Spotlight on Snapchat

Disclaimer: This blog might be the slightest bit biased.

A few weeks ago, I received a job offer from Snapchat to join its “Story” team as a Content Analyst. Naturally, I jumped at the offer. And not just because it’s a great company to work for. Not just because “Snapchat” a name people recognize and respect. Rather, I accepted my position at Snapchat because I firmly beleive that Snapchat is playing a vitally important role in the future of publishing.

Image

(socialmediatoday.com)

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that the publishing industry is rapidly changing, and that publishers must catch up to survive and thrive. Snapchat has found ways to revolutionize the publishing and storytelling industires in ways entirely unforseen in past years. Take for example Snapchat’s Discover feature. With just the push of a few buttons, users can read stories from their favorite news sites, from Time to Cosmo to Vice. And these aren’t your average news stories. Instead, each news site offers streamline content to give you breaking news or spotlights on latest trend, designed to capture the attention of millenials.

Even more innovative, Snapchat’s Story function allows users to use stills or video to broadcast their own story to their friends and followers. In addition, the Our Story feature showcases different campuses, cities, and live events to the entire world. For instance, if you’re at a music festival that Snapchat is covering, you can send in a video of yourself that may be included in the event’s “Story.” The same goes for different cities and college campuses.

A still from a Snap Story at Electric Zoo, a music festival (digitaltrends.com)

Clearly, Snapchat is up to some pretty big things, and I can’t wait to see where they’re headed next. Publishers should pay attention to how this app has evolved. By constantly re-evaluating the ways in which millenials use media, Snapchat has made its way to the top of the storytelling industry. It should serve as a reminder for publishers of all kinds to constantly observe and constantly adapt in the changing publishing industry- the only real guarantee of success.

5 Publishing Apps to Watch

In the past, many publishers feared the industry’s inevitable digitalization, and mobile apps were often stigmatized as insignificant or even detrimental to the future and integrity of the publishing industry. But on the contrary, apps can open up brand new perspectives on the industry for publishers, authors, and readers. Could apps perhaps be the future of publishing? According to Alex Knapp, a Forbes contributor, “Publishers are turning to the app as a possible product for books moving forward.” By expanding the publishing industry in previously unimagined ways, apps can be a huge asset for the publishing industry. Read on for a sample of five apps to watch in the coming years. They might just be the key for publishing’s continued relevance in media’s constantly changing landscape.

– iBooks Author: This is an amazing app for authors of all kinds who are interested in publishing iBooks Textbooks (or any other kind of book for that matter). According to Apple, the free iBooks Author uses “galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, mathematical expressions, and more” to “bring content to life in ways the printed page never could.”

iBooks Author (courtesy of apple.com)

iBooks Author (courtesy of apple.com)

– Booktrack: If you’re looking for a way to bring content to life even further, try out Booktrack, an app that provides a soundtrack to the book you’re reading. Knapp reported about this app, explaining, “As [Sherlock] Holmes sits by the fire, you hear the fire. When he and Watson are in a cab, you hear the clip-clop of the hooves. Even particularly cool is that it’s well-timed. There was a point where the story describes a woman screaming, and I heard the scream as I was reading the words. It made for a really immersive experience.”

– Goodreads: This one’s an oldie but a goodie. According to App Advice, Goodreads is essentially the premiere social media site for books, and allows readers to rate and review books, share barcodes, and confer with readers across the globe. If a book gets great reviews on Goodreads, a big boost in sales can be expected . 

– Chopsticks: Perhaps most groundbreaking, Chopsticks is an interactive storytelling experience that tells the story of a young couple in love by immersing you in the couple’s life through fictional photo albums, ticket stubs and handwritten notes. Know Your Apps, reported, “Chopsticks then is a revolution in eBook presentation, placing the job of character development in the hands of the user, but at the same time taking you deeper into the intimate details of characters’ lives than seems possible, yet it is done with great lightness of touch.”

A sample screenshot from Chopsticks (courtesy of knowyourapps.com)

A sample screenshot from Chopsticks (courtesy of knowyourapps.com)

– Mindnode: This app is perfect for any aspiring writer. By allowing you to map out your thoughts and story ideas, Mindnode enables writers, both famous and undiscovered, to plan the groundwork of their next book. Erin Enders of Bustle elaborates, “The map starts out with your central thought (or plot premise) and then branches out from there, with different characters, plot points, or settings having different branches.”

Social Media: Friend or Foe?

Just a two weeks ago, Slate reported that Facebook has a new plan to “take over the news”: hosting news sites’ content natively, on its own platform. This way, users are no longer directed to clunky, third party sites. Critics condemn the media and publishing companies  that go along with this plan, warning that journalistic integrity and quality may be compromised down the road if Facebook is suddenly the main host of well known news sources’ content.

Benefits or consequences of Facebook-native news aside, one thing is certain- social media and publishing are becoming one. Many say this could discredit or destroy the publishing industry. But publishers can benefit from social media as much as social media can benefit from publishers. Read on for five ways publishers can take advantage of social media to promote their books, magazines, and brands.

1) Modern Day Book Clubs: According to ReadWrite, PenguinUSA has used Twitter to take the age-old concept of a book club into the 21st century. Gone are the days of a monthly get-together to discuss a book. Now, Penguin encourages readers to tweet about a book using a specific hashtag, while engaging in virtual conversation about the book with other readers and even the author of the book itself.

https://i2.wp.com/www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/barnesy/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bookclub082213.jpg

I’m not talking about your average book club… (barnesandnoble.com)

 

2) Get A Voice: Digiday recently reported that Lucky editor in chief Eva Chen strongly advises her editorial team to use social media to create and promote their own voice, whether through Facebook status updates, Instagram posts, or tweets. She says, ““We can reach millions and millions of people through social media. It’s a hook to your website; it’s a hook to your brand.”

3) Don’t Neglect the Visual: Publishers can often (understandably) get lost in their words and forget that images are often very important for marketing books or magazines. That’s why social media sites like Pinterest, perhaps surprisingly, can be helpful when promoting products. Digital Book World sums this up, saying, “One thing Pinterest has taught us is how important visual content is.”

Pinterest: A Publisher's Best Friend?

Pinterest: A Publisher’s Best Friend?

4) Book Trailers: Speaking of the visual, social media can be a great place to share book trailers. In the same way that movie trailers generate massive amounts of interest in films, book trailers can create buzz and excitement about upcoming book releases. And there’s no better place to share a video than on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. (http://smallbusiness.chron.com)

5) Book-Focused Social Media: It’s hard to claim that social media is entirely bad for the publishing industry when there are several social media site dedicated exclusively to books. Goodreads is a popular site where readers can share information about books they’re reading, and explore their favorite authors in specialized author pages. (http://smallbusiness.chron.com) With resources such as Goodreads, it’s clear that the ways of promoting publishing through social media are constantly changing but limitless- all you need is some creativity.

 

 

Storytelling: More than Just a Buzzword?

For generations, “storytelling” was most commonly perceived as a traditional art of conveying a sequence of events or message to a larger group of individuals either through word of mouth or writing. But today, storytelling has taken on a whole new meaning.

Storytelling still centers around the creation of narratives that convey a message, but within the last few years, storytelling has been used by more and more brands looking to convey their messages in a fresher, more genuine way. From clothing stores to car companies, every brand wants to develop ways to use content marketing to make their product more appealing, and these efforts often take the form of storytelling. Some accuse storytelling of being an overly-applied exaggeration. According to Contently, “Now, every person, brand, and agency identifies as a “storyteller.” That generic toilet paper brand? It’s a storyteller. Jim the lead-gen guy? He’s a freaking storyteller. He’ll tell you a 90-minute story about his leaf-blower, but damn it, he’s in marketing and he showed up to work today, so he gets to be a storyteller too. “Storyteller” is the youth soccer participation trophy of the marketing world, and you’re only going to hear it more this year.”

https://i1.wp.com/cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/181754/file-406904663-jpg/images/storytelling_marketing.jpg

Content Marketing: It’s not your grandmother’s storytelling…(http://cdn2.hubspot.net)

However, this might be a pretty uncharitable perspective on storytelling. After all, in an age where everyone is looking for the next big idea, a return to the past might be just what brands need for success. Entrepreneur explains, “Stories have existed since long before recorded history, but the desire to hear stories hasn’t changed, nor has the longing to tell stories. Today, though, there are more stories than ever.” In this way, it makes sense why we have experienced an increased emphasis on brand storytelling, often in the form of content marketing.

https://i2.wp.com/www.greenbookblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/instagram-storytelling.jpg

(image from greenbookblog.org)

What does this mean for the publishing industry? After all, marketing and editorial publishing have always been different career fields. But maybe not for much longer. With the increasing demand for more and more storytelling and content creators, I wouldn’t be surprised if publishing and marketing began to merge together more and more. For the suffering publishing industry, storytelling might be more than just another buzzword. It could be the key to publishing’s newest chapter.

So You Want to Work in Publishing?

Beginning a career in publishing can be an extremely daunting. Despite warnings that “publishing is dying,” it seems like more and more students are setting their sights on a career in magazine journalism, book publishing, and the like. But entering the industry is easier said than done, especially considering that many positions are often in New York City and filled based on “who you know.” But never fear, there are many creative ways of entering the publishing industry that are entirely realistic for college students. Read on for five opportunities that college students interested in publishing should look out for to begin an exciting book, magazine, or media career.

-Explore your university: Many schools have academic publishing houses that offer internships or fellowships for students attending the university. If you’re interested in book or journal publishing, this can be a great way to get your feet wet. I currently work as a Marketing Assistant at the Johns Hopkins University Press, and I’ve learned so much about about the publishing industry! The University of Texas also has a great program available only to alumni that allows graduates to work for a year at the Press with a concentration in either Editorial or Marketing. You school may have a similar internship or fellowship available to you!

A great internship opportunity could be right under your nose! (from commons.wikimedia.org)

 

-Freelance, freelance, freelance: Reach out to the HR departments small newspapers or magazines and see if they offer freelance opportunities. Come prepared with writing samples from school newspaper to show just how talented you are. There are many ways of translating a free-lance gig into a career. Showing a magazine your writing skills is the first step to getting hired. Plus, according to Matt Keener, a contributor at Entrepreneur, “One billion dollars — that’s how much had been paid to freelancers via the oDesk platform in 2013. And the company forecast that its online work market will be worth $5 billion by 2018.-local magazines.” In other words, oftentimes, it pays to freelance. 

-Look Outside the Big Apple: You always hear how New York City is the center of publishing, and in many ways that is true. But don’t forget there are equally exciting opportunities elsewhere. For example, take Rodale, home of Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Bicycling, etc. I’ve interned at their headquarters in small town Emmaus, PA, which has a much lower cost of living than New York. Another example is the Southern Progress Corporation, located in Birmingham, AL, which publishes top magazines like Southern Living and Coastal Living. If relocating to New York is just not realistic for you, search for other, more financially accessible options.

Emmanus Building

Rural Rodale Headquarters in Emmaus, PA (from rodaleinc.com)

 

-Look Local: Piggybacking off the suggestion, look for a local metropolitan magazine to intern with, if your dream is breaking into the magazine industry. For instance, Philadelphia has two fantastic local magazines, Philadelphia and Main Line Today. If you’re going to school in Philly, look into possible internships at these magazines. I can speak from personal experience- I learned so much about magazine editorial while working for Baltimore magazine!

-Or look online: Sometimes, it’s just not possible to commute to a city for work or even find a local publication to intern with. But in the last few years, online internships have been becoming more and more popular. You can begin to learn the publishing business all from the comfort of your dorm with online editorial internships where you can still be responsible for writing and fact-checking articles. For example, the Matador Network offers internships for those interested in travel writing that are entirely virtual! If you seek out opportunities like this, breaking into the publishing industry becomes a whole lot easier.

Content Marketing: A Publisher’s Best Friend

Everyone likes free stuff.

From broke college students to powerful business execs, nobody wants to pay for something when you can get it for free. And these days, offering a little bit of “free stuff” can be the ticket to big sales in the long run. More and more companies in more and more industries are adopting content marketing as a strategy for increasing their chances of success. Content marketing is simply the creation and sharing of media to entice and attract customers. I’ve seen this strategy work wonders, especially within the publishing industry. And with an industry undergoing so much change, content marketing just might be the key for increasing the financial health of publishing companies. Here are five different content marketing strategies I’ve seen work in person at publishing companies.

Direct mail: Yes, direct mail may be on its way out. But direct mail, when executed well, can be very successful in bookselling. I worked in the direct mail division of Rodale, and for each book, a direct mail package was sent out containing helpful information from the book designed to entice potential readers. For instance, the direct mail package for the book I edited, First for Women Smart Solutions, contained lots of free cleaning and decorating tips for readers.

An example of a great direct mail package (image from behance.net)

Testimonials: Also at Rodale, I learned the importance of including case studies and testimonials, especially when marketing health or weight loss books. Readers want to know exactly how this book has helped others before buying it themselves. According to Sales Force Pardot, “When researching products, one of the most persuasive pieces of content that a consumer will view is a testimonial or a review by a another product user.”

Email Newsletters: Every Sunday night, I receive a newsletter emailed to me from Baltimore magazine, where I intern every week. Each newsletter gets sent out to an expansive mailing list, regardless of whether you’re a subscriber to the magazine or not. Yes, Baltimore Magazine is technically giving information away for free, but this information is designed to intrigue readers and encourage them to subscribe to the print magazine. It seems like if you give your audience just a taste of good content, they’ll come running back for more!

Baltimore Magazine's Weekend Newsletter

Baltimore Magazine’s Weekend Newsletter

Video: Many of the magazines at Rodale like Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, and others include free videos on their websites that are free for viewers. For instance, if someone is looking for a new yoga pose, they might come across a helpful video on womenshealthmag.com. Although these videos can be pricey to produce, they ultimately drive subscribers to the magazine and traffic back to the website, a win-win for both Rodale and the customer.

Women's Health video featured on website free of charge

Women’s Health video featured on website free of chargeBlogs: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Blogs can really help publishing companies. By featuring author blogs or guest posts by authors on a company’s blog, authors can directly communicate with their audiences, a fantastic way to engage audiences. In the words of writer Jeff Goins, as cited by Social Mouths, “Guest-posting is the single most important strategy for growing your blog readership and platform.”

You already know your audience likes to read- now give them what they want.

Cited:

Pardot

Social Mouths

5 Tech-Savvy Ways for the Publishing Industry to Thrive

I can be a bit of a glass-half-full kind of person. After all, the subtitle of this blog is “A Newcomer’s Optimism about a (Not-So) Dying Industry.” But blind optimism is never a good thing. I’ve had plenty of mentors and supervisors express strong doubts about the future of the publishing industry, and they aren’t wrong. If the industry doesn’t change, it will fall by the way-side into cultural irrelevance. But as I always emphasize, the industry isn’t dying, it’s changing. And in the increasingly digital age, we will need to change with it. Here are five ways in which publishers can adapt to become more technologically aware and increase chances of success.

  • Give away (some) content: In the past, publishers would never consider giving away valuable content from authors for free to readers. But nowadays, free content may just be the key for turning a digital passer-by into a paying consumer. Last week, I explained the importance of blogging for authors and publishers. By allowing consumers to benefit from an expert or author for free, they get a taste of the content they would buy in the complete book.
  • If you can’t beat ‘em…: After last summer’s conflict with Hachette, Amazon officially earned its bad reputation among publishers. But there’s no denying that Amazon is one powerhouse of a bookseller. According to Yahoo! Finance writer Aaron Pressman, “Jeff Bezos has been saying for years that Amazon Kindle owners buy more books than they did before they owned the ereader. It makes sense, given that many people read more quickly on an e-reader and the device’s wireless connection lets customers buy a new ebook as soon as they’ve finished the last one.” If Bezos is correct, it would be in publishers’ best interest to investigate partnerships with Amazon. For instance, the JHU Press often sells books through Amazon, a crucial outlet for successful sales.
Amazon guru Jeff Bezos (image from forbes.com)

Amazon guru Jeff Bezos (image from forbes.com)

  • Format for digital: Speaking of digital, it’s clear that the e-reader population is exploding. Also according to Pressman, “book sales have risen strongly since 2008, not coincidentally since e-books came on the scene. There’s more than ever to read — thus people are reading more than ever.” This is why it is important to ensure  publications are perfectly formatted for reading on devices of all kinds- from Kindles to iPhones. If not, publishers will lose out to the fastest growing type of reader- the e-reader.
Image from thenextweb.com

Image from thenextweb.com

  • Connect with readers: Ensuring each book has a promotional Facebook page and Twitter page where authors can connect directly with customers is a great way to enhance CRM, customer relationship management. Establishing an active conversation between the author and their audience is key, and today’s technology provides the perfect means of doing so.
  • The question of self-publishing: With the rise of digital publishing came the rise of self-publishing, where authors can directly post their work online for profit, rather than working through a publishing house. The infamous 50 Shades of Grey is an example of just how successful self-published books can be. But as writer Evan Hughes of Wired points out, “Indeed, Fifty Shades, which some have taken to be the definitive evidence in favor of self-publishing, is more accurately a demonstration of the opposite: The book became a massive commercial success only after Random House got involved, placing giant stacks of paperbacks in bookstores everywhere and buying huge ads in the London Underground.” So instead of fighting the self-publishing trend, perhaps publishers should court self-publishing authors into deals, combining the author’s raw talent with the publisher’s promotional expertise. In this way, the publishing industry would not only struggle survive alongside self- publishing authors, but thrive.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 1.25.02 PM

Blogging: A Publisher’s Call to the 21st Century

For many publishers, it seems as though all avenues of promoting their publications have been exhausted. Direct mail is suffering, and even targeted email campaigns don’t necessarily work as well as they used to. When the publishing industry is rapidly changing to adapt to the times, blogging can be an excellent way for a publishing house to stay relevant and promote their publications. After all, as Forbes contributor Brent Gleeson says, “Blogging has become a part of daily lives. There are millions of blogs available to readers (literally), and two out of three people read blogs multiple times a week.”

During many book pitch meetings at Rodale, I noticed the marketing department would always perk up whenever a potential author came with a book idea along with a heavily-trafficked blog. That’s because the author was essentially coming to Rodale with a self-created fan base and audience, perfect for drumming up support for a new book title.

Dr. William Davis's blog that he created to promote his bestselling book (and brand) Wheat Belly

Dr. William Davis’s blog that he created to promote his bestselling book (and brand) Wheat Belly

But the Johns Hopkins University Press takes it a step further. As a Marketing Assistant, one of my responsibilities is formatting and uploading posts to JHUP’s own blog, with posts usually written by one of JHUP’s most well known authors. In this way, authors not only draw support for their own books by blogging about related topics, but also channel attention back to JHUP. For instance, a blog reader may follow the personal blog of a historian/author they admire, which then could lead them to read the historian/author’s post on JHUP’s blog. From there, they are exposed to the posts of many other JHUP authors, an effective cycle of promotion that costs JHUP nothing.

A guest post on the JHUP blog by author David Spanagel

A guest post on the JHUP blog by author David Spanagel

Blogs aren’t just for book publishers either. The Editorial Intern that sits next to me at Baltimore Magazine is exclusively responsible for the magazine’s online blog. This demonstrates that in many ways, Baltimore Magazine’s blog is just as important as published articles in the print magazine. By creating rich additional content available for free on the web, Baltimore Magazine opens itself to a wider audience and entices this new audience to follow the magazine, both online and through purchasing the print magazine.

Baltimore Magazine's fun and content-rich blog

Baltimore Magazine’s fun and content-rich blog

I’ve also had some personal experience using blogs as promotional material. During my semester abroad in Ireland, I was asked by my on-campus supervisor to write a blog about my experiences. I created Galway Girl with the idea to merely document some of my trips and adventures, but it turned into so much more. One post about my rain-drenched bike ride around the Aran Islands created so much buzz that JHU’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences decided to begin posting my blog on their own site and even featured one of my photos on the back of their magazine, along with a brief write-up about my blog.

My own study abroad blog, Galway Girl

My own study abroad blog, Galway Girl

It was then that I realized the power of a simple blog post.

So while publishing companies can continue to purchase banner ads and send countless promotional emails, sometimes a blog can actually do the work for you. And in the world of publishing that changes at a dizzyingly fast pace, blogging might just be the way for publishers to stay relevant with current audiences.

Apples to Oranges, Books to Magazines

As I’ve mentioned a few times in prior posts, I’ve recently begun working as an Editorial Intern at Baltimore magazine, located in the lovely Harbor East neighborhood of Baltimore. Prior to this experience, I had only small amounts of experience working with magazines. By and large, I’ve dealt primarily with books throughout my publishing experiences, and turns out, working in the magazine industry is very different from working with books. Sure, there are some similarities. For instance, fact-checking is always important no matter what media you’re working with. But overall, I’ve had to adjust my work style to the magazine industry, but found that despite my love of book publishing, there are many aspects of magazine publishing that I really enjoy. Here’s a rundown of some of the major differences between magazine and book publishing- see for yourself and consider which would be the best fit for you.

1) The deadline isn’t months away: It’s next week. Unlike the months-long process of assembling a book, there’s a new issue of most magazines every month. After a few years of experience in books, a new issue every month at Baltimore makes it seem like the deadline is always looming.

2) You must switch focus fast: Books are typically about one specific topic, whereas Baltimore has a diverse array of articles, with topics ranging from entertainment to healthcare to politics to lifestyle. This means everyone, senior editors and interns alike, need to be able to switch focus frequently and quickly.

3) The sense of urgency is higher: After reading #1 and #2, this might be obvious. At the book publishing companies I’ve worked at, it’s not uncommon to see people taking their time at lunch and stopping to chat with friends on the way to their office. It’s positively refreshing. Not so at a magazine. Think a of a (much) less dramatic version of The Devil Wears Prada– there’s no Meryl Streep about to verbally abuse you for taking too long, but there’s definitely a sense of hustle and bustle within the halls of Baltimore. 

4) But with that urgency comes excitement: There’s always something new and different going on at a magazine. For instance, last week the art department hosted a photo shoot of an up-and-coming local baker who brought her pet chicken along for the shoot! It’s experiences like that photo shoot that keep life interesting at a magazine.

5) There’s instant gratification: When issues are released every month, you don’t need to wait long to see your work in big, flashy print. With books, it can take months but with magazines, the gratification is instant. For example, see the picture below. It’s my first appearance on the masthead!

Rachel Schnalzer, Editorial Intern!

Rachel Schnalzer, Editorial Intern!

6) But your work also done in a month: You pour your heart and soul (or at least time and energy) into an issue and then what happens after it’s released? It’s back to work right away on the next issue. With books, there’s a little more time to sit back and enjoy your accomplishments. In the words of magazinestarter.com, “A book, in contrast, involves a much longer interaction between the author and the editor. The author keeps on working with the publisher till a satisfactory draft is achieved. This content is then ready to be published, and the book is then promoted so that more value can be generated.”

7) You experience many personalities: When pulling together an issue, you have the opportunity to work with a variety of different people and personalities. Oftentimes, editors interface primarily with their author, but magazine editors need to be constantly interfacing with many people at all times for the issue to be a success.

8) But there’s less of a relationship with one writer: When an editor works on an author’s book for months and months, they ideally develop a close, trusting relationship. Some of this is lost when switching to magazines. Because editors need to be working with so many people, it’s more difficult for close, personal artistic relationships to grow between editor and writer.

9) Team work is crucial: Working well with a team is important no matter where you work. But it’s especially important at a magazine, where deadlines may require you to step in and help out a colleague or vice versa. It’s no place for jealousy or worrying about who takes credit- there’s no time for that!

10) Books and magazines are equally gratifying, albeit in different ways: At this point, I could never choose which environment I prefer. I feel intensely loyal to book publishing, but am excited by everything I’m learning at Baltimore. In the end perhaps time will tell but for now, I can say confidently that both magazine and book publishing are incredibly satisfying fields and I look forward to future experiences in both.