Thursday, February 14, 2013

eBooks Free With Ads

The Victorians gave us the Penny Press, Short form and episodic fiction, serialisation and book and pamphlet advertising. Some will suggest that today’s developing digital market can learn much from yesterday’s initial era of mass reading.
Today we read of another ‘new’ Victorian‘ idea – the ebook with adverts.
We see adverts on many digital services today. You have to suffer the pop-up 20 seconds, before they let you into where you want to go. Now , is introducing ebooks with adverts on a ‘with advertising it’s free’ model.  A service offer based on the premise that you will accept adverts at the front of the book and each chapter to get the content for free.
Adverts in ebooks is going to happen, it is now a question of how it will happen and the implications of the change. We believe that no single platform will prevail and it is somewhat hard to see how it is a sustainable unique selling point.
But what about the questions we need to ask ourselves?
Is advertising supplemental or replacement income?
As ebook price fall off the edge of the deep discount clif, is the total advert replacement the answer? If revenues flip from a purchase or subscription model to an advertising one, how will net receipts be audited? After all today we have an ‘honesty box’ approach to much of the ebook market and so will this become clearer with advertising model or even more ‘net receipts?’
When will the ad space be sold?
It is hard to see pre production advertising sales in all but the bestsellers, but do we like some other media segments, now get involved with increasing ad sponsorship and sales at the concept stage?
If we apply adverts to digital why not also apply them to print?
Who sells the slot?
Is it outsourced the ad agents, done in-house by the publisher, or left to the distributor and retailer? What happens in the case of the self publisher? Should the advert be tied into the individual title and its content, or as the Victorians did it, completely independent of the subject content? The tied-in advert may well work at the bestseller level, but can it work on the rest? Does advertising actually get sold on block at a genre level and in doing so have greater appeal to advertisers who will enjoy a wider audience? If we talk about genre wide adverts, then we must we also consider adverts across all publishers within that genre? Can we have sponsors of all a publisher’s works? Imagine Nike could be sponsoring all Random House works this year. We also could envisage sponsoring deals on fixed time slots where Cadburys become the proud sponsors of Penguin literature. Advertising can be envisaged at many levels but which will raise the revenue return and be acceptable to both authors and readers?
We could envisage some interesting and maybe lucrative adverting or sponsorship auctions which could bring in significant money but who are best positioned to manage, control and exploit these?
Will moral rights be applied or are surrendered?
Can an author say no to a Macdonald’s advert in their work? Can they insist on the type of advertising permitted? Can certain localised adverting standards be applied to what is a global work? Does the control sit with the publisher, the author or the distributor as we enter an era of moral rights which was never encompassed or envisaged in many rights contracts?  
What is the licence sold and duration of the rights?
Does an advert have a defined shelf life, after which it disappears, or is it a perpetual sale that may be out of date, incorrect or even selling obsolete product within a short period of time? If an advertised product breaks advertising code, or the product is withdrawn from market, do the ebooks get recalled too? Imagine some of the recent processed food UK products that were found to not contain what they said and contained horse meat instead now being advertised in an ebook. Do the ebooks get recalled too?
Can the adverts be refreshed, or are they embedded for life?
Can an advert dynamically change according to territory sold into to and therefore can multiple ad slots be sold against the same space on a time and geographical or even on a demographical basis? Are adverts sold to an individual demographic profile or to a mass market?
Auditing the revenues?
If we assume the right to advertise is not  exclusive we could have multiple channels each having their own slots and net revenues but will a standard model prevail or will it be many different net based models?
We are all in favour of creating supplemental income and increasing the earnings of the authors, but ask that we take a step back to consider some of the implications before we take a giant leap forward to buy into the ‘emperor’s new cloths.’

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