“I’m unwilling to say X is the best practice because next year there may be metadata standards for YouTube videos, or everybody’s cell phone is iPhone-like and they are listening to podcasts they phone up and get for free,” he says. “You’ll be seeing a lot of communication possibilities we did not have before, but if you’ve been waiting for something to resolve, you’ve lost any learning you could have had. So the best practice is to … [be willing] to try things out.”
For Jensen, innovation of late has come through in-house production of podcasts and videos. One advantage of these and other multimedia initiatives, he says, is that the upfront costs are relatively small. At the NAP, starting a podcast simply meant acquiring a mixing board and microphone, and assigning the marketing manager to run it.
“Our demographic does not expect to have super-high-definition audio,” he says. “It’s not always true that there’s a huge investment.”
The NAP is now experimenting with doing videos in-house, and may decide to start a YouTube channel—another easy, low-cost way to enter a new multimedia market. Jensen recently purchased a small, no-frills “flip camera,” which provides a half hour of recordable memory and is, he says, perfect for author interviews. The camera is “not high-quality, but you have something where you can practically broadcast from your hand,” Jensen says.
“There’s an exponential rise in cost based on the level of quality that you want,” he adds. “If you want hi-def, you’re going to spend $7,500–$10,000, but if what you’re producing is going to be viewed on iPods, that’s a terribly small screen, and the expectations are much lower in the audiences who are seeing these things.”
Be Nimble and Mobile
Evaluating what works and then applying those proven models to other products or divisions can be as important as experimenting. San Diego-based IDW Publications is applying some of what it has learned from its core business of graphic novels and comic books to a new venture— children’s book publishing. The company has run contests allowing fans to create and vote on content that eventually will appear in print books. It also has posted free “book trailers” on You-Tube by animating the first few pages of a comic book, and launched forums to allow fans to communicate with authors and each other.