On Inside PR this week: Spin Sucks!

IMG_0041Spin sucks! You know it and I know it. And Gini Dietrich knows it. But even more, Gini has written a new book, Spin Sucks, in which she shows us how to replace spin with authentic communications that your community will find informative, entertaining and useful.

Spin Sucks the Book has just launched. And in this week’s episode of Inside PRMartin Waxman and I talk with Gini about the book, what it tells us, and her innovative approach to marketing the book. (If you know Gini, you wouldn’t expect anything less from her than to turn the launch of her book into a marketing experiment. She’s always thinking of how to do things better.) This included a Brand Ambassador program to spread the word about the book so that Gini could maintain a much more limited travel schedule to promote Spin Sucks than she had to maintain when promoting her previous book, Marketing in the Round. Over 800 people applied to be a Brand Ambassador, agreeing to buy the book and write a review to coincide with the launch date. Ultimately, she selected over 200 of the applicants to be Ambassadors.

If you wonder what type of results Gini got from this approach, check out the quality of the reviews on Amazon.com. High quality, Well written, persuasive reviews from people who’ve read and loved the book. (At the time I write this, there are 76 reviews of Gini’s book. Sixty five are 5 star and eleven are four star.)

It doesn’t get much better than that.

This is an excerpt from an article originally posted on the Inside PR podcast blog

eBook prices remain high in Canada despite price drops in US

While readers in the US may be benefiting from a drop in eBook prices following settlement of the Apple eBook price fixing case, Canadians are not sharing in the benefit of declining eBook prices.

Laura Hazard Owen reported yesterday that retailers have begun cutting eBook prices in response to the settlement of the Apple eBook price fixing case. Her post included a table comparing prices at which certain books are offered by the various major eBook retailers in the US.

I focused on the fact that my favourite eBook seller, Kobo, was the highest priced seller in all examples. I tweeted about this and was promptly called out by Jennifer Fox.

 

 

Jennifer makes good points. Canadian prices always are higher than US prices and a comparison of US prices does not transfer into Canada.

So, I decided to take a look at the prices that the Ebooks in Laura Hazard Owen’s example are being offered in Canada. .

Laura Hazard Owen’s US price table

Laura Hazard Owen eBook price comparison

Canadian prices for the same books

Title Author Kindle Nook Apple Kobo Google
And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini  $    16.99  n/a  $    16.99  $    16.99  $    16.99
Entwined with You Sylvia Day  $    10.99  n/a  $    10.99  $    10.99  $    10.99
The Fault in Our Stars John Green  $    15.99  n/a  $    15.99  $    15.99  $    15.99
The 9th Girl Tami Hoag  $    13.99  n/a  $    13.99  $    13.99  $    13.99
Whiskey Beach Nora Roberts  $    15.99  n/a  $    15.99  $    15.99  $    15.99
Backfire Catherine Coulter  $    10.99  n/a  $    10.99  $    10.99  $    10.99
Youtility Jay Baer  $    12.99  n/a  $    12.99  $    12.99  $    12.99
The Great Degeneration Niall Ferguson  $    13.99  n/a  $    13.99  $    13.99  $    13.99
Cooked Michael Pollan  $    15.99  n/a  $    15.99  $    15.99  $    15.99

Do you see what I see? For Canadians, one high price for each book, regardless of retailer.

Canadians are not benefiting from the drop in US eBook prices

It’s clear that agency pricing persists in Canada. And that means higher book prices across the board with no competition on price.

That’s not good for consumers. That doesn’t promote reading. And that’s something that must change. Now. Not next year.

What will it take to end agency pricing of eBooks in Canada?

Who will see this as an opportunity and take the lead?

I buy from Kobo because of its commitment to ePub standards and its device-agnostic approach. And I’m willing to pay a premium for being part of an open system that lets me consume my books on the device of my choice.

So, Kobo, you’ve already got me for the right reasons. Now why don’t you go the next step by seizing the opportunity to break the agency model and lead the way to better book prices for Canadian eBook readers.

Kobo, are you listening?

We must be data activists, says Nora Young

Nora Young is an astute observer of the impact of technology on our lives and relationships. This year, she turned her attention to our penchant to record our actions, feelings and thoughts through social media and connected devices. The result is The Virtual Self, her report on self reporting and its implications.

Nora Young came to Third Tuesday Toronto to share her insights with the community. And we captured her presentation on video.

There was much in Nora’s presentation that caught my attention.

A Watershed moment

“We’re at a watershed moment – a moment when data and information are no longer scarce and created top down, but is becoming ubiquitous and generated bottom up,” she posited. “Our new tools for gathering and sharing data are changing how we see ourselves and the world around us.”
We’re headed to a future where we track more and more about ourelves. Where we are. What we’re doing. How we spend out time. “The statistical minutiae of everyday life.” Nora Young labels this habit “self tracking.” Others term it “self monitoring,” “personal metrics,” “quantified self,” or “personal infomatics.” By whatever name, the trend is exploding as we consciously record data about our actions and state and as other data is captured simply because we are using connected digital devices. The information can be “in the everyday, the banal, the ordinary.” But increasingly, more and more of us are leaving more and more digital tracks that reveal something about ourselves.

Consider, she suggests, that most of us “online are on Facebook. A short few years ago, people talked about this as odd. Why would you want to share the minutiae of your everyday lives, like what you had for lunch. And now, this is normal behaviour for most people who are on the Internet. Not because they are obsessives. Not because they are narcissistic, but because there is a social utility in gathering that information and sharing it.”
And because we are increasingly using digital devices that are “always on, always connected” to the Internet, we do not need to expend much effort or energy to capture this information. It may even be automatically captured without any overt gesture on our part.

Four trends create a digital doppelganger of our world

Nora sees the convergence and interaction of four trends to create a unique moment:

  • Self-tracking, the data about our actions, preferences, feelings, etc. that we deliberately or passively record
  • The ability to aggregate the data through applications and search
  • The introduction of sensors in the environment, the Internet of things; and
  • Continual access to data via mobile devices.

Together, these trends create a digital doppelganger of the real world around us.

“The digital data that we are generating about our every day lives can and will be used to change the real flesh and blood, bricks and mortar world around us,” she suggests. ”This is both good – thrilling even. But it’s also potentially scary, with some worrisome aspects to it as well.”

“What we are seeing now in embryonic form in our use of apps and social networking is really just the beginning of a bottom up data revolution that will change the next twenty years.”

“Be a data activist.”

“In order for us to get the future that we want, people like us – citizens – need to get involved. We need to claim our power to use our data for good, for positive ends. We need to be ‘data activitists,’ much in the way that we would talk about people being political activists or environmental activists. We need to be activists with respect to this new world of booming data.”

“What we as a society decide are the rules of the game for handling the data that we create will shape the future in profound ways.  It will shape whether and how we can use the data in our own lives, how we can use the information that we create to benefit not just ourselves but also our communities.”

Why now? Because huge changes are occurring. And, according to Nora, “it’s precisely when a new communications technology is created that the culture and the social norms of that technology are open to being shaped. It’s at that beginning period that we can our consciousness and our skill to how we consider new technologies and improve what they are used for. Because down the road, there will be a point where it will seem inevitable, where what’s up for grabs now gets shot down.  Now is the point at which we need to start talking about these things.”

At the first level, the information can be useful when we capture and share information with people who share our interests. Whether it’s a pointer to the latest book we’ve selected to read or the restaurant we frequent most often, this information can be used as a guide by the people who know and follow us.

At a higher level, however, the data that we create can be aggregated and mined for insight into the total community of which we are part. And at this level, the data can be used to reshape communities. We see an early example of this in the use of real time traffic data by commuters to navigate around congested areas. This tool shapes decisions in real time, decisions that are then immediately recorded and displayed in real time in the resulting changes in traffic flow. It creates a dynamic feedback loop. Imagine this across a complete range of activities and think about the potential for the construction of a digital layer of data on top of our real life activities that enables others to incorporate aggregate patterns, likes, dislikes, behaviour, etc. in reshaping our environment and experience in real time. That’s an awesome vision. And it’s not some far distant science fiction future. It’s something that is being explored right now.

But we need to be digital activists to ensure that the data is used for good and in the way we intend. As digital activists, we must understand and speak out about the privacy implications of these developments. We must insist that the data is used for something beyond corporate ends, for public good (Think Ushahidi.) Are we choosing the tools that reflect our values? (Think Twitter’s assymetrical following vs. Facebook’s forced mutual friending.) And if we’re creating the tools, are we creating something that offers some real value to people and enables people to create meaning in their lives?

Where do you stand?

There is potential for us to shape how the data gathering tools are created and how the data is used. But to do this, we must become data activists.

Think about it. Do you simply go with the flow? Click yes to share your location data? Consciously check your privacy settings on Facebook? Turn off automatic checkins? Are you a data activist?

Kobo: My favourite eReader app just got better

I logged onto iTunes this weekend to discover that my favourite eBook reader app just got better. Kobo introduced version 4.5 of its iPad app.

This version includes something I’ve been eager to see: proper handling of footnotes. With this feature, I can simply click on the number of an end-note to be taken directly to it. Once I read the note, I can click on its number and I’m returned to the main text. Simple. A great timesaver.

This feature adds to an already great application that allows me to:

  • Highlight passages in the text and add my own notes to them;
  • Share passages that catch my attention via both twitter and Facebook; and
  • Download books in ePub format that I can read on virtually any device – a Kobo eReader, my iPad, my Sony reader, an Android device.

Kobo’s slogan is “eReading: anytime. anyplace.” They make good on that promise. Having used iTunes for my music and now realizing that Apple’s strategy is to keep me locked into their products, I’m reluctant to go down that path with eBooks. So that pretty much rules out both iBooks and Amazon for me. I like Kobo’s commitment to openness. It’s good for competition. It’s good for the publishing industry. And it’s good for me, the reader.

Of course, nothing is perfect.

I have had one problem with the Kobo eReading app on my iPad. On three occasions over the past year, the application has frozen. The only way that I could get it to work again was to reset the iPad. Each time, I lost all of my locally stored data. That means my highlights and annotations. For someone like me who writes a lot of notes to refer back to later, that’s a big problem.

I hope that Kobo is looking at making it possible for readers to back up our notes on their server. This could have the added benefit of enabling me to download my notes to any device on which I’m reading – syncing my notes between devices. I think this should be feasible for Kobo. Already, we are able to share our notes with friends via their servers. It should be a relatively easy thing to enable us to save those notes to be download the next time we resync a second or new device.

If they’d do that, they’d make their already great app almost perfect.

Terry Fallis: a social media / publishing Cinderella story

Yesterday, Terry Fallis‘ first novel, The Best Laid Plans was selected as the essential Canadian novel of the decade in the Canada Reads competition.

This is just one more step in what already has been a remarkable journey:

  • Canadian PR exec feels he has a novel in him,
  • writes the novel in his spare time,
  • searches with no success for an agent or a publisher,
  • self publishes his novel,
  • sets up a blog,
  • reads the novel chapter by chapter in a podcast,
  • builds a fan base of people who read and love the novel,
  • gets noticed by the Leacock Medal Committee,
  • is shortlisted for the Leacock Medal,
  • wins the Leacock Medal as Canada’s top humorous novel,
  • gets a big time literary agent,
  • gets a publishing deal with prestigious McLelland and Stewart,
  • writes a second novel,
  • has both novels on the bestseller list,
  • is nominated to the 10th Anniversary Canada Reads search for the essential Canadian novel of the past decade,
  • is shortlisted for the Canada Reads award,
  • is selected as THE essential Canadian novel by the Canada Reads panel of celebrity judges…

Talk about a Cinderella story!

And what did Terry do immediately after learning that he’d won the Canada Reads competition? Well, he came to work. Talent, celebrity and still has his feet on the ground.

Happily for me, Terry’s workplace is Thornley Fallis. And our Mike Edgell grabbed him long enough to record this video interview. Watch it to see how one of the nicest guys around reacts when he discovers all of his dreams are coming true.

Other posts about Terry Fallis’ journey into Canadian publishing fame

Terry Fallis won the Leacock Medal!

Terry Fallis talks about what it meant to be shortlisted for the Leacock Medal

The Best Laid Plans joins some impressive company

Promoting a Book with Social Media

Taking The High Road with Terry Fallis

Francois Gossieaux brings the Hyper-Social Organization to Third Tuesday

This month’s Third Tuesday will interest anyone who wants to understand the impact of social media on businesses and how the most successful ones are adapting to it. Our February Third Tuesday speaker is Francois Gossieaux, co-author of The Hyper-Social Organization.

“In the beginning, business and commerce were social exchanges – if you sold poor products, people would bad-mouth you and shun your operation, forcing you out of business or pushing you to improve your offering,” writes Gossieaux. While we lost that element of personal contact and accountability through the era of mass media and mass marketing, it is being returned to us in the era of social media. Gossieaux argues persuasively that businesses must themselves become hyper-social in order to survive and thrive in this new era.

Together with his co-author, Ed Moran, Gossieaux has conducted annual Tribalization of Business surveys, examining the impact of social media on organizations and how they are adapting to it. The Hyper-Social Organization draws on this data to map a course that business can follow in the era of social media.

I’ve seen Francois present the Tribalization of Business Study data at Society for New Communications Research symposiums and I can tell you that he’s a smart, articulate presenter who gives everyone in his audience something to think about and act upon.

Best Marketing and Advertising Book 2010

Yes, it’s an award winner. The Hyper-Social Organization received the National “Best Book 2010” Award from USA Book News in the category Business: Marketing and Advertising.

It’s also received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Here’s a sample:

Tribes Rule the Hyper-Social Organization

Hyper-Social Organizations

The Hyper-Social Organization in a Book

Want to attend Third Tuesday with Francois Gossieaux?

You can register online to attend Third Tuesday in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

Thanks to our sponsors

Third Tuesday brings great speakers to major cities across Canada. This month, Francois Gossieaux will speak at third Tuesdays in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. This would not be possible without the support of our sponsors, who underwrite the cost of visiting each of those cities. Thank you to CNW Group, Rogers Communications, Radian6, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. You help to make Third Tuesday Digital Canada’s national meet up.

Stieg Larsson rules holiday e-book sales

If you received an e-book reader as a Christmas gift this year, there’s a good chance you’re reading a novel by Stieg Larsson right now.

EBook etailer Kobo has published its list of top e-book title sales for the holiday season around the world. And who tops the list everywhere? Stieg Larsson.

Canada
1. “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” by Stieg Larsson
2. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
3. “Room” by Emma Donahue

United States
1. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
2. “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Stieg Larsson
3. “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

United Kingdom
1. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
2. “The Confession” James E. Mcgreevey
3. “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Stieg Larsson

Australia
1. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
2. “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest” by Stieg Larsson
3. “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Stieg Larsson

Rest Of World
1. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
2. “Dead Or Alive” by Tom Clancy
3. “The 4-Hour Body” by Timothy Ferriss

As for me, I spent yesterday watching the movie version of The Girl Who Played With Fire. Stieg rules in multimedia too.

Meet Terry Fallis on the eve of the Canada Reads Short List

Next week, we’re holding an event in Ottawa to celebrate the journey of Terry Fallis from “guy like me” to celebrated author.

It’s a remarkable story. An aspiring author writes a comic novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then seeks a publisher. The response: rejection after rejection. But he doesn’t give up. He decides to self-publish his novel. So far, this is a familiar story. But this one has a twist.

This novelist is Terry Fallis. The time is 2007, the early days of social media. And Terry’s an early adopter of social media, with a podcast, a blog and 20 years experience in communications. And he decides to bring his two passions – communications and writing – to promote his book.

He decides to create a podcast in which he will read a chapter of the novel each week. He creates a blog to host the podcast and he makes sure it’s available on iTunes.

The Best Laid Plans

Then the power of social media kicks in. Terry’s novel finds an audience. They talk to him and he talks back. They celebrate what he’s doing with his podcasting his novel. And it helps that his novel, the best laid plans, is a great read.

Others notice what’s going on. They read his novel and they think it’s good. And one morning Terry wakes up and discovers he’s been nominated for the Leacock Medal recognizing the best Canadian humorous novel of the year. A couple months later it gets even better: Terry wins the Leacock medal.The Best Laid plans is recognized as Canada’s top humorous novel of 2008.

Success builds on success. Having opened the door through social media, the critical acclaim and recognition of the Leacock medal leads to traditional success. He is taken on by one of Canada’s most highly regarded literary agents, Beverly Slopen, and she lands a traditional publishing deal for Terry with McClelland & Stewart.

Terry is having the time of his life doing what he loves to do. He has written a second novel, The High Road. And it may be better than his first.

But The Best Laid Plans isn’t finished with Terry yet….

Every year, CBC stages Canada Reads, an annual literature competition between books chosen by Canadian celebrities. This year, they’re doing something special. They’re asking Canadians to help select the Essential Novels of the decade. And guess what? The Best Laid Plans was nominated by Canadians to be on the list of the Top 40 essential novels of the decade. Then, through an online vote, it was selected as one of the TOP TEN essential novels. Now, we’re waiting for November 24, the day that the TOP FIVE essential novels of the decade are announced.

An invitation to attend

On November 23, the evening before that short list is announced, Terry will be coming to Ottawa to celebrate Canadian publishing and to talk about how an unknown author can make an impact in the era of social media.

You can meet Terry and you can be part of this event. if you’d like to attend and meet Terry, register online at the Third Tuesday Ottawa website. Come join us to celebrate Canadian publishing, creativity, and the power of social media.

Thanks to our sponsors

Okay, I’ll be honest. Thornley Fallis is throwing this party for our co-founder and friend, Terry Fallis. But we also wanted to reach out to the Third Tuesday social media community, a group that Terry co-founded in 2006. Third Tuesday is important to Terry and we want to share this celebration with you. And we wouldn’t have been able to sustain this community without the support of our sponsors: CNW Group, Radian6, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and Rogers Communications. Thank you for helping us build and sustain our social media community, not just in Ottawa, but in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver as well.

The Ottawa Social Media Book Club

When I posted yesterday about the Third Tuesday Social Media Book Group that I’d created on Shelfari, I added a note at the end of the post indicating that we’d be having discussions of the best books on social media to the agenda at Third Tuesday social media meetups in Toronto and Ottawa.

ottawasocialmediabookclubOops. In doing this, I overlooked the fact that a Social Media Book Club already exists in Ottawa. The Ottawa Social Media Book Club is organized by Kelly Rusk and Scott Lake. Last month, the group met to discuss Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody. At their next meeting, on June 16, they’ll be discussing the book that started it all, Cluetrain Manifesto.

So, if you find yourself in or near Ottawa on June 16 and you’d like to participate in a discussion of a classic text, register to attend the Ottawa Social Media Book Club. I’m sure you’ll meet some nice folks who share your interest in social media.

The Third Tuesday Social Media Book Club

Sharing recommendations on the best books about social media

Do you read books about social media, online community, social networking and relationships and the impact of new developments on organizations, society and individuals?

Dthird_tuesday_140px_squareo you search for recommendations from others you know and trust before deciding whether to buy or read a specific book?

If so, you may want to take a look at the Third Tuesday Social Media Book Group. This is a new group I’ve started on Shelfari to enable you to share your views on books about social media, community building, social networking and online relationships, and their impact on organizations, society and the individual.

Who is this for?

Hopefully, the people who join will span a broad range of backgrounds – business people,  academics, technophiles, students – anyone interested in these topics. And the group will be richer if the members – like the Third Tuesday Social Media Meetup members – come from all walks of life – including communications, marketing, human resources, corporations, not for profits and government.

How do you participate?

I’ve seeded the group shelf with a few books I’ve recently read.

If you’re interested in participating, simply register for Shelfari and join the Third Tuesday Group and then begin to add your reviews of the books about social media that you’ve read.

shelfariWhy Shelfari?

Well, the software makes it very easy to add books, to review them, to form a group and to share with other group members. This ease of use puts the emphasis on reading and discussing. We don’t have to spend time figuring out the application. It’s intuitive and ready to use.

What’s next?

We’ll be adding Book Readings and discussions to the Third Tuesday meetups in Toronto and Ottawa. Stay tuned for more news.