Tonight I had the privilege to speak before a digital marketing class at Arizona State University. I was one of a series of speakers, all dealing with emerging media trends. I talked about the coming of advertising inside of ebooks.
I’m not decrying ad-supported ebooks as the harbinger of doom. Nor am I stating that they are the future. But they are a reality, and not one you should be afraid of.
A history of ad supported content
If you’re my age, you can remember a time when your parents shelled out a few bucks a month for this new thing called HBO. For your (parents’) money, you could watch 2-year-old movies without commercial interruption. Ever. Fee-based television was invented, where the consumers were directly responsible for paying the bills at HBO. At least in part. Cable companies had to shell out big bucks to get access to the signal (via a giant Death Star-esque dish), but those fees were covered by hungry households who couldn’t wait to watch Smokey And the Bandit seven times a day.
But those days were short-lived. More stations came to cable viewers, and cable companies quickly developed advertising options for local and national businesses. While the movie stations (by and large) remained ad-free, the other 900 channels — channels you (and still your parents now retired to Boca) happily paid good money for — were rife with ads. Sometimes even more so than the free broadcasted channels you could pull down with an antenna.
Publishing isn’t immune
But this is the printed word, and there’s absolutely no precedent with which you can substantiate your ludicrous prediction of ad-supported books, Evo! Er… bought a magazine lately? Picked up a newspaper? Print’s not quite dead yet, and has an even longer history of ads fitting the bill. Yes, even when you’re paying for the content. So there.
Amazon beat you to it
By recent reports, Amazon sold four times as many Kindles during this chum-filled buying extravaganza as they did last year. Four times. Back then, they didn’t have their subsidized Special Offers Kindle. Nor did they have the Kindle Fire. And just like always, Amazon isn’t sharing precise numbers. But you can bet the 30% reduction in price was enough of a motivator to get some folks interested in the ad-supported model.
DIY ad-supported ebooks
Adding advertisements to books isn’t something reserved to marketplaces or device makers. Any author can add whatever they want to their books. It just takes a little time, a little effort, and the ability to re-compile and re-publish your books in various market places. It also might take a willingness to deal with the backlash. Backlash from readers if ads start cluttering up their space. Backlash from advertisers if the ads fail to generate leads/sales for them. Backlash from publishers who want a cut of the action. And backlash from marketplaces who also want a cut of the action.
Technically, you can do it. You can even swap out ads every month, republishing your EPUB files to the marketplaces each time to get those ads in front of a fresh set of eyes.
Enter Jurassic Park logic
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This isn’t something to enter into without your eyes being very very wide open. Not only could you get banned/blacklisted, you may find yourself without anything to sell. If you think advertisers are lining up to place ads in your book, then you don’t understand advertising. This isn’t bleeding edge stuff. Heck, the blade hasn’t even been forged. But I think it will be.
I fully expect to see ad-supported ebooks — either at the device or at the title level the de rigueur in coming weeks/months/years. But if I’m wrong, I won’t lament the fact. I can always pay to watch ads on cable.
Want more cutting edge digital publishing goodness?
We’ve got an ePIC seminar coming up at the end of January that will teach you plenty about getting your book on the various marketplaces (ad-free for now) and how to promote the heck out of you and your book to reach a wider audience. Reserve your spot today!
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