In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I talk about how and why it might be a good idea for you to start a niche news account on Instagram or Pinterest and a whole lot more.
You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 25 minutes long.
Niche Instagram and Pinterest News, iOS vs. Android, Much More [DPP050]
This is episode 50 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, a podcast about ebooks, blogs, podcasts, social media, and other forms of digital publishing.
My name is Tristan Higbee, coming to you today from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. And the first thing I’d like to say before getting into the meat and potatoes of the podcast is that Osmosio is now live. Osmosio is my site that educates people about digital publishing. There are several modules about various aspects of digital publishing, and it’s something I’ve been working on for a while. There are modules about ebook creation and blogging, and more modules will be added in the future. Head on over to Osmosio.com and check it out.
Second, this is the first new podcast episode after a several-month-long hiatus. I used to put out new episodes every week. I will not be doing that now. I’ll be shooting for every other week, but due to my travel schedule, it may end up being once a month.
As always, you can find complete transcriptions of this and every other episode of the podcast at digitalpublshingpodcast.com.
Ok, I’ve got 4 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started. Topic number one is…
1. Niche Instagram and Pinterest News Sources
There are a bunch of news outlets that have Instagram accounts. There are the ones you’d expect, like CNN and the BCC. And I’ve looked at as many more as I could find for major news outlets. Honestly, none of them are very good. Most of the big news organizations post to Instagram once every couple days, once a week, or even once a month. These organizations talk about dozens of news items every day on TV or on their websites, and I’m almost offended by how little they use Instagram to convey the news. I looked for an Instagram news account that shared news as often as a Twitter account would, but I couldn’t find one.
Here’s the thing. If I’m looking to get news on Instagram, I want… the news on Instagram! I don’t want a token, B-side image taken by a reporter of a stupid story, which is what a lot of these news accounts are. The BBC Instagram account is probably the best I’ve seen in this regard. It posts a few short videos a day about important news items, but if you were to use that account as your sole source of news, you would be very underinformed. And I guess that’s what I’m looking for in an Instagram news account. I want to be able to follow a news source and have that be my main source of news. That isn’t to say that I’m looking to only get my news from Instagram, but I want that to be an option available to the world because there are a lot of people who do use Instagram as their main social network.
Ok, so having said all of that, I want to think now about how a good niche news source could use Instagram. That’s what I’m more interested in. So I’m into rock climbing. I would love to follow a rock climbing news Instagram account. I don’t need beautiful rock climbing photos or pictures of mountains. Those are nice, but there are tons of climbers with those kinds of Instagram accounts. I just want the news. Have you seen those web apps that are made for turning quotes into images to use on Pinterest? That’s the kind of thing that you could use to create the images to post to Instagram. There are mobile apps that do the same thing.
For example, there’s an app for both iOS and Android devices called InstaQuote. It’s specifically made for turning quotes into images that you can then share on Instagram. In the app, there are two text boxes: one for the quote, and one for whoever said the quote. I just looked at Climbing.com, which is the website for Climbing magazine, and it looks like there’s a new speed record for a famous rock climb in Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon called Naked Edge. So in the app, in what would normally be the spot for the quote, I could write:
Sub-25-minute speed record set on Eldorado Canyon’s Naked Edge
And then in the space where you would normally put the name of the person who said the quote, you could put something like:
Read the full story at Climbing Magazine: http://bit.ly/climbingnews001
Then I’d press the Generate button in the app, and it would make me a nice little square image that I could post to Instagram. And I actually did create that image, and you can see what it looks like below.
And yes, I do think that this kind of thing would work on Pinterest, too. Why not use Pinterest as a news source? You could make separate images for Instagram and Pinterest, or just make one for both. And you could even post the same images to Twitter and Tumblr, too.
So why would you want to do this kind of thing? Why would you want to create a niche Instagram or Pinterest news account? What benefit would it be to you? Well, let’s say you have an ebook about rock climbing. You could start the climbing news account on Instagram as a way to find potential new readers. You could put a link to your book in your Instagram profile, or even have a little watermark of a URL to your book on each individual image that you post. Or if you don’t want to do that, another option would be to post an image once a week or once a month or whatever of your book and say something like, “Hey, if you like these climbing news updates, you’ll love my book.”
If anyone reading this knows of any niche news accounts on Instagram, let me know. I’d love to see them and take a look at what they do and how they do it.
2. More Thoughts on iOS and Android
I bought my first smartphone in 2012. It was an iPhone 4. I used that as my only smartphone until December 2013, when I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note II, a phablet that was my first Android phone. I bought the Note II because I wanted a bigger screen. Most of what I do on a smartphone is read, and a bigger screen meant more words on the screen so that I wouldn’t have to keep turning the page every five seconds. There are a couple other reasons that I bought the Android phone, and I talked about them at length in episode 46 of the podcast, so go listen to that if you’re want to hear more about it.
Then back in April of this year I was in Bangkok during Songkran, which is the massive Southeast Asian water fight. I thought that my iPhone was properly protected in a Ziploc bag, but that was not the case. It ended up getting damaged by the water and I could never turn it back on after that. Fast forward six months and I still had the dead iPhone. I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I took it to a phone repair shop here in Phnom Penh to see if they could fix it. For $35 they did indeed fix the phone, and now it’s working again, and I’ve been using it in addition to my other phone, to my Android phone. It’s been really interesting to use iOS again now that I am so used to Android.
Overall, I still think that iOS apps are much better than their Android counterparts. Most iOS apps that I’ve used looked good. Most Android apps do not. This is, of course, subjective, but I do think it’s worth saying. But more important than how the apps look is how they function, and iOS apps have an advantage here too. Take the Duolingo app, for example. Duolingo is a language-learning app for both iOS and Android. I’ve been using the Android version for the past couple months, and I started using the iOS version a couple days ago. The iOS version is just better. It has features that the Android version does not have, like the weekly leaderboard that compares the points I’ve earned to the points my friends have earned. Or take the Overdrive app. Overdrive lets you borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local library. The iOS app has variable speed playback for audiobooks, so I can listen to a book at 1.5x or 2x normal speed. The Android app does not have variable speed playback, which is a dealbreaker for me when in comes to the app. The audiobook narrators always read significantly more slowly than how I would like them to read.
Those are just two examples, but they reflect the bigger issue. If there is an app you like on iOS, you’ll be able to find a similar Android app, and vice versa. It’s the more detailed functionality within the apps that makes the difference, and I still don’t think that Android is up to where iOS is.
So if I were to buy a brand new phone today, what would I buy? Well, before the new iPhones that came out last month, I’d really lost interest in iPhones. I love the quality of iPhone hardware, but there were just too many other limitations that I thought were stupid. But most of the problems I had with iPhones have been fixed with iOS 8 and the new iPhone 6 phones. I wanted a bigger screen, and now the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both have bigger screens. I wanted better inter-app communication, and that has been introduced in iOS 8 with Extensibility.
On top of that, my Note II has been having hardware issues. The plastic back panel won’t snap on and become perfectly flush and solid anymore. The USB charging port on the bottom is finicky, and sometimes the phone won’t charge. Now I know that these are not Android issues. They’re Samsung issues, and I will never buy another Samsung phone. There’s too much crapware that can’t be removed, and the hardware is just low quality. This is a shame, because I love the stylus on my Note II, but even that isn’t enough to keep me with a Samsung phone.
So the better question is, would I buy a nicer, non-Samsung Android phone or an iPhone? Well, I have two answers to that question. If money were no object, I think I would buy an iPhone 6 Plus. It’s big. It has great apps. It has a great camera. The hardware looks fantastic. But if money were an object, I would buy an Android phone, more specifically a Nexus 5. It’s $349—so less than half the price of the iPhone 6 Plus—has no crapware, and is factory unlocked. The Nexus 6 is being announced literally as I’m writing this [UPDATE: It starts at $649], and I’d get that instead if it were available and the general consensus is that it’s a good phone and the price is decent. Even if money weren’t an object, the Nexus 5 (and again, presumably the yet-to-be-released Nexus 6) is such a good value for the money that it would be hard for me to pass it up if I were in the market. If the Nexus 6 turns out to be higher-priced than its predecessor and is priced up in iPhone range, then I’d probably get an iPhone.
Another thing to consider is what the people around you have. Every single one of my family members and almost every one of my closest friends has an iPhone. If I want to use proprietary Apple services like Facetime or iMessage, I might get an iPhone based on that alone. But I have an Apple laptop that I can use Facetime and iMessage on, so that’s less important to me in a phone.
At this point, both iPhones and the high-end Android devices are so good that I think it’s hard to go wrong with either one. I think the key would be to figure out whether there’s a killer app or feature that you need on either platform. If you want to use the Overdrive app to listen to audiobooks at 2x speed, for example, you need an iPhone. If you want a factory-unlocked phone for less than $400, you need an Android phone.
I think it’s important for us as digital publishers to keep up on what’s going on in the phone world, because the amount of reading and media consuming that people do on mobile phones will only increase. I think it’s good to know what these devices are capable of and how people are using them so that we can be better prepared to meet those needs and use cases.
3. Book Excerpts on Scribd
A few months ago, I Googled author Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The Happiness of Pursuit. One interesting thing I saw in the search results was the Scribd page for an excerpt from the book. Scribd is a free document-sharing site. Anyone can upload their files to the site. So I clicked through to read the excerpt and saw that the first 25 pages of the book are there, and at the beginning and end of those 25 pages, there are links to purchase the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iBooks, and Indiebound. As of writing this, the document has nearly 19,000 views.
It turns out that a lot of books have excerpts on Scribd. I think I knew this somewhere deep in the back of my mind. I’m sure I’ve come across book excerpts on the site before, but it never really hit me that it’s something I could or should do with my own books. I think it’s a great idea though, for two reasons. First, it’s never a bad thing to control as many of the Google search results as possible. If you put an excerpt on Scribd and it shows up on the first page of Google, that’s good because it’s something you’re in control of. You can present your book the way you want it to be presented. And second, I think this is a good idea because it gives you another avenue through which people can discover your book. Maybe they’ll be searching for something on Scribd itself and your book excerpt comes up in the search results, and they learn about your book that way.
Seeing as how uploading a book excerpt to Sribd and other file-sharing sites like SlideShare would take just a couple minutes, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to do it. Right now I’m in the final stages of editing my latest ebook, and when it’s done, I’ll definitely upload an excerpt to Scribd and see how it does. If there’s anything interesting to report back on, I’ll do it here on the podcast in a future episode.
4. Nonfiction eBook Series
I’ve recently come across a few nonfiction ebook authors who are dominating the niches they’re in. These are not sexy niches like health and fitness or personal development, and that’s why I want to talk about them. These are books written by people with real experience (as opposed to the kind of experience that you can get just by Googling something for a few hours).
The first author is Sunny Skye. She’s written four books about various aspects of RVing, and they are…
This author is obviously interested in and has experience with RVs and RV life. She chose that one topic and wrote several books that anyone with an interest in that kind of thing could potentially find interesting.
The second author is Susan Gregersen. She’s written 30 books, and I’m not quite sure how to categorize her niche, but here’s a sampling of some of her books:
- Life Without Refrigeration
- Food Storage: Preserving Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
- Poverty Prepping: How to Stock up For Tomorrow When You Can’t Afford To Eat Today
- Build Your Own Low-Budget Solar Power System
So I guess the niche is prepping? Is that what it’s called? Again, if someone were to pick up any one of those books and find it interesting, there’s a good chance that he or she would find those other books interesting too.
And then there’s the author Bill Walker. He’s written the following four books about long-distance walking:
- Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian trail
- Skywalker: Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail
- The Best Way: El Camino de Santiago
- Getting High: The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
Another example is author Graham Mackintosh, who has written four books about his various adventures in Mexico’s Baja California. Talk about a narrow niche.
The main reason I wanted to talk about these authors is that I think that finding a niche that you have a lot of experience in and writing a bunch of books in and around that niche is the single best way to make money as an ebook writer. I think I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but it’s so important that I wanted to talk about it again, and all of these examples are ones that I’ve found relatively recently.
Let’s go back to the guy who wrote the books about long-distance hiking and walking. I got one of his books for free when he was doing a free Kindle promotion. I read it and enjoyed it and bought another one of his books. That continued until I’d bought all of them. That’s why writing multiple books in one niche is such a good idea. The power of marketing a single book is multiplied. A reader buying one book can turn into a reader buying multiple books.
It’s something I need to start doing more of. Most of my books are in completely different niches, and as a result, I’m guessing that the number of people who buy and read more than one of my books is pretty low. If you’re debating between writing three books about different subjects and three books about a similar subject, I would highly recommend doing the latter.
Pick of the week: Simple Desktops
And that now brings us to my pick of the week. This is where I pick one useful thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or anything else I find valuable. My pick this week is a two-parter. The first part is a website called Simple Desktops. It’s a website that curates clean and simple desktop wallpapers for your computer or mobile device. To be honest, I’ve had the same plain color background on my computer for about three years. But I recently thought it might be fun to spice things up a bit, and that brings me to the second part of my pick.
I remembered that on both Macs and Windows PCs, you can have the desktop background rotate randomly, and that sounded like fun. So I went on Simple Desktops, downloaded around 40 wallpapers that I liked, and set my background settings to change the background every day. I’ve had this setup for about a week now, and I really like it. It’s fun to see what the new background is when I open up the laptop every day. I won’t go into the details of how to set your computer to rotate through different backgrounds, but if you can’t figure it out in your desktop display settings, Google it and you’ll be able to figure it out. It’s really simple.
And that’s all for episode 50 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog. Also be sure to check out Osmosio.com if you want to learn more about digital publishing. It’s like Osmosis with an -o at the end instead of an -s.
Please don’t hesitate to email me any questions you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. 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. If you do follow me there, be sure to say hi. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast. The podcast was missing from iTunes for a while, but now it’s back. Thanks for reading.