In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 7 topics from some big changes my online business is going through (that you need to know about!) to why you should ignore the n00bs in your niche. 

The podcast is on iTunes here. It would be awesome if you rated and reviewed the podcast in iTunes. If you’re using something other than iTunes, the podcast’s feed is http://blog.osmosio.com/feed/podcast/. The podcast is now available through Stitcher, too.

You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player right below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 22 minutes long.

DPP013: Big Changes, Forever Projects, Ignoring Beginners, and 4 More Ideas

Hey everyone, and welcome to lucky episode 13 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, which you can find online at digitalpublishingpodcast.com.

I’m Tristan Higbee, and this show is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more. Also covered are things related to internet business and online marketing. Stick around till the end of the podcast and I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers.

I’d like to thank everyone that has gone into iTunes and left reviews and rated the show, and since the podcast is new, I’d REALLY appreciate it if you would do the same.

Ok! I’ve got 7 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.

Topic #1: BIG changes

So I’m going to talk now about some of the things that I’m going to be doing differently in the near future, and they reflect pretty significant changes to how I do things in my online business. I do think it will be of interest to a lot of you listening, and that’s why I’m talking about it here.

First off, real quick, this is the last episode that will be of this not-so-good quality. I’m heading back to the States for a few days next week and will be picking up a new microphone. Thanks for being patient and still listening to the podcast, even though the audio quality hasn’t been the best.

Second, my blog, which has been at TheBacklight.com, will no longer be at TheBacklight.com. It will be the blog of my new membership site, and TheBacklight.com will redirect to the new site. I’m not saying the name of the site yet because I’m still working out the details, but I’ll announce it in the next episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast. The membership site itself won’t be up and running for a few more months still, but the blog on the site will soon be up and running.

I’ve taken all of my products that aren’t Kindle books off the market. I will be putting all of them and my future products under one roof in the form of a membership site. I’m billing it as the digital publishing university. It will be a bunch of products and courses on the one site. My course on how to create infographics will be there. All 365 ideas from my 365 Blog Post Ideas product will be there. Copies of all of my ebooks will be there. Courses on how to create and format Kindle books in Word will be there, and they’ll be for both Macs and Windows PCs. A large and detailed compilation of nonfiction ebook ideas will be there. And I will be adding a bunch more stuff in the months following the launch, including a database of the most useful online tools that digital publishers need to know about, plus creative writing prompts for fiction authors and essayists, and a bunch more stuff.

I’m doing all of this for a couple reasons. I’ve been spreading myself too thin, first of all. I have too many products in too many different places, and I have ideas for too many future products for each one to have its own site and social media profiles and stuff like that. By putting everything I do in one place, I’ll be able to spend more time actually creating and marketing the content for a single site, which will be awesome.

And of course, I’m looking forward to the recurring revenue that will come from a membership site. I’m thinking of this new project more as a startup and less of a one-off product.

This transition also will affect the Digital Publishing Podcast. Right now, when you type in DigitalPublishingPodcast.com, you’re redirected to the podcast episodes category at TheBacklight.com. In the future, type in DigitalPublishingPodcast.com and you’ll be redirected to the blog on the membership site.

When I switch from TheBacklight.com to the new URL, it might take a little while for iTunes to recognize the new feed, so you might not automatically get the new episodes of the podcast. New podcast episodes go live every Thursday morning, so if it gets to be Thursday afternoon and there’s no new podcast, go to DigitalPublishingPodcast.com and I’ll have posted a status update for it.

Well, I think that’s everything I have to say about all of that. The takeaways are that I’m rebranding the blog, I’m putting all of my products under one roof, and there might be some hiccups for a little while with regards to the feed of the Digital Publishing Podcast and you might not automatically get the next couple episodes.

Topic #2: Please link more

I have a friend who is really into politics. He has a political blog and posts to Facebook after he’s published a new post on his blog. Now, I hate politics and most of the people who love to talk about politics. As far as bringing out the crazies and making people angry, it’s up there with talking about religion and iPhones vs. Android phones. One reason I dislike discussions about politics is that people so routinely say things that aren’t true. They’re either uninformed, ill-informed, or fear-mongering. Anyone can twist anything that other people say or do and make it seem either amazing or horrific.

So anyway, this friend posted to Facebook a link to his latest article. I was bored and idly curious about what he had to say on the subject he was talking about, so I clicked on the link and started reading his article. And as I did, I was immediately reminded of why I never read this stuff and why I don’t like it in general. He started citing numbers and statistics, but gave no citations or links about where he got those numbers. For all I know, he was either making up those numbers or quoting a source that was deliberately skewing them or ignoring other important numbers.

I wanted to see those numbers for myself so that I could see what they were really saying and how they were saying it, but my friend hadn’t linked to any of those sources. And this is exactly the way that false information spreads.

I couldn’t trust what my friend was saying. It wasn’t credible. Now I’m not saying that my friend’s information was wrong or right or whatever, but that’s the problem, I couldn’t find out for myself. The moral of the story here is to be more generous with your links. This particular friend actually does SEO for a living, and when I told him that he needed to link to the sources of his numbers, he said that he was in the habit of not doing that because it’s bad for SEO.

There’s debate about whether or not that is in fact bad for SEO. In fact, Google might think it’s unnatural that your site isn’t linking to anything else. But apart from that, who cares even if you are losing your stupid link juice? It’s people that actually read your blogs and go to your websites. I’m never going to go to my friend’s political blog again because as far as I know, he’s just another crazy spouting off stuff that he’s heard second-, third-, or fourth-hand from an ambiguous source. At the end of the day, it’s still people that read, share, and subscribe, and not Google’s robots.

Topic #3: A forever project

I read an article a couple weeks back by a guy talking about forever projects. The title of the post is The joys of having a forever project, and as always, there’s a link to the article in the show notes at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com. This is how the author defines a forever project:

“a project that, despite its audacity and seeming impossibility, simply will not put itself to bed. A project that comes creeping back into your consciousness when you sit down for a break from “real work.” A project that is hard to imagine actually embarking on, but whose mental cost of abandonment is far too high to even consider.”

His exact definition of a forever project is one that I think is maybe a bit too grand for my liking, but I like the general idea of having a side project that I will always be working on.

I think that this is something a lot of us online, including me, never really think about. We think about how we can make more money in the immediate future—or like a year at most—and running a website for a few years seems like a few lifetimes. The lifespans of so many of my online projects, anyway, can be measured in months instead of years.

I still love this idea, though. This isn’t about creating a “niche site” or an “authority site” or anything like that, but it’s about creating something truly amazing that will keep your attention for years. So instead of creating a $3 Kindle ebook about Spanish phrases, maybe you create the definitive online database of Spanish grammar and usage. You come home from work every day and spend, I don’t know, 20 minutes listening to the radio in Spanish and then writing down some interesting words or phrases you hear. If you love studying Spanish, that’s something you could easily do for the rest of your life, and eventually you’re going to have a massively valuable resource.

I think that another name for a “forever project” could be a slow project. There’s no rush. You’re not going to build the definitive Spanish usage database in a week. This is a labor of love, your life’s work.

But at the same time, it’s exactly this kind of passion and drive that you could use to make a truly freaking awesome app or website or piece of software or whatever it is you want to create. After 5 years of working on your project every day, you’re going to have something pretty darn great, whether you share it with other people or not. We need to think more long-term. That’s how you also build a website that you can make a living from.

Topic #4: Popular posts

In the sidebar of my blog at TheBacklight.com right now, I’ve got a list of the 10 most popular posts on the blog. I was looking at that list the other day and I realized that that’s not my best stuff. Those are the posts that have gotten the most comments, but that definitely doesn’t make them the best by any means.

There’s a better way to highlight your best content on your blog, and it’s really simple. You create a new post category and call it “Featured Posts” or “Best Articles” or something like that, and then assign that category to the posts you want to highlight. Then you install a WordPress plugin called List Category Posts and you can list some or all of the posts from that category in your sidebar as a widget.

And if you’re using a platform other than WordPress, I think that just hand-picking your best content and listing it in your sidebar is still better than having it done automatically.

Topic #5: Facebook groups as private communities

Facebook GroupChris Brogan has a podcast called the Human Business Way, and at the end of every episode, he invites listeners to join the Human Business Way secret community, telling them to go to hbway.com/secret. When you go there, you’re redirected to a private Facebook group.

There’s another podcast called Internet Business Mastery, and I’ve heard the hosts there talk about a private Facebook group they have set up for the people that have bought one of their products. And the hosts of that show did an interview not too long ago with a woman who has an online health and fitness business, and she was saying that instead of a forum on her membership site, she just uses a Facebook group.

These are a few of the examples of private Facebook groups that I’ve seen and heard about recently. Private Facebook groups themselves aren’t anything new—they’ve been around for a while—but I’ve been seeing marketers and online business owners use them more and more.

There are a couple really big benefits to using a private Facebook group instead of, say, a forum. The first is that it’s super easy to set up. Putting a forum on your site and integrating everything is a pain, but it takes all of 3 minutes to set up a Facebook group. The second big benefit is that most of us forget to log in to forums very often, so the forums tend to not be very active. But most of us also check Facebook at least a few times a day. The result is more engagement and activity in that group when compared to a forum.

I think that private Facebook groups are great for anything you’d like to build a community around. You’ll get fewer spammers than you would with a public group, the community has a more exclusive feel to it, and it will be more active than a private forum.

Topic #6: Ignore beginners

I’ve noticed that in most of the niches and topics I’m interested in, there are relatively few blogs and products aimed at the advanced, uh, “user” for lack of a better word. I’m thinking now about all of the travel blogs I’ve looked at recently, and the vast majority are aimed at beginners. It’s all “5 things to pack on your next adventure” type stuff that veterans of that niche don’t need to read or care about. And it’s like that for every topic, hobby, niche, and area of interest I can think of. There is tons and tons and tons of information for beginners and very little for the pros or experts or veterans or whatever you want to call them (and I’m going to call that whole category experts just for the sake of brevity here).

I think there are a few reasons for this, but none of them are very good reasons. The first is that bloggers feel that beginners are more likely to be looking for information about a certain subject, so the bloggers try to meet their needs. The second reason is that a lot of the bloggers themselves are beginners and can’t write about the more advanced stuff. A third reason is that there are more beginners out there for any given niche, so the bloggers and product creators think that that’s where the easy big audience is. There are a few other reasons that I could throw out there but I think that those are the main ones.

The result of all of this is that there are billions of blogs and ebooks for beginners on every subject, but few to none for the experts. I think that’s a huge opportunity. Not only will you be servicing an audience that is pretty much untapped, but even the beginners will be drawn to your stuff because it’s something they haven’t seen before and that they can learn from and aspire to.

Topic #7: eBook unboxings

You know those unboxing videos? They’re the videos that people post to YouTube of themselves opening up the packages of things like electronics. The idea is that you get to see exactly what is and what isn’t included in the box, plus you get to hear people’s first impressions about whatever it is that they’re unboxing.

I think that someone should create unboxing videos for ebooks, like for Kindle ebooks, for example. Now hear me out before you dismiss this as a stupid idea. There are a lot of great books out there that have crappy formatting on the Kindle (and I’m sure the same is true for ebooks you buy from the iBookstore or Barnes & Noble, too). An ebook unboxing video would be you opening up the book on your Kindle or iPad or whatever for the first time and seeing how it looks. Is the formatting ok? Is the font readable? Does the table of contents work? Are the illustrations or tables there and readable? Stuff like that. You could even open up the same book on the different devices you have (like on your iPad, e-ink Kindle, and smartphone) and create a video for each one.

I think that doing this for the bestsellers and anticipated new releases would be awesome, though it could also be done in more narrow niches. You could make money by adding an Amazon affiliate link to the YouTube description and by having ads show on the videos.

Would this work? Would people watch these? I think so. You wouldn’t want to make the videos 5 minutes long, because that would just be boring, but I think that short videos like this would provide a valuable service. I think that the trick would be to get the word out that something like this exists. But because the idea is a novel one and I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it, I think that the ebook blogs and the tech blogs would cover it.

So what do you think? Good idea? Dumb idea? Let me know!

And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. My pick for this episode’s featured podcast is The Moth [link]. It’s a very popular podcast; right now it has almost 3,500 reviews on iTunes. Here are a couple lines from the podcast’s description that describe it better than I can:

“Since its launch in 1997, The Moth has presented thousands of true stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide. Moth storytellers stand alone, under a spotlight, with only a microphone and a roomful of strangers.”

The stories are usually really interesting and range from hilarious to interesting to heartbreaking, but they’re always worth listening to. Plus they’re generally a manageable length, like 15 to 20 minutes.

My pick for this episode’s featured tool for digital publishers is called SoundGecko [link]. This is really, really cool, and I just found out about it last week and love it. This is an online service (with an accompanying optional mobile app) that reads articles to you. So let’s say that when I’m going through my RSS reader in the morning, I find an article that looks great but that I don’t have time to read. I can either use a service like Pocket or Instapaper, which keeps track of the articles I want to read later. Or I can save the article with SoundGecko. Once you save it, SoundGecko creates an audio version of that article and saves it. You can then listen to that article on your computer, on the mobile app, or, and this is how I use it, using a personalized podcast feed that SoundGecko gives you when you register. So every time I save an article with SoundGecko, it’s automatically downloaded the next time I open up the podcasting app on my phone. It’s freaking awesome.

There are some limitations, though. The free service is only good for articles that are less than 4000 words long. You could get around that easily enough by saving only 4000 words at a time, or you can pay $2.95/month for the ability to convert longer articles. The free plan uses two different voices; there’s a male voice and a female voice, and the premium plan gets you a couple extra voices that you might like better.

Because the conversion from text to audio is done automatically, it doesn’t sound perfect. You can tell it’s a synthesized voice. But it is still very listenable. It’s not the computerized voice.

But yeah, SoundGecko.com. It’s a free and very cool service that can do even more than what I’ve talked about here. It’s great if you can’t find enough good stuff to listen to, or if you don’t have enough time to read everything you’d like to read. I just use the free service because I think it’s good enough, but the paid service is cheap enough that you might consider paying for it if you really like it and want that extra functionality.

Well, that’s all for this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links (including links to everything mentioned in this episode) and additional blog posts there at TheBacklight.com that go beyond what I talk about on the podcast. I did not write a post this week because I was super busy, but there are hundreds of other posts you can read there.

I also have a weekly newsletter where I send out links to the best articles that I’ve read over the previous week.

Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. If I choose to answer your question on the podcast, I’ll say your name and website if you say that i can, but otherwise I will not share that information. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again, since this podcast is new, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed it. Thanks for listening.