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April 25 2012

As transmedia publishing evolves, experimentation is the name of the game

This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


Transmedia publishing is a phrase that means different things to different people. In this interview with Verane Pick (@veranepick), co-founder and artistic director at Counter Intelligence Media, we get an up-close look at what's involved in a transmedia operation and how they use the agile development approach to keep inventing new products.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Transmedia at the heart — Counter Intelligence Media is a transmedia publishing company and is working on finding new ways to tell stories in the digital world. [Discussed at the 00:42 mark.]
  • The rules have yet to be written — Transmedia is a rapidly evolving area and there's no "right" way of producing this rich content. Experimentation is the name of the game. [Discussed at 2:14.]
  • Does repurposed content have a role? — Whether it's a digital-first or repurposed content approach, the most important thing to do is first think about the medium and how you want to leverage it. [Discussed at 2:50.]
  • Using agile in practice — Counter Intelligence Media uses small, independent, highly collaborative teams to create their products. The agile model makes the most sense for them because of all the experimentation and the need to make many adjustments along the way. [Discussed at 6:59.]
  • App + ebooksApocalepsy 911 was an "MVP," or "minimum viable product" in the agile world, for Counter Intelligence Media and serves as the foundation for their larger platform. [Discussed at 9:43.]
  • Serial publishing — Pick likens their use of serial publishing to a set of Russian nested dolls where all the different layers must be properly aligned. [Discussed at 13:27.]
  • Gaming mechanisms to come — Game techniques will become one of the "engagement silos" in a future Counter Intelligence Media product. Stay tuned for more details ... [Discussed at 14:58.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

The future of publishing has a busy schedule.
Stay up to date with Tools of Change for Publishing events, publications, research and resources. Visit us at oreilly.com/toc.

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February 23 2012

Agile for real-world publishing

At TOC, you're as likely to run into media professionals, entrepreneurs and innovators as you are publishers, booksellers and others working in traditional publishing. This, in turn, makes the underlying themes as varying and diverse as the attendees. This is the first in a series, taking a look at five themes that permeated interviews, sessions and/or keynotes at this year's show. The complete series will be posted here.


Agile publishing, in terms of workflow, work environment as well as practical publishing applications was one of the overriding themes at this year's TOC.

Kristen McLean (@ABCKristen), founder and CEO of Bookigee, addressed agile in her session Hippo In Ballet Shoes, Or Greyhound On The Track? Applying Agile Methodologies To Traditional Publishing. She talked about how agile is a workflow strategy and cited "The Agile Manifesto":

AgileManifesto.jpg

She also discussed what the agile environment looks like in real-world publishing. Some highlights from her discussion include:

  • Self-organizing teams with flexible skills — get highly talented and interdisciplinary individuals
  • Accountability & empowerment — Give them what they need and trust them to get the work done.
  • Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace — each person should be able to commit only to what they can do in a day, a week, or a production cycle. Cut back features in order to deliver on time.
  • Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location) — put the entire team in one place.
  • Completed tasks are delivered frequently — weeks rather than months
  • Completed tasks are the principal measure of progress — focus on real stuff, not on rituals, documentation, or other internal benchmarks that do nothing for your customer.

McLean's presentation slides can be found here, and an interview with McLean on some of the finer points of agile can be found here.

Firebrand Technologies' communications chief Laura Dawson (@ljndawson) held a session on metadata, Metadata is Not a Thing, that reinforced some of these ideas, in that an agile publishing environment requires solid metadata through every phase of the publishing process. Dawson talked more about metadata and workflows in a video interview:

The agile theme flowed in a practical direction in the Real World Agile Publishing session with Joe Wikert (@jwikert) of O'Reilly Media and Dominique Raccah (@draccah) of Sourcebooks, and moderator Brett Sandusky (@bsandusky) of Macmillan New Ventures.

Wikert talked about a variety of agile publishing projects at O'Reilly, including current book projects such as Todd Sattersten's "Every Book Is a Startup," which is based on a model of frequent updates to build content and dynamic pricing, and Peter Meyers' Breaking the Page, which is based on a freemium model. He also addressed other styles of agile publishing O'Reilly has experimented with, including early release projects and rough cuts, which offer early digital access and flat pricing. Wikert touched on short form content publishing as well, which he said allows for a quick turnaround to publish minimum viable products on cutting-edge topics.

Raccah announced that Sourcebooks would be using an agile publishing model to publish an upcoming book, "Entering the Shift Age," by David Houle. She outlined three goals for the model — more efficient product development, a better author experience, and more timely/updated books — and listed six guiding principles of agile publishing:

AgileGuidingPrinciples.PNG

Wikert's presentation slides can be viewed here, and Raccah's can be viewed here.

In a separate video interview, Sandusky addressed a question about whether agile applies universally to all types of books:

"'Books' is the part that I have a little bit of a problem with — I think agile applies universally to all kinds of digital product development. That could include books; that could include traditional print books with a POD component; that could include many different types of digital products. 'Books,' in terms of the traditional model of 'build a print book, take it to manufacturing, and then take it to launch' is not an agile process. But if your workflow is more digitally focused, then I think it applies to all digital products overall."

Also in a video interview, Todd Sattersten (@toddsattersten), author of "Every Book is a Startup" and founder of BizBookLab, addressed a question about how publishers can apply agile development methods:

"I'm interested in how we take the concept of a minimum viable product and apply it to how we develop content. The problem with books is that we tend to believe they have to be big and long and carefully constructed. With minimum viable product, it's really the exact opposite — what is the smallest amount that we have to do? It could be just putting up a splash page and saying, "Are you interested enough in this idea to share an address?" We're very familiar in book publishing with the idea of pre-sales — why not sell a book before we actually invest a whole bunch of money in producing the book?"


If you couldn't make it to TOC, or you missed a session you wanted to see, sign up for the TOC 2012 Complete Video Compilation and check out our archive of free keynotes and interviews.


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Reposted byRKvitaminb

January 24 2012

The five things you need to pay attention to at TOC 2012

This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


The 2012 edition of the Tools of Change for Publishing conference will open its doors on February 13 in New York City.

Since we're in the home stretch, I rounded up TOC chairs Kat Meyer and Joe Wikert to discuss the major publishing trends and developments that are shaping the conference. Below, you'll find the five biggest takeaways from our chat. The associated audio podcast contains the full conversation.

1. Publishing is rife with startups

The publishing world is no longer solely the domain of big old organizations. There's a whole bunch of startups engaged in a variety of publishing experiments. TOC 2012 will feature notable upstarts in the Startup Showcase and throughout the conference program.

2. You've got the data, now what do you do with it?

Digital and data go hand-in-hand, and that means publishers — whether they know it or not — are running data-driven businesses. They need to learn how to gather, mine and use all those datasets to their advantage. The practical application of data will be an important theme at the conference.

3. No more ugly ebooks

Those quick and dirty digital conversions won't cut it anymore. Readers are committing to digital, and now they're rightfully demanding top-notch ebook / app experiences. It's time for publishers to meet that demand.

4. Publishing is bigger than books

Book people have something to learn from media people, and media people can learn from book people. Toss in film and music folks, and you've got a huge digital knowledge base that can be drawn from and adapted. This year at TOC, there's a concerted effort to expand "publishing" beyond its narrow and traditional definition.

5. "Change/Forward/Fast" isn't just a catchy tagline

Agile development began in the software world, but its core attributes of iteration and feedback also apply to publishing. Agile methodologies and applications will be discussed in a variety of TOC sessions.

Again, those are just the takeaways from the interview. The podcast has much more on TOC's major themes and what you can expect to see. It also includes a "bold prediction" from Joe that, if realized, could completely change the way publishers handle mobile apps and ebooks.

TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012

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January 10 2012

How agile methodologies can help publishers

Agile methodologies originated in the software space, but Bookigee CEO Kristen McLean (@ABCKristen) believes many of the same techniques can also be applied to content development and publishing workflows. She explains why in the following interview.

McLean will further explore this topic during her agile methodologies presentation at the upcoming Tools of Change for Publishing conference in New York.

What is an agile methodology?

KristenMcLean.jpgKristen McLean: An agile methodology is a series of strategies for managing projects and processes that emphasize quick creative cycles, flat self-organizing working groups, the breaking down of complex tasks into smaller achievable goals, and the presumption that you don't always know what the finished product will be when you begin the process.

These types of methodologies work particularly well in any situation where you are trying to produce a creative product to meet a market that is evolving — like a new piece of software when the core concept needs proof from the user to evolve — or where there needs to be a very direct and engaged relationship between the producers and users of a particular product or service.

Agile methodologies emerged out of the software development community in the 1970s, but began to really codify in the 1990s with the rise of several types of "lightweight" methods such as SCRUM, Extreme Programming, and Adaptive Software Development. These were all rolled up under the umbrella of agile in 2001, when a group of developers came together to create the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, which set the core principles for this type of working philosophy.

Since then, agile has been applied outside of software development to many different kinds of systems management. Most promote development, teamwork, collaboration, and process adaptability throughout the life-cycle of the project. At the end of the day, it's about getting something out there that we can test and learn from.

How do agile methodologies apply to publishing?

Kristen McLean: In relation to publishing, we're really talking about two things: agile content development and agile workflow.

Agile content development is the idea that we may be able to apply these methodologies to creating content in a very different way than we are traditionally used to. This could mean anything from serialized book content to frequent releases of digital content, like book-related websites, apps, games and more. The discussion of how agile might be applied to traditional book content is just beginning, and I think there's an open-ended question about how it might intersect with the deeply personal — and not always quick — process of writing a book.

I don't believe some of our greatest works could have been written in an agile framework (think Hemingway, Roth, or Franzen), but I also believe agile might lend itself to certain kinds of book content, like serial fiction (romance, YA, mystery) and some kinds of non-fiction. The real question has to do with what exactly a "book" is and understanding the leading edge between knowing your audience and crowdsourcing your material.

Publishing houses have been inherently hierarchical because they've been organized around a manufacturing process wherein a book's creation has been treated as though it's on an assembly line. The publisher and editor have typically been the arbiters of content, and as a whole, publishers have not really cultivated a direct relationship with end users. Publishers make. Users buy/read/share, etc.

Publishers need to adapt to a radically different way of working. For example, here's a few ways agile strategies could help with the adaptation of a publishing workflow:

  • Create flat, flexible teams of four to five super-talented individuals with a collective skill set — including editorial, marketing, publicity, production, digital/design, and business — all working together from the moment of acquisition (or maybe before). These teams would need to be completely fluent in XHTML and would work under the supervision of a managing publisher whose job would be to create the proper environment and remove impediments so the team could do its job.
  • An original creative voice and unique point of view will always be important in great writing, but those of us who produce books as trade objects (and package the content in them) have to stop assuming we know what the market wants and start talking to the market as frequently as possible.


  • Use forward-facing data and feedback to project future sales. Stop using past sales as the exclusive way to project future sales. The market is moving too fast for that, and we all know there is a diminishing return for the same old, same old.

TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012

This interview was edited and condensed.

Associated photo on home and category pages adapted from: Agile-Software-Development-Poster-En.pdf by Dbenson and VersionOne, Inc., on Wikimedia Commons

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