Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Google Eats Zagat. Is Any Publisher Safe?

The news media reported on the sale of Zagat to Google as an acquisition that will help the digital behemoth compete with local reviewer sites such as Yelp!, in hopes of sucking in more ad revenue.  But little was mentioned that Google snagged a book publisher.  Zagat publishes over a hundred guides across the country and overseas.  The guides mostly comprise of local restaurant reviews.  But they also publish reviewer style guides on topics such as shopping, hotels, golf courses, theaters, music, and movies.  The publishing company has grown greatly since their first guide was released in 1979 to serve New York restaurant goers.  A few years ago they went on sale asking for $200 million but the reported sale went for $66 million the other day.

It will be interesting to see:
·         Will the line of books expand or shrink?
·         What will happen as the original founders are phased out?
·         Will the guides continue to get printed?
·         Will editorial content be compromised by advertiser pressures?

But what’s of real interest is how  Google maintain the personable brand of Zagat?  How does any giant corporation treat its smaller siblings?

Actually, I’m curious to see if this is the beginning of a new collaboration between book publishing and the online titans. Will Google buy other publishers or seek to develop its own imprint? Will Facebook and others respond by buying a publisher?

I guess time will tell.

Interview With Author Herbie Pilato

Which publisher will be the first to snag a biography about actress Elizabeth Montgomery?

1.      Why do you want to get a biography published about Elizabeth Montgomery?  Elizabeth Montgomery is one of the most iconic figures not only in television history, but in the history of entertainment, pop-culture and celebrity-political activism.  Her “Samantha Stephens” character on “Bewitched” was voted by over 800,000 TV Guide readers as more popular than Barbara Eden’s “Jeanie” character from “I Dream of Jeannie” (which debuted one year after “Bewitched” and which lasted three years less than “Bewitched” on their original network runs).  Also, too, TV Guide voted Elizabeth one of the Top Ten TV Blondes of All Time (ahead of Farrah Fawcett and Heather Locklear).  Meanwhile, too, Elizabeth’s TV-movies, such as “A Case of Rape” and “The Legend of Lizzie Borden,” remain two of the top-rated TV-movies of all time.  Into this mix, Elizabeth was one of the first celebrities to advocate for those suffering from AIDS, and she was a heralded celebrity figure in the Peace Movement.  Into this mix, she narrated the very controversial feature film documentaries that began with the “Cover Up” movie (about the Iran-Contra Affair), and she lived a fascinating personal life.  As the daughter of moving and TV legend Robert Montgomery (he was a conservative Republican and Elizabeth was a liberal Democrat), she went on to marry New York high roller Fred Camman, troubled actor Gig Young (who after divorcing Elizabeth, died in a mysterious and controversial double suicide/murder with his second wife), “Bewitched” director William Asher (who was good friends with John F. Kennedy, and directed the “Beach Party” movies – one in which Elizabeth made a cameo as “Samantha”), and actor Robert Foxworth (from TV’s “Falcon Crest”).

2.      Did you interview her and have access to her close family, friends and former associates? As the author of “Bewitched” books, Elizabeth granted to me exclusive interviews, all of which I have on audio tape.  And yes, I also had exclusive interviews with her husband William Asher, as well as friends and former co-stars like actress Sally Kemp, Florence Henderson (both with whom Elizabeth attended the New York American Academy of Dramatic Arts), Oscar-winning actor Cliff Robertson (with whom Elizabeth worked early on in her career), and countless co-workers from “Bewitched” and her various other TV-movies and films.

3.      Why would publishing your Elizabeth Montgomery biography be a profitable decision for any publisher? There are thousands and thousands of not only “Bewitched” fans who are very much interested in her life and career, but fans of her work before and after “Bewitched.”  Also, her appeal is vast, as the market of the book is vast, ranging from pop-culture, television history and nostalgia, to politics, lifestyle, women, and health.

4.      What will your book have that a good Internet search would not uncover? Never-before published exclusive commentary from the woman herself, bar none.

5.      Who do you see as the targeted reader/consumer for this book? Anyone who loves television or who enjoys reading about the fascinating life of a celebrity like Elizabeth, who was born into wealth and position, and yet who did not have an arrogant bone in her body…which was the key to her success.  Her kind disposition bled through the screen and made her accessible to the audience.  But beyond that, there would have been no TV shows like “Charmed” and certainly the “Harry Potter” movies…had it not been for Elizabeth’s influence through “Bewitched.”  And look around on today’s new TV shows.  “Pan Am”….”Grimm”….”The Playboy Club”….”Mad Men”.   All of them are based on or around nostalgia, fantasy, or the 1960s, which is the decade in which “Bewitched” debuted.   The time has come.  What’s more, CBS and Sony are now developing a new “Bewitched” TV series itself.  So there is a lot of excitement around Elizabeth Montgomery, as there always has been.  Because of networks like TV Land and now the Antenna Channel, “Bewitched” has never been off the air since its debut in 1964.  And come the Fall of 2014 – it will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of that debut.

6.      How does this biography compare to your previous books, specifically those on “Bewitched”? This will be the first biography on Elizabeth Montgomery that will explore in-depth her career before, during and after “Bewitched.”  The “Bewitched” Book and “Bewitched” Forever were geared specifically towards the “Bewitched” TV series.  My Elizabeth Montgomery biography will explore her early childhood, stage career, the feature films she did before “Bewitched,” like “Johnny Cool,” Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed” (with Dean Martin and Carol Burnett) and “The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell,” along with countless TV-movies after “Bewitched.”  But this book will also explore her personal life beyond her career, which has never been full disclosed.

7.      What did you enjoy most about the process of assembling a biography about someone who has remained a popular TV star years after she has passed away? Elizabeth Montgomery was a major and historic TV personality who contributed a great deal to the entertainment industry and to the plight of the less fortunate.  She used her celebrity to help others, while her TV role brought joy and continues to do so for millions of viewers the world over.  What could be more satisfying than exploring that, and then having the opportunity to share that wonderful information with the world?

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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