An Issue for the History Books
The president of a publishing company recently said to me: “It’s a terrifying and exhilarating time in publishing.” That just about sums it up. In this issue alone, the changes we’re covering are quite astounding: A Running Press book that could be the newest craze, blurring reality and fiction, with reader interaction pushed to a new high—and, oh yes, featuring product placement (see “Reality Check” page 20); and mobile content and ad-driven publishing models (see “The Era of Experimentation,” page 28).
Innovation and creativity seem to be the name of the game, in all forms of media, in fact. Look at the ABC Network’s mega-hit television show “Lost.” With content being king, of course, the story line has lured in millions of viewers. But the masterminds behind the mysterious island drama didn’t stop at a good story; they began creating a multidimensional entity that spills out beyond viewers’ television screens. At the end of last season, commercials began airing during “Lost” for the show’s fictitious “Hanso Foundation,” teasing URLs and 800 numbers. The Hanso Foundation Web site (www.TheHansoFoundation.org) features a video-message from the president of the fictitious organization that feeds into the show’s mythology. It’s pure genius—both for its dimensional engagement of viewers and for giving viewers a reason to stay tuned-in during commercials. I can’t wait to see what cross-media enticements occur during the new season.
Running Press’ new book, called “Cathy’s Book,” has a similar genius behind it—readers can get more information about “Cathy” via Web sites, phone numbers, and more. While some have criticized the acceptance of product placement in a fiction book that targets teenage girls, the significance of the book, in my eyes, is how the authors and the publisher are giving the character “Cathy” an existence in the real world. In fact, she is almost more real than I am—she even has a MySpace account.
As for the product placement, I’m not surprised by it, and I definitely don’t expect it to go away. Movies are made directly from books, and movies feature product placements galore. That said, if “Crime and Punishment” is ever rewritten to say that Raskolnikov used a Ginsu knife to murder the old woman, I think I’ll throw away my reading glasses.
No medium is safe from product placement—not even magazines, with recipes featuring brand-name ingredients, clothes adorning models or interview subjects with the designers identified in the captions, and so on. ... Oh, shoot, I just spilled my Coca-Cola and lost my train of thought …
Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as I enjoyed working on it. It’s definitely one for the history books.