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What Would Jesus Buy


Produced by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and directed by Rob VanAlkemade, What Would Jesus Buy is a hilarious and sneakily penetrating portrait of Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.  I’m pleased to be working with Morgan and Rob to help promote their film, together with the book Get Satisfied: How Twenty People Like You Found the Satisfaction of Enough (from the wonderful Simple Living America, published by Easton Studio Press.)  The website for the movie is well worth a visit: http://wwjbmovie.com.  Make sure you watch the trailer.  The film opens in selected theaters around the country November 30.

Here is the review from the NY Times.

The Gospel of Stop Shopping

Published: November 16, 2007

For some of the parents interviewed in Rob VanAlkemade’s fast and funny documentary “What Would Jesus Buy?” the answer to the question posed by the title is simple: whatever gadget of the moment their spoiled-rotten kids are craving.

According to the film’s subject, Reverend Billy, the charismatic bleached-blond performance artist and mock evangelist whose real name is Bill Talen, this is part of a larger problem. His get-up may be for show, but his activism is the real deal, and his mission is to fight what he calls the “shopocalypse,” the buying frenzy Americans indulge in every holiday season.

The film takes us on a 2005 cross-country tour with Reverend Billy; Savitri D, his wife and organizer of his Church of Stop Shopping; and the church’s gospel choir. Along the way they deliver their message — that peace and love, not spending, are the true backbone of holiday spirit — through witty speeches and songs to unsuspecting patrons at assorted problem spots like Wal-Mart, the Mall of America and Disneyland

Reverend Billy is zany and energetic enough to hold the attention of those he’s preaching to — average to extreme shoppers, many clueless as to what globalization means — long enough for them to consider his crusade. At the very least, the film might make a viewer think twice about that next purchase at the Gap.

And for the antidote to the American Church of Material Things, take a look at Get Satisfied (proudly a Booktrix project produced for SLA) at http://www.getsatisfied.org. You can purchase the book there or at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Get-Satisfied-Twenty-People-Satis faction/dp/0974380687/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&am p;qid=1196232092&sr=8-1

Posted by David Wilk on 11/28 at 01:28 AM
(226) CommentsPermalink

Publishing, the Future, and Market Research


In most industries, market research is considered crucial.  In the book business, it seems as if it is considered antithetical to good publishing.  I do not believe that publishers should choose which books to publish based simply on research about what people want to read, as that would produce a market that looks like television (but hey, isn’t that what a lot of people complain we already have? Hmmm…). 

 

But of course some books might well be published (and published well) based on research about what the market needs.   But it seems rather that the book industry as a whole needs to know much more about its readers (current and future) and therefore about the kinds of delivery mechanisms that will appeal to them in a digital universe.

 

Back to the comparison with the record business….which is by all measures, the closest in nature and behavior to the book business….consumers of music have increasingly made clear that they are not that interested in traditional containers (CD’s being traditional in that they are a physical collection of songs - even though they are only twenty five years old as a specific physical format).  Record companies need to redefine themselves as content businesses, primarily. 

 

Is this true of publishers?  I think so, many others do as well.  How would we find out?

 

Wouldn’t we be able to ask readers questions about books, reading, digital delivery systems, pricing, etc., and imperfect as the answers might be, learn something meaningful that we could use to help reconfigure  how books are made, marketed, sold and delivered?

 

Does the Book Industry Study Group(BISG) have this responsibility?  Does AAP?  Does the NEA?  Are individual publishers doing this kind of research?  Maybe Amazon or Barnes & Noble is most likely to be working on these issues.

 

I think the Radiohead experiment ought to be replicated many times over in different variations, for both music and writing.  Regardless of the future delivery shape of the book, I think the configuration of the world of retail and the way the Web works makes it imperative for authors and publishers to begin to build different sorts of relationships with consumers. 

 

The only way we will learn what works and how what works may vary across different types of books and authors, is to experiment, and then study the results.

 

If anyone reading this has information about studies in reading and technology, new media publishing, consumer thinking about digital books, pricing models, etc., I’d be grateful to learn about them. 

 

 

 

 

Posted by David Wilk on 11/18 at 10:04 PM
(15) CommentsPermalink

The Radiohead Experiment


Recently Radiohead offered their new CD "In Rainbows" to consumers (http://www.inrainbows.com/) with the choice to download the entire album and pay whatever the individual feels is fair.  Authors and book publishers certainly should be interested in this project and the results.  While there are clear differences between the music business and the book business, there are also many similarities, particularly in the way that retail has evolved.  For example, the decline in the amount of shelf space available for new titles and backlist against the number of titles produced annually is strikingly similar between the two industries. 

The structure of each industry is very much the same.  In each there has been a decline of independent outlets, rise of mass marketers and big box stores, and the prevalence of large active used resale marketplaces is common to both music and books.  Additionally, on the production side, there are great similarities - with a small number of large publishers or labels, a huge number of independents, and now too, a rise in self produced products.

Differences of course abound; there is no radio or anything like it to promote books.  Musicians make money performing in ways that most authors can only admire from afar.  No one pays $40 for an author tour t-shirt either (well maybe once in a while). 

Music can be consumed while doing other things and is almost ubiquitous, and the internet has broadened its reach wildly, while reading requires attention and focus.  Certainly there will never be as many people interested in reading or buying books as there are who listen to music.  But then again, books are used for many purposes, with academic, professional and science categories that have no equivalent in music either.

Regardless, the idea of that both businesses are going through some serious changes now would be difficult to dispute.  So the Radiohead project is interesting to publishers and authors in the same way that Seth Godin’s work is illuminating for musicians and record labels.

*** 

Here is a report on the first three weeks of the Radiohead experience: http://blogs.mediapost.com/online_minute/?p=1601. 

Radiohead Results: 38% Forked Over $6 Average

Posted November 6th, 2007 by Wendy Davis

It’s no exaggeration to say the music industry is eagerly awaiting the results of Radiohead’s decision to let consumers decide how much, if anything, to pay for the group’s latest album.

And it’s probably fair to speculate that many executives are hoping that the group finds it can’t make as much money with their pay-what-you-choose pricing plan as it could have, had it sold “In Rainbows” through a record label.

Now, preliminary results in from comScore show that about six in 10 downloaders didn’t pay anything for the album since it was made available online on Oct. 10. Worldwide, 1.2 million people visited the album’s Web site last month, with a “significant percentage” downloading the record, according to comScore estimates.

Thirty-eight percent of downloaders worldwide paid something for the album, while 62% downloaded it for free. Paying downloaders forked over an average of $6, with U.S. consumers paying almost twice as much ($8.05) as those from other countries ($4.64).

Between the “freeloaders” and paying downloaders, overall revenue came to an average $2.26 per album.

But many questions need to be answered before any conclusions can be drawn from that figure. Among the most significant is, how many of those early downloaders only did so because the tracks were free? If the freeloaders wouldn’t have purchased the record under any circumstances, it doesn’t bode poorly for musicians that they chose not to pay here.

Consider also, bands typically receive only a small portion of the purchase price when their record labels sell the albums. While precise details of arrangement between Radiohead and its label aren’t known, music attorney and record exec Chris Castle
estimated to CNET
that the group saw between $3 and $5 per album sold by their label and tended to sell 3 million to 4 million copies of each album.

Meantime, before anyone deems Radiohead’s initiative an economic failure based on just three weeks worth of data, the industry should consider the intangible factors — including goodwill from consumers — that could translate into ticket sales or other revenue down the line.

**** 

This may not mean that authors will be racing to replicate this idea with their books, but some will, perhaps with variations on the theme.  The truly excellent music and culture magazine from Georgia, Paste Magazine (http://www.pastemagazine.com/) is currently offering subscriptions for any price you want to pay them.  Why not sell books online the same way?  If you have a platform and an audience that will pay attention, it might just work well enough to provide authors with enough income to allow them to do what they need to do - which is write for a living.

Posted by David Wilk on 11/07 at 12:45 AM
(62) CommentsPermalink
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