Call me maybe

Happy New Year!

A year ago today, I resolved to post something useful every day in 2012. At the time, the goal felt a bit ambitious, but I really wanted to write more about publishing, and committing to a regular schedule seemed like the right way to go.

And now, here we are, 366 days and 366 posts later, starting a new year. Being kind of data-driven, I thought we could start by celebrating with some statistics. 

In 2012, the Magellan web site recorded a bit more than 34,000 visits (up 62% over 2011) and almost 19,000 unique visitors (up 34% over 2011).  Page views increased by 67%, and the average duration bumped up by 20 seconds, to 1:38.

About three quarters of page views went to blog posts, where the average duration was 2:47 (encouraging, as most of the posts are deliberately short). The share of new visitors fell from 64% in 2011 to 53% in 2012, suggesting that the blogging attracted a core base of readers, though not exclusively so.

Early in the year we redesigned the site to better support mobile platforms. The share of visits from mobile devices grew from 14% in 2011 to 22% in 2012, likely driven as much by smartphone penetration as site design.

One thing that did not change this year: almost 46% of those visiting the site live outside the United States. The single largest non-U.S. contingent is in Canada (7% of all visits), where we have several clients and the blog counts a number of followers, including Sean Cranbury, John Maxwell and Kevin Franco.

Nearly 40% of site visits come from outside of North America. The leading countries are a pretty stable list that includes the U.K., India, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Australia, France and Denmark.

Of course, Spain hosts Jorge Portland; Portugal claims Jose Furtado, publishing’s most prolific tweeter; Germany is home to Helmut von Berg; and Denmark boasts Marie Bilde Rasmussen. All have been great supporters of our published work, as has Julieta Lionetti (Argentina).

The year’s most widely viewed posts included three from other years:

  1. 50 shades of DRM
  2. The impact of piracy (from June 2009)
  3. Context first (from October 2010)
  4. The library within us (and its extension, Community organizers)
  5. The opportunity in abundance (from October 2011)
  6. Summer reading, an overview of research project we did for BISG
  7. The new reality, which sparked an extensive metadata conversation
  8. Workflow conversations, a question set to manage change
  9. Innocence and magic
  10. Content as a service and the "seven deadly myths of mobile"

“Context first”, “The opportunity in abundance" and “The library within us” all started as talks at Books in Browsers events and subsequently were included in programs hosted by O’Reilly Media and its Tools of Changes conferences. Continued interest in these older posts illustrates the value and importance of these two forums when talking about the future of publishing.

A similar case can be made for the second most viewed post. In 2008, O'Reilly Media was one of a handful of publishers willing to release digital content without DRM. Founder Tim O'Reilly had long argued that the greatest threat to most published works is obscurity, not piracy.

To help them think about the issues, O'Reilly asked us to measure "the impact of piracy", supporting a project that helped solidify our credentials as a data-driven consultancy (though not without some controversy). The study is still generating interest and discussion almost five years later.

I particularly loved that “Innocence and magic” cracked the top ten. Written in January, it’s a tribute to and reminiscence of my first year in publishing, when the world really did seem wide open. I’ve spent the rest of this year writing things that I hope can help bring that feeling back.

One thing that the blog has not done is demonstrably land me more work. On the one hand, that’s not why I decided to write every day. I made the commitment because I wanted to explore a set of ideas that interest me. I think these ideas have value for authors, publishers, distributors and retailers, but first I wanted to make sure they made sense to me. Writing helps me figure that out.

On the other hand, people throughout the year have asked me why I’d do it, if it doesn’t turn into something I can monetize. It’s a good question. I’m old enough that I can imagine a limit to the number of years during which I’ll make a living under a publishing flag.

It might be that my ideas just aren’t that marketable, at least not right now. I see convergence across media as a given. I think publishing models are fundamentally broken. I’ve maintained for the life of this blog that cutting costs won’t fix the old order. We won’t win by becoming more efficient at making and marketing eBooks.

Bundled media are going away. Identifiers, to the extent that they persist, will tell a small part of the story. There will be new and different content forms, and there will be ways to make money creating and selling them. As I said this fall, it is an opportunity that probably will not accrue to many of the incumbents.

Maybe those are messages most publishers are unlikely to pay to hear or have applied to their business models. If so, I’ll learn to live with that. After almost four years of blogging, this last one assiduously, my belief in these ideas has only grown stronger.

As for 2013… I’m not sure what I’ll do for frequency. Inspired by one of the Tony Schwartz posts I wrote this fall, I will be taking the weekends off, but other than that, I still have a queue with 50 things I’ve been reading and mulling over. Not every idea bubbles up to a post, but many do. There’s still plenty to keep me busy.

One additional note: Porter Anderson, who reports for a number of outlets, most notably Writing on the Ether, has been a steadfast reader this past year. He often tweets the parts of my writing that crystallize the internal argument, so much so that I’ve been tempted to ask him to name my posts. But, he already has a lot on his plate, so I’ll just say thanks for his support.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.