Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fresh Faces, Fresh Ideas

Newly appointed supervisors tend to change things, if only to show that they have some fresh ideas that will justify their elevation to the loftier position. They may have come in with ideas percolating, or they may have come in with a notion that they have to leave their stamp on their department.

Spinebreakers suffers a quiet and slow death
With the merger of Penguin and Random House, you can imagine how very many employees were thrilled to bits to be given new posts where they could at last unleash their brilliance. Their job is to boost the bottom line of the Random Penguin House, and their ideas for innovation or strategy are at last being given free rein. Change away, they are told, do what you think needs doing so that PRH thrives. And justifies the expense of the merger, by the way.

Where to cut costs, then, to please the overlords? Someone in the merged PRH entity took a look at the online teen-oriented writing site Spinebreakers and decided that it could go. It's all about return on investment, and if the investment doesn't return as needed, it must be killed off.

The point of the website, which was the brainstorm of some other creative type prior to the merger, was intended to interest teens in writing. On the heels of the Harry Potter craze, it was discovered that kids could actually like reading, and once hooked on reading, they became teens who read and who pushed sales of serial novels like THE HUNGER GAMES. Publishers like blockbuster books and that takes buzz, which requires readers talking to each other and aren't all the kids today virtually speaking via forums on websites like Spinebreakers?

The person who was in charge of Spinebreakers lost their power after the merger, and the new suit took a look at statistics before decreeing the death of Spinebreakers. Not doing enough of what needed doing to fuel sales of YA titles. The time for change has come.

The new suit has a better idea, one that will do more for PRH than Spinebreakers did for Penguin. Maybe the new chief felt that Spinebreakers was too Britain-centric and it would be better to have something based in the States. Someone says they talked to young people to see what those young people really want, and so Spinebreakers has to change to meet the advice of a focus group, and if that focus group was largely American, you can expect that they'd have different opinions than their British equivalents.

Something else will replace Spinebreakers, something that the people putting it together will see as radically different, much improved and more effective than the old system. It will be up to the end users, the teens being targeted, to make that final assessment. If too many of them voice complaints about how the old way was better, there might be a tweak here or there, but there will never be a return to Spinebreakers as it currently exists (until the end of September when it will go dark).

The teen writing website is being given a long and slow death, to give users time to retrieve the writing they posted before it is gone forever.

Will they come back? Or have the current users outgrown the site? PRH may be trying to snag a fresh crop of young minds with a site purporting to be absolutely brand new, the latest trend in sharing your angsty prose. It might not be all that new, but if you've never seen something before, it's brand new to you, right?

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