Writing Business Strategies

By: Jo Ann Lequang

This is a short history of media. Bear with me, it's worth it. The thing is, a revolution just happened, and I wanted to be sure you were awake.

In the beginning, books were handwritten on scrolls made of leather. These books were priceless treasures, seldom glimpsed, and of infinite value. People were mostly illiterate, since books were priceless as diamonds. The only things that got into books were very important things, like sacred texts or royal decrees.

People mainly clustered in groups to hear what these texts said when an authority figure read them aloud.

In the 16th century, Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing presses. To be sure, presses were in existence before that, but the Gutenberg equipment allowed for the relatively cheap and rapid production of books. People started to learn to read. Books were suddenly affordable, even if still expensive.

Books were an individual experience; people read and studied in isolation. Cultures emphasized individualism.

Printing got so cheap in later years (17th, 18th, 19th centuries) that political manifestos, advertising texts, and how-to manuals found their way to print. Then came magazines and novels. Publishing was now an industry.

People mainly still read in isolation.

In the 20th century, TV and radio changed how information got disseminated. Literacy was no longer required, nor was an authority figure. If you owned the right technology (radio or TV set), you got the message, and you could listen alone or in a group.

These "broad"-casters had to develop messages that fit the broadest possible populations. Advertising made this a business and "publishers" got involved in the form of station owners.

Then came the Internet.

Now everything is different. We could talk a lot about the isolation versus community aspects, the resurgence of literacy skills, and the splintering of the broad markets into niches. That's all very nice.

But we're writers. What we have to care about is something I hear almost no writers talking about. What happens to the writer in this revolution?

That's the good news (for writers, at least). In the Internet, podcasting, digital media world, publishers are left out of the equation.

Every other form of media, from ancient scrolls to modern TV stations, require some kind of business entity to distribute the message. The Internet basically eliminates that. Anyone can get on the web.

Not only that, I can set up a $20 website tomorrow that has the same exact "reach" as CNN online.

That's an industry term that means that it is accessible to the same amount of people. (Granted, they're not all going to tune in to my website, but I have the technological "reach" to communicate with them.)

When I first started writing, writing was all about finding publishers and selling to them. A lot of writers still look at the writing industry that way. A lot of writers are also poor and browbeaten.

The problems with publishers are many. First, publishers determine the content and they are prone to buy the things they can best sell. This means that niche products, specialty markets, and unusual outside-the-norm writing is almost impossible to sell. Second, publishers keep most of the money. Granted, I know they take the risks but the deal is set up so that publishers get rich and writers don't. True, there are exceptions. But for every J. K. Rowling there are dozens of Randolph Hearsts and Rupert Murdochs. Third, publishers call the shots. Writers have very little leverage.

The beauty of the Internet is that it made the publisher obsolete.

Now if you want to publish a novel in hardcover form and have it on the shelves of every brick-and-mortar bookstore on earth simultaneously, you are going to have to try to break in to the traditional publishing model (good luck).

But what if I told you that you could now set up your own online magazine in the form of a website? You make money (or "monetize the site" as the cyber crowd says) by selling products or advertising space. If you can write an interesting how-to book or have a great collection of recipes, you can sell these online as a digital product (ebook).

The line between writer and publisher has more than just blurred, it's disappeared.

The first people to recognize the tremendous potential of the Internet as a new publishing venue were the technical geeks. In an ironic twist, they were the very ones who did not care about it.

The next wave of recognition is going on now as professional marketers and former denizens of the infomercial and direct sales world hit the Internet. These marketing gurus realize they can now sell information products and online advertising cheaper, faster, and easier than anything else.

This is the part that I don't want you to sleep through. Writers have a tremendous natural advantage here. Most Internet marketers complain loud and long about one thing: content. That's the new word for articles, podcasts, videos, and all of the other information that people online are seeking.

Content is tough for most Internet marketers. True, these marketing guys and gals have to learn some technical skills and it's no walk in the park to set up a successful website and get traffic, but the overarching worry they all face is this. Content.

As writers, we are natural born content-making machines. Most of us can write well and easily about a wide range of subjects; we know how to do an interview and how to do basic research; we are deft at crafting sentences and we don't flinch when we're asked our opinions--about anything. In short, we're communicators.

Nobody on earth is better poised to take advantage of the Internet than writers.

Yet most writers are not aware of the Internet, don't know a revolution just happened, and even if you could convince them to test the waters online, they would howl in protest at having to learn technology.

It's true. Technology is going to be a bit of a stumbling block, but it can be learned. (Hey, 12-year-old boys have their own websites, why are you in such a panic?)

Another big leap is the realization that the old business model no longer exists. Publishers do not have to be involved in your quest to get your words and ideas in front of your readers.Of course, this takes a knowledge of new business models and paradigms. Even today, these new business models are still being worked out. Ask ten successful Internet entrepreneurs how they make money online and you'll likely get ten different answers, maybe even more, since a lot of these guys dabble in more than one business model.

In shortHealth Fitness Articles, it's a great day to be a writer. Do you realize what's just happened?

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