How a publisher defines, segments, and prioritizes its audience impacts every decision it makes about every book it acquires, publishes, and markets. As I noted in the new annual report for the Panorama Project, despite the growth in ebooks and audiobooks over the past decade, there are reportedly fewer people reading books today, and fierce competition for their attention and discretionary spending. In the absence of any major consumer research focusing on how book consumption and purchasing behavior has changed over the past five years, there are many unsupported theories attempting to explain why consumer ebook sales plateaued, and then began a gradual decline. Consumer pricing, library lending, and self-publishing are believed to be among the primary factors, while little consideration has been given to the impact of other forms of digital media that have experienced exponential growth—including film, TV, and gaming.
I don't usually engage in conversations about individual books as the topic du jour is almost always something I haven't read yet or have no personal interest in, but the ongoing conversation around American Dirt sucked me in because it was such a glaring symptom of the industry's underlying illness I've raged about many, many, oh so many, times. Against my better judgement, it's dominated my own Twitter feed for nearly two weeks now, and all indications are it's going to remain a hot topic for a while longer—for better and worse. Also against my better judgement, I decided to consolidate my thoughts into this unexpectedly long, but hopefully coherent, post. Apologies in advance!
There's nothing like the buzz of delving into a new passion and I've thoroughly enjoyed my serendipitous and circuitous journey into the world of rally. I've also realized my interest in rally had always been hiding just under the surface, an influence on almost everything I've ever found interesting about cars—it just took an unpredictable confluence of events to suck me in.
Facebook doesn't view publishers as valued partners and never has, despite so many helping it grow and engage a worldwide audience, handing over tons of invaluable data along the way, not just from engagement on Facebook itself, but from their own websites too. All for free! Facebook has transformed that invaluable data into billions of dollars of advertising revenue every year while steadily throttling publishers' ability to reach their own audiences without becoming paid advertisers themselves. It's an objectively and diabolically brilliant model that I simultaneously admire and despise.
As broadcast and cable TV fragmented into hundreds of channels serving various overlapping demographics in search of the occasional mainstream hit, and streaming competitors leveraged nostalgia and cheap licenses to fund their own original mix of niche and mainstream content, YouTube was quietly "democratizing" video content the same way Blogger and WordPress did years ago, to similar effect.