Is Piracy Just Free Marketing?

Pirates were vagabonds that ventured and sailed the seven seas stealing and swindling the property and possessions of others for their own good, but often with a certain and arrogant charm that propogated legends and folklore.When is Piracy Good

Their lifestyle was admired by many and copied by few and along the way they often managed to collect parrots, eye patches, strange hairstyles and occasionally attractive women and ugly men. They were often seen as the Robin Hood of the seas that stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Pirates and Robin have managed to inspire tall tales and true and books, movies and songs have been inspired by their adventures and dastardly deeds.

The Author and the Publisher that Love ‘Piracy’

There is a book titled “Go the F…to Sleep” that caught my eye recently that was inspired by the authors frustration when trying to put his 2 year old daughter Vivien to bed. It is being touted as “a children’s book for adults”.

A month before going on sale it was at #1 on Amazons best seller list. The interesting thing (along with the title) is that its success seems to have been driven mainly by a pirated PDF that is making the rounds of the Web. Copies of the book have been spreading like wildfire as people send and share the book online. The success has now extended to an option for film rights from Fox 2000 and the author Adam Mansbach looks like he is heading off for national media tour.

When Piracy Is Good

Piracy on the web is not new and has been battled by music companies as they spent millions of dollars in lawsuits shutting down sites such as Bit Torrent and Pirate Bay.

Piracy for this author and the publisher Akashic is a Godsend and they have been ecstatic with the results and the viral spread on the web with Ibrahim Ahmad the senior editor being quoted as saying “It is a miracle from the heavens for us” when interviewed for an article by the New York  Times.

Social Media Spreads the Word

It has also become a Twitter wave and Blogs like Boing Boing in San Francisco picking up and spreading the story have driven more sales. Ibrahim also said that without social media this success would not have happened a few years ago.

Popular science fiction novelist Neil Gaiman after observing that the most pirate-heavy countries, such as Russia, actually had the best sales, he decided to experiment with putting his book for free online. “Sales of my book, through independent book stores, because that’s all that we were measuring it through, went up, the following month, 300%.”

Seth Godin is experimenting with his low cost books ($7.99 -$9.99) with his Domino Project in conjunction with Amazon that sells and distributes ebooks for the Kindle.

So does piracy have a role to play when it creates a market without a cent being spent on advertising?

Piracy Expands the Market for Free

Hal Varian, now Google’s chief economist, predicated a decade ago that, “Just as publishers feared circulating libraries and Hollywood feared video rental outlets, today’s producers of digital content fear that the Internet will dilute the value of their intellectual property,” he wrote, “Perhaps some dilution will occur, but the historical record seems to suggest that the expansion of the market may well outweigh the impact of this dilution.”

In this case ‘Go the ..to Sleep” does need to be bought in hard copy to fully experience the book’s art work on its 32 pages. The question remains does this success story need to be looked at more closely by authors and publishers and how they can make piracy work for them or is it just a lucky break?

Expanding the number of readers, free or pirated, can benefit sellers of content and the book, movie, music and information freemium business model is being tested and tried and we haven’t seen these business models perfected yet.

Is piracy noble again?

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Image by spaceninja

Comments

  • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com/ Eric Wittlake

    Good question, and interesting implications for marketers. Does giving something away, that is worth $$, expand your market? YES. What remains to be seen is if it expands your paying market.

    This is really interesting, to me, for marketers that give away information or products already. Can the information marketing model or the freemium model grow your market?

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    — @wittlake

  • Tonz666

    Why do you use Jack Rackhams flag?
    Do you want to know what real marine pirates have to say?
    http://www.captaintonz.com

  • http://twitter.com/ExtremelyAvg Brian D. Meeks

    I have considered sending my book into the high seas of piracy, just to see if it might take off.  It is a frightening thing to do though. It is my first novel and if I had a child, I would love it less than my little book.  It takes a lot of love and nurturing to bring them to term and it seems like the piracy root is a gamble.  Maybe I am wrong.  What is the downside, if I am not getting great sales now.  (98 thus far)

    I am probably more afraid of giving it away and nobody wanting it.  That would be unbearable.  At least now, I can delude myself with thinking, it isn’t selling and the low ranking is keeping people from finding it.  Dumping it into bit torrent or something similar, and getting zero interest is frightening.

    Oh well, I will keep thinking about it.  Your article was a good one and does make me think it is worth a shot.

  • http://twitter.com/NurtureSocial Nurture Social Media

    It’s always been the “home taping is killing music” argument – and for me (showing my age) it never did – it made me fall in love with many more artists and a much broader range of  styles & genres.  Attention is the greatest challenge and viral – though transient – is incredibly powerful at getting that with the right approach to content distribution (freemium models etc). 

  • http://twitter.com/Quozza Simon Quance

    It’s always been the “home taping is killing music” argument – and for me (showing my age) it never did – it made me fall in love with many more artists and a much broader range of  styles & genres – and spend a fortune doing it (music gigs shirts festivals etc). Sure it’s a bit different in digital age but now real “attention” is the greatest challenge and viral – though transient – is incredibly powerful at getting that with the right approach to content distribution = freemium models etc. (Nice Twitter refresh of good content too Mr Bullas – following Google’s May updates! )