Challenging Notions of "Free"

Brian O’Leary (Magellan Media), Mac Slocum (O'Reilly), Chelsea Vaughn (Random House)
Location: Broadway South (6th Floor)
Average rating: ****.
(4.25, 4 ratings)

As digital content has become more available and more commonly distributed in book publishing, fears of piracy and lost sales have grown. The rise of peer-to-peer file sharing sites has likely amplified these fears. While the debate over the impact of “free” content has been at times heated, the discussions are more often than not characterized by a lack of hard data.

To address this data gap, O’Reilly Media began a project in 2008 to characterize the “free” universe, catalog and assess recent experiments, establish ways to measure the benefit or cost of free distribution and conduct some follow-on experiments of our own. O’Reilly is joined in this effort by Random House, which contributed data for several of its own tests.

Come to this session to hear an interim report on the initial phase of this ongoing study, including a preliminary model of where and when free distribution works as well as what’s worth continuing to track over time.

Photo of Brian O’Leary

Brian O’Leary

Magellan Media

Brian O’Leary is founder and principal of Magellan Media, a management consulting firm that works with publishers seeking support in content operations, benchmarking and financial analysis.

O’Leary writes extensively about issues affecting the publishing industry. With Hugh McGuire, he is editing “Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto”, a collection of forward-looking essays on publishing that is being published in three parts by O’Reilly Media.

O’Leary is also the author of a research report on the impact of free content and digital piracy on paid book sales, as well as the editor and primary contributor for a study of the use of XML in book publishing. Both reports were published by O’Reilly Media in 2009.

Before becoming a consultant, O’Leary served as senior VP and associate publisher with Hammond Inc., an internationally recognized geographic reference publisher. Responsible for database development, editorial content, production, and operations, he restructured editorial operations to benefit from the firm’s prior technology investments.

O’Leary came to Hammond after a 12-year career overseeing production and distribution operations at several of Time Inc.’s weekly magazines. He earned an A.B. in chemistry from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Photo of Mac Slocum

Mac Slocum


Mac Slocum is the Online Managing Editor for O’Reilly. He frequently writes about the intersection of publishing, technology and the digital transition. He’s worked as an online editor/producer/writer at a variety of outlets and he’s taught Web journalism and technology courses at Emerson College in Boston. His fascination with publishing and technology started in college when he put the student newspaper online (fortunately, that early effort has been expunged from the Internet record). Mac holds a B.A. in journalism from the University of Richmond and a master’s in journalism from Emerson.

Photo of Chelsea Vaughn

Chelsea Vaughn

Random House

Chelsea Vaughn is director of business development for the Random House direct-to-consumer online marketing and sales group. She’s been at Random House since 2001; prior to her current role, she was director of corporate development and director of business operations for the Crown Publishing Group. Before business school, she worked in editorial roles at W. W. Norton & Company and Ten Speed Press. At Ten Speed, she edited two James Beard-award winning cookbooks. Chelsea earned an MBA in media marketing and finance from Wharton, and a BA in English from Yale.

  • Impelsys Inc.
  • Ingram Industries
  • oXygen XML Editor
  • Adobe Systems, Inc.
  • codeMantra
  • Connotate
  • DPCI
  • Innodata Isogen, Inc.
  • LibreDigital
  • Lulu
  • Malloy
  • Mark Logic
  • Media Services Group
  • Quark, Inc.
  • ReadHowYouWant
  • RSuite
  • Safari Books Online
  • Smashwords, Inc.
  • Sterling Commerce
  • Verso Digital

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