How Crying on TikTok Sells Books [Content Made Simple]

Issue #214: The evolution of YouTube, misinformation wars, and more.



“BookTok” videos are starting to influence publishers and best-seller lists, and the verklempt readers behind them are just as surprised as everyone else.



An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”


Generally speaking, social media doesn’t move books in the publishing industry. Email lists help sell books. Paid search marketing can help sell books. But apart from some major influencers promoting a book to their millions of followers, a Facebook post here and a tweet there don’t really move the needle a whole lot. That’s why this article is super interesting to me. TikTok really is a force to be reckoned with.


No pod this week. Back next week.


Link #1: Famous YouTube Reflects on the Evolution of the Platform

MatPat is an awesome creator. He’s brilliant, and I’ve always enjoyed watching his videos. Really interesting to see his perspectives on how the environment has changed over the years.

I think the biggest stuff is the idea of being a YouTuber, and being a creator, has fundamentally shaped so much of entertainment, of being a storyteller — of the world ecosystem, in a lot of cases. The idea that anyone with a phone in their hand can not just create something but find an audience somewhere in the millions or tens of millions, and ultimately build a business off of it.

That democratization of entertainment is huge because now you’re giving voice to people who never would have had a platform. You’re giving rise to stories like the Dream SMP, which no television producer in their right mind would ever think to greenlight or understand why it could be so popular — and yet, it’s the biggest thing happening on YouTube right now. That sort of fostering of creativity, that explosion of being able to tell your own story is really exciting.

Link #2: A Dozen Experts with Questions Congress Should Ask the Tech CEOs — On Disinformation and Extremism

I have watched more Congressional hearings on C-Span regarding social media than I ever thought I would. Every time, I come away frustrated because some people decide to just rail against Mark Zuckerberg because their Facebook post didn’t get a lot of clicks. These experts provide good questions that should be asked.

1. Mr. Zuckerberg, you and other Facebook executives have routinely testified to lawmakers and regulators that their AI finds and removes as much as 99% of some forms of objectionable content, such as terrorist propaganda, human trafficking content and, more recently, child sex exploitation content. It is normally understood to mean that Facebook AI and moderators remove 99% of overall content. But can you define clearly that you mean to say your AI removes 99% of what you remove, rather than the total amount of such content? Does Facebook have evidence about its overall rate of removal of terror content, human trafficking content, and child sexual abuse material (CSAM) that it can provide to this Committee? Studies by the Alliance to Counter Crime Online indicate you are removing only about 25-30%. Can you explain the discrepancy? (Gretchen Peters)

2. Facebook executives like to claim that Facebook is just a mirror to society. But multiple studies — including, apparently, internal Facebook studies — have shown that Facebook recommendation tools and groups connect bad actors, amplify illegal and objectionable content and amplify conspiracies and misinformation. Why can’t you, or won’t you, shut down these tools, at least for criminal and disinformation content? (Gretchen Peters)

Link #3: Social media's great misinformation clean-up act

The clean up continues.

Social media giants have taken a number of steps to try to clear misinformation off their platforms, but those efforts aren't likely to appease furious lawmakers in both parties.

What's happening: When they testify virtually before House lawmakers on Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will point to recent company policy changes to argue they're doing what they can to stem the tide of misinformation and extremism online.

Yes, but: Policy changes are not the same thing as effective results.


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