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Conferences & Conventions: 2008 NACCE Convention Day 3

8 Jan

Today was the third (and last full) day of the 2008 National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship convention and I have to admit that there is some degree of conference fatigue setting in at this point. Nonetheless, there were a couple of sessions that stood out today: a follow-up discussion about e-marketing and another one about the pros and cons of different financing options for entrepreneurs. In addition, I’ve embedded Brad Kleinman’s e-marketing presentation from yesterday that he’s uploaded to SlideShare, the YouTube of PowerPoint shows.

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Conferences & Conventions: 2008 NACCE Convention Day 1

6 Jan

naace-logo.gifAt long last, I am back in my room after the opening afternoon of the 2008 National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship convention at The Westin La Cantera in San Antonio, Texas. The are sessions about entrepreneurship programs at schools around the country as well as ones on management/supervisory issues, for-profit ventures at two-year colleges, fundraising, e-marketing, and more. (A whole lot more!) I’ve been interested in coming here to figure out more that I need to know in running our publishing start-up, find resources for our interns who want to be freelancers, see what might be of interest to TSTC in terms of offering entrepreneurial training, and, as always of course, scout around for book projects.

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Web-Based Applications: Just the Stats, Ma’am!

19 Jul

As the ever-insightful Morris Rosenthal of Foner Books noted in his recent post A Website Lesson For Publishers at his blog, some of the most useful (yet underused) information many novice Web site owners don’t get around to taking advantage of is good analysis of site visitor stats. First of all, if you’re not tracking site visitors, you’re essentially driving blind on the Internet. But, if you never move beyond counting total hits—that is, each individual page load—you never know how or why people are ending up at your site. Besides, as he says, you could be getting hundreds of hits a day but if they all are coming from a link at The 25 Worst Web Sites, that’s not exactly the kind of productive traffic you’re probably shooting for.

There are four big categories of information to break down your stats into that will give you a much better idea of how well your site is working:

  • referrers or referring pages (the page people were at when they clicked a link to come to your site);
  • search engine terms (when coming from a search engine page this will list the term/phrase people used to generate those results);
  • popular pages (what pages or posts people visit the most often at your site); and
  • clicks (what links, if any, people clicked on your site when leaving).

One of the reasons that I like using WordPress for our blog is because of the wealth of useful statistical information that it provides. Below you’ll find examples of the kind of information I listed above.

Referring Pages

On July 7, 2007, people came to our blog from the following pages:

Referrer

Views

books.sorodesign.com/2007/05/19/an-in… 1
wordpress.com/tag/publishing-editor 1
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textbook 1
us.f319.mail.yahoo.com/ym/ShowLetter?… 1
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publisher 1
news.myspace.com/business/bookpublish… 1

The first referring page was from a Book Design Blog post they did about us a while back. The WordPress.com referrer was from someone looking at a list of WordPress posts tagged with “publisher editor.” (If you look at the bottom of each post, it is “tagged” with various categories that relate to information contained in the post.) The third referrer was from the Textbook entry at Wikipedia. The fourth referrer was from a link in a Yahoo.com email. The fifth referring page was from the Publisher entry, also at Wikipedia. Finally, the last referring page was from the beta version of a MySpace.com news service that I had never heard of until I found this link in our stats.

Search Engine Terms

In addition, it can also be useful—without having to follow the link to every search engine results page—to see what search terms people used to get to your site. So, on July, 17, 2007, people used the following search engine terms to wind up at our blog (plus, it shows how many page views there were from those resulting visits):

Search

Views

co publishing between india and america 3
book design with indesign 2
‘dan coyne’ typo silverman 2
TSTC BLOGS 2
Literary Agents in India 2
todd glasscock 2

As it happens, we get a lot of hits based on publishing and the outsourcing of publishing to India. In addition, we get a lot of hits based on graphic and book design topics. The “dan coyne” search is due to a recent post I did about the book Typo: The Last American Typesetter or How I Made and Lost 4 Million Dollars. “TSTC BLOGS” is pretty self-explanatory while someone—somebody, somewhere—wound up at our site after using Todd Glasscock’s name—he’s our full-time editor—in a search.

Popular Posts & Pages

It is also helpful to see what posts/pages are generating the most views as you’ll see below by looking at the cumulative numbers for the last 30 days:

Title

Views

Book Design: InDesign Tips 96
Book Publishing Industry News: Simon &am 81
Book Design: MS Word vs. Adobe InDesign 47
About Us 43
Publishing Resources 41
Our Publications 41
Book Publishing Word of the Day: Front M 37
Useful Links 32
Book Design: CS3 Conference 30

A few key things show up in these numbers. First of all, once you subtract the individual page views—About US, Publishing Resources, Our Publications, and Useful Links—from the posts themselves, you’ll see that graphics posts—InDesign Tips, MS Word vs. Adobe InDesign, and CS3 Conference—are by far the most popular. While Grace did two of those three graphics posts, I recently did the one about MS Word vs. Adobe InDesign to see if a post on this subject would generate traffic like hers had gotten. Sure enough, it did! So, that goes to show that if you know what people want to read, you can then provide more related information. Finally, the Book Publishing Industry News post was about Simon & Schuster opening a publishing office/operation in India. I wrote that post several months ago but it is still one of the most popular posts we’ve ever done.

Clicks

Finally, tracking what links at your site—if any—people used when leaving is also helpful. For example, so far today people have left our site by way of these links:

URL

Clicks

tstcpublishing.files.wordpress.com/20… 1
https://shop.tstc.edu/xcart/product.p… 1
aaronshep.com/publishing/blogWord.htm… 1
amazon.com/gp/product/0938497332?ie=U… 1

The first URL is someone looking at the jpeg of the publishing calendar I recently posted. The second URL at shop.tstc.edu is for one of the technology forecasts we carry. The third link goes to the blog of Aaron Shephard’s blog where he writes about using MS Word for book layout and design. The last link goes to one of Shephard’s books at Amazon.com.

In the end, as Morris Rosenthal (and many others) would say, there is a wealth of information to be had by analyzing site visitor stats. On the other hand, it’s awfully easy to get so caught up in these numbers that you do nothing else during the day. One thing I will say about WordPress is that I wish there was a cumulative number—not just day by day—for referring pages, search engine terms and clicks like there is with popular pages. But, for that information, you can use a third-party web-based application like Statcounter.com. We use Statcounter for all our sites as well to generate even more information . . . in a future post I’ll detail what kind of additional information can be gleaned and how we use it.

Mark

Recommended Business Resources: The Smartest Guys in the Room

19 Jun

Yesterday I was back in the office after taking a few days off last week to catch my breath at this point during the summer production cycle and do some reading. I was able to finally start (and finish) Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone: A Novel, a fairly good example of “country noir” (although not quite as strong as his Tomato Red or, my all-time favorite, The Death of Sweet Mister which has an ending that has the horrifying impact of being run over—repeatedly—by a dump truck). Currently I’m working my way through Margaret Atwood’s dystopian Oryx and Crake because I needed a break before tackling the noir-ish No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, which I’m determined to read before the Coen brothers movie version comes out this fall. (I’ll have to wait a couple of years before Ridley Scott’s version of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West is released; it’s hands down my favorite McCarthy novel by far.)

Anyway, all that aside, I did get a chance to read a business-related book I picked up several weeks ago at Books-A-Million. At the front of the book was this statement from the company under discussion:

Our Values

RESPECT: We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don’t belong here.

INTEGRITY: We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we cannot or will not do something, then we won’t do it.

COMMUNICATION: We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another . . . and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.

EXCELLENCE: We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything that we do. We will continue to raise the bar for everyone. The great fun here will be for all of us to discover just how good we really can be.

Sounds good, right? (The more cynical reader might be more inclined to say “typical” and/or “generic.”) These are the sentiments that people like to hear and the kinds of things we are often told by businesses and other organizations. The key thing here is that all too often there is a big difference between what we’re told versus what we’re shown. And, when you’re a company like Enron—and the statement above came from their 1998 annual report—that point is illustrated all the more clearly.

At one point in the late ‘90s and early 2000s Enron was the darling of Wall Street and one of the largest and most influential energy companies in the country. After a series of accounting, trading, and other business-related scandals Enron fell apart very quickly and very publicly at the end of 2001. This is very well documented by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, both senior writers at Fortune, in The Smartest Guys in the Room. After this book came out, a documentary of the same name Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room was released; I’ve seen it a couple of times before reading the book last week and it is a good introduction to the wealth of more detailed information presented by McLean and Elkind.

By the time Ken Lay took Enron over as CEO in 2001 after Jeff Skilling’s departure, an internal study of morale at the company made “brutally” clear, as reported by McLean and Elkind, that:

“. . . the CEO’s exalted notions of Enron’s culture were a delusion. ‘Instability and chaos’ were the defining features at Enron. . . . employees complained bitterly about senior management’s ‘lack of corporate vision’; ‘there appears to be no long-term thinking, strategy, or game plan.’ Enron’s constant reorganizations—six in just the previous 18 months—were a running joke. The PRC [the employee evaluation committee structure] was viewed not as a meritocracy but as ‘punishment.’ Only deal makers got ahead; ‘no one in the corporate leadership truly cares about those charged with executing the deals and making them actually produce profit.’ Enron’s lack of discipline wasn’t something noble that nurtured creativity; it was destructive and demoralizing. Commented one Enron employee: ‘We’re a major corporation still acting like a dot-com start-up.’”

There are a lot of specific lessons to be learned from this case study known as the Enron debacle—far too many to go into here (Hey! Read the book! Watch the movie!)—but there are certainly some general principles that leap to the forefront: making a deal is one thing but satisfactorily fulfilling the obligations of the deal is another set of equally important concerns, transparent accounting is a necessity, hubris is a losing bet over the long haul, and you can’t have multiple/contradictory codes of standards and conduct, either internally or externally.

In the end, for having come across this book by virtue of having seen the documentary and wanting, subsequently, to learn more of the in-depth details of Enron’s rise and collapse, I would have to say this is one of the best business management books you could read. That is, management books with perky maxims and/or too-brief and under-explained happy case studies are one thing; books that show how the best of intentions can lead to the worst of failures can be both compelling and insightful.

Mark

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