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imagesI just finished reading LEAGUE OF DENIAL : The NFL, Concussions, and The Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. It was published by Crown Archetype (part of Penguin-RH; division of Bertelsmann). The book was edited by Mauro DiPreta. The agent is Scott Waxman.

I want to rave about this wonderful book.

This book is an indictment of the executives that ran the National Football League and especially former commissioner Paul Tagliabue. They systematically covered-up, ignored and stonewalled anyone who had researched and had proof that former players were prone to severe brain damage from playing football. The evidence is overwhelming that football (played the way it was with devastating head to head hits) causes players to literally lose their minds.

The NFL knew this and for almost two decades stopped anyone who tried to bring it up. Slate aptly compares the NFL actions to Big Tobacco. They created their own board, hid the truth and finally had to come clean.

The book also tells the story of Mike Webster, one of the great centers of all-time. He was a key player on the 4-time SuperBowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (74-75-78-79). “Iron Mike” was one of the toughest to play the game. He was smart and a team leader. But after his playing days ended, he changed. He ended up broke and homeless. A shell of himself. He had lost his mind from hundreds of hits to the head. He had to fight the NFL for years to just get some disability payments. He got about $600 a month. He died at 50.

The NFL is the richest sports league in the entire world. They generated over $9-billion in revenue last year and Forbes states they could hit $25-billion by 2027. The NFL is a juggernaut in many ways. Their TV deal is enormous, their merchandising is huge and the ratings continue to rise. The SuperBowl is the single biggest sporting event in the world. I am a fan. I watch most Sundays, some Mondays and occasionally on Thursdays.

imagesA PBS Frontline documentary was made from the book. It premiered last month (OCT 2013). Although it was widely touted and reviewed, I have not seen it yet. I actually “read the book, before the movie.” Their website has this amazing interview outtake with Oakland Raiders HOF center Jim Otto – another one of the toughest. Otto says, “we were gladiators. We played until we could no longer go on.” Otto’s mind is sharp at 75. He took a pounding and is beat up physically, but he is resilient and lucid. Otto wonders why no one helped Webster.

Although the NFL was horrible and covered up a lot, it wasn’t all the owners fault. The players wanted to play. Sure there was pressure from the powerful head coach and fear of losing one’s job to motivate. It is a tough sport for tough people. A violent game for men who want to beat one another up.

62485There is progress with new commissioner Roger Goodell. There was a settlement of $765-million. The NFL settled a few weeks before the documentary ran and the book released. A lot of money. Some say it’s enough. I don’t. But it’s a good start. The NFL will eventually pay for more. The game is violent and should come up with a way to help pay for the wounded warriors. Many of these players didn’t get the million dollar contracts and had to continue working. Webster’s initial salary was $16,000. The modern players make millions and can more afford it. But still, some type of overall plan would benefit everyone.

There is plenty of money to take care of them.

Plus it’s just the right thing to do.

 

 

MLB-vector-logos-636x480Bloomberg just came out with their valuations for every Major League Baseball team. Check it out, the interactive graphic is really cool and fun to play with. There really are not any surprises to the rankings, but it is fascinating to see the various differences from top to bottom.

These rankings are different from the ones that Forbes presents because Bloomberg has added in the value of sports networks. I believe that is a smart addition. In today’s world, owning the media and controlling ability to broadcast the teams everywhere is key.

The TOP 5:

  • 1) New York Yankees ($3.3 billion): Of course, they are the top dogs. One of the most valuable teams in all of sports in the entire world.
  • 2) Los Angeles Dodgers ($2.1 billion): They don’t get credit for a “regional sports TV deal” but are still #2. But over a BILLION less than the top.
  • 3) Boston Red Sox ($2.1 billion): Gate, concessions and merchandising all keep Boston near the top. Success on the field has helped.
  • 4) New York Mets ($2.0 billion): Although the Mets suck, the team is still worth a lot. The media deals are very good and the NY market huge.
  • 5) Chicago Cubs ($1.3 billion): Another big drop from the 4th place Mets. Cubs continue to hold value although the team never wins.

The BOTTOM 5:

  • 30) Tampa Bay Rays ($0.53 billion): Tampa is worth 1/7th of the Yankees. Remarkable that the team has been winning for the past few years.
  • 29) Kansas City Royals ($0.54 billion): The Royals are owned by former Wal-Mart executive. Cheap. This is an example of not investing in the team.
  • 28) Cleveland Indians ($0.57 billion): Get rid of the “smiling Indian logo.” Small market with no media revenues.
  • 27) Colorado Rockies ($0.58 billion): Attendance is pretty good at #10, but again no media properties hamper the valuation.
  • 26) Oakland Athletics ($0.59 billion): Same story as the others. No media. No fans. No concessions. No money. But they win.

The major differences between the most valuable and the least comes down to the media packages. The TV, radio, etc. rights are a function of the size of the audience. The three largest markets, NY, LA and CHI have the most valuable teams. BOS has such a strong regional appeal (all of New England) and “Red Sox Nation” throughout the USA. Plus, Boston has won three World Series in 10 years.

TB, KC, CLE, DEN and OAK are all small markets. Although none of these teams has won a World Series, most of them have been competitive. So, the size of their markets totally restricts their ability to have franchises worth more. Also, none of these teams has a “regional sports network.” That is a huge difference.

Some comps:

  • The Yankees made $932-million from their regional sports network. That alone is more than the total value of 18 of the 30 teams.
  • The Yankees paid $97-million into the revenue share pool. The Royals received $36-million from the pool. Socialism?
  • The Yankees made $265-million from the gate receipts alone. The six bottom teams (TB, KC, CLE, OAK, PIT, SD) all made less than $40-million.
  • The Yankees are still over $1-billion higher than the second place Dodgers.

My favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals are in the middle at #15 and $0.85-billion). Although they were #2 in attendance and have a successful franchise and tradition, the lack of a media outlet and regional sports network brings their value down.

Own the media.

The value will follow.

 

Thinking-in-New-Boxes-by-Luc-de-BrabandereOne of the books I am currently reading is titled THINKING IN NEW BOXES – A New Paradigm for Business Creativity. The book is written by Luc de Brabandere and Alan Ivy of the Boston Consulting Group. It is edited by Random House executive Will Murphy.

Like all business books, it has it’s usual take-aways, graphs, tables, catchy phrases and lists. Also like many business books, the authors are consultants or “thought-leaders” who travel the world espousing their wisdom. This book is no different than the usual business tome — but I am enjoying it quite a bit.

I read a lot of business books. I find most of them interesting and there is usually something to be learned. No doubt, many are repetitive phrases and all contain similar lessons. But then, there really isn’t anything new to management and getting your employees to be creative. The key is to establish an attitude that allows for creativity. To view it with fresh eyes and a ‘”beginner’s brain.”

SJ_paperback__1_I never read a business book from front-to-back. I always skip around. I may read the last chapter first or the index. I also like to write in the books. These are both reasons why I seldom buy business eBooks. I much prefer the paper form. It is ideal for writing notes and for flipping around. I have found that digital just doesn’t deliver the same experience. So, I may read a business biography (STEVE JOBS by Isaacson) in digital form but not management or policy books.

For THINKING IN NEW BOXES, I found a wealth of information reading the first page of the Glossary.

Some notes on how this book has and will help me:

  • The Theory of the Box
    • The Box is a Mental Model
      • Concepts
      • Stereotypes
      • Categories
      • Ideas
      • Frameworks
      • Paradigms
    • Need to break out of the old “mental model.”
    • New Way to Think
      • Organize Facts
      • Connect the Links
      • Use the Information to Create Patterns
      • Repeat
    • The Power of the New Box
      • Baggage-free
      • Risk-taking
      • Fact-based
      • Psychology involved
  • PERCEPTION = REALITY
  • 26-31-34-42-44-46-64-67-82-06-11

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I don’t expect this outline to mean much by itself. But having read enough of the book, it does make sense. It helps me to review projects in a new manner and to explore beyond the obvious. I link this thinking to Edward de Bono’s classic work LATERAL THINKING.

Looking forward to reading more.Unknown

I just received four books from my friend and Random House sales rep Tom Nevins. Tom is a long-time marketing pro at RH.

He was kind enough to send me the following titles:

  • ONE SUMMER (America, 1927) by Bill Bryson – Doubleday.
  • TOP DOWN (A Novel of the Kennedy Assassination) by Jim Lehrer – Random House.
  • LEAGUE OF DENIAL (The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth) by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru – Crown Archetype.
  • THINKING IN NEW BOXES (A New Paradigm for Business Creativity) by Luc de Brabandere and Alan Ivy – Random House.

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I will read all four of the books for they are the type of books I like to read. Most of the non-fiction (although Lehrer is Fiction, it appeals to my non-fiction self). These books are the ones that never seem to come up in any of the “daily deals” or the endless emails I get from the 6-7 different platforms I subscribe to.  Most of the email marketing focuses on genre fiction and selling eBooks at 99 cents.

I first read Bill Bryson with the brilliant A WALK IN THE WOODS. That was the story of his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. His new one, ONE SUMMER, looks like more excellent narrative history from Bryson. Nineteen Twenty-Seven was one of those watershed years in American history.

Jim Lehrer has written 21 novels. I have probably read a dozen of them. I used to watch him on the PBS NewsHour and have always liked his easy-to-read, but torn-from-history novels. He also keeps them short with this one at less than 200 pages.

The next book, LEAGUE OF DENIAL, covers one of the most controversial themes in sports today – the history of how the NFL covered up the severity of head injuries and the long-term effects on the players. The league is stronger and richer than ever, but uses it’s players as disposable parts. I am very much looking forward to reading this one. This is a tie-in to a Frontline special (ESPN was a part of it but pulled out at the last minute).

The final book, THINKING IN NEW BOXES, is a business/psychology book. I read a lot of business titles. Most of them say basically the same thing, but I generally find some bit of wisdom in them. I especially enjoy books such as this one that brings in psychology. The aspect of how we think, act and perceive things is fascinating. I seldom read business books from cover to cover but like to scan and read “out of order.” I have delved into this one and like the perspective. It reminds me a bit of de Bono’s classic concept “Lateral Thinking.”

In this era of digital everything, SEO, blogging and all the various methods to have books “discovered”, there still is value in sending physical books as a part of the overall marketing plan.

Thanks Tom.

 

2013-10-10 19.08.55While many in the publishing industry attended the Frankfurt Book Fair, I chose to stay closer to home and go to the 8th annual New York Comic Con.

I have attended every NYCC and although the growth has been tremendous, the essence and fun of the show has not changed. It is still a great show to attend and learn about what is happening in pop culture.

The original NYCC had about 25,000 in attendance, this year there was over 130,000. It sold out again.

Book publishers have increased their presence every year. This year it looked like the publishers even stepped it up more.  It reminded me of the ABA of many years ago. When the annual book show created interest in the big titles, with long lines to meet authors and there was a buzz around. The difference is the people in line to see their favorite authors actually are BUYING the books. There was not the dread of the trolls who go to the ABA (and later BEA) just picking up free samples.

Most of the publishers were in the same area of the show floor. I walked through many times and came away very optimistic about the industry and the future of print. Actually I had a sense of deja-vu for many of the publisher booth’s looked like they were recycled from old BEAs. There was a lot of activity and energy.

I was mostly impressed by the Random House Inc booth (8-10 sections); the amount of fans at the Penguin booth; the title selection at the Abrams booth and the overall look of the Simon & Schuster booth. Amazon was there with Jet Comics and 47-North.

One booth was very cool, Anomaly Productions. They only have two books out, but both blend the qualities of print and the technology of digital. I remember them from last year with their oversized illustrated book ANOMALY: The Graphic Novel (which can be bought in a gift box). But I have read and am very excited about their new book – SHIFTER. The new book can be read like a old-school graphic novel. But there is also a corresponding smart-phone and tablet app that uses the camera and highlights selected parts and animates them in 3D. Very cool.

Others that were of interest include the 5-Hour Energy; Vivarin; Geico and Verizon booths.

The Artists Alley was once again in a separate section from the floor. It was in the north area of the Javits Center. This area was packed too. Many well known artists had their booths but also up-and-coming ones. What I have always like about ComicCons is the connection and easy-to-meet relationships between the fans and the creators.

I didn’t get a chance to attend any of the panels. I wanted to but just ran out of time and energy.

Maybe I should have stopped by the Vivarin booth a bit more?

Some random photos

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imagesI met Kurt Vonnegut twice.

The first time was at a book party for Andrew Dubus and his new collection of short stories, DANCING AFTER HOURS. I was the national accounts director of sales for Knopf (division of Random House) and back then there were a lot of book parties. I remember walking through the party and just “bumping into” Mr.Vonnegut. We exchanged a few words and that was it. I was thrilled. He probably didn’t even remember.

The second time I met him was 4-5 years later. The Random House offices were at 201 East 50th in NYC. I was walking from Grand Central Terminal and saw Vonnegut sitting on a bench along Lexington Ave. I did a double-take. I walked past him and thought he looked familiar. Kurt Vonnegut was very distinctive looking.  I turned back and stopped. Had about a five minute conversation with him. I don’t remember the details. I walked away feeling very cool for I had a chance to talk to a genius.

Although I am a fan of his work and was thrilled to meet him, I have not read every novel. I probably have read only 6-7 of his books.

IMG_3243My favorite is SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. I love time travel novels and found the story of Billy Pilgrim thought provoking. I also enjoyed the movie. Many people were required to read it in school. I never had to read. I read it because I had seen the movie first and wanted to understand it better.  I almost always read the book before the movie but in this case I didn’t because both came out decades earlier.  Charlie Kaufman is rumored to be writing a new script for a new movie. I can’t wait.

My other favorites are BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS and the short story collection WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE. Both had the bizarre worlds and style that appealed to me. What I learned was that you could do whatever you want. The rules or writing, drawing, reading and creating are flexible. I took from Vonnegut that one could just be as one wanted to be. Go for it.

There is an interesting business story behind Vonnegut’s eBooks. Because a deal was struck a decade ago (years before Kindle existed), Rosetta Books acquired the digital rights. But Random House Inc. also has the rights. So, Amazon has two eBook editions of many of his titles. The Rosetta Books versions come up higher in search and are available on the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) for free. The books are also available in hardcover, trade paperback and mass market.

His work is also available for people to write fan fiction through Amazon’s Kindle World program. This was received by many as wrong, just wrong. But it remains. I do not think it takes away from his greatness. I believe it probably makes Vonnegut even more of an icon.

Kurt Vonnegut – an American master and an original. IMG_3246

I have one of his books signed — what an original signature too.

imagesimagesOpen Road Media released 10 early novels of genius Michael Crichton earlier this summer. These books are in the collection THE MED SCHOOL YEARS and written between 1966-72 and under the name of John Lange. The retro covers and the series look great. I have just started reading them and look forward to the complete set. Coincidently, Hard Case Crime is bringing out trade paperback of these books (with different covers) this Fall. I may end up buying both the eBook and the physical.

I have been reading Crichton for years and especially liked his string of books from the 90s; JURASSIC PARK (1990); RISING SUN (1992); DISCLOSURE (1994); THE LOST WORLD (1995); AIRFRAME (1996) and TIMELINE (1999). He dominated the decade with his six best-sellers (in addition to re-issues in mass market of some of his earlier titles like CONGO and SPHERE).

IMG_3153I read each of the books immediately. I would read them in 24 hours. He was so topical. I actually think he helped create the culture of the 90s. Each one of these books was made into a big movie. All well made with JURASSIC PARK being a movie/ride/experience that had a major impact on pop culture.

I was the National Accounts Sales Director for Knopf (part of Random House but pre-Bertelsmann).  We were having a good year and the numbers were strong. But this year Knopf was “dropping in” Michael Crichton’s latest AIRFRAME in early December.

IMG_3150Just in time for Holiday giving we were getting an “un-budgeted” 2-million copy gift that would propel us far beyond the annual goals.

This was great! We already had made budget, but the billing for mega-author Crichton would push the bonus to the max.  Every rep in Sales made more money because of this single book.

I mentioned this to Mr. Crichton when we had a “meet and greet” in the conference room. I thanked him. I went on how his book was going to make the entire Sales Force have better bonuses. He looked at me and said, “Do you think it will sell?”

I was confident in my answer; I knew it would blow out like his last few. I replied, “of course, you are on a roll!” He was the biggest selling author in America and he was one of the smartest people ever to pen novels. He had even won an Edgar for A CASE IN NEED written at Harvard Medical School!  Which brings us back to the reissues from Open Road. Can’t wait to read them.

By the way, AIRFRAME went on to be a #1 smash and sell millions of copies.

 

 

Forbes recently listed the top-16 earning authors for 2012-2013. It has the usual names but a few new ones. In total, the top 16 authors earned a half-billion dollars.

Top16

Although publishing news is dominated by the rise of the self-published author, the established methods are still very viable. Although the top seller, E.L. James, is the perfect example of how the new and the traditional come together to create a phenom.  James’ 50 SHADES OF GRAY trilogy was originally self-published and sold 250,000 copies. It was then picked up by Vintage (division of Knopf, division of random House, a part of Bertelsmann). Vintage was able to get physical distribution everywhere, re-edit the book and sold over 70-million copies world-wide.

The list:

  1. E.L. James – $95,000,000
  2. James Patterson – $91,000,000
  3. Suzanne Collins – $55,000,000
  4. Bill O’Reilly – $28,000,000
  5. Danielle Steel – $26,000,000
  6. Jeff Kinney – $24,000,000
  7. Janet Evanovich – $24,000,000
  8. Nora Roberts – $23,000,000
  9. Dan Brown – $22,000,000
  10. Stephen King – $20,000,000
  11. Dean Koontz – $20,000,000
  12. John Grisham – $18,000,000
  13. David Baldacci – $15,000,000
  14. Rick Riordan – $14,000,000
  15. J.K. Rowling – $13,000,000
  16. George R.R. Martin – $12,000,000

Some thoughts:

  • 15 of the 16 authors write Fiction – Only FoxNews personality Bill O’Reilly (written with Martin Dugard – wonder what he made?) wrote books that were non-Fiction. His KILLING LINCOLN and KILLING KENNEDY books remain hardcover bestsellers and eBook smashes.
  • E.L. James is an anomaly. She came out of nowhere and exploded onto the book scene. Chances are this will be the only year she is on this list. But what a year. Congrats!
  • James Patterson is more of a “Publishing Imprint” than an author. He has a stable of co-authors and writes in many genres. He brings out 14-20 new books a year. His output is impressive and larger than many independent publishers.
  • Old favorites continue to sell – Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Grisham all have been writing novels for over 30 years each. All have had best-sellers for decades.
  • The new Penguin-Random House publishes eight of the 16 authors. This fits with the dialogue that P-RH is about 50% of the best-sellers.  The biggest authors will continue to be published by the biggest conglomerate.
  • Large publishers published the other eight authors too.  The details – Hachette (2); Scholastic (2); Macmillan (1); S&S (1); Disney (1) and Abrams (1).
  • Three authors write primarily for young adults and children (Rowling, Kenney and Riordan) and a Patterson occasionally writes for kids.
  • 12 of the 16 authors were on the list last year. So there is little movement from the top. This plays into the brand name and celebrity of these top writers. They continue to get top billing, the best placement and exposure. Many write series and sequels that continue to expand on their previous books.

 

Zen Thinking

07.19.2013, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

In today’s busy and confusing world, we are all faced with numerous decisions. Many of these deal with the unknown and creating new rules and methods. It can be daunting making so many decisions with the results being hard to track.

In my consulting business, I deal with a lot of decisions and plans that are creative and have to be made with little information. I pull together as much data and research as possible, but in the emerging digital content market and the disruptive publishing business, the plans and the results are elusive. Plus, the physical book world is changing so often that plans and decisions are must be made without full information.

When faced with so many decisions on complicated matters, I find it can be helpful to go in the opposite direction and look for inspiration in something very simple.

Simple tasks can open up the mind to solving complicated problems.

The other day I was having a difficult time coming up with a proposal for a potential client. I had the basics and knew where I was starting and where I wanted to end. But the difficulty was coming up with a plan to connect the two. The harder I thought, the less I was coming up with ideas.

I decided to take a break and just do something completely different.

I went out to the patio.

I weeded.

I came up with a solution.

Some times is it best to not try as hard – and the solution will come to you.

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BEFORE

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AFTER

Clear patio – clear mind – clear thinking – problem solved.

Pandora Radio

07.08.2013, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

pandoraPandora Radio has been getting a lot of flack from musicians over the past few months. Most recently, the surviving members of Pink Floyd penned an open letter in USA TODAY trashing Pandora’s payment to musicians.  How much worse is Pandora than Spotify, terrestrial radio, Sirius XM or others?

The timing of the Pink Floyd letter is interesting as they just agreed to let Spotify stream their music and Apple is starting their own subscription music platform.

I am not taking sides here and do not claim to fully understand who is right and who is wrong.

Musicians have been complaining about the industry since the first song was recorded. Record companies, radio stations and producers have been taking advantage of musicians forever. It is the norm for this conflict to exist.

I like Pandora. I find it a great service and it has helped me discover (and buy) at least 20 albums over the past year. Yes, I buy albums and not singles. I have bought all of these through Apple iTunes but would not have either heard of nor re-discovered many of these bands.

Some of the musicians that I have bought because of Pandora.

  • The Dirty Heads                      the dirty heads
  • The Expendibles
  • Slightly Stoopid
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (always listened)
  • Green Day (rediscovered their early stuff)
  • Sublime (rediscovered – and use them as the basis for recommendations)
  • Dave Gilmour‘s solo stuff – especially his Live at Gdansk. So even though he is complaining as part of Pink Floyd. I bought his music because of it.images
  • Numerous reggae groups and performers. This is the area that I probably have learned the most and bought albums by Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, obscure Bob Marley stuff, and at least a half dozen others.
  • I created Sublime+++ Radio and have discovered a lot of new artists. I find the recommendations spot on for me.

I completely understand that in this world of digital and downloading that artists continue to get screwed. But it seems to me that Pandora is being singled out for all of the others sins. I like Pandora and at least in my situation, they are responsible for many of my music purchases.