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About Brian

Brian Howard is Editor-In-Chief of Book Business magazine and Group Digital Editor for the Publishing Business Group, where he covers with great interest the evolution of the book publishing industry, paying special attention to the intersection of publishing and consumer technology. An award-winning journalist, he’s a former Editor in Chief of the Philadelphia City Paper and Grid and Cowbell magazines.

His writing has appeared in consumer outlets such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine’s The Philly Post, Flying Kite, The Courier-Post, Magnet, and Orlando Weekly, and business publications including Target Marketing, Inside Direct Mail and Teleread.

After heading off to Penn State to pursue a chemical engineering degree, Brian transferred into the English department at La Salle University. Some 20 years ago he stumbled into the offices of the student newspaper, The Collegian. He has been on deadline ever since.

 

The Futurists

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Entangled Publishing’s Fresh Approach to Book Pricing Helps Build a Captive Audience
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Entangled Publishing is an independent publisher with a focus on romance titles. Eager to compete with larger, traditional publishers, the...



Joe Wikert's Digital Content Strategies

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Unlimited Subscriptions: Five Things You Need to Know
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One of the worst kept secrets in recent history was finally unveiled last Friday when Amazon announced their Kindle Unlimited...



Brian Jud's Beyond the Bookstore

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Lessons from Amazon: Reevaluating Your Business Model
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Your business model is the result of the decisions you have made to generate sales, earn revenue, and manage risks....



The Learning Curve

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Are Publishers’ Losing Their Best Bargaining Chip Against Amazon?
Jul 16, 2014

I try not to be a proponent for or against Amazon. But I have to say, I was a bit...



Hot Topic

Thinkers on the Leading Edge
Note to Book Publishers: Turn the Page and Invest in Brand
May 22, 2014

Very few publishing brands, in fact, mean much to consumers because publishers traditionally promote their authors, not themselves, as brands. But that approach and...



Leading Thoughts

Forward-Thinking Industry Professionals
Changing the Publishing Business Model: Consider the Whole Value Chain, Not Just Unit Price
May 2, 2014

To keep up with the content explosion and consumer demand, publishers need to change their last-century business models. They must...



Literally Speaking

The Stories Behind the Stories We Publish

Lynn Rosen
A Vending Machine That Delivers Literature
Dec 26, 2013

In a trendy coffee shop called Elixr, on a side street off of Philadelphia’s toney Rittenhouse Square, there is funky...



Amazon Reviews and The Wisdom of the Mob

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It’s official. The old trope “There’s no such thing as bad press” can be retired. For good.

Witness the campaign against Randall Sullivan’s Michael Jackson bio Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. As reported in The New York Times, Sullivan’s book focuses on the superstar’s last years and, despite being characterized as a generally sympathetic look at Jackson, has come under siege by a group of fans who take issue with some of the book’s statements. And so they launched a flotilla of mostly anonymous one-star reviews seemingly aimed at not just discrediting the book, but killing it.

As the barriers to publication and mass media continue to dissolve, and the line between who is and is not a journalist is further blurred, the wisdom of the crowd can quickly turn into vigilante justice. Yes, the days of “just spell my name right” are gone.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had recently with the head of a university journalism department about the growing popularity of the journalism major—this despite the dire forecasts for the traditional bastions of the profession. It seems that many are seeing journalism as a good foundation—in the same way previous generations viewed an English degree—one that prepares them in a general way for the world, a world which practically bestows on each of us multiple outlets to report and broadcast our lives. It’s refreshing, in a way, to think that tomorrow’s Tweeters, Tumblrs, Pinners, Stumblers and commenters might emerge from school trained in journalistic ethics, libel law and the like. With great power, etc., etc.

But what of the platforms that have found themselves in one way or another outlets for expressions of journalism—reporting, analysis, criticism or otherwise? What editorial obligations do the Amazons, Googles and Apples of the world—organizations that through product and app reviews, news aggregation, self publishing and the like have become huge repositories of original content—to ensure that their platforms are used ethically? Sort of hardwired into most (ethical) media outlets is the idea that you're responsible—literally and spiritually—for the content you create and, now, the discourse it inspires. I wonder if non-traditional media feel the same way.

I don’t know if I agree with Sullivan’s assertion that the negative review campaign against him is “suppression of free speech in the name of free speech,” but I don’t know that I disagree with it either. I do know that as it stands, Amazon is not only the king of the mountain when it comes to book distribution and ebook discoverability, it’s also the bully pulpit from which unpopular ideas can be shouted down by a small but vocal minority. Sure, today it’s a Michael Jackson bio being beat up by fanatical supporters, but the precedent is certainly unnerving.

First they came for the Jacko bios, and I did not speak out…

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