Before I start: Jen? Are you out there? You won the free copy of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret... but I don't have your email address! Get it to me by Tuesday, Feb. 7, or I'll have to draw another winner, which would make me sad.
In honor of Facebook's upcoming IPO, I'm finally getting around to posting some links I've gathered about the "new economy" and other related techie things. But, since they have been languishing in my upcoming posts list for quite awhile now, they are already all out of date. Still, there is some good reading here.
First of all, Jeff Atwood writes on Coding Horror about why you shouldn't buy a tech book- even the one he helped write. In fact, he argues that you shouldn't write one, either. I found his post really thought-provoking, particularly in thinking about what content does best online. I agree that tech content is one area that really works best online- but how to pay people for producing it? That is always the problem with these new economy issues, isn't it? How to get people to pay for the value they are getting from your work.
(Incidentally, Jeff (@codinghorror) and his wife Betsy (@betsyphd) are now the proud parents of twins. I have never met either of them in real life. I follow @codinghorror, but have never conversed, and I know @betsyphd only through Twitter- and we "met" completely independent of the fact that I follow her husband's blog and twitterstream. But I am so happy for them! Jeff wrote a great post on parenthood, which I featured in an earlier weekend reading post. And I've been following along on twitter as @betsyphd ended up on bedrest. So heartfelt congratulations on the arrival of the twins!)
One model that is often promoted as the solution for the "but how do you make any money off of that?" problem is the "freemium" model, in which your site or content is free for most, but premium users (i.e., people who pay) get something more. Pandora comes to mind as a website that seems to be making that work. But here's a post from someone who had a different experience. I think this just highlights how hard it is to make money online- models that work for some sites fail entirely for others. There is no guaranteed formula, not just for getting rich, but even for for getting any return on the time you've invested. I know, I know... this is true in the "old economy," too. But it seems like there is more guidance available for how to run a successful old-style business. Maybe that's just because the new-style business models are all so, well, new.
Wired had an interesting piece that touches on the fact that now is a time in which people are experimenting with business models. It was primarily about the Amazon vs. your local independent bookstore flap that blew up back before Christmas. I particularly like this line:
"Amazon didn’t happen to your local independent bookstore; America happened to your local bookstore, from television to Waldenbooks."
It really underscores the fact that the technology is just part of the equation in figuring out how to keep any business afloat these days. The technology is changing what is possible, but it (and other forces) are also changing what people want. No wonder it is so hard for people to figure it out. Maybe you really do just have to get lucky.
Or, already be famous. Remember back when we were all talking about how Louis C.K. decided to make a download-only comedy special (nevermind the potential pirates) and made $500,000 selling it, with no middleman? Well, last I checked, he's made over $1 million. This clearly demonstrates that the content distribution world is changing. But I wonder how much of his experience translates to people who don't already have his name recognition? I would guess not much, even with sites like Kickstarter helping out.
And of course, there are heavyweight middlemen in the new economy, too. I was intrigued to see Amazon start to sign up authors directly. I wonder where that will lead?
Phew. That turned out to be longer than I thought it would be. I guess that's what happens when I let links pile up for months. Tell me what you think about all of this in the comments. And/or tell me whether you think I should sign up for GoodReads, LibraryThing, both, or neither. I'm uncharacteristically on the fence about this, and have been for a long time. But I love books and I love lists, so it seems I should be on one or the other site. Should I? Which one? Help get me off the fence!