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Of Hype and Honesty on the Web

by Allen Weiss  |  
January 1, 2001

With Stephen King's entrance into direct marketing and publishing of his new novel "The Plant" last week, we are witnessing another attempt to rip the fabric of traditional business using the net.

In case you haven't heard, King's new novel is being distributed directly to consumers on his web site. The novelty is in the way he is marketing and pricing the book. It is essentially based on marketing hype and an honor system.

Here's how it works. King has the first two chapters on his server and asks readers to pay for them. Readers can pay before they download the chapters, or agree to download first and pay later. Obviously some people will be dishonest and won't pay at all, and King promises that the story will continue only if 75% of the downloads are by customers who pay one way or another.

As of this writing, King states that the pay-through-rate may be closer to 85-90%.


What's made this an interesting story is King's overt challenge to the entire publishing industry, and this where the hype comes in. In effect, he's rallying his troops in a fervent battle cry of toppling an industry.

For example, here is the message you receive when paying for the first installment. "Thanks for reading my story, thanks for your honesty, and thanks for helping us change the face of publishing! Stephen King."

I assume he's betting that most people care that deeply about changing the face of publishing!

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Allen Weiss is the CEO and founder of MarketingProfs. He's also a longtime marketing professor and mentor at the University of Southern California, where he leads Mindful USC, its mindfulness center.

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