Tina Brown's web publication The Daily Beast may not be profitable yet, but the company is hoping they'll get a boost from the book industry. 

This week, the company has announced its intention to start publishing books  — short, timely tomes — for fun and profit.

All media brands are looking to create products that they can sell to supplement popular, free content right now. And this could be a very good revenue stream for The Beast.

As Stephen Carter wrote about publishing for The Beast this Spring: "A book is forever. A screen of text is not." But by publishing printed books in a more timely fashion, The Beast can piggyback on the popularity of online news without having to create full length books.

The Beast will initially publish its speedy tomes as e-books, then print them as physical copies about 150 pages long. Beast freelance writers will pen the tomes, who will be paid 4-figure advances and given between one and three months to write and research a book of around 40,000 words.

The Daily Beast is not the first to try such quick release publishing. Perseus, the website's publishing partner in this venture, has already dipped its toe in the water. The company released an e-book version of “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets” by George Soros two months before putting out a hardcover which sold 50,000 copies.

Brown has specialized in headline linked books herself — her Diana Chronicles was a New York Times best seller — and knows a few things about the publishing industry.

She tells The New York Times:

“There is a real window of interest when people want to know something. And that window slams shut pretty quickly in the media cycle.”

Shortening the length — and the research time — of books will let The Beast books compete for readers with the news cycle, instead of after the hysteria has died down. It often takes up to a year for topical books to be delivered, edited and published. With this effort, they could be released in as little as two months time.

Other publications are looking for new ways to translate print into the digital media. The Associated Press this week launched a digital version of The AP Style Guide that can be purchased for the iPhone (though the $29 price point could negatively affect sales). CNN announced its own $1.99 iPhone app this week, and both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have made moves toward charging for their mobile apps.

The difference in The Beast model is that they will use their free content to encouraged sales of a value added product. Unlike big ticket items at other publications — like conferences and research — these will be sales generators tied to very brief, but profitable windows of relevance. 

And while readers may not pay to read a topical article on TheDailyBeast.com, those articles can serve to peak interest in a longer digression on the topic.

Paired with an increasing focus on trending topics — Google just integrated Google Trends into its organic search results this week — this could work out very well for The Beast. And it actually dovetails well with what Jason Epstein proscribed for the industry when he wrote An Anatomy of the Book Business for The Beast earlier this year:

"The effect of this post-Gutenberg Revolution will be to radically decentralize the marketplace for books and greatly reduce the cost of entry for would-be publishers. Because these changes imply a superfluity of books—some readable and valuable and many others not—the need for filtering and branding is a vital task for future librarians and bibliographers."

Meghan Keane

Published 29 September, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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