Review Round-up: The Long Ride and After Midnight
Chicken Soup For The Soulless

Weirdness Rodeo: Disney is rather impressive

Check out this little doohicky:

Disney mind map

I peeled this out of a Drum article about Disney and its rampant collection of data.

It is a lovely little diagram in and of itself, but what strikes me as important is how they've got a role for everything. Specifically, the article notes...

...Disney’s resolute focus on preserving its purpose in the eyes of consumers, which Hill said was down to an understanding that success “isn’t just about return on investment”. Being commercially successful is important, but she said it was a product of having strong brand equity.  

Emphasis mine. The fact that Disney has a stable of billion dollar brands isn't an accident - they take each and every property and see how it can be developed across every possible channel and content type. And not 'artificially' - the channels don't diffuse the property, they fortify it. And that's, well,... amazing.

So why isn't this happening more? And, specifically, why doesn't this happen with book-based properties? The brand sprawl doesn't generally happen until the book becomes a movie, then the cinematic assets are spread out across all other channels. Take, for example, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones - where the music, theme park, merchandise, etc - are all based on the film's interpretation (and visual style), not the books'. Is this a matter of reach? (Remember, even a 'bombed' film has more viewers than your normal best-seller.) A matter of format? (Books are platforms for personal interpretation - as soon as you start populating the other channels, you're removing the reader's own imagination from it.) Or a matter of tradition? (Books are canon, and their stories should not be diluted - or 'reinterpreted' for other channels.)

I've wanged on about books rarely being the 'lead media' in the past, and this feels like another example. Wouldn't it be great to see how a publisher could do this with the book at the centre, rather than waiting for television or film to bring the clout required?

Amazon vs fake reviewers

Amazon is suing fake reviewers:

The lawsuit targets 1114 defendants, dubbed 'John Does' because Amazon does not know their real names, who it said had been offering their false review writing services from around $5 (£3.25) on the website

There's something about this that's not reminiscent of watching 'Big Music' chase down P2P violations. In that case, it was a combination of a) pursuing huge hosting sites and b) publicly crucifying a few 'everyday' offenders in order to spur some behaviour change.

Here, Amazon are pursuing a different tactic - they tweak their own platform to keep it from being 'too easy' (stomping out obvious author-reviewing-author stuff) and go after the third-party providers like Fiverr. This sounds cynical, but I'm not sure they actually care about review fraud - at least, from either a commercial or a moral point of view. Whereas the music industry lost money from P2P sharing, Amazon doesn't really suffer from review mills. This is a brand exercise.

As repeatedly demonstrated, the more reviews on a book = the more likelihood a consumer will buy it. However, as a brand, they need to preserve - or be seen to preserve - the integrity of their site.  In fact, the better comparison here may be the way eBay chases after knock-off brands. Bootleg Louis Vuitton merchandise still sells on eBay (short term financial gain for the platform), but makes eBay look dodgier overall (harming the brand in the long term).

Quick stuff

5 ways to attract new audiences to arts and culture - generic, but good.

Foyles are hosting a 'Christmas Market' in their Charing Cross branch. And their pitch to potential vendors includes a surprising amount of data - including the size of their mailing list (150,000) and their store footfall numbers (3k - 5k/day during this period). Hmm.

And, finally, an absolutely cracking history of city-builder games:

SimCity was a revelation in the games market. It was arguably the first non-twitchy game to enter the public consciousness, and it earned plaudits from such bastions of old culture as The New York Times and Time, as well as specialist games and technology press. It transcended games of the time to become a part of popular culture, of all levels of education, and of the very field it simulated—many urban planners used it to test existing ideas and to inspire new one.


As always, this round-up of publishing, marketing and other stuff is available via email.