Archive for the ‘reading’ tag
TORONTO–If YouTube is for video, Pinterest is for images, Twitter is for news, and Tumblr is for blogs, Wattpad is for stories.
At least, that’s founder and CEO Allen Lau’s vision. But even with three billion minutes spent on Wattpad last month, 15 million monthly uniques, and 1.5 million monthly story uploads, he thinks he’s barely begun.
“We’re the top-ranked e-reading app in the all major app stores,” Lau says, adding that in terms of reading minutes, Wattpad even surpasses Kindle apps in most months.
Wattpad is the largest community for sharing and reading stories online, Lau said, calling it a “library in your pocket.” Indie authors and some well-known writers post stories and books on the network, often in a serialized format, and readers get free access to read and comment on them. It’s an experience that Lau likens to watching TV episodes.
“Attention spans are getting shorter and short, so to make long-form writing work, we break it up.”
The scope and scale of Wattpad is staggering in an era during which supposedly, as Steve Jobs famously said, no-one reads anymore. Five million times a month, however, someone comments on a Wattpad story. 15 million times, someone has uploaded a story or a book to Wattpad. And those 15 million monthly unique visitors spend a massive average of 30 minutes per session reading.
The company has no monetization model yet, intentionally. And it also has no monetization model for the contributors — the authors — of those 15 million uploads. Also intentionally.
“We are still in userbase building phase,” Lau said. “Once we have that critical mass we can start monetization. 15 million is a number I should be proud of, but we are only still only one percent of where we want to be.”
Where he wants to be is similar in size to a Facebook or a Twitter: hundreds of millions, or even billions. And how he plans to get there is by doing more of what Wattpad has done to date: via indie authors and, increasingly, branded books and name-brand authors.
Indie authors like Jordan Lynde, a college freshman with 100,000 fans, close to a hundred million reads, and over 100,000 comments. Lynde posts chapters of multiple ongoing books regularly. And Abigail Gibbs, a teenager who recently parlayed her Wattpad success into a six-figure payday for a three book deal from Harper Collins.
Lau is also leveraging branded opportunities like working with the UK’s One Direction boy band. Sony, the band’s label, hired a Wattpad writer to write a five-chapter story — one for each of the singers — that reached one million reads and brought 100,000 new users to WattPad. And established authors like Cory Doctorow and Margaret Atwood have been publishing to the site recently.
That’s perhaps where the monetization will come from at some point, Lau says, who sees YouTube’s progression over the past decade as an example for Wattpad to follow.
“Over time you will start to see premium content,” he says. “Ultimately we want to create more value.”
With 15 million regular monthly readers, the reading community with investments from Union Square Venture, Khosla Ventures, and Jerry Yang seems to already be creating quite a lot.
Disclosure: I’m in Toronto at the invitation of Ontario’s ministry of economic development, which is paying for my trip. My reporting, however, is my own.
Reading is generally a quiet activity, but today Bookshout! is proclaiming that it has raised $6 million.
Bookshout offers multiple tools to support reader engagement.
On the consumer side, Bookshout has a social reading app where people can discover books and connect with their friends and authors. However, the company has shifted to a stronger focus on publishers and authors.
On Bookshout’s platform suite, publishers and authors can promote their content and deepen engagement with audiences. Authors create branded pages that highlight their work and form communities around the pages, known as “circles.” Whenever someone buys a book through Bookshout, they are added into the author’s circle. Authors can communicate directly with their fans regarding announcements, upcoming events, new releases etc…, and distribute branded promotional codes and gift cards for their books.
Bookshout recently added a channel for publishers to conduct digital bulk, custom, and corporate sales and gather analytics. The Dallas-based company said it works with more than 250 publishers and is currently generating revenue. This round, which was led by Texas venture capital firm Ambassador Enterprises, will build out the bulk sales and analytics for e-books tools.
This is Bookshout’s second round of funding, and significant for the North Texas investment community which the Dallas Morning News called “lackluster.” The company previously raised $2 million from Ambassador in 2011. It is based at the Plano incubator Gravity Centre and has 12 employees.
By third Grade, 39% of all third graders do not read proficiently and this number jumps to 60% for low income children. Children who are not reading proficiently by 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to leave school without a diploma.
Think about those facts for a moment.
I know when I first heard them I was shocked. Sure, I knew reading skills were vital, but I hadn’t seen the numbers so clearly showing how critical it is to get all kids reading at such an early age.
Raising A Reader MA offers an evidence-based early literacy program that helps families of young children (ages 0-5) develop, practice, and maintain habits of reading together at home. Why? Research shows that the single most significant factor influencing a child’s lifelong achievement is being regularly read to by their parents and adult caregivers before starting kindergarten.
Reading in our house was and continues to be a common occurance. We read to our kids as soon as they were born and to this day they read before going to bed at night. But, we had access to books. We had the money to buy them. Many families don’t have this luxury.
I learned about this organization and the great work they do when they invited to be one of the authors at their annual Dinner With an Author fundraiser. I’m happy to report that $90,000 was raised that night!
Talking to the chairman of the board as well as many of the staff I learned that their core program involves two key components:
- Their Red Bag Book Rotation program has bright red bags filled with high quality, culturally appropriate children’s books rotate through families’ homes. Over the course of the year, each child gets exposed to dozens of titles to share with their families.
- Family workshops and training where parents are given the strategies they need to share books effectively with their young children. This is done through a combination of training, workshops and DVD lessons.
Can you imagine not having books in your lives? I certainly can’t and I want to make sure that the next generations has as much access as possible to them.
This may be a Massachusettes focused charity but there are others like them in many other states and if yours doesn’t have one perhaps it is time to start it.
I hope you’ll take the time to learn more about this organization and the work you are doing. If you are a parent, make sure you read to your child tonight!
Read more about Social Media Explorer’s #GivingTuesday program.
Dashboards exist to help make decisions. Unfortunately this principle is often forgotten. That is why many SEM’s moan and groan when it comes time to building dashboards. Without a specific end goal in mind, building any report becomes a frustrating mind reading game. When you spend the time…
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
We’ve seen a lot of leaked iPhone 5 parts, including a new battery and longer cases, but so far we’ve had to imagine how they would all fit together. Thankfully, a new diagram from the folks at iFixYouri makes sense of the madness.
Using what’s supposedly a leaked version of the next iPhone’s motherboard, the repair firm was able to make educated guesses of where many of the other leaked components would fit in, 9to5Mac reports. While it’s far from conclusive evidence that any of these parts are legitimate (especially since it’s not scaled for size), the diagram certainly hints at some interesting connections.
Or maybe we’re just reading way too much into images of mystery hardware.
Don’t expect the iPhone 5 rumors to slow down anytime soon. The closer we get to the phone’s announcement, currently expected for September 12, the more gadget geeks will scoop up any crumb of new information. And the potential for juicy revelations will be huge, since the next iPhone will likely be a major revamp on the iPhone 4′s design.
The next iPhone (which will likely just go by “iPhone,” like the new iPad) will likely sport a longer screen around 4 inches (compared to the standard 3.5-inch screen), as well as a thinner body. Sharp has said that it will begin shipping displays to Apple this month, which should be enough time for Apple to make a September launch. Sprint has also lowered the price of its iPhone 4S models, which is a sign that it needs to clear out stock to make room for something new.
Knowing now what I’ve learned about creating remarkable customer experiences, I wish I could go back to the Pike Place Market to observe world class great in action! In the meantime, you may enjoy this article:
Thanks for reading!
The social network for reading, sharing, and recommending books now boasts 10 million members, who have collectively shelved more than 360 million books since the site launched in January 2007. Goodreads announced the milestone on August 13, 2012 in a post on the company blog.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
A comedian who’s tagline is “I can’t really tell if he’s being serious or not,” has posted a video about his experience with Reddit, and explains how he infiltrated the network and discovered the easy way to win the adulation of Redditors. Through reading, commenting and posting on various sections of the site, Robbie Sherrard figured out the Redditor code, and opens Pandora’s box in his tell-all video. Alright, it’s not actually that much of a reveal, but we definitely laughed at the office when we read it.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Posted by willcritchlow
At Distilled, we define our purpose as "discovering, implementing and sharing the ways great companies succeed online". It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that (a) I think a lot about how to learn SEO effectively and (b) we try to build learning into pretty much everything we do.
"How should I learn more about X?" is one of the most common questions I get asked both internally at Distilled and from the community and
"How should I learn more about SEO? is probably the most common among those.
Paddy wrote a really useful post this week covering some excellent resources for those starting out in SEO. I wanted to add my thoughts about the most effective ways of learning:
How to learn SEO
1. Curiosity is your biggest asset
Firstly, and most importantly, it's entirely up to you. Nobody else can learn for you. The single lesson that I remember most clearly from my school days was from Mr. Wilson, my electronics teacher. Paraphrasing:
Always ask yourself 'how does that work?'
I think this is one of the most critical life skills you can possibly acquire. It might surprise you to know that I think it'll make you a better SEO if you spend your time asking yourself questions like these (Spoiler: answers at the end of the post):
- How do they get cranes on top of big buildings?
- How come phone touch screens work through paper but not through foil?
- How does gmail's two-factor authentication work? [Side-note: please turn on two factor authentication - it's more pain-free than you expect]
This highlights one of the key distinctions I wanted to make in this post. Learning is not the same as training. If you are provided with formal training opportunities at work then that's great, but in my opinion it's never going to be more than 5-10% of your learning. You are responsible for you – I highly recommend this talk by Sheryl Sandberg who I think is one of the best speakers on getting ahead at work:
From an SEO perspective, I suggest applying this first to the whole stack of a search result – from crawling, indexing and ranking to the actual delivery mechanism (DNS, TCP/IP etc.). The more curious you are, the better you'll be.
Closely related to this, I highly recommend getting your hands dirty in order to try to understand how things work. I'm a big advocate that this is very rarely a bad idea – though sometimes you also need a sandbox while you're learning. (This was the motivation behind our interactive modules in DistilledU – when you are learning about robots.txt syntax or Google Analytics code modifications it's nice to take the very first steps in a safe environment).
I would go as far as to say that if you are looking to get into online marketing from scratch, the very first thing you should do is get a small site entirely under your control – everything from registering the domain to adding the Google Analytics code. What could go wrong?
2. Take advantage of steep learning curves
I talked about the exponential nature of learning in my Searchlove presentation in London last year. See slides 18+ here:
In summary, my mental model for learning is not an evenly paced journey from beginner to expert but more like an exponential scale where it gets many times harder to get from each stage to the next:
- No experience at all – complete beginner
- Basic competence – you start to be able to complete basic tasks (perhaps with oversight)
- Core competence – you can handle pretty much everything in this subject area
- "Distilled expert"(*) – one of the people that those with core competence turn to for help
- Renowned expert – wrote the book
(*) that's what we call it at Distilled – you can use your initiative to come up with your own name for this level
Side-note: this scale deliberately includes a little confusion between excellence and fame – I'm afraid the real world works this way as well. My thinking on the subject was influenced by Joel Spolsky's writing on the subject of developer compensation [PDF]
You can make this work to your advantage – even if you don't intend to become a world expert in something, there is huge benefit to learning enough to know what you don't know. In my own online marketing journey, I've enjoyed applying this to technical skills ranging from setting up a linux server to toying with client-side jQuery as well as creative skills like basic video editing and animation.
I think Danny Dover's checklist is a great place to get started with this kind of learning for SEO.
3. You need to know the existence of trivia
I've observed that a trait that appears to separate highly successful technical marketers (and knowledge workers in general) from everyone else is the ability to recall the existence of arbitrary details.
Not everyone is a trivia geek, but they all tend to remember enough about the subtleties of a problem to find the detailed answer they need to get their job done. Whether this is remembering that there can be a time-lag to DNS propagation, that googlebot only crawls from US IP addresses or that if you include a specific user-agent directive in a robots.txt file that robot will only listen to those rules(*), it's this skill that avoids disaster over and over again.
(*) this last tidbit was something I learnt while building the robots.txt interactive module for DistilledU.
On the "reading widely" front, I strongly recommend setting yourself up with something like Instapaper that allows you to remain curious and interested without getting sucked into reading articles all across the internet all day every day. Instapaper gives you a browser bookmark (and mobile app) that lets you save an article to read later – and formats it for easy distraction-free reading. (My favourite feature is its ability to send a weekly "magazine" to my kindle every week). Others at Distilled like Pocket which does something similar.
The need for maker mode is the realisation that you never really understand the subtleties of something until you've done it. I talk more about this later.
Of course, you probably need deep expertise in at least some areas as well (the notorious T-shaped inpidual) but I would counsel that you should avoid spending all your time learning minutiae. The internet is full of it, half of it isn't correct and for much of the rest, you are far and away better served by shipping real things.
4. Expose yourself to intimidation
I talked about this at our all-hands company meeting in London in January. I talked about the perils of letting yourself be the smartest guy/gal in the room (TL;DR get yourself into a different room – at least some of the time). I think most people who have been really good at something let themselves at some point get exposed to people who are really, really good. For me this happened when I went to college. I had an experience very much like that described by @mechanical_fish in this Hacker News comment where he talks about going to a math competition:
This was one of the most valuable experiences of my life and I heartily endorse it. Because here's what happened: I got my ass handed to me. My teammates were freakishly smart. It turns out that the distribution of math-contest talent is not at all normal, and that being in the top 1% of contest-takers doesn't mean that you're within hailing distance of the top 0.5%. Oh, no.
Last year I went back to my old high school to give a talk entitled "things I wish I'd known". As I said on slide 11, you come to resemble the people you hang out with, so you should choose carefully:
The desire to get smart people together and let them share ideas is one of the driving forces behind the way we have designed our conferences. It's why we go for a single-track event with social events afterwards – giving people a shared context to discuss the things they've learnt with people who've got a wide range of experiences.
You don't have to go to a conference though. I started out my learning journey in SEO hanging out in online communities. Back in the day it was cre8asite (I recently saw black_knight at a conference and had fun reminiscing about those days). More recently it was SEOmoz and Twitter. I don't think you necessarily should expect to learn everything from the social interactions, but hanging out with people you know and like who know more than you do about a subject helps to steer you to learn the right thing next.
5. Focus on learning to drive
I like to think about two very different kinds of learning:
- Learning to drive - you remember the first time you drove (the first time you drove stick for my US friends)? The experience of going from "HOLY CRAP I HAVE TO WATCH IN FRONT AND BEHIND AND SIDEWAYS WHILE MOVING BOTH MY HANDS AND BOTH MY FEET IN HARMON…BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCESTALL" to "I barely think about the mechanics of coordinating feet and hands and have time to pay proper attention to the road"
- Learning the directions to a new place - this is more like the transition from: "Before I looked up the way, I didn't know which street to take" to "After I looked up the way, I knew which street to take"
Only one of those is transformational, isn't it? So focus on things that look more like learning to drive and less on things that look like directions to a new place.
Don't know the specific way to mark up a date in the hEvent micro-format? Don't worry about it until you need it – it's a form of online "learning directions".
Another way of thinking about this is to focus on learning real-time and bicycle skills. It's worth noting here that both these forms of learning can come with the same endorphin hit, so you need to keep asking yourself if the things you are learning are the right things. This was the main reason I left my first real job. I was a "coder-in-a-suit" (Accenture-style) for a small company. As I transitioned from learning real things (we were working on financial software, so I learnt about general ledger, P&L, balance sheets etc. as well skills as diverse as SQL and business process mapping) to learning the specific way you deploy certain changes on an IBM AS400 iSeries, I realised I'd gone from learning to drive to learning directions and I had to get out.
6. Allow yourself to fail
By its definition, learning involves new things. Some new things go wrong.
This is the greatest argument for actually shipping things – it's not until you try to ship something that you discover whether it really is a success or a failure.
If you are in a position of authority, I believe it's especially important to allow yourself to fail publicly (at least openly in front of your team). I read a great article about management at Github that talks about a management style of:
Show what, don't tell how
The core point of the article is that you can lead a team by getting stuck into the team's work but holding yourself to a form of open-ness where you not only do, but are seen to do.
The author relates this mainly to core job skills, but I think it's equally important about life skills like learning. As a leader, it's even more important that you take risks and fail visibly.
My journey of learning presentation skills falls into this category. Many of you will have seen me get crushed by Rand in a head-to-head presentation competition. Slightly fewer of you will have seen the times when the learning paid off and I repaid the favour.
I'm a big fan of writing as a core part of learning. I was taught that writing things down helped you retain them in your memory. I suspect that is true, but the more powerful effect is that the act of composing your thoughts shapes them. Structuring and editing a piece of writing gets you thinking more deeply about a subject than anything else I know.
Perhaps most importantly, writing is designed to be published. And in a world of blogging and social media, it's easier than ever to get other people's eyes on your writing. This gives you a safe environment in which to fail, allows feedback and makes it easy to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are.
8. Remember your liberal arts
Finally, remember that being the most effective SEO you can be has remarkably little to do with SEO knowledge. We find that once you're past the basics, the bottlenecks are increasingly likely to be what I'm going to call the "liberal arts" of marketing.
To be truly effective at SEO you need to round out your education with a whole bunch of wider knowledge including:
- Regular marketing
- Business awareness
- Project management
- Presentation skills
- Writing skills
- Leadership and people management skills
I still love this post by Paddy at Distilled on his views of what it takes.
For each of these skills, you can apply the methodology outlined above.
Learning something deeply doesn't happen in hours or days. But I would really like to see people working on their own learning experience – so if you are starting from scratch, start with these specific actions from my first three suggestions:
- Get curious – go and look up the answer to something that's been bugging you. How does that work?
- Benefit from a learning curve – challenge yourself to learn something in 2 hours
- File away the trivia – sign up for Instapaper
But also - update us here – I would love to hear your learning stories and any tips and tricks you have to share with the community.
Spoiler for the curious:
The answers to my "curious" questions above:
Ready to learn? Check out DistilledU
I've been a bit quiet recently.
I've been spending a lot of time working on DistilledU - our new online training platform for SEO. It's in beta just until 22nd August (the middle of next week). Now's the time to check out the free bits (a free keyword research module and interactive guide to advanced search query operators) to see if it's something that'd help you do your job because if you sign up during beta you lock in a 50% discount for life:
More information about our conferences
We recently announced the line-up of speakers for our Searchlove conferences in London in October and Boston in November. If you have done all of the above and want to see presentations from people at the top of their game, we'd love to see you there. If you sign up now, you get early bird pricing (there's an additional £100 / $150 off for SEOmoz PRO members – get your discount code here).
PS – I mentioned at the beginning that I've been a little busy. It's not just at work. At home, the news is a new Olympic champion in the "smallest Critchlow" event – Adam Joseph was born just over a month ago. Here he is with his sister showing off presents from Rand and the moz crew – thanks again guys:
Moz's newest fans - Rachel thinks all robots are called "Roger"
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This morning, I saw a woman reading words on printed paper.
This is the most disruptive thing since Dalton Caldwell’s last bowel movement.
I saw her a few rows ahead of me and was shocked. She was reading this incredibly thin paper that seemed to offer both informative and entertaining content. From what I could see, the paper had obituaries, local news, even comic strips!
I immediately conducted a highly scientific survey of my train neighbors and saw three people on iPhones, two on iPads and two on Macbooks. Two were sleeping—I think. One actually might have been dead.
[Trolls, you can’t get mad that I only saw Apple products BECAUSE IT’S SCIENCE.]
But this maverick was flaunting her paper like nobody’s business. Can you imagine all the applications for this that we haven’t thought of?
Finally, I can read weather and local sports scores in the bathtub with no fear of electrocution from dropping my 17 inch Macbook Pro.
If we all read our news on these printed products, which would obviously be delayed from Internet and TV news, we wouldn’t have to worry about having the Olympics spoiled for us. Since when did Breaking News become so great anyway?
And the fun wouldn’t stop once you’re done reading the words. Think about all the paper mache you’re missing out on—boom! Newspaper to the rescue. Out of toilet paper in your apartment? Family Circus has got ya covered. You could even ball up the pages with your cubicle mates and have summer snowball fights.
Point of sale: much better than the Apple Store.
Competition? I don’t know…Gutenberg? No one currently in the market prints words on paper and distributes it.
Monetization? Child please—these papers will have more targeted ads than Facebook. Imagine, a whole targeted ads section where anyone can buy space and offer to exchange goods or services for money. Some people might even be willing to pay subscriptions for premium versions!
Mobile? Uh, hello? Anybody home? Think McFly! The whole thing is mobile. Carry this with you anywhere it folds right up…Web 12.0, bitches.
All right, that’s my pitch. Now I need some cash. Raise your hand if you invested in Groupon…