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:: WordSmitten interviews Murray Hidary :: CEO of iAmplify :::: :: ::

Murray Hidary

An exclusive interview
with CEO
and co-founder of

iAmplify


By Adrienne Mand Lewin

Not too long ago it was considered innovative to create audio books so readers could become listeners and remain engaged with their favorite stories despite having busy lifestyles.

But in the age of cell phones, iPods and other mobile devices, having an audio book alone is so retro.

Enter iAmplify.com, publisher of a Web-based syndication network that allows authors and celebrities to create their own sites selling their own content. Inspirational author Marianne Williamson, actress Marilu Henner, fitness instructor Tamilee Webb and HarperCollins Publishers are among those who publish paid audio and video content over the Internet in 30 categories, including fitness, yoga, nutrition, relationships, spirituality and sports.

Co-founder and CEO Murray Hidary says the site offers a logical extension for writers looking to connect with readers “beyond the book.” Whether someone lectures, makes videos or writes books, he says, there is one commonality with choosing suitable content: “making a closer, more intimate connection between the audience and the author. That’s how we think about our business – bringing those two together.”

The main component to do this, Hidary says, is “being able to push content to them on a more frequent basis than just a book,” which can take years.

Instead, he says, authors can deepen their relationships with audiences by creating content such as audio or video lectures, the sort of extras that make readers feel involved. “And they can have access to the audience and what they’re interested in,” he adds. “Because of that, I think the book, number one, will be better, and ultimately you end up selling more books because the audience is primed and ready for the next book to come out.”

Even though authors create longer-form content, he says, they can contribute either smaller pieces of non-fiction or fiction chapters pushed out week by week. “We’re really talking about making it more dynamic and making it more consumable on a piece by piece basis.”

Hidary stresses that iAmplify.com is “not looking for YouTube content” but rather “premium content we know we can charge money for on an a-la-carte basis or subscription basis.”

Many of the products are in the $100 to $200 range. “What excites us most are authors and experts and talent that have content that can lend itself to an experience that we can charge that type of money for … that value will come in the form of some kind of ongoing series, lecture series, a course, an in-depth look at something [from the book] with audio and video.”

He says health and fitness “is a natural” when it comes to successful content. “Generally, the categories that make sense are areas where people are really motivated to make a change in their life, such as they want to improve their relationships, be in better shape.”

Another successful genre, he says, is how-to books teaching things like poker and games of strategy, as well as books about personal growth. iAmplify.com partners with other sites, so if someone is reading about a topic they can find an iAmplify.com link where they can learn more.
“If they’re reading about a poker tournament, right there is a poker course available to them,” he says. “It’s all contextually based.”

Those who contribute to the site, called “amplifiers,” are authors or experts “amplifying their content.”

They have varying levels of previous success. “If someone is a New York Times-bestselling author, pretty much out of the gate they’re finding good success,” he says. “Some have little to no exposure … but come to us with great content. We’ve been able to generate significant revenue streams. It’s harder to do that in the physical publishing world.”

For example, one amplifier is a health and fitness instructor focusing on yoga and indoor cycling. “He created a bunch of workouts and put them into our platform. Through our reach and distribution, we’re selling tens of thousands of dollars of that particular product. The guy is an instructor in Santa Monica in a studio somewhere.”

Authors should consider ways to complement their books and keep readers flush with new content, he says. “My advice would be to really think about digital, and in particular audio and video content, as part of an overall plan because one will always support the other. In many cases with us, they actually give you a significant revenue stream. Because of our model, some authors are making more than their publishing advances.”

Content providers earn money through iAmplify on a revenue-sharing basis. “The better their stuff does, the better they do,” he says.

Hidary says iAmplify differs from other sites like Audible and iTunes because it offers courses, programs, subscriptions and serialized, shorter-form content that goes beyond the typical audio book.

The company is also focused on syndication, which, he says, benefits participating authors. “If you’re an author and you have a site and friends have sites, you really can become a media company selling your own content and other content using our platform. Instead of iTunes and Amazon where you don’t know who’s buying your stuff, you can now sell your own content and drive people to your site. We have relationships with thousands of different Web sites in different areas. We say, ‘[Customers are] already in other areas, let’s put the experience there.’”

Founded in 2004, iAmplify.com’s catalog of programs continues to grow, thanks in part to the stars aligning in its favor.

“There are a bunch of trends taking place that essentially are all conspiring to make a company like iAmplify not only possible but successful,” Hidary says. “More people have high-bandwidth access to the Internet. Audio and video is big – you get the content much faster. We weren’t there five years ago, weren’t there 10 years ago.”

In addition, he says, it’s becoming more efficient and cost-effective to record audio and video content. “You can go to any electronic store and get high-quality audio and digital recording devices.”

Plus, he says, with the advent of iPods, cell phones and other mobile devices, there are more ways for users to consume the content, and they’re looking for more content they can consume as they’re on the move.

“Today, we’re all living a mobile lifestyle,” Hidary says. “Shorter content, content that you can take with you, are all trends that literally only happened in a big way in the past three or four years.”

As the saying goes, Hidary’s not only the CEO, he’s also a client.

“I trained for a marathon and spent a lot of time on that road,” he says. “That’s a lot of time that I’m not going to listen to the same playlist on an iPod.”

Instead, he downloaded lectures and heard “interesting, compelling content. Every time I went out for a run, I learned something else.”

Hidary says that “amplifiers’” careers can benefit in new ways through the company. “This network that we’re building is very different than building a retail model,” he says. “Any author who comes on board has a network effect.

“Authors work really hard to build up their audiences, to build up their lists, to go on book tours and say, ‘Go to Amazon’ or ‘Go to Audible’ as opposed to, ‘Go to my site.’ They’re building their own list, building their own business, building their own digital media … that’s empowering for these folks. Authors generally have so little control over their careers. Whether it’s a publisher or retailers, they’re so disconnected from the process.

“But now the whole ecosystem can be built around them, and that’s very compelling.”


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