In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 7 topics from using podcasts to sell books to why you should consider having multiple Twitter accounts.
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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 18 minutes long.
- 1:00 – 1. eBook Growth
- 2:46 – 2. Books as podcasts
- 5:27 – 3. Subscription boxes
- 7:18 – 4. Digital subscription boxes
- 8:57 – 5. How niche can you go?
- 12:17 – 6. Separate Twitter accounts
- 14:44 – 7. A blog post idea
- 16:14 – Featured podcast
- 16:47 – Featured tool
DPP020: Books As Podcasts, Narrow Niches, Separate Twitter Accounts, and 4 More Ideas
Hey everyone, 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, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
If you’d like to see this podcast keep going, please rate it in iTunes. Go to itunes.digitalpublishingpodcast.com and then click the blue “Rate in iTunes” button in the left sidebar to pull up the podcast in iTunes so you can rate and review it, and it’ll only take a minute or two. Ok! I’ve got 7 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. eBook growth
People ask me fairly regularly about the ebook market as a whole. Is it worth writing ebooks? Is the market saturated? Are ebooks a fad? Those are the underlying questions that people are wondering about.
And I often read articles about how much and how fast the ebook market is growing, but I never remember the exact details to tell people. Well, I just came across an article this morning that said that the US ebook market grew 44% last year and 46% the year before that. And the vast majority of people I know in the US still do not read ebooks, so that should be an indicator of still how much room for growth there is.
If it’s growing that much in the US, I’d expect that it’s growing even more in other countries where the notion of ebooks is even newer than in the US. For example, TechCrunch reported a couple weeks ago that Thai ebook provider Ookbee adds 6,000 new users every day.
Ebooks aren’t going away. This isn’t a fad that we’re seeing; it’s a fundamental paradigm shift. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I believe at no point in the future will there be more paper books being read than right now. That number will only decline, and number of ebooks being read will only increase.
2. Books as podcasts
One interesting way to promote anything is to create a podcast version of a book. I know that the authors of Yesterday’s Gone, which is a super popular sci-fi series and who co-host the Self Publishing Podcast, are currently working on turning the first book of the series into a podcast. The idea is that people run across the podcast in iTunes, listen to the book, get hooked, and then buy the rest of the books in the series. The iTunes store is where most people find podcasts, and it’s like the Kindle store in that there is built-in traffic there. People will naturally find your podcast. It’s passive marketing that you won’t have to touch too much.
You don’t have to necessarily be an author with an extensive back catalog to do something like this. You could write a new ebook or compile a series of blog posts, read and record them, turn them into a 10-part or 20-part or however-many-part podcast, and then use that to promote your business, your product, services, your website or blog, or whatever else you want to promote. If you already have an ebook, maybe you could even make the first half or quarter of it free as a podcast and then charge for the full book. I don’t know if anyone is currently doing that, but I think it’s a really interesting idea. I know that there are free books on Amazon that are the first few chapters of a larger book.
There is a site called Podiobooks (which is a fantastic name), and that’s at podiobooks.com. The site’s tagline is “Free audio books in serialized form,” and I’d actually never heard about it until earlier today when I was doing some research for this podcast. But it’s an awesome site. It lists a ton of audiobooks that you can listen to for free, and these aren’t public domain audiobooks like from Librivox. These are new, original books. There are nearly 400 books on the site, so it’s a great resource to know about as a listener, but also one that I’d love to investigate more as an author. You can submit your own book to the site once it’s recorded.
3. Subscription boxes
Have you noticed the trend of monthly subscription boxes or things sent to you? Some of these services will send you new underwear or socks. Others will send a box of sample items. Others are things geared toward kids. There’s a service called Mystery Tackle Box, and they send you an assorted handful of fishing lures to try every month.
There are tons and tons of these types of services now. I recently came across another one called Trail Box. It’s for trail runners. The description on their site says,
Are you a trail runner? Do your thoughts drift off to running in the mountains during the workday? Do you want to try new products that cater to trail running? If the answer is YES, Trail Box is for you. Trail Box is a monthly service that delivers a curated selection of products right to your door. It’s not a box of bars and gels – it’s a lifestyle-driven selection of the latest tools and tastes to enhance your time on and off the trails.
I love this. It’s only $10 a month, and a lot of these subscription services are under $30 a month. That’s not a whole lot to people who are really into their hobbies and interests. I think this is one of the most interesting online business models out there right now, and it could be done for just about every hobby, niche, and interest I can think of. I found a nice site called Subscription Boxes that lists a whole bunch of these types of monthly services that you can browse and get ideas from.
4. Digital subscription boxes
So could you take this concept of monthly subscription boxes and apply it to the digital world? Well, yeah. That’s essentially what a lot of membership sites are, right? But could you do it for just something like ebooks or audio content? I think so, and there are probably examples out there of people doing that that I don’t know of. If you write an ebook a month, you could include that and some extras every month for a fee, like shorter content every week and then the one ebook a month. Maybe the membership includes a forum or a private Facebook group where people can interact with you more directly, too.
This would also work for more than just ebooks. I was thinking this morning about how someone should take the Wikipedia articles about histories of places like New York, Paris, and Beijing, edit them and add in information from other sources and delete the boring stuff, and then record them as short audiobooks. You could offer a different city or country every week, and you could bundle that together with PDF, epub, and Kindle versions.
5. How niche can you go?
I read a blog post today on a travel blog about a statue of American musician Frank Zappa that is in Vilnius, Lithuania. That’s pretty random, right? But in Mexico City I saw a statue of the former communist leader of Azerbaijan (though I understand it has since been removed due to public outcry). In the small town of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, there is a statue of a Mormon pioneer girl playing a game. Thinking about all of those got me wondering about whether you could create a travel blog that’s just pictures of statues in various parts of the world and brief biographies of the people the statues are of.
At first glance, this seems like way too narrow of a niche, especially when you compare it to most other travel blogs that have articles like “The Top 10 Beach Resorts in Mozambique” or “My Favorite Sights in Prague.” But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of the statue blog. It’s different from all the other travel blogs out there, and that’s actually really good because it’s hard to stand out in any super crowded niche like travel, but being different is a great way to stand out.
And each individual blog post would be interesting in and of itself. It’s fun and interesting to learn about interesting people, but I don’t give two craps about beach resorts in a place I will likely never ever visit. It’s especially bad when travel blogs talk about a particular hotel or restaurant in some far-flung city. The odds of me ever needing that information are infinitesimal, and it’s not interesting enough to stand on its own without context. Even if you don’t mind looking at the pictures of the nice hotel room in Bangkok, is that really the kind of blog post you would share? No.
But even though you might not ever go to Mexico City or have the desire to see the statue of that guy from Azerbaijan, that’s the kind of thing that could stand on its own just because it’s inherently interesting. It makes you say, “Huh.” I think that’s the kind of thing most travelers and even many non-travelers—like people who like history, for example—would love to read about. The niche is narrow in scope but broad in appeal.
I think that right there is the key to a successful niche blog. Narrow in scope, broad in appeal. That’s why those crazy narrow-niche Tumblr blogs like Rich Kids of Instagram or Kim Jong Il Looking At Things can become so wildly popular. I wouldn’t want to make a blog about statues of people in Seattle. That’s too narrow and people outside of Seattle would immediately dismiss the site. The appeal there isn’t broad enough. But a blog about weird and interesting statues around the world? I do think that’s actually a pretty good idea for a niche blog.
6. Separate Twitter accounts
I’ve mentioned previously in a podcast or blog post somewhere that website owners might want to have multiple Twitter accounts: one just for updates from the site, and another for sharing relavent and interesting content that people in your niche might be interested in, plus all site updates. With the recent announced demise of Google Reader, I think that this is something worth revisiting.
A lot of people are saying that Twitter is a viable alternative to Google Reader. They say to just follow the Twitter accounts of blogs and websites you used to subscribe to via RSS. The problem here is twofold. First, a lot of the bloggers I follow via RSS tweet a TON of stuff, like multiple things every hour. That does not interest me. I just want to see the new updates from the blog. And that brings us to the second problem, which is that some bloggers don’t even tweet about new updates on their blog! They only tweet about other stuff. Either one of these problems makes Twitter a sub-par Google Reader replacement.
To solve this, you can have two separate Twitter accounts: the one that only tweets when new articles are posted to the blog, and the other that is for whatever else you want to tweet about that’s related to what you blog about. So Osmosio is my blog and website that the Digital Publishing Podcast is part of. I recently created the @Osmosio Twitter account that sends out a tweet only when a new blog post on Osmosio.com or a new episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast goes live. This is for those people who use Twitter as an RSS reader replacement. But I also tweet from my personal account, which is @TristanHigbee. That’s where I tweet about all sorts of neat stuff related to traveling, internet business, and digital publishing. If I didn’t want to do that kind of thing from my personal Twitter account, I could have two Osmosio accounts: one would be @OsmosioFeed (and that would be just the new updates from the blog and podcast), and the other would be @Osmosio, which would include a lot more links to articles relating to digital publishing. You’ve then got the best of both worlds.
7. A blog post idea
I’m a fan of the blog Gizmodo. It’s ostensibly about gadgets and technology but mostly I see it as just a fun collection of cool and strange things that may or may not be somehow tangentially related to gadgets. Occasionally they have a photography challenge, and a recent one had the theme of “Tools of the trade.” The idea is that you take a photo of all the tools you have or use for a certain hobby.
I love stuff like this, maybe because I’m also a fan of blogs like Things Organized Neatly (which is exactly what it sounds like) and The Burning House, which is a blog of photos of things that people would grab from their houses if they were burning down. There’s something about seeing stuff all laid out and organized and visible at once that really appeals to me.
But I think that this is a great idea for any niche, really. If your niche involves “stuff,” take a picture of your stuff laid out and organized and post it to your blog.
Featured podcast and tool
And now it’s time for this week’s featured podcast and featured digital publishing tool. My pick for featured podcast is called Evening Edition [link]. Evening Edition first started out as a website, where every evening is a posted a roundup of the top 5 or so news items for that day. The podcast is the same thing. Each daily episode is about 5 minutes long, and it provides a nice and quick roundup of some of that day’s biggest news items. It’s a great way to get caught up on what’s been happening in the world.
My pick for featured digital publishing tool is a free WordPress plugin called MCE Table Buttons [link]. You know how in Word or Google Docs it’s really easy to insert a table? You just say how many rows and columns you want and then the table appears. For years it’s bothered me that there was nothing like that built in to WordPress, but then I found this plugin. It makes adding tables to blog posts or pages as easy as it is in Word, and you can still edit the properties of individual rows, columns, and cells.