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At the SXSW Interactive festival in mid-March, I interviewed several fantastic, interesting individuals and small companies that are on the leading edge of using social media and marketing on the web.

This podcast interviews Mike Barash, Director of Marketing for online book publisher Blurb.com.

Download the interview from iTunes, or play it below:


Here are some of the topics we covered:


What is Mike’s background and how did he get involved with Blurb?

Mike was a 10-year veteran in the PR world, and actually started working with Blurb as a client. He got to know the CEO and their product, and the excitement behind it led him to move over to work for them full time as their Director of Marketing.

What is Blurb and what does it do?

Blurb is a creative publishing platform that lets anybody make their own professional quality book. They provide a free, downloadable application for the Mac or PC, and whether you’re a design guru or a newbie, you can get started right away. When you’re finished, they handle all the printing and ship it back to you in about a week.

What’s unique is that you can then set up your own bookstore online, and allow others to purchase your book, setting your own prices and keeping 100% of the markup.

What kind of people are using Blurb, and what are the most popular books?

We discuss their audience, which ranges from seasoned authors trying to get around the exisiting hurdles of the publising process, to amateur writers and creative professionals putting out business books or sharing photo books with friends and family.

Blurb books by you

How has the publishing industry dramatically changed in just the past few years?

As Mike puts it…

“You are able now to produce something that really is professional quality, to do that yourself, and get it in a quantity of 1, in about a week. That’s pretty disruptive to an industry that traditionally takes 18 months to get a book deal done.”

What is it that sets Blurb apart from their competition?

Mike discusses the pros and cons of other online book publishers, the quality of the product, and the pricing model.

What ways is Blurb marketing their product to get the word out?

Wondering if there’s a big budget marketing campaign behind Blurb’s success? We talk about the key goal that Blurb strives for in all their marketing, and how they use social media to spread the word. In the end, for a company whose customers create the product 100% digitally, it’s the final physical result in a person’s hands that really leaves the most lasting impression and drives word-of-mouth marketing.

Blurb Book Cookbook

Give me 2 specific examples of marketing programs you’ve used:

1) Mike gives details how their “Photography Book Now” competition inspired users, including:

– $25,000 grand prize

– International events

– Corporate sponsorship

2) How their “Killed Ideas” campaign targeted creative professionals in the advertising industry

My thoughts after using the service:

For this particular product, I really wanted to put my money where my mouth was and try out the product, and the timing couldn’t have been better. I’d had an item on my to-do list called ‘make a photobook of my Japan vacation’ for four months, so this was the chance to get it done.

Blurb.com Demo on TheHopkinsonReport.com from Jim Hopkinson on Vimeo.

I think there are 2 major reasons why companies like Blurb are going to succeed.

1)    The continued rise of self-publishing
I talk about it in the interview, but the days are over when major media companies tell users what stories are important, and how and when to produce them. Journalism? Movies? Radio?

Why go through the man when you can do it yourself with Blogs, YouTube, and Podcasts. Not only does it cost next to nothing to produce, but you can connect with your audience and market yourself through social media.

2)    The more technology invades our lives, the more important it will be to get away from it
Take Facebook and Twitter. With over 200 million people connecting online and spending a huge amount of time in front of a computer, the time you do spend in person becomes crucial. That’s why events like SXSW and industry conferences will never truly go away, people are going seek out off-the-grid vacations to unplug and feel human again, and networking at good old-fashioned dinner parties will still be in vogue.

But how do you tell everyone at that dinner party about the fantastic vacation that you just got back from? Well, the problem is, digital cameras allow you to take unlimited photos of your trip. I just checked and I took about 500 photos in each of my last 2 major vacations, no one wants to sit through that.

For my trip 2 years ago, I used Shutterfly to make a leather-bound photo book of the highlights, and people LOVE to go through it. They are always impressed by the quality of it and how professional it looks.

I was eager to try Blurb.com for this round, and it didn’t disappoint.

Because the main program is downloaded to your desktop, it runs faster and feels safer than working directly from the web. The setup, directions, and ordering are extremely user-friendly.

If I had one complaint, it would be that despite the dozens of templates offered, there was always a unique layout that eluded me.

For example, say I had 3 photos that I wanted to use from a restaurant I went to, which featured a horizontal picture of myself and friends at the table, a vertical shot of me standing outside, and a small close-up of the dinner itself, and I wanted it to appear on the right side of the book.

It wasn’t always easy to find a template that met all those specifics. However, they have excellent zooming and cropping functions to help you compromise with the best template possible.

Overall the service was excellent, the cost was very reasonable, I received my order very quickly, and the quality of the final product, especially the ImageWrap cover, was top notch.

For more interviews with small companies driving the growth of the digital age, check out the “interviews” tab on the right side of the page.


Key Links

Blurb.com – Get started for free and become your own online publisher

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Mike Barash


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