The NYTimes Paywall, the Book Review, and Amazon's Future

Jeff Bezos loves the NYTimes paywall.

Here is what Amazon will do:

1. Create the Amazon Book Review Section:

March 22, 2011

Jeff Bezos loves the NYTimes paywall.

Here is what Amazon will do:

1. Create the Amazon Book Review Section:

Starting March 28th, the NYTimes Book Review will loose some of its power to drive (or destroy) new book sales. This is an opportunity for Amazon. Today I go to the Book section of the NYTimes to decide if I should invest my time and money in a new book (which I will then purchase as an audiobook from Amazon's Audible site, an e-book from Amazon for the Kindle, or a paper book). Come March 28th, where will I go?

Amazon will meet this need by taking the very simple step of paying really smart people to write really good book reviews, book reviews that will be as carefully edited at those that appear in the Times. Amazon will need to hire some good editors, and reasonable fees to attract good reviewers, but otherwise starting the Amazon Book Review Section will not be all that expensive. The book reviews will be unbiased, containing both raves and pans, they will be as trusted and authoritative as those found on the NYTimes. But there will be more reviews, and they will appear more frequently.

There is a long tail of people qualified and motivated to review books, and by leveraging the database of existing user reviews on the site the editors of the Amazon Book Review will be able to identify new reviewers to approach. Perhaps the Amazon Book Review Section will create space for a set of book reviewing bloggers, and host these blogs off the main Amazon Book Review site.

2. Offer the Amazon Book Review as a Free Kindle and Audible Publication:

The Amazon Book Review Section will of course live on Amazon.com, but will also be packaged into a free Kindle e-publication and Audible audio publication. The Kindle version will come out each week, or maybe be continuously updated anytime someone synched their Kindle. Perhaps specialized Kindle book reviews will be created, for fiction, non-fiction, kids books, mysteries, whatever.

The audio version will contain reviews read by the reviewers, who will get training in how to read a review out loud. The audio version will be available on Audible.com, iTunes, and Amazon for download. We will see more video interviews with authors, more roundtables on books, more book related multimedia content. Amazon will finally figure out how to create virtual book clubs.

3. Build on This Editorial Content Model for Other Verticals:

The Amazon Book Review section is just the start. The increase in book sales, Kindle purchases, and Audible subscriptions that results in having the world's best book related editorial content on the Amazon site will spur the creation of new areas for high quality editorial content. This editorial arc will follow the path that Amazon took on the e-commerce side, starting first with books and moving into music, movies, electronics, and consumer goods. The best and most varied movie reviews and music reviews will appear on Amazon.

The rapidity in which Amazon buys content websites and blogs in order to bring in talent and an established reader base will surprise industry watchers. The shift from paying for advertising to investing in quality editorial content will seem like a predestined change in hindsight, but during the time of this shift it will feel like a novel and risky tactic. What company would publish a bad review of a book or movie that they were trying to sell, particularly if the business model relies on selling lots of poor quality books and movies? What company would invest millions of dollars to create quality editorial content, give this content away free, and not even sell ads against this content?

Is this Amazon's future?


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