Thursday, May 21, 2009

Twittering Publishers

Twitter may be a lot more important for publishers than most of them (us) realize. Few publishers would have a clue as to what Twitter means to their business model. Since Twitter still has not worked out its own business model, a matter of some general amazement to the illustrious VC's and industry watchers who follow it, this may not be all together surprising.

But here are three reasons why publishers of books and magazines should be VERY interested in Twitter:

  1. A great deal of Twittering is really about linking your friends/followers to stuff that you have seen or read. Twitter is an ideal medium for sharing information about good books or magazines, especially as they get on to the web as genuine web resources. All those tinyurls and's are citations. This is the direct response network that the web has promised publishers and authors.
  2. (With apologies for a fragment of technospeak here), the Twitter 'social graph' with its asymmetrical follow/follower relationships is functionally analogous to the 'lectoral graph' of our reading patterns. You may have read a lot of the books and magazines that I have read, but there will certainly be a lot of non-overlap, and we will be as patchilly intermittent in our following as many of us are in our reading. Being able to connect to people who have read the same stuff as us, may be as important to us as being able to search the books that we have read or will read.
  3. The key role of 'bestsellers' in the world of publishing and the importance of 'celebrities', or 'real experts', in the world of twitter. Trade publishers know how important celebrities are to publishing, so we had better figure out how this celebrity-hood in Twitterdom can multiply or interact with success in bookselling or digital magazines.
I have no more idea than anyone else what the ultimate or even the proximate business model of Twitter is going to be. My own hunch is that 'real time' search is not the key issue, much more important is the pattern of relationships and the elaborate web of communication that the service is weaving between its millions of users. This is why we have been following the Twitter Bookclub rumblings with avid interest, and helping the wossy project to get going with a digital edition of the first selection The Men who Stare at Goats. Something interesting will happen in this space in the next few months, if not with the wossybookclub, then with something similar. By this time next year Twitter will have found a business model and I will not be surprised if some strands of that model are quite closely intertwined with what publishers have done and need to do.

If writers and readers enjoy talking, twittering and sharing their experience of reading, then more books will be read, more books will be sold and the publishers who facilitate this will have played the part of concierge, that is their digital metier.

PS You can follow my Twitter stream here. And you can follow Daryl's here.

2 comments: said...


really impressed by this move by yourselves and picador! I think it will be huge! At least I hope it is!

There is something very fun about the whole idea.

Strangely Twitter has really come good for me in the last few days as I Ahve started using it with and I am starting to see the real pay back from posting links to content and ideas I like.

I'm with you in the need for publishers to harness this and roll with it. Strangely enough whereas as an industry we were slow enough to adopt the blog as a tool (with notable exceptions and its now pretty common place) I seem to see many more publishers at ease with twitter presences!


Alain Pierrot said...

Following a paper on Publishers Weekly, TOC might make a quarterly "Twitter Scorecard for Publishers".

The times they are a-changing!