Friday, August 21, 2009

Reader's Digest Filing for Chapter 11

Earlier this week the publisher of Reader's Digest announced that it will file for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 protection.

It is one more disappointment in the magazine world with magazines falling off the rack faster than any one reader can keep track of. I've had numerous subscriptions just this year alone disappear because the magazines have closed their editorial doors.

The Wall Street Journal on August 18, 2009 reported (Chapter 11 Is Next Page for Reader's Digest, by Shira Ovide and Mike Spector), "The move also is a low point int he storied history of Reader's Digest, a onetime staple of coffee tables and doctor's offices that at it speak three decades ago sold 18 million copies a month. Circulation now is less than half that."

The magazine got its start over 87 years ago (1922) and provided its readers with condensed versions of articles from other publications.

The magazine had versions published overseas and eventually expanded into condensed books and a slew of other publications.

According to The Wall Street report, the company was sold in 2006 and tried to expand its web operations. The company owns nearly 100 titles including Every Day with Rachel Ray.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The World According to Twitter - Book Review

Book Name: The World According to Twitter
Author: David Pogue and his 50,000 followers
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2009

David Pogue is a technology columnist that writes for the New York Times, has authored or co-authored over 50 computer books, and is a correspondent for CBS News Sunday Morning. His newest book provides readers with the results of his non-scientific recent Twitter test.

Every night at around 11 p.m. he posed a new question on Twitter and then waited for the responding tweets. His Twitter book consists entirely of the tweets he received to his questions - 95 questions in total and 2,524 tweet answers are in the book.

A sample of the questions include:

"What's your brilliant idea to improve the modern automobile?"
"You know it's time to look for a new job when..."
"Tell us the story of your tattoo."

Pogue tells readers that it takes about a week of using Twitter to actually "get it." He demonstrated how powerful it was by tweeting during a talk he was giving and asking his followers for a cure for hiccups which he got many answers within seconds of posting the question.

While most of the questions included in the book are of the pastime or Twitter -tainment nature, it does demonstrate how Twitter can be used for serious business applications.

Asking the Twitter world for input on problems, products, techniques, processes, or other business related issues can generate instant feedback from around the world - granted some good and some not so good.

For example, if you are designing casual wear jewelry and want to get a quick idea of what consumers are wearing as everyday pieces, asking the Twitter world what their favorite everyday piece of jewelry is or made of can generate a whole list of products to produce.

Pogue did include some interesting Twitter stats - 80 percent are over the age of 25, two-thirds have college degrees, and are high wage earners. Tweet that to your marketing group.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Atlas Shrugged Book Review - Part 1

I've been reading a phenomenal book by Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged. It was first published in 1957 by PLUME. It has gotten renewed attention of late because of the message it carries. The book is a work of fiction, has been a bestseller for over 40 years and according to the book's back cover is an "epochal novel" and "intellectual landmark."

The paperback copy of the book I have is mammoth in size coming out at 1,168 pages. I am about 600 pages into the book. Rand has taken a fictional story built around what she calls, "progressive social policy" and relates how men who govern in her fictional United States tell themselves they do so for the good of everyone all the while destroying the free enterprise system.

There are laws passed with names such as "The Equalization of Opportunity Bill", "The Preservation of Livelihood Law", "The Fair Share Law", and "Public Stability Law". There are federal organizations controlling science and engineering. One organization is called the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources and another called the State Science Institute.

The book is filled with drama, demise, destruction, romance, backstabbing, manipulation, all of which builds a good story. Add to those factors that the reader could almost believe the fictional events are taking place in today's society with government controlling auto manufacturing and wanting to control the country's health care system.

There are moments of lightheartedness. Rand continues to ask the question, "Who is John Galt?" which in her fictional world, is a meaningless question that people ask to indicate there is not a plausible answer to the condition the world is at any given point in the book.

The vivid and well defined characters of the book make the plot move quickly while at the same time making the long read seem shorter.

Rand certainly had a way with words. She also had an uncanny sense of the human factor and psyche. So far it has been a great read. I'll keep you posted as I continue my way through the rest of the story.