Five Things: March 11, 2021

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Marketing Personas Are Almost Always a Boondoggle (but they don’t have to be)

“The standard persona should go suck on a lemon.” Rand Fishkin

I’ve been a fan of Fishkin’s work since his days at MOZ, so it’s been interesting watching him build a new company at SparkToro. He’s in full content marketing mode, regularly offering excellent insights that aren’t overtly selling their services while re-establishing himself as a legitimate “thought leader.”

I love marketing personas and continue to use them, but never in the “standard” way he rightfully critiques here. If your personas have clever names and talking points but no actionable insights, what are you even doing?!? Fishkin offers a no-brainer process to make them worthwhile which—confirmation bias alert—I’m a fan of.


Want to borrow that e-book from the library? Sorry, Amazon won’t let you.

“How many different platforms does a person have to subscribe to to be able to read all the things they’re interested in? You used to be able to just do that at the public library.” Michelle Jeske, Denver Public Library

I generally dislike tech journalists’ takes on publishing because they often lack nuance, but Geoffrey Fowler digs into the challenges libraries face with ebooks and nails one of the most insidious. Not the expensive licenses that expire whether or not anyone’s checked them out, nor the blatant disrespect from publishers who claim to love libraries but treat them like criminals. That’s become the norm.

It’s their inability to access some ebooks at all, at any price. Specifically, Amazon’s traditional imprints which increasingly publish the books of popular authors and celebrities, as well as their huge catalog of exclusive self-published content.


Analysis Finds that Digital Picture Books Harm Young Children’s Learning—Unless the Books Have the Right Enhancements

Spoiler: Most “enhanced” ebooks are terrible because the “enhancements” are almost always focused on the “gee whiz” rather than the practical, especially when targeting young children.

I remember The Elements was everyone’s benchmark for years after it launched, completely ignoring its very specific use case and the fact that far more impressive games were already being made and sold for a fraction of an enhanced ebook.


ICv2 Interview: Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy

“Day?to?day encounters with written content, whether that’s graphic novels, manga, or published material overall, will become more and more digital.” Stu Levy

Manga remains one of the most interesting and underrated categories in publishing and this is a really insightful interview with Tokyopop’s Levy, one of the more consistently outspoken and interesting figures in comics. He offers some provocative thoughts on VIZ and Amazon’s dominance of the print market; discovery and financial opportunities for digital; and manga’s relatively slow growth compared to anime.


Episode 10 – The Waste Land: DNF Podcast

Every episode of Zoë Rom’s DNF podcast is excellent because she doesn’t just conduct insightful interviews, she puts them in context and makes them relevant—even if you never run a literal trail in your life. The series’ underlying theme is overcoming failure (DNF = Did Not Finish) and “Episode 10 — The Wasteland,” delivers an insightful and inspiring story of mental health via T.S. Eliot and ultrarunner Mike Foote.

Whatever awards they give for podcasts, this episode should win all of them.

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