July 21, 2009

The Google of Romance?

I’ve been learning about connectivity, social media and the mathematics behind it all in my own limited way, but some things that are true about the rules of connectivity and in particular internet social media is that information flows through hubs.

The easiest example of a meg-hub on the internet is Google. Google is where everyone goes to find anything. It’s so ubiquitous that it’s become a part of the international lexicon. Whether you’re looking for a picture, a movie, an obscure text, a knitting pattern, a scientific study, a way to make dangerous things or wonderful things, you tend to start with Google. Microsoft used to be a major hub, and it still is, but it’s not the king hub any longer, and that’s why they’re bringing out Bing. Because being the biggest hub is powerful, and the information streams both ways.

The thing about Google is that it’s inclusive. It doesn’t care what the topic is, just that you come to your information via Google.

It occurred to me that if an organization or individual wanted to be at the forefront of the digital age, then hub technology is the way to go. Become a hub, the biggest possible hub you can be, and no matter what you’re selling or who you’re trying to influence, you will reach the maximum number of eyes. Build it right and they will come. Look at Amazon. It’s not just a bookstore anymore, is it? Yet books are still at the center of their business plan.

In my limited knowledge of the romance internet, there are several smallish hubs. Some blogs (Smart Bitches, Dear Author, AAR to name a few) and one publisher (Harlequin) with Tor stepping up to the plate in a very smart way. It’s a damn shame that RWA isn’t even on the radar. It’s tiny, not inclusive and in focusing so hard on it’s old paradigm, in my opinion, they’re missing the opportunity of a generation. Alas I think RWA is not of a mindset to rethink their position on the internet. I sometimes get the feeling that they rather wish all this electronic business would simply go away. Not that they don’t do terrific things – I just don’t believe the new technologies are a primary area of perceived opportunity for the organization.

Harlequin, on the other hand, is doing so many, many things right. They’re stepping forward and looking at ways to exploit the available media. And they’re doing some things not so well. Their website, for example, is clumsy and difficult and not intuitive.

But what if Harlequin decided that instead of just wanting to sell books they also wanted to become The Romance Industry Hub? It would be a radical process, but the only way to become a hub is to be inclusive (see Tor for examples). To become a king hub in the area of romance novels, you would have to be one click away from everything to do with romance novels. Even if someone is looking for other books from other publishers, the goal is to have them come to you to look for it. Before typing in the other publisher’s name on Google.

And, I say this easily, but have no delusions that it would be easy, any hub paradigm would have to include pirating. Not endorse it, but include it as a fact. It’s there. DRM is not making it go away. What, then would a new concept of selling ebooks look like if a publisher wanted to sell as many books as possible knowing pirates are going to have their way?

Social media is so new, so exciting, so volatile that it’s a crap shoot for all the players. It’ll be fun to watch the information flow and change as it happens. Twitter it is today, what will it be tomorrow? Personally, what I’m trying to figure out is how to use hub tech to increase my online presence with an eye on a re-launch of my website in Nov. in time for my next Blaze.

So, thoughts?

Shout Out! Jo Leigh @ 9:38 am | Uncategorized  

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