Problems with monetizing news, 3 kindle mystery book deals

First, let’s take a look at the Kindle book deals –

  1. The Sugar House: A Tess Monaghan Mystery by Laura Lippman. Rated 4.5 stars on 21 reviews.

    Glue-sniffing teen Henry Dembrow goes to prison after confessing to killing a young Jane Doe found with a small rubber hose tied in a bow around her neck. A month later he, too, is dead. Coincidence? Ruthie Dembrow, Henry’s sister, has her doubts and asks former Baltimore reporter Tess Monaghan, the heroine of this first (and first-rate) hardcover in a justly acclaimed series, to investigate.

    Tess agrees only because her father, Patrick, says he owes Ruthie one. Going over the facts of the crime, Tess realizes that she needs to identify the victim and to learn how the victim came to know her alleged killer.

  2. The Sex Club by L. J. Sellers is rated 4.5 stars on 24 reviews and priced at $2.99. It’s part of the Detective Jackson series and is a police procedural with some very solid reviews.

    When a bomb explodes at a birth-control clinic and a young client turns up dead, Detective Jackson is assigned both cases. But are they connected? Kera, the clinic nurse who discovers that the girl’s Bible group is really a sexual free-for-all, thinks they are.

    But confidentiality keeps her from telling the police, so she digs for the truth on her own and becomes the bomber’s new target. Soon another girl is murdered. Can Jackson uncover the killer’s shocking identity in time to stop the slaughter?

  3. Secrets to Die For by L. J. Sellers is rated 4.5 stars on 8 reviews and priced at $2.99. It’s also part of the Detective Jackson series and the reviews claim it’s even better than the first one.

    When social worker Raina Hughes visits the home of a young boy she’s been assigned to monitor, things quickly turn ugly. Later, when she’s found brutally murdered, Detective Jackson thinks it’s an open-and-shut case against the boy’s ex-con father.

    Complications develop when new evidence points to a serial rapist who’s becoming more violent with each attack. Raina’s lover, Jamie, knows what the rape victims have in common, but won’t tell for fear of revealing her own secrets.

There’s also a 1 cent book that has finally made the huge leap to being a free book –

  •  Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder is rated 4 stars on 119 reviews. It’s one of the long time gems of the Kindle Store.

    You can’t take it with you…but what if you could? Most people believe their souls outlive their bodies. Most people would find an organization that tracks their souls into the future and passes on their banked money and memories compelling.

    Scott Waverly isn’t like most people. He spends his days finding and fixing computer security holes. And Scott is skeptical of his new client’s claim that they have been calculating and tracking soul identities for almost twenty-six hundred years. Are they running a freaky cult? Or a sophisticated con job?

It’s great to get a bunch of mystery book deals and all three of the ones listed above seem really interesting.

Thoughts on Monetizing News

Two seemingly unrelated posts are quite relevant to the situation newspapers currently find themselves in –

  1. Startup Russia has an excellent post on Failure and how the US in general, and Silicon Valley in particular, treats failure. The part we’re interested in deals with product to market fit –

    What this short excursion into history shows is that even the absolutely best of the best leaders of technology companies are:

    • Powerless to change the outcome if they are in wrong market
    • Can only succeed if underdeveloped market (smart phones) or new market (IBM PC) is created for them to enter.

  2. Paul Biggar’s hard to categorize post on why NewsTilt shut down. Here’s one snippet –

    NewsTilt was a product designed to connect journalists with readers. As such, we had two sets of customers, which means we need to do customer development twice. I spent a great deal of time designing the ultimate solution for journalists, and almost no time on what readers wanted.

We’re going to take these two articles and combine them with something Jack Welch says – If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

The Fundamental Problems with Monetizing News

The Market is in Crisis

  1. There are far too many people giving away news for free. 
  2. There are far too many people spending on collecting news and then giving it away for free.
  3. There aren’t very many people interested in paying for news.
  4. It’s a market going through the sort of break-down that predates a huge overhaul. At this point no one knows what the overhaul will be.
  5. Basically, this isn’t a good market and there may not be any company capable of making money in it.

Almost no one has a competitive advantage.  

  1. Except for a few companies (Google due to its search engine, really big newspapers due to their branding) no one has any sort of competitive advantage. Even these companies are stuck as they either lack the search engine/traffic or they lack the content.
  2. The Internet kills the concept of ‘exclusive’ product. Everyone steals your content as soon as you produce it.
  3. News by its very nature is hard to keep as an ‘exclusive’. If there’s an event you can’t really claim you have an exclusive and there certainly isn’t any way to verify whether someone covered the event or just stole what you wrote.  
  4. A new start-up or company can’t really make money because no one’s paying for news.
  5. It’s really, really hard to stand out – Almost anyone can blog or share news or put up a site and lots and lots of people do.

There are no right people to save news and journalism.

  1. The people who love journalism don’t have the technological know-how or the money.
  2. The newspapers don’t know how to make money online. In fact, you could argue they are scared of even trying to make money online.
  3. The only person brave enough to try (Rupert Murdoch) has so many enemies that it’s easy for the Internet Police to demonize him.
  4. The technology companies aren’t very excited by news. They may pay it lip service but they’d much rather do virtual reality or location services. They’re only interested if newspapers will give away their product free.
  5. Technology companies and blogs have also brainwashed newspapers into believing that if newspapers stop giving away news they will die out.
  6. Journalists and Internet/Tech people don’t value each other’s work. There’s a sort of magical barrier that makes each party incapable of appreciating the other’s contribution.

Newspapers and Tech companies are trying their best to devalue content.

  1. Every technology company is trying to get people and journalists and newspapers and sites to give away content for free for the promise of future revenue. 
  2. Newspapers fell for it and are now scared to change tactics – They feel they’d rather give away their work and devalue it than risk becoming irrelevant.  
  3. There is no entity that is willing to safeguard the value of news – tech companies want to run text advertising alongside it and newspapers want to run banner advertising alongside it. They still don’t grasp the fact that on the Internet people mostly ignore advertising.  

Fundamentally, we have a scenario where the newspapers would rather sell people to advertisers than sell news to people.

You can’t monetize news as long as the market is full of illogical people

Startup Russia would say there just isn’t a good market. Newspapers and journalists are in the unusual situation of being focused on tech companies as saviors. Tech companies couldn’t care less – all they want is free content that they don’t have to pay for but can make money from.

The natural resolution to this problem would be for newspapers to compete where they have a competitive advantage and focus on producing great news and protecting it and selling it. However, they are blessed with the inability to realize that if they give away their main product for free there is absolutely zero chance they’ll be able to make any profit.

It’s the equivalent of a steakhouse giving away steak for free and trying to make money from the french fries. To begin with the steakhouse discovered that the freedom fries weren’t covering the cost. Soon they realized that people stopped buying the fries and just ate the steak and left.

Free is perhaps the greatest trick technology companies have used to make idiots out of everyone else. Free X for your personal information. Free Y for your news content which it costs you hundreds of millions of dollar a year to produce.

The NewsTilt post was strange because they quit two months after launch. On further thought – it’s good that they got out of the mess early.

You can’t compete with such marvellously irrational people – people who spend a ton of money to produce news content and then give it away for free.

7 thoughts on “Problems with monetizing news, 3 kindle mystery book deals”

  1. About reading on a Kindle –
    I don’t know if this will make national TV or not, but on Seattle, WA, 12 noon TV news on channel 5, today (9/17), they showed a video that a bus rider (secretly) took, showing that his/her Metro bus driver, while driving a bus along the road, was leaning over the top of the steering wheel, so he could look down and read his Kindle (!!!) while he was driving!!!. OMG.
    Obviously, this is a hazard to driving safely.
    This video looks genuine, and not a publicity stunt by any means.
    I don’t know who this bus driver is, but th video clearly shows his face, so I’m sure someone in Metro will recognize him.

    1. about the bus driver, he is from Portland, Oregon ( not Seattle, WA.)

      If you want to see the video, there is a link on Huffington Post, under their ‘books’ section.

  2. BTW – a recent free Kindle book offer is “Don’t Blink” by James Patterson.

    It is a new release for Sept. 27-8, 2010.

    I found it last night on Amazon as FREE for Kindle to be delivered on 9/27-8/10.

      1. For me, actually I think it is the full book for FREE, but I will confirm here, when I actually get it on the release day.

        On the night I saw it for FREE, I read through the online description and it mentioned the full number of pages; not just a preview 1-chapter. So, I “ordered” the free book right then and there.

        The next day, on Amazon, I looked at that Kindle book, and it was now selling for $16.99 (the very next day).
        I logged on ‘my account’ on Amazon, and looked at my order – and it still shows price $0 and the full book title info (not any mention of preview 1-chapter only, etc.)

        So, I think , maybe I did luck out, and in a small window of time, I found the book free and I ordered it in time.
        I’ll post back here, after it is released and delivered to my Kindle – and I’ll confirm whether it is the full book or not.

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