Monday, February 21, 2011

Blurb Empowers Personal Storytelling

In the age of creativity, empowering your customer’s personal creativity is a powerful business strategy.  This approach has propelled book publisher Blurb to sell over 121 million pages of user generated content since they started in late 2006.

I had the opportunity to listen to Blurb founder and CEO Eileen Gittins explain the formation of the company at the DScoop conference in Orlando this week. Gittins was a photography enthusiast who decided to photograph each of her friends doing something important to them. In the process she realized that the stories behind the pictures were as important as the pictures themselves.

“Stories are a collective memory of who we are at a point in time,” Gittins observed.  She decided to assemble the pictures and stories into a book, but found the personalized publishing options available at the time to be lacking.  “I wanted to make a book of great beauty, a real book like you would buy in a bookstore,“ she explained.  “I couldn’t be the only person out there with that desire.”

Gittins decided to turn her idea into a business.  She took the courageous step of quiting her job and spending several months presenting her concept to the venture capital community, eventually securing $2 million dollars in funding. After assembling her team and building out the site, they launched and generated $900K in revenue in the first six months.  According to Gittins, “we had tapped into the passion of people wanting to share and tell their stories.”

After that first 6 months in 2006, Blurb generated $29 million in revenue and became profitable in 2007.  2009 sales exceeded $45 million and today 45% of their sales are generated outside of the United States. The urge to share personalized stories is a worldwide phenomenon.

While there are many sites that encourage people to share personalized content online, Blurb built their model on customers wanting to move digital content offline, into physical products.  The company realized not only that digital content can drive printing, but also “when it goes to print, it has to be even more luscious.”

Today the company is moving beyond sharing of personal stories with friends into matching stories with interested readers to generate a whole new business opportunity for aspiring writers. The company has already shared $2 million in profits with Blurb authors.

Blurb has succeeded because of the vision and persistence of Eileen Gittins and the ongoing dedication of the Blurb team.  What interests do you have that are likely to be shared by others?  How passionate are you about making those dreams become reality?

                                          Check out this beautiful story from author Lesley Graham 
                                            at: .