O’Reilly Explains Success in Publishing

NEW YORK — If you want to be a publisher, then promote others rather than promoting yourself.

“I’m a publisher in print and, it turns out, also on Twitter,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc. at the Twitter-centered 140 Characters conference here today.

O’Reilly said that being successful in new media is about serving a community first and making money second. “I didn’t start out trying to find hot topics. Instead, I needed good documentation for UNIX applications like VI. I wrote books and figured stuff out,” he said.

Books were written in an iterative, collaborative process. “My book on UUCP was a best seller in the 1980s. There were a lot of complex chat scripts and I did not have all the hardware. So someone would send me the AT&T 5510 port contender script. The book went from 80 pages to 250 pages. It started out as a book by me and grew to be a comprehensive book written by a community.”

He said that in the 1990s he noticed that there was no Perl conference. “Perl was not covered by the computer news industry, by InfoWorld, etc. The first Perl meeting was like this one. People said, ‘oh, you’re Larry;’ and ‘you’re Randall.'”

“The conference business is about noticing and amplifying the wisdom and knowledge of people in the community,” O’Reilly said.

On Twitter

“I noticed I had 5,000 followers and thought, ‘what can I offer them,” O’Reilly said. “I started publishing and most of my tweets were re-tweets (RT). On Twitter, I’m an aggregator and a distribution conduit. I’m trying to built a community.”

“I cannot cover every topic I’m interested in,” he added.

O’Reilly said that early on, he tried to cover everything, but that resulted in 30 tweets in one hour. “Now I use a text file to write the tweet and then decide later whether I’m going to tweet it.”

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