What can Technical Authors learn from celebrity chefs and musicians?

We wrote recently about the Attention Economy and the challenges faced by technical publications departments. So what about other business sectors that are facing similar problems – can we learn from them?

Andrew Savikas has been looking at some of the ways in which the Publishing industry, aspiring young musicians and celebrity chefs have been tackling the problem of getting value from content.

He said:

“The thing that most publishers (and authors) spend most of their time fretting about (making it, selling it, distributing it, “protecting” it) isn’t the thing that their customers are actually buying….Whether they realize it or not, media companies are in the service business, not the content business.”

From the music industry, he highlighted advice from Trent Reznor:

“[W]hat you NEED to do is this – give your music away as high-quality DRM-free MP3s. Collect people’s email info in exchange (which means having the infrastructure to do so) and start building your database of potential customers. Then, offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions / scarce goods.”

Emerging musicians such as Emily Barker have used MySpace to do this sort of thing. Emily has nearly 5,000 followers – not bad for a folk singer from Bridgetown, Western Australia (pop. 2000). Notice also, her last album recording was funded by her fans.

From celebrity chefs, Savikas observed:

“Celebrity chefs aren’t particularly worried that doing TV shows and selling cookbooks describing exactly how to make the food they serve in their restaurants will harm business.”

So what could technical authors do that’s similar? Perhaps:

  •  Publish some free content on the Web, with further information available in exchange for an email address. You could then mail this database of users with news and updates, to increase customer loyalty and engagement with your products. These email addresses could then be passed to your Marketing department – some people may actually be prospects rather than customers. 
  • Offer premium “products” in addition to the standard downloadable manual or online Help. This could be personalised training over the Web, or a series of animated movies. The Technical Publications content could as a feeder for these additional services.


What can Technical Authors learn from celebrity chefs and musicians? Cherryleaf Technical Authors Blog

[…] What can Technical Authors learn from celebrity chefs and musicians? Cherryleaf Technical Authors Bl…. Ellis is a marketing genius, so I pay attention when he writes on this subject. In this post, he explores a business model behind giving away content for free. You give some content away for free, but in return collect an e-mail address that you pass to your marketing team, who then pitches products to the consumers who received the free content. […]

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