The Red Sofa Chats – Dan Blank

It’s been a good while since I last did this, and what a treat that the next installment includes Dan Blank of We Grow Media. Here’s how I know that someone should be on the Red Sofa Chats – I’ll find myself nodding in agreement with a person’s tweets, often opting for the “retweet” button. Dan is one of these folks. I believe you’ll enjoy his perspective as much as I did. So enjoy!

Bio: Dan Blank is the Founder of We Grow Media, an online media consulting & training company. He works with writers, authors, editors, & journalists to build their online media & marketing skills and engage their communities in fun and meaningful ways.

For a decade, he was the Director of Content Strategy & Development for Reed Business Information, a B2B publisher and media company. In this role, he worked with editors and bloggers across 50+ brands, with the goal of creating engaging content and community. Dan’s Twitter: @DanBlank

1. Why did you choose to work in the social media end of today’s publishing industry?

What I love about social media is how it brings us back to the basics. For publishing, this means that authors are able to connect with readers, readers are able to become writers, publishers are able to learn about those they serve, and we can all be involved in creating interesting new ways to experience story and share knowledge. This is all inherently a human process, one that brings us together, instead of one that merely sells products to a market.

That is why I love being on the social media end of today’s publishing industry. Not because of what it takes away from books, but because of what it adds to the experience of publishing and everyone involved in the process.

2. What do you wish you could have done (in regard to publishing) — before founding We Grow Media?

Everything. And nothing. Clearly, it’s always nice to have met more people who are on the front lines of publishing – those who have been deep in the trenches for years. And this is one of the reasons why I love what I do – meeting new people, who are passionate members of the publishing world, who are moving forward, appreciating the past, and embracing the future.

3. What are you reading right now (for personal reading)?

Truth be told, I am mostly reading baby books at the moment! My wife and I have a two-month old at home. I will say this: again and again, we find that books are a MUCH better resource for educating us and answering our questions than any online resource we have found. The online resources are fine, but rarely as complete as we would like.

4. How do you utilize Twitter?

I am in the process of changing how I use Twitter, which is something I do every now and again. For awhile, I kept expanding the number of people I follow (more than 550!) , but now I am changing the rules. I am focusing more on people whose Tweets lead to action in my life. In other words, I am focusing on people who I ReTweet, or people who really get me to think about things in a new way. I am building a private list of these people, slowly, over time. The goal is to focus on a small group that inspires me, not a wide net where I miss Tweets and can barely keep up! I utilize Twitter to connect, to share, and to create real relationships.

5. How do you believe Twitter has changed the way we go about publishing books?

In many ways, Twitter has NOT changed the way books get published. But it HAS empowered writers to connect with their readers, and it has turned more readers into active participants with the authors/topics they love. Twitter gives a writer a very nuanced view of who their audience is, and gives them an amazing research and relationship building channel. I don’t mean this in terms of marketing, I mean as a way to truly connect with others who are as passionate about a topic as the author is.

6. If you had a crystal ball, where do you think (or hope) publishing will be in 5 yrs?

You mean, it gets better than this?! I hope publishing itself is exactly where it is right now – a vibrant ecosystem of new ideas, new products, new voices and disseminated power.

The world I see today is one where more people read, and more people write than ever before. Publishing is no longer a process that is clearly defined and controlled by the few. A new generation is growing up with the innate ability to publish at a moments notice. Would a traditional publisher hope that this value extends beyond a Twitter update, Flickr photo or blog post? Sure, and I can understand that.

But I am focused more on what this means to us as a culture, as a member of the human race. If you are a publisher who regrets that every member of our culture now has the ability to read and write more than any other point in human history, then perhaps publishing is not the business for you! If new formats scare you because they mean that people can read in new ways that make sense for their busy lifestyles, then perhaps publishing is no longer for you. If somehow what was seems better than what can be, then perhaps publishing is no longer for you.