Jon Taplin Tells Publishers What They Want to Hear at DBW 2016, Calls Kim Dotcom an Asshole

2898021822_95279b8d07_bThe first day of Digital Book World 2016 got off to a ostrichian start on Tuesday morning with a presentation by Jon Taplin, director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC.

Professor Taplin was the founder of one of the early streaming video startups, Intertainer, but for the past decade he has been a media studies professor at the University of Southern California. In spite of his experience with tech startups, Taplin is more influenced by his years in the movie industry and is very much of the “old Hollywood” or “old” publishing school.

His presentation was the usual litany of gripes that the legacy industries make about tech companies. Taplin says they’re all run by the “Paypal mafia”, and cites the radical libertarian Peter Thiel as an example, who according to Taplin operates under a “who’s going to stop me” model.

Taplin goes on to say that Bezos put indie bookstores out of business through Amazon’s internet tax advantage (um, no), and that tech companies are to blame for newspapers declining revenue as well as musicians declining income. While there’s some truth to the latter (it’s complicated) Taplin is really blaming tech companies for the music industry and news industry failing to adapt with the times.

Taplin really hates tech and internet companies, even more so than Robert Levine. For example, where Levine took a swipe at Kin Dotcom’s weight, Taplin took a lazy path and called the Megaupload founder an “asshole”.

As he sees it, Google, Facebook,  and Amazon captured $50 billion that rightfully belonged to the content companies. He said that Youtube accounted for half of streaming, but only 11% of revenue to music companies, and that Facebook accounts for 75% of mobile social ads.

He wants antitrust action against Facebook and Google for their monopolies, even though they’re not breaking laws.

Taplin also says Amazon is a monopsonist, one that wants to force prices down. He think Amazon is so powerful that it got the DoJ to investigate the Price Fix Six for their conspiracy to raise and fix ebook prices. (I wonder how he squares that belief with all the judges who concluded that Apple broke the law.)

In conclusion, Taplin got up on stage and told the assembled publishers that the scary changing world is the fault of the evil tech companies, and that they should cry to the government for protection.

What a waste of a conference session.


P.S. If you want to read more about Taplin, last week Teleread published a Q&A.

image by tropical.pete

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Timothy Wilhoit8 March, 2016

    Taplin: Alright, you dang kids (shakes his shillelagh angrily in their direction)! How dare you trample my flower bed with its beautiful, rapid-decaying flowers!! I know your names…Google! Facebook! Amazon! I’ll call your dang mother on your @sses, then you’ll be sorry! As soon as I find my dag-nabbed glasses, I’m looking up the DoJ’s phone number and put a stop to your con-sarned mischief!

    1. Nate Hoffelder8 March, 2016

      I do wonder how Taplin expects to get antitrust action taken against Amazon when Amazon controls the DoJ. That would appear to be impossible.

      1. fjtorres8 March, 2016

        Details, details.

        Really, he’s just being a good guest; it’s not polite to show up at somebody’s party and spend your time reminding that their problems are of their own making. Good guests bring scapegoats.

        1. puzzled8 March, 2016

          And whine…

  2. Bill Rosenblatt9 March, 2016

    I’ve been familiar with Taplin’s work over the past few years. I’ve seen his lab’s important work on calling out pirate websites and the ad networks that enable them, based on the raw data in the Google Transparency Report. I looked forward to his talk. Unfortunately, it would have been an apt talk if it had been given ~5 years ago. The “Google is the root of all evil” meme is long past its sell-by date. The economics are hard to argue with, but the question is what to do about it. In that respect, Mary Ann Naples of Rodale had many more and better answers in her talk later yesterday morning than Taplin did.

    1. Nate Hoffelder9 March, 2016

      Indeed. My citation of Levine dates to late 2012, on a book published in early 2011. So Taplin really is that out of date.

  3. Will Entrekin10 March, 2016

    Having gotten my MFA at USC, in a program that required so much study of the publishing business as to inspire me to go on to get my MBA, it’s disappointing to see this thought coming out of Taplin and Annenberg — but not surprising. I think one of the reasons the program I attended is now defunct is that it failed to change with the times. But then, most MFAs seem to; I think more need to include study of the technical know-how required to go indie.

  4. Caleb Mason10 March, 2016

    Glad I missed it. This is what I loathe about the old book publishing industry.

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