Industry News: Newsweek on the block, RH beings gaming, some partying at BEA
The slow death of Newsweek
In the world before Drudge and the Huffington Post and MSNBC, Newsweek, US News and World Report, and TIME were the big three of news magazines. Newsweek appears to be the first of the top three to die. Last year, media mogul Barry Diller purchased the news magazine and made it online-only in the United States. The intent was for Newsweek to be a companion to IAC’s (Diller’s company’s) Daily Beast. Now IAC is trying to sell Newsweek’s assets, and not everyone’s certain they’ll find a buyer. In announcing the sale, Daily Beast/Newsweek CEO Baba Shetty and publisher Tina Brown said the sale is required because Newsweek is taking focus away from The Daily Beast, and touted the work done with Newsweek since last year. According to the internal memo announcing the upcoming sale, Fast Company called Newsweek “a new model for online magazines.” Diller was less kind, saying last month that he regretted purchasing the magazine.
What this means to you: Sure, Newsweek‘s a magazine, but publishing trends transcend book publishing. All news magazines have been hit hard by the immediacy of the 24×7 news cycle on television and the Internet. Websites like Drudge, The Daily Beast, and other niche sites have siphoned off some of the market. And Newsweek’s decision to go online only put it in direct competition with hipper, more nimble competition. Assuming Newsweek doesn’t survive, it will be joined by other venerable names and replaced by tomorrow’s venerable names. It’s all part of the Big Change.
Random House enters literary gaming world
Random House has entered into a deal with Failbetter games to produce a free-to-play (but pay-to-upgrade) game based on a story idea. The storyline, called The Black Crown Project, is a story-based online game that uses Failbetter’s Storynexus platform. Storynexus is a gaming platform that allows you to create worlds in which stories unfold. During each story, you face multiple decision points where the story can change. In the case of Black Crown, the story wasn’t necessarily linear based on the player/reader’s decisions. To monetize the experience, Failbetter allows you to purchase virtual money, known as nex, and use it to unlock premium content or replenish the game’s energy. None of this is particularly new. Random House’s involvement is. The publisher is experimenting to see if a more interactive online experience adds to the bottom line. If it does, you can bet there will be more.
What this means to you: The article points out that the success of Random’s 50 Shades series was backwards. It started at a small independent press, then a bigger press, then a trade paperback, then a hardcover. This could open the door to a similar route. And certainly anyone who enjoys the games would buy future books by the game’s “author,” Rob Sherman. The skill set for creating such games is similar to what’s required for a book. There are lots of ways to tell a story.
Party time at BEA
Book Expo America opened this week, and the atmosphere seemed to be lighter than in previous years. And though the parties are now being held by different groups, they’re back–if not in the over-the-top manner of previous years. For instance, rather than The New Yorker, which held a BEA party for years, People magazine will host. Big announcements and unique promotions will also rule the day. New books are being announced by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Helen Fielding (the Bridget Jones series), and John Grisham. One interesting promotion will have authors Patricia Cornwell and Elizabeth Gilbert riding the Penguin book truck, the literary equivalent of a food truck, pitching their wares. It’s not what it used to be, but with the anti-trust issue settled and the market rebounding, it’s not a dressed-up wake, either.
What this means to you: According to some, big publishing is doing just fine. This trend seems to amplify that sentiment. Given the new economics, the parties and bells and whistles are never likely to return to what they once were, but the Big Five will still be around for a while. And authors–even big authors–are being required to do more to market their work.