Thursday, February 06, 2014

February 2014 Update

I haven’t posted to this blog for five months. This post is an update for old readers, and an introduction to new readers of what’s going on in my professional life.

For those of you coming to this blog for the first time, I am the founder of i30 Media, which publishes In 30 Minutes® guides. We publish information that helps people understand the complexities of the world around them.

Starting with a Dropbox user guide in the summer of 2012, we now have 10 guides available for the Kindle, iPad, Nook, and Android tablets. Besides the technology guides, there are also titles that help people understand health (C. Diff In 30 Minutes) and even a title about cooking (Easy Chinese Recipes In 30 Minutes).

Some people may think it’s crazy to start a new publishing or media company, but there is incredible opportunity in an industry that’s being disrupted.

My 20+ Year Perspective On Media

I’ve worked in media for most of my life. It includes stints in the music industry, broadcasting, newspapers, IT trade publications, and for more than 10 years, online and mobile media. I was also an MIT Sloan Fellow from 2010–2011, which really gave me a chance to learn about new media innovation, entrepreneurship, and business among some incredible faculty and peers.

In the past 20-odd years, I’ve learned that in the media business, no matter what you are producing, you have to stay on top of the platforms. If you stay focused on the past, or place your bets on a losing platform, you’re going to be in for a world of hurt.

You also have to focus on your customers, whether it’s readers, gamers, audiences, or whatever. That may seem obvious, but I still see many media products that are devised in a conference room, built over a period of a year or more, and then launched without any real idea if there are audiences out there who want to consume them. The crop of slick iPad apps pumped out by magazine publishers in the early part of this decade are examples. They were expensive gambles, and most failed.

Lean Media And In 30 Minutes Guides

My philosophy toward product development in the media world is something I call “lean media”, which draws upon the lean startup methodology as well as the MIT spirit of product development, which zeroes in on prototyping, metrics, and iteration. The lean media idea is to get products, marketing, and business models out in the marketplace as soon as possible. Make a true connection with your audience/customers. Measure the impact, iterate, and improve.

The term “lean media” may be new, but over the past half-century decades many successful musicians, game studios, blog sites, magazines, and app developers have used these ideas to get established. As a guy who grew up with classic rock, one example I like to point to is Led Zeppelin. Most people think of them as the bloated supergroup from the 1970s, but the way they established themselves starting in 1968 was totally lean — touring in small and medium sized venues, and recording on a shoestring. Their first album was recorded in 3 weeks, and their second, Led Zeppelin II, consisted of songs they wrote in hotel rooms and recorded in studios along their tour route. They had an instant feedback loop with their audiences, and man, is that stuff good! I see the same lean media spirit in some of the blog/news/new media companies that emerged in the mid–2000s, including Mashable, Gawker, and TMZ.

More recently, book publishing has seen the same sort of lean media innovation, enabled by powerful new platforms and business models. The Internet is only part of it. Amazon has been the provider of not only a platform for sales of ebooks and the devices to read them on, but also provides a platform for self-publishing — the KDP program.

For In 30 Minutes guides, I’ve leveraged these platforms and applied lean media concepts to new products, design, pricing, marketing, and more. Lean media methods help clarify what’s working, what’s not, and ultimately, what readers are willing to pay for.

While I will continue to post entries here, they will be infrequent ... I am simply too busy. The best way to keep up with what I am doing is to check out the In 30 Minutes blog and follow me on Twitter at @ilamont.

Onward and upward!

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