The Solution to Fake News is Within Our Grasp

Note: this post first appeared earlier this month as a guest opinion column on What’s New in Publishing Column

In the closing days of 2018, New York Magazine published an article on its Web site entitled How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually. This article isa must-read for anyone involved in digital advertising.

In case you were wondering, I agree with everything the writer, Max Read, has to say in the article, which is a good summary of the latest reasons why digital advertising is abig black hole which has been sucking an incredible amount of money out of advertising budgets around the world every single day for years.

In fact, this Black Hole Effect is so pervasive, so long-standing, and so important, we warned our newsletter readers years ago about the high level of fake in digital advertising metrics:

And, I decided to stop publishing the digital marketing newsletter because, frankly, I just could not stand to keep writing about digital advertising when so much of it was fake, and so many companies are obsessed with the idea of invading their customers’privacy in order to make money. These days when we do talk about what’s real and worthwhile in digital marketing (and there is some of this, but not enough), we do so in the Digital Publishing Report.

So, yes. I agree with Read: there is a lot that is fake on the Internet and in digital advertising. Especially troubling to publishers and advertisers alike should be the absolute reality the majority of the metrics are faked. So much so companies spending their money on digital advertising would do better opening their windows and shoveling their cash down onto people passing by. Throw a few ad flyers into the money mix and the response rates will be higher than anything really happening out there on the Web.

What I do not agree with in Read’s article, though, is his conclusion: “Years of metrics driven growth, lucrative manipulative systems, and unregulated platform marketplaces have created an environment where it makes more sense to be fake online—to be disingenuous and cynical, to lie and cheat, to misrepresent and distort—than it does to be real. Fixing that would require cultural and political reform in Silicon Valley and around the world, but it’s our only choice. Otherwise we’ll all end up on the bot Internet of fake people, fake clicks, fake sites, and fake computers, where the only real thing is the ads.”

The fix, my friends, lies not in the stars or in cultural and political reform, but in ourselves, Ourselves, as in the publishing community as a whole.

As Helena says in All’s Well That Ends Well, “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie…” In this case, the group implied in the “our” is the worldwide publishing industry. We need to do our jobs and protect our content. Curated content researched, written, and edited by human beings who know what they are doing and are good at their jobs is the only real fix to the pervasive and expensive fakeness of the Internet.

Repeat that last sentence over and over as long as you need to and chant it at staff meetings. In fact, shout it from the rooftops: carefully curated content published by trusted sources is the only way to make the Internet more real. It will never be totally real, but expecting anyone in Silicon Valley to abandon the pursuit of endless profit is a totally unrealistic notion. The place is full of billionaires who care no more about reality and truth than they do about paying a fair amount of taxes on the money they and their companies earn.

To be crystal clear, there is no reason, legal or otherwise, for Googleand Facebook to care more about making digital advertising real. Driving the bots away does not make them any money, and reality is not a concept they like or encourage very much.

One thing that would help publishers in this quest is to join in the efforts of organizations such as the Alliance for Audited Media ( There is absolutely no reason why digital advertising cannot be audited in the same way print advertising has been audited for decades and more. Audited metrics put forth by established publishers with a trusted brand message will go a long way toward makingdigital advertising fraud less profitable.

Another thing publishers can, and should, do is stop giving away their content to “blood sucking” companies like Google and Facebook and insist these companies be classified as publishing companies. Publishers have been grousing about these vampire organizations for years (see: for example. I see some signs publishers are at least looking around for a few good stakes to drive into the heart of the villains (, but it is way past time for a full-on assault.

The value in insisting these companies be declared, legally, publishing companies andnot technology companies (as they will insist and will keep insisting) is doing so makes them liable to the same legal sanctions other publishers deal with on a daily basis. One of these legal niceties is copyright.

Another is protecting people’s privacy; Google and Facebook et al make a lot of money from selling personal information and existing legal liabilities are no more than the sting of a mosquito to a very big, very nasty behemoth (

Yet another is the full range of legal liability related to making up stuff about people and making money from it ( “Nine Entertainment Co chairman Peter Costello has dismissed Facebook’s plans to launch fact-checking in Australia and says regulators should make digital giants liable for fake news and defamatory content hosted on their platforms.”

Costello is completely correct, but regulators around the world, but especially in the United States, will not take action without the publishing industry making this a lobbying priority for 2019 and beyond. Nor will depending on tech giants to change their ways benefit the worldwide publishing industry or its readership. The fix we seek, and deserve, must begin and continue from within our industry.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: a Graphic Design Perspective

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a new 3-D movie from Disney. The plot is pretty standard Disney fare, but what interested me most about the movie is how the animators envisioned the Internet in physical space.

Briefly, Wreak-It-Ralph and friend Vanellope von Schweetz journey from their video game homeland to the worldwide universe of the Internet on a quest. No more spoilers on the story than this!

Now, consider the design challenge this brief represents and then focus on the biggest part: showing the audience, a mix of kids and adults of various ages and attention spans, the journey and the space that is the Internet, but in physical terms they will find engaging and non-threatening (this is a Disney film, after all). This is a huge and intriguing designer puzzle and it must have been a lot of fun to solve.

No spoilers on how the animators accomplished this feat, but I do have a suggestion for graphic arts business owners and managers and also for people who organize group activities for graphic designers and students: take a group to see the movie and then discuss how well the animators met the design challenges, large and small.

Do the activity seriously, though, as everybody involved has so much to gain from the effort. Don’t just go around the table at a meal or meeting and ask for general comments that take all of three seconds to make.

Instead, make the participants get way down deep into the scope and the details. After all, with animation you can do just about anything, so make the group think about the challenge and how and why the animators made their design decisions and ask what your group members would have done differently.

For people who manage writers and for writing groups, you could do the same thing, but focus on the story challenges and how well the writers met the brief as I’ve sketched it out above, not the design aspects.

If you would like help developing a set of questions to ask or other aspects of such an outing, get in touch and I’d be happy to help. And, if you do take up my suggestion, I would love to hear about it.

Voting Always Matters, So Be a Patriot and Vote, America!


The reasons United States citizens do not vote or even bother to vote are complex and numerous. Yes, some people feel their votes do not make a difference, while others take pride in refusing to take part in what they consider to be a charade of some sort.

And, in some parts of the country the states themselves make it difficult to vote. Take Pennsylvania, for example, just one small example. Pennsylvania refuses to allow people to vote early or to move voting days to the week-end or do anything else to make it easier to vote, such as automatic registration.

By the way, the fact states make it harder to vote than it should be is a clear indication some people are afraid of letting more people vote. Some politicians and manipulators want to create a virtual voting machine that swings elections their way. Letting just anyone who is truly eligible to vote do so would throw a spanner in their works.

Well, none of that matters today. It never did matter. And it won’t matter tomorrow, on the day of the most crucial mid-term elections this country has had in decades. Tomorrow could be, I hope, the beginning of a new, better, brighter era in America.

So, if you are registered to vote, get out and vote tomorrow. Just do it.

If you are not registered to vote, get that job done right away. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s free. And, it’s part of your job as a citizen. You won’t be able to vote tomorrow, but for ever after, you and and you should. Find out more at

Remember, people who do not vote should not complain about the kind of government they get as a result. If you are eligible to vote, you should vote. Period. Oh, and make sure to take a picture of your sticker (see above) after you vote and share it around and wear it proudly.


Researchers Develop Memory Aiding Typeface

In the Seybold Report newsletter, we love reporting on typefaces, especially history of type design and new typefaces. I laughed out loud when I learned about this new one (see below), and, of course, we had to share the news with the Seybold Report subscribers in the last issue (18.19) of the newsletter, which published earlier this month.

“Researchers Doctor Janneke Blijlevens and Doctor Jo Peryman from RMIT’s Behavioral Business Lab (Melbourne, Australia) collaborated with the School of Design to produce a typeface specifically designed to enhance memory retention. They dubbed it Sans Forgetica (pun obviously intended) and say the design helps prompt the brain to remember more content.

To download the Sans Serif typeface and learn more please visit To view an explanatory video and learn even more, please visit”

To learn more about the Seybold Report newsletter and to subscribe, please visit our corporate Web site: and click on the Newsletters tab. And, we hope you will apply for membership in the community if you are a graphic arts, printing, publishing, or design professional.

Self-Publishing Authors Set Record! More than One Million Books Self-Published in 2017


Self Publishing Book Authors Set Record in 2017

Congratulations to self-publishing book authors for making 2017 a record breaking year in terms of raw output! Bowker has published a study on just how prolific these authors were last year. Here is how the company describes the impressive growth rate:

“The clear message communicated by the 2017 data is self-publishing is still evolving, still growing at a rapid pace, and shows no signs of slowing down. The largest increase was in print books, showing an increase of 38%…Self-publishing grew at a rate of more than 28% in 2017, up from an 8% increase during the prior year. The total number of self-published titles grew from 786,935 to 1,009,188, surpassing the million mark for the first time.”


And, to help answer a question I get asked a lot, “Who should I turn to to help me publish my book myself?”

“CreateSpace, which recently announced it would become one service with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and offer enhanced distribution and other services to former CreateSpace customers, was very strong in 2017 and accounted for the bulk of the increase, growing a robust 50%. Looking ahead, we don’t expect any decline in Print On Demand self-publishing as CreateSpace authors move to the KDP platform. In fact, the three major service providers supporting indie authors, CreateSpace, Smashwords, and Lulu, accounted for over 88% of all self-published print and e-book titles in 2017.”

Although Bowker doesn’t mention IngramContent, we’d be remiss if we did not mention this service, and just the other day we got a press release from Meridian Publishing Network about a new service the company is offering designed to help people start their own small book publishing company.

So, there are a lot of options for publishing your own book (contact me if you want to know more), but I am delighted to see this uptick. I think self-publishing or running a small book publishing company can be a great way to express one’s creativity, business acumen, and maybe make some money, too.

To access the full Bowker study, please click here.

Signal Boosting: Copycat Recruiting Sites Targeting Our Military

Wanted to do a little signal boosting here as this recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) news is important. Apparently, there are incredibly sick and devious people out there who have put together fake job recruiting sites targeting our military!

From the September news brief from the FTC:

Service members understand the serious responsibility of enlisting in the armed forces. But some companies may try to take advantage. If you or a loved one is visiting military recruiting Web sites to research or enlist, don’t get the wrong impression. Double check that the military recruiting sites you land on are official Web sites of the U.S. Armed Forces, not ones in disguise made to collect, and sell, your personal information.

According to a settlement just announced by the FTC,Sunkey Publishing, Inc.,, LLC, and associated companies ran online ads and Web sites like and These sites and ads looked like official military recruiting channels. But they weren’t. The FTC says people were tricked into thinking the information they shared would be used only for recruiting purposes. Instead, the companies sold people’s information to post-secondary schools as marketing leads. Even though these websites said they wouldn’t share people’s personal information. What’s more? The FTC says that Sunkey then used the numbers people shared to call them – pretending to be military reps and pitching post-secondary schools as though the schools were endorsed by the U.S. military. Which they weren’t.

Read the full news post here: to find out how to spot the fakers and report them.

The Invaluable Role of Enthusiasm in Book Publishing

Hamilcar Web site

The act of publishing is essentially the act of making public one’s own enthusiasm. Robert Gottlieb

In terms of the timing for this blog post what caught my attention first was a press release. I get press releases about new books all the time, but this one got my attention because it spoke to me of enthusiasm, genuine enthusiasm.

Frankly, I am not a boxing fan, but I am a fan of books and this line rang all the right bells for me: “We love boxing and books in equal measure,” says Kyle Sarofeen, Publisher and Principal of Hamilcar Publications, “Our aim is to share that passion with book buyers worldwide.”

So, here I was interested in a boutique publishing company just getting underway with a focus on the world of boxing. From the press release: “Supported by a dedicated, engaged, and loyal community of boxing fans, Hannibal Boxing will officially launch, in Fall 2018, Hamilcar Publicationsa book publishing imprint that provides a first-class home for authors and offers the finest boxing books available. The boutique publishing company will target an underserved niche in the book industry—readers devoted to the world of professional prizefighting.”

I contacted the sender of the press release, their rep at Smith Publicity, and asked a few questions (see below). Back came, in a short period of time, the publishers’ enthusiastic answers. Interesting, I thought, and filed the notes in my Blog folder to await use for another day, another post, some day.

Then, over the week-end, I started reading a book about book publishing, Avid Reader: a Life by Robert Gottlieb. If you have not heard of him, you are like thousands, maybe millions, of other people. But, if you are a reader, you have read at least a few of the books he has helped edited in his many decades as a book editor, acquisitions editor, and executive at major publishing houses in New York.

Early on in the book, which is a memoir of sorts, Gottlieb describes a “milestone” moment in his “education about publishing.” In the early days of his career, while at  S&S, he championed the publication of a book he describes as “very European, very distinguished, and definitely elitist novel.” This was not the standard type of book S&S was publishing then, to say the least. But, his enthusiasm and (and, admittedly, his marketing expertise) helped sell 20,000 copies of A Legacy.

From this experience Gottlieb learned an enduring lesson, he says in the book he learned (emphasis mine) “the act of publishing is essentially the act of making public one’s own enthusiasm. Whenever I deviated from that principle over the following half-century and published halfheartedly, things did not go well.”

There it was again, the coinciding of the concept of enthusiasm with the business of book publishing. I thought, how true, how true, how true! So, of course, my mind returned to the recent press release, and I decided to make my next blog post sooner rather than later and write about the importance of enthusiasm not just in boutique book publishing, but book publishing in general.

My point: if you, as a publisher, are not enthusiastic about your topic, how can you expect your potential readers to be? As Kyle expresses it, love the topic and books in equal measure.

Kyle and Andy were enthusiastic about answering my questions and provided lots of valuable details (valuable to book publishers, self-publishers, and so forth). Here is some information about them, and their answers to my questions appear below the info.

About Kyle Sarofeen and Andy Komack

Kyle Sarofeen, Publisher and Principal. Kyle has worked in the book publishing industry in the Boston area for more than 15 years for companies such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Quarto, and Pearson. His background is mainly in interior production and book manufacturing.

Other highlights include being selected as a jury member for the New England Book Show, and doing an editorial internship with the prestigious boutique publisher Shambhala Publications, which is where his career started. His passion for boxing started when he watched Marvin Hagler fights as a teenager growing up in Massachusetts in the eighties. In addition to his experience in the book business, he has an MBA from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Andy Komack, Principal. Andy has spent the past 20 years helping entrepreneurial companies with their digital marketing strategies and strategic partnership development. He founded and ran a digital marketing agency, which he sold to his partner in 2007. After selling agency, Andy worked with some of the most entrepreneurial companies in the Boston area, including DraftKings, where he created dozens of partnerships with some of the most-recognized teams in sports well as other sports marketing partnerships that added value to DraftKings’ unique brand of fantasy sports gaming. He has an MBA from Babson College.

My Questions, Their Answers

Q: What made them choose boxing?

[Kyle] Boxing has always been a passion of mine. I was heavily into sports as a kid, played some college soccer, but boxing is the one sport that held my interest throughout my twenties and beyond. What appeals to me most about it, and as we highlight in our “About Us” statement on our Web site, is the history, the artistry, and the culture of it.

There is really no other sport like boxing, in my view, when it comes to those elements. There is a real literary tradition that runs through the sport. Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates come to mind as two literary icons who wrote books about boxing.

Another thing I like about it is it has not become corporatized like the four major sports in the United States. Some may point to its corruption, which is, of course, an issue; but some of the unseemly elements, it must be said, add color to it too. Don King, for example, is a scoundrel, but he is not boring either.

As for choosing boxing as a category, it was a simple decision. It occurred to me about four or five years ago that there was definitely some sort of competitive advantage there because boxing, and books were my two main passions and, to a degree, obsessions.

I had worked at trade houses like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Quarto and I knew no one at those places knew anything about boxing to the degree that I did. It is not really a criticism, of course, but the established trade houses are generalists ,and I knew any editor acquiring books for them would never in a million years be as plugged into the boxing community as I was, and be as versed in the sport as I was.

Plus, being a production editor and production manager, I knew how to put a book together. That is the hard part, if you ask me. Book production is more like a trade, like being a carpenter; choosing books to publish in a sub-category you are already totally immersed in is fairly easy, intuitive.

Q: Have they been involved with other boutique publishing companies in the past, if so, what topics and how did those businesses do? If not, how did they come upon the idea and what do they find most appealing from a publishing and business standpoint?

[Kyle] My first experience being in a publishing house was when I did an editorial internship at Shambhala Publications, which is the foremost publisher of books on Eastern religion and spirituality in the West. Shambhala is the only boutique house I was ever involved with, and to my mind it is one of the best.

The thing that struck me then was the production and design quality of their books. The typography was and is beautiful, as are their cover designs, and their manufacturing and editorial standards are extremely high. Everyone there loved books and they were plugged into that community too–deeply. I see us fitting the same profile as Shambhala in all those ways, but, of course, we are publishing books about boxing and not Buddhism. Different worlds, to be certain, but our approach from a publishing and business standpoint is very similar.

[Andy] We have a fully integrated and robust marketing plan in place that we believe will set us apart from most publishing companies. Of course, there are the traditional tactics of smart PR and working hard to have our titles reviewed in the right places.

Retaining Smith Publicity was an important step in that regard. We were lucky we attended the most recent Book Expo and struck up a friendly conversation with them. Not many PR firms would be willing to spend so much time with a pre-revenue book publisher.

Also, when it comes to marketing and advertising, our use of targeted advertising across publishing trades, boxing media properties, social media ads that pinpoint likely readers of our style of books, Amazon ads, and advertising on Google for targeted phrases related to our category and titles, is only one small part of the plan.

Perhaps our greatest strength is in our approach to content marketing and becoming part of the boxing community. We have arguably the best staff of writers for our content Web site. We were lucky enough to have Carlos Acevedo come on board as the editor for our Web site and as a contributor. Carlos is widely viewed as one of the best boxing writers today.

And, Carlos brought on a team that is absolutely superb – Oliver Goldstein, Sean Nam, and Jimmy Tobin were the first on board and they cemented our place as delivering superior boxing content. With the addition of writers like Paul Beston and Frank Lotierzo, it just keeps getting better.

This content program means we can connect with the first group of book purchasers we have to reach – a very discerning audience that looks for the best boxing writing out there. Of course, that content powers our ability to be found in search engines and, more importantly, have quality conversations on social media.

While we use Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to share our content, Twitter (@hannibalbox) is where the real activity is in the boxing community. At this stage in our growth, it has been the quality of our Twitter community more than the number of followers that is generating momentum. And, the quantity of followers will naturally come as we continue to put out the highest-quality content and as our books come to market.

We are also about to send out our first monthly e-newsletter this month. And again, content will be a driving factor. Carlos recruited Steve Kim, one of the largest personalities in boxing journalism today, to write a monthly column for the newsletter. Having Steve write a column for our newsletter is a huge asset. And, with Carlos curating the other content, any boxing fan would find the newsletter an incredibly interesting read.

We also will be doing live events to reach our audience. Our plans include promoting our titles at events like the annual Boxing Fan Expo (next year, this coming weekend was too soon for us) and exhibiting at the Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, where they allow companies to purchase space to connect with attendees.

Of course, there will be book-signing events, where we will be selective in our venues and looking to not only incorporate the traditional bookstore event approach, but also be creative and look to events at boxing gyms and similar venues.

The combination of everything in our plan is critical not just for raising public awareness and generating Amazon sales. We believe, due to the content and quality of our books, they belong on booksellers’s shelves and in libraries. Having strong distributors in place to help with on-the-ground sales is a key part of our strategy.

This includes having the right global partner. The market for boxing books is much greater in the United Kingdom than here in the United States. The United Kingdom will be a critical component of our success as a boutique publisher.

We also have two titles in manuscript stage that lend themselves to Spanish translation. There is a dearth of quality books about boxing in Spanish, and we know we can fill that void.

Last, but definitely not least, is our relationship with Ring 10, a charity based in New York that helps retired boxers in need. Boxing is a sport where there are no unions and no serious protections for future health and livelihood. Ring 10, run by former professional boxer Matt Farrago, is dedicated to helping anyone they can possibly help. They help retired boxers throughout the world.

The stories we have heard from Matt underscore for us how critical their mission is, and that if we are profiting from this sport, we need to give back. We first reached out to Ring 10 to see if we could develop a co-marketing program with them. We are still working on something formal, but we will be donating to the charity in some form no matter what. We have developed a deep relationship with Matt and we are committed to this cause.