How a Book Can Drive A New-Media Asset

Have you ever wondered how demographic- or behavioral-specific sites grow into the behemoths some have become?

That was the first thing I thought of this week upon reading the reports of Bob Pittman selling his stake in Daily Candy. We all know that Daily Candy is cool--a great idea made into a great brand, really. But the part that stuck with me was that analysts were saying Pittman's 51 percent stake was worth as much as $100 million.

Whoa--that's real coin for what I'd recalled as a little e-mail service from high-end retailers in a few cities. I recalled the launch of Daily Candy as a small, NYC-based indulgence for the "Sex and the City" crowd. That is, send fun shopping tips to young women of means, or wannabe young women of means. The word "fabulous" comes to mind, as do the words "really slick commerce enabling by demographic and behavioral targeting." (These leaps of consciousness are what make geeks like us the center of attention at cocktail parties, no? Um... No.)



Anyway, when the magazine Lucky launched, that was a direct play to those consumers' consciousness. Daily Candy, at least, was coy about it. Today, they provide nine editions of this e-mail targeted to major markets such as London, New York, and Chicago, along with national editions that have no geographical boundaries. Daily Candy's coyness has made its brand drive a big-time media asset.

A new play on this is even coyer, and bears watching since it takes proven elements from these models and others, then merges them with the simple how-to that made worth $410 million cash to the New York Times last year.

Have you heard of the book called A Virgin's Guide to Everything? If you read the entertainment or style sections of any of dozens of major newspapers or Web portals that have reviewed it favorably, chances are that you know what it's about. A Virgin's Guide entices readers with a somewhat spicy title (at least before Richard Branson used it for the name of an airline) to offer simple, straightforward advice for people who are trying something--almost anything--for the first time. It's not about sex. It's about eating sushi, and buying a cocktail dress, and choosing among gyms and yoga types, and a wide range of other regular acts that most women have never tried when they're entering college, but will have almost certainly tried by the time they're 30.

Teaming a series of chapters aligned around these and other episodic adventures makes solid sense for a book. But, it makes tremendous sense for a book that is just one, enticing element of a media brand that culminates in a Web site with the same name.

"This was the genesis of an idea that we came up with... more than a year ago," said Lauren McCutcheon, the author of A Virgin's Guide to Everything. "By conveying our tips from real experts in a fashion that women have told us they really enjoy, we have the ability to draw users in, retain them, and provide a valuable and fun service at the same time."

Apparently, the response to this has been fantastic, with new subscribers flowing in steadily, as well as offering their own advice through the simple interactivity that the site provides. This makes as much sense as anything about the site does to me, when you consider how A Virgin's Guide melds the advice of an with the tone and demeanor of a Daily Candy, albeit targeted to a somewhat younger audience.

Have you ever read a book and wanted to keep reading--or writing the author--or talking about it with your friends? Here's a book that enables that in ways that make a ton of sense. I look forward to seeing if this one catches on like Daily Candy did.

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