By Dennis Abrams
At the New York Times, Alexandra Alter reported that Simon & Schuster is moving into the world of paid online video, “with a new website offering online courses from popular health, finance and self-help authors.”
Courses cost between $25 and $85, including workbooks and access to “live question-and-answer sessions with three authors” including Dr. David B. Agus (author of The End of Illness), Zhena Muzyka (author of the self-help book Life by the Cup), and Tosha Silver (author of the “spiritual advice book” Outrageous Openness). The courses will be available on the company’s new site, SimonSays, we well as on the author’s own websites.
In a statement, Carolyn Reidy, President and Chief Executive of Simon & Schuster said, “Today’s consumers have made it plain that they want and expect more from authors than just books. This initiative is another way for us to expand what Simon & Schuster can provide to our authors, building audiences for their books and creating new revenue streams.”
Alter writes that with the addition of online courses, Simon & Schuster is working to solve two problems facing authors and publishers: “finding new business opportunities in a sluggish book market and grabbing the attention of readers who are increasingly distracted by social media and free online content. Globally, one billion people watch 300 million hours of YouTube videos every day.”
Of course, getting people to pay to watch videos that they normally watch for free might be a tricky proposition. But Simon & Schuster hopes that having authors promote their products on their websites, through personal appearances and through social media will do the trick. Revenues from the courses will be shared between Simon & Schuster, the authors and the creators of the courses, although the exact division of profits has not been disclosed.
Alter reported that Simon & Schuster has plans to issue 12 to 15 additional courses this year, with a focus on “writers who have established, dedicated fan bases and a well-defined philosophy or message to deliver.” Hopes are that the courses, currently planned as stand-alone products, could eventually include videos by “entertainers and experts who have not yet published books.”
“The videos might lead the way to a book,” said Liz Perl, Simon & Schuster’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.