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Video: The Art of the Brand [Pine Beach PRAM]

March 16, 2016

Video: The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves

I made the most of my trip to Mississippi with a swing up to Hattiesburg Tuesday for the Pine Belt PRAM meeting.

For the attendees, I have a 38-minute version of my talk, “The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves.” Watch it at your convenience.

If you have a question, let me know in the comments.

My thanks to the PRAM attendees and organizers for having me at their luncheon.

Contact me if you want the slides and worksheet that accompany this presentation.

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

Video: The Art of the Brand [PRAM Beach]

March 15, 2016

Video: The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves

I love visiting the Gulf Coast. And it was a terrific spring day when I stopped in Monday for the PRAM Beach meeting.

I gave a 25-minute version of my talk, “The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves.” Hope you’ll check it out.

If you have a question, let me know in the comments.

My thanks to the attendees and organizers in Gulfport for having me at their luncheon.

Contact me if you want the slides and worksheet that accompany this presentation.

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

Video: My philosophy of customer service

March 13, 2016

I spoke in Hattiesburg last month about digital storytelling. At the end, I took questions from the Pine Belt Entrepreneurs, including one on the state of customer service.

While I’ve been less successful selling my philosophy to colleagues, I have reaped success in implementing it in my own ventures.

Watch the video, and share your ideas on customer service in 2016.

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

Speaking gigs: Mississippi times three, March 2016

March 6, 2016
Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church, Jackson, Miss.

Photo: Ken Lund (CC)

Jackson, Miss., outside the Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church

I have three talks in Mississippi this month, and they’re all next week! I hope to see y’all at (at least) one of them.

1. Public Relations Association of Mississippi Beach Chapter, March 14. I’ll present “The art of the brand: What your blog needs and deserves” at the monthly luncheon, Gulfport location TBD. $25. Check the PRAM Beach site for more info.

The official summary:

Your blog stands for something. It represents your values and your personality, even if unintentionally. Branding might be more buzz word than tactic, but you must make it meaningful.

Join Y’all Connect conference director Wade Kwon as he explains how he turned a campaign launch with a so-so logo into a juggernaut. And how his online dating profile made him invisible. And how his adventures in branding helped his clients create and maintain standout brands.

2. Pine Belt PRAM, March 15. Again, I’m giving “The art of the brand” at the monthly luncheon, starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Lake Terrace Convention Center. $15. Details on the Facebook event, RSVP online on the PRAM site.

3. American Advertising Federation — Jackson chapter, March 17. I have a brand new talk, “A Guide to Getting Started on LinkedIn,” to present at the lunch meeting. It starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Fairview Inn. $30.Details on the Facebook event, RSVP online on the AAF site.

The official description:

LinkedIn can be your starting point for networking, leads and more. Make the most of this professional social network with strategies and tips from consultant Wade Kwon.

I can’t wait to hit the road again. Mississippi, here I come!

• • •

Book me for your event, conference or workshop today …

Contact me

How to embed Facebook video in blog posts

February 29, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, OK Go released its latest music video. The band is known for its elaborate eye-catching work.

And for the first time, the group posted its video on Facebook instead of YouTube.

But what really surprised me is how many news sites failed to include the video for “Upside Down and Inside Out” in their online coverage.

It’s so easy.

 

All I did was paste the URL of the original video on a line by itself in my WordPress post:

https://www.facebook.com/okgo/videos/vb.7112765682/10153210535420683/

As shown above, the video is automatically embedded at the correct width, thanks to oEmbed. It’s a feature that allows instant embedding of media (videos, songs, slides, photos) by pasting the appropriate URL in a post. No other work required.

Maybe some of those news sites don’t have oEmbed capability — Facebook has an alternate method.

OK Go video embed

 

Below each Facebook video is an option to “Embed Video.” Clicking on it provides the embed code, which can be pasted into a blog post while in HTML/Text mode.

That’s it.

Why is this important? Facebook appears to give the edge to videos imported to its platform (as opposed to sharing videos from other sites such as YouTube). Import your videos, then share them on your Facebook page to gain more viewers and to take advantage of the silent autoplay function.

OK Go has nearly 50 million views on its first Facebook music video in 2 weeks, compared to 27 million views for its last YouTube music video for “I Won’t Let You Go” in 2014.

Apples and oranges? Maybe. But as you use original video content to engage fans and customers, it never hurts to use each platform to the fullest.

Learn more about using video content:

Video: The Power of Digital Storytelling [Pine Belt Entrepreneurs]

February 21, 2016

Video: The Power of Digital Storytelling

I had a great time last week in Mississippi. I stopped into Hattiesburg for an evening meeting with the Pine Belt Entrepreneurs.

We talked about storytelling, specifically “The Power of Digital Storytelling.” And I have it all for you to see in this hourlong video (I dropped the Q&A session at the end, but I may post a few clips later).

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a marketer or just love a good story, you’ll pick up a few ways to ensure your unique brand reaches the right audience.

If you have a question, let me know in the comments.

My thanks to Chris Spence for having me at the Pine Belt Entrepreneurs.

Contact me if you want the outline and resources that accompany this presentation.

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

Dispatches from the world of social media

February 14, 2016
Snapchat

Photo: Adam Przezdziek (CC)

The latest on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat …

1. Instagram finally allows multiple accounts. For social media managers, this is a long overdue feature, one that’s been available in Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other channels.

Why Instagram still insists on app-only posting and management is beyond me. The Web interface should allow posting and scheduling, but nope.

This help article explains how to add and manage multiple accounts. I’m content to manage my sole account, the Y’all Connect Instagram feed.

Thanks to Andrew for alerting me.

2. Twitter has begun shuffling timeline tweets. Sort of. Many Twitter users (including me) have been complaining about the latest “improvement” to the service: algorithmic timelines.

Normally, users see tweets from the people they follow in reverse chronological order, with the latest updates always at the top. This was how Facebook used to work, until it decided to show everyone’s updates based on “importance” to the user. (I still switch my Facebook News Feed to “Most Recent” despite its insistence on the “Top Stories” setting.)

Twitter has now copied Facebook to show tweets out of order based on its own secret algorithm. But not by default on existing accounts, and not yet implemented on all accounts. (It’s available on only one of my Twitter accounts so far.)

Here’s Twitter’s Help article how to turn the feature on or off.

The Washington Post has a good example of how the new feature is already causing confusion among users: The London transit system announced it would cut back on real-time system updates, given that the tweets would no longer be delivered to people in chronological order. This naturally sparked even more bewilderment.

3. How to use Snapchat in 200 easy steps. Matt had asked me about using Snapchat for business. I admitted I hadn’t used it — rarely do I engage in new channels till I have a project or client request.

I should’ve sent him this BuzzFeed how-to article, “My Little Sister Taught Me How to ‘Snapchat Like the Teens’,” that shows how easy it is to connect with peers on the most popular app among teens.

Chances are that Brooke, our 13-year-old guide to the horrifying time-suck of Snapchat, has sent dozens of snaps since you started reading this section. I’m not kidding.

You will never be as good as Brooke is at Snapchat, and note in the interview that she points out peers who are really on their Snapchat game (one girl runs through 60GB of data a month).

• • •

Got a tip or a question about social media?
Give me a holler …

Contact me

Speaking gigs: Pine Belt Entrepreneurs, February 2016

February 7, 2016
Hattiesburg

Photo: John Perry (CC)

I hope audiences learn something when I come to speak in their towns. Often, I learn something, too.

For instance, Hattiesburg is located in the Pine Belt, a region of eastern Mississippi. Don’t ask me to name the counties or define the boundaries.

I’m getting ready for the second of six trips to Mississippi before summer, and the first of two trips to Hattiesburg.

I’ll be at the February meeting of the Pine Belt Entrepreneurs to talk about “The power of digital storytelling.”

The official description:

Marketing has evolved rapidly with the rise of digital outlets. But what can cut through the din of commercials and crass come-ons? Stories. We are natural storytellers, but we must strive to improve our skills for our online audiences.

Wade Kwon, conference director for Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power, will guide you through the options and strategies behind compelling storytelling. His work as a writer, journalist and storyteller has helped companies reach audiences quickly and effectively. Learn the three questions that will transform your brand’s story into a saga worth sharing.

The free event takes place at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Regions Bank in Hattiesburg on 40th Avenue. RSVP online.

Can’t wait to check out Hattiesburg and meet these entrepreneurs. See you there!

• • •

Book me for your event, conference or workshop today …

Contact me

The state of the blogosphere: Constant flux

January 31, 2016

Jessica Jones

Krysten Ritter stars at the title character in the 2015 Netflix series, “Jessica Jones.”
Netflix original programming began 3 years ago today with “House of Cards.” 

Blogs evolve.

What they mean to publishers, to communities, to advertisers varies over time.

While reading an interview with Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, I understood better how viewing habits have changed radically in the last 10 years. This from a company that evolved from DVD delivery to streaming service to entertainment producer.

Netflix has evolved to meet viewers’ changing needs, and viewers have evolved to binge, stream and share in ways that didn’t exist before 2011.

Blogging has been around for as long as Netflix, and so much has changed in those 20 years. The platforms, the promotion through social media, the commenting, the credibility, mobile. It would help if one of the big platforms (Blogger, WordPress) shared detailed reader data, as Sarandos did to a degree in his interview.

“Should I blog?” is a common question. The answer will never be as simple as yes or no. It depends on the goal, the audience, the brand and even the stage of evolution we’re in now.

Read the interview for an eye-opening look at how people around the world watch TV shows and movies in 2016. And imagine how different our viewing and reading experiences will be in the next 5 years.

• • •

My free weekly newsletter has more on blogging and communication.
Subscribe today …

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Video: The Art of the Brand [AAF Mississippi Gulf Coast]

January 25, 2016

Video: The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves

Driving into Biloxi Tuesday felt positively balmy. It may be because it was only 20 degrees when I left Birmingham that morning and a sunny 55 when I arrived by lunchtime.

No time for frolicking on the beach, though.

I came to talk with the AAF Mississippi Gulf Coast about “The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves.” This 39-minute video has the shortened version of my popular presentation on elevating your brand through blogging.

If you have a question, let me know in the comments.

My thanks to the folks in Biloxi for having me at their first meeting of the year.

Contact me if you want the slides and worksheet that accompany this presentation.

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

Speaking gigs: AAF Mississippi Gulf Coast, January 2016

January 17, 2016

AAF Mississippi Gulf Coast

My first speaking gig of the year will be on the Gulf Coast. I’ve spent a lot of time in the area, especially in the months and years after Hurricane Katrina, serving as a volunteer.

I’ll be at the January meeting of the American Advertising Federation Mississippi Gulf Coast to talk about “The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves.”

The official description:

Your blog stands for something. It represents your values and your personality, even if unintentionally. Branding might be more buzz word than tactic, but you must make it meaningful.

Join Y’all Connect conference director Wade Kwon as he explains how he turned a campaign launch with a so-so logo into a juggernaut. And how his online dating profile made him invisible. And how his adventures in branding helped his clients create and maintain standout brands.

The event takes place at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday at Bonefish Grill in Biloxi. Tickets, $20 to $25, are available online.

I’m looking forward to my trip to Mississippi. Hope to see you there!

• • •

Book me for your event, conference or workshop today …

Contact me

Blogging fear: Deadlines

January 10, 2016

the ultimate inspiration is the deadline

I asked for your biggest fears in blogging, and y’all came through.

This week’s fear: “My fear or challenge is meeting my own self-imposed deadlines.”

— Nate Crowell

The paperweight on my desk reminds me how to write. It reads: “The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.”

It has never failed me.

But I am a creature of a different era, one who lived according to daily newspaper deadlines. You brainstorm, you interview, you ruminate, you procrastinate, you write, you panic, you rewrite, you edit, you cut, you proofread, you make deadline.

And then, you do it all over again. Repeat till dead (more appropriately, repeat till newspaper is dead).

Perhaps you are the super-organized type, a blogger who plans far ahead and arrives everywhere early.

We secretly hate you.

If you have self-imposed deadlines, you have recognized the importance of publishing on a routine basis on your site. But you may have difficulty following such a regimen for any number of reasons.

1. Poor time management. Some activities, vital and otherwise, interfere with your time for blogging. A blogger can compensate for this with another tradeoff, such as giving up time for sleep to finish a post.

We make time for what is important. Ultimately, blogging must be a priority to take up part of your schedule.

2. No risk/no reward. Many corporate bloggers miss deadlines because no one cares. Not them, not their colleagues or boss or customers. Whether they miss one post or a dozen, no one will be reprimanded or fired for skipping on the company blog.

Conversely, a salesperson may receive a hefty bonus for closing a big deal. Publishing a post that earns praise, awards or even leads may receive nothing but silence.

Either blogging is an integral part of a business’ goals, or it’s not. If a blogger stops blogging with no effect on sales, customer service, marketing or branding, why bother?

3. Poor resource management. A conscientious blogger can be derailed by many issues. At a newspaper, it wouldn’t matter if I turned in my story on time if the photographer lost the memory card with the images, or the computer system shut down, or a breaking story needed more space in tomorrow’s edition.

A corporate blog may need careful attention to available resources: people for art, editing, promotion and programming; money for research, licensing, freelancers and equipment; and time (see No. 1).

Dig deeper into how your blog posts come together — it ain’t by magic. If deadlines are set but not met, define the roadblocks and develop ways to go around or through them.

Tell me about your biggest fear in blogging,
and I might answer it in a future post.

More in our Blogging Fears series.

No need for repetition in writing

January 3, 2016
revisions

Photo: Julie Jordan Scott (CC)

Experienced writers find themselves blessed with a hefty vocabulary to deploy as needed. The mot juste can make or break a sentence.

I find that in crafting long articles and blog posts, I run out of words. Specifically, I repeat words unnecessarily.

During editing, I hunt down those offending scamps and replace them with synonyms. Judiciously, of course.

Careful editing and attention to word usage can improve writing significantly.

The best way to determine if a story is clanging with the echoes of repeated words is to use the free online tool TagCrowd. It can show the frequency of word usage for any article or Web page within seconds with a tag cloud.

I ran TagCrowd on one of my longer recent posts on email marketing.

tagcrowd tag cloud

Tag cloud generated by TagCrowd
(click image for full-size version)

Not surprisingly, the words “email” and “marketing” are the among the most used in the 729-word post. Other frequent fliers are “click,” “open,” “rates” and “newsletter,” since I refer to click rates and open rates. Overall, I’m happy with usage and frequency.

Had I written a 5,000-word feature story about pens, I’d expect to see “pen” pop up dozens of times. Would I replace them with synonyms fountain pen, marker, stick, nib, quill, reed, ball point and felt-tip? No way.

We edit to improve clarity and to punch up the writing. In editing the book “The Future of Birmingham,” I looked out for my essay writers by removing repetitive words within essays and repetitive words, phrases and ideas across essays.

For example, occasionally a writer would use the nickname “the Magic City” to refer to Birmingham. He might do it once, but across multiple authors and essays, it adds up. The easiest and most readable solution was to drop all the Magic City references and use either “the city” or “it” or “Birmingham.”

Using a well-rounded vocabulary adds shading and interest to writing. It shows an author’s focus on an audience. And it prevents the lull of unneeded hypnotic repetition.

Through careful editing and a quick review of word frequencies, a writer can craft a blog post or an article with maximum impact.

• • •

Don’t struggle with your blog posts in 2016:
Contact me today for a free consultation …

Contact me

The 2015 index to posts

December 27, 2015
Alabama Theatre

Photo: Bahman Farzad (CC)

The year is almost over. So what did we learn in 2015? Take a look at all 56 of my posts, organized by category.

Blogging

Social Media

Digital Marketing

Leadership and Management

Last but not Least

Also:

• • •

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Video: The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing

December 21, 2015

Video: The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing

Last week, I shared my dismay at partial video.

In digging through my memory cards for video from my April talk, I found no video. Nada. Zip.

Blerg.

I did record audio at Craft Content Nashville, so I put it with my slides and added a few demo videos to re-create my presentation. (I would’ve had to make the demo videos anyway since my camera was pointed at me and not the screen.)

Too bad about the video: You don’t get to see the part where the speaker from the previous session returns to get his laptop and gear while I’m in the middle of an onscreen demonstration. Oy.

Please watch “The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing” to learn more about the simple ways to add video to your blog posts and techniques to promote that content.

And if you have a question, let me know in the comments.

Slides and worksheet from “The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing.”

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

Video: Content Curation for Smarties

December 15, 2015

Video: Content Curation for Smarties

It’s annoying having partial video.

I’ve done it to myself too many times: The camera and microphone are both ready, but I lose part of the presentation anyway. The battery died, or the memory card filled up, or some other stupid oversight.

And sometimes, I receive partial video from event organizers.

Such is the tale of the talk, “Content Curation for Smarties: Know Everything All the Time,” delivered in fall 2014 at SouthWired. I had most of it, but not all of it.

But I finally got around to recording audio to round out the last few missing minutes and slides.

My 49-minute presentation shows why content curation matters and how it can help you build an audience and your own expertise.

Watch it, and let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.

Slides and worksheet from “Content Curation for Smarties.”

More videos? Visit my YouTube channel.

What I’ve learned from 10 years of blogging

December 7, 2015
typewriter

Photo: Joel Kramer (CC)

I hit a great milestone in October: 10 years of blogging. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to meet and help people, to explore ideas and to use my creativity.

Before I get too far into the next 10 years, allow me to share a few quick lessons I picked up after thousands of posts …

I love leaving comments on other blogs. Commenting on blogs has become passé, sadly, but I still like to think of submitting my comment along the lines of a handwritten thank you note (almost).

(Which is why I die a little when the comment never makes it out of moderation.)

Are you commenting on your favorite posts? (And not via social channels …)

• If I had to do it over again, I’d have started with a mailing list form. I discussed how in my three-part series on email newsletters.

Are you keeping in touch with your readers?

• It’s never too late to do something new. In 2014, I resumed posting daily (in addition to haiku) on my original blog, Wade on Birmingham. Just to see if I could do it. Just to explore. Just for fun.

I could do it. I learned a lot. And it was great fun. You’d think after 9 years I wouldn’t have anything new to try, but different formats, different ideas, different promos kept me moving forward.

Are you trying new things out on your blog?

• You can always surprise yourself. In writing a string of posts on my city, I wrote a long tirade about a university and the damned thing went viral.

My site crashed for a couple of hours from all the traffic, first time ever.

I was a bit nervous before I hit Publish, but I knew it was a solid essay and one that reflected my views and values.

Are you playing it safe or putting out posts that distinguish you and your brand from all others?

• No one cares what you write.

My pal Keith Lee, in a funny series of tweets, pointed out the absurdity of human vanity (a condition that I, too, suffer from often). We all think that people will point and laugh when we let it all hang out, whether in the locker room or on our sites.

Sometimes, they do. (Just read the comments on one of my videos here.) It hasn’t killed me yet. Most of the time, no one reads or cares.

Write what you want, and learn to deal with criticism, abuse and raging indifference.

Have you taken a risk on your blog lately?

• Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t worry about other blogs or bloggers. I’m proud to know other bloggers who are better writers, faster, funnier, who have bigger audiences, more talent, more revenue and are more helpful and nicer. That’s how it goes.

I can waste time worrying what they’re up to, or I can focus on the handful of goals I have to make clients happy and earn more cash. But I really can’t do both.

Are you struggling because you feel your blog doesn’t measure up to others?

• I’ve been telling myself for 8 years I’m going to update the theme and the look on several of my blogs. This will probably never happen. Sigh.

I can’t wait to learn even more from the next 10 years.

• • •

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LinkedIn for smarties, a five-step program

November 30, 2015

LinkedIn - Someecard

I took a few months off from LinkedIn (in Wade time, that’s nearly an eternity!).

The invites piled up. The messages went unanswered (for a while). I had consciously bumped LinkedIn down the priority list.

The other day, I started responding to all 100 invites. Soon, I’ll resume checking in with my network. And lately I’ve been asking friends to help me connect with leaders at companies I want to reach.

But why spend any effort on LinkedIn? What’s in it for you?

1. A better job. You might be restless, or plain sick and tired of where you are. Having an updated profile and connecting with hiring managers will get you to a new job more quickly.

2. More money. Job offers from competitors can help you turn your good job into a great job with more perks, flexible hours, better title and yes, more money.

3. Stronger network. Connections matter. Keep up with who you’re already connected, and reach out to people you know, including colleagues, former colleagues, club members and fellow volunteers.

4. More sales. Do people understand what you do and what your company does? This is the place to show off your knowledge of what problems your customers face and how you solve them every day.

5. Year-round recruiting. Talent is in limited supply. Make sure you find who are the true superstars and take steps to bring them on board.

LinkedIn - Picard

Those are compelling reasons to invest a few minutes daily on LinkedIn. It won’t cost you a dime (heck, you can even get a Pro account for free).

So while you wind down the year, get in the LinkedIn habit with these suggestions:

LinkedIn - Wonka

1. Update your profile. Look back at 2015. Add your accomplishments. Your new titles. Your new volunteer activities. Your new skills. Your awards. Your current headshot. And please update your contact info.

Pro tip: Spell out your accomplishments in terms of results (increase in sales, decrease in costs or time spent, etc.).

2. Delete your evil twin profiles. You left your old job in 2012. When you got to your new company, you forgot to update your LinkedIn contact info with your new email address. Oops. So you create a new LinkedIn profile from scratch.

Now you have two profiles, one badly out of date and one sorta out of date. Double oops.

Delete the rogue profile by contacting LinkedIn using this form. (And let us never speak of it again.)

3. Congratulate others. LinkedIn will let you know when one of your connections takes a new job or a promotion. Find those notifications either in the upper right corner of the main page or by email. Take a moment (a few seconds really) to Like or comment with Congratulations to your friend.

(Too many email notifications? Adjust your settings under the Communications tab.)

4. Share regular updates. Become a trusted resource within your community by sharing questions, articles, updates, photos, charts, tips and ideas. You might already be sharing these on other social networks, or on your blog or newsletter. Even if you’re logging in daily (which I hope you are), you can use a free service (Hootsuite or Buffer [referral link]) to schedule them in advance.

Help others by giving out good information for free. I share multiple updates every single day.

5. Promote your profile. Just put a link to your LinkedIn public profile on your business cards. Or email signature. Or other social media profiles. Or on your company blog or staff listing. The URL can be found along the lower edge of the top profile module.

LinkedIn - profile URL

Pro tip: See my profile for more ideas.

Spend your December getting into the LinkedIn habit. I promise that the time you invest will pay off in 2016. (And if you have any questions, drop a comment below.)

Want your LinkedIn profile to be the very best?

Try my 1-hour video course for just $19!

LinkedIn - sexy beast

Four business books to boost your 2016

November 23, 2015

book covers

Quickie reviews of four books I read (or re-read) recently …

“SPIN Selling,” by Neil Rackham. I’m always reading up on sales, an area where I look to improve all the time. I can’t recall how “SPIN Selling” landed on my reading list recently, but what caught my eye was the amount of research put into validating these methods. The author carefully dismantles the tried-and-true techniques of selling and offers an alternate approach of quickly solving problems for potential clients. Aff. links: Amazon | iTunes

“The Ernst and Young Business Plan Guide,” by Brian R. Ford, Jay M. Bornstein and Patrick T. Pruitt. How many times have I counseled people to write a business plan? I’ve offered them resources and classes in town, as well as several books including this one. I had been meaning to read it for years, but finally took it on this month. The authors are thorough in mapping out what entrepreneurs and veterans will need in writing an impressive and effective business plan. I didn’t need all the details on manufacturing and capitalization, but the rest has come in handy. Aff. links: Amazon | iTunes

“The 4-Hour Workweek,” by Timothy Ferriss. This book receives a regular shout out from me. I re-read it again recently, and plan on reading it once a year. It’s that good. Learn how to cut out the least productive habits and build a business requiring little maintenance. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a copy for a friend who was looking for focus in her life and her work. This was a necessary first step. Aff. links: Amazon | iTunes

“The Flinch,” by Julien Smith. More of a Kindle single than a full book, the author pens a long essay on taking chances. It’s a quick read, as more than half of the “book” is comprised of teaser excerpts from other books. Aff. link: Amazon

Need more reading suggestions?
“Business books for your reading list”

Adding hours of reading time with one audio app

November 16, 2015

Voice Dream Reader

Screenshots of Voice Dream Reader: left, reading screen;
right, list of books and articles.

I made a 10-hour road trip earlier this month super productive. No, I didn’t watch 10 webinars or hold a really long conference call. I finally knocked out two business books, one of which I’d been wanting to read for a couple of years.

Usually, I’d search the library ahead of time to find audiobooks, either digital downloads or CDs. But I’d need to spend at least half an hour prepping the audio files so my iPhone could play them at double-speed. It’s almost always worth it, since a 10-hour audiobook takes only 5 hours. (Sadly, CD players don’t have playback speed control.)

But I found an app to help my audiobook addiction, Voice Dream Reader [aff. link].

When I outlined how to triple your reading, I showed how the free service Instapaper allows me to save all the articles I want to read in one place. A bonus feature is that the Instapaper app will read any article aloud, letting me listen to them at regular or double speed in the car or on walks.

Sadly, the only hurdle in Instapaper has been other file types, such as PDFs and ebooks.

Adding Voice Dream Reader made it possible to listen to audiobooks simply by importing the PDF or epub files. This is especially helpful when the audio version doesn’t exist, because the book is out of print or never offered an audiobook.

Yes, instantly turn any ebook into an audiobook!

It is easy to import files of all types, including Instapaper articles. Voice Dream Reader has a few advantages over Instapaper. First, it automatically plays the next article in the queue; with Instapaper, I always had to bring up the list of articles to play the next one, which isn’t much fun while driving.

Second, it maintains most recent position within an article; Instapaper would sometimes forget where I had left off, meaning a few minutes of scrolling to find my place, which again isn’t much fun while driving.

Third, not only does it have optional male and female voices but also a customizable pronunciation dictionary. I’ve been able to tweak words, proper names and acronyms for a better listening experience.

Like most e-readers and apps, Voice Dream Reader does not read DRM-protected files, but does include the following note on its features page:

Books in Kindle, iBooks, Nook and most online bookstores are protected by DRM and cannot be loaded into Voice Dream Reader. It’s possible to remove DRM, but it violates your contract with the online bookstores.

For me, having an app that reads aloud anything and everything has been a huge help. I’m looking forward to taking deep dives into my extensive reading list every time I hit the road.

Voice Dream Reader is available for $9.99 on iOS [aff. link] and Android.

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