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My current experiment in making 50 amazon site niches. If you have not been following this challenge, best place to start is this resource page for the amazon challenge, that lists all the articles that I have written so far.

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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Publishing profitably rather than just publishing

One of my most talked about topic at this blog is enabling creatives or artists to do their own thing and earn a living while doing so. Examples of what I have written include the following:

Seth Godin sumed it up well when he says that:
In a world in which just about everyone is a writer and just about every writer wouldn’t mind benefiting from their work, there’s a huge need for people who can help us publish profitably. Or, failing that, figuring out a way to get your own words published profitably. Some people will happily remain amateurs, but history shows us that the real explosion in content happens after people figure out how to make money.

Is it time for us to start moving forward with our publishing platforms? Is it time to think of them as markets for creatives or artists, rather than mechanisms to create content. What should such a new platform look like? What are its components?
Built in payment
We need a platform that can enable creatives to collect money. Witness how Scribd has easily turn itself from a platform to a market by simply enabling authors to price their works and collect payment. Similarly, many mobile services have become viable revenue sources for creatives because they have built in payment systems.

Build in revenue mechanisms
Related to payment is the issue of revenue generation. Paying for stuff is just one option to collect revenue. How can we build in other revenue mechanisms that cater to each creative industries? For photographers for example, why can't they organise a photography tour from theirs blogs and charge people for it? For bands, why can't they create and sell their merchandise on their blogs through a zazzle-like interface? For authors, why can't they allow their fans to engage them for public speaking through their blogs?

Some of these services might already exists. However, the point is that why can't they be integrated into a publishing platform like a blog? Let creatives focus on their works and forget about adding a widget here or creating a service there.
Community tools
Andrew Chen articulated a problem that is becoming clearer to me. We don't have good community tools in our publishing platforms. Take blogs for example. We don't have ways to store contacts of readers so that we might contact them personally. We don't have an easy way to check out the profiles of our readers so that we can understand them better and know how we can be more useful to them (many commentors for example don't have a Disqus account). Without all these, it will be challenging for publishers to connect meaningfully to their community.

Network tools
An artist or creative can generate only limited exposure. However, if they can cross promote each other, the network effects will be much greater. Today, I don't see that happening. There are no simple ways that an artist can encourage his/her fans to take a look at other people's works. More importantly, there are no viral revenue mechanisms to encourage artists to cross promote each other.

I think there is much we can do to enable creatives to publish profitably (Bandcamp is an early example). We went into creating publishing platforms without due considerations for the incentives, the models, and the business processes of enabling people to thrive. This is ok during the early days of the technology but I think we are a stage where these things are becoming important.