Friday, 18 September 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ September 2015

Some months ago I read a proof copy of Stuart Kells' Penguin and the Lane Brothers which I found totally absorbing.

When I enthused about this book to friends I was amazed how many people said "Who's Sir Allen Lane?" Sacrilege! I'm sure not many customers at Abbey's would have said that! This new counter history of Penguin Books is very much for people interested in the book trade as well as books. I can put my family in this box. When we lived in London, Ron Abbey started the first Penguin Only bookshop in Charing Cross Road, for Colletts, the well-known bookshop up the road. We opened, and closed, four separate Penguin Bookshops in Sydney, and of course knew or knew of most of the characters in this alarming story. In England, Penguin is very much an icon – more so than in America or Australia.

Sir Allen Lane is always regarded as the founder of Penguin – the revolutionary idea of publishing good books at a cheap price and there are many stories about his activities, but Penguin was really founded by Allen and his two brothers (with some other stalwart helpers of course). Their Uncle John, who was a Director of The Bodley Head, a famous imprint, was childless and had suggested Allen, who was then sixteen and named Allen Williams, join the firm as his heir. All members of the family changed their name to Lane. There was an unfortunate outcome here.

When Uncle John died he left his shares in The Bodley Head to Allen but left considerable cash to brothers Richard and John. It was Allen's bad luck that in the near future The Bodley Head went bust so his shares weren't worth much. He never quite got over this and it would go a long way to justifying his scandalous treatment of Richard when the shares in Penguin went on the stock exchange. It was just at the time when Penguin had successfully published D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover so Penguin's name was on everyone's lips. People queued around the block to buy Penguin shares when they were first issued. Allen had persuaded his brother to sell his shares back to himself before the float, this being "the best way" to handle it. He paid Richard 8 shillings yet on the stock exchange they reached a great deal more.

Eventually all three brothers were working at The Bodley Head, living together as young men about town, and very close to each other. In the early days they all contributed in many ways. Allen was, in fact, not much of a reader but an excellent frontman, moving easily in society and always open to suggestions about books or series that should be published. He was more interested in his various lady friends and happy for Richard and John to look after the details. Even Allen Lane's friends admit he was a difficult person and not a very effective CEO but he did have enormous vision and an ego big enough to claim as his own many of the efforts of other people. Penguin and the Lane Brothers is, of course, not published by Penguin. Black Inc are doing this good deed to put the record straight.

This reminds me of the book about Oxford University Press and the making of the giant Oxford English Dictionary. The granddaughter of the famous and revered main editor, Sir James Murray, wrote about this in her book called Caught in the Web of Words. The Press doesn't exactly come out shining in this story. Murray was never properly paid and was left on the outer as he wasn't really an academic, more a self-taught man. Towards the end of his life he was allowed, as a favour, to walk in the academic procession. The book was published by Jonathan Cape Ltd, and was kept in print at Yale University Press where it is today only available as a print-on-demand. You can read another version of this story in Simon Winchester's The Meaning of Everything. After the enormous success of his book The Surgeon of Crowthorne, which is about one of the more eccentric contributors to the OED, it was suggested to him by Oxford University Press, that he might like to write the full story, which he has done in his usual pleasing way.

I was really pleased to see Helen Garner's This House of Grief win the Australian Crime Writers Association prize for NON-FICTION. (read more on the awards)

This sad story of the father who drove his car into a dam and drowned his little boys may seem a difficult choice for readers, but it is in fact a most absorbing story. Helen Garner never fails to offer a profound approach.

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

All Your Friends LIKE This ~ How social networks took over news

Two journos and a geek walk into a bookshop. "What's news?" says the bookseller...

If you need to generate interest in your business, your products or services, or your organisation's ideas, then this is a book you need to read.

All Your Friends LIKE This ~ How social networks took over news - Authors at Abbey's

"But isn't it a book about digital news media?" I hear you ask.

Only on the surface, I reply. That's because the trio of authors came from a news media background. The book however is really for anyone involved in the dispersal of ideas - something which I'm doing right now because I work at Abbey's ~ where ideas grow.

As I write this post, the big news about print news media are the significant lay-offs of journalists across Fairfax's regional printed newspapers. This is because social networks like Facebook and Twitter are becoming the primary delivery channel for news. While older print news outlets are struggling (although targeted niche titles like The Saturday Paper have emerged) the news still happens and newer online media outlets like Buzzfeed and Junkee have drawn the eyeballs.

So what sort of news is being shared? What makes something shareable?

This question captured the attention of the authors of All Your Friends Like This - two journos and a tech-head: Hal Crawford, Andrew Hunter and Domagoj Filipovic, all three having worked at nineMSN at some point. The three decided to build a tracking tool. A web-scraper to gather data from the media website articles, Facebook and Twitter. Filipovic did his thing and The Likeable Engine was born.

Speaking in an interview with Richard Aedy on RN, Filipovic said "When media companies decided to put the LIKE button on all their articles they kind of lost control of the metrics and these things are now publicly available and there for everyone to see". The collation and analysing of this sharing data has given rise to a new industry. "There are companies making complete businesses out of this sort of stuff."

Expanding on how eye-opening the data can be Crawford said "As the information on your audience becomes exposed and you see what your audience is actually doing, everything changes."

In the book they expound their ideas around the four qualities they've determined makes something shareable. To help us keep this in mind, they developed this memorable acronym:

S.E.N.T. - Simple Emotional New Triggered

The story needs to be something that people understand straight away.

Something that tugs at the heart-strings or makes you go Wow!

What works best is the unexpected or the tried 'n' true formula of The Reverse: an example is the classic headline 'Man bites dog!'

If something is before you all the time, it will come to mind more often and then is more likely to be shared. Examples are weather and public transport - things that affect a wide range of people, so they relate more readily to shared articles on the topic.

Once something with a strong blend of the above qualities catches your eye, what is your reason for sharing it?

Crawford, Hunter and Filipovic overlay three motivations behind sharing behaviour:

NEWS-MAKING - this is the traditional idea that 'newshounds' have. It's newsworthy, so share it.

INSPIRING - this is more what we tend to think drives sharing - the sharing of inspirational stories.

TEAMING - But this - THIS - is the heart and soul of it. Most of our sharing is really about us saying something about who we are, what we believe and what we want to be identified with. This involves an aspect of judgement - we approve or disapprove.

I would also call this last aspect TRIBING because the motivations behind this kind of sharing run deep to our core personality - a mindset that we retain throughout our lives. Our sharing is often to seek out or reinforce links with similar-minded members of our tribe.

The War on Journalism: Media Moguls, Whistleblowers and the Price of Freedom - Andrew Fowler

The War on Journalism: Media Moguls, Whistleblowers and the Price of Freedom
Andrew Fowler explores how traditional media has struggled to make the transition from print to online.

More reading:

What's Next in Journalism? New-Media Entrepreneurs Tell Their Stories
Margaret Simons (Ed)

The Deserted Newsroom

Gideon Haigh

Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age
Jonah Berger

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck
Dan Heath & Chip Heath

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future
Jonah Sachs

Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World
Naomi S. Baron

And now for something different...

The Dragon's Voice: How Modern Media Found Bhutan

Bunty Avieson

Craig Kirchner

#mediastudies   #media   #digitalnews   #journalism   #facebook   #twitter   #murdoch   #fairfax   #packer

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers