 2010
My notes from Mashup Events "What Your (Mobile) Apps Strategy" session:
First up was Jon Moore of the Guardian
Guardian app is £3.59p, it gives you content you can't see for free on the Web. My colleague Paul lancefield (writer of our first iPhone app) is impressed with it. His key lessons are:
Lesson 1 have ambitious objectivesBiggest problem he sees going forward - too much crap on iStore
Then Charles Weir Penrillion looked at the various options
Mobile applications re still bedevilled by the problem of interoperability on different platforms - Its a big cost to port to all the platforms as there is no single language to write it in - so some functions are only available on certain devices. iPhone is the most promising market but deployment is an issue with so many apps on it, its impossible to find one App without a lot of marketing effort. There needs to be a way of finding good apps. However, he believes the iPhone model is how Apps will be sold in 3 years
Gerd Leonhardt - Futurist
There are no clear answers in current Market, but feels that Mobile + Social = money . Also, loads of mobiles on low cost data plans will change the way mobiles are used
Panel - chaired by Vicky Chowney, it had the above speakers also and two more people on it:
Taron Maberry, BT
Is mobile app same as net?
- Fragmentation is back thanks to all the players
- Android firmware always changes, Apple then Blackberry priority
How do you make money?
- Freemium will dominate in early days where ads don't work - but challenge is conversion
- Added value of community is valuable
- If you want to monetize today it's Apple as the only ooption
- Ad market moving to mobile/social but still ~ 1%
- If you have nothing on the edge you can't do freemium (Leonhardt - not sure what he means)
- Customer Acquisition have to get customers into the door not anything else, upselling is a % game
- Mobile allowed Guardian to access new Market (Ovum comment from floor - the real story is that you can't get people to pay for Guardian online but they will pay on mobile)
- based on iPod technology, see it as a market extension of existing technology
- IPad won't work as a scaled up iPhone
A chap from Natwest noted they launched an iPhone app, and in weeks a fake Natwest app on Android was launched
Role of App Store?
- At the moment it's near useless - too many apps, too hard to find
- Today, the Twitter/Social media audience has close correlation to Apple demographic Algorithm drives early marketing success when app hits appstore
- GetJar is a good alternative approach
- There is a risk that iStore will get games by "Disposable Apps" ie Appstore becomes like 2nd Life, where Coporates have to prove they are "Groovy"
How do we build engagement?
- What is it for your audience/Market ?
- Does it fit your aims?
My Conclusions are:
Planet Mobile - the more things change, the more they stay the same.........
Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, has promised tough new laws to curb privacy-breaching technology like body scanners and has also warned the social networking industry that it needs to do more to protect children using its services.
2010 is definitely shaping up to be the biggest year for privacy issues. I have come to the empirical observation that for technology, its about 3 years from when the early adopter suss out what the issues are to when it starts to hit mainstream.
Media clamping on to the Calacanis Spoof
So Jason Calacanis pulls a prank:
On his Twitter starting Tuesday night Wednesday morning, a few hours before Apple's scheduled announcement, Calacanis said he had been a "beta tester" for the then-undisclosed iPad. He also said....
And the Tech Media jumped at the bait.... some notables:
- TechCrunch's CrunchGear, for example, wrote that Calacanis might have "spoiled" Apple CEO Steve Jobs' big speech.
Well, thats sorted the sheep from the goats - again.
(Puts on lofty tone) I have refused to join the iPad hype, but this story (and this one) were too good to miss. But the lesson is clear - keep far away from Tech Media journos at feeding frenzy time. Why some of these people are still employed - and have audiences - is beyond me. But then, the Link Economy is all about being famous, not being competent
Thursday, January 28. 2010
iPad jokes (hat tip Jezebel.com)
Well, we thought the Apple Tablet would be the Porn device of choice for the New Age. But Apple trumped us and called it the iPad. Suddenly headlines like "No Flash on Apple's iPad" take on a new meaning.....
What were their marketers thinking? As Tom Lehrer noted, when correctly viewed, everything is lewd.....by the way, its a snip at $499!
OK, you can see where this is going - so we will show you one of the many pictures (see above)
As partial recompense here is a rather interesting article on its economics - Peter Thompson:
By the way, given the hypesteria, it is delightful to write such a sleazy article
Wednesday, January 27. 2010
Our first iPhone Application is demonstrated tomorrow at Mashup's "Apps- Whats your Strategy" Event.
Its an application that lets you photograph documents with an iPhone, then tag and store them and share them on Google Docs. Why? Well, this takes you down an App strategy. We think that SOHO/SME will pay far more for useful applications than consumers will, and will pay on an ongoing basis for useful additions. So, on to (ta-dah)
The Portable Paperless Office
Whatever Happened To The Paperless Office, we hear you ask? It hasn't happened - its too big a task, and too difficult to integrate, too inconvenient and for the most part - outside of some parts of the corporate arena - forgotten
But imagine if we used a few of today's technologies and shrank it all - and made it mobile? We believe that today there are all the elements required for the truly effective and ubiquitous mobile paperless office:
- Phone replaces the scanner
So we built an end to end delivery chain system to do just this. Come and see it tomorrow.
As you know, we are a consultancy and system design house, but most of our systems are embedded deep in other companies' stuff so never seen. This is one off our own bat, and we would be keen to talk to others who want to add functionality to it, or embed it in their systems.
(And yes, we have the scars from building Apps on iPhones, and integrating to the Google cloud, Don't let anyone tell you its easy - most of what we blog about has some basis in our real network design experience, hence some healthy Cloud scepticism in Broadsight Towers)
And yes, we will integrate it to the iPad, when the hype dies down After all, it has no camera - yet....
The Patchwork Enterprise Elephant (Courtesy Elmer and www.echidnaontheloose.com)
What is it?
As our contribution to London Social Media Week we are putting on Social Media in Enterprises on Tuesday Feb 2nd from 6 till 9pm at the Cass Business School in London (map is over here).
Why? Well, at Tuttle last Friday Dave Terrar and I realised that there was no event for the more B2B and value chain based aspects, ie the Enterprise/Business aspects of Social Media. This is the "Elephant in the Ecosystem" - a huge arena, but hard to get your head around easily and see clearly. So, we decided to put one on - and this is it!
The aim of this event is to look at this unmentioned "Elephant in the Ecosystem" from lots of angles, so we may get a better view of what it is.
So, what we thought we would talk about is how Social Media can be used by:
- Enterprises: How can use it internally to re-engineer themselves,
Also, we want to touch on the Hard Stuff that is brushed under the carpet, for example:
- how to integrate into existing heritage systems,
And that's never mind the potential Returns on Investment.
The idea is to have a number of short talks from a variety of people with various angles on the subject, and a Q&A session - and then break for drinks and informal discussion.
- Dr Sue Black, University of Westminster
Yes, its a lot of people but we rather liked the Mashup Firehose format late last year - a range of short, to the point talks on an angle of the subject, People will be limited to 10 minutes time tops. If it #Fails, we'll try something else next time
We will be adding details of what people will be talking about so watch this space.
That should get everyone's pulse racing - and to make it even better, we are going to Charge You Money - no FreeConomics here - to cover the costs for the tea, coffee, biscuits, nibbles and alcohol you will consume. It will be a tenner (£10), as you can see no expense has been spared
Booking for the Event
So, do not delay - go over here and book now!
Any spare funds at the end of the night will be spent at the pub afterwards....
What is measured, gets done - Social Media ROI measurement (ht eMarketing)
Brian Solis details the slow, reluctant and painful movement of the social media movement towards justifying its existence economically. First came denial, then avoidance:
But, as the chart by eMarketing above shows, even getting Social Media Gurus to measure anything is hard. Which is not surprising, as when they do:
MarketingProfs recently published a study by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club that revealed the true expectation of chief marketing officers.....
In fact, good old fashioned management technology is intruding further into the SocMed world
2010 is the year that social media graduates from experimentation to strategic implementation, with direct ties to specific measurable performance indicators.
....333% rise in following the money! And - guess what - even FreeConomics is coming under scrutiny now:
Even though much of social media is free, we do know the cost of engagement as it relates to employees, time, equipment, and opportunity cost (what they’re not focusing on or accomplishing while engaging in social media). Tying those costs to the results will reveal a formula for assessing the “I” as investment.
All good stuff, and a good summary, but the sad thing is its really a history of an industry being dragged kicking and screaming to justify itself economically. Thing is though, its 2010 and the industry has p*ssed off so many people outside of the pure Social Media Believer community with its inability to demonstrate value so far (apart from giveaway free consumer services that sell to dumb money, that is). Needs to really come up to the plate in the next 2-3 years to continue.
(Even the current darling Facebook's business model of scraping user data for on-sell is in our view unsustainable)
Can it do this? My own view is that raw economics will kill off the bits that don't work over the next few years, enterprises will pick up the bits that they think work, and it will probably metamorphose into something else that is absorbed into the infrastructure - probably with a different name.
(Update - yes, I've just described the tumble down the Hype Curve from the zenith of inflated expectations to the nadir of the slough of disappointment and the slow climb out as a useful service)
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