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    nmw 19:53:36 on 2015/09/30 Permalink
    Tags: address, , format, formats, , , , link, , , , , , publishing, , , , , , , URL, URLs, , ,   

    The King of the New Media Jungle 

    There are many kinds of “new media”. Depending on your time horizon, you might even consider cassette tapes to be new media. Yet now that we have more or less arrived in the new millennium, most people would say the day of the cassette tape is over, maybe even long dead and gone.

    My kids consider their smartphones to be new media. A recent article by Jason Calacanis (“Apple’s brilliant assault on advertising — and Google“) took a deep look at some current developments among the leaders in this space. This and similar articles have been making the rounds for several weeks now and have been one of the focal points of much heated debate. Much of the controversy is about advertising (in particular: online advertising) and the monopolistic hegemony Google holds over advertising on the world-wide web.

    In my opinion, the world-wide web (“www”) is the king of the new media jungle.

    I am not alone in this view, but it seems that there are indeed quite few people who are able to see this clearly. Consider, for example, this comment written on “Hacker News” regarding Jason’s article:

    This [controversy] exemplifies a misunderstanding I see a lot of people make. The web isn’t whatever happens to be rendered by a browser. It’s a shared information space full of linked resources. The protocol and document format aren’t defining characteristics of the web, they are implementation details. It’s the links and distributed nature that are the defining qualities of the web.

    (note the irony of how many people commonly refer to news.ycombinator.com as “Hacker News”: ycombinator.com is ycombinator.com — referring to it [or news.ycombinator.com] as “Hacker News” is simply rather comical nonsense)

    Why is the www the king of the new media jungle? Well, if you wish to take an opposing point of view, then you must be getting your information via some other channel, right? Please: Feel free to share with us how you are reading these words I am writing! 😉

    You may be watching a video. Are you watching via terrestrial television? You may be listening to audio — have you tuned your FM radio to a new channel recently? Are you perhaps reading a newspaper? Dead tree format?

    An often quoted observation is that new media rarely replace old media (although I might generally agree, I feel that mp3 players / recorders are so widespread today that they have pretty much completely replaced cassette tapes). However, today almost all forms of media are consumed via the web… and therefore via a web address (or link) — something like e.g. ycombinator.com or https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10275595.

    I guess every media format has peculiarities that are typical to that particular medium. Books are different than newspapers, mp4 video files are different than VHS (and these are also both different than celluloid film). Some of these differences are in the technology itself, other differences are socially and/or institutionally sanctioned. For example: Copyright is not something inherent to print, ink on paper, or almost any “media” technology. And copyright itself (as a social institution) has changed and evolved over the years. Nonetheless: Today, and also for the foreseeable future, the world-wide web will continue to be the king of the jungle — perhaps even increasingly so.

    In this light the world-wide web deserves special attention. Yet again: How ironic it is that most people view the www as if it were merely a cheap imitation of other forms of media!

     
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    nmw 13:20:03 on 2015/07/23 Permalink
    Tags: author, authors, book, books, , , catalogs, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , publishing, , , , , , , , , ,   

    To Read or to Be Read 

    When I was a kid, I used to go to the library a lot… and read books. Before reading them, I would need to find them. For those of you unfamiliar with this process: This was the prototype for most search engines (back then, people studying this process went to “library schools”, graduate programs for “information science” — and the field specifically focused on what is today referred to “search”, back then it was called “information retrieval”).

    But reading is not really something “for specialists only”. Before graduating high school, regular folks also had to learn about publishing. For example: They needed to know that books have authors, that they were published by publishing companies, and so on.

    Online, titles, authors and publishing houses became domain names. There are also numbers which refer to computers — perhaps this is roughly equivalent to the way people would refer to specific shelves where specific books were stored (this system of naming shelves, which was used in the earliest libraries, would later give way to so-called “call-numbers”, a system whereby a book was given a specific sequential number where it could be found). The biggest difference between traditional libraries and the Internet is probably the fact that online, the cataloging and indexing systems are integrated into the same system as the writing that they catalog / index. Although professional abstracting and indexing services also published such volumes (which looked very much like “regular” books), and these books were usually also given call numbers, putting them on par with the more ordinary literature, the librarian was the person who made this decision… and the librarian was the person ultimately responsible for maintaining the catalog (and also for choosing what would be included in the library’s collection).

    I guess only quite novice users would assume that if something was not in the library (and/or the library’s catalogs) that it would not exist.

    Contrast that with today — where there is now an entire generation of kids who seem to believe that if something cannot be found in Google, that it doesn’t exist.

    Even though the rate of illiteracy today is quite astounding already, I now observe also that in recent years an entirely new trend is catching on. People are becoming ever less concerned with reading or writing or behaving as functionally literate persons. Instead: They are becoming more obsessed with being read… — meaning that someone (or some company) is able to trace their moves. Whereas it is becoming ever more rare for people the read or write anything resembling written texts (and/or “literature”), it is becoming ever more commonplace for people to clutch on to gadgets which track everything such quantified fetishists seem to place such a high value on. The typical quantified fetishist will feel much the same way about their gadget fetish as a democratic idealist might view the sanctity of the voting booth.

    In this milieu, there seems to also be a widespread belief that the companies collecting this data will share it publicly out of the warmness of their hearts.

     
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    nmw 19:58:46 on 2015/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , publishing,   

    Zen and the Art of Giga Om 

    Wikipedia maintains a list of book publishers (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English-language_book_publishing_companies). The Wikipedia article on “Publishing” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publishing) also primarily deals with literature published in the form of “ink on paper” printed books (and newspapers, etc.).

    I wonder: Is there a graphic showing the number of (print) publishers worldwide over the past 5 centuries? If there is, my hunch is that the number is significantly less than the number of books. Wikipedia states that globally, approximately 2.2 million books are published per year (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_published_per_country_per_year). Wikipedia’s “Publishing” page notes that

    Approximately 60% of English-language books are produced through the “Big Five” publishing houses.

    I think it is safe to assume that the number of “print” / “paper” publishers has already peaked — and that their number is currently perhaps somewhere in the low thousands. The precise number may be difficult to nail down, because there may be “copy shops” or desktop publishers that publish things that look and function something like books, newspapers, magazines, “zines” or something like that on almost any corner of the globe.

    In contrast: I just checked ntldstats.com, and the site currently states that there are currently 4,895,464 domains registered in 584 top-level domains (TLDs) … and neither of these statistics seems to be anywhere near to reaching a peak.

    In sum: Over history, there have been many millennia with very few or even no publishers at all, about five hundred years in which the number of publishers rose from a few dozen to a few thousand, and about twenty years in which the number of publishers has risen from a few thousand to a few million … with little or no sign of slower growth rates on the horizon.

     
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    nmw 13:04:45 on 2014/09/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , loyalty, , publishing, , , , ,   

    Why people used to go to church + why they now go to Google + Facebook instead 

    In case you haven’t seen them yet, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

    For many years, I have maintained that Google is something like the Pope of the Internet: Google’s index functions quite similarly to what used to be referred to as the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (well, it actually works in revers — linking to “allowed” content rather than “prohibited” content, but either way it’s essentially all about censorship).

    There are many reasons why people used to go to church — and truth telling sermons were only one of them (and for those who might have snored during the sermon, even these were perhaps not a very compelling reason). Sitting in wooden pews was probably also hardly one of them (pun intended ;) ).

    Maybe the homemade chewy chocolate brownies were a motivator; perhaps the coffee helped; singing in the choir might have played a role; but certainly all of the chit-chat and latest gossip exchanged after the more pious and reserved service were probably a prize worth holding out for. This is, of course, a function now taken over by Facebook (so-and-so got married, little X’s birthday is coming up, etc.)

    If you are able to convince someone that you have the undeniable truth, or that the inside scoop is to be gotten exclusively behind your four walls, then this may indeed be comparable to reinventing the wheel. If you were able to do that, you may very well be on your way to creating a really big deal — a part of what John Battelle refers to when describes how publishers seek to have “folks keep coming back” for more.

     
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