Posts Tagged: Digital

Playful Generative Art: Computer-Mediated Creativity and Ephemeral Expressions

WEDNESDAY, February 8, 2017
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Room 1800 (SFU Harbour Centre)
Fee: Free (to reserve a seat, please email pubworks@sfu.ca)

“Generative art” is a blanket term for any creative work produced in part through programmatic or algorithmic means. “Playful generative art” makes use of highly technical disciplines—computer programming, statistics, graphic design, and artificial intelligence—to produce chat bots, digital poetry, visual art, and even computer-generated “novels.” These pieces may be motivated by serious social or political issues, but the expressions are decidedly unserious, often short-lived or quickly composed. Creators working in this medium are rarely artists first—as programmers, designers, game developers, and linguists, they use the tools of their trade in unexpected and delightful ways. Generative art also has much to teach us about issues at the intersection of ethics and technology: what is the role of the artist in a human/machine collaboration; what is our responsibility when we design programs that talk with real people; how do we curate and study ephemeral digital works? Digital artists, writers, technologists, and anyone interested in media studies are invited to attend.

Guest Speaker:


lizadalyLiza Daly
is a software engineer and occasional corporate executive who lives in Boston. She is currently focusing on providing technical assistance to non-profits that work to uphold civil rights and protect vulnerable populations. Her personal projects revolve around digital art, interactive narrative, and digital publishing. Formerly she was CTO at Safari and prior to that, founded a digital publishing company called Threepress, which Safari acquired. Her new company is World Writable. She has been quoted about “Digital Detox” and the effects of the iPad on reading (NYT, 2010), ebooks in the cloud (Wired, 2011), and on strategies to help introverts network (FastCompany, 2015). Liza has presented about great engineering teams and digital publishing. She wrote a short book on Next-Generation Web Frameworks in Python (O’Reilly, 2007), which, she says, is “out of date so please don’t read it”.


From Print to Ebook: First Steps and Strategies, By Lee Wyndham

Abstract

McKellar & Martin, a small Canadian children’s book publisher, converted their first titles from print to ebook in August 2013. They approached the conversion as a pilot project to develop their own digital publishing strategy. This report analyzes the development of McKellar & Martin’s strategy from the initial goal-setting to the point at which the ebooks were ready to go to market. The report reviews the publisher’s unique context, the audiences they aimed to reach, and the two titles selected for conversion. It provides a detailed account of the conversion process and tactics used, and discusses how McKellar & Martin overcame some unique challenges. The report concludes with recommendations for McKellar & Martin as they begin their ebook distribution and marketing. The aim of the report is to provide small publishers with a blueprint for developing their own digital publishing strategy that will stand the test of time.
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First Bytes Free: How (and Why) to Create Effective Digital Book Samples

Full Text PDF

By Michael Leyne


Abstract

Brick-and-mortar bookstores have grown scarce over the preceding decade, while online retailers have prospered. This presents challenges and opportunities for small Canadian trade book publishers. Although it is harder to find any given book in a physical store, publishers have an abundance of online resources for book promotion, including the ability to emulate the in-store browsing experience by offering “digital samples.” There is evidence that providing digital samples can increase sales, but a survey of Canadian publishers’ online presence suggests that digital samples are a neglected aspect of trade book promotion. This paper analyzes the trend toward online book sales and the various available methods of sampling, and concludes with recommendations for how publishers can best use third-party sampling options (such as Google Books and Amazon’s “Look Inside”) and own-site HTML-based samples to increase the online appeal, discoverability, and sales of their titles.


Contents

Dedication
Acknowledgements
List of Tables
List of Acronyms & Abbreviations

INTRODUCTION
New Star Books

PART ONE | The Changing Retail Landscape
Disappearing Bookstores
The Growth of Online Sales
Challenges
Benefits & Opportunities

PART TWO | Current Sampling Practices
Third-Party Samples
Major Firms
A Survey of Canadian Publishers

PART THREE | Analysis & Recommendations
Book Discovery Websites
Google & Amazon
Canadian Publishers
Implementation Costs
Recommendations for Effective Samples

CONCLUSION

Notes
Bibliography


Dedication

To Olin Winter Leyne. I look forward to sharing many happy hours with you in (real-life) bookstores, just as soon as you stop eating books.


Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Monique Sherret for providing guidance at the outline stage, and to Murray Tong for taking the time to read a late draft and offer valuable insight.

Thank-you to New Star Books majordomo Rolf Maurer, who sparked the idea for this report, and happily shared with me the wisdom gained from an inspiring career.

Many thanks to my SFU supervisors: Rowland Lorimer, whose sage counsel led to many refinements of both big-picture aspects and smaller details; and John Maxwell, who played a critical role in shaping the central thrust of this paper, and then wisely shepherded its development. I’m very grateful for it.

Finally, thank-you to my parents, for everything, and to Raina, a million times over, for the boundless love and encouragement — we make a great team.


List of Tables

Table 1: Digital Sampling Practices of Canadian Publishers


List of Acronyms & Abbreviations

AAP: Association of American Publishers
ABA: American Booksellers Association
ACP: Association of Canadian Publishers
BNC: BookNet Canada
CBA: Canadian Booksellers Association
CMS: content management system
CSS: cascading style sheets
HTML: hypertext markup language
ONIX: online information exchange
PDF: portable document format
SEO: search engine optimization
WYSIWYG: what-you-see-is-what-you-get


Introduction

On the evening of August 23, 2013, Rolf Maurer of New Star Books received the Pandora’s Collective award for Publisher of the Year. His acceptance remarks were simple yet poignant: by way of thanks, he rattled off a list of about sixty-five Vancouver bookstores that he had patronized or done with business with over the past thirty years — the vast majority of which are now closed. While there is a glimmer of hope for Vancouver patrons of independent bookstores with the August 2013 opening of Paper Hound, the recent closures of Vancouver institutions such as Book Warehouse and Duthie’s have left a sizable hole in the local book retail landscape. Exact figures for nation-wide booksellers are not available, but it is safe to say the phenomenon is not unique to Vancouver; as a recent Globe and Mail story lamented, “bookstore closings have become so common they often pass unremarked.”1

Readers are of course still finding and buying books, but evidence presented below shows that increasingly it is happening online. This trend has implications beyond a mere change of retailer: a recent study in the United Kingdom found that online book shopping tends to be “a more linear process” compared to the “serendipity of browsing” in traditional bookshops, with 81 percent of online shoppers saying they visit an online store looking for a specific book.2 If publishers hope to keep (and grow) their clientele in the virtual realm, they must adapt their marketing tactics to a very different environment.

New Star Books

The first incarnation of New Star Books emerged from a loosely knit literary collective that in 1969 began publishing short fiction and poetry in the “Georgia Straight Writing Series,” a literary supplement to the Georgia Straight (at that time a radical underground weekly newspaper). The group broke away from the Straight in 1971 and formed the Vancouver Community Press. In 1974 it was renamed New Star Books, and in 1990 Maurer became publisher. Today, New Star publishes about six to ten titles per year. The list is a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, with an emphasis on politics, social issues, and local history and culture.3 Sales are generally steady but modest; as Maurer says, New Star is “mostly interested in books that are not particularly mainstream.”4

For the two-and-a-half years up until May 2013 Maurer was the sole employee, and as of September 2013, he was again working solo. To manage the tremendous workload, he employs a number of freelance editors and designers on a book-to-book basis.

Like most presses of a similar size, New Star has a limited budget for marketing and promotion. The bulk of it is dedicated to sending out copies for review in various newspapers, magazines, and academic periodicals. New Star also runs print ads in BC Bookworld, and occasionally in niche publications such as BC Studies. Further marketing efforts include email newsletters (to roughly 1,800 subscribers), blog posts at NewStarBooks.com, readings and book launches, and attendance at events such as Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences and WORD Vancouver.

To spark further sales of certain titles (particularly those whose initial reception was not as robust as desired), New Star has in recent years posted PDFs of entire books for free download. They are not heavily promoted or easily found on the website, but if one navigates to the page for, e.g., Islands of Resistance: Pirate Radio in Canada, there is underneath the bibliographic information a small link titled “Download the PDF,” above a “Look Inside” icon. Ten books are currently available, but Maurer has not detected any noticeable sales impact, positive or negative.

New Star’s experimentation with offering PDFs free online was borne partly of a curiosity in the potentials of online promotion, and partly of a recognition that readers are not finding books like they used to: it is more difficult than ever just to find a bookstore (or a newspaper), let alone a specific title from a small press such as New Star.

As shelf space vanishes and the Internet approaches global ubiquity, it is now imperative for publishers to go beyond dabbling in online book marketing, and begin to develop robust online marketing initiatives. Major multi-national firms have spent untold millions of dollars building digital warehouses and proprietary sampling widgets (which will be discussed below), but there is a relatively simple and inexpensive way for small Canadian publishers to enhance the presence of their wares online: by providing online book excerpts, or “digital samples.”

What follows is an analysis of the rapidly changing book retail sector (Part One), a description of the online digital sampling landscape (Part Two), and a proposal for how small-to-medium trade publishers can develop HTML-based digital samples in the hopes of aiding book discovery and promotion (Part Three). Although many of the examples and circumstances discussed throughout are specific to New Star, the proposal is broadly applicable to most publishers. By ensuring all its titles are easily found and sampled online, a small press will be able to increase the visibility of and interest in its titles, and maintain its sales in a changing marketplace — if not increase them.


Part One: The Changing Retail Landscape

Disappearing Bookstores

Maurer’s list of extinct bookstores is, while an admittedly unscientific survey, reflective of an acknowledged trend. Upon its closing in 2010, the owner of Sophia Books lamented “there is no room for independents [in Vancouver].”5 The subsequent closure in 2012 of four Book Warehouse locations certainly did not prove him wrong.6 As Kevin Williams, the publisher of Talon Books, has noted, “It’s really hard to have your books on the shelf anywhere in the city. If people want to buy our books, often they have to come to us.”7

With the rise of Chapters and Indigo and its consolidation into one entity (henceforth referred to as “Chapters/Indigo”) in the late 1990s–early 2000s, the ranks of independent bookstores in Canada were “decimated,”8 a development that has since, by all accounts, only worsened. A 2010 wire article noted the “rash of independent bookstore closings in recent months and years” across Canada, the result of increased pressure from Chapters/Indigo and online retailers;9 more recently, a Globe and Mail article noted the “enormous challenges” facing book retailers.10 In a Publishers Weekly article assessing the state of Canadian publishing in 2012, the president of the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA; since absorbed into the Retail Council of Canada) called it a “really, scary dark season” for retailers; although he claimed membership in the CBA had not dropped off precipitously, the article noted further closures of prominent stores in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto, due to the familiar bugaboos of cost increases, price competition with online retailers, and the continued rise of ebooks.11 As one publisher succinctly put it, “We have to work with the fact that there are fewer bookstores.”12

In Canada, Chapters/Indigo dominates the diminished bookstore environment that remains — as of 2011 they accounted for about half of sales,13 and up to 70 percent of sales for some publishers.14 This is especially problematic for small presses like New Star: while the buying decisions of independent bookstores are often more content-driven and motivated by personal idiosyncrasies, large chains focus on sell-through rates, leading to an emphasis on mainstream titles15 — titles for which New Star is largely unable to compete, due to a relative lack of resources.16 This was not such a problem when there were more, healthier independents; as Maurer explains, if you could sell a title into at least one independent store, you could then leverage that fact to sell into more stores — now, a rejection from Chapters/Indigo shuts off a vast swath of potential shelf space.17 As ECW Press co-publisher David Caron put it, “The hardest part is that [Chapters/Indigo will] pass on a title entirely. … But for a lot of people, Indigo is the only game in town.”18

Their status as “the only game in town” results in Chapters/Indigo influencing not just the types of books that are produced and where they are available, but also the very conditions under which publishers are willing and able to sell their books. The favourable terms of sale that Chapters/Indigo extracts for itself then compel many publishers to impose more onerous terms on smaller retailers, as Maurer explains:

Publishers do compete on content … but we also compete on terms. The mainstream of publishing, however, has decided to eschew that competition. They have conceded terms, effectively, to the dictates of the large retail sector. And they have compounded the problem by insisting on tougher terms with the independent sector, which pays ten to twenty percent more per book, and has to pay the supplier in (typically) half the time. This has exacerbated the “competitive advantage” of the chains, and more than anything else (rent; e-books; Amazon) has led to the destruction of the independent sector — to the cost of publishers and writers as well as readers/consumers.19

To make matters even worse, space in the large retailers is increasingly being given over to non-book items. As part of a recently developed strategy, Chapters/Indigo stores will shelve fewer books and more “designer gift and lifestyle products,” which CEO Heather Reisman hopes will increasingly be inspired by books — e.g., throw pillows embroidered with quotes from children’s books.20 Reisman claims the diversification will bring more potential book buyers into stores21; Lorimer, however, sees this as a sign of the beginning of the end for the company.22 In the first quarter of 2013, revenue of Indigo Books & Music fell 8.1 percent.23

In the United States (which accounts for approximately 15 percent of New Star’s sales24), observers such as Mike Shatzkin­ and Joseph Esposito consider the demise of traditional bookstores a foregone conclusion.25 It is not all doom and gloom though: in 2012, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) reported an 8 percent increase in sales from independent bookstores, and membership rose from a historical low of 1,401 members in 2009 to 1,632 members.26 Much of this renewed vitality can likely be attributed to the demise of the national chain Borders (which closed in 2011), and the growing trend toward “buying local” undoubtedly played a part as well.27 But it is too early to proclaim the unqualified resurgence of the indies: ABA membership is still down 30 percent over the past decade (from about 2,400 members in 2002), and many of the stores that remain are resorting to filling budget gaps through unorthodox measures such as online crowdfunding campaigns.28

The Growth of Online Sales

The causes of the changing book retail landscape are debatable — most of the sources cited above attribute the decline to the rise of ebooks and online retailers and increased costs for commercial space, while Maurer’s analysis focuses more on the consolidation of the retail sector.29 But regardless of the causal link, an increasing proportion of books sold in North America are now purchased online.

In the United States, online sales represented 8 percent of books sold in 2001.30 By last year, they accounted for 42 percent;31 if you consider dollars spent rather than units sold, the figure is 45 percent.32

A report commissioned by Canadian Heritage found that online book sales accounted for just 4 percent of total book sales in Canada in 2004, with brick-and-mortar chains and independents combining for 64 percent.33 The same report examined the sales of eleven literary presses (a category that would include New Star) from 2003 – 2006, and found that online sales increased from 2 percent of the total in 2003 to just over 6 percent three years later, while the proportion of sales via “chain bookstores” fell from about one-third to about one-fifth over the same period.34 As of 2012, BookNet Canada reports online sales at 25 percent of the overall market, while the share of bookstores is down to 37 percent.35

Challenges

Buying a book online is a fundamentally different experience than buying a book “in real life.” Wandering the aisles of a great bookstore is not just a romanticized notion — there is good reason to believe that nothing sells books quite as well as books: in the estimation of McCabe and Henry, “serendipity and discovery generate as much as two-thirds of UK general book sales.”36

In Canada, a number of studies have established the vital role of bookstores, beyond mere vendors, as generators of sales and awareness of books. In a 1996 survey of readers exiting Canadian bookstores with Canadian books in hand, only 29 percent of respondents said they visited the store to purchase a specific book; 63 percent of purchase decisions were made in the store.37 A survey the following year expanded the purview to purchasers of all books, not just Canadian ones, and found that while 72 percent of respondents “had intended to purchase a book” when they entered the store, 60 percent of them decided in the bookstore which title to purchase.38 A 2005 survey of Canadian book buyers suggests that impulse purchases account for 42 percent of Canadian book purchases.39 More recently, the results of BookNet Canada’s The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report indicate that impulsive book-buying — whether it is “title-planned, timing-impulsive,” vice-versa, or a true “impulse purchase” — varies by retail channel, with the three categories of impulse purchase accounting for over 80 percent of book purchases at grocery stores and other “non-book retail outlets,” about 70 percent at chain bookstores, and about 60 percent of purchases online and at independent bookstores.40

Closely related to the role of bookstores in generating impulse buys is their role in creating awareness of titles. In the 1996 study cited above, 39 percent of purchasers were unaware of the title they had just purchased before entering the store.41 By 2012, according to BookNet Canada, only 21 percent of buyers of print books became aware of books purchased through in-store displays.42 Online discovery was the chosen method for 21 percent of print-book buyers and 44 percent of ebook buyers.43 When “awareness factors” are broken down by method of purchase, an obvious yet important distinction is revealed: the most popular awareness factor for buyers at brick-and-mortar outlets is, by far, “in-person” (which includes in-store displays and personal recommendations), while online buyers are almost twice as likely to become aware of a book online (about 55 percent) versus in-person (about 27 percent).44 The most recent Bowker report also breaks discovery down by format: the most popular way to learn about print books is to stumble across them in a brick-and-mortar store (“in-store display / on-shelf / spinning rack”); for ebooks, “friend / relative recommendation” is number one, followed by “read excerpt / sample” online.45

A crucial feature of the bookstore browsing experience, and one that is difficult to replicate online, is the simple act of picking up a book, examining its cover, and perhaps flipping through its contents. “The best way to sell books,” according to Jane Friedman (HarperCollins CEO from 1997 to 2008), “is to have the consumer be able to read some of that content.”46 It is a simple but important observation, and is confirmed by a study in the UK that found “the opportunity to pick up and leaf through books are important qualities for consumers, and are absent from the online book buying experience.”47

Despite the move to online sales, McCabe and Henry believe that “bookshop customers are far more likely to purchase a book they have seen displayed physically than those featured on an e-tailers’ website” — however, they go on to note that “they are also more likely to buy a book because they were able to look inside or read an extract.”48 Bowker’s 2010 PubTrack Consumer Research Panel found that the second most popular reason a consumer chose a book (after “Cover/jacket description/testimonial appeals to them”) was “Looked through book, and liked it.”49 According to Laing and Royle, even many online shoppers end up purchasing a chosen title in a physical bookstore because of a “desire to check the book physically — to pick it up, leaf through, and check the contents.”50

It should come as no great surprise to publishers that people want to look at a book before buying it. Unfortunately, in Canada there are now fewer opportunities for publishers to simply get a book into a store: independents are disappearing, and bookstore promotions are now “just as likely to feature blankets, teapots, [and] owl bottle openers” as books.51 Given the shrinking independent sector and Chapters/Indigo’s diversification into the throw-pillow market, it seems likely that online sales, and hence online discovery, will continue to grow. Much is lost in the online book-buying experience — a browser tab simply cannot recreate with high fidelity the joys of a bookstore. But if that is where people buy books now, than it is important for publishers to offer readers some means of digitally “browsing” a book. As author David Balzer says, “you have to somehow replicate that experience of stumbling upon a book in a bookstore.”52

Benefits & Opportunities

It is tempting (and common) to predict disastrous implications for publishers with each freshly shuttered shop; McCabe and Henry argue that “the single most effective technique for dismantling the physical book sector would be to accelerate the closure of bookshops.”53 Bookstores have long been a critical link in the publishing supply chain, serving as the primary customer of publishers and the primary retail venue for readers.

As suggested by Maurer’s analysis above, publishers seeking to bolster the independent sector could offer retailers better terms. A publisher acting independently would be required to suffer immediate short-term financial pain, in the hopes of contributing to a more vibrant retail sector that will eventually return long-term gains to the publisher. However, since any single small publisher represents only a tiny percentage of a store’s stock, this tactic would be most effective if small publishers acted in concert — but any collective action would likely attract accusations of collusion, as happened with the ebook price-fixing antitrust case in the United States. In an industry reliant on razor-thin margins, this is a challenging path.

Regardless, the shift to online sales need not be calamitous for publishers, and in fact offers some advantages. Publishers can continue to supply the remaining bookstores while recognizing and adapting to the increased role of online sales channels. At the very least, this means better promoting their books to the growing numbers of online shoppers; for the more ambitious publisher, the opportunity exists to sell directly to customers via the publisher’s website.

Data Gathering

Selling online allows the collection of useful data about customers and their behaviour. For publishers selling through Amazon.ca, Business Reports allow the tracking of traffic to a publisher’s various titles and the conversion rates of viewers,54 data that would only be available from traditional retailers if they were to install surveillance cameras and closely watch the actions of browsing patrons. Publishers selling directly from their website can track the same data and more: using software such as Google Analytics, publishers can learn what devices buyers are using, how long they are spending on the site and what they are looking at, which other titles they have shown interest in, and where they are located; email addresses can be collected and, if permitted, added to the mailing list. All of this information can be used to tweak the website and marketing efforts, learn what readers respond to, and generate more sales.

Fewer Returns

Another benefit of selling online is the chance to bypass “one of the most difficult aspects of the publishing business”: returns.55 The standard practice of essentially selling books on consignment is a major problem for publishers (and others in the book trade). According to Woll, the practice distracts publishers, reduces cash flow, inflates inventory levels, and adds cost to the entire publishing process, particularly in warehousing and fulfillment — while return rates for small presses are generally less than those of the bigger publishers, they still account for approximately 11–13 percent of books sold.56 In the New Star office, significant floor space — already at a premium — is occupied by stacks of returned books, which are often dog-eared or scratched just enough that they can not be resold except at remainder-bin prices. Selling directly to the consumer means never fearing that in six months a retailer will return books en masse, potentially damaged and unsalable, for credit or a refund.

Reduced Costs

There are compelling motivations for publishers to undertake “the more aggressive use of the Internet as an online marketing and sales channel.”57 The most enticing reason may be the increase in profit margins — as Woll explains, “If you sell directly to the consumer, without the need to involve middlemen, you don’t have to give away discount to those intermediaries. You can sell your book for full price and record all of the proceeds as your revenue.”58 Given that the trade discount is generally around 50 percent, this can result in a significant increase in per-unit revenue. There are other costs involved, as Woll notes — notably shipping and direct marketing costs — but it is standard practice to charge buyers for shipping costs, and conducting the marketing online, where the buyers are already, is much cheaper than traditional print-based marketing efforts.59 There are also costs associated with setting up an ecommerce-enabled website, but the majority of Canadian publishers (New Star included) have already done this.60

Thompson’s Characteristics of New Technologies

John B. Thompson lists several characteristics of “new technologies” that allow publishers to “add real value to their content.”61 In the context of selling books online, these characteristics can enable publishers to not merely attempt to recreate the in-store browsing experience, but to enhance it.

Ease of Access: Online bookselling largely erases “certain spatial and temporal constraints.”62 Interested readers can buy books anytime from virtually anywhere, regardless of the location or business hours of retailers, or the number of physical copies of a book in a given store. As of 2010, 98 percent of Canadian households had broadband access,63 and Maurer believes that New Star’s audience is particularly active online.64

Updatability: Compared to printed material, where changes to a text require another print run, online content can be modified “quickly, frequently, and relatively cheaply.”65 Digital samples can be posted early in the book production process and then updated to their final published form, or a new excerpt may be selected for feature based on current events or the conversation generated by the excerpt.

Searchability: It is possible to search inside a printed book using the table of contents and index (or simply leafing through the pages), but of course an online search engine is “infinitely quicker and more powerful … and can be extended to much larger quantities of content.”66

In the context of the wide-open internet this presents challenges to a publisher trying to stand out from the field, but it also enables readers to quickly find what they are looking for on a publisher’s website and even within the full text of a book, if a publisher partners with Google Books (which will be discussed in some detail below). McCabe argues that “consumer behaviour is highly directed online.”67 When people are searching for a particular book or type of book, ensuring that a title’s promotional material is easily searchable is a critical step in directing that consumer behaviour to the desired location.

Portability: As Thompson notes, unless it is device-dependent, vast amounts of online content can be reproduced and transferred to or accessed on devices including personal computers, smart phones, tablet computers, ereaders, and so on.68 Of course most print objects are highly portable as well, but internet-enabled devices can store vast numbers of books and access infinite amounts of online content — e.g., book excerpts — with little burden to the reader.

This portability also allows online excerpts to be easily shared with friends and family around the globe. In an article that notes the continued importance of “social discovery,” Andrew Rhomberg observes that “we are now able to send quotes, snippets or samples (first 10%) of an (electronic) book with ease to those to whom we are recommending our books, which we could not have done in the day of the printed book.”69 His parenthetical qualifiers need not apply; by offering them online, publishers enable the sharing of digital excerpts of any length from ebooks and print books.

Intertextuality: This refers to the ability to “give a dynamic character” to the “referential function of texts,” by providing hyperlinks to sources cited, other books, external resources of any kind, and online sales venues.70

Multimedia: The ability to offer multimedia features that can not be printed on a page “enable[s] content providers to add real value,” e.g., by adding more photos or streaming videos to supplement a book’s content.71

Interest and Sales

The two pioneers of digital sampling — Amazon and Google — have reported encouraging effects on sales. Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” feature boosted sales for participating titles (and will be discussed further below), and early adopters of Google Book Search saw the sales of backlist titles increase.72 In touting the benefits of its book digitization projects, Google “emphasizes the marketing benefits to copyright holders,” arguing that the endeavour increases the visibility of backlist and “lightly marketed new titles”73 — which, it is safe to say, encompasses the entire catalogues of most small Canadian publishers.

Whether a publisher opts to sell online via Amazon or their own site, digital samples make books easier to find and peruse. Because “the content of the book is separable from the form,” publishers can “dissociate browsing from the turning of printed pages in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.”74 The separation of content and form takes on far greater profundity in the consideration of the eBook market, but it is germane to the online sale of print books as well: the content of a print book can be easily and accurately represented digitally — and even enhanced — in order to entice buyers. By embracing online book sales and digital sampling, small Canadian publishers can to some degree unshackle themselves from the turbulent, Chapters/Indigo-dominated realm of physical bookstores. The next section considers various book sampling practices, from Internet behemoths to tiny Canadian trade publishers.


Part Two: Current Sampling Practices

Third-Party Samples

Amazon

When Amazon launched the “Look Inside the Book” feature in 2001, one of the participating publishers said that “helping [Amazon’s] customers crack the spine is simply smart marketing.”75 Two years later, Amazon launched an enhanced version of Look Inside called “Search Inside the Book,” which allows users to search within a certain book or across Amazon’s entire digital catalogue and then view a limited preview surrounding the results.76 Publishers were “guardedly cooperative;” some feared the service would hamper book sales by offering free content, and the Authors Guild objected to titles being featured without the author’s explicit consent.77

One week after the launch of Search Inside, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the program was “driving increased sales”: sales growth for participating titles was 9 percent higher than growth for titles not participating.78 After a full year, that number had dropped only slightly, to 7 percent.79

The company has not released related sales figures since, but today the Search and Look Inside widget is a robust and prominent feature, easily identified by either a bright yellow arrow or a blue triangle and the words “Look Inside!” on the cover image of a book. After uploading a PDF that conforms to Amazon’s specifications, publishers are promised “Improved Search Results” and “Point-of-Sale Sampling” that will “help customers to discover and sell more of your books.”80 Of the one hundred “Best Sellers of 2013” listed at Amazon.com on September 23, ninety included Search and Look Inside functionality.81 Interestingly, at Amazon.ca on the same day, only three of the top ten and fifty-six of the top one hundred had Search and Look Inside enabled82 — this may be a result of Canadian publishers lacking the resources or inclination to participate, or it may be simple chance.

Google

With the rollout of Google Print in 2003 (since renamed Google Books), Google’s ambition to digitize and make accessible all the information in the world set its sights on the world’s print books. Through its Partner Program and its (highly contentious) Library Project, Google digitizes and indexes books, so that if a searched term appears in a book it will be included in the results, with a several-page excerpt and links to online retailers.83 Unless a publisher agrees to include more, the excerpts are limited to two pages before and after the search term, and displayed text cannot be copy-and-pasted, to help “ensure that a book’s content isn’t copied illegally.”84

Nevertheless, in 2005 both the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) sued Google for copyright infringement. The AAP settled in 2012; Publishers Weekly observed that it became evident during the AAP proceedings that the publishers “never really disagreed about the potential benefit of Google’s index,” but wanted to retain greater control over the contents of the program; one expert on the case said that publishers “invested a ton of time and money fighting something that they realize now really isn’t a problem.”85 A federal judge dismissed the Authors Guild case in November 2013. In deeming Google’s digitization project to be “fair use,” Judge Denny Chin said that it provides “significant public benefits” by giving books “new life,” and “generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers.”86

Publishers can make their wares available through Google Books by joining the Partner Program and sending Google a physical or PDF copy of their book. Search results from the book will then display the book’s title and author, and an excerpt highlighting the search terms. If users click on the book they will see a “limited preview … just enough to give them a taste of the book, as if they were browsing in a bookstore or library.” Printing and text and image copying functions are disabled in the preview. Sales links are clearly visible in a sidebar — if the publisher sells directly from their site that is the top link, followed by links to major retailers such as Amazon or Chapters/Indigo and, if an ebook is available, the Google Play bookstore. Partners can also embed the preview on their own website, and access detailed analytical reports about traffic to their books.87

Google does not provide data on Google Books’ impact on sales, and in the pitch to publishers to join they stop short of promising an increase in sales, instead promising, under the heading “Drive Book Sales,” to “make it easy for users to go from browsing to buying.”88 They do, however, offer this (undated) quote from Kate Tentler of Simon & Schuster: “15.3% … [of] web surfers who clicked on a Simon and Schuster book in Google Books either bought a book or went to the Simon and Schuster web site and, for example, subscribed to a newsletter. Conversion rates for other search engines languish around 1-3%.”89 Oxford University Press also claims that partnering with Google has increased traffic to their site and boosted backlist sales.90 In a recent paper from Duke University, one author claims his sales ranking at Barnes & Noble improved by 85 percent after he partnered with Google Books, an experience the paper’s authors claim is “typical for participants.”91 In a 2006 analysis of Google Book Search, Travis notes that book sales in the United States were up “markedly” since the program began, and “thus far there is little evidence that any printed books have suffered lost sales because Google has made them searchable.”92 On the contrary, Travis argues, “the service appears to have had a very positive effect on the sales of books it has included to date.”93

Book Discovery Services

There are a growing number of dedicated book discovery websites. The sites discussed below were chosen because of repeated references that appeared in the course of researching this report; while none of them have achieved the ubiquity of Amazon or Google, they are worth noting, as they speak to the increased perception of online book discovery as both a challenge and an opportunity for publishers.

Goodreads: Their recent acquisition by Amazon has recently thrust Goodreads.com and its 20 million members into the spotlight.94 The site was conceived as a marketing service for publishers, who have been using its “firm foundation” for that exact purpose “for some time.”95 Although it does not currently feature book excerpts, it is not inconceivable that Amazon will integrate its Search or Look Inside the Book features into the site, further enhancing its marketing potential.

Scribd: Originally a place to make documents accessible to the public, Scribd.com now has a “vast treasure trove of documents,” sees 10 million unique visitors monthly, and is increasingly being used by trade publishers to promote books: in July 2013 “marketing activity” on Scribd was just “a gleam in the eye” of American publishers,96 but on a recent visit (October 1, 2013), the twenty-five “documents” displayed on the homepage were all trade books (twenty-one of which were from HarperCollins). Each book offered excerpts, available to anyone, and for a monthly subscription of $8.99 readers can access unlimited content on the site,97 which could develop into an attractive marketing tool and revenue source for forward-thinking publishers.

Bookish: Bookish.com was developed by Penguin Group USA, Hachette Book Group, and Simon & Schuster, and launched in February of 2013 with the aim of “provid[ing] as many pathways to [book] discovery as possible.”98 The cover images of the majority of titles on the homepage feature prominent “Read a Sample” icons, which open a widget (embeddable on other sites) that displays anywhere from one paragraph to a couple chapters of text in plain, uncopy-able html, and a large “Buy” button. Any publisher is welcome to submit titles for inclusion, with the proviso that all data be submitted via an ONIX 2.1 data feed.99

49thShelf: Two Canadian sites deserve mention. Produced by the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), 49thShelf.com “mak[es] it easier to discover Canadian books” by hosting editorial content and a searchable database of over 60,000 titles.100 On a recent visit (September 24, 2013), none of the nine titles on the homepage offered excerpts, but it is possible to include them — all of the tiles on 49thShelf are drawn from BNC’s Biblioshare system,101 which supports including excerpts in the ONIX metadata.

Wattpad: Margaret Atwood’s high profile releases on Wattpad.com have increased its profile as of late.102 Although it is primarily a platform for self-published writers to share their work in serialized installments, American publishers are beginning to use it for marketing purposes.103 Wattpad offers intriguing possibilities for small publishers to develop online fanbases by serializing the digital release of titles, perhaps in advance of the print release, and gain potentially useful feedback about various aspects of a book.

Major Firms

As of 2004, foreign-owned publishers operating in Canada accounted for at least 59 percent of domestic sales.104 Of the major firms identified by Lorimer,105 excerpt practices of the four foreign trade publishers — and Harlequin, one of the largest Canadian firms — are discussed below.

HarperCollins

HarperCollins announced plans to create a vast digital catalogue in 2005, and by August of the following year had digitized 10,000 titles at a cost of several million dollars, with expected annual costs of at least a million dollars.106 The most notable feature of the project was the new “Browse Inside” widget that, similar to Amazon’s “Search Inside” and Google Book Search, “allow[s] readers to replicate in cyberspace the experience of going to a bookstore and flipping through a few pages before buying a book,” includes supplementary marketing material such as interviews, tour schedules, photographs, and reading group guides, and can be embedded on other websites.107

Initially Browse Inside was limited to the front matter and the first few pages of each chapter.108 Access to most titles is still restricted, but there are now a limited number of “Full Access” titles that offer the entire contents of the book for preview.109 While browsing, a reader can search inside the book; share links to the preview using almost 350 different social media tools; buy the book from Amazon, Indigo, or a list of independent retailers sorted by state or province; install the widget on their own website; and sign up for email notifications about the author’s promotional activity and new books.

Browse Inside is accessible by any visitor to the website, but the content of the preview cannot be downloaded, copied, or accessed by external search engines — as Friedman said upon the launch of the feature, “HarperCollins is taking a leadership role on the digital front … while, first and foremost, protecting our authors’ copyrights.”110

Detailed sales figures are of course unavailable, but there is evidence that excerpts boost sales: in a presentation to the 2008 International Digital Publishing Forum, Leslie Hulse (Vice President of Digital Business Development) reported “print sales increases of 30% and 250% for specific titles using [HarperCollins’] Browse Inside functionality.”111

Random House

In 2007 Random House introduced “Insight,” a search and sample widget and service that “enable[s] the indexing, searching and display of text” of books. The service is very similar to Browse Inside, allowing users to search the entire text of a book and view the results in context. It has since evolved into Insight Web Service, “a set of programming tools that allow internet applications to view and search digitized book content” and display the resulting pages as high-resolution images or fast-loading thumbnails. Insight can be set up on any blogger’s, publisher’s or retailers website, and the Insight widget can be customized for affiliate sales.112

RandomHouse.com and RandomHouse.ca both offer Insight-powered “Look Inside” widgets for many titles; in addition, RandomHouse.com features an “Excerpt” tab for most titles, which displays the selection in simple HTML-based text. During the autumn of 2013, RandomHouse.ca also added simple HTML excerpts, so that users can click a “Read Excerpt” button to launch a pop-up window with simple, copy/pastable HTML-based text. This feature is in lieu of the “Look Inside” widget for some titles (e.g., Let Me Off at the Top! by Ron Burgundy) and in addition to it for others (e.g., John Grisham’s Sycamore Row).

Penguin

Penguin Books Canada (Penguin.ca) offers excerpts of most of its titles, but in varying formats and degrees: for Joseph Boyden’s latest, Orenda, readers can download a PDF of the first twenty pages, while excerpts for some titles are simple HTML text in a box on the page — though they can run as long as 4,800 words, as is the case for Clive Cussler’s The Mayan Secret. Many titles feature video interviews or book trailers.

In the summer of 2013, Penguin launched its “First to Read” program. People must register for the program (or use their FaceBook accounts) to receive access to excerpts of forthcoming books, be able to post reviews, and request access to digital pre-publication copies of books.113

Simon & Schuster

For some titles Simon & Schuster’s Canadian website (SimonandSchuster.ca) uses the Google Books widget to allow browsing of substantial amounts of content within a book. Other titles have an HTML excerpt from the introduction or first chapter, and many of their recent and bestselling titles have embedded audio excerpts and video book trailers. All of this content is easily shareable via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or email.

Harlequin

Harlequin.com provides excerpts for seemingly the majority of titles in their vast catalogue. As well as multiple social media widgets and links to eight major book retailers, each title’s page features a red “Read an Excerpt” link that opens the HTML-based sample in a new tab or window. Selections are presented without context, and average about 2,500 words.

A Survey of Canadian Publishers

Table 1 presents the results of a survey of the availability of excerpts from Canadian trade publishers. Eighty-three publishers were selected from the membership directory of the ACP.114 Publishers of exclusively educational, scholarly, or children’s books were excluded, and in the wake of the bankruptcy of Douglas & McIntyre Publishers Inc., the resulting independent firms — Douglas & McIntyre [2013] Ltd., Greystone Books Ltd., and New Society Publishers — were included. On each publisher’s website, the five most prominent titles (featured on homepage or “Featured” lists) were checked for availability of excerpts, and then titles were searched on Amazon (.ca and .com) and Google Books (books.google.com/). There are some limitations to the methodology: not all Canadian publishers are members of the ACP (New Star, for one), and not every title on every site was checked. Nevertheless, the results offer a valuable sense of what Canadian publishers are doing to make their titles visible online.

Table 1: Digital Sampling Practices of Canadian Publishers

PUBLISHERS SURVEYED

83 (100%)

Samples available via:

Website

34 (41%)

Amazon

22 (27%)

Google Books (Preview or Snippet)

38 (46%)

At least 1 of website, Google Books, or Amazon

53 (64%)

No Samples Available

30 (36%)

In contrast to the major firms discussed above, less than half of the Canadian publishers surveyed provide excerpts on their own website — despite the fact that the vast majority (89 percent) sell books from their websites, either directly (81 percent) or via links to third-party retailers (20 percent) such as Amazon or Chapters/Indigo.

The format, frequency, functionality, and length of the samples vary greatly. Of the thirty-four publishers that do host samples, nearly half (fifteen) use PDFs, eleven use plain HTML, and only seven publishers use embedded Google Books widgets. At a dozen presses, samples were found for only one or two of the five titles surveyed, while thirteen displayed samples for all five titles. Slightly less than half (fifteen) of the publishers enabled the sharing of the samples via some social media channel. The length of samples runs the gamut from a few sentences presented wholly out of context at Linda Leith Publishing, to Dundurn’s Google Books-integrated website, which allows viewers to search within their entire catalogue and view extensive selections from selected books in Google Preview directly from Dundurn.com.

Although excerpt availability does increase significantly when Google Books and Amazon are taken into account, the titles of about one third of publishers cannot be sampled online. The prevalence of direct sales seems to indicate that publishers appreciate the significance of the online market, but the relative lack of opportunities to easily peruse a title shows that this important aspect of online marketing is either unrecognized, or deemed unfeasible due to financial or technical constraints. The importance of sampling having been established above, the next section consists of considerations and recommendations for how to simply and effectively offer book samples online.


Part Three: Analysis & Recommendations

The mere existence — often at great cost — of the various digital sampling widgets and websites speaks volumes to the efficacy of enabling readers to “try before they buy.” These services are a testament to the growing value of the online market, and the necessity of innovation in the absence of a healthy physical bookstore sector. A publisher with unlimited resources may wish to engage in all the available means above, but for a small Canadian press the time and effort of supplying Google, Amazon, and the various websites with PDFs and data feeds may cancel out any benefit accrued. The following sections consider the myriad options available for offering digital samples, and conclude with recommendations for how to provide effective HTML-based samples.

Book Discovery Websites

It remains to be seen if the latest book discovery sites will survive and flourish, and there is little indication as of yet that they can improve the visibility or sales of a title: a recent study concluded that even though “frequent readers” regularly visit sites such as Goodreads or Pinterest to look for books, “those visits fail to drive actual book purchases.”115 For a publisher like New Star, already faced with pressing demands on time and resources, it is not clear that devoting any considerable effort to developing a presence on these sites would return any tangible benefit — as some observers have noted, there is a glut of such services, indicative of the fact that discovery is a problem for publishers, not readers.116 It is worth keeping an eye on the continued evolution of sites like Scribd and Wattpad, but to achieve immediate results, publishers should focus their efforts on more proven methods.

Google & Amazon

The ease, ubiquity, and effectiveness of Search Inside and Google Books should make them very attractive to publishers. Titles from every publisher surveyed can already be found on Amazon.ca and Google Books, yet less than half have enabled Google Preview, and even fewer use Amazon’s preview functions. Google Books’ Partner Program in particular can be very useful for publishers, as it is effective beyond the confines of one particular website: readers searching via any search engine can find a Google Books page that includes retailer links, and the preview widget can be embedded on the publisher’s own website — as at least seven Canadian publishers know.

There are some limitations, however. Amazon samples are only accessible via Amazon.ca (or .com), and of course do not provide links to other retailers (although there is some evidence of reverse show-rooming behaviour, whereby people browse books online and then buy them in a physical store.117 Amazon requires a PDF free of registration- or crop-marks,118 which in New Star’s case would mean producing a separate PDF, apart from the standard workflow. Compared to HTML, both Google and Amazon’s widgets are somewhat cumbersome to use on smartphones, tablets, and other non-PC devices.

Notably, neither has a sharing function, and text cannot be copy/pasted from the widgets to manually share on social media venues. Whether it is in person or via online “social discovery,” word-of-mouth is still a critically important component of book marketing.119 When readers were asked for a 2005 Canadian study to choose the variables that contribute to their awareness of books they read or purchased, “recommendation from a friend” was listed as “often used” by 40 percent of respondents, second in frequency only to “interest in topic” at 61 percent — but when asked which factors “helped the most” for buying and reading, recommendations were cited by over 30 percent of respondents, compared to 20 percent for “interest in a topic.”120 The more recent BNC report confirms the significance of word-of-mouth for book discovery, and notes that online discovery is increasing121: it seems clear that sharing and recommending books online is an important and growing factor in book discovery, and should be made as seamless as possible.

Even with these limitations they are tremendously useful. So why don’t more publishers embrace them? Thompson addresses this in an interview with “Steve,” the head of “Media Asset Development” at a large trade house in New York, who says his company wants to use the Amazon and Google services, but is not entirely comfortable giving their content to such powerful companies who may not have their best interests in mind: “‘Many publishers in this building just like elsewhere are still not totally comfortable about giving their files to Amazon and Google,’ explained one of Steve’s colleagues. ‘Partly it’s because we’re unsure what they’ll do with it.’”122 Before a New York judge dismissed the proposed Google Book Search settlement agreement (that required authors to opt out of having their books digitized) in 2011,123 Canadian authors (among others) expressed their distinct disapproval of the deal, comparing it to thievery and “legalized, large-scale piracy.”124

There are also practical concerns; Thompson explains that publishers are ceding control of the quality of the excerpts and the quantity available, and cannot easily change or update what is on offer.125

In the case of the quantity excerpted, Amazon has since partially addressed this concern with the introduction of a “Flexible Percent Viewing Limit” feature that allows publishers to determine the percentage of the book that is viewable, in 10 percent increments between 10 and 80 percent.126 The quality concern has been rendered moot by both Amazon’s and Google’s acceptance of PDF files rather than hard copies — the quality of the digitized book is what publishers make it. Concerns over quick updates are still valid, but not entirely reasonable for publishers of print books, who are not able to correct errors in their books once the ink is committed to paper without an expensive and unlikely reprint.

The trust issue is thornier. It is understandable that a small publisher would be wary of placing too much faith in multi-billion dollar corporations. Amazon particularly endures much criticism from all quarters for its impact on the publishing trade in general, and, as a purely profit-driven retailer, cannot be said to share any of the lofty literary, cultural, or political ideas that animate a press like New Star. Google’s mission to make the world’s knowledge accessible (and its famous slogan, “Don’t be evil”) seems to align them more closely with publishers, but also has a whiff of totalitarianism about it, and has of course resulted in numerous lawsuits alleging flagrant and systematic copyright violations. Still: all the publishers surveyed sell books on Amazon; in the absence of any evidence of malicious acts involving digitized books, it seems wise to allow them to present those books in the best possible light. And as Thompson goes on to mention, Google’s Partner Program is, “in effect, a free form of online marketing” that, in distinction to the Library project, “was not a source of concern for most publishers.”127

Canadian Publishers

Most Canadian publishers use PDFs for excerpts. This results in an accurate representation of the printed page and allows the excerpt to be read offline, but there are many disadvantages that make PDFs an inferior choice compared to HTML. They are cumbersome to share, forcing the reader to download and attach them to an email, and can be slow to load, depending on the file size and bandwidth available. They are unreliable: different web browsers and operating systems treat them differently, sometimes downloading them and sometimes opening them in a new window or tab; the ability to view them at all depends on the reader’s software configuration and the settings used in generating the PDF; and if the reader is using a smartphone or tablet they are unwieldy at best, unreadable at worst.

Because PDFs are an essential part of a print-oriented production workflow, it is perhaps understandable that publishers would be biased toward their use. As Murray Tong of UBC Press explains, “I think the issue for many publishers (including us) is that the PDF is already there, so why not put it up? — with little thought [given] to searchability, copyability or other forms of access.”128

Another reason for the tenacity of PDFs may be the perceived benefit of restricting a reader’s ability to copy text from them, out of fear of piracy or copyright violations. This restriction is an oft-touted feature of the excerpt methods of Google, Amazon, HarperCollins, and Random House. If the entire book is available for preview this restriction seems reasonable, but in the case of an incomplete excerpt it becomes less defensible. With the possible exception of poetry books, cookbooks, or instructional manuals, there is very little value in owning or reproducing a fraction of a greater work, except insofar as it impels one toward the source material. Rather than guard every scrap of content, publishers should encourage the free sharing and distribution of enticing morsels that enable “social discovery” (via social media) and “distributed discovery”129 (when a book is mentioned or quoted in context in reviews, blogs, other books, or any number of venues).

Whatever inspires their proliferation, PDFs represent a case of persistent skeumorphism. Imitating old media in new ones may be a necessary step to familiarize people with new technologies,130 but people have had a long time to get used to reading on screens: as Joseph Esposito argues in a post that calls the PDF the “supreme skeuomorph,” the challenge for publishers is to consider “what are the properties of a new medium and what kind of new products or services can we come up with that seem at home in that new medium…. Rather than contrast and compare it to print, we could be thinking about digital media’s unique properties.”131

In the context of promoting books, these properties are wasted with PDFs. HTML can now achieve the same level of aesthetic design as PDFs destined for the printer, “and yet,” as John Maxwell says, “offers a whole world more in terms of dynamic, interactive reading experience.”132 There is a broader argument being made that publishers need to shift the bulk of their operations to a web-first workflow, as the web is now “the default platform for reaching audiences, developing content, and putting the pieces [of a book] together”  — but for publishers hesitant to “re-orient their operations and start with the web,”133 HTML-based samples are a less intimidating place to start breaking the dependency on PDFs, and could potentially lay the foundations for a more fundamental change to workflows down the road.

Implementation Costs

It is difficult to gauge the dollar cost of creating online samples, given the myriad variables at play. While participation in the Google and Amazon sampling programs is free, overall costs will depend on the method or combination of methods employed; the number of titles for which samples are created; the structure of the publisher’s website; and the extent of in-house programming knowledge. In the best-case scenario, the cost is limited to time. If the publisher already sells via Amazon, they must sign up for the sampling programs and enable them for each title. For Google, once the publisher is signed up they must submit PDFs for each title. The publisher’s own website is potentially more expensive; a template for samples must be created, and the HTML-based samples of each title created. If the structure of the site allows it, this could be accomplished relatively quickly in-house; more complicate websites owned by publishers with little in-house programming knowledge could expect to pay for several hours of web programming to implement the sample program.

Recommendations for Effective Samples

Format

Based on the above, it is recommended that publishers participate in Amazon’s Look and Search Inside the Book services and Google’s Partner Program — the benefits are real and tangible, the perceived dangers largely a matter of fear and uncertainty.

It is also advisable for publishers to create HTML-based excerpts for display on publishers’ own websites. If publishers can recognize that, for the purposes of online marketing at least, “the content of the book is separable from the form” and “the real value of the book lies in the content … rather than in the physical form,”134 they will be a step closer to abandoning PDF samples and taking full advantage of the characteristics of new technologies noted above. HTML-based samples overcome most of the limitations of PDFs and Google and Amazon samples: all browsers can render HTML, making it easily accessible to (very nearly) anyone with Internet access, whether via computer, tablet, or smartphone, and the excerpted text can be easily shared, linked to, and quoted elsewhere. This enhanced “sociability” of HTML over PDFs is a very significant advantage: samples can be easily and quickly spread through any and all social media channels via easily clickable links.

There are two potential drawbacks that merit consideration. The first is aesthetic: web pages are usually less attractive than reproductions of the printed page, which may make publishers somewhat reluctant to present books in what may be perceived as a “lesser” format. This can be overcome to some degree with CSS styling and the addition of images where appropriate, but more importantly, providing HTML-based samples should be seen as a strategic practice that, rather than competing with the physical books, aims to make those books readily shareable to as many people as possible in order to generate sales. In this context, aesthetic imperfection is an acceptable tradeoff for near-universal accessibility, and may even be preferable to high-fidelity page reproductions: as discussed below (under the section titled “Length”), publishers must be careful not to give away too much for free, lest readers feel that purchasing the actual book is unnecessary.There are two potential drawbacks that merit consideration.

Secondly, depending on a publisher’s standard workflow, creating HTML-based samples rather than PDFs may take more time: instead of simply removing the printer’s marks from the print-ready PDF, the text must be copied and pasted from the source file into either a WYSIWYG content management system (CMS) such as WordPress (the best-case scenario), or a text editor for the creation of HTML code (a slightly more onerous route). In the former case, creating the sample is no more time-consuming than creating a web-ready PDF. In the latter, creating an HTML template into which text can be pasted and marked up will ease the burden somewhat. Forward-thinking publishers wishing to entirely erase this burden (and many others) should consider beginning their workflow in a web-based CMS; as Maxwell has argued, one of the many advantages of such a strategy is that “online marketing copy or excerpts for the web” become “extremely easy to generate.”135

Despite these potential drawbacks, HTML is the superior choice for hosting digital samples, and is well worth the interruption to an established workflow. Its content is indexed and searchable by Google and other search engines — a considerable benefit if “Google is your discovery method”136 and “search is the new storefront.”137 Hyperlinks within the excerpt and the publishers website and to external sites can be easily added and used. It enables the addition of audio and video. And a reader’s behaviour and interaction with an HTML excerpt can be tracked and quantified using Google Analytics.

There is another compelling reason to host excerpts on a publisher’s own site, one that is hinted at by the time and care Maurer devotes to maintaining New Star’s blog and email subscriber list: building a relationship with a press’s audience. Excerpts are an incentive to spend time on a publisher’s website, where they can potentially read blog posts, subscribe to newsletters, peruse all the press has to offer, and generally develop an affinity for the publisher. Many observers have recently emphasized the importance of this sort of relationship: “Since publishers can’t physically enter people’s living rooms, turn off their TVs and shove books into their hands, they may instead have to focus on retail and … work on their direct relationships with readers,”138 because “nothing will ever replace building authentic, two-way relationships with customers and readers.”139 As Gonzales says, “The publishers who have a direct relationship with their readers — not necessarily via direct sales, but via direct engagement — are the ones who will not simply survive the ‘digital shift,’ but will thrive, being less prone to the whims of Amazon, Apple, Google….”140

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Although it is likely already on the radar of many publishers, SEO is critically important, specifically for digital sampling — as Thompson notes, if a site is not “friendly for the Google crawler” and therefore does not perform well in search result rankings, “then your content is, for all practical purposes, invisible.”141 SEO is a vast and at-times complex field in itself, but a few simple steps — such as creating unique, accurate page titles, and URLs with descriptive words rather than strings of numbers — can greatly enhance a sample page’s (and therefore a book’s) discoverability.142

For non-fiction titles, SEO considerations can also guide the choice of what book content to sample. By consulting the suggested terms listed by Google’s Autocomplete feature (which terms are “a reflection of the search activity of users and the content of web pages indexed by Google”143), publishers can get a sense of which subjects within a book are most searched-for. For example, querying “Svend Robinson” in Google produces a list of the ten most popular terms queried with “Svend Robinson,” three of which (i.e., “Max Riveron,” “theft,” and “Sue Rodriguez”) point to topics covered in the New Star biography that would be suitable for excerpting.144 Using Google Trends (www.google.ca/trends/), the popularity of these terms can then be compared over time and within regions to aid in choosing what to sample, and fine-tuning keywords to use in optimizing and promoting the samples.

Length

The next consideration is how much to excerpt — Amazon’s default is 20 percent; excerpts surveyed above ranged from a few sentences to dozens of pages; and, as noted, New Star has experimented with offering the entire book — a strategy that has proven successful for some authors,145 and is worth further exploration. Generally though, as Thompson notes, “you want to allow the reader to get a clear sense of the content … but you don’t want them to be able to read so much of the text that the decision to purchase becomes redundant.”146 The nature of the book is another important factor — for fiction the preferred method is to offer the beginning chapters, while “episodic sampling” is often the best approach for non-fiction works.147 Checking various topics from the book in Google Trends could offer insight into what topics are currently popular and will be more likely to attract readers to the excerpt. Publishers must be careful, however, to not give away for free the most sought-after section of the book: in an article questioning the value of book excerpts in print publications, a publicity executive at Knopf claimed that an excerpt of a Jessica Lynch biography in Time “gave away too much  —  I think people felt they’d had their fill.”148 Ultimately it is a matter of editorial judgment, but the guiding principle should be to entice, not satiate the reader.

Hyperlinks

A “buy” button is the most obvious link to include, but publishers can take advantage of the potential “intertextuality” of digital samples by including hyperlinks in the content of the excerpt. For a research-heavy non-fiction title such Svend Robinson, an excerpt could feature links directly to available online sources referenced in the text, allowing the reader to engage with the source material in an exponentially easier way than if they were reading it in a bookstore, which would require either flipping to the end of the book to find the endnote, or going online to search for the cited article.

Hyperlinks can also enrich the reader’s experience of the excerpted material, and provide context precluded by the limitations of the print version. With fiction and poetry, samples are a chance for authors or publishers to embellish and expand upon the original text. A recent New Star poetry book acknowledges a long list of bands, writers, “commercials, films, and more” that are obliquely referenced or appear in the text as “phrases and rhythms, sometimes skewed, [that] float in and out of sybil unrest.”149 With only slight visual alteration of the text, these references could be elucidated or expanded upon, offering the authors another layer of expression and the reader a deeper understanding of the references and ideas at play.

The savvy excerpter could also include links to favourable reviews of the work, or at the end of the sample, to excerpts from the author’s other works, and similar works by other authors (offered by the same publisher).

Multimedia

The multimedia capacity of digital samples allows further enrichment of the text. In the case of New Star’s recent titles, this could entail “bonus” photos, e.g., photos that were considered but not included in Svend Robinson or Seize the Time: Vancouver Photographed 1967 – 1974; including promotional videos in a sample, e.g. the promotional video for After Desire; embedding videos related to a book’s topic, e.g., Seize the Time contains two photos of Janis Joplin in performance, and a number of videos of those same performances are available on YouTube; or including audio recordings of readings, e.g., Peter Culley’s (author of Parkway) recent reading at the Western Front or George Stanley’s (After Desire) at WORD Vancouver.

Promotion

Promotion of samples can and should take place through extant channels, such as a publisher’s website, email newsletters, social media, and even books. It is a common practice to list other books by an author in the front matter of a print book, but if a publisher sells ebooks, these lists could be hyperlinks to samples of the book. Widgets displaying the “Most Read” samples could be installed on the homepage of the website, similar to what most online newspapers and magazines do.

Including social media widgets on the sample’s page allows readers to quickly share them, and these channels can be very effective: “Traditional advertising did nothing for us … absolutely zilch,” according to Emily Gould of EmilyBooks, an independent ebook retailer, “but when I tweet a line from the book or we post a three-paragraph excerpt on our Tumblr, people buy the books just because they want to read more, immediately.”150 The chances are very high that any given member of a book’s potential audience is using at least one social media platform.151 Engaging them with them in these media and linking to samples helps them get read, increases the SEO ranking of the site, and provides useful data about the readers.152

Digital samples can also be easily distributed to specific influential bloggers or reviewers, as part of a concerted “online outreach” effort — the online marketing manager of a large American publisher said, “we outreach to bloggers, and that’s a big part of what we do because it just gets the conversation going.”153 A book like Svend Robinson lends itself well to promotion in a variety of realms beyond book-review sites; members of the LGBT community, provincial and federal NDP members, and political pundits could all be expected to show an interest in reading and discussing online an excerpt from the book. Advanced search options in Twitter and Google allow a publisher to find people that are already engaged with the topic of the book, follow their conversations, and offer them valuable content.154 Proactive distribution of digital samples costs only time, and can help spark a discussion around the book, bringing more visitors to the publisher’s website.

Metadata

In 2011, the president of Booknet Canada recommended that all publishers include excerpts in their metadata feeds.155 Excerpts are considered “enhanced” (i.e., non-compulsory) metadata, but can be included for those retailers or websites that do display them, e.g., 49th Shelf, which draws all its title information from the ONIX files submitted to BNC’s BiblioShare.156 Enhanced metadata is proven to increase sales, and the effect is even stronger for online sales.157 The Book Industry Study Group’s most recent guide to metadata best practices claims “excerpts can make titles stand out in a list of possible relevant purchases and encourage longer engagement with the product listing for these titles.”158 In The Metadata Handbook, “excerpts, previews, and sample chapters” top the list of enhanced metadata “that make a difference.”159 The authors note that providing rich metadata to retailers will also improve a title’s SEO performance in Google and other search engines; while they caution that rich metadata will not guarantee the success of a book, “the absence of metadata will definitely guarantee its obscurity.”160

Rich Snippets

Using Google’s “rich snippets,” publishers can help Google parse the content on a page to provide important information about the book in the “snippet,” i.e., the lines of text that appear below a search result.161 Installing rich snippets requires small modifications to the code of a webpage according to Google’s specifications, but greatly enhance the results that people searching for a title will see. Rich snippets for products allow the inclusion of the book title, cover image, publisher, category, ISBN, price, and availability,162 enabling an interested reader to learn of not just the existence of a book, but many salient details that will aid their discovery of it, all with a glance at the search results.

Analytics

Finally, readers’ interaction with HTML-based digital samples on a publisher’s own site can be tracked with Google Analytics, enabling a publisher to tweak the samples and the site for maximum efficacy. There is a wealth of data available, including geographical location, frequency of visits, device and browsers used, links followed to arrive at the site, the popularity of specific pages, navigation paths within the site, and the completion rates of customizable goals.163 This allows a publisher to track how well digital samples are engaging readers and leading to sales, and can help them modify the samples (and the site at large) to respond to readers’ behaviour.

Analytics results cannot tell a publisher how to improve results, but allows them to methodically refine the site and receive quantified feedback at each step. This process can be sped up by using A/B testing: there are a variety of services that enable A/B testing, and have taught website proprietors that modifications as simple as changing the colour of a call-to-action button can significantly improve its effectiveness.164 Publishers can offer different excerpts from the same book, with varying cover images, photographs, blurbs, etc., track which versions garner the better response, and use the resulting data to inform the marketing of the book (or even the book itself). These online tools allow for a process of trial-and-error that would be prohibitively expensive in print-based marketing efforts, and far more difficult to measure.

This process is fundamental to online book promotion: as Mike Shatzkin argues, “The key to successful digital marketing is to do the research that finds the right messages and targets, test the messages to the targets looking for a defined result, measure the impact, and then adjust the messaging and targeting.”165 By experimenting with different excerpts and their design and marketing copy, digital samples can act as a low-cost testing ground, enriching a publisher’s understanding of their audience and ultimately improving a title’s chances of success both online and in physical bookstores.


Conclusion

The decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores in Canada is a serious problem for publishers, particularly small publishers, who benefit greatly from a healthy independent bookstore sector providing a greater diversity of sales channels. A greater number of readers are purchasing books online, where the opportunity to sample a book can increase the likelihood of purchase. Although digital sampling via Google Books and Amazon has been around for nearly a decade, it has a relatively low adoption rate for Canadian publishers, and only a fraction have placed excerpts in easily searchable, universally accessible HTML-based formats. Digital sampling on publishers’ own websites is often half-hearted and haphazardly applied. Offering HTML-based samples on their own website ensures that a potential customer can find a publisher’s title and quickly determine its attractiveness. Embarking upon the above recommendations will greatly improve the online visibility and appeal of a publisher’s books, and likely result in increased sales.

For small presses like New Star, where limited resources must be carefully allocated, digital samples are an easy and effective way to supplement their marketing efforts. Maurer believes “the best thing for New Star would be to have a catastrophic collapse of Indigo/Chapters,”166 but in the meantime, New Star can boost the online visibility of its titles by adding the creation of digital samples to the workflow of new books, and beginning the process of creating samples for backlist titles. For the own-site samples, eye-catching “Read a Sample” links should be added to a title’s page; while a book is being printed, the final text could be dropped into a ready-made HTML template. Once the backend modifications are in place and the template created, it would be a matter of minutes to create a sample, or at most a couple of hours to include various hyperlinks, cross-references, and multimedia extras. To further enhance visibility and increase third-party sales, Amazon should be provided with the necessary files to enable Look Inside, and New Star should consider partnering with Google Books to enable Google Preview and links to NewStarbooks.com on Google Books pages. Samples could be easily promoted via the existing means, though it would be wise to ramp up the social media efforts —  New Star’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been dormant since 2011; at a minimum, tweeting and posting links to new samples as they become available would help generate awareness of them and draw traffic to the website. New Star already has Google Analytics enabled; to determine to what extent any of this affects sales, “goal funnels” could be set up to measure how many people click on the samples, and how many of those proceed to buy the book or click on the Amazon or Chapters/Indigo links.

Despite all of the above, publishers should not wholly abandon the physical retail sector. Traditional bookstores still play a very important role in book discovery, and there is a case to be made that publishers should be devoting more energy to supporting vibrant bookstores.167 However, publishers need not focus on online sales to the total exclusion of all others, and strong online book promotion can drive sales in retail stores: as noted, some people find books online and then purchase them in a physical store, and even people who purchase books exclusively at brick-and-mortar bookstores likely spend some time online — as the online marketing manager at one imprint told Thompson, one of the goals of online marketing is for these people “to be in the bookstore and recognize the book either because they saw an ad or they something else that we did online.”168

A final caveat: if these means of online promotion are universally adopted, then “the playing field is once again leveled” and publishers will live or die solely on the merits of their books.169 But until that unlikely day arrives, small Canadian publishers can gain an advantage on their competitors and increase their share of the growing online book market by ensuring readers can find and sample their books online, in the most enriched and unencumbered manner possible.


Notes

Click note number to return to text.

1 John Barber, “Farewell, Nicholas Hoare: Bibliophiles Mourn Shuttering of Toronto Bookstore,” April 1, 2013, Globe and Mail, theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/farewell-nicholas-hoare-bibliophiles-mourn-shuttering-of-toronto-bookstore/article10653530/.

2 Audrey Laing and Jo Royle, “Bookselling Online: An Examination of Consumer Behaviour Patterns,” Publishing Research Quarterly 29, no. 2 (2013): 121,117, link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs12109-013-9318-3.pdf.

3 “About,” New Star Books, accessed September 12, 2013, newstarbooks.com/about.php.

4 Rolf Maurer (publisher, New Star Books), interview by Michael Leyne, August 22, 2013, Vancouver.

5 Miranda Nelson, “Sophia Books Becomes Latest Independent Vancouver Bookstore to Close,” Books (blog), Straight.com, April 26, 2010, straight.com/blogra/sophia-books-becomes-latest-independent-vancouver-bookstore-close.

6 Marsha Lederman, “Book Warehouse Closure Another Blow to Arts Scene,” Globe and Mail, March 15, 2012, theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/book-warehouse-closure-another-blow-to-arts-scene/article534048/.

7 John Mackie, “Downtown’s Cool New Store: A Bookshop,” Vancouver Sun, August 3, 2013, vancouversun.com/news/Weekend+Extra+Downtown+cool+store+bookshop/8742595/story.html.

8 Rowland Lorimer, Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada (Toronto: ECW / Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2012), 209.

9 Melanie Patten, “Some Independent Bookstores Thrive, Others Barely Survive in Electronic World,” Canadian Press, July 31, 2010, search.proquest.com/docview/734530780?accountid=13800.

10 Marsha Lederman, “Munro’s Books Boasts a Shelf Life of 50 Years — and Counting,” Globe and Mail, August 30, 2013, theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/munros-books-boasts-a-shelf-life-of-50-years-and-counting/article14059164/.

11 Leigh Ann Williams, “Adapting to Conditions: Canadian Publishing 2012,” Publishers Weekly, September 21, 2012, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/international/international-book-news/article/54056-adapting-to-conditions.html.

12 Ibid.

13 Marina Strauss, “Indigo’s Heather Reisman Faces Digital Reckoning,” Globe and Mail, April 8, 2011, theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/indigos-heather-reisman-faces-digital-reckoning/article577337/.

14 Lorimer, Ultra Libris, 224.

15 Ibid., 143, 207.

16 Rolf Maurer, email to author, November 19, 2013.

17 Maurer, interview.

18 Williams, “Canadian Publishing 2012.”

19 Maurer, email.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Lorimer, Ultra Libris, 230-31.

23 Leigh Ann Williams, “Sales Fall, Losses Rise at Indigo,” Publishers Weekly, August 8, 2013, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/58632-sales-fall-losses-rise-at-indigo.html.

24 Maurer, interview.

25 Mike Shatzkin, “Losing Bookstores is a Much Bigger Problem for Publishers Than it is for Readers,” Shatzkin Files (blog), Idea Logical Company, August 14, 2013, idealog.com/blog/losing-bookstores-is-a-much-bigger-problem-for-publishers-than-it-is-for-readers/; Joseph Esposito, “An Industry Pining for Bookstores,” Scholarly Kitchen, August 12, 2013, scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/08/12/an-industry-pining-for-bookstores/.

26 Judith Rose, “BEA 2013: Town Hall and Annual Meeting: The Bookstores Are Alright,” Publishers Weekly, May 31, 2013, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/57581-bea-2013-the-bookstores-are-alright.html; Julie Bosman, “To Stay Afloat, Bookstores Turn to Web Donors,” New York Times, August 11, 2013, nytimes.com/2013/08/12/business/bookstores-turn-to-web-donors-to-stall-the-end.html.

27 Yvonne Zipp, “The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores,” Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 2013, csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2013/0317/The-novel-resurgence-of-independent-bookstores.

28 Bosman, “To Stay Afloat.”

29 Maurer, interview.

30 Thomas Woll, Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers, 4th ed. (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2010), 11.

31 Milena Schmidt and Mina Park, “Trends in Consumer Book Buying (Infographic),” Random Notes (blog), Random House, June 3, 2013, randomnotes.randomhouse.com/trends-in-consumer-book-buying-infographic/.

32 “Online Retailers Gained, While Brick-and-Mortar Lost In Wake of Borders Exit,” Bowker press release, August 6, 2013, bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2013/pr_08062013.shtml.

33 Turner-Riggs (firm), The Book Retail Sector in Canada (Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2007), under “Market Share by Sales Channel,” pch.gc.ca/eng/1290025541029/1290025541031.

34 Ibid., under “Market Access for Canadian Titles.”

35 “Canadian Book Consumer 2012,” BNC Blog, BookNet Canada, May 21, 2013, booknetcanada.ca/blog/2013/5/21/canadian-book-consumer-2012.html.

36 Douglas McCabe and Jo Henry, “Why Bookshops Matter,” Bookseller, March 22, 2013, proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=86637278&site=bsi-live&scope=site.

37 Rowland Lorimer and Roger Barnes, “Book Reading, Purchasing, Marketing, and Title Production,” in Book Publishing 1, ed. Rowland Lorimer, Jillian Shoichet, and John Maxwell (Vancouver: CCSP Press, 2005), 228.

38 Ibid., 236.

39 Lorimer, Ultra Libris, 217.

40 BookNet Canada, The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report (Toronto: BookNet Canada, 2013), 58.

41 Lorimer and Barnes, “Book Reading, Purchasing,” 228.

42 BookNet Canada, Canadian Book Consumer 2012, 54.

43 Ibid., 53.

44 Ibid., 55.

45 Schmidt and Park, “Consumer Book Buying.”

46 Gabe Habash, “HC Adapts App to Push Excerpts on Facebook,” Publishers Weekly, June 22, 2012, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/52701-hc-adapts-app-to-push-excerpts-on-facebook.html.

47 Laing and Royle, “Bookselling Online,” 122.

48 McCabe and Henry, “Why Bookshops Matter.”

49 “Enhanced Metadata,” Bowker, accessed September 22, 2013, bowker.com/assets/downloads/products/DataSubmissionGuide_enhanced.pdf.

50 Laing and Royle, “Bookselling Online,” 122.

51 Kate Carraway, “If E-Books are so Big, Why are they Marketed so Badly?,” Globe and Mail, May 25, 2012, last updated June 18, 2012, theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/if-e-books-are-so-big-why-are-they-marketed-so-badly/article4209810/.

52 Ibid.

53 McCabe and Henry, “Why Bookshops Matter.”

54 “Sales Success Using Business Reports,” Amazon.ca, accessed October 5, 2013, amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200989600.

55 Woll, Publishing for Profit, 337.

56 Ibid., 338, 337.

57 Turner-Riggs, Book Retail Sector, under “The Impacts of Technology on Established Publishing Models.”

58 Woll, Publishing for Profit, 269.

59 Ibid., 269-71.

60 See “A Survey of Canadian Publishers,” page 18.

61 John B. Thompson, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010), 333.

62 Ibid., 334.

63 “Broadband Report,” Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission, under “Table 2.1.1.,” November 2011, crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/broadband/bbreport1111.htm.

64 Maurer, interview.

65 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 334.

66 Ibid., 335.

67 McCabe and Henry, “Why Bookshops Matter.”

68 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 335-36.

69 Andrew Rhomberg, “Five Shades of Book Discovery,” Digital Book World, March 4, 2013, digitalbookworld.com/2013/five-shades-of-book-discovery/.

70 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 336.

71 Ibid.

72 Ari Okano, “Digitized Book Search Engines and Copyright Concerns,” Shidler Journal of Law, Commerce, and Technology 3, no. 4 (2007), para. 11, hdl.handle.net/1773.1/397.

73 Ibid.

74 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 329, 328.

75 “Amazon.com Works with Publishers to Make Millions of Book Pages Available for Customers to Flip Through, with Millions More to Follow,” Amazon Media Room, October 10, 2001, phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=502807&highlight=.

76 Lisa Guernsey, “In Amazon’s Text Search, a Field Day for Book Browsers,” New York Times, November 6, 2003, nytimes.com/2003/11/06/technology/in-amazon-s-text-search-a-field-day-for-book-browsers.html.

77 David D. Kirkpatrick, “Amazon Plan Would Allow Searching Texts of Many Books,” New York Times, July 21, 2003, nytimes.com/2003/07/21/business/amazon-plan-would-allow-searching-texts-of-many-books.html.

78 “Amazon.com Clarifies October 30 News Release,” Amazon Media Room, November 3, 2003, phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=502770&highlight=.

79 “Amazon.ca Launches ‘Search Inside!’ Enabling customers to Discover Books by Searching and Previewing the Text Inside,” Amazon Media Room, August 9, 2005, phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1123205&highlight=.

80 “Publishers and Authors: Join Our Search Inside the Book Program,” Amazon.ca, accessed September 23, 2013, amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200464640.

81 “Best Sellers of 2013,” Amazon.com, accessed September 23, 2013, amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/2013/books/ref=zg_bs_tab_t_bsar.

82 “Best Sellers,” Amazon.ca, accessed September 23, 2013, amazon.ca/Bestsellers-Books/zgbs/books/ref=amb_link_382771902_4?pf_rd_m=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-1&pf_rd_r=190ZXX035SV5S0DZ9GBD&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1612731722&pf_rd_i=916520#1.

83 “Google Books Tour,” Google Books, accessed September 24, 2013, google.ca/googlebooks/partners/tour.html; “Google Books Library Project,” Google Books, accessed September 24, 2013, books.google.com/intl/en/googlebooks/library/.

84 Jim Milliot and Steve Zeitchik, “Google Begins to Push Google Print Program,” Publishers Weekly, October 8, 2004, publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20041011/38656-google-begins-to-push-google-print-program.html.

85 Andrew Albanese, “Publishers Settle Google Books Lawsuit,” Publishers Weekly, October 5, 2012, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/54247-publishers-settle-google-books-lawsuit.html.

86 Julie Bosman and Claire Cain Miller, “U.S. Judge Sides with Google on Book Scanning Suit,” Globe and Mail, November 14, 2013, theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/us-business/us-judge-sides-with-google-on-book-scanning-suit/article15442722/.

87 “Google Books Tour,” Google Books..

88 Ibid.

89 “Thoughts & Opinions,” Google Books, accessed September 24, 2013, google.ca/googlebooks/about/thoughts.html.

90 Ibid.

91 Eric Stromberg and Romeen Sheth, “Google Books: Liberating the World’s Information, or Appropriating It?,” The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, case study (2011): 5, kenan.ethics.duke.edu/multimedia-publications/case-studieswhitepapers/business-ethics/.

92 Hannibal Travis, “Google Book Search and Fair Use: iTunes for Authors, or Napster for Books?,” University of Miami Law Review 61 (2006): 645-46, papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=944048.

93 Ibid., 647.

94 “Goodreads Hits 20 Million Users,” Digital Book World, July 23, 2013, digitalbookworld.com/2013/goodreads-hits-20-million-users/.

95 Mike Shatzkin, “Taking Book Marketing Where the Book Readers are Likely to Be,” Shatzkin Files (blog), Idea Logical Company, July 8, 2013, idealog.com/blog/taking-book-marketing-where-the-book-readers-are-likely-to-be/.

96 Ibid.

97 “About,” Scribd, accessed October 1, 2013, scribd.com/about.

98 Jim Milliot, “Bookish Goes Live,” Publishers Weekly, February 3, 2013, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/55808-bookish-goes-live.html.

99 “Bookish for Publishers,” Bookish, accessed September 25, 2013, bookish.com/faq#books-publisher.

100 “About,” 49thShelf, accessed September 25, 2013, 49thshelf.com/About-49th-Shelf.

101 “Frequently Asked Questions,” 49th Shelf, accessed September 25, 2013, 49thshelf.com/Frequently-Asked-Questions.

102 Julie Baldassi, “Margaret Atwood Releases MaddAddam Essay on Wattpad,” QuillBlog, Quill & Quire, September 5, 2013, quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/book-news/margaret-atwood-releases-maddaddam-essay-on-wattpad/.

103 Shatzkin, “Marketing Where the Readers Are.”

104 Turner-Riggs, Book Retail Sector, under “Share of Market for Canadian Firms and Titles.”

105 Lorimer, Ultra Libris, 260-61.

106 Motoko Rich, “HarperCollins Offers Excerpts of Books Online,” New York Times, August 3, 2006, nytimes.com/2006/08/03/technology/03iht-browse.2378976.html?_r=1&.

107 Bill Martin and Xuemei Tian, Books, Bytes and Business: The Promise of Digital Publishing (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010): 126, site.ebrary.com/lib/sfu/docDetail.action?docID=10409273.

108 Ibid.

109 “Browse Inside,” HarperCollins, accessed September 23, 2013, browseinside.harpercollins.ca/browseinsidemain.aspx.

110 Erin Crum, “HarperCollins Publishers Launches ‘Browse Inside,’” HarperCollins press release, August 3, 2006, harpercollins.com/footer/release.aspx?id=477&b=&year=2006.

111 Sameer Shariff, “Trends, Success Stories & Emerging eBook Business Models,” Slideshare presentation, posted by “nzl,” July 8, 2009, slideshare.net/nzl/trends-success-stories-emerging-ebook-business-models. (Note: Original source [www.idpf.org/events/presentations/digitalbook08/lHulse08.pdf] no longer available.)

112 “Insight Web Service,” RandomHouse.biz, accessed September 24, 2013, randomhouse.biz/webservices/insight/.

113 “Penguin Launches First to Read: NetGalley for Consumers,” Digital Book World, June 18, 2013, digitalbookworld.com/2013/penguin-launches-first-to-read-netgalley-for-consumers/.

114 “Membership Directory,” Association of Canadian Publishers, accessed September 25, 2013, publishers.ca/index.php/directory.

115 Laura Hazard Owen, “Why Online Book Discovery is Broken (And How to Fix it),” paidContent, January 17, 2013, paidcontent.org/2013/01/17/why-online-book-discovery-is-broken-and-how-to-fix-it/.

116 Edward Nawotka and Mark Piesing, “Is the Book Discoverability Bubble Ready to Pop?,” Publishing Perspectives, February 27, 2013, publishingperspectives.com/2013/02/is-the-book-discoverability-bubble-ready-to-pop/.

117 Laing and Royle, “Bookselling Online,” 122.

118 “Help: Search Inside!,” Amazon.ca, accessed October 1, 2013, amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=14209881.

119 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 247.

120 Rowland Lorimer and Lindsay Lynch, “The Latest Canadian National Reading Study, 2005: Publishers Analysis,” report commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage, Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Simon Fraser University (2005), 16-17.

121 BookNet Canada, Canadian Book Consumer 2012, 61.

122 Ibid., 345, 355-56.

123 Benedicte Page, “New York Judge Rules Against Google Books Settlement,” Guardian, March 23, 2011, theguardian.com/books/2011/mar/23/google-books-settlement-ruling.

124 Zoe Whittall, “Canadian Authors Mount Last-Minute Opposition to Google Book Settlement,” Quill & Quire, September 4, 2009, quillandquire.com/google/article.cfm?article_id=10849.

125 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 356.

126 “Help: Search Inside!,” Amazon.ca.

127 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 357.

128 Murray Tong (UBC Press), email to author, November 28, 2013.

129 Rhomberg, “Book Discovery.”

130 Tim Roes, “Skeuomorphism – A Thing of the Past,” TimRoes.de, September 20, 2013, timroes.de/2013/09/20/skeuomorphism-thing-of-the-past/.

131 Joseph Esposito, “Skeuomorphic Publishing – How to Fit a Square Peg Into a Round Hole,” Scholarly Kitchen, March 13, 2013, originally published April, 2012, scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/03/13/stick-to-your-ribs-skeuomorphic-publishing-how-to-fit-a-square-peg-into-a-round-hole/.

132 John Maxwell, email to author, November 28, 2013.

133 John Maxwell et al., “XML Production Workflows? Start with the Web,” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13, no. 1 (2010), under “Creating Ebook Files,” doi:dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.106.

134 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 329, 330.

135 Maxwell et al., “XML Production Workflows?”

136 Roger Tagholm, “The Art of Discovery,” Bookseller, December 2, 2011, proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=70289976&site=bsi-live&scope=site.

137 Calvin Reid, “Inkling Turns Web Searches into New Storefront for Digital Books,” Publishers Weekly, January 16, 2013, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/55519-inkling-turns-web-searches-into-new-storefront-for-digital-books.html.

138 Laura Hazard Owen, “Here’s the Problem with Book Publishers’ Discovery Problem,” paidContent, February 15, 2013, paidcontent.org/2013/02/15/heres-the-problem-with-publishers-book-discovery-problem/.

139 Brett Sandusky, “Is ‘Discoverability’ Even a Problem?,” Brett Sandusky, February 12, 2013, brettsandusky.com/2013/02/12/is-discoverability-even-a-problem/.

140 Guy LeCharles Gonzales, “Discovery is Publishers’ Problem; Readers are Doing Just Fine,” Loudpoet.com, February 11, 2013, loudpoet.com/2013/02/11/discovery-is-only-a-problem-for-publishers-not-readers/.

141 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 254.

142 “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Tools, 2010, accessed September 24, 2013, static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf.

143 “Autocomplete,” Google Search Help, accessed November 27, 2013, support.google.com/websearch/answer/106230?hl=en.

144 It should be noted that Autocomplete results may vary based on whether a user is signed in to a Google account and has “Web History” enabled (See Ibid.); for more objective results, sign out of Google and/or disable the history.

145 John Hilton III and David Wiley, “The Short-Term Influence of Free Digital Versions of Books on Print Sales,” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13, no. 1 (2010), doi:dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.101.

146 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 329.

147 Ibid.

148 Joanne Kaufman, “A Publishing Quandary: Do Excerpts Help Sales?,” New York Times, June 11, 2007, nytimes.com/2007/06/11/business/media/11excerpt.html.

149 Larissa Lai and Rita Wong, sybil unrest (Vancouver: New Star, 2013): 124.

150 Carraway, “If E-Books are so Big.”

151 Peter McCarthy, “Five Reasons Social Media Will Always Sell More Books…,” Digital Book World, July 31, 2013, digitalbookworld.com/2013/five-reasons-social-media-will-always-sell-more-books/.

152 Ibid.

153 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 252.

154 Crissy Campbell, “How to Find Your Audience on Twitter,” Boxcar Marketing, September 13, 2012, boxcarmarketing.com/how-to-find-your-audience-on-twitter.

155 Hannah Johnson, “How to Sell More Books with Metadata,” Publishing Perspectives, January 27, 2011, publishingperspectives.com/2011/01/sell-more-books-with-metadata/.

156 “Frequently Asked Questions,” 49th Shelf.

157 Andre Breedt and David Walter, “White Paper: The Link Between Metadata and Sales,” Nielsen, January 25, 2013: 6, isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/uploads/3971_Nielsen_Metadata_white_paper_A4(3).pdf.

158 Book Industry Study Group and BookNet Canada, Best Practices for Product Metadata (September 16, 2013): 116-17, booknetcanada.ca/storage/BestPracticesforProductMetadata_Sept2013.pdf.

159 Renée Register and Thad McIlroy, The Metadata Handbook: A Book Publisher’s Guide to Creating and Distributing Metadata for Print and Ebooks (Vancouver: Future of Publishing, 2012): 49, site.ebrary.com/lib/sfu/docDetail.action?docID=10640176.

160 Ibid., 48.

161 “About Rich Snippets and Structured Data,” Webmaster Tools Help, accessed September 30, 2013, support.google.com/webmasters/answer/99170?hl=en&ref_topic=21997.

162 “Rich Snippets – Products,” Webmaster Tools Help, accessed September 30, 2013, support.google.com/webmasters/answer/146750?hl=en&ref_topic=1088474.

163 Meghan Peters, “Get Started with Google Analytics,” Mashable, May 23, 2011, mashable.com/2011/05/23/how-to-use-google-analytics/.

164 Paras Chopra, “The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing,” Smashing Magazine, June 24, 2010, smashingmagazine.com/2010/06/24/the-ultimate-guide-to-a-b-testing/.

165 Mike Shatzkin, “7 Starter Principles for Digital Book Marketing Learned from Peter McCarthy,” Shatzkin Files (blog), Idea Logical Company, August 12, 2013, idealog.com/blog/7-starter-principles-for-digital-book-marketing-learned-from-peter-mccarthy/.

166 Maurer, interview.

167 Owen, “Online Book Discovery.”

168 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 252.

169 Gonzales, “Publishers’ Problem.”


Bibliography

Blogs & Digital Media

Campbell, Crissy. “How to Find Your Audience on Twitter.” Boxcar Marketing. September 13, 2012. boxcarmarketing.com/how-to-find-your-audience-on-twitter.

Esposito, Joseph. “An Industry Pining for Bookstores.” Scholarly Kitchen. August 12, 2013. scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/08/12/an-industry-pining-for-bookstores/.

——— . “Skeuomorphic Publishing – How to Fit a Square Peg Into a Round Hole.” Scholarly Kitchen. March 13, 2013. Originally published April, 2012. scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/03/13/stick-to-your-ribs-skeuomorphic-publishing-how-to-fit-a-square-peg-into-a-round-hole/.

Gonzales, Guy LeCharles. “Discovery is Publishers’ Problem; Readers are Doing Just Fine.” Loudpoet.com. February 11, 2013. loudpoet.com/2013/02/11/discovery-is-only-a-problem-for-publishers-not-readers/.

“Goodreads Hits 20 Million Users.” Digital Book World. July 23, 2013. digitalbookworld.com/2013/goodreads-hits-20-million-users/.

McCarthy, Peter. “Five Reasons Social Media Will Always Sell More Books….” Digital Book World. July 31, 2013. digitalbookworld.com/2013/five-reasons-social-media-will-always-sell-more-books/.

Owen, Laura Hazard. “Here’s the Problem with Book Publishers’ Discovery Problem.” paidContent. February 15, 2013. paidcontent.org/2013/02/15/heres-the-problem-with-publishers-book-discovery-problem/.

——— . “Why Online Book Discovery is Broken (And How to Fix it).” paidContent. January 17, 2013. paidcontent.org/2013/01/17/why-online-book-discovery-is-broken-and-how-to-fix-it/.

“Penguin Launches First to Read: NetGalley for Consumers.” Digital Book World. June 18, 2013. digitalbookworld.com/2013/penguin-launches-first-to-read-netgalley-for-consumers/.

Peters, Meghan. “Get Started with Google Analytics.” Mashable. May 23, 2011. mashable.com/2011/05/23/how-to-use-google-analytics/.

Rhomberg, Andrew. “Five Shades of Book Discovery.” Digital Book World. March 4, 2013. digitalbookworld.com/2013/five-shades-of-book-discovery/.

Roes, Tim. “Skeuomorphism – A Thing of the Past.” TimRoes.de. September 20, 2013. timroes.de/2013/09/20/skeuomorphism-thing-of-the-past/.

Sandusky, Brett. “Is ‘Discoverability’ Even a Problem?” Brett Sandusky. February 12, 2013. brettsandusky.com/2013/02/12/is-discoverability-even-a-problem/.

Schmidt, Milena and Mina Park. “Trends in consumer Book Buying (Infographic).” Random House Random Notes. June 3, 2013. randomnotes.randomhouse.com/trends-in-consumer-book-buying-infographic/.

Shariff, Sameer. “Trends, Success Stories & Emerging eBook Business Models.” Slideshare presentation. Posted by “nzl,” July 8, 2009. slideshare.net/nzl/trends-success-stories-emerging-ebook-business-models.

Shatzkin, Mike. “7 Starter Principles for Digital Book Marketing Learned from Peter McCarthy.” The Idea Logical Company. August 12, 2013. idealog.com/blog/7-starter-principles-for-digital-book-marketing-learned-from-peter-mccarthy/.

——— . “Losing Bookstores is a Much Bigger Problem for Publishers Than it is for Readers.” The Idea Logical Company. August 14, 2013. idealog.com/blog/losing-bookstores-is-a-much-bigger-problem-for-publishers-than-it-is-for-readers/.

——— . “Taking Book Marketing Where the Book Readers are Likely to Be.” The Idea Logical Company. July 8, 2013. idealog.com/blog/taking-book-marketing-where-the-book-readers-are-likely-to-be/.

Books

Lai, Larissa, and Rita Wong. sybil unrest. Vancouver: New Star, 2013.

Lorimer, Rowland. Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada. Toronto: ECW / Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2012.

Lorimer, Rowland and Roger Barnes. “Book Reading, Purchasing, Marketing, and Title Production.” In Book Publishing 1, edited by Rowland Lorimer, Jillian Shoichet, and John Maxwell, 220-256. Vancouver: CCSP Press, 2005.

Martin, Bill, and Xuemei Tian. Books, Bytes and Business: The Promise of Digital Publishing. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010. site.ebrary.com/lib/sfu/docDetail.action?docID=10409273.

Register, Renée, and Thad McIlroy. The Metadata Handbook: A Book Publisher’s Guide to Creating and Distributing Metadata for Print and Ebooks. Vancouver: Future of Publishing, 2012. site.ebrary.com/lib/sfu/docDetail.action?docID=10640176.

Thompson, John B. Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010.

Woll, Thomas. Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers. 4th ed. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2010.

Interviews & Correspondence

Maurer, Rolf (publisher, New Star Books). Email to author, November 19, 2013.

——— . Interview by author, August 22, 2013. Vancouver.

Maxwell, John. Email to author, November 28, 2013.

Tong, Murray (UBC Press). Email to author, November 28, 2013.

Journal Articles

Hilton III, John, and David Wiley, “The Short-Term Influence of Free Digital Versions of Books on Print Sales.” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13, no. 1 (2010). doi:dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.101.

Johnson, Hannah. “How to Sell More Books with Metadata.” Publishing Perspectives. January 27, 2011. publishingperspectives.com/2011/01/sell-more-books-with-metadata/.

Laing, Audrey and Jo Royle. “Bookselling Online: An Examination of Consumer Behaviour Patterns.” Publishing Research Quarterly 29, no. 2 (2013): 110-27. link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs12109-013-9318-3.pdf#CR45.

Maxwell, John, with Meghan MacDonald, Travis Nicholson, Jan Halpape, Sarah Taggart, and Heiko Binder. “XML Production Workflows? Start with the Web.” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13, no. 1 (2010). doi: dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.106.

Nawotka, Edward, and Mark Piesing. “Is the Book Discoverability Bubble ready to Pop?” Publishing Perspectives. February 27, 2013. publishingperspectives.com/2013/02/is-the-book-discoverability-bubble-ready-to-pop/.

Okano, Ari. “Digitized Book Search Engines and Copyright Concerns.” Shidler Journal of Law, Commerce, and Technology 3, no. 4 (2007). hdl.handle.net/1773.1/397.

Travis, Hannibal. “Google Book Search and Fair Use: iTunes for Authors, or Napster for Books?” University of Miami Law Review 61 (2006): 601-681, papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=944048.

Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Albanese, Andrew. “Publishers Settle Google Books Lawsuit.” Publishers Weekly. October 5, 2012. publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/54247-publishers-settle-google-books-lawsuit.html.

“Amazon.com Adds ‘Look Inside!’ feature.” Publishers Weekly. October 15, 2001. publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20011015/40522-amazon-com-adds-look-inside-feature.html.

Baldassi, Julie. “Margaret Atwood Releases MaddAddam Essay on Wattpad.” Quill & Quire. September 5, 2013. quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/book-news/margaret-atwood-releases-maddaddam-essay-on-wattpad/.

Barber, John. “Farewell, Nicholas Hoare: Bibliophiles Mourn Shuttering of Toronto Bookstore.” Globe and Mail. Last updated April 2, 2013. theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/farewell-nicholas-hoare-bibliophiles-mourn-shuttering-of-toronto-bookstore/article10653530/.

Bosman, Julie. “To Stay Afloat, Bookstores Turn to Web Donors.” New York Times. August 11, 2013. nytimes.com/2013/08/12/business/bookstores-turn-to-web-donors-to-stall-the-end.html.

Bosman, Julie and Claire Cain Miller. “U.S. Judge Sides with Google on Book Scanning Suit.” Globe and Mail. November 14, 2013. theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/us-business/us-judge-sides-with-google-on-book-scanning-suit/article15442722/.

Carraway, Kate. “If E-Books are so Big, Why are they Marketed so Badly?” Globe and Mail. May 25, 2012. Last updated June 18, 2012. theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/if-e-books-are-so-big-why-are-they-marketed-so-badly/article4209810/.

Chopra, Paras. “The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing.” Smashing Magazine. June 24, 2010. smashingmagazine.com/2010/06/24/the-ultimate-guide-to-a-b-testing/.

Guernsey, Lisa. “In Amazon’s Text Search, a Field Day for Book Browsers.” New York Times. November 6, 2003. nytimes.com/2003/11/06/technology/in-amazon-s-text-search-a-field-day-for-book-browsers.html.

Habash, Gabe. “HC Adapts App to Push Excerpts on Facebook.” Publishers Weekly. June 22, 2012. publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/52701-hc-adapts-app-to-push-excerpts-on-facebook.html.

Kaufman, Joanne. “A Publishing Quandary: Do Excerpts Help Sales?” New York Times. June 11, 2007. nytimes.com/2007/06/11/business/media/11excerpt.html.

Kirkpatrick, David D. “Amazon Plan Would Allow Searching Texts of Many Books.” New York Times. July 21, 2003. nytimes.com/2003/07/21/business/amazon-plan-would-allow-searching-texts-of-many-books.html.

Lederman, Marsha. “Book Warehouse Closure Another Blow to Arts Scene.” Globe and Mail. March 15, 2012. Last updated September 6, 2012. theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/book-warehouse-closure-another-blow-to-arts-scene/article534048/.

——— . “Munro’s Books Boasts a Shelf Life of 50 Years — and Counting.” Globe and Mail. August 30, 2013. Last updated September 3, 2013. theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/munros-books-boasts-a-shelf-life-of-50-years-and-counting/article14059164/.

Mackie, John. “Downtown’s Cool New Store: A Bookshop.” Vancouver Sun. August 3, 2013. vancouversun.com/news/Weekend+Extra+Downtown+cool+store+bookshop/8742595/story.html.

McCabe, Douglas, and Jo Henry. “Why Bookshops Matter.” Bookseller. March 22, 2013. proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=86637278&site=bsi-live&scope=site.

Milliot, Jim. “Bookish Goes Live.” Publishers Weekly. February 3, 2013. publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/55808-bookish-goes-live.html.

Milliot, Jim, and Steve Zeitchik. “Google Begins to Push Google Print Program.” Publishers Weekly. October 8, 2004. publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20041011/38656-google-begins-to-push-google-print-program.html.

Nelson, Miranda. “Sophia Books Becomes Latest Independent Vancouver Bookstore to Close.” Straight.com. April 26, 2010. straight.com/blogra/sophia-books-becomes-latest-independent-vancouver-bookstore-close.

Page, Benedicte. “New York Judge Rules Against Google Books Settlement.” Guardian. March 23, 2011. theguardian.com/books/2011/mar/23/google-books-settlement-ruling.

Patten, Melanie. “Some Independent Bookstores Thrive, Others Barely Survive in Electronic World.” Canadian Press. July 31, 2010. search.proquest.com/docview/734530780?accountid=13800.

Reid, Calvin. “Inkling Turns Web Searches into New Storefront for Digital Books,” Publishers Weekly. January 16, 2013. publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/55519-inkling-turns-web-searches-into-new-storefront-for-digital-books.html.

Rich, Motoko. “HarperCollins Offers Excerpts of Books Online.” New York Times. August 3, 2006. nytimes.com/2006/08/03/technology/03iht-browse.2378976.html?_r=1&.

Rose, Judith. “BEA 2013: Town Hall and Annual Meeting: The Bookstores Are Alright.” Publishers Weekly. May 31, 2013. publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/57581-bea-2013-the-bookstores-are-alright.html.

Strauss, Marina. “Indigo’s Heather Reisman Faces Digital Reckoning.” Globe and Mail. April 8, 2011. Last updated August 23, 2012. theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/indigos-heather-reisman-faces-digital-reckoning/article577337/.

Tagholm, Roger. “The Art of Discovery.” Bookseller. December 2, 2011. proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=70289976&site=bsi-live&scope=site.

Whittall, Zoe. “Canadian Authors Mount Last-Minute Opposition to Google Book Settlement.” Quill & Quire. September 4, 2009. quillandquire.com/google/article.cfm?article_id=10849.

Williams, Leigh Ann. “Adapting to Conditions: Canadian Publishing 2012.” Publishers Weekly. September 21, 2012. publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/international/international-book-news/article/54056-adapting-to-conditions.html.

——— . “Sales Fall, Losses Rise at Indigo.” Publishers Weekly. August 8, 2013. publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/58632-sales-fall-losses-rise-at-indigo.html.

Zipp, Yvonne. “The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores.” Christian Science Monitor. March 17, 2013. csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2013/0317/The-novel-resurgence-of-independent-bookstores.

Press Releases

“Amazon.ca Launches ‘Search Inside!’ Enabling Customers to Discover Books by Searching and Previewing the Text Inside.” Amazon Media Room. August 9, 2005. phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1123205&highlight=.

“Amazon.com Clarifies October 30 News Release.” Amazon Media Room. November 3, 2003. phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=502770&highlight=.

“Amazon.com Works with Publishers to Make Millions of Book Pages Available for Customers to Flip Through, with Millions More to Follow.” Amazon Media Room. October 10, 2001. phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=502807&highlight=.

Crum, Erin. “HarperCollins Publishers Launches ‘Browse Inside.’” HarperCollins press release. August 3, 2006. harpercollins.com/footer/release.aspx?id=477&b=&year=2006.

“Online Retailers Gained, While Brick-and-Mortar Lost In Wake of Borders Exit.” Bowker press release. August 6, 2013. bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2013/pr_08062013.shtml.

Reports

Book Industry Study Group and BookNet Canada. Best Practices for Product Metadata. September 16, 2013. booknetcanada.ca/storage/BestPracticesforProductMetadata_Sept2013.pdf.

BookNet Canada. The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report. Toronto: BookNet Canada, 2013.

Breedt, Andre, and David Walter. “White Paper: The Link Between Metadata and Sales.” Nielsen. January 25, 2013. isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/uploads/3971_Nielsen_Metadata_white_paper_A4(3).pdf.

“Broadband Report.” Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission. November 2011. crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/broadband/bbreport1111.htm.

“Canadian Book Consumer 2012.” BookNet Canada. May 21, 2013. booknetcanada.ca/blog/2013/5/21/canadian-book-consumer-2012.html.

Lorimer, Rowland, and Lindsay Lynch. “The Latest Canadian National Reading Study, 2005: Publishers’ Analysis.” Report commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Simon Fraser University, 2005.

Stromberg, Eric, and Romeen Sheth. “Google Books: Liberating the World’s Information, or Appropriating It?” The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. Case study (2011), kenan.ethics.duke.edu/multimedia-publications/case-studieswhitepapers/business-ethics/.

Turner-Riggs (firm). The Book Retail Sector in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2007. pch.gc.ca/eng/1290025541029/1290025541031.

Websites

“About.” Scribd. Accessed October 1, 2013. scribd.com/about.

“About 49th Shelf.” 49thShelf. Accessed September 25, 2013. http://49thshelf.com/About-49th-Shelf.

“About New Star Books.” New Star Books. Accessed September 12, 2013. newstarbooks.com/about.php.

“About Rich Snippets and Structured Data.” Webmaster Tools Help. Accessed September 30, 2013. support.google.com/webmasters/answer/99170?hl=en&ref_topic=21997.

“Amazon.ca’s Search InsideTM Program (SITB): PDF File Submission Requirements and Guidelines.” Amazon.ca. Accessed October 1, 2013. amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=14209881.

“Autocomplete.” Google Search Help. Accessed November 27, 2013. support.google.com/websearch/answer/106230?hl=en.

“Best Sellers.” Amazon.ca. Accessed September 23, 2013. amazon.ca/Bestsellers-Books/zgbs/books/ref=amb_link_382771902_4?pf_rd_m=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-1&pf_rd_r=190ZXX035SV5S0DZ9GBD&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1612731722&pf_rd_i=916520#1.

“Best Sellers of 2013 (So Far).” Amazon.com. Accessed September 23, 2013. amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/2013/books/ref=zg_bs_tab_t_bsar.

“Bookish for Publishers.” Bookish. Accessed September 25, 2013. bookish.com/faq#books-publisher.

“Browse Inside.” HarperCollins. Accessed September 23, 2013. browseinside.harpercollins.ca/browseinsidemain.aspx.

“Enhanced Metadata.” Bowker. bowker.com/assets/downloads/products/DataSubmissionGuide_enhanced.pdf.

“Frequently Asked Questions.” 49th Shelf. Accessed September 25, 2013. 49thshelf.com/Frequently-Asked-Questions.

“Google Books Tour.” Google Books. Accessed September 24, 2013. google.ca/googlebooks/partners/tour.html.

“Help: Search Inside!” Amazon.ca. Accessed October 1, 2013. amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=14209881.

“Insight Web Service.” RandomHouse.biz. Accessed September 24, 2013. randomhouse.biz/webservices/insight/.

“Membership Directory.” Association of Canadian Publishers. Accessed September 25, 2013. publishers.ca/index.php/directory.

“Publishers and Authors: Join Our Search Inside the Book Program.” Amazon.ca. Accessed September 23, 2013. amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200464640.

“Rich Snippets – Products.” Webmaster Tools Help. Accessed September 30, 2013. support.google.com/webmasters/answer/146750?hl=en&ref_topic=1088474.

“Sales Success Using Business Reports.” Amazon.ca. Accessed October 5, 2013. amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200989600.

“Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.” Google Webmaster Tools. 2010. Accessed September 24, 2013. static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf.

“Thoughts & Opinions.” Google Books. Accessed September 24, 2013. google.ca/googlebooks/about/thoughts.html.


Unconverted: Outsourcing Ebook Production at a University Press

 

By Linnet Humble

ABSTRACT: UBC Press has been outsourcing ebook production since it first started publishing its titles in digital form in the late 1990s. At first, outsourcing seemed a sensible way for UBC Press to enter into e-publishing: the practice was convenient, cost effective, and fit with the Press’s freelance-based business model. However, by 2011, it had become evident that outsourcing to large conversion houses had its drawbacks. In addition to problems like error-filled files and delayed distribution, outsourcing en masse may cause greater, industry-wide disadvantages, such as a dependence on cheap overseas labor and missed opportunities for professionalization among Canada’s domestic workforce.

In the face of these problems, individual publishers like UBC Press must put various short-term solutions in place and consider making changes to their own production workflows if they are to achieve greater quality assurance and control over their own epublishing programs.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Rowland Lorimer, who inspired me to study scholarly publishing; Roberto Dosil and Laraine Coates, for their encouragement and careful reading; the hard-working ladies in the Production and Editorial Department at UBC Press, who teach by example; and Jane Hope, whose wit and friendship helped me through my internship and beyond.

 

 


CONTENTS

Acknowledgements
List of Figures
List of Acronyms

Introduction: UBC Press Business Profile
+++Editorial Mandate
+++Business Model
+++The Role of Ebooks in a Changing Market
+++Certain Costs, Uncertain Gains

Chapter 1: A History of Outsourcing
+++Overview
+++Early Ebook Deals: Content Aggregators and HTML (1999-2004)
+++A “Homegrown Alternative”: The Canadian Electronic Library and a Shift to +++PDF (2005-2007)
+++The Role of Technology Partners During the Transition Year (2008)
+++A National Strategy: The Association of Canadian Publishers and a Push Toward +++XML (2009-2011)
+++Scanning the Digital Horizon: eBound Canada
+++Conclusion

Chapter 2: Reasons for Outsourcing
+++Overview
+++Offshoring in Canada’s ICT Sector
+++The Freelance Precedent
+++Reducing Risk and Production Costs
+++Convenience
+++Conclusion

Chapter 3: Problems with Outsourcing
+++Overview
+++An Era of Ebook Errors
+++The Inconvenience of Outsourcing
+++Increasing Risk and Cost
+++What Went Wrong: Outsourcing to Large Conversion Houses
+++The Effects of Outsourcing on Canada’s Publishing Industry
+++Conclusion

Chapter 4: Solutions to Outsourcing
+++Overview
+++Short-Term Solutions
++++++Proofing Ebooks
++++++Improving Metadata
++++++Using Stylesheets
+++Long-Term Solutions
++++++Finding a More Suitable Technology Partner
++++++Developing an Epublishing Strategy
++++++Producing Ebooks In House
++++++Exploring the Applications of TEI in Scholarly Publishing
+++Conclusion

Notes

References

Appendix A: Ebook Proofing Instructions

 

 


List of Figures

Figure 1: History of Ebook Production at UBC Press

Figure 2: UBC Press Production Flowchart

Figures 3 & 4: Low Resolution Ebook Covers

Figures 5 & 6: Original Image vs. Stretched Ebook Cover Image

Figures 7, 8 & 9: Diacritics Captured as Images in EPUBs

Figures 10 & 11: Captions not Aligned with Images in EPUBs

Figure 12: Images Appearing Mid-Sentence in an EPUB

Figure 13: Example of Forced Line Breaks Appearing in an EPUB

Figures 14 & 15: Examples of Spacing Errors in EPUBs

Figure 16: Example of Index Disclaimer in EPUB

Figure 17: Cover for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 18: Table of Contents for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 19: Chapter Opening for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 20: Image with Caption from EPUB Produced by Wild Element

 

 


List of Acronyms

ACP++++++Association of Canadian Publishers

CEL++++++Canadian Electronic Library

CIP++++++Cataloguing in Publication

CNSLP++++++Canadian National Site Licensing Project

CPDS++++++Canadian Publishers’ Digital Services

CRKN++++++Canadian Research Knowledge Network

DAMS++++++Digital Asset Management System

ePDF++++++enhanced portable document format

EPUB++++++electronic publication format

ICT++++++information and communication technology (sector)

PDF++++++portable document format

POD++++++print-on-demand

SSH++++++social sciences and humanities

SSHRC++++++Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

STM++++++scientific, technical and medical

UP++++++university press

uPDF++++++universal Portable Document Format

 

 


Introduction: UBC Press Business Profile

Editorial Mandate

Established in 1971, UBC Press has developed into a scholarly book publisher recognized for its social sciences monographs and edited collections. Considered a “mid-sized” scholarly publisher by Canadian standards, UBC Press produces over 60 new titles a year in the areas of environmental studies, gender studies, military and security studies, geography, Canadian and British Columbian history, law, political science, and Aboriginal and Asian studies. At present, the press also publishes books in 21 different series, several of which are co-published with cultural and professional organizations such as the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, the Canadian War Museum, and the Canadian Council on International Law.

 

Business Model

Like many other university presses, UBC Press is somewhat of a hybrid entity within its host institution. Because the press helps carry out the research mandate of the university, and because its publications board is made up of faculty members, the press is in some ways considered to be an academic unit. Like faculties and departments, it is therefore housed on campus and receives a modest level of operational funding from the university. The Press also earns income from an endowment whose funds are administered by the university (though this endowment income has decreased significantly over the past ten years).[1]

In other respects, though, UBC Press is treated as an ancillary unit. Ancillary units like Food Services or Land and Building Services exist within the university environment; however, they are expected to be self-sufficient and generate revenue by charging for their services or products. Like many other university presses, UBC Press is thus in the awkward position of having to operate as a for-profit business with a not-for-profit academic agenda.

UBC Press’s revenue model reflects this hybrid status: it is a mix of sales income and direct/indirect institutional support, supplemented by grant funding. According to a recent review conducted by the Strategic Development Support unit of the UBC Treasury, UBC Press receives 54% of its funds from book sales, 21% from agency sales and rights income, and around 18% from granting agencies like the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Only 6% of its budget for the 2011-2012 year came from UBC operating funds. Compared to other UPs in Canada, UBC Press is therefore considered to be “relatively financially self-sustaining” (UBC Treasury).[2]

While UBC Press’s diversified revenue stream might seem to protect it from the vagaries of a single-source income, the Press predicts that various industry-related changes expected to take place over the next ten years will threaten the viability of the press. For instance, demand for the agency services that UBC Press provides to US and UK publishers is expected to lessen due to an increase in online, direct-to-consumer marketing and delivery.[3] This loss of agency income, predicted to occur over the next five years, would mean a significant reduction in revenue—roughly one-fifth of the Press’s total income. Furthermore, if UBC Press were to experience a considerable loss in revenue, this loss would be compounded by a decrease in block grant funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, since block grants are contingent upon positive net income.

Whereas a trade publisher might try to compensate for a loss in revenue by marketing its titles more aggressively in the hopes of selling more copies (and thereby achieving greater economies of scale), there is little potential for growth in monograph sales for social sciences and humanities (SSH) publishers. SSH publishers like UBC Press serve a niche market, with the majority of sales being made to a finite number of academic libraries.[4]
What’s more, these institutional sales have been threatened in recent decades by libraries’ shrinking acquisition budgets and competing commitments to costly periodicals.[5] Even if domestic and foreign sales were to rise 2.5% annually over the next few years as predicted in the UBC Treasury’s financial forecast, this modest increase in sales would not be able to offset the loss of agency income entirely.

In short, printing and selling more books is not an option for UBC Press. In fact, in an attempt to reduce inventory costs, UBC Press has begun to limit its initial print runs. Typically, only 500 copies of a title are produced upon publication, 300 of which are hardcover (for the institutional/library market) and 200 of which are trade paperback (for course adoption and individual academics). UBC Press further anticipates that it may phase out hardcover editions altogether within the next five years in favour of the less expensive paperback format. It is also working to introduce print-on-demand options in England and Australia in order to reduce the number of printed books it has to stock and ship overseas.

 

The Role of Ebooks in a Changing Market

At the same time that UBC Press is scaling back its print runs, it has been exploring and expanding its digital publishing activities. However, it is unclear at this point whether ebook sales will endanger, augment, or replace print sales.

Since the introduction of ebooks over a decade ago, Canadian publishers like UBC Press have expressed concern over the potential for ebooks to “cannibalize” or detract from the sale of print books (Crawley, “University”). A decrease in print sales and increase in electronic sales is particularly worrisome to publishers because ebooks tend to be priced much lower than print books. In the world of trade publishing, online retailers like Amazon and Apple have exerted a downward pressure on the price of ebooks,[6] so that even if a publisher is able to sell a considerable number of electronic copies, the profitability of ebook publishing is limited. Scholarly publishers stand to lose even more than trade publishers in this shift to the digital format, given that scholarly monographs are often priced three to 10 times higher than trade books. If scholarly publishers are forced to sell their titles in digital form to the same small consumer base, but at a much deeper discount, their profit margins would no longer be razor thin: they would be non-existent.

In an attempt to remain revenue-neutral in the event that ebook sales replace print sales, some university publishers—including UBC Press—have taken an offensive tactic by purposefully pricing their library-bound ebooks slightly higher than the listed price for hardcover editions (a move that, in UBC Press’s case, was approved by ebrary, a content aggregator which supplies ebooks to academic libraries).[7] Although it is unclear at this time what the institutional market will bear in the pricing of electronic monographs, cost certainly seems to be a deciding factor for librarians. In a survey conducted by ebrary in 2007, librarians reported that one of the most important factors they considered when purchasing an electronic title was its price: a consideration that was second only to the content of that title (McKiel, “200” 5).

In addition to pricing library ebooks slightly higher than print print books, UBC Press has taken measures to ensure that its more expensive ebooks destined for the library market are more visible than its cheaper ebook formats. For instance, when submitting Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) data to Library and Archives Canada, the Press only discloses that it will be producing a PDF (portable document format) edition of a title, which will be sold to libraries at 5% higher than the hardcover price—even though it has already obtained an ISBN for the EPUB (electronic publication) version, which will be sold to individual consumers at the paperback price.[8] In its library sales catalogues, the Press advertises these PDFs, but not the EPUBs. UBC Press’s non-competitive pricing of ebooks and its promotion of expensive over inexpensive ebook formats will, in turn, likely lead to a slower rate of ebook adoption by academic libraries.

 

Certain Costs, Uncertain Gains

To be sure, ebooks are not at present a significant source of revenue for scholarly publishers. Members of the Association of American University Presses report that ebook sales only represent between 2% and 10% of overall sales for 2011. For UBC Press, ebook sales to libraries in Canada are only projected to account for 7% of total sales for 2011-2012 year; likewise, ebook sales to American libraries only account for 15% of US sales. In terms of income, ebooks make up just 3% of UBC Press’s total sales revenue. Small as these figures may seem, they do represent a two-fold increase in percentage of total sales from previous years—an indication that the appetite for ebooks in the academic market may be growing.[9]

However much revenue ebooks may bring to the Press, it is clear that ebooks carry with them certain costs. In a recent financial review, UBC Press estimated that the cost of print books sold accounts for 17% of total sales, while the cost of digital books sold accounted for only slightly less—12% of total sales. Some of these costs (e.g. editorial, design, and permission costs) are shared between the print and digital editions of a title, but others are unique to the electronic format. For example, in order to store, distribute, and market its digital titles effectively, UBC Press will need to update its technological infrastructure in the near future. This upgrade will entail significant one-time investments, including the purchase of a new digital asset management system (which stores and distributes files to vendors); a redesigned website with increased functionality, including the ability to sell ebooks directly to consumers; consultation with a web marketing specialist, who can help the press increase its brand discoverability through search engine optimization; and improvements to the current system for managing bibliographic data.

In addition to these secondary expenses, the Press must bear the principal cost of producing ebooks. Though these production costs have been subsidized over the years by various parties (see Chapter 1), they have come to present a considerable expense and financial risk for the Press.

It is upon these realities—certain costs and uncertain gains—that UBC Press has based its decisions regarding ebook publishing over the last decade. It is not surprising, then, that the Press’s shift toward ebook adoption has been cautious in nature, favoring subsidized initiatives that have allowed the Press to enter the market without significant risk or disruption to its existing print-based workflows.

 

 

Chapter 1: A History of Outsourcing

Overview

The history of ebook production at UBC Press is a history of outsourcing. This history can roughly be broken down into three phases. Each phase of ebook production was overseen by a different third party, and each marks the adoption of new ebook formats. (See Figure 1.)

Taken together, these phases reflect over a decade of change in the way ebooks have been produced and distributed in Canada; they also reveal a surprising mix of private and public initiatives that have underwritten the creation of scholarly ebooks in this country.

 

Figure 1. History of Ebook Production at UBC Press

Figure 1

Early Ebook Deals: Content Aggregators and HTML (1999-2004)

UBC Press has been publishing ebooks in one format or another since the late 1990s, but like many other university presses, it has done so with the assistance—and at the insistence—of various external parties, beginning with content aggregators.

Content aggregators are the electronic equivalent of library wholesalers. They acquire and package digital content from publishers, which they then license to institutions for a fee. In the early years of ebook publishing, aggregators not only marketed and distributed ebooks, but they also produced them. These companies would arrange for the creation of ebook files on behalf of the publisher, essentially manufacturing a product for themselves to sell. In this way, content aggregators were not just “middlemen,” but were really the originators of the scholarly ebook market. It was they—not publishers—who digitized scholarly books and built a business around this product. The publishers simply licensed the content to them.

The first content aggregator to convince Canadian publishers to take part in this new venture was an American company named NetLibrary. NetLibrary was formed in Boulder, Colorado, in 1998. Soon thereafter, it began to sublicense rights for select backlist titles from academic publishers and to create ebook editions of those titles. The company produced these ebooks by scanning hardcopy books supplied by the publishers. Using an optical character recognition (OCR) scanner, NetLibrary was able to convert the image of printed type into text. Instead of being contained within a particular file format, these early ebooks were simply rendered in HTML. The text was viewed online by library patrons through a browser using a tethered-access model (Knight 31).[10]

This production and delivery method, made possible by the increasing popularity of the internet (which allowed people to access content remotely), proved to be quite successful. In its first two years of operation, NetLibrary was able to amass a large volume of content from publishers: by November 2000, NetLibrary’s online collection numbered 28,000 titles, ten of which were from UBC Press. The company had also sold ebooks from its digital collection to nine different Canadian university libraries (Crawley, “University”).

On the heels of NetLibrary’s apparent success, other companies emerged to serve this new electronic library market. As the agreement with NetLibrary was non-exclusive, UBC Press began to develop partnerships with these other content aggregators as well. The Press sublicensed around 500 of its titles to Questia, an aggregator that sold subscriptions to both individuals and institutions (Crawley, “University”). At the time of its launch in January 2001, Questia had developed a considerable collection of over 50,000 titles. Shortly thereafter, UBC Press began to sell ebooks through ebrary, NetLibrary’s major competitor (Knight 32).[11] Soon, UBC Press had signed an agreement with Baker & Taylor, which at that time was the largest distributor of library print books, which had started offering HTML-based ebooks using a delivery model similar to NetLibrary’s (Knight).

In this way, UBC Press parceled off licensing rights to various content aggregators during its first five years of ebook publishing.

 

A “Homegrown” Alternative: The Canadian Electronic Library and a Shift to PDF (2005-2007)

UBC Press continued to enter into concurrent agreements with different content aggregators and to digitize its legacy titles piecemeal until 2005, when the Press signed an exclusive one-year deal with the nascent Canadian Electronic Library (CEL). This business initiative marked the first attempt to foster “homegrown e-books” in Canada (Smith). The CEL had been formed a year prior by Gibson Library Connections, a Canadian content aggregator interested in creating a collection of electronic texts from Canadian publishers. In 2005, CEL’s Vice President Robert Gibson began approaching publishers within the country—particularly scholarly presses—with an offer to create PDFs of their entire catalogues. Gibson would then sell access to this content through the ebrary reading platform to various academic libraries in Canada (Ng-See-Quan). By this time, the PDF had become a universally accepted format for electronic documents, so a shift toward this standard and away from simple HTML encoding was welcomed by publishers.[12]

UBC Press was one of a dozen publishers that first agreed to Gibson’s offer (Smith). After signing on with the CEL, the Press began to digitize nearly all of its titles that had not yet been hand-picked by content aggregators.[13] However, the creation of these files was carried out not by Gibson in Canada, but by a US-owned technology partner named CodeMantra whose conversion facilities were located overseas. With the help of CodeMantra, a mass conversion of UBC Press’s backlist (up to and including those titles published in 2007) was performed within a matter of months. The 500 or so ebooks produced for UBC Press were added to Gibson’s steadily growing collection (“eBound”).

A year or so after its inception, the CEL was comprised of approximately 6,000 scholarly titles in English and French. By June 2006, Gibson had licensed CEL content to 12 academic libraries, mostly within Alberta (Smith). This sale was promising, and presaged an even more lucrative deal that took place two years later in September 2008, when the collection had grown to over 8,000 titles from 47 different Canadian publishers. At that time, Gibson Library Connections brokered a historic deal with the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, or CRKN (Ng-See-Quan).

CRKN had developed out of the Canadian National Site Licensing Project (CNSLP), which began in 2000 as a partnership between 64 Canadian universities. The goal of the CNSLP was to make scholarship widely available to Canadian researchers by building up Canada’s “knowledge infrastructure.” It achieved this in part by leveraging the buying power of its member universities and purchasing large collections of digital content at reduced rates and with more flexible terms of use. Though the CNSLP was initially concerned with acquiring access to online journals from scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishers, it eventually expanded its mandate to include monographs in the social sciences and humanities. This occurred in 2004, when it became officially incorporated as a non-profit organization and was renamed the Canadian Research Knowledge Network. This change in mandate was significant, as it meant that the CRKN would start to acquire electronic content in areas in which Canadian university presses were actually publishing. The budget for the SSH acquisition project was also on a scale heretofore unseen. It garnered 47 million dollars worth of investment from member universities, participating provinces, and the federal government’s Canada Foundation for Innovation.

By 2008, this well-funded Canadian purchasing consortium was on the hunt for a large collection of SSH content, and it found its match in the Canadian Electronic Library. In the end, CRKN spent 11 million dollars of its funding on a three-year deal with Gibson Library Connections (Ng-See-Quan). This landmark sale was profitable not just for Gibson, but for participating publishers as well. Because the CEL’s royalty system was based on the number of titles a publisher had submitted to the collection, the more established UPs—like University of Toronto Press and McGill-Queens University Press, who had volunteered most of their backlists—benefitted greatly from this sale. UBC Press alone earned roughly 1.3 million dollars from the CEL-CRKN deal over the 3-year contract period (UBC Treasury). It was the largest single sale ever realized by the Press, regardless of format.

 

The Role of Technology Partners During the Transition Year (2008)

At the close of its contract with Canadian Electronic Library, UBC Press did not have any plans in place to produce and distribute ebooks of its forthcoming titles. For the first time since its foray into the world or digital publishing, the Press was left to oversee its own ebook program which had, until that point, been governed by outsider interests.

Though the Press was no longer under the auspices of a content aggregator, it continued to rely on the technology partner whom Gibson had introduced and whose services had proven to be indispensable. In the year following the CEL-CRKN deal, the Press thus used CodeMantra to produce enhanced PDFs (ePDFs) of many of its titles. These ePDFs, which CodeMantra called Universal PDFs© (uPDFs), were produced on a case-by-case basis following a title’s initial publication in print.[14] They contained various “value-added” features, such as

  • properly embedded fonts
  • a bookmarked, linked table of contents
  • linked footnotes, endnotes, and indices
  • working external URLs
  • cropped white space and registration marks, and
  • lower-resolution images, which are preferable for digital display. (CodeMantra)

According to CodeMantra, these features met the minimum file requirements of most libraries and ebook vendors. The uPDF format therefore allowed publishers to distribute their files to multiple sales channels without encountering any technical barriers.

To help deliver this product, CodeMantra also offered publishers subscriptions to Collection Point, a digital asset management system. Collection Point enabled publishers like UBC Press to store their ebooks, apply metadata to these files, and deliver the finished products electronically to various sales channels, including to content aggregators, whose role had really been reduced to that of distributor by this time.[15] By helping publishers to not only create but also manage their ebooks, CodeMantra was attempting to provide an “end-to-end” digital publishing solution for clients like UBC Press, who found themselves in the position of having to produce and mobilize their own ebooks without having the know-how or tools to do so.

Having secured these technical services from CodeMantra, UBC Press began to manage its own ebook publishing program, unassisted, until the next external initiative arose—this time, under the direction of a national trade organization: the Association of Canadian Publishers.

 

A National Strategy: The Association of Canadian Publishers and a Push Toward XML (2009-2011)

The Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) represents approximately 135 domestically owned and controlled English-language publishers: among them, eight of Canada’s 13 university presses, including UBC Press. Since it was formed in 1976, the ACP had provided research, marketing, and professional development services to independent publishers in Canada.

At the time of the CEL-CRKN deal, the Association had become aware of its members’ need for assistance in the ebook business. To help its members navigate this new era of publishing, the ACP applied for and received a $109,906 grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage, which it used to fund the formation of the Canadian Publisher Digital Services initiative (CPDS) in May 2009. The CPDS was a suite of services that aimed to provide advice and support to small and mid-sized independent publishers wanting to create and manage ebooks (MacDonald).

An important part of the CPDS program was connecting Canadian publishers with technology partners who could offer conversion services. The first round of ebook conversions organized by the ACP took place in October 2009. For this job, the ACP hired CodeMantra, the same overseas company that had made a name for itself among publishers by converting their files for the Canadian Electronic Library. This was also the same company that UBC Press had been relying upon in the interim period since its dealings with CEL. The ACP’s choice of technology partner was thus particularly convenient for UBC Press: the fact that the Press could continue to use CodeMantra’s services through the CPDS program made it all the more appealing.

Under the ACP’s contract with CodeMantra, UBC Press continued to commission uPDFs from CodeMantra, but it also began to request another set of PDF files intended for Ingram’s Lightning Source. The Press had been in discussion with Lightning Source about producing print-on-demand (POD) copies of select titles in Australia and the UK.[16] As part of this arrangement, UBC Press had to supply Lightning Source with PDFs that differed from the uPDF files already being produced by CodeMantra. Unlike the uPDFs—low resoultion files designed for on-screen reading, which contain interactive features (like bidirectional links)—these POD files had to be static PDFs that could generate a print-quality product. This meant the POD PDFs had to contain high-resolution images (300 dpi) of a book’s full wrap cover and interior text. These files also had to comply with other formatting requirements stipulated by Lightening Source: for example, the interior text had to have one-quarter inch margins, the cover had to have a one-quarter inch bleed on all sides, and the images had to be rendered in CMYK colour.

In addition to the uPDFs and POD PDFs, UBC Press was able to obtain under the ACP’s program cutting-edge ebook formats. Indeed, the ACP’s aim was not just to help Canadian publishers digitize their catalogues, but to assist them in pushing their ebooks beyond the PDF-based library market (which the CEL had so successfully targeted) and into the burgeoning trade ebook market, which hinged upon XML-based formats.[17] To this end, ACP members were able to request pubXML versions of their files, a branded form of XML markup used by CodeMantra. These pubXML files were pitched to publishers as “an archive format used for conversion to various HTML or XHTML formats” (Izma). This marked the first opportunity for many Canadian publishers to store their content in what was considered to be a more durable and flexible form—a form that might allow them to repurpose their tagged content later on.

Of even greater interest to publishers than the pubXML files was CodeMantra’s EPUB conversion option. The EPUB is an “agnostic,” non-proprietary ebook format. Unlike PDFs, which have a fixed layout, the text in EPUBs is reflowable, which makes them amenable to designated ereaders like the Kindle or Kobo, as well as other mobile devices. By enabling presses like UBC to adopt the EPUB format, the ACP was realizing its goal of encouraging publishers like UBC Press to enter into the trade ebook market.

And indeed, UBC Press took full advantage of this opportunity. In 2009, the Press submitted 82 titles to codeMantra for conversion into all four of the formats discussed above: uPDF, POD PDF, XML, and EPUB. Other publishers were equally enthusiastic. 44 different Canadian publishers took part in the first phase of this project (MacDonald). In fact, the level of interest and participation from Canadian publishers in this program was so high that a second round of conversions was organized in 2010. Data conversion companies were invited to bid on a new contract with the ACP; this time, the job was awarded to a different technology partner, Innodata Isogen, whose facilities were also located overseas. UBC Press submitted another 62 of its recently published titles to Innodata for conversion. In total, UBC Press’s files accounted for almost 10% of the more than 2500 titles submitted for conversion during the Canadian Publisher Digital Services program (Coates, MacDonald).

 

Scanning the Digital Horizon: eBound Canada

The CPDS program was the most recent effort toward large-scale, coordinated ebook production in Canada. By the end of its second round of conversions, the ebook market had become much more firmly established, and the need for conversion services and representation was so great that the ACP announced the CDPS would become a separate entity, eBound Canada, in June 2011 (“Newly Incorporated”). Nic Boshart, Manager of Technology at eBound Canada, confirmed that this newly formed not-for-profit organization will “continue offering bulk and individual conversions” to its members, in addition to providing assistance with retail distribution, research and education about digital publishing (Boshart, “Conversions”).

For his part, UBC Press Director Peter Milroy has expressed a willingness to continue outsourcing ebook production to technology partners through third-party organizations like eBound Canada. It seems, then, that the Press will continue to outsource ebook production—at least, for the immediate future.[18]

 

Conclusion

UBC Press’s decade-long history of ebook publishing reflects numerous changes in the industry, including a shift from HTML and PDF to XML and EPUB formats; from a program that focuses exclusively on institutional markets to one that includes trade markets; and from private-sector initiatives to publicly-funded programs.

Throughout these changes, the Press’s reliance on outsourcing has remained constant. UBC Press has always depended on an external partner to produce, sell and distribute its ebooks. This is perhaps not surprising, as the ebook business was first created and aggressively developed by external stakeholders (e.g. content aggregators). Yet there are several other reasons why publishers have chosen to outsource ebook production for the last decade. These reasons are explored in detail in the next chapter.

 

 

Chapter 2: Reasons for Outsourcing

Overview

There are several reasons why UBC Press and other publishers first outsourced, and have continued to outsource, ebook production. This practice is part of a national movement toward offshoring in Canada’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector; it is also indicative of the freelancing model used by many publishers, including UBC Press. More importantly, outsourcing has been a convenient and cost-effective way for UPs to enter into a potentially lucrative but uncertain market.

 

Offshoring in Canada’s ICT Sector

Outsourcing is a business practice that is not unique to the publishing industry. Indeed, outsourcing has become increasingly popular across the manufacturing and service industries over the past five decades.

As John Baldwin and Wulong Gu point out in a federal report on this issue, Canada has been able to increase its participation in international trade over the last 50 years thanks to “a reduction in trade barriers” and “improved … coordination of dispersed production activities” made possible by conveniences like teleconferencing, email, etc. (7). Among the many goods and services that are now traded internationally are services in the ICT sector (8). In fact, outsourcing has become so common in this sector that by 2003 Canadian companies were offshoring 7.3 billion dollars in business services, including software and computer services (Morissette and Johnson 14, 16).

Though their traditional focus on acquiring, editing and designing once placed publishers squarely outside the realm of these technology-related services, the rise of digital publishing and the concomitant need for large-scale data conversion has made publishers reliant upon the ICT sector. Through their business dealings with content aggregators and conversion houses, Canadian publishers have thus become swept up in this larger movement toward offshoring.

 

The Freelance Precedent

In addition to being part of a larger trend in the ICT sector, outsourcing is in keeping with the UBC Press’s own business strategy, which includes contracting out skilled work to freelancers (Milroy). During cutbacks in the early 1990s, UBC Press was forced to downsize its staff. As it was less expensive and more convenient to hire workers on short-term contracts, the Press came to rely on freelancers for much of the editorial and production work formerly carried out by employees in house (Brand 58).[19] By the time UBC Press started experimenting with ebooks in the early 2000s, all copywriting, copyediting, proofreading, typesetting, designing, and indexing for print books was being carried out by freelancers.

As most of the work involved with print books was being performed out-of-house, it seemed reasonable that this new facet of production—ebooks—be outsourced as well.

 

Reducing Risk and Production Costs

Ebooks brought with them the promise of profit. Publishers and aggregators alike saw the electronic format as a way to capitalize upon backlist titles that weren’t generating much revenue.[20] It was also thought that the release of ebooks would encourage libraries who had already purchased a print copy of a book to buy an electronic edition as well, essentially duplicating sales for that title. In addition to generating income through electronic sales, ebooks were expected to boost print sales due to “increased exposure to the press’s list” (Crawley, “University”).

Despite these anticipated financial benefits, university presses were cautious about entering into ebook publishing due to “high technology costs and a questionable market” (Crawley, “University” and “Scholarly”). Outsourcing, however, provided a way for scholarly publishers like UBC Press to experiment with digital publishing while minimizing financial risk, since outsourcing partners offered a series of incentives that either lowered or eliminated production costs.

NetLibrary initially set low-cost expectations by offering to cover the cost of digitization (i.e. the shipping and conversion fees) in exchange for the right to sublicense that digital content. This saved the publisher from having to invest in ebooks upfront. It also effectively protected the publisher from the risk of financial loss, for if the ebooks did not sell well, in the end, the publishers would not have lost any money on production expenses (Crawley, “University”). However, if NetLibrary did manage to sell its ebooks (which were sold at the print cover price), it typically split the proceeds from these sales 50/50 with the publisher (Crawley, “University” and “Online”).[21] Essentially, publishers could profit from this venture, even though they weren’t fronting any financial capital for it.

It was these favourable terms that first tempted publishers like UBC Press to start outsourcing to Netlibrary. It’s not surprising, then, that when the company changed the nature of its offer, several publishers pulled out of the agreement. As a cost-recovery measure, NetLibrary had begun charging publishers hefty conversion fees in September 2000, the price of which could range from one hundred to a few thousand dollars per title, depending on the number of pages and images in the original print book (Crawley, “University”). As a result of these changes, UBC Press chose not to renew its contract with NetLibrary after 2003.

Although NetLibrary’s initial offer had been too good to last, its low-risk approach to ebook deals had been so attractive that Gibson used a similar incentive when trying to recruit publishers for the Canadian Electronic Library. As Alison Knight explains, “CEL offered to scan and generate PDFs from hard copies for UBC Press’s entire backlist without immediate charge (the $90 PDF creation to be instead deducted from royalties)” (42). Under Gibson’s agreement, publishers would only pay for production costs in the event that their ebooks actually turned a profit; in other words, they would never have to pay for production costs out of pocket. Furthermore, the production costs were themselves quite low because Gibsons’ technology partner, codeMantra, had its conversion facilities located in India: a low-wage, non-OECD country where there is a “fast-growing supply of relatively skilled workers” (Morissette and Johnson 9). CodeMantra was therefore able to convert ebooks at a reasonable price, which lowered production costs and increased profit margins for the CEL and its participating publishers.

The cost savings that came from outsourcing to an overseas conversion house were so appealing that UBC Press continued to use codeMantra even after it’s contract with Gibson ended in 2008 and it found itself having to pay a flat fee upfront to convert its ebooks.

Using similar incentives, the Association of Canadian Publishers was also able to lower the cost of producing ebooks for Canadian Publishers, thereby encouraging them to continue outsourcing. When it came time for the ACP to choose its technology partners for the CPDS program, it too hired companies like CodeMantra and Innodata, whose conversion facilities were located in South Asia, and who could therefore offer lower pricing.[22] Under the ACP’s program, these services were obtained at collectively negotiated rates, which were made more advantageous by the volume of files being converted; by guaranteeing the participation of numerous Canadian publishers in the CPDS program, the Association was able to secure conversion services at an even more competitive price.

In addition to using foreign technology partners and securing discount/”bulk” pricing, the ACP was able to further lower the cost of producing ebooks by offering a subsidy to its members. During the first round of conversions in 2009, this subsidy amounted to 30% of the overall cost (30 cents on every dollar’s worth of charges), reducing the cost of conversion anywhere from $60-$240 per title. Instead of having to pay $190-$800 to convert each book, UBC Press only paid $130-$560.[23] During the second round of conversions, the ACP continued to offer publishers a subsidy, although it was lowered from 30% to 19% of the total cost, which amounted to $33-$91 in savings per title. Certain restrictions were also put in place during the second round of conversions to reflect the aims of the ACP’s program: only those titles that were being converted into the new XML and ePub formats would be eligible for the discount. Accordingly, UBC Press was more selective in the titles it chose to convert and in the formats it requested. Of the 74 titles the Press submitted for initial estimates, it processed only 62, choosing those titles that were most affordable to produce. Despite these new restrictions, publishers were still able to enjoy considerable savings: the cost for converting a single title into all four ebooks formats (EPDF, POD PDF, XML and EPUB) during this last round of conversions ranged from $105-$467.

To sum up, the companies and organizations that have facilitated outsourcing over the last ten years have offered a series of incentives, ranging from complete coverage of production costs to cost deferrals and direct subsidies. These incentives have made it more affordable—and therefore less risky—for university presses to start publishing ebooks.

 

Convenience

In addition to lowering financial risk and production costs, outsourcing seemed like a convenient way for publishers to enter into the ebook business. The production method used by the early content aggregators was particularly accommodating. Thanks to OCR scanners, companies like NetLibrary only required hardcopies of books in order to generate the text for these first HTML ebooks. This meant that publishers could remain focused on creating their print product while ebook production took place downstream. Outsourcing was essentially tacked on to the end of the Press’s own workflow, which remained unchanged despite the introduction of this additional output format.

 

Figure 2. UBC Press Production Flowchart[24]

Figure 2

 

Even with the advent of newer ebook formats, in-house operations continued much the same as they had before. When UBC Press began to commission enhanced PDFs (ePDFs) directly from CodeMantra in 2008, the Press only needed to provide the company with the simple image PDFs of a book’s cover and interior. These files were exported directly from InDesign by the Press’s typesetter who was, conveniently enough, already generating PDFs of a book’s final proofs for the printer, Friesens. In other words, the same PDFs that were used to produce print books could now serve as the basis for the Press’s ebooks. All the Press was required to do was upload these simple PDFs, along with the accompanying front cover images in their native file formats (e.g. JPEGs, TIFFs, and .AI files), to the company’s FTP site. The real work involved in “enhancing” these PDFs was then performed off-site in CodeMantra’s content factories.

Once the simple PDF files had been downloaded by CodeMantra employees, features like internal links and bookmarked tables of contents were added manually to enhance the product and make it more user-friendly. Although applying these features is not an overly complex process, requiring only minimal training and common software applications like Adobe Acrobat Pro, the process can be quite labour intensive, particularly if a PDF contains a lot of index entries or notes which have to be turned into links. Outsourcing therefore saved UBC Press staff the time and effort required to perform these tedious tasks.

Though the method of producing other ebook formats is much more involved, the Press did not have to put forth any extra effort when it started to publish EPUBs and XML files in 2009. This is because conversion houses like CodeMantra and Innodata were able to create these ebooks from the same basic files used to produce the ePDFs. Nic Boshart, Manager of Technology at eBound Canada, explains how this process might be carried out.

Data conversion companies like CodeMantra and Innodata often use custom-made software to produce EPUBs and XML files. Many conversion houses write their own scripts, which they use to extract content from publishers’ PDF or InDesign files. This data is then stored in an intermediate form of XML unique to that company (e.g. CodeMantra’s “pubXML”) and is run through an engine that converts the tagged data into an EPUB. After a rough preliminary conversion, these companies likely run more scripts to reformat portions of the file and to add styling to the ePub. Although Boshart believes that “there is a human element involved somewhere along the line, probably for double-checking (quickly) code and running more scripts,” much of this process is automated, which allows these content factories to convert a large number of files simultaneously. In this way, conversion houses are able to create complex XML ebook formats from the simple PDFs provided by the publisher.

From a production standpoint, outsourcing has therefore been exceptionally convenient: it has allowed UBC Press to adopt various ebook formats that have developed over time without having to drastically alter its own operations. Moreover, in its early agreements with content aggregators, UBC Press was able to outsource not just the production of its ebooks but also their marketing and distribution. As it was in NetLibrary’s and Gibson’s own interests to promote the content that they had licensed from publishers, UBC Press was excused from having to actively advertise its digital titles. This appealed to former Associate Director of UBC Press George Maddison who, as Quill & Quire noted, “prefer[ed] to let others do the work” (Crawley, “University”). Publishers who converted their titles through the CPDS program also had the option of collectively licensing their content through the ACP to ebook vendors like Sony.

Although UBC Press has had to take a more hands-on approach to ebook production in recent years (see Chapter 3), the initial convenience of being able to outsource all manner of work associated with ebooks clearly was a draw for publishers.

 

Conclusion

At the time UBC Press began publishing ebooks, the outsourcing of technical services had become a common practice within Canada. Outsourcing also seemed to fit with the freelance-based business model already in place at the Press.

Over the years, the different parties that organized ebook production also tended to subsidize it: companies like NetLibrary and industry groups like the ACP have offered various financial incentives to make outsourcing even more attractive to publishers. For publishers, then, outsourcing has minimized any economic risks involved in adopting the digital format. Furthermore, outsourcing has been an incredibly convenient way to enter into the ebook market. Because ebooks have, to date, been produced from the end-product of print publishing (i.e. from a hard copy or PDF of a book), UBC Press hasn’t had to make any changes to its own production workflow—even with the adoption of newer, XML-based ebook formats.

By being both convenient and affordable, this method of production has been beneficial enough to keep publishers outsourcing for over ten years. However, it remains to be seen whether the benefits of outsourcing still outweigh other problems that may have arisen from this practice. The next chapter will therefore take a closer look at UBC Press’s most recent outsourcing experience to determine whether outsourcing remains a convenient, risk-free, and cost-effective way for UBC Press to produce ebooks.


 

Chapter 3: Problems with Outsourcing

Overview

As was established in the previous chapter, UBC Press has been outsourcing ebook production since it first began publishing ebooks in the late 1990s. But whether or not it should continue to do so warrants some consideration. The processes and products that have resulted from over a decade of outsourcing should be examined in order to determine whether outsourcing remains as beneficial a business practice as it once was.

This chapter will begin by reviewing the quality of the ebooks produced for UBC Press through the Association of Canadian Publishers’ CPDS program. In particular, it will catalogue the types of errors that have been found within these files. This chapter will then speculate on the inconvenience, risks, and added costs that may result from poorly converted ebooks. In an effort to understand why—and with such frequency—these errors have occurred, the conversion process used by large overseas companies like CodeMantra and Innodata Isogen will also be examined.

After surveying the fallout from UBC Press’s latest experience, the consequences of Canadian publishers outsourcing en masse will also be considered. Even if outsourcing was an effective way of allowing Canadian publishers to enter the ebook market, outsourcing long-term may have the unfortunate result of reducing the autonomy of Canadian publishers and their participation in the digital economy.

 

An Era of Ebook Errors

As discussed in Chapter 1, when the ACP first introduced the CPDS program, the initiative was welcomed by most Canadian publishers—including UBC Press—who were looking for assistance in digitizing their recent backlist titles. Like other outsourcing initiatives that had come before it, the CPDS program was seen as a convenient way of producing ebooks. Because the conversions would be performed out-of-house, it was assumed that the Press’s operations would not be affected by them. This outsourcing opportunity also seemed to carry little risk, given that it was overseen by the ACP: a trusted industry representative that was willing to partially fund the process. In short, the CPDS program seemed like an easy, safe, and affordable way for publishers to obtain ebook editions of their backlist titles.

However, UBC press was quite disappointed with the files it received from its conversion partners during this program.[25] The two batches of files produced for the Press under the ACP contracts were not “ready-to-sell” upon receipt, as had been promised (MacDonald): in fact, they were plagued with problems.

Errors were apparent even from the cover pages. The ebook covers were often of poor quality. Some cover images appeared in very low resolution; others were stretched because their proportions had not been maintained during resizing. In one instance, the author’s name and book title had been accidentally dropped from the cover.

 

Figures 3 & 4. Low Resolution Ebook Covers

Figure 3

 

Figure 4

 

Figures 5 & 6. Original Image vs. Stretched Cover Image
Figure 5 & 6

 

The ebook interiors were just as disappointing. Entire chapters were missing from the ebooks or from the bookmarked tables of contents that had been added to the files manually by the technology partner. The chapter titles that did appear in these tables of contents often contained spelling errors and/or were missing subtitles due to human error. More frequently, the files themselves were incorrectly named, having been labeled with the wrong ISBN number (e.g. the PDF version of a title was assigned the EPUB ISBN, or vice versa).

Such errors were common across all file types, but others were unique to particular ebook formats. In the ePDFs (which are paginated), whole pages were missing or were misnumbered. Preliminary pages in the front matter did not appear in Roman numerals, though the Press had stipulated that they should. Chapter headings were also missing from the tops of some pages. Internal links to/from the notes section and index were either missing or navigated to the wrong page.

In addition, the print-on-demand PDFs included only front covers, instead of the full wrap cover requested by the Press and required by Lightning Source. Instead of listing the softcover ISBNs as requested by the Press, the copyright pages in these POD files listed the hardcover ISBNs.

If the PDFs were disappointing, the EPUBs were in even worse condition. The EPUB errors that were most visible were those pertaining to images. For instance, diacritics which should have been rendered in UTF-8 encoding (as stipulated in the agreement) were instead captured as images during the conversion process. Because they had been rendered as images, these accented characters did not appear to rest on the same line as the rest of the text. What’s more, these and other images were not scalable, so though the ebook’s text could be resized, the images alongside it could not.[26]

 

Figures 7, 8, & 9. Diacritics Captured as Images in EPUBs Figures 7, 8, & 9

 

Furthermore, text was not properly “wrapped” around images, and captions (which are usually centered underneath a figure) were not aligned with the images they described. These errors were made all the more visible when the ebooks were viewed on a wide screen.

 

Figures 10 & 11. Captions not Aligned with Images in EPUBs

Figure 10 Figure 11

 

Figure 12. Images Appearing Mid-Sentence in an EPUB

Figure 12

Still more problems occurred because of the shift from PDF to EPUB that took place during conversion—in other words, the shift from a fixed page layout to reflowable text. Images that appeared on separate pages in the print editions now seemed to interrupt the text, sometimes appearing mid-sentence. Tables which contained three or more columns in the original files and which should have been rendered as images had been grabbed as text instead; as a result, the contents of these tables often broke across several pages in the EPUB, making them difficult to read. Odd line breaks also occurred within the running text because the print typesetter had either used automatic hyphenation or had inserted forced line breaks in the original InDesign files.

 

Figure 13. Example of Forced Line Breaks Appearing in an EPUB

Figure 13

 

Figures 14 & 15. Examples of Spacing Errors in EPUBs

Figures 14 & 15

Some of the errors mentioned above are attributable to the relative complexity of the EPUB format, and the amount of behind-the-scenes encoding required to convert a PDF to and EPUB. However, other mistakes seem to have been made, not because of the complexity of the task at hand, but because of carelessness or disregard for the Press’s instructions. For instance, some external links were broken because neighbouring punctuation had been included with the actual URL when the link’s destination was created. Pages that originally appeared in the front matter and that were supposed to have been relocated to the back of the EPUB so as not to interfere with readability (a common practice in ebook design) had not been moved. Also, a disclaimer stating that the index referred to the print edition of the book should have been included at the back of the EPUBs, but often wasn’t.[27]

 

Figure 16. Example of Index Disclaimer in EPUB

Figure 16

More seriously, the metadata for these EPUB files was neither robust nor accurate. For instance, an editor’s name was often mistakenly given as an author name. In the case of co-authored works, only the first author’s name would be listed in the metadata. Series information was not included in the .OPF files of the EPUBs; ISBNs didn’t appear within the files’ ID fields, either. Most worrisome of all, many of these files could not be validated against ThreePress Consulting’s epubcheck version 1.2—a free online tool commonly used within the industry to check the integrity of the code and the structure of EPUBs.

 

The Inconvenience of Outsourcing

Not surprisingly, the error-riddled ebooks that were produced during the last two rounds of conversions created delays and extra work for UBC Press, making outsourcing far less convenient than it seemed at the outset.

During the first round of CPDS conversions in 2009, ebook errors occurred with such frequency that many ACP members complained to the organization about the quality of their files. The sheer scale of the problem prompted the Association to bring in a consultant to negotiate a solution with the technology partner, CodeMantra. In the end, all parties agreed that the company would make certain changes to the files produced during this round of conversions, free of charge. Many publishers decided to resubmit files, but because the changes were applied globally, it took a long time for the corrections to be implemented. As a result, some of the titles that were initially submitted to CodeMantra during the first round of conversions in 2009 were not yet ready by 2011 (Coates). The second round of conversions, which began in 2010 (while the first batch of ebooks were still being corrected), was also fraught with complications. In an attempt to prevent further problems, the ACP had included specific language in the contract with its new conversion partner, Innodata. UBC Press had also included additional instructions along with the titles it submitted for conversion. Unfortunately, this second technology partner also failed to deliver files that met the requirements of the Press and the ACP, so similar delays ensued. Almost all of the 62 files UBC Press submitted to Innodata in July 2010 had to be returned to the company in November and December of that year due to formatting errors. During the second round of proofing in May 2011, errors were still being found in the files. In a sample of 36 ebooks, only 12 of the 25 EPDFs were of acceptable quality (that is, contained few enough errors to be sold in good conscience), and only five of 11 EPUBs would validate.[28] In other words, less than half of the 36 files were properly formatted after two visits to the conversion house: the remainder had to be sent back for further corrections.

Although the technology partners were usually able to turn around files within a matter of months (three months or so, in CodeMantra’s case), each time the Press resubmitted its files, they would be placed at the back of the queue behind those from other publishers who were having similar problems. The substandard files produced during this latest outsourcing experience have therefore caused significant setbacks and pushed forward the release dates of UBC Press’s ebooks.

During this fiasco, Press staff also had to spend a significant amount of time and attention interfacing with its technology partners and the ACP. Once UBC Press became aware of the quality of its files, Press employees also had to intervene and spend time checking each file—not once, but multiple times. This necessarily interrupted regular in-house operations. Though outsourcing may have required little effort on the Press’s part in the early days of NetLibrary, the last two years of outsourcing under the ACP have thus required more time and attention than Press staff had expected or planned for.

 

Increasing Risk and Cost

On top of being inconvenient, the shoddy conversions performed by the ACP’s technology partners have also resulted in added risks and expense for UBC Press.

Errors such as distorted images or awkward line breaks ruin the appearance and aesthetics of an ebook; other types of errors, like broken links or missing tables of contents, affect an ebook’s functionality and navigability. Collectively, these errors have the effect of lessening the quality and value of UBC Press’s electronic product, which in turn could reinforce the low-price expectations of consumers. At the very least, these errors may affect the Press’s ability to sell its digital editions at a price that is equal to or slightly higher than the print cover price. As the Manager of Marketing points out, UBC Press can hardly expect to charge the same amount for “junky ebooks” as it does for its carefully crafted print books (Coates).

If an ebook is found to have a particularly high number of errors, these errors may affect unit sales for that particular electronic title. However, they could also lower sales for other titles as well, for the following reason. UBC Press’s reputation as an academic publisher is based upon the accuracy and consistency of the research that it publishes. However, recurring formatting errors and sloppy presentation might raise questions about the Press’s overall approach to quality control and, by extension, the reliability of the content it publishes. If these poorly formatted files are released into the supply chain, they endanger UBC Press’s credibility as a scholarly/reference publisher.[29]

Laraine Coates, Marketing Manager and coordinator of the ebook program at UBC Press, has in fact expressed concern over the effect that sloppy ebooks might have on the Press’s reputation. Coates regrets that there are already ebooks in circulation that “do not do justice” to UBC Press’s publishing program. Although the Press is normally quite stringent in its review process (see “Proofing,” Chapter 4), error-filled EPDFs still made it to library market. This is because the Press was not prepared for the state of the files it received through the CPDS program. When UBC Press received its first batch of ebooks back from CodeMantra in 2010, Coates did not suspect that she would need to review each file individually for errors. As the sole staff member responsible for this aspect of production, Coates also lacked the assistance that would have made a thorough review possible. As a result, dozens of botched EPDFs were distributed to libraries through ebook aggregators soon after they were delivered to the Press.[30]

Coates admits that she and many other publishers “dropped the ball” during this first round of conversions organized by the ACP. After the flaws in CodeMantra’s files were brought to light by other ACP members, Coates decided to enlist an intern to help check the second batch of files, which were created by Innodata. At that time, however, publishers were still discovering new types of errors in their files, and because the Press hadn’t yet compiled a comprehensive list of errors to look for, this round of proofreading was rather hit-or-miss. It was also cursory by necessity: due to the volume of files that had to be reviewed, the student intern was only able to spend 10 minutes or so spot-checking each file (Coates). As a result, many of the EPDFs that were put into circulation from the second round of conversions were functional, but still contained minor formatting errors (e.g. low res. or miscoloured cover images).

These ebook errors may have not only lowered the perceived quality of the product and of the Press itself, but they may have ultimately affected the profitability of the ebooks by delaying their distribution. After the Press had to send back files to Innodata for revision in November 2010, libraries and vendors began contacting UBC Press because the ePDF versions of certain titles advertised in the Fall catalogue had not yet been made available to them (Coates). As a result, library orders may have been dropped before these files were ready.

The Press has had even greater difficulty bringing its EPUBs to market. Laraine Coates has expressed concern over the fact that the EPUBs first requested from Innodata in May 2010 were not yet sellable 18 months later, in November 2011. At that time, Coates commented that these ebooks were still in “need [of] a lot of work before we can put them in the market” (“eBound”). A year later, the EPUBs remain in unsellable condition and have yet to be distributed. Consequently, the sale of these ebooks—and revenue from these sales—has been postponed, and may be forfeited altogether if the files cannot be brought to satisfactory standards. In particular, if these EPUB files still contain structural errors and can’t be validated, then they can’t be put into circulation, as many ebook vendors refuse to accept potentially “unstable,” invalidated files. Metadata errors could further depress ebook sales by reducing the visibility of the files in an online environment. If an ebook is missing metadata or contains incorrect metadata, it can’t be properly catalogued by ebook vendors or indexed by search engines. This makes it harder for potential customers to find and purchase that ebook online. Metadata and validation errors therefore affect not just the discoverability of these electronic titles, but also their saleability.

The potential risks and financial losses from this latest outsourcing experience may be largely incalculable, but these poorly formatted ebooks have already resulted in quantifiable costs incurred by the Press. The several rounds of proofing that UBC Press personnel have had to perform on each file has contributed to the overall cost of producing these ebooks. In the summer of 2011 alone, 63 ebooks had to be proofread in-house at the Press. As it took roughly twenty minutes to thoroughly check each ebook (often longer for EPUBS), this amounted to at least 21 hours of employee time. Though a summer intern was able to perform this task at a reduced rate, this one round of proofreading still cost the Press roughly $150.[31] Had this same task been performed by a hired freelancer proofreader at the standard rate of $20per hour, this cost would have escalated to $420 for one round of professional proofreading, or to $1260 for the three rounds of proofreading that have been required on average during the ACP’s program.[32]

If the Press were to continue to outsource ebook production to the same technology partners and receive files of a similar quality, the proofreading required to bring these ebooks up to an acceptable standard would add an extra $7.15-$20 per file, depending on whether the task were performed by an intern or hired proofreader. This amounts to an additional $14.30-$40 per title, as each title is usually converted into two file formats that require proofreading (EPUB and ePDF). For the average book, this proofreading represents as much as a 20% increase in ebook production costs—an increase that is not insignificant, especially when multiplied across large batches of files.

During the CPDS program, UBC Press spent over $30,000 to convert 144 of its titles into various ebook formats. But when one considers the hassle and hidden costs that have come with these conversions, and the untold price paid by publishers whose brands have been compromised by a substandard product, outsourcing through the ACP has turned out to be far more expensive than the official price tag suggests.

 

What Went Wrong: Outsourcing to Large Conversion Houses

Far from being an isolated incident, UBC Press’s latest experience reveals problems that come from outsourcing to a particular type of technology partner. Under its recent contracts with the Association of Canadian Publishers, UBC Press worked with two different companies, CodeMantra and Innodata: two large conversion houses whose operations are located overseas. The fact that UBC Press had disappointing experiences with both partners suggests that there may be problems not with each individual company, but with the business practices of large conversion houses in general. Although the remote location of their facilities might tempt Canadian publishers to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude toward these conversion houses, their internal operations should be brought into question in light of the trouble that these technology partners caused during the CPDS program.

In an article written in 2000 for the (now defunct) online publication eBookWeb, an industry insider exposed some systemic problems that were present even among early conversion houses. These problems may account for the recurrence of errors and overall lack of quality control within these organizations today, as was borne out by UBC Press’s experience.

In “A Tale of Two Conversion Houses,” author Dorothea Salo identifies major problems within these companies, including issues with their workforce, workflow, tools, and customer relations. According to Salo, large conversion houses, also known as “content factories,” employ a sizeable workforce of entry-level programmers and “barely-competent HTML jockeys.” As is the case with other types of factories, the mechanical labour performed by these workers is divided along an assembly line. That is to say, the workflow is “divided into segments so small as to be meaningless” (Salo). Trained only to carry out their assigned tasks, the employees perform repetitive functions (e.g. running scripts, manually inserting links, resizing images), unaware of how these tasks relate “to any other, much less how the whole product looks and functions.” This results in a “silo effect,” by which employees within these conversion houses are kept ignorant of the “larger process or end result” that they are working toward. This disunity affects the overall quality of the product and the ability of the ebook to function as a whole.[33]

On a human resource level, this assembly-line approach to conversion leads to low morale and motivation among workers, and a high turn-over rate. Although this results in a “shifting workforce,” conversion houses are able to hire a great number of workers because their operations are located in countries where there is large pool of computer-literate employees who can be paid comparatively low wages.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, hiring low-skill workers (instead of ebook designers or digital publishing professionals) is more desirable for these companies, since their production method is built around tools, not training. As Salo explains, the mostly automated conversions performed by these companies rely heavily on “sophisticated production tools that supposedly reduce the need for employee training.” However, the custom software developed for this purpose also has its drawbacks. Because the workers who rely on this software often operate independently from the programmers who write the scripts, there is seldom any feedback between users of these tools and their creators. This disintegration results in the development of inefficient tools. Moreover, “should the tool fail in some way,” the employees who have no expertise (due to a lack of training) and who have been made dependent upon these tools “are left utterly helpless, and workflows grind to a halt” (Salo).

Another problem endemic to these large companies is the issue of scale itself. As Laraine Coates of UBC Press observed, “Their’s is a numbers game.” In order to attract clients, these companies must offer low bids on contracts; because these low bids reduce the profitability of any given project, the companies must take on more contracts and even larger projects in order to remain profitable. To wit, the ACP contracts show that these conversion houses are often serving multiple clients (in this case, 44 different Canadian publishers) with divergent needs, simultaneously. Though such diversity in projects and clientele would normally warrant customized workflows, these large businesses must instead take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to ebook conversions because they are operating on economies of scale (Salo). In terms of their workflow, this often means that a single DTD or schema is applied to all files, resulting in some ebooks being “shoehorned” into a markup system that isn’t appropriate to the structure or design of the original book (Salo). In UBC Press’s case, this practice is evidenced in the fact that the content of most of the titles it submitted for conversion were classified as either of “moderate” or “complex” difficulty by Innodata. Clearly, the workflow used by the company—which might work well for producing EPUBs of trade fiction titles with fewer textual elements—could not easily accommodate the type of apparatus found in most scholarly books.

The type of markup that results from these cookie-cutter conversions is often of low quality: a fact that, strangely enough, does not seem to hurt business, since the clients of these companies are often more concerned with the appearance of their ebooks than the integrity of their code. In the long term, however, an acceptance of low-grade code on the part of the publisher could affect the use of these ebooks both as archival files and as sellable wares. If the code behind these ebooks does not comply with current best practices, these files may not be forward-compatible when newer versions of the EPUB standard are released. Bad code may also interfere with the ability of future devices to render the files properly. Far from being a safe investment, these poorly made files may in fact have a very short shelf life.

This last point underscores a final problem that Salo warns against in her article: a lack of disclosure about workflow and markup on the part of these companies. This reticence may stem from greater communication problems between these large companies and their clients. Staff at UBC Press, for instance, often complained that although they were assigned an intermediary contact person by the ACP, they could not communicate directly with those who were overseeing or performing their ebook conversions.[34] Laraine Coates admits that if the conversion process had been more consultative, and the channels of communication more open, it may have been easier for the Press and its conversion partners to identify potential problems and prevent them.

However, Salo attributes this lack of disclosure to a more pernicious motive. She suspects that many technology partners purposefully do not educate their clients about the conversion process or its products in order to keep publishers “ignorantly dependent” on the conversion house. This theory seems to be supported by companies’ use of a custom form of XML (e.g. codeMantra’s pubXML), which hinders their clients’ ability to directly modify their own converted files. The “end-to-end” publishing services offered by these companies also make it harder for publishers to extricate their files, or reassign control over them to another service provider.[35]

 

The Effects of Outsourcing on Canada’s Publishing Industry

Whether or not Salo’s suspicions are correct, the result is as she had anticipated: publishers like UBC Press have become increasingly dependent on foreign companies to produce and manage their ebooks. This dependence does not sit well with some who work in the Canadian publishing industry. Even in the early days of NetLibrary, Darren Wershler-Henry—then-editor of Coach House Books and overall electronic publishing advocate—expressed concern over outsourcing the creation/management of electronic titles to foreign companies. “‘Letting an American firm have control over our publishing list just strikes me as a little weird,’” Wershler-Henry was then quoted as saying (Crawley, “Libraries”).

If one considers the ramifications of outsourcing long term, Weshler’s discomfort seems justified. Canadian publishers are not just handing over their money and content to factories overseas; they are also giving up their immediate autonomy, and reducing their chances of achieving some measure of self-sufficiency in the future.

By continuing to rely on external parties to create and manage their ebooks, Canadian publishers are deferring the need to hire or train staff to carry out their digital publishing programs. At present, there is indeed a scarcity of ebook experts among Canadian publishers. This is particularly true of university presses. Of the 13 UPs in Canada, only two have staff whose sole purpose is to oversee their digital publishing programs.[36] The rest have assigned this task to employees who hold positions in other departments and whose skillsets may be only tangentially related to ebooks. According to staff directories, those in charge of ebooks at Canadian UPs have job titles as diverse as Production and Design Manager, Bibliographic Data Coordinator, Computing Systems Administrator, and Sales/Marketing Manager.

In an editorial for The Journal of Electronic Publishing, Kate Wittenburg acknowledges this trend, observing that “[m]any university publishers have tried to meet this [digital] challenge by asking existing staff members to extend their responsibilities.” However, Wittenburg notes that “this strategy had not been effective” because “staff time and creative energy are, understandably, occupied keeping the existing business functioning.” This is certainly the case at UBC Press, where the task of coordinating ebook production has fallen to Laraine Coates, Manager of Marketing. Coates explains that she took on this responsibility in 2009 when another staff member in the Production department was away on maternity leave. Coates assumed this role because of her own personal interest in ebooks, and not her prior training or expertise in ebooks per se. At the time, this responsibility was added to her full-time workload in the Production department, and was later incorporated into her new position in marketing, so the amount of time she can devote to this side of the Press’s operations is necessarily limited. Although Coates is occasionally able to attend workshops and discussion panels on ebooks organized by various professional associations (e.g. the Association of American University Presses), she is afforded few opportunities to increase her knowledge on this subject in her day-to-day activities.

By obviating the need for trained employees, outsourcing thus leads to a lack of in-house expertise, which (as many publishers are coming to realize) only increases a publisher’s reliance on its technology partner. Again, UBC Press’s recent experience is telling in this regard. Because the Press had been outsourcing ebook production from the start, Press staff found themselves without the tools or skills necessary to modify the error-riddled ebooks produced through the CPDS program. As a result, UBC Press had to send back converted files that needed only minor corrections (e.g. typos in the tables of content) and wait for CodeMantra or Innodata to make the necessary adjustments, which led to further delays in the production process. In this way, the decision to outsource has handicapped individual publishers and furthered their dependence on conversion partners by rendering them ill-equipped to handle their own ebooks.

Over time, the tendency to outsource will also affect the self-sufficiency of the industry at large. Low demand for ebook-savvy employees in Canada will only lead to a lack of supply, for if there are few jobs available in digital publishing in this country, there is little incentive for publishing professionals to pursue training in this field, and limited opportunities for them to obtain on-the-job experience. Outsourcing en masse therefore negatively effects the professionalization of Canada’s domestic workforce and the overall level of employment within this emerging field. In the absence of expertise at home, outsourcing abroad appears to be the only viable option for producing ebooks.

Viewed this way, outsourcing threatens to become a self-perpetuating and self-justifying practice—one that leaves publishers without direct control over what has become an essential part of their publishing program.

 

Conclusion

UBC Press’s most recent experience under the CPDS program has shown outsourcing to be less convenient, more risky, and more expensive than it was under early ebook deals with companies like NetLibrary. The files being produced are of an unacceptable quality due to the batch processing and general business practices used by large conversion houses. Errors within these files have caused unnecessary delays and extra work for Press staff; by lowering the quality of the ebooks, they also threaten UBC Press’s reputation, as well as the overall profitability of its ebook program.

Yet the decision to outsource has consequences not just for the individual publisher, but for the publishing industry as a whole. When practiced by a large number of publishers (as was done under the ACP’s CPDS program), outsourcing negatively impacts the industry by making it dependent on foreign companies, to the neglect of its own domestic workforce. If the industry continues to outsource ebook production instead of developing the skills required to do so in Canada, those who outsource will have no other choice but to continue outsourcing in the future.

In light of these problems, it seems advisable that Canadian publishers now look for practical ways to incorporate ebooks for forthcoming titles into their existing workflows, whether that be at the proofreading or at the production stage. The next chapter will therefore propose various short- and long-term strategies that university presses such as UBC can use to gradually bring ebook production in house. By doing so, these presses can immediately address, and eventually avoid, the problems that have accompanied outsourcing.

 

 

Chapter 4: Solutions to Outsourcing

Overview

In the last decade, publishers faced the daunting task of converting their extensive backlists into multiple ebook formats whose staying power was somewhat questionable. Now that ebooks have become a standard part of publishing, and the bulk of their backlists have been converted through an outsourcing process that leaves much to be desired, publishers have begun to consider producing ebooks themselves.

In recent years, UBC Press has attempted to move some aspects of ebook production in-house. However, this shift must necessarily be a gradual one. The Press must first put short-term strategies in place to deal with the ebooks that will be produced by its technology partners in the near future. Only then can the Press begin to consider long-term changes to its own operations that would allow for the production of both print and electronic books in house.

 

Short-Term Solutions

As discussed in the conclusion of Chapter 1, large-scale ebook conversions will continue to take place under the auspices of eBound Canada. And UBC Press seems willing to continue outsourcing its ebook production to large conversion houses through this organization—for the time being. If this current system of outsourcing is to continue, though, there are various measures that publishers like UBC Press can put in place in order to attain a higher level of quality assurance for their ebooks.

 

Proofing Ebooks

At UBC Press, print books typically undergo several stages of review during production. Typeset text is first reviewed by a professional proofreader, as well as the author. Any corrections to these pageproofs are then collated by staff and entered by the typesetter. The final laser proofs provided by the printer are verified once more by a production editor before being approved for print. However, when the Press began to publish ebooks, these steps—or their digital equivalent—were not being carried out. As a result, ebooks are not subject to the same kind of rigorous review that print books are.

The need for better quality control over ebooks was the topic of a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Digital Book World, an online community forum whose events are sponsored by industry professionals and companies like Aptara and Ingram Publishing Group. During this discussion, Laura Dawson, Digital Managing Editor for Hachette Book Group, recommended that publishers take measures to review their ebooks—even (especially) if these ebooks were produced out of house by a technology partner.

As discussed in Chapter 3, UBC Press had begun to implement a review process during the second round of conversions under the ACP. However, UBC Press would benefit from the standardization of theproofreading process. One way of doing this, Laura Dawson suggests, is to create a central document that outlines the quality control procedures that should be performed by those handling ebooks in-house. Similar documents are already shared among UBC Press employees to ensure that other practices—such as “cleaning up” manuscripts after transmittal—are performed uniformly, regardless of which staff member is carrying out the task. In UBC Press’s case, this procedural document could be as simple as a checklist or set of instructions that is given to each intern who is hired to proofread ebooks. (See Appendix A.)

Ideally, this procedure would also be incorporated into the Press’s production schedule, with the result that production editors would allot a standard amount of time for proofreading ebooks after their anticipated date of delivery. If production staff were to start budgeting time for this activity (and for further rounds of revisions and review, as needed), those in marketing would have a more realistic sense of when an electronic edition of a title will be available for distribution.

Normalizing the proofreading process would also result in ebooks being reviewed in-house on a regular basis, not just when extra help is available from student employees, who are typically hired during the summer months. This may result in the task being reassigned to regular staff in the Production/Editorial Department. Liz Kessler, Publisher of Adams Media, points out that it may, in fact, be more advantageous to have the same publishing staff be responsible for the quality of print books and ebooks. Kessler notes that editors and proofreaders work most closely with a title, and are most familiar with the content and formatting requirements of a particular manuscript. These same staff are therefore best suited to reviewing ebooks, as they will notice irregularities and omissions more easily than an intern or co-op student who has little to no familiarity with that manuscript.

Reassigning proofreading tasks to relevant members of the publishing team may also redress the human resource problem identified in the previous chapter. Instead of making ebooks the sole responsibility of one overburdened staff member, the publisher can draw from the expertise of several employees. By doing so, the publisher would also turn ebooks into a shared concern of the publishing team, as has long been the case with print books.

 

Improving Metadata

One downside to the ebooks that are currently being produced by large conversion houses is the metadata they contain (or don’t contain). As was mentioned in Chapter 3, the metadata within these files is often incomplete, and this affects the visibility and identifiability of that digital object once it is in the supply chain.

Solving this problem will require cooperation from both publishers and technology partners. Publishers will need to stipulate higher metadata standards within their statements of work, as well as provide more detailed publication information to their technology partners. These technology partners would, in turn, need to respect the standards outlined in their contracts and take the time to embed the provided metadata within the files they produce, even if this means inserting it manually.

Furthermore, it would behoove both publishers and their technology partners to adopt the standards recommended by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), an industry association that creates and maintains technology standards in order to encourage interoperability within the field of electronic publishing. The IDPF’s protocols would result in richer and more detailed metadata than is currently being used. For instance, instead of simply listing a creator <ds:creator> in the .OPF file,[37] this field could further indicate whether the creator is the author of the work <dc:creator opf:role=”aut”> or the editor <dc:creator opf:role=”edt”>. The publisher and the conversion partner could also supply more detailed information in the “date” field. IDPF standards allow publishers to give both the year of print publication <dc:date opf:event=”original-publication”> and the year in which the EPUB file was created <dc:date opf:event=”epub-publication”>. (It is important to distinguish between the two events because, as was made clear during the ACP’s CPDS program, print and electronic formats may be released years apart.)

The IDPF recommendations would also provide an opportunity for publishers to supply additional information about their titles: for instance, the subject categories listed on the Cataloguing in Publication page within a print book could be included as values for the subject element in an ebook, e.g. <dc:subject>Canada – Foreign relations – United States</dc:subject>. Series information could also be placed within the type element <dc:type>Law and Society series</dc:type>. This granular level of data is helpful for marketing purposes, and it may also make cataloguing easier for institutions or for individuals who use programs like Calibre to store and manage their personal ebook libraries.

 

Using Stylesheets

One of the main complaints heard from publishers who took part in the ACP’s CPDS conversion program was the appearance of their EPUBs. While most of the eyesores resulted from formatting errors, these ebooks on the whole lacked the styling and attention to design found in their print counterparts, and in the EPDFs, which retained the layout of the original print books.

However, publishers who outsource ebook production can exercise more control over the appearance of their EPUBs by creating (or commissioning) their own stylesheets, a practice that many leading publishers have already adopted. Stylesheets are CSS files that are included within the EPUB file package. These CSS files determine the styling of the content documents and can therefore control certain aspects of the ebook, such as paragraph alignment, typeface, relative font size, line spacing, etc. Though some of these elements may be overridden by certain ereading devices, a well-designed CSS file can still manage to create a unique “look” for an ebook.

From the viewpoint of print production, stylesheets are best seen as the EPUB equivalent to the layout templates used to format and typeset a print book. Just as the Press uses several InDesign templates for most of their print book interiors, so too could the Press develop one or more stylesheets to apply to its ebooks: in fact, these stylesheets can even be based upon the design decisions made by the Press’s typesetter in the creation of the original print templates. (See discussion of Wild Element below.)

Using stylesheets to shape the appearance of content would not only enhance the production value of these ebooks, but it would also provide visual consistency between ebooks, thereby allowing UBC Press to extend its brand to those files being produced by another party. Stylesheets could also reduce the possibility of formatting errors by imposing stylistic uniformity on the text and images.

While a stylesheet can enhance the surface appearance of an ebook, the best solution to sloppy formatting is better-built ebooks. This requires long-term solutions to outsourcing.

 

Long-Term Solutions

Finding a More Suitable Technology Partner

When faced with a batch of error-filled ebooks, a publisher can choose to improve upon the files produced by its technology partner, or it can improve upon its choice of technology partner.

Given the number of errors found in the converted files and the dissatisfaction reported by clients like UBC Press, the large conversion houses hired by the ACP were not a good “fit” for Canadian publishers, particularly university presses. As stated in Chapter 3, scholarly books contain a number of extra-textual elements that aren’t easily accommodated by the automated workflows used in these conversion houses. Consequently, these scholarly ebooks seem to suffer from an unusually high number of formatting errors. In addition to causing problems during production, the apparatus that comes with academic books also adds to the cost of conversion. This is because, in the fee structures used by large-scale conversion houses, price is often indexed to the length of the text, along with the number of figures and the number of links a given ebook edition will contain. This pricing system effectively penalizes publishers of monographs and reference books, which are typically longer than trade books, and which contain numerous notes and lengthy indices.[38] It’s not surprising, then, that of the 74 UBC Press titles included in Innodata’s initial cost estimate, 40 were considered to be of “moderate” difficulty and 16 were assessed as “complex.” In other words, the assessment criteria used by this company placed three-quarters of UBC Press’s books within the higher price categories.

If the production and pricing methods used by large conversion houses aren’t appropriate for scholarly publishers, then UPs that wish to continue outsourcing should find more suitable technology partners. One alternative to hiring large conversion houses overseas is to hire smaller ebook design firms, which are cropping up in North America. Instead of signing contracts for bulk orders, these companies tend to work on a project-by-project basis with their clients, much like freelancers do. These companies also position themselves as counter to the content-factory model: the Canadian company Wild Element, for instance, promises its clients “no batch processing” and “hand-styled” ebooks on its website.

This difference in production method seems to stem from a fundamentally different approach to ebook conversion. Whereas content factories focus on moving publishers’ data from one file format to another, these firms focus on translating a book’s design from print to electronic editions. To this purpose, Wild Element’s stylesheets often replicate the typography of the original print book in an effort to “preserve the investment” publishers make in typesetting their books and to “deliver the quality you’ve come to expect from the traditional paper book.” This sensitivity to a book’s physical elements and design would be of particular use to publishers like UBC Press.

In fact, UBC Press has already begun to use smaller design companies for specific projects. It chose to hire Wild Element to produce the EPUB version of its lead title for the Fall 2011 season. The Press was particularly concerned that the EPUB edition of this title be attractive, error-free, and ready in time for the launch of the print book, since this title was expected to be a trade crossover with a high-profile publicity campaign.

UBC Press was quite pleased with the EPUB produced by Wild Element. As the figures below show, its layout reflected a consideration for aesthetics as well as an attention to detail that was missing from the ebooks produced by codeMantra and Innodata. As a result, UBC Press is considering using the same company to fix the EPUBs produced under the ACP’s program.

 

Figure 17. Cover for EPUB produced by Wild Element

Figure 17

 

Figure 18. Table of Contents for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 18

 

Figure 19. Chapter Opening for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 19

 

Figure 20. Image with Caption from EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 20

Though the Press was pleased with this one-time, alternative outsourcing experience and with the end product, it is clear that the services offered by a company like WildElement are no replacement for large-scale ebook production. Their emphasis on tailored design and digital craftsmanship seems to align these companies with the letterpress printers, but just like their paper-based counterparts, these companies are restricted in the volume of books they can produce due to the small size of their operations, their attention to detail, and their preference for custom coding. Ebook design firms are thus unable to process large batches of files as conversion houses do. Because they are situated in North America and hire trained professionals, they face higher labour costs, so their services come at a premium. The EPUB featured above, for instance, cost three to four times as much to produce as a comparable title would through a company like Innodata. Publishers who decide to use such companies will therefore need to be choosier about which titles they publish as ebooks. These types of decisions would ideally be based on a long-term epublishing strategy.

 

Developing an Epublishing Strategy

To date, UBC Press’s efforts at digitization have been determined by volume and price. Since its early deals with NetLibrary and Gibson Publishing, the Press has pursued those opportunities which have allowed it to acquire multiple ebook formats for the greatest number of titles at as little cost as possible. Books that proved too expensive to convert under previous agreements simply were not digitized.

However prudent UBC Press’s past decisions about ebook production may have seemed, this focus on economy alone hasn’t led to better value or experience. In the wake of the latest outsourcing fiasco, Laraine Coates admits that the Press needs to “think less about quantity and more about quality.” This may mean selecting fewer titles for conversion and/or allocating more resources to the production of those titles.

University presses should be particularly selective when deciding which titles to convert to the newer EPUB format. Not only is the EPUB format more difficult and expensive to produce, but also its usefulness for academic publishers has yet to be proven. As was explained in Chapter 1, EPUBs are designed for use on tablets and e-reading devices, and are carried by ebook retailers like Kobo and Apple. The EPUB format is therefore aimed at the trade market. However, UP content is not.[39] Given their highly specialized subject matter, few books published by university presses appeal to a wider general audience. Though the UBC Press book produced by Wild Element (a biography of a political figure) may have been an appropriate choice for an EPUB, a more specialized monograph—say, a treatise on international trade law and domestic policy—wouldn’t be: the investment made in producing an EPUB version of that title would likely not be returned in sales. Furthermore, if EPUBs are unsuccessful in the trade market, they can’t be repurposed in institutional markets, since few academic libraries are able to accept files in the EPUB format at this time, and most are satisfied with enhanced PDFs.[40]

These factors should be taken into account, along with any available ebook sales data, as UPs try to determine which of their titles will work as EPUBs. Ultimately, this format may be found to be unsuitable for scholarly publishers.

If, however, UBC Press decides to adopt the EPUB as a default format for its ebooks, then the Press should consider moving EPUB production in house in the future.

 

Producing Ebooks In House

UBC Press has already demonstrated some capacity for in-house ebook production by successfully integrating one ebook format into its own workflow. In 2011, the Press’s typesetter agreed to start producing enhanced PDFs for the Press. This is done by inserting links directly into a book’s InDesign file; although these links aren’t expressed in the print book, they add functionality to the PDF later on. At this stage of production, the typesetter also adds an extra table of contents that will appear in the PDF’s bookmark menu. Once exported, the PDF is customized further by the Press’s in-house graphic designer, who checks the file’s links, attaches a low-res version of the cover, and swaps the print copyright page for another which contains the ISBN for digital editions. Although these enhanced PDFs do not have as many features as the uPDFs produced by CodeMantra,[41] they are an affordable and efficient alternative to outsourcing. Since these ePDFs began to be produced in house, there is little delay between the publication of print and electronic editions, as the web-ready ePDFs and the simple PDFs used for printing are produced almost simultaneously.

The successful integration of ePDFs into the Press’s own workflow is encouraging. However, incorporating EPUBs into the Press’s operations would be much more difficult. Where the latter is essentially an image of a print book, the former is a collection of marked-up files in a .zip archive: some of these files are in HTML (the CSS stylesheet), others are in XML (the .OPF or metadata file), and still more are in XHTML (the actual content files). In order for EPUBs to be incorporated into UBC Press’s own workflow efficiently, the Press would have to move ebook production from the end of its publishing workflow (where outsourcing currently takes place) to the beginning, so that tagging can be applied to these documents earlier on.

The Press has considered this prospect in the past. In March 2011, UBC Press asked publishing technology consultant Keith Fahlgren for advice on how to transition into performing EPUB production in house (Coates). At the time, Fahlgren recommended that the Press create a new workflow that uses styles in Word. If implemented, this method would have resulted in a transfer of styled content from Word to InDesign, and eventually into the EPUB format.[42] While Fahlgren’s solution seemed convenient, in that it was based on software programs already in use at the Press, the production and editorial staff found using styles to be “a frustrating experience” and “a lot of work” (Keller). As it turns out, authors, freelancers, and staff members had different versions of Word, which made sharing files under this new system even more cumbersome. Staff discovered that styles would be lost during the transfer, or would reappear in one version of Word after having been deleted in another. This production method also would have required a lot of cleanup along the way, as Microsoft Word is a proprietary software program that produces a lot of idiosyncratic and extraneous code. This code is often brought over when content is imported from Word, and must stripped from the text if one is to create “clean” code in the EPUB.

If content can’t be tagged using styles from the word processor currently used in-house, then it seems the Press would have to create tagged documents using a true XML-editing program like oXygen. Yet staff are understandably skeptical about the prospect of adopting an altogether new mark-up system. Holly Keller, Manager of Production and Editorial Services at UBC Press, points out that staff in this department may not be comfortable or keen on working with tagged documents; she also suspects that none of the freelance proofreaders employed by the Press have a working knowledge of HTML or XML. Presumably, then, both the initial tagging and the proofing of these documents would need to be performed by an additional staff member or a freelancer who possesses these skills. Keller also wonders how adopting EPUB production would affect workload and priorities within her department. She questions whether the incorporation of this new format might shift her department’s focus and resources away from the content of a manuscript and toward its technical requirements.

While Keller’s concerns are valid, textual markup is not so foreign a concept for production editors. In fact, textual markup is an extension of the editorial function, as it involves identifying the elements and structure of a manuscript. Though it may seem that introducing XML tagging would require a radical shift in production, there already exists an opportune stage for this encoding to take place within the Press’s current editorial/production workflow.

Following the transmittal meeting, when a manuscript is first brought in-house, each document undergoes a “clean up” process. (See Figure 1.) During this process, a production editor assesses the contents of an author’s manuscript and inserts typecodes that will later be used by the typesetter to layout the document. Elements that are already being tagged by production editors during this process include block quotations <Q>, epigraphs <E>, heading levels <3>, and lists <begin numbered list>. Though these tags are open (not closed) and are not nested, they are analogous to the types of XML tags used in the content files of an EPUB: both types of tags are a form of semantic markup that describe the different parts of a document so that they can later be expressed or manipulated in a certain way. Were these typesetter codes replaced by a standard XML tag set, UBC Press’s production editors would be well on their way to producing the tagged documents they require to produce EPUBs in house.

Furthermore, other clean up tasks performed at this stage of production which don’t currently involve typecodes could easily be replaced with tasks that do in order to introduce an extra level of tagging. For instance, instead of checking to make sure that the first line of every paragraph is indented, editors could instead make sure each paragraph is labeled <p>. Rather than change emboldened words to italicized words, editors could simply tag these words as emphasized <em>. Section breaks, which often need to be inserted manually into Word documents, could instead be marked by <seg> tags.

In short, a close evaluation of manuscripts and a tagging of textual elements already occurs at the beginning of UBC Press’s production process. With a minimal amount of staff training, this process could be modified to include XML markup. If the Press were to start out with well-tagged content, they could use the same source file to produce both print and electronic versions of a title. This workflow would be much more efficient than the current system, wherein content is first formatted for print only, and must later be stripped and tagged with XML afterward in order to produce an EPUB.[43]

 

Exploring the Applications of TEI in Scholarly Publishing

If UBC Press were to pursue an XML-based workflow, it would also need to consider the type of XML language it would use.

DocBook is an XML schema commonly used in the production of books. While its “main structures correspond to the general notion of what constitutes a ‘book,’” it is “particularly well suited for books on computer hardware and software,” having been developed in part by O’Reilly & Associates for producing technical manuals (“What is DocBook?”). However, professionals who work within scholarly publishing have found that this book markup language “lacks native markup elements for many structural features common in humanities and social science texts” (Sewell and Reed).

Fortunately, there exists another type of XML markup that is perhaps better equipped to handle UBC Press’s content: TEI, a markup language developed and maintained by the Text Encoding Initiative Consortium. The TEI guidelines, which have been under development since the 1980s, have come to form a standard for the representation of texts in digital form within the humanities. Although TEI has largely been used to digitize those texts used as primary sources within humanities research (i.e. rare manuscripts and historical documents), it would also be appropriate for use in digitizing secondary literature, i.e., scholarly monographs or reference books.

Because the TEI was developed to describe physical manuscripts, it can accommodate the type of textual elements commonly found in scholarly books, like notes and tables. It also contains more specialized element groups that could be used to tag UP texts that are at present rather tricky to produce as ebooks. For example, UBC Press publishes a series of books on First Nations languages, but the heavy use of phonetic symbols in these texts makes them difficult to convert into EPUBs. However, the TEI has a dictionary module and a set of elements that identify language corpora. This comprehensive tag set could help identify these special elements up front and preserve them during conversion.

Members of the digital humanities community have long anticipated the applications of TEI in scholarly publishing. In June 2009, a special interest group on this topic was formed at the Association of American University Presses. Although no university press in North America is currently using a TEI-based workflow, some are already experimenting with TEI (e.g. University of North Carolina). Other academic institutions have also adopted digital publishing workflows based in TEI encoding. For example, the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has been using TEI in the digitization of full-length works that are later converted into the EPUB format. Sebastian Rahtz of Oxford University Computing Services has also been facilitating TEI-based publishing at his home institution and abroad. He has developed several XSL stylesheets that enable XML->XHTLM transformations, i.e. that help convert TEI documents into EPUBs. Because TEI is developed and maintained by a non-profit organization, these XSL stylesheets are available for use to the public through the TEI website (http://www.tei-c.org/Tools/Stylesheets/).[44]

Using a TEI-first workflow would therefore allow publishers to export their EPUBs more directly, instead of having to prepare a manuscript for print first and convert it afterward. Yet the addition of this TEI tagging process would not entirely disrupt the print-based production workflow currently used by publishers like UBC Press. Documents tagged in TEI can also be imported into traditional desktop publishing programs like InDesign, where they can then be shaped for the printed page (Reed). In addition to producing print and electronic books more efficiently, TEI would allow university presses to repurpose their content in other ways. In the future, TEI documents could be used to create other academic resources, such as online databases or archives, should a press wish to expand its digital publishing activities to include these types of products.[45]

By choosing to use TEI within an XML-based workflow, university presses like UBC Press may also solve previously identified problems with staffing and a lack of in-house expertise. Because TEI is used primarily by members of the academic community, there may be opportunities for publishers to partner with digital humanists and electronic text centres that already exist within universities. The Journal Incubator at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta provides an inspiring example of for how students may take on support roles in digital scholarly publishing. Students who are placed at the Incubator through graduate assistantships and co-op placements acquire training in editorial and production skills, including XML encoding and processing. These students then apply these skills while working for the Incubator: their services, which are primarily used to publish electronic journals, are offered to departments within their own institution, as well as those from outside the university. Instead of “outsourcing,” this type of arrangement amounts to a kind of “insourcing”—looking to one’s host institution for technical advice and support.[46] This type of arrangement may assist university presses like UBC in transitioning to a digital workflow based in TEI, and may, through a sustainable, ongoing partnership, provide the type of encoding that would be required by a press.

The applications of TEI within scholarly publishing are thus quite promising. Although it may be too risky for an individual press to experiment with TEI-first publishing on its own, this option should certainly be pursued by industry organizations like the Association of Canadian University Presses. Scholarly publishers may just find a long-term solution to their outsourcing woes by looking within their own university communities for expertise and assistance.

 

Conclusion

There are several ways for publishers to avoid error-filled files and ensure better quality ebooks.Publishers can reduce the number of formatting errors by proofreading their ebooks in-house; they can also enhance the appearance of their EPUBs by applying their own stylesheets. At the same time, by augmenting the metadata contained within these files, publishers can increase the amount of information available on their digital titles and ensure greater discoverability for them once they are in the supply chain.

However, these are short-term solutions to a systemic problem. If publishers wish to avoid error-filled files in the future, they need to consider more fundamental changes to the way they approach ebook production. This could mean finding a partner that will convert ebooks more carefully, which may, in turn, require publishers to be more selective in the number of titles they convert into EPUBs.

If publishers like UBC Press choose to adopt the EPUB as a standard format for their ebooks, it may behoove them to move ebook production in-house entirely. By doing so, publishers could achieve a consistently better end product. More importantly, they could break their decade-long dependence on large conversion houses that have become a liability.

UBC Press has already shown some ability to accomplish this by taking on enhanced PDFs in-house. There is also an opportunity for the typecoding system currently used by production editors to be expanded into the kind of XML tagging that would enable the Press to produce EPUBs. Should UBC Press decide to pursue an XML-first workflow, it should seriously consider TEI as its markup language of choice. A TEI-first workflow would result in better-tagged documents and easier EPUB exports and it would allow the Press to continue using standard design and layout software to create its print books. That TEI has existed in one form or another since the 1980s indicates that this markup language would be a durable way to store a publisher’s source files, regardless of what new ebook formats may arise in the next few years.

Whether they turn to the digital humanities for solutions, shop around for a smaller technology partner, or extend their staff’s expertise to the field of digital publishing, university presses are well positioned to seize control of their epublishing programs, and have sufficient motivation to do so.

 

 


Notes

1 Since 2001, annual endowment income has decreased by 68% (UBC Treasury). RETURN

2 Smaller-scale publishers like University of Alberta Press and University of Calgary Press receive more than twice the amount of direct funding that UBC Press receives, though they produce a half and a quarter as many new titles a year, respectively. Larger UPs in Canada receive an even greater amount of direct support from their host institutions: both the University of Toronto Press and McGill-Queen’s University Press enjoy nearly six times the amount of internal funding that UBC receives. RETURN

3 UBC Press represents a number of presses within the Canadian market, including University of Washington Press, Manchester University Press, University Press of New England, and Island Press. As part of the services it provides, UBC Press represents these publishers at Canadian conferences and hand-sells their books at these events. The Press also handles Canadian orders for these companies (via UTP Distribution) and includes relevant titles from these publishers within the Press’s own subject catalogues. RETURN

4 In 2011-2012, 50% of UBC Press’s Canadian sales and 78% of its US sales were made to libraries (UBC Treasury). RETURN

5 In the United States, the proportion of annual budgets spent on books by academic libraries fell from 44% in 1986 to 28% in 1997; in this same period, the proportion of library budget spent on journals rose inversely from 56%-72% (Gilroy). RETURN

6 Amazon has achieved this, for instance, by offering publishers a higher royalty rate (70%) on ebooks that are priced more competitively (20% lower than the lowest list price for the physical or digital edition of that title). Amazon also sets maximum list prices for publishers. RETURN

7 For instance, in Fall 2011, the hardcover version of a UBC Press title sold for $95, while the PDF of that same title sold for $99. It should be noted, though, that university presses are not alone in charging more for ebooks destined for the library market. Large trade publishers are also experimenting with higher ebook prices in order to offset a perceived loss in sales that may result from unlimited lending of ebooks through libraries. In March 2012, Random House “nearly tripled its ebook prices for libraries” (Albanese). In September 2012, Hachette Book Group also announced an increase in the cost of ebooks sold to libraries: prices rose anywhere from 35% to 63% (e.g. from $14.99 to $37.99) for popular fiction titles (Lovett). RETURN

8 A similar tactic has been used by publishers to promote the hardcover edition over the paperback edition: the hardcover is traditionally released first and is priced significantly higher than the paperback edition, which is only advertised to libraries 6 months after the original release date. By staggering the release of formats in this way, the Press encourages libraries—whose goal is to stock new releases in a timely manner—into purchasing more expensive, cloth-bound versions of titles. RETURN

9 These figures are in keeping with those found in a recent survey of 1350 consumer trade, STM, educational and corporate publishers conduced by Aptara. 90% of respondents reported that ebook sales account for less than 10% of their overall revenue. This survey also estimated that ebook sales rose 40% in 2010. RETURN

10 “Tethered access refers to e-book use provided by an ongoing interaction over the Internet with vendor software to view an e-book that is resident in the vendor’s database” (McKiel, “Download” 2). RETURN

11As Alison Knight points out, ebrary had a competitive edge as a company: it licensed “not only access to its ebook collection but also the use of its platform” (24-5). The ebrary platform is used by other publishers as a way of distributing their ebooks (e.g. Oxford UP, Elsevier, John Wiley & Sons); it is also used by libraries as a neutral platform for relaying electronic content that has been acquired from outside of ebrary’s collection (i.e. electronic theses and dissertations, ebooks purchased direct from publishers). RETURN

12As an added bonus, publishers would be able to use these PDFs as archival files (i.e. for digital preservation in-house). RETURN

13 Although UBC Press digitized most of its remaining backlist at this time, it did not produce PDFs of heavily illustrated books that weren’t well suited to the electronic format, nor did it volunteer books that would require extensive permissions clearance in order to be reproduced electronically. For books that were commonly used in the classroom, UBC Press decided to convert these titles, but withheld the files from the CEL collection so as to protect the print sales that came from course adoptions. RETURN

14 The Universal PDF is not a unique proprietary format, but, rather, is a term used by CodeMantra for its enhanced PDF product. The term itself is protected under copyright. RETURN

15 As of 2011, UBC Press still held distribution contracts with several content aggregators like EBSCO (formerly NetLibrary), ebrary, and MyiLibrary, although these companies no longer produce files for the Press. RETURN

16This new print-on-demand service was arranged to supply print books to individual buyers outside of North America—markets that are particularly expensive to serve, given the low sales figures and high shipping and warehousing costs. RETURN

17 This strategic goal was expressed in the ACP’s 2007-2008 funding application to the Ontario Media Development Corporation. In its application, the ACP (in partnership with the Ontario Book Publishers Organization and Gibson Publishing Connections) put forth a plan to support the “conversion of about 2000 Canadian titles into XML format” for the purpose of “exploiting the converted works beyond the existing scope of institutional markets [emphasis added].” RETURN

18 At the time of publication, Peter Milroy had retired from his position as director and was replaced by Melissa Pitts, former acting marketing manager and senior acquisitions editor for UBC Press. RETURN

19 For more on the role and benefits of using freelancers at UBC Press, see Megan Brand’s 2005 report, “Outsourcing Academia: How Freelancers Facilitate the Scholarly Publishing Process.” RETURN

20 The ability of content producers to leverage existing content and profit from it anew was described by Chris Anderson the “long tail effect” in a 2004 article in Wired magazine. There, Anderson argues that online retailers like iTunes and Netflix—who aren’t bound by the constraints of material storefronts—can stock and sell a wider array of products than bricks-and-mortar retailers. This deep “cybershelf,” coupled with the ability to reach dispersed and underserved customers, increases the ability of those in the entertainment industry—including publishers—to profit from older, low-in-demand content. Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu (Jeffrey) Hu, and Michael D. Smith also discuss this phenomenon as it relates specifically to Amazon.com. RETURN

21 At times, publishers may have received as little as 30% of gross sales from its contracts with NetLibrary. Both Questia and ebrary operated on slightly different revenue model than NetLibrary. Instead of selling unlimited access to a whole ebook, these companies charged by usage. Ebrary, for instance, charged a small fee set by the publisher (often $0.25-$0.50) each time that a user copied or printed a page. Publishers would then receive 60-80% of that revenue, depending on their arrangement with the company. Questia also used a “micro-payment scheme,” reimbursing publishers for each page view (Crawley, “University Presses” and “Online”). RETURN

22 Although codeMantra is an American company, “its primary dedicated production, operations and development centers are located in Chennai, India” (codeMantra). Innodata Isogen’s conversion houses are also located in India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. RETURN

23 Prices varied according to the length of the book, its complexity level (i.e. number of images and links), and the ebook formats being requested. For instance, the POD PDF, which took less time and effort to produce, was the least expensive ebook format, whereas the EPUB, which required a good deal of additional coding, was the most expensive. RETURN

24 Flowchart provided by Holly Keller. RETURN

25 I have chosen here to focus on UBC Press’s latest outsourcing experience, but as early as 2000, UBC Press had been disappointed with the files it received from content aggregators. For instance, “in NetLibrary’s original iteration, UBC Press found that the HTML format resulted in frequent pagination problems, requiring Press staff to expend significant labour vetting finished books” (Knight 31). RETURN

26 This was a particular problem for books on Asian religion or on Aboriginal language and culture, which contain many foreign language characters. RETURN

27 Without this disclaimer, readers might incorrectly assume that the page numbers found in the index referred to absolute locations within the ebook, when in fact the reflowable text within an EPUB had rendered these page numbers obsolete. RETURN

28 Validation checks the integrity of the code in an ebook file against an XML parser to make sure that the code is well-formed. RETURN

29 The economic fallout of simple errors has been documented in both the publishing world and the world of e-commerce. It has been shown that misspellings in website copy negatively affect online sales, as they raise doubts over the credibility of the website. In one UK study, revenue per visitor doubled after a single typo was fixed (Coughlan). Those who work within the publishing industry have also pointed out to the real cost of errors like typos (see Heffernan). In a recent case, a misprint in a cookbook cost Penguin Group Australia $20,000 dollars in reprint fees (“Cook-book”). RETURN

30 The near-automatic distribution of unchecked files was also made possible by the Press’s use of Collection Point, the digital asset management system developed by CodeMantra. This software, which is designed to deliver digital assets quickly and efficiently, also has an unintended side-effect: it mediates publishers’ interaction with their files in a way that discourages close examination of them. The program does not prompt staff to open or preview the files created by CodeMantra before sending them out to various distribution channels. Because CodeMantra’s end-to-end publishing solution provided an almost seamless, hands-off experience from conversion to distribution, it also enabled staff to circumvent the type of final proofreading that would have been performed were the files produced in house. RETURN

31 In summer 2011, student interns were paid a flat rate of $250 per week. In a 35-hour work week, their pay was equal to $7.14 per hour (less than minimum wage, which at the time was $8.00 per hour). RETURN

32 These estimates are conservative. Given that professional proofreaders are much more thorough, a formal review process would likely cost a great deal more time and money if carried out by a hired freelancer. RETURN

33This may explain the discontinuity and varying quality seen among chapters within the same ebook: if chapters are being divided among employees who aren’t necessarily working together, one chapter may end up with extensively linked notes, while another may not. RETURN

34 Presumably, the geographic distance and difference in time zones—common in offshoring—may have worsened this communication problem. RETURN

35 In support of this point, it should be noted that CodeMantra did not initially offer UBC Press the DTD for its “pubXML”; the Press had to specifically request it in anticipation of this same problem. RETURN

36 University of Ottawa Press has an eBook Coordinator, while Athabasca University Press has a Journals and Digital Coordinator. RETURN

37The .OPF file houses the ebook’s metadata within the EPUB format. In other words, it contains information about the file itself, in addition to containing a manifest of all the other content files in the EPUB package. RETURN

38 In the last round of conversions, the average UBC Press title was 307 pages in length and required 950 links to be inserted. RETURN

39eBOUND reports that the highest-selling ebooks among its members are genre fiction (e.g. romance, thrillers), young adult books, and bestsellers—none of which are published by university presses (“Prioritizing”). RETURN

40 A 2011 ebrary survey found that ebooks loaned by academic libraries are most commonly read on Windows desktops and laptops, or the Apple iPad (McKiel, “Download” 3)—devices which do not require the EPUB format, and to which ePDFs are perhaps better suited. As Peter Milroy points out, PDFs of a trade paperback are almost perfectly sized for the dimensions of an iPad screen: although the text may not be reflowable, the ratio of the original page dimensions (6 by 9 inches) is close enough to the screen’s dimensions (5.8 by 7.75 inches) that the PDF of that original book can be viewed proportionally on the iPad without having to be resized. RETURN

41 For instance, links in the Press’s EPDFs are unidirectional instead of bidirectional: they allow the user to navigate to a location in the text, but not back to the initial position. Unlike the uPDFs produced by CodeMantra, the indexes and tables of contents in these files are not linked to the main text. These features could be achieved in-house, but it would take a considerable amount of time for the staff to implement them. RETURN

42For more on how to prepare documents for EPUB export using styles in Word, see Elizabeth Castro’s EPUB Straight to the Point. RETURN

43 For more on XML-first workflows, see Appendix A: Production and Digital Technology in The Chicago Manual of Style. RETURN

44To see examples of EPUBs produced via this method, visit http://tei.oucs.ox.ac.uk/Projects/TEItoePub/. As is seen here, the TEI community takes a collaborative and transparent approach to textual encoding and digital workflows. This ensures that TEI-based publishing practices are open and accessible. In this way, TEI is perhaps more in keeping with the spirit of information sharing that defines universities and their presses than for-profit technology partners who use “closed” processes and customized forms of XML. RETURN

45 For examples of TEI-based applications and projects, see http://www.tei-c.org/Activities/Projects/. RETURN

46 Although the University of British Columbia does not have its own digital humanities program, there is a notable institution within the province with whom they could collaborate: the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria. RETURN

 

 

 


Appendix A: Ebook Proofing Instructions

 

ePDFs

Open the file in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro.

File Name

Check that the file name is the ePDF ISBN, not the hardcover, paperback, or EPub ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.

Cover

Check the cover for image quality. Make sure that the image is clear and the type legible. Compare against hard copy of book if necessary (see UBC Press’s Permanent Library located in the Meeting Room, Rm 113).

Make sure that the title and author/editor name(s) are present, and are spelled correctly. Check the spelling against the full title page on the interior, if necessary.

CIP Page

Scroll down to the copyright information page (usually p. iv). Make sure it is the paperback CIP page: i.e., it should list the ISBN numbers for all formats, print and electronic.

Table of Contents (ToC)

Scroll down to the ToC page (usually p. vii).

Make sure the ToC page is linked. Click on a chapter title to go to the opening page of that chapter. Click on the title again to return to the ToC page.

If it isn’t already displayed, open the bookmarked ToC by clicking on the bookmark icon that appears in the lefthand sidebar.

Make sure there is a bookmark for each chapter, and that there are no typos in the chapter titles.

Click on the bookmarks—including the bookmark for the Cover Page—to make sure that they link to the right page.

Illustrations

Scroll down to the List of Illustrations (aka Maps, Figures and Tables, p. ix).

Make sure the name of each illustration/figure/map/table links to those images in the text.

Check the image quality of the illustrations.

Click on the image or image title to link back to the List of Illustrations.

Body

Spotcheck pages throughout the book, checking for odd line breaks.

If the book contains endnotes, click on some of the supernumerals: these should take you to the appropriate chapter in the Notes section. Click on the note number again to return to the main text.

Scroll through the Notes section quickly to make sure the notes in each chapter are linked.

Spotcheck other internal links (e.g. to figures). When checking hyperlinks, make sure the pop-up blocker on your browser is turned off.

Make sure the pages in the PDF file are numbered correctly. The number indicated in the menu bar above should match the number on the page. The prelim pages (for the title page, etc.) should be numbered in roman numerals.

Index

Spotcheck the page numbers in the index to make sure they are linked, and that they take you to the right place. Links for page ranges (p. 88-108) may take you either to the first or last page number in that range.

 

EPUBs

Validate the File

Before opening the file, you need to validate it—i.e., make sure that its code is well-formed and that the file is formatted properly.

To do this, upload the file to Epubcheck, an online validation tool from Threepress Consulting. Visit http://threepress.org/document/epub-validate. Browse to find the location of the EPUB file on the H: drive, then click “validate.”

If the EPUB is valid, a green checkmark will appear. If it is invalid, a red X and an error message will appear.

If the file does not validate, make a note of this, but continue proofing.

Check the File Name

The file name should be the EPUB ISBN for that title — not the hardcover, paperback, or ePDF ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.

Open the File

Use a free ereading software program like Adobe Digital Editions <http://www. adobe.com/products/digitaleditions/> that can be downloaded from the web and installed locally on your computer. Do not use Sigil to proof these files: in order to open a file within this program, you have to unzip (i.e. dismantle) it, and the linked table of contents will be lost.

Once you have installed such a program, you will usually have to import or add the EPUB file into your “library” in order to view it. To do this, some programs require you to move the file into the program (instead of just viewing the file via the program). If this is the case, make duplicate copies of the files before importing them into the library.

You can also use web-based reading applications, like Ibis Reader, which usually require you to create an account and upload the files to your personal online “library.”

If you have an e-reading device on hand (e.g. data phone or tablet that has an ereader app), you can also use that to check most of the issues below. You can also use a designated ereading device like a Kobo or Nook to view the file; however, at this point in time, Kindles do not read EPUBs and so cannot be used to proof these files. UBC Press has purchased an iPad for this purpose. Check with Laraine or Peter for permission and instructions on how to use this device.

Once the file is open in “reading” mode, check the elements listed below

Cover

Check the cover for image quality. Make sure that the image is clear, that the type is legible, and that the cover is not stretched horizantally or is too small. If necessary, compare it against the hard copy of the book (see UBC Press’s Permanent Library located in the Meeting Room, Rm 113).

Make sure that the title and author/editor name(s) are present and are spelled correctly. Check the spelling against the title page, if necessary.

CIP & Series Pages

Make sure that the copyright information page and series page (if used) have been moved from the beginning of the file to the end of the file.

Make sure that the CIP page is the paperback version: i.e. it should list the ISBN numbers for all formats, print and electronic.

Tables of Contents

There are two ToCs to check: the embedded ToC that appears in the body of the text, and the navigational ToC that appears beside it.

To view the embedded ToC, scroll down through the prelimary pages until you reach the Table of Contents. Make sure the items on the ToC page are linked. Click on a chapter title to go to the opening page of that chapter. Click on the title again to return to the ToC page.

If the navigational ToC is “hidden” when you first open the file, look to the lefthand sidebar. There is usually a Bookmark or Contents button that you can click to view the bookmarked ToC. In Adobe Editions, there is also a small arrow that you can click and drag to expand this viewing pane.

Make sure there is a bookmark for each chapter, and that there are no typos in the chapter titles.

Click on the bookmarks—including the bookmark for the Cover Page—to make sure that they link to the right page.

Illustrations

Scroll down to the List of Illustrations (aka Maps, Figures and Tables).

Make sure the name of each illustration/figure/map/table links to those images in the text.

Check the image quality of the illustrations.

Make sure that the titles and captions appear above/below the images, not beside them.

Make sure that the text surrounding the images is well placed and not interrupted by the image.

Check for problems with tables (e.g. misaligned cells or cell contents, tables that have three or more columns and are appearing as text instead of images).

Click on the image or image title to link back to the List of Illustrations.

Body

Scroll/flip through the file, checking for the following problems:

• strange line breaks

• hyphens that appear in odd places, like the middle of a line, or that divide words which shouldn’t be hyphenated

• diacritics/accents that have been captured as images instead of as text. This tends to happen often with Asian characters, but can also happen with accented letters in French words. You will be able to tell if they are images because they will not seem aligned with the rest of the text, and cannot be resized.

Spotcheck internal links. If the book contains endnotes, click on some of the supernumerals: these should take you to the appropriate place in the Notes section. Click on the note number again to return to the main text. If checking hyperlinks, make sure the pop-up blocker on your browser is turned off.

Unlike the ePDF, the text here is reflowable. Don’t worry if it seems like there are odd page breaks (e.g. the title page seems spread across two different pages); the amount of text being displayed adjusts to the size of your screen/window.

Although your reader/browser might display page numbers, these page numbers are not actually a part of the EPUB file. Don’t worry if they aren’t in roman numerals or don’t match the ePDF page count.

Index

Unlike the ePDF, the index in an EPUB is not linked to the main text.

Make sure the following disclaimer is present at the beginning of the index: “The page numbers in this index refer to the print edition of this book.”

Metadata

The EPUB ISBN should also appear as the ID in the file metadata. Most ereading devices will allow you to view the metadata for an EPUB file, but in order to do this on a computer, you usually need to open up the EPUB file.

One way of doing this is to download and install a free ebook management tool like Calibre <http://calibre-ebook.com/ along with a free text editor like Notepad++ http://notepad-plus-plus.org/download/v5.9.3.html>.

After adding the EPUB file to the Calibre library, right-click on the title and select “Tweak EPUB.” The select “Explode EPUB.” This will unzip the EPUB so that you can view the files within it.

Look for the .OPF file. It may be contained within the OEBPS folder, and may have a very long name, but it will end with the “.opf” extension.

Right-click on the .OPF file, and choose “Open with” or “Edit with Notepadd++.” This will open the .OPF file, which contains information about the book wrapped in XML tags.

Within the first 20 lines or so, you should see “<dc: identifier,” followed by the EPUB ISBN. If the ISBN number is missing, take note of this.

After checking the metadata, you can exit Notepad++ without saving, and hit “Cancel” on the Calibre “Tweak EPUB” screen.

 

POD PDFs

The Print on Demand (POD) PDF files are essentially print-ready files that are sent to Lightening Source, which prints short runs of softcover books.

Before proofing these files, please consult the LSI File Creation Guide found in Departments/Production/Style Guides and Training/Ebook Proofing, or visit the Lightening Source website to learn more about the specifications for these files <http://www.lightningsource.com/digital_bookblock_creation.aspx#standardBooks>.

There should be 2 separate PDF files for each title: one for the cover, the other for the book’s interior. Open these files in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro, and check the following:

File Names

Make sure that both file names contain the paperback ISBN — not the hardcover, EPUB or ePDF ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.

Cover File

Unlike the ePDF and EPUB files, which use lower resolution images, the cover for the POD file should be the high-resolution paperback cover.

This cover should also be the full-wrap cover, with front, back, and spine—not just the front cover.

The back cover should also display the paperback barcode.

Interior File

This PDF should have the paperback copyright information page (CIP page): i.e., it should list the ISBNs for all formats, print and electronic.

Because this file is destined for print, it will not have a linked ToC or any other interactive features contained in the other ebook files.

 

 


References

 

Books and Articles

Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” Wired (12.10) October 2004.

Albanese, Andrew. “Macmillan Poised to Test Library E-book Model.” Publishers Weekly September 24, 2004.

Castro, Elizabeth. EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating Ebooks for the Apple iPad and Other Readers. Berkeley, CA: Peach Pit Press, 2011.

“Cook-Book Misprint Costs Australian Publishers Dear.” BBC News Online April 17, 2010.

Coughlan, Sean. “Spelling Mistakes ‘Cost Millions’ in Lost Online Sales.” BBC News Online. July 13, 2011.

Crawley, Devon. “Libraries Experiment with E-book Lending,” Quill & Quire June 1, 2000.

Crawley, Devon. “Online E-book Services Struggle to Survive,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2001.

Crawley, Devon. “Scholarly Presses Forgo E-books,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2001.

Crawley, Devon. “University Presses Tread Cautiously with E-books,” Quill & Quire 1 Nov. 2000.

Heffernan, Virginia. “The Price of Typos.” The New York Times [Opinion Pages] July 17, 2011.

MacDonald, Scott. “Heritage Grant Kickstarts E-book Initiative for Indie Publishers,” Quill & Quire, October 20, 2009.

Murray, Chelsea. “Canadian Electronic Library Strikes Potentially Lucrative International Deal for Publishers,” Quill & Quire August 12, 2010.

“Newly Incorporated eBound Canada Offers Digital Solutions to Canadian Publishers,” Quill & Quire June 27, 2011.

Ng-See-Quan, Danielle. “University Libraries Make Canadian Digital Connections,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2008.

Sewell, David and Kenneth Reid. “TEI: Scholarly Publishers Collaborate on XML,” The Exchange, Spring 2010. Association of American University Presses website.

Smith, Briony. “Canadian Firm Pushing Homegrown E-Books to Expanding Academic Market,” Quill & Quire 27 June 2006.

Wittenberg, Kate. “Reimagining the University Press,” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13.2 (Fall 2010).

 

Interviews

Coates, Laraine. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.

Keller, Holly. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.

Milroy, Peter. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.

 

Email

Boshart, Nic. “Question re: Conversion Houses.” July 26, 2011.

Boshart, Nic. “Conversions.” November 17, 2011.

Izma, Steve. “Re: Electronic Publishing at Wilfrid Laurier Press.” March 12, 2011.

Rahtz, Sebastian. “Re: TEI and Ebooks” [TEI-PUB-SIG listserve]. September 22, 2011.

Reed, Kenneth. “Re: TEI and Ebooks” [TEI-PUB-SIG listserve]. September 22 and 26, 2011.

 

Online Sources

CRKN. “About.” Canadian Research Knowledge Network website. 2011.<http://www.crkn.ca/about>

Digital Book World. “Beyond the Publishing Headlines Roundtable” [webcast]. September 29, 2011. <http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/beyond-the-publishing-headlines-roundtable-92911/#ixzz1ZMWkL1iq>

“eBOUND SFU Production Nightmares Round Table”

. eBOUND website. 1 Nov. 2011. 25 Jan. 2011. <http://www.eboundcanada.org/index.php/resources/tutorials/98-ebound-sfu-production-nightmares-round-table >

Lovett, Michael. “Hachette Book Group’s New Library eBook Pricing.” OverDrive Digital Library Blog. September 14, 2012.<http://overdriveblogs.com/library/2012/09/14/hachette-book-group%E2%80%99s-new-library-ebook-pricing/>

“Prioritizing Ebook Production: Which Books Should You Convert First?” eBOUND Canada website, April 19, 2012.

Salo, Dorothea. “A Tale of Two Conversion Houses.” Yarineth Blog. 1 April 2000.<http://yarinareth.net/articles/a-tale-of-two-conversion-houses/>

University of Lethbridge Journal Incubator website.<http://www.uleth.ca/lib/incubator/>

“What is DocBook?” DocBook.org website. <http://www.docbook.org/whatis>

 

MPub Project Reports

Brand, Megan. “Outsourcing Academia: How Freelancers Facilitate the Scholarly Publishing Process.” Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, 2005.

Knight, Alison Elaine. “The Tangled Web: Managing and Confronting Scholarly Ebook Production at UBC Press.” Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, 2007.

 

Reports

Aptara. “Uncovering eBooks’ Real Impact: Aptara’s Third Annual eBook Survey of Publishers.” Falls Church, VA: Aptara, September 2011.

Baldwin, John R. and Wulong Gu. “Basic Trends in Outsourcing and Offshoring in Canada.” Ottawa: Micro-Economic Analysis Division, Statistics Canada, 2008.

Goss Gilroy Inc. “Formative Evaluation of the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP) Part II: Context for Scholarly Publishing.” Ottawa: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, 22 November, 2004.

McKiel, Allen. “ebrary Download Survey Report.” Monmouth, OR: ebrary, 2011.

—. “200 Global Librarian Ebook Survey.” Tahlequah, OK: ebrary, 2007.

Morissette, René, and Anick Johnson. “Offshoring and Employment in Canada: Some Basic Facts.” Ottawa: Business and Labour Market Development Division, Analytical Studies Branch, Statistics Canada, 2007.

UBC Treasury Strategic and Decision Support. “UBC Press Business Model Review (draft).” Vancouver: UBC Treasury, June 28, 2001.


Data-driven Publishing: Using Sell-Through Data as a Tool for Editorial Strategy and Developing Long-Term Bestsellers

By Amanda Regan

ABSTRACT: This report examines how sell-through reporting has revolutionized the editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales strategies of Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books since the introduction of BookScan and BookNet. It analyzes how Sourcebooks developed its line of college-bound books through data analysis, using Harlan Cohen’s The Naked Roommate as a case study to learn the strategies that the publisher implemented to grow the title into a New York Times bestseller after six years over four editions. The report also explores how Raincoast Books, the distributor of Sourcebooks titles in Canada, analyzes sell-through data to identify concerns in the book’s performance, and its plans to fix the issues. The main goal of this report is to offer insight into the ways that various departments of a publishing house can practically analyze sales data and utilize the information creatively and strategically to grow its editorial vision, guide its marketing decisions, and improve book sales.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Jamie Broadhurst, Danielle Johnson, Siobhan Rich, Elizabeth Kemp, Crystal Allen, Peter MacDougall, Chelsea Theriault, and everyone at Raincoast Books for your warm welcome and assistance during my internship and for being willing to answer my questions. Special thanks to Jamie for helping me to formulate the topic for my report, and for your invaluable input and insight into the world of book marketing and publicity.

I would like to thank Todd Stocke at Sourcebooks for taking the time to share your publishing experiences. It is very much appreciated. Thanks also to Heidi Weiland for helping to connect me with the right staff person at Sourcebooks.

To the MPub folks, my thanks to John Maxwell and Rowland Lorimer for your input and guidance in completing this report, and to the rest of the faculty and Jo-Anne Ray for your advice and assistance throughout the program.

To my husband, Tyler, thank you for your unwavering support, love, and understanding throughout my time in grad school. It is what kept me going.

 

 


CONTENTS

Acknowledgements

List of Figures

List of Tables

Introduction
+++About this Report
+++Overview of the Topic

I – The Impact of Sell-Through Reporting on the Business of Book Publishing
+++Impact on Editorial Acquisitions
+++Impact on Marketing, Publicity, and Sales Functions

II – Leveraging Sell-Through Data at Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books
+++Overview of Sourcebooks
+++Overview of Raincoast Books
+++Leveraging Sell-Through Data

III – Case Study: The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen
+++Beginnings of the Sourcebooks College Vertical
+++About Harlan Cohen
+++Selling The Naked Roommate in the United States
+++Selling The Naked Roommate in Canada

IV – Review and Analysis
+++A Successful Vertical Strategy
+++Considerations for the College Vertical in the Canadian Market
+++Considerations for Other Book Categories and Publishing Scenarios

Conclusion

Appendices
+++A: US Marketing, Publicity and Sales Promotion Campaign
+++B: Fourth Edition Press Release
+++C: Sourcebooks Catalogue Features
+++D: Fourth Edition New York Times Bestseller Press Release
+++E: US Media Coverage and Public Relations Events Confirmed
+++F: Raincoast Books Spring 2011 Graduation Promotion
+++G: Canadian Press Release
+++H: Canadian Media Targeted for Publicity Mailings
+++I: Canadian Media Coverage and Public Relations Events Confirmed
+++J: Sample Topics and Questions for Author Interview

Notes

References

 

 


LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1 Sales Cycle of College Guides
Figure 2 Sales Cycle of College Survival and Success Books

 

 


LIST OF TABLES

Table 3.1 Three streams of data that Raincoast Books provides to its publishers
Table 3.2 Items listed on Raincoast Books’ Major Sales Grid
Table 4.1 Publication dates for in the United States
Table 4.2 Fall enrolments in degree-granting institutions in the United States
Table 4.3 University enrolment in CanadaTable 4.4 College enrolment in Canada

 

 


INTRODUCTION

The book publishing industry has gone through major changes over the past few decades with the contraction of traditional media outlets and the expansion of new technologies. The persistent issues of poor supply chain practices and massive returns continue to this day. Now added to that are the questions and concerns over adapting to new technologies such as ebooks, web publishing and social media. Technology is always evolving and publishers are expected to be open to adapt to change to keep their businesses thriving.

In the past decade since the turn of the century, one major development in the book publishing industry in North America is the establishment of sell-through data reporting services. Sell-through data, also known as point-of-sale (pos) data, is the information collected at the point when the final business-to-consumer (b2c) sales transaction occurs during checkouts at retail outlets, where the ownership, and typically the possession, of the product is transferred from the seller to the consumer, as opposed to the business-to-business (b2b) sales transaction from the publisher into the bookstore (Wikipedia, “Point of Sale”; BusinessDictionary.com). Sell-through data reveals where, when, and how many copies of a product, in this case a book, is bought by a customer at a retailer.

Nielsen BookScan and BookNet Canada are the organizations that respectively provide American and Canadian book sales data to their industry subscribers. Prior to this, publishers often acted in the dark and could only find out about how their books were doing via returns, which sometimes came back months later. They would have had to maintain close relationships with retailers to keep tabs on how their own titles were doing on a regular, weekly basis. It was a time-consuming process. Now, sell-through reporting services allow publishers to track the performance of not only their own titles, but also those from their competitors, in a timely manner. This development has had significant implications within the industry, and has influenced all aspects of book publishing, from editorial to marketing and sales departments.

As with all advancements in technology, there is need for continued research, gathering of information and understanding of best practices to shape the future of the book and the publishing business in the midst of these changes. This report seeks to examine the practical implications that sell-through reporting has had on some publishers and how sales data can be leveraged successfully in the business of book publishing.

 

ABOUT THIS REPORT

The main goal of this report is to offer insight into ways that publishers can practically analyze sell-through data so that the various personnel in editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales departments can utilize the information creatively and strategically to grow their editorial vision, guide their marketing decisions, and improve sales of their books. To accomplish this goal, this report examines how sell-through reporting has revolutionized the business strategies of Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books since the introduction of BookScan and BookNet in the United States and Canada. It will look at how these two companies leverage sell-through data in the process of developing their list of books, getting them into the market and into the hands of consumers.

The strategies explored in this report are particularly applicable to publishers of non-fiction and genre fiction titles where a specialty reputation can be established within niche communities. The approach can help push sales of mid-list titles, or frontlist titles that are not blockbusters from the outset, and possibly turn them into bestsellers over time.

The information in this report was collected in the period of April to December 2011, which includes the three months of my summer internship with the marketing and publicity department at Raincoast Books. It was obtained from interviews conducted with the staff at Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books, personal staff emails, marketing materials provided by the staff, analysis of bnc SalesData, books and journals from the Simon Fraser University Library and database, as well as blogs, websites, and magazine and newspaper articles found online.

 

OVERVIEW OF THE TOPIC

Raincoast Books is a division of Raincoast Book Distribution Inc., an award-winning, Canadian-owned book wholesale and distribution company based in Richmond, British Columbia. Founded in 1979, Raincoast Books provides comprehensive sales, marketing, and distribution services to a select number of international publishers. It distributes books on a wide range of topics including food, health, kids, pop culture, travel, as well as gift products such as notebooks and stationery.

In 2010, Raincoast Books signed a distributor contract with an independent us publisher, Sourcebooks, and began shipping its titles in January 2011. Raincoast had noticed the big gaps that existed between the American and Canadian sales of some of Sourcebooks’ titles. These gaps were apparent for Sourcebooks’ line of college-bound books, such as The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen. The fourth edition of the book was released in April 2011 and was under-performing in Canada compared to sales in the us, a situation similar to every one of its previous three editions.

The senior marketing and sales management staff at Raincoast Books wanted to put more resources into the fourth edition of the book because of the noticeable difference between American and Canadian sales. Why was it that for four editions now, the book continues to sell so well in the us—with the fourth edition becoming a New York Times bestseller—but consistently does so poorly in Canada? Now that the issue is identified, how can it be fixed?

During my internship with Raincoast Books from April to July 2011, I was assigned to help with marketing and publicity initiatives to boost the Canadian sales of The Naked Roommate. I decided to analyze the case for this report. Using the book as a case study, the report analyzes how Sourcebooks developed its line of college-bound books through analysis of sell-through data, and the strategies it implemented to successfully grow the title into a New York Times bestseller over four editions after six years. The report then explores how Raincoast Books used sell-through data analysis to identify concerns in the sales performance of the book in Canada, and its plans to fix the issues—specifically, its plans to try to close the gap between the book’s excellent American sales and its under-performing Canadian sales.

The report focuses on the college guide market and the decision-making process to provide observations on how the considerations and strategies can be adjusted for future publishing seasons and perhaps be extrapolated onto other categories of books.

 

 

I.THE IMPACT OF SELL-THROUGH REPORTING ON THE BUSINESS OF BOOK PUBLISHING

Book publishing has never been an easy business. If one takes some time to read the books about the industry over the recent decades, it will not take long before one discovers the list of challenges that publishers consistently face up to this day. In the book, In Cold Type, author Leonard Shatzkin (1982, 2-3) provides a sobering description of the stark difference between books and other consumer products that was apparent back in the eighties. Compared to other consumer products, the book publishing industry has a larger number of suppliers (publishers) in relation to distributors (retailers), and the suppliers experience a lack of direct influence over the distribution system. Not many other consumer industries have products with so short a shelf life as books, where each individual product has its own personality and requires different marketing methods (3). As such, sales of books tend to vary unpredictably and at random. Added to that is the “limited replenishment” (3) nature of the business which makes the task of improving sales a unique challenge for publishers because a reader who enjoyed a book does not usually “rush out to buy another copy so he can have more of the same pleasure” (3). Not to mention the limited shelf space of so few retailers. The book trade has always been a rather unprofitable business which operates close to the break-even point (9).

Up until the end of the twentieth century, publishers were mostly acting in the dark due to the lack of access to real-time sales statistics to forecast market trends accurately. It was difficult to discern sales patterns to see how well or poorly a book was doing until much later—sometimes months later—when the publishers receive returns. However, the book publishing industry was in for a turn of events when Nielsen BookScan was introduced in 2001. Previously, tracking of book sales was not done using concrete raw data, but rather by estimation whereby a survey and sampling of sales from a few selected retailers was used to estimate the patterns of the larger population (Dreher 2002). This was evident in the discrepancies between various bestseller lists such as the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. The rankings would be published without the actual sales figures, which meant that there would be no way to tell the difference between first and second place, or first and fiftieth place. After BookScan was formed, it would eventually be treated as the authoritative source on book point-of-sale data.

Owned by the same company[1] that introduced SoundScan to the music industry in the early nineties, BookScan tracks point-of-sale information from a variety of participating retailers from in-store scanners, and reports to subscribers on a weekly basis the number of copies sold and where they were sold (Nielsen, n.d.; Hutton 2002, 45). Today, it is the world’s largest continuous sales tracking service that provides sales data reports and analysis to publishers and booksellers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Italy, the United States, Spain, New Zealand, and India (Nielsen, n.d.). Of these countries, BookScan tracks data from more than 31,500 bookstores, presenting the information by market size and market share of different book categories, individual publishers, specific imprints, authors, and price points (Nielsen, n.d.). At the time of writing, BookScan tracks 75 percent of all point-of-sale information in the us, which includes large retailers like Barnes & Noble, Costco, Amazon.com, and Target, as well as many independent bookstores. It does not track sales from Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club (Nielsen, n.d.). Publishers who would like access to these point-of-sale reports must pay thousands of dollars, up to $75,000 per year, for the hefty BookScan subscription fee (Hutton 2002, 47).

Five years after the formation of BookScan, Canada joined many of the other English-language book markets in tracking sales data using BookNet Canada’s bnc SalesData service. The process of setting up this service began in September 2001 with the formation of the Canadian book industry Supply Chain Initiative (sci) for the purpose of identifying inefficiencies in the Canadian book publishing supply chain, recommend solutions, and implement changes to improve the state of the industry (MacLean 2009). sci focused on three priorities that were identified as critical to improving supply chain: bibliographic data, electronic data interchange (edi), and point-of-sale data collection (MacLean 2009). sci funding eventually led to the creation of the not-for-profit agency, called BookNet Canada, in December 2002.[2] BookNet’s website states that the agency “focuses on bibliographic data, electronic data interchange (edi), sales data analysis, international standards and the sourcing of other technologies and services to enhance supply chain efficiencies” (“About BookNet Canada”).

The first few years at BookNet were taken up with finding ways to improve the quality of and establishing a national standard for bibliographic data. It was not until the time between 2005 to 2006 that the agency launched bnc SalesData, a comprehensive Canadian book sales data reporting and analysis service for the English-language market (Canadian Heritage, The Book Report 2006, 17). Today, this service tracks 75 percent of all Canadian book sales—an average of one thousand retail locations—including data from large chains, independents, online retailers, college and university bookstores, and non-traditional channels such as airport shops, grocery chains, and discount stores (BookNet Canada, “BNC SalesData”). The cost of subscription is a minimum of $2,000 per year (BookNet Canada, “BNC SalesData Group Buy Plan”).

 

IMPACT ON EDITORIAL ACQUISITIONS

BookScan did not arrive without controversy. Some publishing professionals—from publishers and agents, to authors and pundits—were concerned about how being numbers-driven would affect the quality of content produced, as illustrated by the impact of the implementation of SoundScan on the music industry (Hutton 2002, 46). Not long after the formation of SoundScan, record labels became increasingly hit-driven and were chasing the artists who could make the charts quickly, namely those in the pop genre. This meant that lesser known artists would be less likely to be given a chance at a record deal. As a result, critics felt that the music charts became gradually filled with songs that were formulaic and of the same “shoddy, market-driven pop music” genre (Dreher 2002). Likewise, with the formation of BookScan, book industry professionals began to fear a similar fate where the bestseller lists would be filled with similar, formulaic books that were perceived as having blockbuster potential to bring in big money (Hutton 2002, 47).

This fear of the blockbuster phenomenon actually began well before the implementation of BookScan. In the latter half of the twentieth century, there was an increasing concern over the widespread consolidation and mergers of publishing houses, declining readership, the growing blockbuster-driven culture, and competition from other media (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 187-189). In the sixties, trade book publishing was subjected to a major shift: from a predominance of independently owned and run publishing houses, to a predominance of concentrated ownership of such houses under publicly owned corporate organizations (Whiteside 1981, 1-2). These large corporations were in turn absorbed into huge conglomerates.

While mergers were occurring on a small scale since the start of the twentieth century, it was the events during the sixties that set the tone for what was to come, particularly when Alfred A. Knopf was taken over by Random House, which in turn was acquired by rca (Radio Corporation of America) as part of the wider trend towards corporate conglomerates in America (Whiteside 1981, 3). The growing number of corporate consolidations, combined with the unprofitable nature of book publishing, caused many publishers to increasingly place emphasis on chasing celebrity and the blockbuster. Publishers were concentrating their attention on searching for and promoting potential bestsellers, and the trade book business appeared to be “a component of the conglomerate communications-entertainment complex” (22):

“This concentration on the blockbuster is reinforced by other developments that have been occurring in the industry—among them the growth of large chains of retail bookstores, the strong rivalry of paperback publishers for rack space in retail outlets, the computerization of inventory and warehousing systems, the arrival on the scene of a new breed of big-time literary agent, the influence of television talk shows that regularly feature authors as guests, the control by entertainment conglomerates of hardcover and paperback publishing companies as well as motion-picture companies and the like, and the increasingly active involvement of Hollywood in the business of book publishing itself.” (Whiteside 22)

In Greco, Rodríguez and Wharton’s (2007, 188) survey of fifty-seven respondents at all levels within the industry, they found that the chase for profit, celebrity, and the blockbuster, coupled with widespread consolidation, raised concerns among some in the industry for the small independent presses that were bought up by larger companies. The fear was that these small independent presses might be subjected to massive change or be shut down in the process, causing the loss of their contribution of a unique voice and quality of content in the trade. Some publishers were concerned that the blockbuster-driven industry had a detrimental influence on the quality of the content being published—a type of “dumbing down” (187)—as publishers were less inclined to take chances on a risky or unique book whose market is not easily identifiable.

This trend placed pressure on editors in the acquisition process to look for the commercial potential of the manuscript as well as the media-friendly personality and connections of the author. Focusing on a manuscript’s commercial potential to be a moneymaking blockbuster does not reinforce the strategic development of an editorial plan, but rather the practice of making publishing decisions book by book (L. Shatzkin 1982, 13). To this day, the trend towards media platforms is an increasingly important consideration for all books. It has become an expectation that publishers have of authors (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 184). How well an author performs in media or an author’s pre-existing connections to media outlets are key factors in determining whether a book will be published. Publishing and public relations strategist, Jodee Blanco, puts it this way: “the most vital selling point when pitching a media contact is how much the author will affect and engage the audience, because that’s the producers’ and editors’ first priority” (2004, 3). It is a shift from finding “great writers” with strong writing, to searching for “marketable writers” that can make money at the expense of poorly edited books (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 184). Even early on, Whiteside also noted of this shift in focus on “the author as a personality rather than the book as a book” (1981, 37).

What publishers deemed as marketable was probably heavily informed by the media and non-substantive bestseller lists, not by studying concrete sell-through data to see what consumers are actually buying. Nonetheless, now with availability of sell-through data provided by BookScan, the concern that poor literary quality content will populate the bestseller lists is still a fear for some publishers. In the early days of BookScan, publishing professionals feared that “authors with prize potential or with prestigious, intellectual, or literary works would be buried” (Hutton 2002, 47), lost in the sea of commercial titles that bring in the money but not necessarily carry the same weight in literary excellence. That fear and controversy linger on to this day. Stephen Henighan’s article, “The BookNet Dictatorship” published in Geist magazine in early 2011, is an example of the worries that some have today about BookNet sales data. Henighan asserts his opinion that BookNet is detrimental to the quality of Canadian literature, that it “incarnates how corporate imperatives are squeezing the creative juice out of our fiction” (2011). He suggests that today’s editors in Canada are enslaved to BookNet sales data and no longer rely on literary taste, stating that “the novel on a deeply personal subject is shuffled aside in favour of the blockbuster that reflects yesterday’s headlines and promises to sell film rights” (2011), a sentiment similar to the long-time concern about the blockbuster phenomenon.

On the other hand, some publishing pundits saw the potential of BookScan early on to open up the book market to new categories that have been previously overshadowed by blockbusters (Hutton 2004, 48). When SoundScan was introduced, previously niche genres of rap and country music that were underrated by big record companies soon garnered more listeners and were brought to the public’s attention alongside pop blockbusters (Hutton 2004, 48; Dreher 2002). Similarly with BookScan, smaller, alternative books by independent publishers that would previously not be noticed can be brought to the public and bookseller’s attention more readily with BookScan. For example, a book that perennially sells a small number of copies per week steadily for many years will never make onto a bestseller list, even though it would technically be on par with a book that had big sales in the opening weeks, made it on the bestseller list, but stopped selling soon after four weeks. BookScan will be able to establish more credibility in the market for the smaller book.

Much like the movie business with a perpetual reproduction of “typical Hollywood” movies and emphasis on opening weekend sales at the box office, there may well be a continuing trend towards the homogenization and “dumbing down” of books among some publishers and categories of books due to the blockbuster phenomenon and its heavy emphasis on sales within four to six weeks of a book’s release (Thompson 2010, 266). However, the availability of sell-through data can help create greater public awareness of non-blockbuster, smaller titles.

 

IMPACT ON MARKETING, PUBLICITY, AND SALES FUNCTIONS

Not only has sell-through data impacted the editorial function in how a publisher decides on which manuscript to publish, but it has also influenced the marketing and sales functions of the business. The publisher essentially has to accomplish two things once an author contract is signed: firstly, to ensure that the book is available in stock where prospective buyers can access it, then secondly, to let these buyers know about the book and give compelling reasons for them to purchase it (L. Shatzkin 1982, 25). To accomplish the former, the publisher employs a sales force that sells directly to retailers, distributors and wholesalers. To do the latter, the publisher will have to engage in publicity, public relations, promotions or advertising. The former is the sales function of achieving sell-in—getting the books onto the store shelves; the latter is the marketing function of achieving sell-through—getting the books into the hands of the end user (Blanco 2004, 10-11).

However, the marketing function also greatly affects sell-in as well. When Leonard Shatzkin wrote In Cold Type in 1982, he observed that much of the publishers’ efforts were placed on selling in. He noted:

“…in contrast to most other industries producing consumer goods, the selling effort is still almost entirely directed to getting the product into the store.” (7)

“Most other industries have reached the point where, it is no longer necessary to negotiate every single unit of every single item, the selling job is to move the product through the store.” (7)

Fast-forward twenty years later, the efforts seemed to have shifted to pushing for sell-through. Jodee Blanco (2004, 12) suggests in her book, The Complete Guide to Book Publicity, that sometimes publishers make the mistake of focusing publicity and promotional efforts too much on sell-through and not enough on sell-in.

Essentially, both sell-in and sell-through are equally important and mutually dependent. A widely held opinion in the book industry is that word-of-mouth is a powerful factor for sell-through (L. Shatzkin 1982, 46). Word-of-mouth is “the passing of information from person to person by oral communication” (Wikipedia, “Word of Mouth”). It is often generated by media publicity, public relations, or strong advertising and promotion. However, if enough word-of-mouth is generated for a prospective buyer to enter the bookstore looking for the specific title, but the bookstore has none in stock, the word-of-mouth reaction can slow down or come to a halt completely (47). For some time in the late twentieth century, publishers sometimes based their decision on whether or not to publish a title, or whether or not promote a title in a big way, on the level of enthusiasm or cooperation by the bookseller to carry the book or promote the book in the store with prominent displays (Whiteside 1981, 46). Thus, the sell-in process of getting the book retailer to place enough advanced orders in the right store locations is just as vital to the life sales of a book as sell-through. The right balance of a publisher’s resources for both the sell-in and sell-through processes would benefit titles tremendously. The efforts to promote a book can be used both for encouraging a retailer to stock up on a book as well as for a prospective buyer to go out and purchase it.

The bookselling process has changed over the past few decades due to the advancements of technologies. Kermit Hummel (2004) described in this article, “The Perishing of Publishing,” about how the business of bookselling has shifted from an enthusiasm-based bookselling method to that of ‘analogy bookselling.’ He writes, “…what makes things tick is the notion that there is nothing new under the sun. We sell books and distribute books by analogy. ‘This book will appeal to the readers of ‘X’. If you liked X, you’ll love Y’.” (160). The old-school bookselling method of relying on sheer enthusiasm for the new title was being replaced in the eighties and nineties by the analogy selling method of providing analysis of competitive or comparable books that are “like” this new title (160). The analogy selling method is used to this day when trying to encourage sell-through, such as Amazon’s “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendations on its online store, and it is also used during the sell-in process when sales reps attempt to persuade booksellers to stock the shelves with their books.

This shift towards analogy selling was an extension of the development of new technologies in enabling sales data tracking, first just by booksellers of their in-store products, then later by participating publishers who subscribe to a sell-through reporting service. As such, “instead of raw and uninformed enthusiasm, predictability became a vastly more operative concept in the book distribution system” (Hummel 2004, 161). The irony, Hummel pointed out, is that publishers are trying to market new books as unique and entirely different, but using “a sales and distribution system that increasingly depends entirely upon an assumption of the fundamental fungibility of titles” (161). The process has become less about the content of the book, and more about the sales expectations of a previously published book (by the same author or another). Essentially, the book has been commodified.

To aid the bookselling process, publishers combine sales data with a number of marketing initiatives, which may include publicity, public relations, advertising or promotion. Publicity and public relations events for the author and his or her book have always been crucial. Publicity is media or news coverage that is free, unlike advertising which is paid for by the publisher (Blanco 2004, 4-5). Public relations is “the function of perpetuating an image through a variety of means that connect specific sectors of the public with the product or person that image is attached to” (5), and involves public author appearances, such as at bookstores and seminars, that not only allows live interaction with the audience but also helps place the author and the book in a positive light. As such, public relations can be a means to gain publicity as the media may be invited to be present at the event to report on it. These initiatives create awareness and help to develop word-of-mouth reaction.

According to John B. Thompson (2010, 238) in his book, Merchants of Culture, the real battle that is currently taking place in publishing, and probably always has been, is that of getting a book seen, heard of and talked about—the concept of word-of-mouth. It is increasingly difficult to make a book visible in a crowded, competitive marketplace as the number of books being published is growing almost every year and readers are faced with an abundance of books to choose from.[3] While the challenge of making the book stand out has remained the same for marketing and publicity departments over the past thirty years, today the channels that are available and the timing of when to push books have changed fundamentally (243).

Traditionally, in the sixties, promotion of books was limited to advertisements in the book-review sections of newspapers and magazines, author appearances at bookstores, sending out press releases and a few review copies (Whiteside 1981, 23). Twenty years later, television and radio interviews quickly became a focus in book publicity due to the capability of an author appearance to spike sales, although the opportunity is subject to the personality of the author and what the publishers and producers deem will work best for television or radio (33-35). Today, specialized channels or ‘micro media’ are becoming more important for marketing and promoting books, whereas traditional mass media channels such as print advertising and multi-city author tours have become less effective due to increased competition for limited space, although these mass channels have not become irrelevant (Thompson 2010, 243-246).

Thompson reports that today, most marketing managers tend to agree that they are increasingly focusing their efforts on micro media, “trying to identify specific, fine-grained ways of reaching the people who comprise what they see as the readership, using an array of different channels which, in addition to traditional print media, now include a variety of new media” (246). Digital channels have become a game-changer in book marketing and publicity with the growth of online marketing through online advertising, online outreach, and the management of web properties such as search engine optimization, e-newsletters, reading groups, websites, blogging, and helping authors start their own social networking sites (251-257). With these smaller and specific channels for marketing, a book will require multiple hits—or mentions in the media—before it can generate substantial word-of-mouth reaction. When an individual is exposed to the ripple effects of word-of-mouth and media mentions, research shows that it could take six to twelve touches in the individual’s mind for the person to eventually come to a decision to take action and buy the book (244).

The growth of new media channels has also influenced the timing on when to push books. The timing has shifted from aiming for a great break of publicity on publication date and the weeks after, to be more focused on slowly building pre-publication awareness and momentum through new media channels (Thompson 2010, 248-251). When a marketing campaign is built slowly over time, it can “[get] people talking about a book and [generate] interest and excitement well in advance of publication” (249). This pre-publication interest has shaped the pre-order phenomenon at Amazon, whereby publishers are now able to obtain book sales numbers prior to its physical availability at the retailers—an impossible feat before the development of new media. When physical book retailers notice the buzz online and its status on Amazon’s pre-order list, they can be more easily persuaded by sales reps to increase their initial order. Thus, a pre-publication marketing and publicity campaign built slowly over time is effective not only for creating awareness through multiple touches in the minds of prospective buyers, but also for obtaining healthy sell-in which can in turn act as another touch point in the minds of casual browsers when they see a sizeable amount of stock placed at the front-of-store display.

BookScan has become an effective marketing tool in creating pre-publication awareness. The ability to find out where books are selling, when they sell, and how many are sold can ensure marketing expenditures are allocated more accurately. Sell-through numbers of previous editions of a book, competitive and comparable books and retailers, can influence sell-in decisions. If a seller is hesitant to place an order for an unknown author, healthy sell-through numbers can push a bookseller to increase his initial order on a book he did not initially believe in. This can reduce the risk of not having enough stock in the store, which can kill a word-of-mouth reaction quickly. Analysis of sell-through data can also reduce the persistent problem of returns through more accurate sales and distribution forecasting. Booksellers can use data to discern the effect of a book review and learn about what their customers are looking for (Hutton 2004, 48).

BookScan and BookNet have also allowed for more accurate sales forecasting because they allow publishers to identify which titles or categories of titles are selling well, manage print runs and inventories, reduce returns, and fine-tune pricing, marketing and publicity strategies. This was precisely what those involved in the Canadian book publishing Supply Chain Initiative wanted to accomplish with BookNet Canada, as stated in the Printed Matters report published by Canadian Heritage in 2004:

“Market data analysis allows publishers to make more effective printing and reprint decisions, manage marketing budgets more effectively and focus sales efforts. Retailers also have access to bestseller lists that truly represent the diversity of the marketplace in which they operate.” (31)

Jonathan Nowell, president of Nielsen Book, also touted the benefits of using the point-of-sale system back in 2004, citing that when uk publishers fully adopted it, returns across the industry reduced from 19 percent to 12 percent (Milliot 2004).

The benefits and practical uses of sale data analysis have become increasingly evident over the past decade for some publishers. Sell-through reporting requires publishers to not only monitor data on a daily basis but to also use it to drive their decisions (Thompson 2010, 288). Jean Srnecz, who was the Senior Vice President of Merchandising at Baker & Taylor and a longstanding Director of the Book Industry Study Group with over thirty years experience in the book industry, recommended back in 2004 that publishers need to seriously consider investing into information technology to develop data analysis tools for their books (Milliot 2004). As Srnecz puts it, data should be the dna of the publishing house.

Few are more exemplary than Sourcebooks, one of America’s leading independent book publishers, as well as Raincoast Books, a Canadian book wholesale and distribution company that distributes Sourcebooks titles. In the next section, this paper will explore in more detail how these companies leverage sell-through data in their business operations.

 

 

II.LEVERAGING SELL-THROUGH DATA AT SOURCEBOOKS AND RAINCOAST BOOKS

OVERVIEW OF SOURCEBOOKS[4]

Sourcebooks is one of the leading and largest independent book publishers in North America. Located in Naperville, Illinois, it was founded in 1987 by the savvy and charismatic Dominique Raccah. She started the company with only one title, Financial Sourcebooks Sources, with a focus on publishing professional finance titles. In the nineties, Raccah expanded Sourcebooks into publishing self-help, parenting, business, and reference titles, all of which continue to be the backbone of the Sourcebooks list to this day.

In 1997, Sourcebooks was listed as the sixth fastest-growing small publisher in America by Publishers Weekly. After moving to number two in 1999, it had expanded beyond the “small publisher” classification, with sales figures doubling every two years during that time period. Its growth can be attributed to the acquisition of imprints over the years to include publishers of relationship-, sex-, and wedding-oriented self-help books (Casablanca Press, acquired in 1996), consumer-oriented self-help law books (Sphinx Publishing, acquired in 1997), humour and women’s interests books (Hysteria Publications, acquired in 1998), and gift and history titles (Cumberland House, acquired in 2008).

Another key factor to Sourcebooks’ rapid growth was its revolutionary, entrepreneurial vision. In 1998, the publisher introduced an innovative new genre of publishing, featuring compact discs of integrated content to accompany Joe Garner’s We Interrupt This Broadcast. This book that showcased the creative pairing of live audio with photographs and the written word generated a buzz within the bookselling industry and was Sourcebooks’ first New York Times bestseller. This hit book, together with another called And the Crowd Goes Wild, helped grow the company from a reported $1 million in revenue with six employees in 1992, to $20 million in revenue and fifty-six employees in 2000 (Kirch 2007).

The turn of the century marked the start of a new phase of growth for the company, beginning with the prestigious recognition of being the only book publisher to be listed as one of America’s fastest-growing companies on the Inc. 500 list for the year 2000. Since then, Sourcebooks also launched new imprints such as Sourcebooks MediaFusion (2000) for integrated mixed-media projects, Sourcebook Landmark (2001) for fiction titles and Jane Austen sequels, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (2007) for children’s books, and Sourcebooks Fire (2010) for young adult titles. With Sourcebooks MediaFusion, the publisher became America’s leading publisher of integrated mixed-media projects, led by Poetry Speaks and Poetry Speaks to Children, a book and compact-disc combination featuring noted poets reading their own work. These poetry anthologies not only helped revitalize the way adults and children experience poetry, but also found their way onto the New York Times bestseller list. Sourcebooks also had success with its fiction imprint, Sourcebooks Landmark, which was led by the 2000 British Book of the Year, Tony Parsons’ Man and Boy, and Michael Malone’s New York Times bestseller First Lady and all of Malone’s backlist. In 2007, the publisher expanded the Sourcebooks Casablanca imprint (previously Casablanca Press) into the realm of romance fiction and quickly established itself as a top ten publisher in the genre. Later in 2010, more than seventy backlist books by children’s and gift book author Marianne Richmond were added to the Sourcebooks list, including the picture book phenomenon, If I Could Keep You Little.

Today, Sourcebooks continues to expand the breadth of its list of titles by publishing authors in various subjects, and in formats it describes as both “classically physical and dynamically digital” (Sourcebooks.com, “The Sourcebooks Story”). It is now a strong vertical publisher and established authority in a number of non-fiction categories—college-bound books, baby name books, gift books, grieving and recovery books—as well as a strong competitor in commercial and historical fiction, romance novels, children’s books and more. Still headquartered in Naperville, Sourcebooks now has satellite offices in New York City and Connecticut, a staff of more than seventy employees, and an annual output of over three hundred titles at the time of writing (Bookjobs.com).

This is an impressive feat for a company that started out in the spare bedroom of a house belonging to someone without a traditional publishing background. Unlike many of her publishing colleagues, Dominique Raccah came from a scientific background. Her father was a physicist who accepted a position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moved the family from Paris to America when Raccah was nine (Kirch 2009). She graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and later obtained a Master’s degree in quantitative psychology. She went on to establish a flourishing career at Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago for seven years, performing quantitative research for major corporate clients before leaving to pursue her love for books in the publishing industry (Kirch 2009). Her scientific background, while unconventional within the industry, will prove to be integral to Sourcebooks’ business strategy and culture—one that is essentially data-driven.

 

OVERVIEW OF RAINCOAST BOOKS[5]

Raincoast Books is a Canadian-owned book wholesale and distribution company based in Richmond, British Columbia, specializing in providing comprehensive sales and marketing coverage, logistical support, and distribution services to a select number of international publishers. It distributes a variety of genres of books, both fiction and non-fiction titles, for all ages from kids and teens to adults. Its non-fiction titles cover a wide range of topics including food, health, kids, pop culture, travel, as well as gift products such as notebooks and stationery.

Raincoast Books is a division of Raincoast Book Distribution Inc. that also includes Publishers Group Canada, a distribution division focused on specialty independent publishers, and Book Express, its wholesale division. Raincoast Books and Book Express were founded in 1979 by Allan MacDougall and Mark Stanton. The company started with seven employees with a goal to be a small regional wholesale operation. It signed its first distribution deal with Chronicle Books in 1988, and, together with Publishers Group Canada, it has grown to serve over one hundred international publishers today, providing fast shipping service capable of shipping over 20,000 new titles to more than 2,500 bookstores and specialty retailers across Canada.

Over the years, Raincoast has won awards and achieved industry recognition for its services. It won the Distributor of the Year Award as voted by the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA 1998-2010) in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2010, and was nominated in 2008 and 2009—more often than any book distributor or publisher in Canada. Quill & Quire named it the fastest distributor in Canada in its 2003 and 2004 industry surveys. It further won the Marketing Achievement of the Year Award in 2006, and short-listed again in 2007 and 2008 (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 17).

In the mid nineties, Raincoast endeavored to publish books as well. Raincoast Publishing was founded in 1995. The spotlight was on Raincoast when it secured the contract to be the publisher and distributor of the Harry Potter series in Canada. In 2003, the company set a record in Canadian publishing history with the largest domestic print run and single-day lay-down for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which was later surpassed by the book’s sequel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2005, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Books published by Raincoast Publishing were also short-listed or won major literary prizes in Canada, including a Governor General’s Award for literature in 2003. However, the publishing program was shut down in 2008 to focus on its core distribution and wholesale businesses. The publishing program was deemed unprofitable due to the appreciation of the Canadian dollar in 2007 and the subsequent decision to reduce suggested retail prices by 20 percent (Raincoast, “Raincoast Gets Back to Basics” 2008).

Over the years, Raincoast has placed itself in the forefront of the Canadian publishing industry with its investment and use of new technologies to improve its systems and book sales. Responsible for successful online promotional campaigns for the Harry Potter series in Canada and being the first publisher to start a blog and begin a literary podcast series, Raincoast Publishing established itself in the Canadian publishing industry and on the international front as one of the top five publishers to implement new media technologies and strategies (Trottier, “About Monique”). Raincoast’s Chief Executive Officer, John Sawyer, has been an active member in the Canadian book industry sci and BookNet Canada’s edi conference. Consequently, Raincoast was an early adopter of edi and established onix[6] compliance early on in the initiative (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 19).

The company strives for what it calls “context-smart technology” (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 19), regularly looking for ways to improve its systems through customizing and modifying its programs. Its recent efforts in 2010 include implementation of a customized warehouse management system, the launch of an electronic catalogue for sales representatives to use when selling titles to its accounts, and the expansion of its publisher extranet site[7] which provides one of the three streams of detailed data reports to its client publishers (17, 19).

The first stream of data consists of publisher month-end reports of sales, returns, and inventory movement, customized for some of its publishers to suit their respective reporting systems. The extranet site supplies the second stream of data including demand, stock status, current and historical sales, and channel breakdowns for specific titles that is updated and accessible in real-time. These first two streams of data are based on data pulled from Varnet, Raincoast’s internal database, and then repackaged for its clients. They are not based on BookNet numbers as that data is always one week behind and only covers 75 percent of the market.

The third stream is what Raincoast calls its “most unique” stream of monthly reports designed to help publishers “understand what is going on in our market” (17). This third stream of reports is based on BookNet and BookScan numbers compiled by Raincoast’s in-house Data Analyst and includes information such as the top titles, top customers, detailed titles sales for a publisher’s top five customers, and “peer gap analysis” that tracks Canadian versus American sell-through numbers. Sell-through data is an invaluable resource to publishers for tracking the effectiveness of any promotion, hence Raincoast ensures that its client publishers have access to BookNet data of their own titles. Table 3.1 shows a breakdown of the three streams of data provided by Raincoast to its publishers.

 

Table 3.1: Three streams of data that Raincoast Books provides to its publishers


(Source: Raincoast, Always Connected 2011, 17)

 

Today, Raincoast is headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, with a second sales and marketing office in Toronto, and employs over ninety people over three divisions (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 24).

 

LEVERAGING SELL-THROUGH DATA

Sourcebooks prides itself in being a data-driven company, placing emphasis on the analysis of sales data and looking for trends in the numbers. In an interview with the Vice President and Editorial Director of Sourcebooks, Todd Stocke (2011), he professes the company to be a heavy BookScan user. BookScan is used across all departments at Sourcebooks—editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales—many of whom “can’t really live without it” (Stocke 2011).

At Raincoast Books, both marketing and sales departments are also regular users of BookNet. The company has sell-through data stored in its internal Varnet database so that numbers can be pulled up easily and regularly (Broadhurst 2011).

This section explores how both these companies use sell-through data analysis to their advantage in selling books.

 

Tool for Editorial Creativity

The argument for homogenization of content as a result of the availability of sell-through data persists to this day, and the industry will likely continue to see rip-offs of successful books that validate that line of argument. However, some publishers like Sourcebooks have chosen to use sell-through data in different and creative ways.

Sourcebooks describes its use of sell-through data as a “weapon for creativity” (Stocke 2011). Sourcebooks uses data to identify books that are selling well in the market within the categories it covers. The purpose is not to create a rip-off, but to analyze them and “come out of it in a creatively different place” (Stocke 2011). The end goal is to use data to deliver a better book for readers.

Using this approach, Sourcebooks was able to become a leading publisher in a number of categories in the country, such as the baby names subcategory where it now owns 60 percent of the market share (Stocke 2011). It was able to accomplish that in a crowded category by studying the books at the top of the category at the time, and being creative in developing more substantial, interesting, and contemporary content compared to those previously published books. Chapter Three of this report will further illustrate how Sourcebooks uses this same approach to publish The Naked Roommate in the college guide category.

 

Forecasting, Reducing Returns, and Improving Inventory Turn Rate

Before sell-through reporting, it was difficult to know how well books did after they were shipped. Only the book retailers knew, but their knowledge was limited to information from their own stores. Publishers would hope that once books were shipped out from the warehouse that only a few would be returned. A book with small sales would tend to remain small throughout the course of the year, and it was difficult to know how a big frontlist title was doing until the retailer informed them after some time (Broadhurst 2011). It was thus difficult to make necessary adjustments on time to help with sales of books. For Sourcebooks, the process entailed waiting for faxes from its customers every Monday to see how its books performed (Stocke 2011).

The situation was similar at Raincoast. Raincoast’s Director of National Accounts, Peter MacDougall (2011), explained that before BookNet, his week would involve numerous phone calls and emails to his customers on Mondays and Tuesdays to find out what the week’s sell-through was for the books that Raincoast distributes. That information, too, was limited to only the company’s own books, not the competing titles.

From the get-go, Raccah believed that a service like BookScan could provide information for finding cost savings in the supply chain (Milliot 2004). To achieve cost reduction, Sourcebooks focused its efforts on tackling three areas: advances, inventory and returns. BookScan numbers, such as sales of an author’s previous titles or sales of compatible and competitive titles, are used to “help rationalize the predictive process” (Milliot 2004) and determine the demand for the new book. After analyzing the data, a fair author advance could be more accurately determined and the amount of unsold inventory reduced. According to Raccah:

“Sourcebooks makes its inventory decisions by looking at reprints and first printings. In managing reprints, Sourcebooks examines where the demand for the reprint is coming from, why the reprint is needed and what is the inventory on hand in the channel; the company also reviews sell-through information with its major accounts.” (Milliot 2004)

Adopting this approach, Sourcebooks reduced its first printings quite aggressively and planned for more rounds of reprints by collaborating closely with printers (Milliot 2004). Raccah reported that the inventory-days-on-hand benchmark was very helpful for determining when a reprint run should be ordered (Milliot 2004). She believed that even though smaller first printings and more reprints can increase the cost of goods sold, it could, on the other hand, increase cash-on-hand and reduce returns. This approach helped lower Sourcebooks’ returns by 25 percent in 2003 (Milliot 2004). In a market where returns place huge pressure on pricing and cash flow, working closely with customers and printers, coupled with adjusting first printings and number of reprints to print-on-demand, can shorten lead time and minimize returns for publishers (Milliot 2004).

Similarly at Raincoast, regular tracking of sell-through has also improved sales forecasting and inventory turn rates (how often the stock turns over in the warehouse on an annual basis). Its warehouse does not store stock for six months worth of demand. Sales directors and reps are able to forecast initial orders more accurately, and they track sell-through on a weekly basis to anticipate subsequent orders more precisely on a four- to six-week on-demand basis (Broadhurst 2011). As discussed in Chapter One regarding the importance of sell-in, it would be detrimental to book sales if the publisher could not print fast enough and has to try to catch up with demand because the upward sales momentum could dissipate quickly from a lack of sufficient stock. A healthy inventory turn rate also frees up the warehouse to stock up on a wider variety of titles.

 

Closing the Gaps

Beyond reducing costs, sell-through data can also be used to determine marketing and promotional strategies to increase sales. This is another benefit that Sourcebooks has come to identify and implement. As discussed in Chapter One, in old-school bookselling, the publisher’s team of sales and publicity personnel had to try to cultivate media and author contacts through sheer enthusiasm and strong persuasive skills, and promote its list of titles by developing word-of-mouth. Today, the added benefit of having sell-through data can add to a sales rep’s arsenal of tools to help with his or her pitch to booksellers in the environment of analogy bookselling. The ability to discern sales patterns, and identify the gaps in different market segments and retailers, can help the sell-in process and boost the sales of underrated titles.

Gap analysis has been key to Sourcebooks’ and Raincoast’s marketing and sales strategies to leverage sell-through information to increase sales and create long-term bestsellers. While all departments at Sourcebooks employ data analysis, analysis of gaps is more specific to the sales department who uses the method on a regular basis. Its application is sometimes broad—for example, total sell-through of customer X versus customer Y, versus their market shares (Stocke 2011). Another broad application is to analyze gaps by channel—for example, whether or not the library channel or the Canadian channel is attaining sell-through that is comparable to that of competing publishers (Stocke 2011).

Analysis of gaps is applied to sell-in data as well. Examining the advanced orders of compatible retailers can reveal gaps that help with the sell-in process to persuade the buyer to increase the advance orders if the competing retailer has taken a huge position on a book. That scenario is less likely to occur for Barnes & Noble in the us and Chapters Indigo in Canada as they are the dominant large chain bookstores in their respective countries. However, comparing the chain bookstore orders with that of a dominant online retailer like Amazon, or comparing compatible specialty channels, has been beneficial to both Sourcebooks’ and Raincoast’s businesses.

MacDougall (2011) now finds sell-through data to be an indispensable tool for selling and pitching to his customers. A book sales rep for eleven years, he expresses how enormous the positive impact of BookNet has been to his work: “It is hard to overstate how amazing BookNet has been in terms of selling and being able to look at peer-to-peer data, and comparing what Indigo is doing versus other retailers in Canada” (MacDougall 2011). Now MacDougall can track the data himself to be prepared with the information for his pitches, whereas prior to BookNet only the retailers could to do the work of tracking the data. He can also see which channels a book tends to sell better and make necessary adjustments. The process is now more efficient.

The gap analysis method can be applied at a granular level by title as well, and this level is the most regularly used by both Sourcebooks and Raincoast. Sourcebooks’ sales department generates these reports and systematically reviews them every week (Stocke 2011). According to Todd Stocke (2011), granular level gap analysis has become interesting for Sourcebooks in the area of ebook pricing. He explains that with some variables from the print publishing model eliminated in the electronic realm—inventory is the big one—there should not be any wild fluctuations in sales percentages among online retailers. Gap analysis would then be used in the electronic realm to identify “outliers and look for what one e-tailer might be doing with a title as opposed to others, and [see if you can] replicate it elsewhere” (2011). Oftentimes, gaps appear due to the influence of ebook pricing. Regarding ebook pricing, Stocke notes:

“The effect of pricing is something publishers never had the power to impact, we printed the price on the book and what happened, happened. That’s no longer the case, so most publishers are hiring pricing analysts.” (2011)

Raincoast also does granular, title-by-title “peer gap” analysis on a weekly basis, and provides the results of the analysis to its client publishers on a monthly basis as part of its third stream of data (Table 3.1). From a practical standpoint of applying data analysis in its everyday operations, Raincoast looks at core frontlist titles and identifies significant gaps between BookNet and BookScan numbers—the books that do well in the us but under-perform in the Canadian market (Broadhurst 2011). For those books where there exists a considerable difference in their recent weeks’ sales, they are called out during Raincoast’s weekly Major Sales meetings to discuss further marketing and publicity options so to improve sell-in and sell-through.

The Raincoast staff gathers every Thursday at 1:00 p.m. for the Major Sales meeting. The staff who attends these meeting include all marketing and publicity personnel, select sales staff (Sales Director, Director of National Accounts, Special Accounts rep, and Data Analyst) and some of the warehouse inventory personnel. Once a month the Vice President of Sales, Paddy Laidley, attends the meeting to give a ‘State of the Union’ report of updates and highlights from the past month’s sales revenue and performance of different publishers. To prepare for the meeting, the Data Analyst, Jim Allan, pulls out the key data and creates a grid divided into columns with selected information. This particular set of information is what Raincoast focuses on to base its marketing and sales promotions decisions. The selected data on the Major Sales Grid are listed in Table 3.2.

 

Table 3.2: Items listed on Raincoast Books’ Major Sales Grid

 

The meeting is chaired by Jamie Broadhurst, the Vice President of Marketing, who studies the grid before the meeting to make notes on the titles he wishes to call to attention. The meeting would always commence with updates from the publicists on upcoming author tour events and media coverage for specific titles. The staff then switches their attention to the sales grid. Broadhurst would point out significant gaps in the past week or month, if any, between BookScan and BookNet numbers of specific titles so that the sales reps and publicists are aware of the books that need more push. Furthermore, sell-through information is invaluable for highlighting books that are doing unexpectedly well and for tracking the effectiveness of current marketing, publicity, and promotional efforts.

Therefore, while access to sell-through data is available for all publishers who can afford to subscribe to BookScan or BookNet, the key point is less about having access, and more about being able to do something with the data—dissecting, analyzing, and breaking down the mass amount of information into digestible pieces, such as what Sourcebooks and Raincoast have done with their sales grids and charting of sales cycle graphs—so that it makes sense to the sales reps and retailers and can subsequently be used to sell more books. While a major portion of a publisher’s resources will continue to be used toward pushing the few potential bestsellers on the frontlist, the availability of sell-through data can, in effect, help push the mid-list or under-performing frontlist books. Both Sourcebooks and Raincoast have found this to be so. In the case of The Naked Roommate, as will be explored in Chapter Three, it took Sourcebooks four editions to push the book into a New York Times bestseller, using diligent analysis of sales data and adjusting marketing and sales strategies accordingly. It is Raincoast’s goal as well to use that information and gap analysis to improve book sales in the Canadian market, when traditionally a publisher would most likely have given up on it after it fails to do well in the first season.

According to Broadhurst (2011), one of the factors why Raincoast made the commitment to push The Naked Roommate on a long-term basis was due to the data-driven nature of Sourcebooks and its proactive communication of the American data findings and reports to Raincoast. Within eleven months that Raincoast had been with Sourcebooks, the Canadian book distributor had already recorded a 70 percent increase in sales across all titles compared to Sourcebooks’ previous distributor (Broadhurst 2011). Sell-through data analysis was an integral part of this accomplishment.

 

 

III.CASE STUDY: THE NAKED ROOMMATE BY HARLAN COHEN

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE SOURCEBOOKS COLLEGE VERTICAL

If anyone was looking for a college guide in America, he or she would most likely come across the number one college guide in the country, Fiske Guide to Colleges. The partnership that began ten years ago between Sourcebooks and former New York Times education editor, Edward B. Fiske, has gone on to grow Sourcebooks into a leading college reference trade publisher (Rosen 2003).

Fiske Guide to Colleges was published by Random House for twenty years before Sourcebooks picked it up in 2001 to publish the eighteenth edition. The book did decently well with Random House and was the number six college guide in the country at the time (Rosen 2003). Nonetheless, after conducting some market research on its own, Sourcebooks felt that it could give the book a better marketing push in the broader trade market (Stocke 2011). Todd Stocke (2011) describes how Sourcebooks had talked to several college counsellors at the time and found that even though the Fiske Guide was not the number one college guide in the country, it was the one that was most recommended by counsellors. The publisher wanted to fix that disconnect, and eventually managed to accomplish that goal. It succeeded in tripling sales in just two years, making it the number one college guide in the country in 2003 with the its 2004-2005 edition (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 6; Stocke 2011).

What was crucial to the extraordinary success of the book was the market research and data analysis that Sourcebooks conducted to identify the prime time periods to promote the book. The biggest sales for college guides were during the late summer before the fall semester began, but there was also a sales spike earlier in the year when early admission letters went out to the student prospects (Rosen 2003). Figure 1 shows the sales cycle for college guides in a year.

 

Figure 1: Sales Cycle of College Guides


(Source: Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 14)

 

After Sourcebooks identified the key time periods, it “reformatted the book, revisualized it and repackaged it” (Rosen 2003). The publisher updated the book’s design, made the trim size slightly bigger, tweaked how the content was delivered to be “more browsable” (Stocke 2011), changed the publication schedule to be released earlier in June, set up author appearances in media, aggressively pursued drive-time radio advertising in mid-April when rejection and acceptance letters went out, and used traditional marketing methods of offering co-op for end-caps, front-of-store and window displays to “help persuade booksellers that the book could outperform its previous track record” (Rosen 2003). Its efforts paid off, placing the book as the bestselling college guide in many independent bookstores (Rosen 2003).

With the success of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, the publisher quickly identified college-bound titles to be one of the key verticals and categories that it wanted to own. Within the bisac (Book Industry Standards and Communications) subject category system, the main “Study Aids” category can be generally divided into two subcategories: college guides and test prep (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 2). The college guides subcategory includes three groups of books: one group consists of guides that provide information about different colleges to help with choosing a school; another are books that offer advice on successfully getting into college; and a third group of college survival and success books that help with the transition into college life.

While there are a number of college guides devoted to help with choosing the best college, Sourcebooks noticed a hole in the market for the subcategory consisting of books relating to the college transition and survival experience for both students and parents. There is a substantial market base for this subcategory: a 2009 survey by the Associated Press and mtvU revealed that 85 percent of undergraduates experience stress on a daily basis (quoted in Shatkin 2010). This percentage has been growing every year and has been accompanied by increased visits by students to mental health and counselling services (Shatkin 2010). For parents of college-bound students, a study by nyu Child Study Center found that the transition to college can be a stressful time in a parent’s life: “The departure is a significant milestone in the life of a family and ushers in a time of separation and transition, requiring an adjustment on the part of parents, the college-bound teenager and the whole family” (Shatkin 2010). Parents can feel a sense of loss from the separation, feel left out when they find they are “no longer needed in the same ways,” and must relinquish control to let their children make their own decisions (Shatkin 2010).

When Sourcebooks identifies a possible subcategory, its practice is to conduct market research by bringing in all the books in the subcategory to study their content and sales numbers (Stocke 2011). Through its research, it discovered that the two good books in this subcategory at the time was Letting Go by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, and Been There, Should’ve Done That by Suzette Tyler. However, Sourcebooks found that no publisher was really hitting it out of the ballpark. That was when it decided to publish Harlan Cohen’s The Naked Roommate as its first book in this subcategory of the college transition and survival experience.

 

ABOUT HARLAN COHEN

Harlan Cohen is one of the most widely read and respected advice columnists in America for people in their teens and twenties (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen”; apb, “Harlan Cohen”). His areas of expertise include teen issues, college life, parenting, pregnancy, dating, relationships, sex, rejection, risk taking, leadership, and women’s issues (Cohen, “About”). His syndicated “Help Me, Harlan!” advice column is distributed by King Features Syndicate and is read by millions of readers in local daily and college newspapers across the us and internationally. Cohen is also a professional speaker who has toured over four hundred high schools and college campuses to give talks to students, parents and educational professionals. He has appeared on television and radio programs across North America.

Cohen began writing at Indiana University’s school newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. After interning with The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in the summer of 1995 and meeting a fellow writer who started an advice column in college, Cohen decided he wanted to pen his own advice column. When he returned to Indiana University, he launched his advice column, Help Me, Harlan! He initially started the column by writing his own questions and answers, but soon after, letters from individuals with real questions started to come in. He consulted experts to help with his replies, and provided responses with honesty, humour and practical help. His approachable tone and style turned the column into an instant success on campus. King Features Syndicate picked it up for distribution in 2002 and the column eventually spread across the country and overseas. Cohen has since contributed to such publications as The Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, The New York Times, Real Simple, the Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, Seventeen, and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III.

In time, Cohen delved into authoring his own books and is now a New York Times bestselling author in the us. His first book, Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside, was published by Peterson’s in August 2000 (Amazon.com). He went on to write a number of books published by Sourcebooks, The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College in March 2005, Dad’s Pregnant Too! in June 2008, and The Happiest Kid on Campus in May 2010. His newest book, Naked Dating: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober), will be released in April 2012 by St. Martin’s Press.

Cohen is a featured speaker every fall at college freshman orientations, touring all across North America campuses (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 45; Stocke 2011). Online, he devotes time to build a strong web presence through regular activity on his websites, blog and social media. He incorporates interactivity into his line of books by creating websites that go hand-in-hand with them—HappiestKidonCampus.com, NakedRoommate.com, and DadsPregnant.com—in addition to running HelpMeHarlan.com.

He has since gone on to start social awareness projects to further involve and help his audience. He is the founder of Rejection Awareness Week and president of The International Risk-Taking Project, both of which seek to help those who struggle with relationship rejection (Cohen, “About”).

 

SELLING THE NAKED ROOMMATE IN THE UNITED STATES

Sell-through data was “extraordinarily integral” (Stocke 2011) to the release of the first edition of The Naked Roommate. Through market research and data analysis, Sourcebooks realized that there were not many comparable titles for sales reps and booksellers to look at. While Letting Go and Been There, Should’ve Done That did pretty well in sales, Sourcebooks felt that Cohen’s book could deliver content that was different. Letting Go catered to the emotional experience of parents dealing with letting go of their kids as the kids leave for school; Been There, Should’ve Done That catered to the college-bound students but the content was delivered as a collection of quotes and one-liners from real students. The bestselling competing title, How to Survive Your Freshman Year, was released in 2004 and the content is delivered as a collection of quotes from former and current students as well.

While all of these books were effective, the editorial team at Sourcebooks felt that The Naked Roommate could stand apart from the existing books because of Cohen’s appealing tone of voice and expert advice. Cohen comes across more like a “big brother” whose advice students would listen to, rather than an authority figure giving advice in an adult tone of voice (Stocke 2011). Cohen is personable, funny, sincere, and approachable, and he can bring to the table a vast amount of experience from interacting directly with students on a regular basis in person and online. Even though reading real quotes and stories from students offers honest insight and can be very helpful, sometimes the quotes contradict one another and might leave the reader still undecided on certain concerns at the end of the book. Sourcebooks felt that there is also value in having an author drive the book, filter through those stories, help students make sense of the information, and guide them in making wise decisions (Stocke 2011). This is what Cohen has been doing well for some time as a syndicated advice columnist. He “combines solid expert advice with fun and honest stories, quotes and advice direct from the students” (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 46). Furthermore, The Naked Roommate also covers a wide variety of academic and social topics, such as dealing with roommates, dorm issues, relationships, laundry, cafeteria food, homesickness, social media, succeeding in class, studying, making friends, and more.

The first year that Sourcebooks tried to sell the book, it had to firstly convince booksellers that the book would fill a hole in the market as there were not many compatible books at the time. When the booksellers got on board, Sourcebooks then had to convince them on the timing on when to display the books for in-store promotion. There was a preconceived notion in the industry that back-to-school selling worked best in August, right before school starts in September (Stocke 2011). However, after mapping out the week-by-week sales data from BookScan of competitive titles, Sourcebooks noticed that while sales did spike during the traditional back-to-school selling period in August, there was an even bigger spike in sales during graduation in the spring, from mid-May to mid-June. Figure 2 shows the sales cycle for the subcategory of college survival and success books.

 

Figure 2: Sales Cycle of College Survival and Success Books


(Source: Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 54)

 

With this revelation from data analysis, Sourcebooks tried to convince booksellers that the real money to be made for the book was during graduation. This notion was something even the internal staff at Sourcebooks needed to be convinced of as well (Stocke 2011). The data revealed that graduation sales actually started its small build in March. Thus publication date for The Naked Roommate was set on March 16, 2005, and booksellers were persuaded to stock up in March to avoid missing out on a fair slice of book sales. Stocke (2011) described that as difficult as it was to persuade booksellers to change their notion of back-to-school selling when the traditional method has proven to work for years—and it still does—it was really the data that provided a strong, convincing argument for graduation sales.

Sourcebooks did not hit it out of the ballpark for the first edition although sales were fairly decent. This was because retailers did not stock enough of the books. When weekly sell-through percentages started to rise at a surprisingly fast rate—15 percent to 25 percent—the publisher and retailers started to realize that more books had to be ordered quickly (Stocke 2011). Unfortunately, they were unable to keep up with the demand.

In the second year of publication, the sales reps at Sourcebooks had to be aggressive once again at selling the book to the buyers by showing that the publisher believed in the book and was going to promote and market the book in a big way. There was huge potential for bookstores to do much better than the first year with the book. This was also a difficult process because the book was no longer on the frontlist, so the marketing department had to produce numerous special promotions and flyers to remind sales reps and booksellers that these books needed to be pushed in an aggressive way to get onto the in-store graduation displays (Stocke 2011).

This gradual build went on for all four editions, each one building on the previous edition. The subsequent editions of The Naked Roommate have been published every two years. Table 4.1 shows the publication dates in the US.

 

Table 4.1: Publication dates for The Naked Roommate in the United States


(Source: Amazon.com)

 

The sales of The Naked Roommate grew with every edition. The sell-through numbers for the third edition showed a 46.15 percent increase from the second edition (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010). While the growth was encouraging, Sourcebooks still saw potential for more growth for the fourth edition and planned a big marketing and publicity push once again.

 

US Marketing and Publicity Campaign for the Fourth Edition

The fourth edition of The Naked Roommate was marketed with a strong campaign. This section provides a comprehensive summary of how the book’s fourth edition was marketed and promoted since its release in April 2011. A detailed list of all aspects of the campaign is provided in Appendix A.

The audience that was identified for the book was college-bound students, their parents, educational professionals, and naturally, the author’s existing fan base. The positioning for the book is described as follows:

The Naked Roommate, the #1 bestselling book on college life with over 200,000 copies sold, is now completely updated and revised. Harlan Cohen is the top voice on college life, and through his speaking engagements, college tour, music, and website, has reached thousands of students helping them find college success.” (Sourcebooks, Data Sheet, 2010)

Sourcebooks summarized the appealing qualities of the books into three key selling points for marketing efforts. Firstly, it was a national bestseller, number one in the college life category with sales climbing every year. It had already sold almost 250,000 copies before entering its fourth edition (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 47). Secondly, the author’s platform is extensive, with active social media participation and regular campus tours year-round. Thirdly, the book has a comprehensive line of accompanying products such as calendars, planners, a First Year Experience (fye) workbook, and a parents’ guide, all creating in The Naked Roommate a “comprehensive off-to-college brand” (Sourcebooks, Data Sheet, 2010). The book and its accompanying products were also appealing gift items. These were all strong points on which to build a marketing campaign.

 

Publicity Goals and Targets

The publicity goals established for the campaign were to secure national media coverage for Harlan Cohen. Sourcebooks wanted to secure appearances on at least one of the morning shows, cable news shows or late-night shows (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”). It also wanted to gain reviews of the book or feature Cohen in major national publications to build enough publicity to push it onto the New York Times bestseller list (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”).

To achieve these goals, the publicity efforts for The Naked Roommate was integrated with other college-bound titles on Sourcebooks’ list. Public relations events involved Cohen being part of a graduation panel that Sourcebooks put together to give back-to-school advice to college-bound students and their parents. Sourcebooks partnered with independent bookseller, Anderson’s Bookshop, to organize a series of panel discussions, called The College Insider Series, to provide opportunities for students and parents to engage with top experts in college lifestyle and college admissions (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton” 2011). Cohen appeared on such a panel with fellow Sourcebooks author, Christie Garton, on July 2011 and September 2011, and other authors such as Edward Fiske will also be featured in subsequent panels (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton” 2011).

Media publicity for the fourth edition included advertising, and mailing out advanced reading copies and press releases[8] to several major television and radio talk shows, national magazines, large daily newspapers and back-to-school issues for reviews or features (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010).

Social media and the marketability of the author has been a key marketing tool for Cohen and his books. Cohen’s online presence is crucial to reaching out to teens and those in their twenties who have grown up with the Internet and are surrounded by technology. Students can participate in discussion forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert” on Cohen’s website. He regularly updates his blog and posts Naked Minute videos online. These videos are short quick tips and advice for questions that he has received from his audience. He is an active user of Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube. These online initiatives are a natural extension of his personality as someone who likes to connect with students directly and regularly (Stocke 2011). Additionally, he has continued to tour the country, visiting several high schools and bookstores from March to April, and college campuses from August to September of 2011 to interact with the students and offer advice (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010).

 

Marketing and Sales Promotions

Marketing efforts for The Naked Roommate included a Twitter and Facebook campaign for books within the Sourcebooks College category. Sourcebooks also marketed and promoted Cohen and his line of books at trade shows (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010). It engaged in aggressive pre- and post-tradeshow marketing with direct mail, email, and phone calls to the National Association of Student Personnel Administration (naspa), First-Year Experience programs (fye), Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (acuho–i), National Orientation Directors Association (noda) and National Association for College Admission Counseling (nacac). An email blast campaign was also targeted at parents of college bound high school students (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – June 16, 2011”).

The book was given a two-page spread in Sourcebooks’ Spring 2011 catalogue and a one-page spread in the Fall 2011 catalogue[9] to communicate to retailers of its importance on the publisher’s list of titles. Sourcebooks also worked with some retailers to set up theme tables in the spring and end of summer, such as the ‘Dorm Essentials’ theme table at Barnes & Noble, and worked with online retailers such as Books-A-Million to do graduation and back-to-school promotions (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”). Sourcebooks also offered back-to-school promotions for the ebook edition of The Naked Roommate with other college-bound ebook titles for $1.99 in August.

 

Section Conclusion

As a result of the comprehensive marketing campaign and sales promotion that Sourcebooks implemented, the fourth edition has been successful at achieving most of the goals that were set out in the beginning of the campaign. The most significant achievement was the book’s appearance on the New York Times bestseller list at number fifteen on the Paperback Advice and Miscellaneous list, reflecting sales for the week ending May 21, 2011 (New York Times Company 2011).[10] It was also number eight on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paperback non-fiction bestsellers list, reflecting the sales for the Great Lakes Association, Upper Midwest Association and Book Sense for the week ending June 5. At the time of writing, Cohen has also been interviewed on radio as well as on television on WGN Midday News in June 2011 and The Gayle King Show in August 2011. All confirmed media coverage and public relations events for Cohen and The Naked Roommate are listed in Appendix E.

This is a reflection of the persistence of a publisher in its commitment to a book and its author, based on concrete market research and data analysis that brought about a strong editorial vision, marketing and promotions strategy. Sourcebooks’ strategy, coupled with its close working relationship with the college and student counselling communities, revitalized the subcategory, and The Naked Roommate now sells twice the number of copies that the top books in the category sold prior to The Naked Roommate’s release (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 5).

 

SELLING THE NAKED ROOMMATE IN CANADA

Gap Analysis of US and Canadian Sell-Through Data

An analysis of the us and Canadian sell-through data for the fourth edition of The Naked Roommate by Raincoast’s senior sales and marketing executives and Data Analyst revealed a stark gap between sales in the two countries. The year-to-date sell-through data retrieved from BookNet at the end of July 2011, before the back-to-school promotions in August, showed that Canadian sales was fifty-six times less than sales in the us, or 1.8 percent of us sales. That is a significant gap. According to Broadhurst (2011), anything under 4 percent is an unacceptable gap for Raincoast; it should be at least 6-7 percent, although even then it still requires an evaluation of strategies for that title.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the market size in the us is significantly bigger than that of Canada—the population in the us is nine times that of Canada according to data from the us Census Bureau and Statistics Canada websites at the time of writing—so there will inevitably be a wide gap between the sell-through figures of both countries and explains why 6-7 percent of us sales would be considered an acceptable minimum percentage by Raincoast.

Comparing the university- and college-bound market sizes of both countries reveal an even greater difference in size. Based on statistics from the us National Center for Education Statistics (2010) shown in Table 4.2, the number of students enrolled in American colleges has been increasing every year, with 20.4 million students enrolled in 2009.

 

Table 4.2: Fall enrolments in degree-granting institutions in the United States


(Source: NCES 2010)

 

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (aucc 2011, 5) reports that almost 1.2 million students were enrolled in degree programs at Canadian universities in 2010. These numbers have been increasing every year as evident from statistics provided by Statistics Canada, shown in Table 4.3.

 

 

Table 4.3: University enrolment in Canada


(Sources: Statistics Canada, n.d.; AUCC 2011)

 

While data for Canadian college enrolment for 2010 is not yet available, the numbers have remained over 600,000 for the past few years since 2004 according to Statistics Canada (Table 4.4).

 

 

Table 4.4: College enrolment in Canada


(Source: Statistics Canada, n.d.)

 

The statistics in Tables 4.3 and 4.4 show that over 1.7 million students were enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges in 2010. It means that Canadian enrolment is about twelve times less than the 20.4 million students enrolled in the us in 2010, or 8.5 percent of the us number, which is an even bigger difference than the national population size. Thus, the Canadian sales for university survival and success books will inevitably be limited by the significantly smaller number of Canadian university-bound students.

This scenario was no different from the performance of previous editions of the book in Canada. The total life sales of the first edition and second editions are not available in BookNet as the first edition was published before BookNet was launched and the second edition only shortly after.[11] According to BookNet and BookScan numbers, the total life sales for the third edition in Canada was only 1 percent of us sales. Normally, when the promotional campaign fails to sell more books, more resources would not be dedicated to push the title further. It would usually be left behind as there would be a whole new set of titles for the marketing and publicity departments to focus their efforts on. Despite three poor performances of the previous editions of The Naked Roommate in Canada, both Sourcebooks and Raincoast felt that there was still potential to keep trying to push the book in Canada. They both felt that the information gained from gap analysis, and the fact that the successful us marketing campaign had placed The Naked Roommate on the New York Times bestseller list, could be extra fuel to create buzz for the book for future selling seasons.

The key piece of information obtained from data analysis by Sourcebooks—that the graduation season in the spring was the prime time for college transition and survival titles—would also be vital to Canadian sales. However, Canadian booksellers are also not accustomed to that idea yet, a similar situation that Sourcebooks had experienced when selling the first two editions (Broadhurst 2011). Canadian booksellers still possess a traditional sense of back-to-school selling which consists of discounted dictionaries and college guides that sell in August (Broadhurst 2011). Raincoast sales reps therefore need to do the same thing that Sourcebooks sales reps had to do: persuade booksellers to start thinking about back-to-school earlier during graduation season in the spring, and to complement their list of back-to-school titles college life books such as The Naked Roommate.

However, this was difficult for Raincoast to accomplish within the first six months of its relationship with Sourcebooks. Raincoast became the distributor of Sourcebooks titles in January 2011. When Raincoast sales reps were selling for the Spring 2011 season, booksellers were not open to stocking up on Cohen’s book. In fact, the booksellers were hesitant to stock many of Sourcebooks’ titles because the publisher was still not a familiar name to Canadian booksellers. Raincoast sales reps reported that for this past Spring 2011 season, they had to spend the time introducing Canadian booksellers to the concept of Sourcebooks as a publisher (Broadhurst 2011). Thus, it was difficult to push The Naked Roommate at the time. BookNet numbers show that not many books were sold this spring. The graduation feature in the May 2011 issue of Raincoast’s Titlewave Newsletter entitled “Good Luck Grads!” and the “Gifts for Grads and Books for Back-to-School”[12] spring promotion to booksellers were not successful, with only four stores participating in the promotion (Rich 2011).

With the problem and cause identified, Raincoast decided to place more resources to push The Naked Roommate for the fall 2011 and spring 2012 seasons. To start, Raincoast assigned its marketing intern to work on market research and publicity for the book in the summer. The research and publicity work that was carried out from May to September 2011 is described in the following section.

 

Canadian Marketing and Publicity for the Fourth Edition

The target audience in Canada for The Naked Roommate is similar to the us market. With guidance from Jamie Broadhurst and Raincoast publicist, Danielle Johnson, some initial background research was initiated for this project. One of the tasks was to find hooks that would catch the attention of the Canadian media so that they will feature Harlan Cohen and his book. More time was devoted to reading through The Naked Roommate to pick out any information that would relate to the Canadian audience. Following that, research into statistics for Canadian universities and colleges was conducted. The results of this research are listed in Tables 4.3 and 4.4. The statistics show that the number of students enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges is growing every year. With the increasing rates of enrolment in Canadian universities and colleges, it means that issues of choosing a degree, excelling in classes, dealing with roommates, dating, finding friends, personal finances, sex, drugs and other mental, emotional and physical concerns that often arise in university life are affecting more and more Canadian young adults. These issues are becoming increasingly relevant in the Canadian context.

In a survey conducted by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations in 2009, it was found that more than 55 percent of Ontario’s university professors and librarians believed that students are less prepared for university than even three years prior (Bell Media 2009). The survey received two thousand responses from twenty-two Ontario universities. The Persistence in Post-Secondary Education in Canada report also found from analyzing data from Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey that about 14 percent of first-year students drop out from university:

“The overall post-secondary drop-out rate was about 16 per cent, suggesting that those who are going to drop out, do so early on. The yits followed 963,000 students who were 18 to 20-years-old in 2000 and participated in post-secondary education by 2005. Survey results from the students who left school suggest that they were already struggling with meeting deadlines, academic performance and study behaviour in their first year.” (Bell Media 2009)

With this information, Raincoast can pitch to the Canadian media that university life is vastly different from high school, and first-year students are finding it a challenge to adapt to the change. If a student’s first year in university also involves moving to a new city and living in campus dorms, the change can be even more acute. Harlan Cohen and his books are thus a valuable resource to precisely these students.

 

Publicity Efforts

Harlan Cohen was scheduled to visit Canada for two days in September 2011. Raincoast’s plan was to try to build publicity around his visit for the back-to-school selling season. The goal was to try to secure some interviews on national morning television interviews in September, plan a college radio interview tour, and pitch for reviews with national newspapers, smaller commuter papers and weeklies in major cities, and university newspapers.

Firstly, to formulate a pitch, a press release and sample interview questions needed to be written and compiled. If a publisher is not in Canada, it is a usual practice for Raincoast to request the original press release used by the publisher and then “Canadianize” the content for the local media. For The Naked Roommate, the task of editing the Sourcebooks’ media release for the Canadian market was assigned to the intern. Appendix F shows a copy of the media release that was sent out to the Canadian media. The main changes implemented were editing the word ‘colleges’ to read ‘universities and colleges’ because unlike the us, the word ‘colleges’ does not account for both universities and colleges in Canada; and including extra information that would appeal to Canadian audiences. Sample interview questions that might appeal to the local media were also included.

Next, a list of media contacts was compiled using Google and a cloud-based marketing and public relations software called Vocus. The contacts that were selected for the publicity mailing are listed in Appendix H. The seventy-three contacts include newspapers (national, city, and university), weeklies, magazines, university radio stations, and national radio talk shows that feature topics on higher education, lifestyle, advice, and parenthood. The publicity mailings went out in June, which included a copy of the book and a press release. After two weeks, a follow-up email was sent to the radio contacts to check in for interest in setting up interviews with Cohen. The email contained sample topics that Cohen would be able to discuss in an interview, as listed in Appendix J.

As a result of Raincoast’s publicity initiatives, an article by Joanne Laucius published by Postmedia News ran in a number of newspapers online across Canada in August, such as The Vancouver Sun, The Ottawa Citizen, The Montreal Gazette and The Windsor Star. A full list of newspapers that ran the article is provided in Appendix H. The article was also published in the print versions of The Vancouver Sun and The Ottawa Citizen. It features a question-and-answer session with Harlan offering advice to university students.

During Cohen’s two days in Canada at the beginning of a new school year in September, he met with students in two cities—Windsor, Ontario, and Sherbrook, Quebec—and did two radio interviews. On September 4, he held a presentation for the new students at the University of Windsor, more than one thousand of whom just moved into the campus residence (Pearce 2011). cbc Windsor interviewed Harlan on that same day (Johnson, “The Naked Roommate” 2011). The Cartier Residence Hall at the University of Windsor also included a brief segment called “Things to Think About Before and After You Get Here” adapted from Cohen’s book in its welcome letter to new students (University of Windsor 2011). The next day on September 5, Cohen spoke to the students at Bishop’s University in Sherbrook, Quebec. During that same week, the University of Manitoba’s radio station, 101.5 cjum-fm, pre-taped an interview with Cohen to air for back-to-school on its Wake Up Winnipeg segment (Johnson, “The Naked Roommate” 2011).

 

Marketing and Sales Promotions

For the July and August back-to-school promotion, Indigo decided to give the title a chance. Using co-op support, Raincoast worked with Indigo to promote The Naked Roommate in-store for the back-to-school season with a prominent front-of-store placement as part of Indigo’s plum reward points promotion. The table ran for six weeks starting August 2, 2011. Indigo was initially hesitant to buy in on Cohen’s book because the third edition did not sell well when it previously tried to promote it for back-to-school (MacDougall 2011). However, after communicating the promising expectations of the book to the Indigo buyer by showing the buyer the us sales data of the new edition and its huge potential, Indigo decided to try it again with the new edition with co-op support from Raincoast.

The results indicated that Indigo’s back-to-school promotion was “mildly successful” (MacDougall 2011). Due to the fact that the front-of-store promotion tied in with media coverage of the book through print reviews, online reviews, radio interviews, and Cohen’s visit to Canada, there was a small increase in sales during the last two weeks of August. The week’s sell-through reported by BookNet on August 28 was the highest year-to-date, and September 4 recorded the second highest. The sell-through was not bad, but it was not good either. Even though those two weeks registered as the highest sales year-to-date for the book in Canada, the total year-to-date sell-through at the end of September 2011 was still less than 3 percent compared to us sales. Of the total number of books that Indigo took for the back-to-school promotion, just over 50 percent sold through, which is not an ideal statistic (MacDougall 2011).

 

Section Conclusion

The marketing, publicity, and sales promotion plans for the 2011 back-to-school selling season did not yield much success in numbers, only a small spike in sales. However, it is a good start in a process that is going to take some time to achieve results. The process will involve having to familiarize Canadian booksellers of Sourcebooks as a publisher, reminding booksellers repetitively of the sell-through data and publicity efforts, and convincing them to rethink traditional back-to-school selling to encompass spring graduation selling as well.

Gap analysis has helped Raincoast in identifying the problem, then in pushing for the Indigo promotion. Raincoast will use data analysis in 2012 to continue to push sales for The Naked Roommate in conjunction with all the titles within the broader college guide category. Broadhurst describes Raincoast’s future plans this way:

“Raincoast will use our multiple sales and marketing channels through 2012, including a weekly bookseller newsletter reaching 1,500 Canadian industry members, to hammer home the message that the back-to-school window is bigger and longer than retailers may think. And sales data is a key part of this ongoing campaign. The vertical that Sourcebooks has identified and which is growing—post-secondary students and their parents—goes far beyond Harlan’s books. We can reach this vertical in Canada, but it will take resources, patience and persistence. Sometimes the most important impact of sales data is the stark presentation of a gap between what is and what could be. We see the potential for this category and we are going to close the gap.” (Broadhurst 2011)

Particularly for The Naked Roommate, if there were to be a fifth edition in the future, Raincoast would certainly position and market it as a big frontlist title and do an aggressive push for the graduation season as well as the back-to-school season.

 

 

IV.REVIEW AND ANALYSIS

A SUCCESSFUL VERTICAL STRATEGY

Sourcebooks’ business model focuses on developing vertical niches and creating online communities in the process. A vertical market is one where “the market for a good or service is confined to a segment constituting relatively few prospective customers (is narrow) but within which most of the customers need the item (is deep)” (BusinessDictionary.com). In contrast to expanding horizontally by targeting a diverse, mass audience, a vertical strategy targets a niche community based on specialized needs and interests.

In a time when new media and technology are evolving, publishers need to reevaluate their business models to best utilize the technologies that are available to keep their businesses thriving. Mike Shatzkin, a respected blogger of the publishing industry, is a strong proponent of publishers exploring ‘verticals’ as he believes that it is how the industry has to adjust to adapt in this digital age. Shatzkin posits that “the horizontal and format-specific product-centric media of the 20th century are inexorably yielding to the vertical and format-agnostic community-centric delivery environment for content that will soon predominate” (2010). In the context of the changing marketplace, Shatzkin (2008) believes that the future of publishing is in vertically integrated niche publishing. He predicts that there will be a rise in vertically integrated niche publishers that focus on a particular subject or category, or a small number of them, and vertically expand the depth of these subjects through various media such as text (printed and electronic), audio, video, social media, and merchandise. Shatzkin (2008) recommends that publishers need to shift their focus from selling the book in its physical form, to being audience-centric, i.e. focusing on selling content that the audience desires or needs, regardless of format.

For a publisher to establish authority within niche communities, a strong presence in the digital environment is crucial and should complement a vertical editorial vision. Today, publishers are able to make direct connections with their audience and service them through multiple channels, new media, and social media tools. Marketing efforts that are focused on driving people to the niche community website or social media accounts that are regularly updated can create a place where people can convene and participate—an active community drives the market through word-of-mouth, in both the online and physical realms, and is a potential revenue-generating opportunity.

Sourcebooks is a good example of such a vertical niche publisher, having built niche audiences around a few specific subjects and categories, such as college guides, baby names, and romance fiction. It has also endeavored to publish in a variety of formats, create dynamic specialized websites and online portals, and utilize social media. Shatzkin has named Sourcebooks’ PoetrySpeaks.com as an example of a “real vertical portal” (2009). Sourcebooks has not only been successful at publishing poetry using different formats in print and compact-discs, but also developed a website which brings together the community of poets and poetry lovers, keeping them connected online. Shatzkin (2009) touts this as an excellent method of providing a service to the reading community—not trying to sell you something—where people can celebrate their love for poetry by posting, critiquing, sharing, and selling poetry. With this model, Sourcebooks generates revenue by selling poetry content and tickets to readings and online performances, but Shatzkin (2009) proposes that it could potentially capitalize further by selling premium memberships to access more content.

Using a similar vertical expansion model and being audience-specific, Sourcebooks has created a similar online community for its college-bound books. It has created a separate section on its website called Sourcebooks College which consolidates all its college-bound books. Categories of books include those for test preparation, college search, college survival and success. This is part of the new education division, Sourcebooks edu, that the publisher recently launched to manage its “biggest existing initiatives, including the leading college-bound publishing program, a Naked Roommate first year experience program, and MyMaxScore.com, and online SAT/ACT test prep solution” (Sourcebooks.com, “New Education Division” 2011). Its mission for this category is “to help students find the right college, support the application and admissions process, including test prep, and successfully transition students into college” (Sourcebooks.com, “New Education Division” 2011). Through this platform, Sourcebooks hopes to provide convenient, solutions-oriented content from top experts in the field through innovative and engaging ways to the community of students, parents, and educators.

The vision and mission for Sourcebooks edu is a key step in building a thriving and active niche community and strengthening the brand of Sourcebooks as a leading provider of content for college-bound students, right up there with competing publishers such as Princeton Review, Barron’s, College Board, Kaplan, Peterson’s, and Spark (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 3). The major brands that Sourcebooks has developed in the Study Aids bisac category are Fiske (college guides and essay prep), U.S. News (law and medical college guides), The Naked Roommate (college survival and success), Gruber (test prep), and MyMaxScore (test prep). Under the Sourcebooks edu umbrella, Sourcebooks has also begun to develop a line of financial aid books that offers help on how to manage money and finance the cost of going to college (Stocke 2011; Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011). This is a key area in which to expand vertically as financing higher education is a source of daily stress for nearly one in three college students and their families (Shatkin 2010) and cited as “the most challenging aspect of the college process, according to a recent survey of guidance counsellors” (Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011).

Over the next few years, Sourcebooks intends to continue to expand its vertical platforms. Raccah explains:

“…as the market changes, we have to continue building the infrastructure to accommodate digital, both from an architecture and an innovation point of view.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

“Over the next five years, we believe that building vertical platforms will make an enormous difference to our company. For some of our authors, there’s a very real new set of opportunities that we are creating for them—new platforms, new models, new ways to reach readers. It is (I think) going to provide some significant revenue streams down the road.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

“And I think you can expect publishers to have much broader relationships—with retailers, digital partners, affinity communities, authors, agents, multimedia resources, and other content providers among them. You can expect us to be “publishing” far more than just printed books and ebooks.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

As such, Sourcebooks is moving forward with a format-agnostic mindset and focused on building an authoritative brand reputation within its niches by delivering quality content through the use of multiple media formats and channels to reach its audience. Particularly for Sourcebooks edu, this division plans to make its online tools more easily accessible and deliver content using different formats such as video, webinars, seminars, books, interactive ebooks, and software tools (Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011). However, Sourcebooks is not the only brand. Its authors are also promoted as brands. Edward Fiske, Harlan Cohen and Gary Gruber are prime examples. The publisher has helped its authors extend their brands from one title to full lines of books. It has not only done so in the Study Aids category, but also in a number of others as well.

Sales data analysis has been integral to Sourcebooks’ business model. Its method of using sales data not only as a “weapon for creativity” to develop a unique editorial vision that encompasses multi-niches and deepens its vertical platforms, but also to aggressively pursue successful sell-in and improve sell-through, is commendable.

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE COLLEGE VERTICAL IN THE CANADIAN MARKET

While these strategies have been successful for Sourcebooks to push sales of The Naked Roommate in the American market, it has yet to be seen if they can likewise help sales in the Canadian market. Raincoast has identified that there is a problem with seriously under-performing sales for The Naked Roommate in Canada, and have plans to push the book aggressively in future seasons based on gap analysis. Time will tell if those plans will be successful.

As previously discussed, the market size for Canadian university- and college-bound students is much smaller than that of the us—about 8.5 percent of the us. Bearing this in mind, perhaps a realistic goal for Raincoast to close the gap could be to push Canadian sales up to 7–8 percent of us sales as that would be a close reflection of the difference in the size of the market in both countries.

Further research or focus groups could also be conducted to canvas the opinions of Canadian parents who are going through the process of sending their children to university or college, and how the students adjust in their first year. That information could better relate to the local audience when used for marketing purposes.

In the future, perhaps Raincoast could consider targeting other university publications that are non-campus-specific, such as the Toronto-based Faze Magazine, which is the largest paid circulation magazine for youth ages 12 to 24 in Canada with the “annual Back-to-School Issue hitting 500,000 copies” (Faze, “The Faze Story”). Campus Life Magazine is another Toronto-based magazine with a circulation of 100,000 that reaches more than forty campuses across Canada (Campus Intercept, “Media”). It is a national student lifestyle magazine, both print and online, “representing the voice of Canadian post-secondary students” (Campus Intercept, “Media”) and a widely distributed campus publication in Canada. Campus Life Magazine is part of the larger brand of Campus Intercept, which is a youth marketing specialist that offers “specially tailored marketing solutions to clients who wish to reach Canada’s student population” (Nicholson 2007). Working with Campus Intercept to promote The Naked Roommate through advertising, media reviews, or interviews could be a good opportunity to increase the book’s sell-through in Canada.

However, the high cost of magazine advertising and collaborating with such marketing companies as Campus Intercept can be beyond what most publishers can afford. As discussed in the beginning of Chapter One, books have a short shelf life, each with its own personality competing with thousands of different books every year, which can require a customized marketing plan for each individual title (L. Shatzkin 1982, 3). This characteristic of books is unlike many other consumer businesses where their lines of products comprise of fewer, more individually distinct items sold at higher price points, making it easier for these businesses to justify a long-term investment of marketing funds towards cultivating lifelong customers. For publishers, it would be more difficult to justify spending on costly marketing initiatives such as advertising which can require multiple impressions to be effective. In this case, Raincoast would have to run a thorough cost-benefit analysis and decide if advertising in niche publications such as Faze Magazine and Campus Life Magazine would be cost-effective in terms of raising sales within a feasible marketing budget.

Some presence at national student trade shows and events might be helpful as well—similar to what Sourcebooks did in its us campaign—such as at the Student Life Expo, which is a large national post-secondary education and lifestyle event in Canada for graduating high school students. As Raincoast does not sell directly to consumers, perhaps collaborating with its retail partners—for example, using co-op support to buy a table—could be a viable option. Nonetheless, Raincoast would once again need to carry out a cost-benefit analysis to factor in the exhibitor’s cost of entry into such trade shows.

A less costly plan would be to engage in online marketing. One major benefit of the digital age is that the impact of Cohen’s active online presence and Sourcebooks edu’s online initiatives know no national bounds and can be helpful for connecting with the Canadian audience as well. It will, however, be limited by the extent to which the content is catered specifically to the American audience as opposed to encompassing a wider market.

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR OTHER BOOK CATEGORIES AND PUBLISHING SCENARIOS

How could a small publisher without a large budget compete with larger companies like Sourcebooks and Raincoast who have more resources to invest time and money in data analysis? In an article by Peter Grant (2006) in the Literary Review of Canada, he looked at how Chris Anderson’s long-tail theory[13] can be applied to the Canadian book market to benefit Canadian publishers and Canadian-authored books. He reported this statistic:

“Of the new trade [titles] published in Canada in 2004, only 36.5 percent were by Canadian authors. But when it comes to trade titles that were reprinted in 2004, the percentage of Canadian-authored titles rose to 75 percent. That suggests that the Canadian-authored books have shorter initial print runs, a longer shelf life and more frequent reprints, distinguishing features of the long-tail effect.” (Grant 2006)

This statistic means that in the Canadian market, where the majority of books are foreign import titles, Canadian-authored books can have the potential to be pushed for a longer term, beyond the initial weeks of the books’ release. Sell-through data analysis could be used to drive marketing and promotional decisions for reprint editions in the longer term to encourage sell-in.

However, the statistics published in Grant’s article were reported prior to the formation of BookNet Canada and it is unclear where he retrieved that data. The question of whether the number of reprint editions of Canadian-authored trade titles significantly exceeds the number of newly published ones remains to be answered conclusively with relevant current data from BookNet.

Even if the statistics published in Grant’s article were true, the problem for small publishers is in the ability to finance long-term promotions of old titles, as well as cover the cost of subscription to sell-through reporting. To cover the sell-through subscription rate in Canada, BookNet’s Group Buy Plan for up to ten small independent presses could be an option to consider. Promoting old titles will be difficult because resources will need to be devoted to the bulk of new titles that are released each publishing season. One solution might be in exploring a vertical editorial strategy, as discussed earlier in this chapter, which is what Sourcebooks has developed. Trade publishers can work towards becoming multi-niche publishers, focusing on bringing in-depth and rich content to the communities they represent (M. Shatzkin 2008). A vertical editorial strategy allows books within the same category—frontlist or backlist—to be promoted together as a collection. The books will cater to multiple needs on different levels within the same category, which can push the long-tail titles over a longer period of time.

The topic of having a vertical editorial strategy begs the question of where literary fiction fits in the discussion. While categories of genre fiction such as science fiction or romance are easily delineated into individual vertical platforms, literary fiction is more broad scale in subject matter. Nonetheless, the category could potentially stand on its own as a vertical, differentiated from genre fiction. Can sell-through data analysis help with sales in literary fiction, or would it merely homogenize and “dumb down” literary quality as writers like Stephen Henighan fear? Henighan’s (2011) sentiments, as briefly touched on in Chapter One, appear to be an over-simplification of the use of sell-through data. Regarding this issue, Pat Holt, former book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and now the writer of the online book industry column, Holt Uncensored, responded this way back in 2002:

“BookScan has a lot to tell us when it’s used the right way, but we don’t want to have to be limited by something that records only sales. Publishers are the caretakers of literature, that’s how we get new writing, new ideas. If you publish for trends, it’s just as bad as Hollywood. Majority rules does not have an equivalent in literature.” (quoted in Dreher 2002)

Holt’s point about using sell-through data in the right way is an important one. Sell-through reporting services can help publishers make informed, sustainable publishing decisions so that they can continue to afford to bring unique, alternative and high quality literary voices forward. Sell-through data can be another tool used to foster these voices in an analogy bookselling environment as described in Chapter One, whereby comparisons can be made between a book whose subject matter or author’s style of writing are akin to that of previously published titles with healthy sell-through numbers.

 

 

CONCLUSION

There is no question that there has been a commodification of books and a growing commercialization of the publishing business that is numbers- and profit-driven. The development of digital technologies and new media channels over the past thirty years have caused the business of bookselling to shift towards becoming less about the content and more about the sales expectations of a book. With traditional enthusiasm-based bookselling being taken over by analogy bookselling, sell-through data has been used to serve the solely profit-driven publishers to churn out repeat blockbusters due to the fact that there is a track record of comparable titles to back up those publishing decisions. Within some genres such as literary fiction, new authors may continue to be shunned for their own poor track record revealed by sell-through data. As such, the controversy over sell-through reporting continues to this day, ten years after the launch of Nielsen BookScan.

The persistent disagreements over sell-through reporting among publishing professionals require continued research into best practices in the industry for publishers to adapt to the changing digital environment. This report has striven up to this point to illuminate how data-driven publishing can be an effective model for the business, despite its naysayers. Beyond the immediate benefits of more accurate sales forecasting and better management of print runs and inventory, sales data has the potential to revolutionize all functions of a publishing house, positively affect both sell-in and sell-through decisions, and help publishers thrive.

Contrary to the traditional practice of cultivating mass audiences and finding manuscripts with blockbuster potential, sales data analysis can service publishers in cultivating strong vertical niche markets, creating a public awareness of smaller titles that have been overshadowed by blockbusters, and turning them into bestsellers in the long term. This is precisely what Sourcebooks has managed to achieve with a number of its categories, with its education division being a prime example. Sourcebooks uses sell-through data analysis to study existing content within numerous categories in order to improve it or offer something different. This application of data analysis can be a vital tool in shaping a publisher’s editorial vision and vertically deepening the platforms within the categories that it publishes.

Data has also been an essential tool for shaping Sourcebooks’ marketing and sales strategies. Sourcebooks uses the information it pulls from research and data analysis for effective analogy selling to retailers—“this book will sell better than this other book that did not do so well because of the extra or different content”—as it did with The Naked Roommate. The publisher’s consistent use of data analysis and market research to achieve healthy sell-in, as well as to improve sell-through with targeted multi-channel marketing and promotional campaigns, have led to the growth of Harlan Cohen’s book over four editions into a New York Times bestseller. Such publishers who are willing to think outside the box and experiment with new strategies can use data to their advantage to pinpoint holes in the market, as well as to find and compare similar books—in Sourcebooks’ case, even books that did not sell well—in an effort to push book sales of new authors.

Selling a new author’s book will no doubt still be a difficult process even with the availability of sell-through data. Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books both found this to be difficult in the first year of publishing The Naked Roommate because there were no strong comparable titles. For Raincoast, the task of re-educating its customers on consumer purchasing patterns during the graduation and back-to-school seasons will continue throughout the upcoming publishing seasons. There is great potential for growth in the college category in Canada considering the stark gap that has been identified between us and Canadian sales. The information that Sourcebooks and Raincoast have extracted from data analysis will be integral to the task of closing the gap in Canada by presenting what the potential of the title could be.

The important factor in the success of Harlan Cohen’s first book is in the persistence and commitment of the publisher who stuck to pushing a book year after year based on diligent sell-through data analysis. It will certainly be difficult to achieve the same results as The Naked Roommate for all categories. A careful evaluation of the return on investment on sell-through data subscription and marketing initiatives would have to be made—especially for Canadian publishing companies whose market is substantially smaller that the us—to ensure that the calculated benefits received will be worth the staff’s extra time and finances expensed on sell-through reporting services. For those who can afford the subscription fee, sell-through data is an important and effective tool for their businesses, not just in improving sales but also in encouraging creativity and diverse strategies during the editorial acquisitions process.

 

 


APPENDICES

 

APPENDIX A: US MARKETING, PUBLICITY AND SALES PROMOTION CAMPAIGN

Media Publicity
• Appearance on graduation panels
• Send ARCs and pitches:
++++-National magazines
++++-Large daily newspapers
++++-College/back-to-school issues
++++-Radio stations
++++-Blogs
• National tour (March/April, August/September): High schools, bookstores, college campuses
• Push for presence on mtvU, MTV Networks’ 24-hour college network (reaches 750 campuses and 9 million American college students)

Marketing
• Feature spreads in publisher’s catalogues
++++-Two-page feature spread in Spring 2011 catalogue
++++-One-page feature in the Fall 2011 edition
++++-Big Mouth Mailing
++++-Target 50 Hot Leads from NASPA/FYE Shows
++++-Send DM Piece, Naked Suite of books, letter explaining the books and program, and “10 Naked Tips for First Year Experience”
• Aggressive pre- and post-show marketing at trade shows
++++-Direct Mail
++++-Email
++++-Phone calls to:
++++++++»»National Association of Student Personnel Administration (NASPA)
++++++++»»First-Year Experience programs (FYE)
++++++++»»Association of College and University Housing Officers – International ++++++++(ACUHO–I)
++++++++»»National Orientation Directors Association (NODA)
++++++++»»National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
• Email blast campaign to parents of college-bound high schoolers (June)
• Comprehensive website for Harlan for all three books
• Social Media:
++++-Twitter/Facebook campaign for Sourcebooks college
++++-Cross promote on teenfire.com
++++-Harlan Cohen’s blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Naked Minute videos

Sales Promotions
• Books-A-Million Online Bookstore: Grad and Back-to-School (May 8)
• Barnes & Noble: Grad Table and Online Promotion (April 15)
• Barnes & Noble: ‘Dorm Essentials’ theme table (August 3)
• eBook: Promo with college-bound titles for $1.99 (August)


APPENDIX B: FOURTH EDITION PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: The Essential Graduation Gift

Bestselling Author Harlan Cohen Helps Prepare College-Bound Students for Life on Campus

College is stressful.

First-year college students’ self-ratings of their emotional health dropped to record low levels in 2010, according to the cirp Freshman Survey, ucla’s annual, nationwide survey of students at four-year colleges and universities. Only 52 percent of students characterized their emotional health as “above average” while 46 percent of female college students reported “above average” emotional health, compared with 59 percent of their male counterparts.

Enter the #1 college guide, The Naked Roommate, by bestselling author Harlan Cohen.

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College (isbn: 9781402253461; april 19, 2011; $14.99 us; College Guide; Trade Paper), now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 college campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms.

What’s new in the fourth edition of The Naked Roommate?

• More than 10 percent new content
• New student stories
• New tips and advice for students headed home for break
• A bonus chapter for community college students
• Updated statistics and facts
• New recommended websites, Facebook links, and Twitter feeds

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college campuses.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)


APPENDIX C: SOURCEBOOKS CATALOGUE FEATURES

Spring 2011 Catalogue Feature

Appendix C-1

 

Fall 2011 Catalogue Feature

Appendix C-2

 


APPENDIX D: FOURTH EDITION NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: Now a New York Times Bestseller!

Top College Guide Moves to the Head of the Class

NAPERVILLE, IL – May 27, 2011 – The Naked Roommate has moved in—to the New York Times Bestseller List!

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College (isbn: 9781402253461; april 19, 2011; $14.99 us; College Guide; Trade Paper) by Harlan Cohen made its debut on the New York Times Bestsellers List at #15 on the Paperback Advice list, reflecting sales for the week ending May 21, 2011.

“I’m thrilled The Naked Roommate is being embraced by and helping so many college-bound students,” Cohen said. “I hope this new exposure will help even more students discover ‘the nakedness’ and have the very best college experience.”

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 college campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms.

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college campuses.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)


APPENDIX E: US MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS EVENTS CONFIRMED

Print

Family Circle article on teen rejection (August or September issue)
azTeen college issue (August 2011, page 10)
College Times feature
Journal Star grad guide (circulation 70,000)
USA Today: “Kids bound for college; what’s a parent to do?” (August 4)

 

Television

WGN Midday News (June)
The Gayle King Show (August)

 

Radio

• 3 interviews booked

 

Events

• Anderson’s Bookshop (IL – July 7)
• Saint Leo University (FL – August 18)
• Webster University (MO – August 19)
• University of Texas at Dallas (TX – August 20)
• Trine University (IN – August 21)
• Hiram College (OH – August 24)
• University of Montevallo (AL – August 25)
• Embry-Riddle (AZ – August 26)
• Tiffin University (OH – August 28)
• California Lutheran University (CA – August 29)
• University of Kentucky (KY – August 31)
• Southern Connecticut State (CT – September 13)
• Point Park University (PA – September 14)
• Anderson’s Bookshop (IL – September 20)
• University of South Dakota (SD – September 22)
• Northern Arizona University (AZ – September 23)
• Whitman College (WA – October 11)

(Sources: Sourcebooks. “WAM Packet – March 17, 2011”; “WAM Packet – June 16, 2011”; January to March Titles presentation slide)


APPENDIX F: RAINCOAST BOOKS SPRING 2011 GRADUATION PROMOTION

Titlewave Newsletter – May 2011

Appendix F-1

 

Spring 2011 Grad Promotion to Booksellers

Appendix F-2

 


APPENDIX G: CANADIAN PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: Now a New York Times Bestseller!

Top College Guide Moves to the Head of the Class

Appendix G

Sourcebooks
5.28 x 7.09 • 544 pages
978-1-4022-5346-1
cdn $16.99 • pb

“I’m thrilled The Naked Roommate is being embraced by and helping so many college-bound students,” Cohen said. “I hope this new exposure will help even more students discover ‘the nakedness’ and have the very best college experience.”

 

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college and university.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms. It contains hilarious, outrageous and telling stories including:

• Dos, don’ts, and dramas of living with roommates
• 17 kinds of college hookups; online dating; long distance dating
• Why college friends are different; getting involved on campus
• To go or not to go to classes; how to get an A, C, or F
• Managing money, time and stress
• Sex, drugs and the truth

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college and university campuses in the us and Canada.

Harlan is available for interviews.

 

 

 


APPENDIX H: CANADIAN MEDIA TARGETED FOR PUBLICITY MAILINGS

National Newspapers

• The Globe and Mail
• National Post

 

City/Commuter Newspapers and Magazines

• 24 Hours (Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver)
• The Calgary Herald
• The Edmonton Journal
• The Gazette
• Metro Toronto
• The Ottawa Citizen
• The Province
• Quebec Home and School News
• Times Colonist
• Toronto Free Press
• Toronto Star
• The Toronto Sun
• The Vancouver Sun
• Vancouver Courier
• University Affairs
• The Winnipeg Free Press
• The Windsor Star

 

Weeklies

• Georgia Straight (Vancouver BC)
• Monday Magazine (Victoria BC)
• Montreal Mirror (Montreal QC)
• Montreal Review of Books (Montreal QC)
• NOW Magazine (Toronto ON)
• SEE Magazine (Edmonton AB)
• Vue Weekly (Edmonton AB)

 

University Newspapers

• The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia)
• The Peak (Simon Fraser University)
• The Martlet (University of Victoria)
• The Varsity (University of Toronto)
• The Gazette (University of Western Ontario)
• Queen’s Journal (Queen’s University)
• The Fulcrum (University of Ottawa)
• The Silhouette (McMaster University)
• Imprint (University of Waterloo)
• The Eyeopener (Ryerson University)
• The Charlatan (Carleton University)
• The Ontarion (University of Guelph)
• Excalibur (York University)
• The Cord (Wilfrid Laurier University)
• The Link (Concordia University)
• The McGill Tribune (McGill University)
• The Gateway (University of Alberta)
• The Gauntlet (University of Calgary)
• The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)
• The Sheaf (University of Saskatchewan)

 

National/City Radio Talk Shows

Featuring topics such as lifestyle, higher education, advice, and parenthood

• ckcm-am (Grand Falls-Windsor NL)
• ckua-am (Edmonton AB)
• crfm-fm (North Bay ON)
• ckmo-am – Island Parent Radio (Victoria BC)
• cbla-fm – Ontario Morning, CBC Radio One (London ON)
• vocm-am (St. John’s NL)

 

University Radio Stations

• citr 101.9 fm (University of British Columbia)
• cfml-fm (British Columbia Institute of Technology)
• cjsf 90.1 fm (Simon Fraser University)
• cfuv 101.9 fm (University of Victoria)
• ciut-fm 89.5 fm (University of Toronto)
• ckhc-fm (Humber College)
• chry-fm 105.5 fm (York University)
• chrw-fm 94.9 fm (University of Western Ontario)
• cfrc-fm 101.9 fm (Queen’s University)
• chuo-fm 89.1 fm (University of Ottawa)
• ckcu-fm 93.1 fm (Carleton University)
• cfmu-fm 93.3 fm (McMaster University)
• ckms-fm 100.3 fm (University of Waterloo)
• Radio Laurier (Wilfrid Laurier University)
• cfru-fm 93.3 fm (University of Guelph)
• cjlo 1690 am (Concordia University)
• ckut-fm 90.3 fm (McGill University)
• cjsw-fm 90.9 fm (University of Calgary)
• umfm 101.5 fm The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)
• chmr-fm (Memorial University of Newfoundland)


APPENDIX I: CANADIAN MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS EVENTS CONFIRMED

Canadian Print

The Ottawa Citizen: “Campus Confidential” (August 19)
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Campus+confidential/5279265/story.html

Leader-Post: “Campus Confidential” (August 20)
http://www.leaderpost.com/life/Campus+confidential/5282122/story.html

The Vancouver Sun: “Campus Conundrums” (August 22)
http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Campus+conundrums/5287822/story.html

The Montreal Gazette: “Campus Conundrums” (August 22)
http://www.montrealgazette.com/story_print.html?id=5286718&sponsor=

Canada.com: “Campus Confidential” (August 23)
http://www.canada.com/Campus+confidential/5298731/story.html

The Windsor Star: “Students’ Dilemmas Don’t Make Columnist Squirm” (August 27)
http://www.windsorstar.com/life/Students+dilemmas+make+columnist+squirm/5317348/story.html

 

Canadian Radio

• CBC Windsor (September 4)
• University of Manitoba 101.5 cjum-fm (September 5)

 

Canadian Events

• University of Windsor (ON – September 4)
• Bishop’s University (QC – September 5)


APPENDIX J: SAMPLE TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Guest Segment: Back-To-School Advice for Students (and Parents) from Top College and University Expert Harlan Cohen

Harlan Cohen knows about college life.

He’s the author of the New York Times bestselling college guide, The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, a nationally syndicated advice columnist for teens and twenty-somethings, and an in-demand college lifestyle speaker who has visited more than 400 college and university campuses.

Harlan is available for a back-to-school interview segment featuring valuable information for college-bound students and their parents.

 

Back-To-School Checklist for College-Bound Students

Expect the Unexpected – Try leaving for college with BIG, but flexible, expectations.
Patience, Patience, Patience – It can take up to two years to find your place on campus.
The Ultimate Roommate Rule – Make rules before you need rules.
Homesickness – It’s normal. Medicate with small doses of home, family and friends.
The Fifth Wall of Technology – Don’t stay in your dorm and live online. You’ll miss out.

 

Back-To-School Checklist for Parents of College-Bound Students

Loosen Your Grip – You don’t have to “let go.” Just change your grip.
The 24-Hour Rule – Unless there’s immediate danger, wait at least 24 hours. Most situations will get fixed without your help.
Learn to Text – Texting is the most unobtrusive way to get a response from your student.
• Moving Day – How to say good-bye and what NOT to do.
The First Few Months – What to expect from your college student (and what to do) in the first few months.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)

 

 


NOTES

1 The company was previously called vnu (Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen), which later became AC Nielsen Company, and now known as The Nielsen Company (Wikipedia, “Verenigde”). RETURN

2 Heather MacLean’s 2009 MPub project report, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: The Inception and Implementation of a New Funding Initiative for the Department of Canadian Heritage,” presents comprehensive research into the inception and development of the Supply Chain Initiative and BookNet Canada. RETURN

3 Thompson (2010, 239) reports that prior to 1980, the number of new books published in the us was estimated to be under 50,000. The number reached close to a staggering 200,000 by 1998, and 284,000 in 2007. RETURN

4 The information in this section is taken from Sourcebooks.com (“The Sourcebooks Story”), unless otherwise stated. RETURN

5 The information in this section is taken from the Raincoast Books website (“About Raincoast Books”), unless otherwise stated. RETURN

6 onix (Online Information Exchange) for books is the international xml-based standard for representing and communicating book bibliographic data in electronic form (Editeur, “onix”). RETURN

7 The client publisher extranet site is accessible at http://services.raincoast.com. RETURN

8 See Appendix B for the fourth edition us press release. RETURN

9 See Appendix C for the two catalogue features. RETURN

10 See Appendix D for the New York Times bestseller press release from Sourcebooks. RETURN

11 The first and second editions only had one or two stores reporting sales data to BookNet, compared to the 50-100 that reported when the third edition was in print and over 100 stores reporting for the fourth. Thus, the sell-through data is most likely not reliable for the first two editions. RETURN

12 See Appendix F for Raincoast’s spring 2011 graduation promotion. RETURN

13 The long-tail theory is the idea that outside of the few money-making blockbusters, the aggregate of non-hits and obscure titles made up of thousands of niches—the Long Tail—is a substantial revenue-generating opportunity as well (Anderson 2004). RETURN

 

 


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Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” Wired, October 2004. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html.

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AUCC (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada). Trends in Higher Education: Volume 1 – Enrolment. Ottawa, on: aucc, 2011. http://www.aucc.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2011/05/trends-2011-vol1-enrolment-e.pdf.

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Blanco, Jodee. The Complete Guide to Book Publicity. 2nd ed. New York: Allworth Press, 2004.

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———. “BNC SalesData.” Accessed September 27, 2011. http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=434&Itemid=299.

———. “BNC SalesData Group Buy Plan.” Accessed November 8, 2011. http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=91&Itemid=337.

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———. “Vertical Market.” WebFinance, Inc. Accessed on January 10, 2012. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/vertical-market.html.

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———. Printed Matters: Book Publishing Policy and Programs, Annual Report 200304. Gatineau, qc: Government of Canada, 2004.

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Henighan, Stephen. “The BookNet Dictatorship.” Geist 78, 2011. http://www.geist.com/articles/booknet-dictatorship.

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Hutton, Tatiana. “BookScan: A Marketing Tool or Literary Homogenizer?” Publishing Research Quarterly 18, no. 1 (May 1, 2002): 46-51.

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Kelsch, Liz (Publicity Manager, Sourcebooks). Email messages to Danielle Johnson, Raincoast Books, June 2011.

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———. “Sourcebooks Moving Beyond Its Source.” Publishers Weekly, October 5, 2007, http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20071008/17178-sourcebooks-moving-beyond-its-source-.html

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NCES (National Center for Education Statistics). “Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions, by attendance status, sex of student, and control of institution: Selected years, 1947 through 2009.” Digest of Education Statistics, 2010. Accessed on November 4, 2011. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_197.asp?referrer=report.

The New York Times Company. “Best Sellers, June 5, 2011.” The New York Times. June 5, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2011-06-05/paperback-advice/list.html.

Nicholson, Kara. “National Campus Marketing Agency Founded by T.O.-Based Agencies.” Media in Canada. December 13, 2007. http://mediaincanada.com/2007/12/13/campusintercept-20071213.

Nielsen Book Services Limited. “Nielsen BookScan.” Nielsen BookScan. Accessed September 27, 2011. http://www.nielsenBookScan.co.uk/controller.php?page=104.

Pearce, Kristie. “U of W Students Start Filling in Residences.” The Windsor Star, September 5, 2011. http://www.windsorstar.com/news/windsor/students+start+filling+residences/5352826/story.html?id=5352826.

Publishers Weekly. “Looking for the 50% Solution.” Publisher News, December 30, 2011. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/50017-looking-for-the-50-solution.html.

Raincoast Book Distribution Ltd. “About Raincoast Books.” Raincoast Books. Accessed September 29, 2011. http://www.raincoast.com/about.

———. Always Connected. May 2010. http://www.raincoast.com/images/uploads/raincoast-brochure-may2010(2).pdf.

———. “Good Luck Grads!” Titlewave Newsletter, Raincoast Books, May 2011. http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2dc45a5040bb71fdf88e5f667&id=2867daa7d0.

———. “Raincoast Gets Back to Basics.” Blog (blog), Raincoast Books, January 8, 2008. http://www.raincoast.com/blog/details/raincoast-gets-back-to-basics.

Rich, Siobhan (Marketing Manager, Raincoast Books). Email message to author, October 19, 2011.

Rosen, Judith. “College Bound: Guide to Schools Gain in Sales.” Publishers Weekly, May 5, 2003. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20030505/35815-college-bound-.html.

Shatkin, Jess P., and the Staff of the nyu Child Study Center. “Transition to College: Separation and Change for Parents and Students.” New York: nyu Child Study Center, 2010. http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/transition_college_separation_change_parents_students.

Shatzkin, Leonard. In Cold Type: Overcoming the Book Crisis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

Shatzkin, Mike. “End of General Trade Publishing Houses (Completely Retold).” Speeches, The Idea Logical Company, Inc. January 22, 2008. http://www.idealog.com/speeches/2008/01/end-of-general-trade-publishing-houses-completely-retold.

———. “Here’s a Real Vertical: PoetrySpeaks.com.” The Shatzkin Files (blog), The Idea Logical Company, Inc. November 4, 2009. http://www.idealog.com/blog/heres-a-real-vertical-poetryspeaks-com.

———. “With New Opportunities Come New Challenges.” The Shatzkin Files (blog), The Idea Logical Company, Inc. March 9, 2010. http://www.idealog.com/blog/with-new-opportunities-come-new-challenges.

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———. “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton Kick Off College Insiders Series at Anderson’s (July 7).” Publicity, 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/publicity/1746-harlan-cohen-and-christie-garton-kick-off-college-insiders-series-at-andersons-july-7.html.

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———. “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources to Rapidly Expanding Education Portfolio.” Sourcebooks Next (blog), December 5, 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/next-news/1892-sourcebooks-adds-financial-aid-resources-to-rapidly-expanding-education-portfolio.html.

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Life After Print: Revising the Digital Editorial Strategy in Magazine Publishing

 

By Kristen Nicole Hilderman

ABSTRACT: This report examines the tension between print and digital magazine publishing, the divisiveness around SEO, and the future of BCBusiness magazine’s digital editorial strategy. Beyond simply extolling the virtues of SEO, this report discusses its absolute necessity in the digital editorial workflow, how it can be adapted, and the best practices for digital editors. As the magazine publishing industry moves into a new digital era, magazines have to consider how to align the goals and practices of print and digital editors while developing new online strategies that combine print content, multimedia, SEO, and social media. BCBusiness is on the vanguard of this magazine publishing movement that will see more dynamic editors working as multi-platform, multidiscipline, word- and Web-strategists. All figures and statistics are accurate as of April 2011.

 

 


Acknowledgements

Thanks to my industry supervisor, Shannon Emmerson, and to John Bucher for their support, mentorship, and for letting me stick around after my internship.

Thanks to my senior supervisor, John Maxwell, and the brilliant staff in the Master of Publishing Program. I appreciate all of your encouragement, your dedication to your students, and above all, for helping me see what an exciting time this is to be entering the publishing industry.

And finally, thanks to my wonderful husband, Luc. I couldn’t have done this without your motivation on those early Saturday mornings, your encouraging words, and all of your support as I inched further toward my degree.

 

 


CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

INTRODUCTION
++++The digital publishing arc of BCBusiness magazine

PART ONE | A Burgeoning BCBusiness Digital Editorial Strategy
++++Early digital workflow
++++Case study: BCBusiness Online articles in 2007
++++The importance of SEO in digital

PART TWO | The Inner Workings of Search Engine Optimization
++++SEO explained
++++Social media as SEO
++++SEO in the analytics spotlight

PART THREE | The BCBusiness Digital Editorial Strategy
++++Parsing the BCBusiness Google Analytics
++++Adapting social media
++++New SEO strategies at Canada Wide Media
++++Content collections

PART FOUR | The Future of Digital Editorial Practices
++++Bridging the gap between print and digital
++++From type to Twitter: An optimal workflow

CONCLUSION

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY
++++Works cited

 


INTRODUCTION

The digital publishing arc of BCBusiness magazine

In an increasingly digital world, magazine publishing strategies without Web components are rare animals. The publishing­­ industry has evolved rapidly, changing with the technologies on which it relies to reach its readers. As digital technologies advance, so do its users, and so must the content providers. After spending three months interning at Canada Wide Media, Western Canada’s largest magazine publisher, and studying the evolution of its online publishing strategy, I saw firsthand the speed with which publishers and editors must react to the evolving demands of readers and the market.

This report addresses the seismic shifts in the magazine publishing landscape, how they have given way to new digital strategies and an emphasis on magazines’ online components, and what these changes look like at a Canadian magazine publisher. During my internship at Canada Wide I analyzed online articles from 2007 onwards to ascertain past digital editorial practices and how they figured in the overall workflow of a print article being put online. Beyond analyzing the way things were, this report thoroughly discusses current strategies and their merits in online publishing, and puts forth new ideas for the future of online publishing. Upon being hired as a full-time staff member following my internship, I extended my research to Canada Wide’s current editorial strategies, and looked at how new methods and ideas can be incorporated to improve the digital editorial workflow and the overall success of online magazines. By going inside the current digital editorial practices at BCBusiness magazine, Canada Wide’s print and online business title, and analyzing its past methods, I can trace the evolution of online magazine publishing strategies at Canada Wide Media.

As online magazine-publishing models proliferate, more companies are exploring the opportunities of digital publishing rather than dwelling on the shortcomings of print. Magazines are being published in myriad forms —Magazines Canada calls them “360 degree marketing providers”[1]—and online editions are building credibility with both readers and advertisers. As audiences warm to the idea of consuming robust content online —books, magazines, newspaper articles—more publications are moving their digital products beyond static replications of their print editions and embracing new strategies.

Early online models seemed to be shaped around the idea that “if you build it, they will come;” any online presence was better than none, and digital strategies lacked elegance, using the Web simply as a print-content repository. The prevailing idea was that, if your content was worthy, readers would find it, consume it, share it, and return for more. But with 255 million websites in existence as of December 2010,[2] it has never been clearer that good content alone will not fuel your site’s vitality and success.

The content is king mantra still buzzes in the background of digital publishing strategies, but the sheer vastness and increasing complexities of the Internet demand a more sophisticated approach. Publishing excellent content is the editor’s steadfast goal, but ensuring that it is findable is paramount in her strategy. If you build it, the reader must be able to Google it.

Readers do not interact with a digital publication in the same way as with a print publication, nor do they find it the same way. Adopting a separate editorial strategy for Web content (both print-to-Web and Web-only) involves understanding how readers consume content online and understanding how they find it.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the Web practice of enhancing an article or website’s visibility online and increasing its findability in search engine results. In the past few years, SEO has become an increasingly fundamental part of online magazine publishing strategies, and thorough knowledge and understanding of SEO techniques are a necessity in the digital editor’s toolbox. By employing SEO methods, the digital editor improves an article’s online visibility, which results in more traffic arriving to the magazine’s website; it is like placing your print magazine at the front of the newsstand in hopes of attracting more readers. Although some aspects of SEO are at odds with the conventions of print editorial—such as headline writing—they have their rightful place in magazine publishing.

By incorporating SEO methods into the digital editorial strategy, editors can ensure that their content is well indexed by search engines and that it drives traffic to the magazine’s site. Although SEO skeptics are still rampant, it is hard to ignore the facts; through Google analytics, it is easy to discern the articles that have been optimized[3] from those that were copied from the print magazine with no further changes. This report looks at the SEO and analytics of successful and unsuccessful BCBusiness articles to clarify the gap between a properly optimized article and one that has not undergone any Web-specific editorial treatment. Analytics reveal how many people see an article, how they arrived there, and many other valuable details that can be incorporated into the digital editorial strategy. A magazine article that is published online without Web-specific editorial treatment or optimization is the proverbial needle in the Internet haystack, a blip on the Google analytics radar. By thoroughly analyzing search optimization methods, this report will determine the best practices for digital editors, look at new techniques, emphasize SEO’s necessity in online magazine publishing, and look at how it can be specifically applied to back issues of Canada Wide’s magazines and to its current digital editorial strategy.

 

The digital publishing arc of BCBusiness magazine

In 2005, Canada Wide Media launched a Web component for its flagship publication, BCBusiness magazine. The website offered fragments of five articles per month and pushed readers to subscribe to the print magazine. In 2007, BCBusiness launched its full website, BCBusinessOnline.ca. Over the past five years, BCBusiness Online has followed a similar arc to the one mentioned above. The fledgling website published entire print magazine issues by moving content online, but with minimal photos and limited consideration for the articles’ digital environment, primarily due to a small staff stretched thinly over the demanding website launch and curation. The original intention was to bring BCBusiness a Web presence as quickly as possible, populating the site with print content as a mirror to the magazine. The digital staff wanted to serve both readers, in finding content online, and advertisers, in reaching a new online audience. “The purpose of the website was to promote the magazine to advertisers and potential subscribers”[4] with less focus on the reader experience. The website was a means to an end; the goal was to have a Web presence. In conjunction with the website launch, BCBusiness Online developed a blog component, but still left the magazine content with limited digital editorial treatment. It focused, rather, on curating the new Web-only component, a collection of blogs. BCBusiness Online’s Web component concerned itself with fresh, engaging content—which is not a bad strategy, but an incomplete one.

In the years following the launch of the site the magazine has significantly adjusted its approach to include search engine optimization as a critical part of its digital editorial strategy.[5] With editors dedicated to SEO as a stage in each blog post and article’s workflow, the magazine has increased its visibility online and overall visitor traffic to the site. BCBusiness Online began using Google analytics in 2008, and since then the site has seen a 22.7% increase in unique visitors from 2008 to 2009, and a 49.2% increase in unique visitors from 2009 to 2010. This is no doubt the result of BCBusiness Online’s adoption of SEO, social media practices, and continued publication of high-quality content. Excellent content is a priority, but broadcasting it through social media and making it searchable through SEO has made the site significantly more successful, as can be seen by analyzing the visitor sources and keywords in BCBusiness Online’s Google analytics.

BCBusiness Online’s early practices of shoveling print content online has resulted in droves of valuable back-issue articles that have sunk to the bottom of the site and are not easily findable by search. By revisiting these articles with a revised digital editorial strategy, BCBusiness Online can create a valuable archive of content that will drive traffic, create a long tail of organic search-engine visitors, and hopefully convert those visitors to loyal readers.

We know that magazines need SEO, but it is time to revisit those strategies and evaluate which methods have real clout and which can be put aside. Rather than use the shotgun approach, editors must devote more quality time to only the important aspects of SEO than hedging one’s bets by completing every step half-heartedly. Too much time is wasted on methods that have been proven useless, like writing long lists of keywords on the backend of articles. Abandoning ineffective methods to devote more time to others (i.e. rewriting headlines and cultivating strong social media channels) can fortify the overall SEO of an article. This revision of the digital editorial strategy must also involve print editors—SEO should extend beyond the purview of just the digital editor. As magazines’ Web components build dominance, editors must work together as members of the same brand rather than separate print and digital entities.

 

 

PART ONE | A Burgeoning BCBusiness Digital Editorial Strategy

Early digital workflow; Case study: BCBusiness Online articles in 2007; The importance of SEO in digital

The evolution of BCBusiness Online provides a model in the Canadian publishing industry by which we can trace changes in online editorial strategies. Analyzing articles from even just four years ago reveals a substantially different approach to online magazine publishing and a very basic definition of “Web presence.” In its earliest incarnation—and like many of its peers—BCBusiness magazine approached search engine optimization as more of an overall site-structure strategy with less attention paid to the optimization of individual articles. But as publishers began to grasp a more sophisticated idea of what being online meant for a magazine, digital editors began to emerge and, with them, digital editorial strategies. Search engine optimization grew in relevance as publishers began to consider business models for digital publishing, and as digital editors recognized its reader-attracting power. The sales staff wanted more traffic for the sake of advertisers, and editorial staff wanted more readers. BCBusiness had humble Web beginnings, but carved out its spot online and used the power of search engine optimization to help find its online audience.

BCBusiness Online has developed over time within the Digital Media Department at Canada Wide Media under director of digital media Shannon Emmerson. Since June 2007, the department has grown from a full-time staff of two to a full-time staff of 13. This includes three full-time digital editors, each dedicated to their own digital title—BCBusiness Online, Granville Online, and BCLiving, respectively. The department also has two full-time digital editorial assistants who devote editorial time to these titles, as well as TVWeek Online, Youthink.ca, GardenWise Online, RealGolf.ca, and Wellness Matters. The remainder of the department is comprised of a vice-president of marketing and digital media, a director of business development, an online-product marketing manager, two Web developers, an interactive designer, and a digital media operations manager.

A full-time digital editor and full-time digital editorial assistant run BCBusiness Online, with occasional blog contributions from the BCBusiness print editors. Together, the digital editors manage eight blogs with various contributors, create sales-driven Web-only content (articles whose topics originate from salespeople and are juxtaposed with relevant advertisements), publish each print issue of BCBusiness online, and create web-only multimedia features including slideshows, podcasts, videos, content collections,[6] and weekly eNewsletters.

Recent structural changes at Canada Wide have shifted the digital editors out of the Digital Media Department and under the larger umbrella of the Editorial Department. This internal shift at the company affords the opportunity to make a stronger connection between the print and digital strategies of BCBusiness and BCBusiness Online. Consolidating print and digital editors will make it easier to integrate the digital editorial strategy into the overall editorial strategy of the BCBusiness brand.

 

Early digital workflow

In June 2007, BCBusiness magazine made its foray into digital publishing with BCBusiness Online. This was a crucial transition for BCBusiness during a period where many publishers feared the Web would cannibalize print sales.

In its earliest incarnation, the website revolved primarily around print content, and was without a proper digital editor for its first eight months. John Bucher, the first BCBusiness digital editor, arrived in February 2008. Under Bucher’s direction, the website was primarily dedicated to Web-only content that would complement the magazine. The digital editor continued publishing every article from each print issue as more bloggers joined and the Web-only content began to flourish. Like many other publications in the nascent digital magazine market, BCBusiness Online was carving out its niche and experimenting with the tension between print and digital. This was in a pre-iPad, pre-Kindle era,[7] where the notion of consuming books and magazines online was an ongoing debate for readers and a relatively new challenge for publishers.

BCBusiness uses—as it used then—a customizable Drupal content management system that creates new articles through a blank “article” template form with required (i.e. title, author, body text) and optional (i.e. meta title, meta description) fields. Once filled in, the article forms can be saved and left unpublished or saved and published at the editor’s discretion by simply selecting or deselecting the “publish” button. The titles, authors, and body text from magazine articles were copied and pasted from their original Adobe InDesign production files into the backend of the website as unpublished articles (not accessible online except by editors), receiving no further editorial treatment beyond the print-magazine workflow. After upload, all print content was published at the digital editor’s discretion.

Before BCBusiness Online developed a strategy around the timing of online content with the timing of print content, it experimented, in an effort to maintain subscriptions and newsstand sales. The first publishing strategy was to sync the website publication with the magazine to be a true digital companion, offering full article access in time with the newsstand date. Further experiments included trickling articles out online throughout the course of the month, and pre-releasing print content “teasers” in the weekly eNewsletters to build momentum. But it was not until BCBusiness Online joined Twitter in February 2009 that the site could effectively generate buzz around print articles prior to the newsstand date without undermining the magazine. By tweeting about topics and people featured in upcoming articles without actually linking to them, readers are left to consider what angle the article might take, and must stay tuned to the BCBusiness Twitter feed (or continue visiting the BCBusiness homepage) until the article goes live online. The digital editor measured his success in this endeavour by retweets and the quality of direct response to his teaser tweets.

At the time BCBusiness joined Twitter, the digital editor was slowly leaking print articles online after the publication of the print magazine. He now gauges the anticipated popularity of print stories and revises his publishing strategy on a month-to-month basis; he publishes articles early, on the newsstand date, and past the newsstand date, all the while tweeting about what’s live on the website and what’s to come. The current role of BCBusiness Online falls under both the idea of the companion and the complement—everything in the magazine is offered online, but with additional commentary and treatment that only the Web can offer. The website plays the companion by publishing online everything in the print magazine, but it also complements print stories by taking advantage of multimedia—and sometimes further coverage in writing—to round out the articles. For example, a February 2011 article on nuclear fusion and Burnaby-based company General Fusion had a Web-only complementary article that featured an interview with the CEO of General Fusion and a lesson on how his company’s particular brand of nuclear fusion works; a January 2011 article on BC architects had a Web-only slideshow of structures designed by the architecture firms mentioned in the print article.

Eight BCBusiness Online bloggers (a number that is currently in flux) and various other contributors provide timely commentary, business advice, and local business insight that reinforce the brand as a trusted authority in BC’s business community.

The table below illustrates BCBusiness’s size as a print magazine and as a website. Comparing the 2009 and 2010 stats of BCBusiness indicates significant growth online and in the magazine’s social media channels.

 

BCBusiness Circa 2009 BCBusiness Circa 2010
Total Site Unique Visitors (fiscal year 2009): >230,000 Total Site Unique Visitors (fiscal year 2010): >315,000
Magazine circulation: 26,000 (monthly) Magazine circulation: 26,000 (monthly)
Average article and blog uploads per month: 75 Average article and blog uploads per month: 60
Online archives: July 2007 and later Online archives: Full issues for July 2007 and later; random print articles from 2005
Twitter followers: >4400 Twitter followers: >9700
Facebook fans: >160 Facebook fans: >561
eNewsletter frequency: weekly[8] eNewsletter frequency: weekly

In comparison to sister site and magazine GardenWise, whose current circulation is 35,000 and current average uploads per month is approximately 30 articles per month plus regular blogs and events, BCBusiness has grown its total unique visitors substantially more. From 2009 to 2010 BCBusiness has increased it unique visitors by nearly 100,000 visitors per month. GardenWise decreased from >250,000 unique visitors in 2009 to >235,000 unique visitors in 2010. Although the two brands are under the same umbrella at Canada Wide Media, BCBusiness underwent more radical changes to its digital editorial strategy in recent years, has a full-time online editor and assistant editor, and has more fully incorporated SEO into its workflow of print and Web-only content.

 

Case study: BCBusiness Online articles in 2007

Early digital editorial strategies involved little to no SEO, in part due to unfamiliarity, but also due to fear of comprising the editorial integrity of print articles. But it was hard for publishers to ignore the logic of search engine optimization. Google analytics show that when an article is optimized, it will receive more organic visitors than an article that has not been optimized. Turning up one’s nose at SEO is turning down loads of potential readers. Senior SEO analyst for Hearst Publications, Dan Roberts, was an early proponent for SEO and the man responsible for working it into the publishing company’s online strategy. “There are a lot of people who had to make a paradigm shift [from print editorial] . . . The ones that ignore [SEO] do so at their own peril and their results speak for themselves,”[9] said Roberts.

Print articles do not translate to the Web in many ways—especially visually. A page of magazine article has text that flows around pull quotes, has images and captions, and breaks longer pieces into subsections, even if only with drop caps rather than subheads. These longer articles online appear as blocks of text with few points of entry for the reader; without subtitles to distinguish breaks or shifts in the story, images to create visual interest, or page breaks, online articles can appear daunting and unattractive to readers. And most importantly, print titles are vague and do not contain keywords, making the articles less searchable online. If an article about boating in the Pacific Ocean is called “High Tides,” with no further metadata, and a reader is searching online for information about boating in the Pacific, this article will be buried beneath articles whose titles and metadata are trying to capture that audience. Eventually everything online is indexed, but it is not necessarily easy to find.

Rachelle Money reports that since including SEO in Hearst’s digital editorial strategy, the company saw a 150 per cent increase in overall traffic.[10] This jump in traffic and shift in editorial strategy represents the majority of online magazines and magazine companions; some worried that SEO would compromise the integrity of the original article, and some were just skeptical. In 2007 when BCBusiness was first experimenting with online strategies and digital publishing, it had moderate knowledge of search engine optimization that was geared mostly toward website infrastructure rather than smaller-scale article infrastructure. By analyzing old BCBusiness content, it is evident that the chief priority was getting content online with few editorial changes. Had these articles been under the guiding hand of a digital editor, they could have been rigorously optimized, capturing a larger online audience, ranking higher in Google search results when there was less competition, and enjoying a long tail of traffic over the years. Each visitor in the long tail of traffic represents an opportunity to win over a new reader. Reviewing an article from BCBusiness Online in 2007 demonstrates the lost opportunities of digital editorial strategies without SEO.

On September 1, 2007 (three days prior to the September print issue’s newsstand date), BCBusiness Online published the print feature story “Here Comes the Pride.” (URL: http://www.BCBusiness Online.ca/bcb/top-stories/2007/09/01/here-comes-pride.) The article has a slug-based URL, which means it is automatically created by the online publishing platform, drawing its name from the category under which the article is classified in the Drupal article form (top story), the date on which it is published online (September 1, 2007), and the title of the article, which in this case is the original magazine headline (Here Comes the Pride). Because the title of this article was taken directly from the print magazine with no further changes, the URL contains no useful keywords for a reader who is trying to Google the article. Ordinarily when optimizing a print article’s headline, the digital editor uses the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to research popular words and phrases that pertain to the article. In this case, the digital editor might have found that “gay marriage” was a popular keyword and subsequently used it in the headline. This would create a keyword-based title, reflecting the terms that readers would use in search engines to find this content.

The meta title is an SEO element that appears at the top of the reader’s browser and describes the content of the page; it reads the same as the print story headline, but with BCBusiness appended after a pipeline (Here Comes the Pride | BCBusiness). BCBusiness is automatically added to the end of every meta title, which is good for overall brand SEO but does not help individual articles. The article deck is not visible in the body of the text and is only used in a promotional spot of the article form that appears wherever the article is featured on the website. Including a deck contained in H2 tags is another opportunity to include pertinent keywords and larger searchable phrases that may be too awkward for a title. The body of the article does not feature any further optimized metadata such as H3 tags, article links, or image meta tags.

Reviewing the Google analytics for this article reveals that zero visitors arrived from keywords germane to the article’s content. Without optimizing the article around keywords, it cannot be easily found—if at all—through a Google search. Unless a reader has the exact print title, “Here Comes the Pride,” he would have no other means of finding the article online. In order to capture visitors through Google searches, the digital editor must research keywords and phrases that relate to the article and that she thinks readers would use in order to find this type of story. The Google Adwords Keyword Tool shows the editor which keywords are popular, by how many Google searches they receive each month, and how likely it is to rank highly for the keyword by displaying the level of “competition” surrounding the word. The more popular something is, the harder it will be to win that term. But ranking on the first page of a Google search result for a popular keyword can result in consistent traffic. In Google Adwords Keyword Tool, the following relevant search terms return favourable results:

“gay marriage” – 550,000 searches per month, low competition
“same sex marriage” – 201,000 searches per month, low competition
“gay and lesbian marriage” – 165,000 searches per month, low competition
“legalize same sex marriage” – 18,100 searches per month, low competition

In publishing and journalism, editors and writers refer to an article like “Here Comes the Pride” as “evergreen”—its content does not go out of date and is perennially useful. But without SEO, once the article is shifted down by newer content, it is buried deep within the site with no means of finding it. In the next section we look at a 2008 article called “Red Light, Green Light” that received the full SEO treatment and subsequently ranks highly in Google search results. Since BCBusiness Online began using Google Analytics in 2008, “Here Comes the Pride” has received a paltry 226 unique visits—a fraction of the 9,603 visits that the optimized “Red Light, Green Light” received in just 2010 alone. And of those 226 visitors, not one arrived using a relevant keyword. With such extraordinarily popular search terms at its heart, such low competition for those terms, and an online life of over three years, the article should have tens of thousands of views.

 

The importance of SEO in digital

By comparing “Here Comes the Pride” to another (optimized) article based around a popular search term, it is easy to see the difference in terms of visitor traffic and longevity. Although the article “Red Light, Green Light: Sex in Vancouver” was published on October 9, 2008, it continues to draw steady traffic. The article covers a salacious, controversial, and highly searched topic (much like same sex marriage but with radically fewer searches per month in the Google Adwords keyword tool), but by optimizing the article well, it ranks highly in Google search results and constantly draws traffic. In January 2011 alone, the article brought in 1,394 unique visitors just from organic Google searches (not including visitors from other search engines). Over its lifetime, “Red Light, Green Light” has brought in the following numbers of unique visitors from the corresponding keywords: 1,205 arrived via keywords “Vancouver prostitution”; 941 arrived via keywords “Vancouver prostitutes”; and 931 arrived via keywords “prostitution in Vancouver.” Winning such a popular keyword early on in the online publishing game is a feat for BCBusiness and a testament to the power of SEO. Both “Here Comes the Pride” and “Red Light, Green Light” contain controversial and very highly searched topics and keywords, but only one continues to capture thousands of readers. According to the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, the aforementioned “Red Light, Green Light” search terms bring in the following number of searches per month through Google:

“Vancouver prostitution” – 1,300 searches/month in Google, low competition
“Vancouver prostitutes” – 12,400 searches/month in Google, low competition
“Prostitution in Vancouver” – 1,300 searches/month in Google, low competition

These are the top three keywords by which visitors arrived at the article, and each has a significantly lower search value in Google than the keywords for the non-optimized article “Here Comes the Pride.” The term “gay marriage” may not be as risqué as “Vancouver prostitution,” but it has the potential to garner more organic Google search traffic.

“Red Light, Green Light” was published online on October 9, 2008 under the revised headline “Red Light, Green Light: The Sex Industry in Vancouver.” This article headline combines the original article title (on the left side of the colon) with keywords. Keeping the original title is sometimes desired so that print readers can easily find the article online. The meta title, “Red Light Green Light: The Sex Industry in Vancouver | Vancouver Prostitution| BCBusiness,” includes secondary keywords and phrases that were not used in the title.

In the body of the article, the deck repeats the article’s keywords, and the keywords are repeated again in subheads surrounded by H3 tags. Subheads are a frequently missed opportunity to include keywords and phrases; they serve the double duty of breaking up dense text, offering more points of entry for readers, and adding further SEO keywords to the article. H3 tags can also be used in sidebar titles for shorter articles that do not require subheads. Four outbound links—three to BCBusiness Online and one to National Public Radio—are embedded in the article. The links are created with strong anchor text that denotes the content readers will find on the linked page. Links with properly anchored, keyword-dense text reflect well on an article when they connect to a credible outside source (such as National Public Radio). Including relevant links to outside sources boosts the article’s status in Google and is a standard of best practices in web publishing.

Unlike “Here Comes the Pride,” “Red Light, Green Light” is broken into shorter pages as a user-friendly way to present longer stories to online readers. Images throughout the article are tagged with metadata consistent with the article’s main keywords and phrases.

Without the above SEO treatment, “Red Light, Green Light: Sex in Vancouver” would have been buried under years of BCBusiness Online content and poorly indexed by Google. Although some editors have feared that adjusting a print article for digital publication will destroy its integrity by jamming it full of keywords, SEO merely amends the article to its medium without compromising the quality of the original writing.

Analyzing past BCBusiness articles reflects the early standards of online magazine publishing at Canada Wide Media and in the rest of the country; not every publication had a website and those that did were still developing their digital practices. Early digital workflows focused on how content would get online, but not necessarily how readers would find and consume it online. Rudimentary digital editorial strategies were the norm—out of every publication at Canada Wide Media, BCBusiness had, and still has, the most developed online strategy and the most active editorial application of that strategy. Although other publications at Canada Wide Media have comprehensive digital strategies, they have fewer resources and therefore receive less editorial attention than BCBusiness Online. Since its launch in 2007, BCBusiness has taken articles like “Here Comes the Pride” and revised their metadata to capture organic visitors and further expose the magazine’s brand. Parsing the metadata and editorial treatment of “Here Comes the Pride” and “Red Light, Green Light” emphasizes the importance and effectiveness of implementing a digital editorial strategy. Getting online was important, but now getting found online is key.

 

 

PART TWO | The Inner Workings of Search Engine Optimization

SEO explained; Social media as SEO; SEO in the analytics spotlight

Using search engine optimization in publishing is a fundamental part of finding your readers and giving them what they want. Revising print articles with a view for increasing their findability online is the cornerstone of SEO. Part two discusses the fundamentals of optimizing an article, how the various elements of SEO function, and how this affects an article’s analytics and traffic. Although social media is not strictly considered an element of SEO, it helps boost traffic and brand presence in a way that complements optimized articles. Social media article promotion is always the last step of a digital editor’s workflow, but it is crucial. Promoting content on sites like Facebook and Twitter gives articles a boost and helps generate inbound links before the article is indexed and begins to draw traffic from Google searches. Where optimizing an article is key to the long-term success of an article, social media act as the short-term portion of the editor’s overall goal to drive traffic and place an article highly in Google search results pages.

As seen in Part One, the difference between an optimized and non-optimized article can be thousands of lost visitors. Proper and thorough SEO ensures that Google indexes a magazine’s content and that quality visitors—the right people—will find it. Google co-founder Larry Page once said the perfect search engine “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.”[11] By using best SEO practices and getting well indexed by Google, good magazine content can be exactly what someone is looking for.

Although SEO is now a more integral part of online magazines’ publishing strategies, skeptics remain. Not everyone is convinced of search engine optimization’s effectiveness; many print editors fear that SEO interferes with an article’s editorial integrity; some skeptics believe that subtle SEO tweaks do not amount to anything; and others, rightly so, are weary of “black hat” SEO artists and methods.

The fear that SEO will degrade the level of writing in magazine articles is a fear based on unfounded suspicions of the tenets of Web writing. Web writing stresses keyword density and focused content that “lets people grab and go,”[12] but all online content does not have to fall in line under these standards—especially robust magazine articles. When weaving SEO practices into a digital editorial strategy, it is important to remember that “your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.”[13] Although the goal is to be indexed by Google and ranked highly, editors have to keep the readers top of mind.

Changing content by thinning it out and stuffing the body text with keywords may help its search ranking, but the quality suffers for it, and so does the brand. Sophisticated online readers, digital natives, and an increasing part of magazines’ broader audiences understand that magazines are fighting for their attention. Finding readers online is a battle. Readers are learning more about SEO and, on the farther end of the SEO spectrum, content farms, whose sole purpose is to optimize often poorly written content around popular search terms. Readers are becoming weary of websites like eHow.com and publications using unethical or misleading practices to capture their attention. A headline and description on a Google search results page that promises to talk about the Canadian political leaders’ debate, but is jammed with keywords and does not cover the crux of the issue results in quick reader turnover. Once the reader is duped into visiting an article that does not deliver on its promise or does so poorly and ineffectively, that brand is now associated with that experience. Many readers have accused Suite 101 and other such sites of being nothing more than content farms. “Quality can be a big issue,” says Jason Glover, a former Suite 101 writer, of the website’s methods. “It can be argued that the primary concern of the sites is to sell advertising and make money, so good SEO is more important than well-written and researched articles.”[14] Optimizing content in a misleading way or posting well-optimized but low-quality content may spike numbers, but it is not part of a long-term plan to win readers’ trust and build a strong brand reputation.

After all, the goal is to attract visitors and convert them to loyal readers, not just to secure the top position in Google searches. Writing for the web in magazine articles is realized through subheads, sidebars, and pagination—methods that improve the online reading experience and boost search visibility without compromising the quality. Content will always be King of any editorial strategy.

Small changes to optimize an article are no trifling thing. Rewriting a print article’s vague title may seem like a paltry adjustment, but according to Google, “when combined with other optimizations, [these changes] could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.”[15] Breaking down SEO into its respective parts is useful for understanding how to wield its power properly and learning which parts should be prioritized. But overall, SEO should be understood as a whole, with each step acting as a fundamental part of the SEO machine. If one part fails—a title without keywords—the entire machine slows down. And if enough parts fail—poor title, no deck, not researching the keywords—the entire machine is rendered useless and your article sinks into oblivion.

For every few SEO enthusiasts there seems to be an SEO skeptic who subscribes to the notion of “black hat” methods and “spamdexing.”[16] Black hat artists exploit SEO practices by jamming misleading keywords into articles and metadata, paying other websites to post hundreds to thousand of inbound links to their content, redirecting articles to different pages, and subsequently “degrad[ing] both the relevance of search results and the quality of user-experience.”[17] If Google discovers that your website is using black hat SEO techniques, they will blacklist you, excluding you from all Google search engine results pages. Although bad SEO practices are widespread, reputable publishers and editors do not have time to waste on questionable methods that could blacklist their site or bad practices that damage their brand’s credibility. An important part of a magazine’s online presence is building their community, brand, and reputation—and one instance of bad practices can damage a brand much quicker than a history of good practices can build it up.

Avoiding black hat methods also helps to dictate an editor’s priorities when optimizing an article, such as skipping the meta-keywords field on the backend of an article. Keyword stuffing was a common black hat method in earlier SEO days, and is part of the reason Google no longer uses the meta-keywords field in its indexing algorithm.[18]

 

SEO explained

Analyzing and understanding each moving part of a machine is the best way to make sense of its function, and the easiest way to know what needs fixing when it is not performing as it should. Parsing search engine optimization lets us see which elements require more attention and where an editor should dedicate the majority of her time. The impetus behind optimizing online articles is not to inflate the magazine’s overall traffic, but to target keywords that will draw in quality visitors who can be converted into loyal readers.

Because navigating the Web is done largely through search engines, ranking highly on search engine results pages is a crucial goal for Web editors. When Google indexes an article for its results pages, it pays weighted attention to different variables on the article page, such as the headline, the image tags, or the URL. By understanding the part each element plays in search rankings, editors can focus their approach when optimizing content. For example, though it is temping to retain original magazine headlines, as seen below in the SEO breakdown, the H1 and title tags are two of the most important SEO elements.

 

URL

URLs should be keyword-rich and easy to understand. Complex URLs can be a problem for both humans and Google crawlers if they’re too long or include confusing number and symbol sequences.[19] Keeping the tail end of a URL brief is important, using up to five keywords and connecting them with dashes rather than underscores (Google recognizes dashes as spaces between each word). The more words included in the URL, the less each will be weighted in terms of SEO clout.[20] Long and complicated URLs are more likely to be copied incorrectly or posted as broken links by readers, which results in missed inbound link opportunities. Since editors have no control over the anchor text used in the inbound links to their site, having keyword-rich URLs help. Using keywords in the URL provides Google crawlers with more information on what they will find at the link, and this boosts the effectiveness when being ranked.

BCBusiness Online’s slug-based URLs are keyword-rich because they are automatically created from the site’s taxonomy and an optimized headline. However, shortening or amending the tail end of the link can optimize them further.

For example, the headline “Human Rights in Employment: Do You Need a Tune Up?” creates the URL: “human-rights-employment-do-you-need-tune.” Replacing the last four words of the URL (which do nothing in terms of optimizing) with another keyword creates a stronger and simpler URL: “human-rights-employment-law.” Before articles are published, an automatic URL is created for BCBusiness Online articles, but editors should always change the tail end when it does not already include keywords. Any changes made after the article has been published, however, can result in the same page being indexed twice, thus splitting the SEO clout between the old broken-linked page and the newly optimized title’s page. Also, any inbound links to the article will now be broken links, therefore all URL optimization should be completed prior to publishing.

 

Title <title>

SEO software provider and online SEO resource site SEOmoz calls the title tag (also known as the meta title) the “single most important on-page SEO element (behind overall content),”[21] appearing in two key spots. The title tag appears at the top of the user’s Web browser and at the top of article descriptions on search engine results pages. It is typically the same as the headline (H1), with additional keywords attached to the end. Placing the most relevant keywords at the opening of the title tag is important for search results, as Google only displays a maximum of 70 characters of the entire title tag. To write an optimized meta title, include the article headline and one to two more keyword phrases. Each part of the title tag should be separated using vertical pipelines: “How to Work with Family | Family Businesses | BCBusiness.”

Title tags on BCBusiness Online are automatically appended with “| BCBusiness.” Well-known or respected brands included in title tags can affect a higher click-through rate in search engine results.[22] Including the magazine in the title tag is also an overall good brand strategy to promote the magazine’s presence on the Web.

 

Article headline <H1>

The H1 tag is the main title, or headline, that appears at the top of an article and should always include the top keyword or phrase. “Placing the keyword early in the header tag will increase its prominence”[23] and will be more indicative of the content than a typical print magazine title. Some online magazines retain the print title in the headline or meta title so that it is still searchable. Reviewing Google analytics indicates that such an insignificant number of visitors arrive by searching the print title, that this practice does nothing more than minimize a headline’s SEO effectiveness.

Although BCBusiness Online sometimes changes entire headlines when optimizing content, it retains the print headline in the online table of contents. Editors who are concerned about confusing readers who are searching for articles online by their print headline can use the original headlines in their archives or tables of contents. BCBusiness Online keeps an archive of every print issue that has been published on the website (with articles listed under their original print titles). Archives are a straightforward point of reference for readers trying to find an article via the issue and original title. Print headlines can stay in the same in the rare case that they include the proper keywords, but should otherwise be replaced.

 

Deck <H2>

A deck is an introductory phrase or paragraph at the beginning of the article that gives the reader the main topic and a taste of what is to come. In online magazine publishing, the deck is contained between H2 tags. The H2 tag is one tier below the headline tag H1 and together they are used as a kind of in-article taxonomy. Below the H2 tag are the H3 tags (the next tier down), which indicate subheads within the body of the article. Print article decks are sometimes suitable to be taken as-is and used within the H2 tags. For the most part, however, they should be partially rewritten to include the top keywords and phrases that have already been used in the headline and meta title.

BCBusiness print articles are easily modified to include keywords and phrases, and rarely require an entire rewrite.

 

Subheads <H3>

Subheads are as much for the search engines as they are for the readers, and are a very important function in Web writing. Because Web content does not have the same layout options as print articles, online text can sometimes appear dense and overwhelming. Using keyword-rich subheads breaks up long articles and gives the reader a better idea of the content at-a-glance. When using heading tags, it is crucial to employ them as part of your SEO strategy, and not just for aesthetics; it is bad practice to use an H3 tag where bolded or italicized text would suffice.[24]

Longer print articles, lists, and how-to articles always take H3 tags on BCBusiness Online. The digital editors create subheads as needed and where useful to improve the reading experience and to capture more keywords in the article’s metadata—in this case, in H3 tags. On occasion, BCBusiness Online uses H3 tags to draw attention to text in slideshows. Using a larger font would style the text in the same manner as H3 tags without using SEO for aesthetics rather than for optimizing.

 

Meta description

Sometimes ignored, the meta description is one of the most important factors on the backend of an article. The meta description is chiefly for readers, and shows up on search results pages directly below the meta title. The meta description has the double duty of informing readers and enticing them to click into the content. Although editors should focus on keywords, they should approach the meta description as a sales pitch to potential readers. It must be a brief summary, include keywords, and reflect the quality of writing in the article.

BCBusiness Online writes two to three sentences for meta descriptions, and sometimes copy and pastes the deck, depending on its length. The deck can sometimes be suitable, but in most cases the meta description needs to be a more detailed summary of the article and be economical with its words. Google displays up to 154 characters of the meta description on its search results pages.[25] Descriptions exceeding this size will be truncated, and the meaning could be lost.

 

Article links

Links within the text should be added to articles where applicable. Editors should especially focus on opportunities to link to their own content. The most important element of links is the anchor text—it should be concise and related to the content on the linked page. Links should be structured around keywords or phrases rather than single words like “article,” or irrelevant phrases like “click here.”

Keyword-rich anchor text is for both the search engines and the users. Using proper anchor text gives Google a better idea of what they will find on the linked page. It is also a clearer call out for readers and easier to spot within the text.

BCBusiness Online has a reciprocal link relationship with its sister sites Granville Online and BCLiving, and links to their pages with strong anchor text whenever possible. With more editorial time for print-to-web articles, digital editors could create more links, whether to their own site or to an external source.

 

Pagination

Breaking a long article into numbered pages aids readability and navigation. The only time breaking one page into multiple pages will negatively affect SEO is when the pages get into the double digits and higher. When a larger consumer site, like a retailer, takes its online merchandise pages and breaks them into multiple pages for ease of navigation, the higher-numbered pages are not indexed well by Google. These subsidiary pages are improperly indexed and can bury content and limit their potential to be indexed by Google.[26] Because print articles do not have the same excessive length as say, a listing of hundreds of shoes on Zappos.com, magazines do not face this same issue.

BCBusiness Online Google analytics indicate that visitors enter articles on the proper main article page when arriving via search, and not subsequent pages that have been broken off with pagination. The majority of visitors arriving at a page that is numbered two or higher have done so via the article’s main page.

 

Image meta tags <alt>

Optimizing images is a twofold form of SEO that should never be overlooked. It involves naming the file when saving, and creating an alt tag. Keeping the image file name short and keyword-rich improves its visibility in search engines. On the backend or in the html, digital editors can name images (in the same way as the file naming) with an alt tag. The alt tags are used by search engines (such as Google Image Search), revealed when readers mouse over the image, and used by screen reading technology.[27]

BCBusiness Online has naming conventions for image sizes, and names image files with relevant keywords pertaining to the article content. All embedded images are given alt tags.

 

Inbound links

Inbound links are cited as one of the most important factors for a website’s ranking in search engines—both in terms of volume of links and quality of anchor text.[28] Inbound links are the key to increasing a site’s PageRank in Google. PageRank is Google’s calculation of a website’s importance and relative authority to all other sites on the Internet. Google gives sites a PageRank from one (lowest) to eight (highest), and uses these numbers to determine which pages have more influence online and which websites’ articles are most likely to show up in the top of search engine results. Every link pointing to an article is like a vote in its favour, and the more votes it receives, the more influential Google perceives it to be.

Although extremely important, this part of a digital editor’s SEO strategy is harder to influence and cannot be executed as simply as the above methods. Publishing high-quality content is the best strategy to attract inbound links. But even if other sites are linking to your article, you cannot control whether or not they are using proper anchor text. Community-building through social media often results in valuable and consistent inbound links.

 

Social media as SEO

If the goal of SEO is to drive traffic through search, the goal of social media is to drive traffic through the online community; social media in magazine publishing is like SEO for the people rather than for the search engines. Broadcasting to the community to draw in visitors and build the magazine’s brand equates to the practice of boosting PageRank and driving traffic through search. And much like in SEO, the reader remains top of mind.

Having a social media presence is not an element of SEO, per se, but it is inextricably linked to the digital editor’s workflow. Although social media does not fall within the traditional parameters of SEO—which involve directly manipulating an article or its html code for search engine visibility—it is a joint exercise in branding and self-promotion that brings visitors to the site. Social media is most closely related to generating back links, another borderline-SEO concept. In this case, however, the editor has more direct control over the process of acquiring visitors—specifically, through the frequency of messages being broadcasted through social media channels and the number of connections with peers.

Social media should be regarded as secondary to SEO, but still a crucial part of the editor’s workflow. Links created on social media are ephemeral, whereas good SEO will nest an article in Google search results pages creating a permanent long tail of traffic. Organic Google searches outweigh the number of visitors arriving from all social media channels combined, but the branding power and impact of directly connecting with readers on sites like Twitter is invaluable.

The final stage of an article’s life should be when it is promoted via social media, whether it is Twitter, Facebook, etc. Promoting content through social media helps generate inbound links and spreads the brand throughout the magazine’s community.

It should be noted that Twitter surrounds its tweeted links (any link included in any tweet by any Twitter user) with a “no follow” tag that tells search engines to ignore the links.[29] This is so that Twitter users cannot send out a high volume of hyperlinked spam tweets to affect search engine results. However, linking to your content on Twitter gives followers the opportunity to retweet your links to their followers, subsequently increasing visitors to your website. Many Twitter users will also take links from tweets and include them on their website or blog, indirectly creating valuable inbound links to your content (and this boosting PageRank).

Connections made on social media sites influence readers beyond the act of simply clicking on article links. MediaShift, a PBS blog, credits social media with introducing a “new era of pass-along”[30] in magazine publishing. Passing content (links) to your readers is like personally putting a magazine in their hands. And through the ease and speed of social media, it is that much easier for them to pass that article on to a friend.

Social media also provides a venue outside of a magazine’s website for readers to connect and discuss content and related topics. Some social media venues take as little encouragement as posting a link or discussion question to engage readers with each other on the magazine’s behalf.

BCBusiness promotes itself as a single brand (representing both the print and digital teams) on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Twitter and Facebook are obvious—almost compulsory—choices for social networks in which to participate, and LinkedIn is on BCBusiness’s radar because of its association with the business world and business professionals. Based on global traffic, Facebook and Twitter are the two most widely used social media platforms in the world[31]; they are also the most popular choices in the publishing industry. Facebook and Twitter presences have become as standard as having a website.

 

Facebook

Facebook is the social media channel that was there from the start. The ways in which magazines interact with their readers through Facebook have evolved over the years and have since settled on fan pages. Making connections with readers via Facebook (getting them to “like” your fan page) lists your brand on their personal profile and spreads your name throughout the Facebook community. It is another channel through which a magazine can build its brand and bolster its reputation through the support of the community.

On Facebook fan pages there is an implicit self-promotional agreement—the majority of content pertains to the magazine and not to material like one would find on Twitter. Although the level of discourse around articles does not match LinkedIn—both in its volume and its quality—the number of visitors who arrive from Facebook are great enough to warrant the upkeep of fan pages. In 2010, Facebook drove 12,174 visitors to BCBusiness Online and was the number seven overall traffic source.

BCBusiness posts feature articles and noteworthy blogs on a semi-weekly basis. Although Facebook fans know a magazine is there to promote itself and share content, flooding one’s fan page with content can clog fans’ news feeds with your articles and cause them to “unlike” your fan page. Like all social media endeavours, there is a fine line between self-promoting and self-obsessing, and timely updates and unrelenting content pushing.

 

Twitter

Any magazine with a website or any semblance of a digital strategy also has a Twitter account. The immediacy of Twitter lets readers communicate directly with the brand in real time. A linked tweet holds just as much clout as a verbal recommendation. Twitter is especially useful when leaking print content online before its newsstand date. Alerting your Twitter followers with a short teaser and a link directs them to the site and creates anticipation around the forthcoming print content. However, using tweets sparingly to promote content sets the tone and lets your readers know that not just anything will be broadcasted.

BCBusiness’s digital editor controls the Twitter account with a mix of tweets, some with links and some without. He creates a balance between link-sharing, opining, and cracking jokes, which results in a useful feed of resourceful material, but with a clear voice and personality. Shoveling your website content onto Twitter like coals into a fire misses the point of tweeting. And linking only to your own articles creates a one-dimensional twitter feed with less credibility. Linking to outside sources, staying relevant, and indulging in self-promotion when it is appropriate is how BCBusiness manages its Twitter feed. It uses the same successful formula as The Walrus magazine: “Witty, upbeat, and personal. […] Engaging with the community, not broadcasting.”[32]

Linking to articles via Twitter is also a proven method of increasing website traffic, and draws in more visitors to BCBusiness Online than any of the other social media platforms. Promoting an article with a tweet is like dropping a rock in the community pond—one tweet can cause a ripple effect and reach readers that are not even BCBusiness followers.

 

LinkedIn

Starting a group under your magazine brand on LinkedIn is an effective method of connecting with readers and starting discussions around your content. As a LinkedIn user, every connection you make, whether to a person or an organization, is tied to your professional reputation. Members of the BCBusiness LinkedIn group page are more invested in discussions than their counterparts on the BCBusiness Facebook page; where Facebook has a more casual brand interaction with “likes” and often one-sentence comments, LinkedIn has more ambitious users who are dedicated to professional networking and fostering robust discussions. According to a recent survey on Mashable, more than half of LinkedIn users belonging to groups participate in discussions.[33] Connections and associations are more carefully forged and curated in this online community, and. When Mashable polled a group of 500 LinkedIn members from entry-level workers to top-level executives, it found that the majority of users, no matter the stage of their career, identified networking in their top three uses.[34] It is strictly for professional purposes and group discussions generally revolve around topics germane to the brand.

Because the nature of LinkedIn as a social network is more serious and career-oriented than Facebook or Twitter, discussions and comments are generally more constructive and well developed. In the same Mashable survey mentioned above, users called LinkedIn “more professional than Facebook.”[35] Where 10 readers might simply “like” an article link on your Facebook fan page, two or three members of a LinkedIn group would engage in higher-level discourse around that same article. This makes LinkedIn a good resource for developing high-quality readers who know the brand more intimately, spend more time interacting with the content, and are more likely to share links.

Members can start their own discussions that are not directly related to magazine content, but they are still communicating and gathering in a forum under the magazine’s brand. As an editor, visiting sporadically to stoke the fire of discussion and provide article links drives readers to the site and keeps them engaged.

 

eNewsletters

Although not a traditional form of social media, eNewsletters are another important tool in the editor’s arsenal. eNewsletters are best used for calling attention to new and popular content or, like with Twitter, generating buzz around an upcoming print issue by leaking articles prior to the newsstand date. Subscribers to eNewsletters are similar in their behaviour to LinkedIn group members—they are high-quality visitors who spend more time on the site.

 

SEO in the analytics spotlight

It is not enough to use optimized content in online magazine publishing—editors must also have intimate knowledge of how it is impacting website traffic. Using Google Analytics to evaluate how content is performing, how visitors are reaching articles, and which topics are popular is a key part of the editor’s digital strategy. Analytics should help trace trends and inform the editor’s treatment of different types of content, especially once that content has reached the social media stage of its workflow. Identifying the top traffic sources tells an editor where her time is well spent.

Google Analytics provides insight and numbers on a macro scale—like how much traffic a website gets each year, or which day of the week receives the most hits —down to the finite details of which keyword is drawing in the most visitors on a particular article. Editors can adjust their timeline window in Google Analytics by selecting any date range from years at a time to a single day’s worth of visits. For example, after the annual BCBusiness Top 100 Luncheon, the digital editor can measure the spike in website traffic for that one day and determine where the traffic came from. By looking closely at any article’s statistics, editors can see exactly how many hits an article receives and when, where those visitors are coming from, how long the visitors are staying, who is linking to the article, which keywords visitors are using to find the article, and how long visitors are staying on the page. Google Analytics provides these same details on a site-wide level.

Identifying popular keywords in analytics can create new opportunities to optimize content and pages around topics that readers are already interested in finding. Each month the names of BC business leaders figure prominently in the top 10 keywords used to arrive at BCBusiness Online. Because BCBusiness has existing profiles on these people, the digital editor can optimize the articles around the business leaders’ names (if he has not already), and promote them in social media with the goal of driving traffic and inbound links. Google Analytics is useful in this way, as it helps an editor find and fortify his strengths.

Identifying top sources and the articles they lead to can allow editors to target those source audiences with appropriate content. Singling out specific articles that have been optimized and promoted through all of the magazine’s social media channels can shed light on how readers are interacting with the content and how they’re finding it.

By analyzing the short article “Personal Branding Lesson from Jim Pattison” compared to the feature print article “Taxi Drivers: Vancouver’s Road Warriors,” we can get a better understanding of how social media audiences interact with the content. Each article was optimized, promoted through social media, and included in a weekly eNewsletter.

 

“Personal Branding Lesson from Jim Pattison”

Date Published: November 2, 2010

Total visitors: 1490

Average visit length: 2:57

eNewsletter: 306 visitors, average 1:06 on site, 68% bounce rate

Twitter: 164 visitors, average of 1:46 on site, 83% bounce rate

Facebook: 168 visitors, average of 2:52 on site, 86% bounce rate

Google: 101 visitors, average of 3:48 on site, 78% bounce rate

“Taxi Drivers: Vancouver’s Road Warriors”

Date published: November 3, 2010

Total visitors: 775

Average visit length: 5:19

eNewsletter: 143 visitors, average of 3:25 on site, 68% bounce rate

Twitter: 7 visitors, average of 4:06 on site, 75% bounce rate

Facebook: 24 visitors, average of 1:04 on site, 75% bounce rate

Google: 304 visitors, average of 2:50 on site, 81% bounce rate

The top eNewsletter spots are guaranteed to receive an influx of traffic; articles in the top two positions of BCBusiness eNewsletters each receive an average of 500 direct eNewsletter visitors. No matter the length, eNewsletter visitors tend to interact with the content in the same fashion. Both articles in this case had a 68% bounce rate, with each article holding readers for a period time relevant to the article’s length.

Although it is difficult to discern the reasons a link receives a click-through on Twitter, the above analytics tells us that shorter articles and quick hits of content (lessons, how-to articles, blogs, lists, etc.) are more popular than long-form journalism. “Taxi Drivers” only received 7 visitors via Twitter after being promoted through BCBusiness’s Twitter feed, while “Personal Branding” received 164 visitors. The personal branding article had the added glamour of “Jim Pattison” in its title, but even BCBusiness’s wildly popular feature article on local sports hero Trevor Linden only received 56 visitors via Twitter after being promoted through BCBusiness’s Twitter feed. Compared to the other social media channels at an editor’s disposal, Twitter seems more effective for sharing short pieces that can be scanned, understood, and shared quickly, rather than for sharing feature stories and long-form journalism.

Reviewing the analytics is very revealing of the behaviours and preferences of the readers who participate in each social media channel. By understanding the audience for whom they’re optimizing content, editors can adapt their approach depending on which channel they are using. Not every article should be pushed through all of a magazine’s social media channels. But if an editor takes stock of what works well in each channel, she can use these tools to give each audience the content that speaks the most to them.

Understanding the fundamentals of SEO and putting them into place gives the digital editor a tool for long-term growth, while social media act as catalysts for that growth. The strategies and tools discussed in Part Two help editors drive traffic and spread their brand, but they also give editors a better understanding of whom they’re trying to reach and what that audience comes to them for.

Identifying a brand’s strengths plays a key role in properly optimizing content and targeting the right audience. Editors have the power to tailor their SEO and social media treatment of each article depending on the patterns they see in analytics. Part Three takes a closer look at the BCBusiness Online Google Analytics that inform the digital editors’ online strategy.

 

 

PART THREE | The BCBusiness Digital Editorial Strategy

Parsing the BCBusiness Google Analytics; Adapting social media; New SEO strategies at Canada Wide Media; Content collections

Once the digital editor has established a workflow and online presence, she can begin to experiment and test the waters with optimizing articles, refining strategies, and adapting social media to her needs. One of the great advantages of digital magazine content is its infinite flexibility; articles can be hyperlinked, repurposed, combined with related content, broken into pieces, and myriad other tactics to increase their visibility, promote the brand, and take advantage of the digital medium. Although optimizing and promoting content seems straightforward, there are boundless opportunities for creativity.

The digital editorial strategy at BCBusiness has come full circle from its earliest workflow; from print-focused, to Web-only content focused, and now back to strengthening its relationship with print. Once inextricably tied to the print magazine, BCBusiness Online was a repository with no digital editorial strategy for magazine articles. Shortly after its launch, the BCBusiness digital editor began developing Web-only content and grew the site as an independent entity from the print magazine. Finally, after nearly six years of significant growth and development, BCBusiness Online is returning to its close ties to the print magazine as a dynamic member of the overall brand. Although the current online workflow involves minimal print-editor contributions, the overall online strategy is connected to the BCBusiness brand as a whole rather than just BCBusiness Online.

Digital editors approach articles with a mind for both readers and search engines, and put all online content through a rigorous, SEO-heavy workflow. They have also branched out from strictly editorial tasks and embraced the external tools that go hand-in-hand with SEO, such as Google Analytics and the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. The digital editors at BCBusiness are representative of an overall paradigm shift in editorial work. Consulting analytics is a part of the editor’s regular duties, and although the reader is still the number one priority, the editor has a fussy new audience member to contend with—Google.

Recognizing the value and importance of SEO has led to various emerging and experimental digital strategies at BCBusiness, many of which blur the lines between marketing and editorial. Although many initiatives are brought forth by marketing, they are developed and executed by editors. Search engine optimization seems to be the common ground where many digital jobs converge. Optimizing an article or a website landing page falls under the editor’s purview, but driving traffic and increasing brand awareness is also a great concern of the digital marketing staff. For example, the BCBusiness digital editors and marketing staff worked cooperatively on the keyword research and naming of the new landing pages and categories for the third iteration of BCBusiness Online. Online publishing has drastically changed the role of the editor into a multi-platform, multi-discipline, word- and Web-strategist. The next step is to pull print editors into the melee of digital publishing and unite the editorial efforts under one brand. In the case of BCBusiness, the company is working toward having a print editor to manage the print magazine, a digital editor to manage the website, and a brand manager to oversee the entire BCBusiness operation. Currently, the print and digital editors work on the same content, but they do not communicate, brainstorm and plan as one team.

 

Parsing the BCBusiness Google Analytics

Understanding Google analytics can help editors prioritize and plan for future content and social media promotion, and hopefully convert more visitors into loyal readers. Parsing a website’s analytics can indicate who the most valuable visitors are, which audiences prefer certain content, and which keywords are the most popular. Editors can separate high-quality visitors from low-quality visitors by reviewing how long they stay on the site and how many pages they visit. As seen in BCBusiness website traffic statistics below, direct visitors are of the highest quality and spend an average of 4:59 minutes on the site and view an average of 2.32 pages. BCBusiness’s overall average time on site is 2:42 minutes and the overall average page views is 2.31 pages. Higher average time on site is more important than number of page views, as it implies that the reader has found what they were looking for, and “if visitors spend a long time visiting your site, they may be interacting extensively with it.”[36] High page views can indicate that a reader is simply jumping from article to article.

In 2010, BCBusiness Online received 461,140 visits. The main traffic sources (excluding the 89,031 direct visitors—readers who visit the site of their own volition by typing the BCBusiness web address into the URL search bar) from these visits were:

Google: 190,084 visits (41% of all site visits in 2010)

eNewsletter: 46,651

Digg: 18,346

Twitter: 12,378

StumbleUpon: 12,341

Facebook: 12,174

Yahoo!: 7,122

Bing: 5,892

LinkedIn: 1,548

Direct visitors are by far the most valuable visitors a website can have; the goal is convert all other visitors into direct, return visitors who become familiar with and trust the brand. These readers either know what they’re looking for, trust the site to know they can find what they need, or have a genuine interest in the brand. Converting visitors into eNewsletter subscribers is also one of the digital editors’ top goals.

 

Organic Google search visitors

On average, Organic Google visitors spend 2:00 minutes on the site and visit 2.33 pages. Google visitors tend to heavily search business names and businesspeople. Of the top Google search terms for BCBusiness Online in 2010, the majority were B.C. business figures and luminaries. These results imply that editors would see more success by optimizing content (where appropriate) based on people and business names over business concepts (like management tips, etc.) Profiles and feature stories involving top local companies should be optimized with careful attention to names, especially in image tags. Google image search is a good arena to pick up visitors searching businesspeople.

 

eNewsletter visitors

The BCBusiness eNewsletter includes five stories with hyperlinked images, hyperlinked headlines, and teasers; four articles with hyperlinked headlines only; one hyperlinked reader comment of the week; one hyperlinked poll question; and four hyperlinked events listings. In comparison to its sister sites’ eNewsletters (BCLiving, Granville, TVWeek, Youthink, GardenWise), BCBusiness has the simplest eNewsletter layout with the least number of articles. It is believed that including too many articles dilutes the value of each one and lessens the effect of a carefully curated editorial collection.

Subscribers to the BCBusiness eNewsletter spend an average of 3:15 minutes on the site and view an average of 2.74 pages. These visitors are loyal readers and have a vested interest in BCBusiness content. Because the eNewsletter arrives once a week, some readers use it as their chance to visit the site rather than checking in on their own. Using the eNewsletter as a weekly highlight of the best content—whether feature story or blog—is an effective way to promote content and draw readers to the site. The BCBusiness eNewsletter also has its own set of analytics through the eNewsletter carrier, MagMail. The higher the content is placed in the eNewsletter, the more readers it will attract. BCBusiness eNewsletter subscribers also tend to favour content with local luminaries such as former pro athlete Trevor Linden and real estate professional Bob Rennie. Including magazine content prior to the newsstand date is a good promotional tool for the upcoming issue and it gets a high click-through rate in the eNewsletter. Because of eNewsletter readers’ loyalty and high click-through rates, digital editors can also experiment with the kind of content that they promote.

 

Digg

Digg is a type of social networking news site that allows its users to democratically rank online articles by “digging” (voting for) them using a button similar to the Facebook “like” button. The more people “digg” an article, the higher it rises on the Dig homepage and its respective category page (business, entertainment, lifestyle, etc.). Visitors arriving from Digg spend an average of 1:09 minutes on the site and visit an average of 1.22 pages. These are some of the lower-quality visitors that arrive at the site, but as it will be thoroughly discussed later, Digg visitors are only the byproduct of a new marketing/editorial initiative to increase PageRank. Visitors from Digg arrive at light-hearted, Web-only content that goes viral via social media channels. These visitors are not generally a part of BCBusiness magazine’s target audience, and the rest of the site’s content is not what they would be interested in reading.

 

Twitter

Of all the social media channels, the BCBusiness digital editor puts the most time and creative energy into Twitter. Twitter followers visit an average of 2.09 pages and spend an average of 2:14 minutes on the site. However, the number of visits from Twitter seems disproportionate to the number of followers BCBusiness has following its stream. This phenomenon is related to the nature of a tweet. Unlike a Facebook wall post or an eNewsletter, tweets are the most ephemeral of all the social media promotions, and can be completely missed by the brand’s audience. Though BCBusiness may have over 10,000 followers, not everyone on that list will see every tweet as it passes by. This makes maintaining the Twitter feed exceptionally challenging—the editor must manage the precarious balance between over-tweeting and sparse updates. A report by ExactTarget reveals that among the top 10 reasons people unfollow a brand on Twitter, the top three pertain to repetitive and too-frequent tweets.[37] So while the editor must be cognizant of spamming BCBusiness followers, he must also post often enough to make the medium an effective channel for funneling traffic to the website.

Twitter followers respond the most to shorter pieces (blog posts), rather than longer articles (print feature stories). By comparing a cross section of short pieces to a sample of long pieces and evaluating the time spent on each article by visitors who arrive via Twitter, it is clear that shorter pieces are favoured. According to Google Analytics, Twitter visitors rarely spend more than two minutes on a page for feature stories; for blog posts, Twitter visitors spend an average of nearly three minutes on the page. This comparison reveals the tendency for Twitter followers to read shorter pieces and discard longer feature stories. However, buzz-worthy features stories with local luminaries (i.e. Trevor Linden, Mat Wilcox, Bob Rennie, Terry Hui) blow up on Twitter, but are the exception to the rule. These types of top stories are sure things, and grow in popularity no matter which channels they’re promoted through.

 

StumbleUpon

Visitors arriving from StumbleUpon fall into the same category as those arriving from Digg. They are the byproduct of a marketing/editorial initiative to increase PageRank, and are only visiting content that has gone viral and flooded social media channels. These visitors are low quality, staying for an average of 0:25 seconds and visiting an average of 1.2 pages. The BCBusiness digital editors do not put any effort into promoting content through StumbleUpon (or Digg); all visitors arrive at the efforts of an external company hired by BCBusiness to promote its articles.

 

Facebook

Facebook brings in a surprising number of visitors considering the minimal editorial time that goes into its promotion and maintenance. Visitors who arrive via Facebook spend an average of 1:44 minutes on the site and visit an average of 1.80 pages. Although Twitter has thousands more followers than Facebook has fans, Facebook brings in nearly as many readers in a year as Twitter. Facebook is an untapped resource for visitors that could exceed Twitter’s visitor numbers with very little time required. Currently, the BCBusiness digital editors spend a fraction of their time on Facebook, yet still draw in high traffic numbers. With a more developed strategy and more time spent toward Facebook promotion, Facebook visitors could surpass the number of Twitter visitors. Posting magazine content can be done as few times as three times each week. “Facebook users are more likely to stop engaging with a brand because that brand sends out too much information too frequently,”[38] which makes updating the page less laborious than maintaining a Twitter feed. Facebook visitors show no overwhelming preference over feature stories or shorter blog posts. Traffic arriving from Facebook is consistent, and since the digital editors began posting weekly, it has increased.

 

Yahoo! and Bing

Combined, Yahoo! and Bing do not come close to bringing in the number of organic visitors that Google does. This is popular knowledge among search engine optimization experts, and for that reason, many people do not pay as much attention to deciphering search algorithms other than Google’s. Bing brings in significantly higher quality visitors than Yahoo!. Bing visitors spend an average of 2:01 minutes on site and visit an average of 2.49 pages; Yahoo! visitors spend an average of 1:26 minutes on site and visit an average of 1.98 pages. This disparity in quality could be attributed to Bing’s superior search algorithm that provides more accurate results; according to search algorithm experts, Bing’s results are more accurate than even Google’s search results.[39]

 

LinkedIn

Although LinkedIn does not generate a high number of visitors, it is valued for its intangible qualities. LinkedIn is a venue in which readers can interact under the BCBusiness brand and extensively discuss magazine and Web-only content, as well as current issues and news. By looking at the discussions in the BCBusiness magazine LinkedIn group page, we see that the topics predominantly relate to professional improvement and business tips, politics, and social media. The readers who spend time on the BCBusiness magazine LinkedIn group page are high-quality visitors when they arrive at the site; LinkedIn visitors spend an average of 4:03 minutes on site and visit an average of 2.47 pages. LinkedIn does not require the same amount of creative energy as running Twitter, or even Facebook; posting articles related to the above topics spark discussion and generate site traffic.

In terms of overall priorities, digital editors should spend the most time making their articles web-ready and well optimized for Google, using business people’s names as the main keyword when applicable. Google is the overwhelming leader in web traffic and has the high-quality visitors to back up its utility. Digital editors should have a targeted strategy when promoting content through social media, avoiding the shotgun approach at all costs. It is about understanding the readers and accommodating their preferences—they get what they’re looking for, and in return the site gets more, higher-quality visitors.

 

Adapting social media

There is no debate about whether social media or SEO is more valuable to BCBusiness’s visitor traffic numbers. Google visitors outweigh all social media channels combined, and organic search accounts for the long tail of traffic that arrives at old web-only content and BCBusiness back issues. However, the effects of social media also have an intangible quality that cannot be measured against numbers or PageRank. Community building and audience communication via social media is growing in importance, and a magazine that lacks the ability to interact with its readers is missing out on valuable branding opportunities. The Internet is ripe with stories of businesses communicating with their customers, and the subsequent impact that that creates on the community. As discussed in Part Two, social media is a kind of SEO because of the way it builds links to content, but it should be seen as more of a complement to SEO.

Digital editors need to find new ways to wield platforms like Twitter and Facebook. To encourage readers to interact with the magazine on social media, BCBusiness needs to create social-media-only content. Rather than use social media as content promotion, editors need to use social media for content creation—developing new material that can only be consumed on its respective platform. Spamming the same messages and content across the brand’s various platforms decreases the value of each one–there is no incentive for the reader to visit the Facebook page if it is merely a mirror of the Tumblr or the Twitter feed.

This idea follows BCBusiness’s arc of magazine publishing from print-only, to print plus an online repository, to print plus dynamic web content, to its current state combining print, dynamic online content, and using various social media platforms. Social-media-only content is the next phase after Web-only content that will drive readers to interact with the brand in another venue.

The BCBusiness digital editor already has a unique style of content creation on Twitter, one in particular being the “first tweet haiku.” Most mornings his first tweet is a haiku; sometimes serious, sometimes funny, sometimes topical, but no matter the subject, the haiku tweets are always popular among followers. It is a clever way to engage with readers within the 140-character limit while letting them know that there’s more than a robot sending pre-scheduled tweets. It also provides the reader with unique content that he cannot find on any of the brand’s other platforms. Any magazine can promote on Twitter, but it is the voice, original content, and style that make the real impact. Maclean’s magazine is a good example of an ineffective magazine Twitter account; it only links to its own content, and the majority of tweets are cut off mid-sentence, indicating that they’re taken from the article’s deck or description, and not written specifically for the Twitter audience.[40] This creates distance between the reader and the brand, and does not offer content that cannot be found elsewhere. Lots of companies treat their Twitter account like an RSS feed and miss the step of adding value with a real voice.

Magazines commonly use their Facebook page to promote articles in the same way as on Twitter. Even though a brand might promote different content on the different platforms, the idea is the same. By adding Facebook-only content, editors give their readers a reason to visit the page and return often. As proven with the BCBusiness Facebook page in March 2011, creating behind-the-scenes photo albums of cover photo shoots are popular with readers. After posting a short gallery of how the photographer and BCBusiness art director created the conceptual March 2011 magazine cover, there was an immediate reaction of “likes” and comments, and an increase in the overall “likes” for the fan page. Multimedia content, such as photo albums and embedded videos, fits well within the casual culture of Facebook. Two sections of the BCBusiness print magazine—“Primer” and “After Hours”—have section-opening, full-page photographs by accomplished BCBusiness contributing artists, but the images are never used online. Collecting all of the images in albums is another way of engaging with Facebook fans using BCBusiness content that cannot be found elsewhere. The BCBusiness digital editors are experimenting with various new Facebook-only content, including an “editing the editor” post, wherein the digital editors create poetry from the monthly Editor’s Note.

Although it is generally more acceptable to only self-promote on Facebook pages (as they are “fan pages”), including newsy links every now and then that do not pertain to your own brand can be a good way to spark conversation.

In the dynamic publishing landscape, editors also need to consider how they can work across multiple platforms. Something that can be recreated in or adapted to other publishing platforms has more value and potential to engage multiple audiences. The BCBusiness digital editor has considered matching up his haiku tweets with photos from the BCBusiness Daily Photo blog to create a coffee table book. Occupying more spaces than just print or just a website makes the brand dynamic and more likely to reach a wider audience. The key when creating social media content is to offer something unique on each platform that the reader cannot get anywhere else.

Using Tumblr to create unique content will be discussed in more detail in Part Four when exploring the cross-platform migration of print editors.

 

New SEO strategies at Canada Wide Media

Recognizing the vast importance of Google in digital publishing is the first step toward reaping its benefits. Optimizing content is the best way to attract search engine visitors, but this practice can be bolstered by a new digital strategy: increasing PageRank. Boosting PageRank is a more advanced digital editorial strategy that moves beyond just optimizing content, and can actually bolster those efforts in the long run. As discussed in Part Two, inbound links are the key to increasing a website’s PageRank. PageRank plays an integral role in deciding which content is listed on the first page of Google search results. If two different websites feature the exact same article, optimized the exact same way, Google defers to each site’s PageRank to determine whose article will list higher in results pages. Inbound links and PageRank determine whether an article “should […] be result number one, or appear buried on page 22 of the search results for a given query.”[41] Popular and reputable websites like The New York Times (nytimes.com) have a high PageRank, and thus their content will rank well in search engine results pages. The New York Times website has a PageRank of nine out of a potential 10; BCBusiness has a PageRank of five.

Links are akin to one website vouching for the other. The more inbound links your site has, the likelier it is that your site’s PageRank will increase. Links, no matter where they’re from, benefit SEO efforts, but when they’re plentiful and come from a higher ranked website, they’re a stronger force for increasing PageRank.

In order to increase BCBusiness’s PageRank, the digital marketing staff and digital editors teamed with an external SEO consulting company called NVI to create a strategy for new BCBusiness content. Together they created a new digital editorial product (NVI social push article) with the express purpose of increasing PageRank. The articles are better known as “link bait,” and fall under the SEO strategy of link building. The idea of link bait is to create content that is “designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website.”[42] These articles do not fall under the black hat link baiting methods, which incorporate keyword stuffing, redirecting visitors to sites different from what they clicked on, and creating inbound links from link farms. (Links farms are groups of sites that link to each other and are devoted solely to linking out to increase SEO clout, with no real editorial or information value.)[43]

Editors come up with broad, sweeping topics that work well in the form of “best of,” “worst of,” and other such lists. They generally lie on the perimeter of the brand’s mandate, and serve as brain candy content—irreverent, witty, and short. The standards of writing and editing remain high, as they would for any other BCBusiness content, but the topics are generally trivial. Although the articles do not align with the print BCBusiness mandate, they are a good fit for BCBusiness Online, which features a broader range of content types and has a lighter tone than the print magazine.

The digital editors work with NVI to prepare the articles using traditional web-writing strategies—short paragraphs, clear subheads, and good use of images. Once these articles are published, the hope is that readers will eagerly pass them on and link to them from various websites, blogs, and social media channels. But rather than wait for chance of the articles going viral, NVI sends them out to its robust list of social media contacts, mostly in Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit; they “push” the article. Although the first line of contacts promoting the articles is working for NVI, the hundreds of links that follow are from social media users with no connection to the company, but who genuinely have interest in the article and want to share it with their online community.

Once the articles have been “pushed” by NVI through its network of contacts, the articles go viral, resulting in tens of tweets, hundreds of links, and thousands of visitors. Although traffic to the website immediately spikes, this is not the impetus behind the NVI social push strategy. StumbleUpon and Digg both have a PageRank of eight, and with the number of links now coming from these sites and the various other who have seen the articles and linked to them from elsewhere, BCBusiness’s PageRank should increase over time.

The overwhelming number of links generated through these social networks ends up winning BCBusiness that article’s keyword on Google search results pages. However, the keyword is rarely a highly searched term in the first place. For example, an NVI social push initiated in January 2011 is the number one search result in Google for “dumbest fads,” but that search term does not even register in the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. By basing these NVI social push articles around relevant keywords from BCBusiness’s Google analytics, or even highly searched terms that fit within the brand, the site could win significant words and phrases on Google search results pages.

BCBusiness sister site BCLiving accomplished this with its NVI social push article “7 Spectacular and Dangerous Mountain Passes.” In the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, “mountain passes” has 49,500 searches per month, and BCLiving appears on the first page of this term’s Google search results. The article found balance between optimizing for a highly searched keyword and creating an article with link-bait potential. This strategy adds another layer to the original strategy and makes each NVI social push article more valuable to the site.

Currently, the Google analytics for the BCBusiness NVI social push articles are irregular, with Google not even falling in the top eight traffic sources. The main traffic sources are Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit—all of which provide low-quality visitors. Although the main purpose is to increase PageRank, approaching these articles with a different SEO strategy could give them double the impact for the site—inbound links and a high number of organic search visitors. Google gives every article the opportunity of a long tail of organic visitors, while social media promotion often spikes traffic for the short term and dwindles soon afterward. Basing the NVI social push articles around relevant keywords would require more research prior to writing the article (both for the digital editors coming up with the topic and the writer shaping the article), but being on the first page of Google search results is a highly coveted position. The more important keywords BCBusiness can win, the more it will be seen as the authority on these topics.

Since starting the NVI social push articles in September 2010, the BCBusiness PageRank has not increased. It is yet to be determined whether this link bait strategy is truly effective. The overall tactic of creating light, interesting articles and attracting thousands of visitors—albeit, low-quality visitors—and hundreds of links is effective, but the digital editors need to devise other strategies around these social pushes than just waiting and hoping for the PageRank to increase. Multiple inbound links may not increase PageRank over time, but it will dramatically increase the SEO value of the single articles; because we know that part of the social push strategy works, it is important to take advantage of it to meet other ends.

Choosing relevant keywords is the first step toward increasing the value of the social push articles, but editors can also revise past content that has mass appeal and longevity. Resource and “how to” articles have the same quick-read nature as the social push articles, but with more substance and practical business value. The BCBusiness monthly “Need to Know” column is the perfect resource from which the digital editors can start this project. The goal is to win highly searched terms by using similar methods to the NVI social push articles. However, rather than push these articles through sites like Digg and StumbleUpon, which are chiefly interested in hu­­mour, these articles would be more successful on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Because these resource articles align with the content expectations and interests of BCBusiness readers, the influx of visitors from the “push” would be more valuable than the traffic spikes filtering into the short and irreverent NVI social push articles. Visitors would be more likely to return, spend more time on the site, and visit other articles after reading the “how to” articles.

Success in “pushing” these resource articles would have more immediate and measurable results; the digital editors would know the strategy worked when their articles begin appearing on the first page of Google search queries. This method was partially tested (without the help of NVI and its vast social network contacts) with a BCBusiness back issue article called “Value Proposition.” The article was renamed “How to Improve Your Corporate Culture,” optimized, and promoted through BCBusiness’s social media channels. Even without the hundreds of valuable contacts from NVI and links that those contacts generate, this article rose to the first page of Google results pages and continues to have a consistent flow of traffic. With the added resources of NVI, these articles could dominate search results queries and boost BCBusiness’s reputation as an authority on business topics.

The ultimate value of these new techniques is twofold—an increase in traffic to the site, and branching out to a new audience. The higher BCBusiness Online’s site traffic is, the more leverage the sales and marketing staff have for selling ads and sponsorships. The digital marketing department initiated the original NVI social push article strategy in order to spike site traffic numbers and improve PageRank. As an editor, the real concern is not the numbers, but who the people are behind those numbers and how they can be brought back to the site again. The editor wants to drive traffic, but the end goal is always reader engagement and building loyalty to the magazine and site. Adapting the original NVI strategy to target more relevant keywords and a more business-minded audience is more in line with this goal. This audience is not the typical BCBusiness audience, but a higher-quality group than the visitors arriving to content like the “Dumbest Fads” article through Digg and StumbleUpon.

The BCBusiness print reader buys the magazine for its long-form journalism and in-depth discussion of the BC business landscape. When the digital editors spend time creating content that can be consumed quicker and has a lighter tone, they tap into a different kind of BCBusiness reader group. With this method, the content is still driving numbers but the editor is focusing on a specific audience.

 

Content collections

At BCBusiness, content collection pages are referred to as SPACs—special ad content packages. SPACs are generally sponsored by one advertiser, and combine a targeted sales initiative with SEO. A SPAC is a landing page that aggregates articles under one topic with adjacent advertisements that are germane to that topic. For example, the clothing chain Wear Else sponsored the 2009 BCBusiness Style Guide SPAC, which included articles about business fashion in Vancouver. SPACS are not, however, strictly limited to sponsored content—the SPAC format is a good way to bring value to readers by collecting popular content in one easy-to-find location. The “how to” social push articles discussed in Part Three fit into the SPAC strategy as a collection of business resources. A SPAC is composed of a headline, a short keyword-dense write-up, and rows of articles, each with a linked image, linked title, and short promotional teaser of no more than roughly 85 characters. Building SPACs increases the number of links pointing to those articles and generates more clear opportunities for internal linking on BCBusiness.

By nature, SPACs are a reactionary type of editorial content. They are strictly based on popular keywords that are thought of as guaranteed winners. Rather than anticipating what the readers will be searching, SPACs use highly searched terms from BCBusiness’s Google analytics, popular topics, and hot current events. Alternatively, SPACs can be built on sales-driven topics, around which the digital editors must commission new articles and collect past articles that are still relevant. Using existing content can result in a more highly optimized SPAC, since these articles generally already have inbound links and have been indexed by Google.

As politics in British Columbia heated up in November 2010, the BCBusiness digital editors created a SPAC as a go-to reference for readers looking for current coverage and relevant past political commentary. Within the B.C. politics topic, they focused on HST in B.C., as they found that it was a top search term in BCBusiness Google analytics. Adding to the past content and incoming blogs, the digital editor put out an offer to all of the BC Liberal and BC NDP leadership candidates to add an article to the SPAC on why they should be leader. This series brought a proactive element to the SPAC strategy and resulted in more traffic, more opportunities to link between BCBusiness SPAC articles, and increased the credibility of the collection as a whole.

Aggregating similar content in one spot gives editors the chance to have an overview of many articles in one stop, which makes it easy to find connections and build up internal links. As discussed in Part Two, link building is an important part of SEO and increasing a website’s PageRank. The SEO aspect of SPACs complements the NVI social push strategy, as it focuses on evergreen articles and building a long tail of traffic. As PageRank increases, so will the Google search results for SPAC pages.

In addition to their sales and SEO elements, SPACs are also beneficial for reader navigation—not only for the website, but for mobile applications as well. BCBusiness has two mobile applications, one for the iPhone and one for the BlackBerry. Using a SPAC as an app category is a simple way of directing readers to popular and useful content, since searching the site on an app is not possible. The apps have four sections: “Latest,” which is a reverse-chronological list of all content; “Blogs,” which is all of the blogs in reverse-chronological order; “People,” which consists of profiles and event slideshows; and “Business Intel,” which aggregates all of the “how to” articles from the site. In the case of mobile applications, editors and other staff planning the platforms need to consider what kind of content readers will be consuming. Using SPACs (in addition to “Blogs,” “People,” and “Business Intel”) as a way for readers to navigate is more logical than listing all content (“Latest”) as one big mixed-bag of content. The only new content listed in latest that will not show up under the other categories is lengthy articles that do not translate well to app reading on small devices. Smart phone apps are a different experience than websites and should be treated as such by offering less content with more direction and purpose.

The sales team sold a SPAC for the BCBusiness April 2011 issue based around the topic MBAs. This SPAC was based on a sales initiative, and combines older content, new print content, and new complementary web-only content. This SPAC displays the opportunity for print and digital editors to develop a collection of content for both print and digital, working together under one brand.

The digital editorial workflow at BCBusiness has evolved to include sophisticated approaches to presenting and promoting content online, and with tools like Google analytics, the editors have a better understanding of who their readers are, where they’re coming from, and what they’re looking for. This understanding of the magazine’s online audience is key when developing new strategies that build off SEO and social media. Part Four will look at the methods discussed in Part Three, and what a complete workflow looks like when incorporating these strategies in an article going from print to online.

 

 

PART FOUR | The Future of Digital Editorial Practices

Bridging the gap between print and digital; From type to Twitter: An optimal workflow

As print and digital become more entwined and dependent on one another to create a strong and well-rounded brand, print and digital editors are finding that they need to open the lines of communication more often. It is not enough for print editors to hand off the completed magazine—they need to be involved in its digital life and the brand’s online presence.

In the past year there has been a fundamental change to the world of media and the ways in which its readers consume content. These changes are reflected in recent research by the Pew Center, who said more people consumed their news online than ever before. For the first time ever, more people got their news from the Web than from newspapers and magazines.[44] Just as magazines flocked toward website creation, then social media, they are now reimagining their publications for smart phones and tablet computers to account for this seismic industry shift. Popularized by Apple, apps are now just another way for readers to consume articles and entire issues. Gone are the days of online content as a digital afterthought—online creation is in the forefront of magazine strategies as print sees few innovations. As the magazine publishing industry affixes its gaze on the future of digital publishing, we see more and more “digital editors” on magazine mastheads. Advertising is being increasingly sold in packages that include both print and digital exposure as the two entities grow ever closer. Publishers are mastering new digital technologies and methods—like social media and SEO—and they can manipulate those tools and use them beyond their original intended uses. This stage in publishing is opening new doors for editors to rethink content creation and delivery.

As digital becomes a more important form for BCBusiness magazine, the gap between online and print needs to gradually shrink. Integrating print and digital editors can improve workflow, but it also strengthens the brand when the two teams are working toward the same goals.

 

Bridging the gap between print and digital

Integrating print and digital practices is an important step for magazine publishers in order to strengthen their brand. In the attempt to create more agile workflows and dynamic editors, Canada Wide Media publications with both print and digital editors will be slowly merging from separate departments to one larger department of editors. As the first gesture toward print and digital collaboration, all of the BCBusiness editors (print and digital) were moved into the same physical space in the office, and the digital editors now attend the print editorial meetings. The next step will be to combine budgets and begin cross-platform contributions. Rather than have a publisher who oversees just the print magazine, each publication will have a “brand manager” who looks after the best interest of the brand as a whole. This vision represents the trend in the magazine publishing industry of editors broadening their roles and companies fortifying their digital efforts. Within this joining of departments, BCBusiness editors will be encouraged to pursue work outside their nominal tasks, and digital editors will also put time toward the creation of the print issues. Some tasks will be formed to improve workflow, while others will simply give editors the opportunity to work across multiple publishing platforms.

Getting print editors involved in search engine optimization is the first step in helping them understand the goals of online publishing. As discussed earlier, SEO can be mistaken for a process that compromises the editorial integrity of the writing. Having print editors research keywords and work them into subheads and decks of print articles is an effective method of improving workflow while performing one of the more creatively satisfying SEO tasks. The print editors work closest with the articles before they are passed on to the digital editors and have intimate knowledge of the subjects and topics, thus it would be easy for them to identify the most pertinent keywords and names in each story. One of the most time-consuming optimization tasks is splitting the articles into sections and writing subheads. Transferring this task alone to print editors would save significant time for digital editors. When digital editors publish print content online, they often have to read the entire article to get a better understanding of its main ideas, and the best keywords to research; only from there can they write optimized titles, decks, and subheads. Print editors could even provide a list of keywords with each article for the digital editors prior to optimizing the articles for the Web. Not only would this save time in the article’s workflow from print to Web, but it would also begin the integration of print editors into the online lives of the articles. Print editors can also make suggestions for internal links, whether they are to articles in the same issue, a past issue, or to Web-only content. Using the black and white proofs (“black and whites”) as a message board between the print and digital editors is an effective way of communicating these ideas. Once the black and whites have been proofed, print editors can mark up them up with notes for the digital editors, such as pointing out names, companies, and terms that can be linked to other BCBusiness content online. Because the print editors work more intimately with the text than the digital editors, they have more time to consider how the content relates to past articles.

With the time freed up from print editorial contributions to the digital editorial workflow, digital editors will have more opportunities to develop concepts for the print magazine. Digital editors can create content for the print magazine from digital-first material, like following up on popular blog posts with more in-depth coverage. Most recently, the digital editors developed a caption contest on the BCBusiness Facebook page using illustrations from Kelly Sutherland, a contributing artist who illustrates the monthly “Complaints Department” column in the magazine. The winner of the caption contest had his caption run in the print magazine alongside Kelly’s illustration. Although this first digital-to-print content is small, it is a gesture in the right direction.

As discussed in Part Three, adapting social media to create unique content is an important endeavour for brand building and expanding a magazine’s Web presence; this is a prime opportunity for print editors to get involved online and explore the different ways that BCBusiness content can be used in digital spaces. Giving the print editors ownership over a social media channel—in this case, Tumblr—helps to diversify BCBusiness’s social-media-only content. By nature, Tumblr is more of a blogging platform than a promotional tool like Twitter of Facebook; print editors do not need to follow the everyday activity of BCBusiness Online as the digital editors do when linking to timely articles through Facebook and Twitter. Editors can use Tumblr to comment on BCBusiness blogs and magazine content as a kind of meta interaction—BCBusiness blogs about BCBusiness blogs, so to speak. Tumblr is more of a blank canvas on which the print editors can make their mark and further develop BCBusiness’s online identity.

 

From type to Twitter: An optimal workflow

In the current magazine publishing industry, putting print content online is only a fraction of a magazine’s digital editorial strategy. There are multiple considerations outside the print magazine, including Web-only content, social-media-only content, and SEO, to name a few. However, if an article is approached with a dynamic strategy that involves both print and digital editors, and looks at more than just having a Web presence, it can make its way through an entirely new and dynamic digital workflow.

Looking at the BCBusiness April 2011 issue—and in particular, a print article called “How to Ace Your MBA Application”—we can trace the workflow from start to finish in a hypothetical, best-case scenario using the methods already discussed.

While the article is being edited, the print editor researches appropriate keywords (using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool), which can later be used by the digital editors. The print editor records the top three keywords or phrases on a sticky note, which he will later add to the article’s page in the black and whites of the April 2011 issue. Once the print editors proof the black and whites, the pages are passed on to the assistant digital editor as her cue to resize, upload, and name the image files with keyword-rich phrases. Having sticky notes with pre-selected keywords significantly speeds up the image uploading process for the assistant digital editor, as she does not have to read each article and research keywords prior to saving the images with optimized titles. On the black and whites, the print editor also indicates phrases in the article that can be linked to past BCBusiness content or external Web pages. Having both the print and digital editors look for internal and external linking opportunities increases the overall imbedded links of the articles, and therefore the overall optimization. Because the digital editors often do not have time to read every word of every article, the print editors find opportunities that would be otherwise overlooked. Even simply highlighting a single name in an article can alert the digital editor to a link opportunity. Having the print editors focus on links helps them understand the importance of the interconnectivity of content when it goes online.

Depending on the size and nature of the article, the print editor adds optimized subheads. Rather than using a vague phrase, like “Making it count,” the print editor gives the MBA article the subhead, “3 MBA application tips.” The headline of the article is not necessarily optimized, but he adds a suggested optimized title to the black and whites for the digital editors to consider.

When the assistant digital editor receives the black and whites, she resizes the images and renames them using the keywords from the print editors. She reviews the April 2011 content and devises an online strategy for the more complex sections, like the Top 20 Innovators in B.C. and the MBA-related articles. She identifies two opportunities for SPACs (one sales-driven and one editorial-driven), and sketches a strategy that will maximize SEO and make it easy for readers to jump back and forth between related articles.

When the production staff upload the XML on the backend of BCBusiness, the images have been resized and optimized and are ready to be uploaded to the articles. With the marked-up black and whites by her side, the assistant digital editor begins optimizing the articles. Based on the keywords from the print editors, she leaves the headline, “How to Ace Your MBA Application,” with one very minor change: “How to Ace the MBA Application.” She writes an optimized meta title that includes the print editor’s suggestion of “MBA admission” as a top keyword phrase. She adds a subtitle (“The 2011 BCBusiness MBA Guide”) that links back to the MBA SPAC. Other changes include rewriting the deck to include “MBA application,” writing an optimized URL, adding H3 tags to the subheads, and creating internal links. The print editor highlighted the phrase “MBA programs” on the black and whites, and after doing a quick search on BCBusiness, the assistant digital editor finds a 2010 article that outlines nine MBA programs in B.C., to which she creates an internal link. The 2010 article is still a relevant resource to readers, and the assistant digital editor decides to further optimize it and add it to the 2011 MBA SPAC.

In anticipation of the MBA content in the April 2011 issue, the assistant digital editor creates a Facebook contest—Facebook fans are invited to comment with their best University application tip, and the winner wins a collection of business books. The digital editor promotes the contest from Twitter, linking to the Facebook wall, and from the BCBusiness eNewsletter. The assistant digital editor adds the photo from the “Primer” section to the 2011 Primer Photos Facebook album, and the photo from the “After Hours” section to the 2011 After Hours Photos Facebook album at the end of March. She reposts both albums to the Facebook wall, but waits until the issue hits the newsstands (April 4) to change the profile picture to the April 2011 cover. After the April issue hits newsstands, the digital editors create a piece of humour poetry from the April Editor’s Note and post it to the BCBusiness Facebook wall.

The digital editor reviews all of the uploaded and optimized content from the April 2011 issue and begins publishing them online on April 1, with all of the content live on April 4. The digital editor promotes various articles from the Twitter account, and puts the best feature story at the top of the next eNewsletter. He focuses on promoting the MBA content on LinkedIn, starting a discussion around the best MBA programs and how to prepare and get accepted, linking to the “How to Ace the MBA Application” article and the MBA SPAC.

The print editors add posts to the Tumblr site, including photos of bizarre inventions, and link to the Top 20 Innovators in B.C. SPAC.

In this digital editorial strategy, one article saw optimization from both print editors and digital editors, and went through every social media platform BCBusiness has at its disposal.

There are endless opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas and tasks between print and digital editors, and even art directors, for that matter. While the first physical gesture has been made at BCBusiness (moving the digital editors into an office with print editors), there is much collaboration yet to be explored. Under the brand manager structure, more editorial projects can be developed with a view for both print and digital. Beyond the workflow discussed above, an integrated print-digital team can brainstorm projects that are deliberately planned for both mediums, not just created for print and adapted to digital.

 

 

CONCLUSION

The above SEO and online publishing research and subsequent modifications to the digital editorial strategy in magazine publishing reflect the shifting tides of the industry. Digital publishing has reached a new phase, in which a magazine’s Web presence needs more than just good content to survive. Few, if any, digital publishing models operate without SEO and Web-specific editing. Digital editors must be cognizant of publishing high-quality content for their audience of online readers, but they must also consider their second audience, Google. The search engine giant is like the digital mail carrier that brings your online magazine to readers worldwide. Publishing an article online without SEO is like dropping your magazine in the mail without postage; someone might see it, but it will soon disappear, never to resurface. Publishing an article without SEO falls under an antiquated online model that relies on the naïve notion that quality alone will prevail. The cruel reality is that in our saturated digital magazine industry, the odds of high-quality getting noticed without SEO or social media are slim to none.

However, there is still a long road ahead for digital editors to fully convince SEO detractors of its indispensable role and value in online publishing. As digital and traditional editorial roles grow closer, as the roles are at Canada Wide Media, print editors will see, first hand, the virtue in optimizing headlines and further altering articles for the Web. After recent firings at AOL and the Huffington Post after the former bought the latter, the now-former Cinematical editor-in-chief Erik Davis identified SEO as creating distance between the reader and the content. “When you concentrate on SEO, you lose your passion, and readers see that,” said Davis.[45] But citing SEO as a hindrance is a cynical view of digital publishing and shows a lack of creativity to use it in more ways than keyword stuffing your content. Search engine optimization is a proven method and integral part of the digital editorial strategy, but agile publishers are thinking beyond just optimizing their content. As discussed in Parts Three and Four, editors need to consider different ways to wield SEO, and new methods of reaching their readers. Online content should receive the same editorial rigour as in print, but without special consideration for its digital environment, even the strongest article can wilt.

Thinking of social media as an extension of SEO and as another opportunity to create unique content is a step toward a more robust digital strategy. In the same way that digital editors need to develop new strategies around optimizing content, they need to reimagine the ways in which they use social media. Simply being present on Facebook and Twitter is not enough to satisfy an audience; editors need to find ways to adapt social media to serve more purposes than just promoting content.

With the introduction of each new technology and the rapid decline of print media, companies scramble to further develop their online strategies. Looking at print and digital as disparate entities creates a fracture in a magazine’s brand and ignores the opportunity to build ideas across multiple platforms. Canada Wide Media—BCBusiness magazine in particular—is proactive in its approach to navigating online publishing models. In anticipation of an industry where digital will eventually surpass print in terms of reader consumption, BCBusiness is taking steps to increase collaboration between its print and digital editors. Print and digital editors working together under one brand creates a stronger team, a cohesive strategy, and is representative of the publishing industry’s direction.

 

 


NOTES

1 Magazines Canada, “2010 Consumer Magazine Fact Book,” Magazines Canada, http://www.magazinescanada.ca/uploads/File/Ad%20Services/FactBook/2010-Consumer-Magazine-Fact-Book—Eng-Final.pdf. RETURN

2 Royal Pingdom, “Internet 2010 in Numbers,” Royal Pingdom, January 12, 2011, http://royal.pingdom.com/2011/01/12/internet-2010-in-numbers/. RETURN

3 To optimize an article is to rigorously apply search engine optimization with the goal of increasing the article’s online visibility. RETURN

4 Paola Quintanar , A New Digital Strategy at Canada Wide Media: Case Study of the Relaunch of BCBusiness Online (Vancouver: Simon Fraser University, 2009). RETURN

5 For an in-depth look at SEO on the Canada Wide magazines’ websites, see Adam Gaumont, SEO for Magazines: Optimizing Content for Digital Publication (Vancouver: Simon Fraser University, 2009). RETURN

6 Content collections are optimized landing pages where digital editors aggregate relevant articles from BCBusiness Online. RETURN

7 Amazon released the first Kindle e-reader on November 19, 2007. RETURN

8 Adam Gaumont, SEO for Magazines: Optimizing Content for Digital Publication (Vancouver: Simon Fraser University, 2009), 14. RETURN

9 Rachelle Money, “Hearst Magazine Increased Web Traffic By 150% with SEO and Wordtracker,” Cyber Journalist, February 19, 2009, http://www.cyberjournalist.net/hearst-magazine-increased-web-traffic-by-150-with-seo-and-wordtracker/. RETURN

10 Money. RETURN

11 Google, “Technology Overview,” Google, http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/tech.html (accessed January 23, 2011). RETURN

12 Janice (Ginny) Redish, Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2007), 4. RETURN

13 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

14 Jason Glover. “One Month Working on the Suite 101 Content Farm.” Touch the Stars, July 9, 2010, http://youcantouchthestars.net/entertainment/one-month-working-on-the-suite101-content-farm/. RETURN

15 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

16 Wikipedia, “Spamdexing,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spamdexing (accessed January 23, 2011). RETURN

17 Ibid. RETURN

18 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, September 21, 2009, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html. RETURN

19 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

20 Ann Smarty, “SEO Best Practices for URL Structure,” Search Engine Journal, July 3, 2008, http://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-best-practices-for-url-structure/7216/. RETURN

21 SEOmoz, “Title Tag,” SEOmoz, http://www.seomoz.org/learn-seo/title-tag (accessed January 26, 2011). RETURN

22 Ibid. RETURN

23 John Britsios, “6 Ultimate ON-Page Search Engine Optimization Tips,” Search Engine Journal, August 26, 2010, http://www.searchenginejournal.com/6-ultimate-on-page-search-engine%C2%A0optimization%C2%A0tips/23546/. RETURN

24 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

25 John Britsios, “6 Ultimate ON-Page Search Engine Optimization Tips,” Search Engine Journal, August 26, 2010, http://www.searchenginejournal.com/6-ultimate-on-page-search-engine%C2%A0optimization%C2%A0tips/23546/. RETURN

26 SEO Boy, “What is Pagination and How Does it Affect SEO?” SEO Boy, March 2, 2009, http://www.seoboy.com/what-is-pagination-and-how-does-it-affect-seo/. RETURN

27 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

28 SEOmoz, “Search Engine Ranking Factors 2009,” SEOmoz, August 2009, http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors. RETURN

29 Mihaela Lica, “Twitter’s Little Known SEO Value,” SitePoint, January 15, 2009, http://blogs.sitepoint.com/2009/01/15/twitter-seo/. RETURN

30 Susan Currie Sivek, “How Magazines Use Social Media to Boost Pass-Along, Build Voice,” PBS, March 16, 2010, http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2010/03/how-magazines-use-social-media-to-boost-pass-along-build-voice075.html. RETURN

31 EBiz MBA, “15 Most Popular Social Networking Websites | June 2011,” Ebiz MBA, June 2011, http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites (accessed June 18, 2011). RETURN

32 Phillip Smith, “Twitter Done Right By @walrusmagazine,” Community Bandwidth, February 24, 2009, http://www.communitybandwidth.ca/phillipadsmith/twitter-done-right-by-walrusmagazine. RETURN

33 Charlie White. “How Are People Really Using LinkedIn?” Mashable, July 9, 2011, http://mashable.com/2011/07/09/linkedin-infographic/. RETURN

34 Ibid. RETURN

35 Ibid. RETURN

36 Google Analytics, “Visitor Reports Overview,” Google, http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=60127 (accessed January 4, 2011). RETURN

37 Lauren Dugan, “If You Want to Keep Your Followers, Don’t Repeat Yourself,” Media Bistro, February 11, 2011, http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/if-you-want-to-keep-your-followers-dont-repeat-yourself_b3257. RETURN

38 Dugan. RETURN

39 Dot Com Report, “Bing, More Accurate than Google in Search Results.” Dot Com Report, http://dotcomreport.com/recent-news/bing-more-accurate-than-google-in-search-results/ (accessed July 15, 2011). RETURN

40 Taken from the @MacleansMag Twitter feed on March 4, 2011: “BLOGS: The most expensive game on earth: When it comes to extracting money from local governments, the NHL has i… http://bit.ly/dJSZQu.” RETURN

41 Rebecca Lieb, The Truth About Search Engine Optimization, (New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2009), Electronic Access: Safari Books Online, http://proquest.safaribooksonline.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/9780768687873 (accessed January 2011), 80. RETURN

42 Wikipedia, “Link Bait,” Wikepedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/link_bait (accessed February 16, 2011). RETURN

43 Wikipedia, “Link Farm,” Wikepedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Link_farm (accessed June 15, 2011). RETURN

44 Pew Research Center Publications, “State of the News Media 2011,” Pew Research, March 14, 2011, http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1924/state-of-the-news-media-2011. RETURN

45 Anne Thompson, “AOL’s Huffington Overhauls Online Brands,” Indie Wire, April 6, 2011, http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2011/04/06/aol_vs._cinematical_another_film_brand_bites_the_dust/. RETURN

 

 


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Reciprocal Rewards: Bringing Reader’s Digest Magazine Brands and Content to Canadian Web Portals

 

By Megan Lau

ABSTRACT: This report examines the online partnerships that Reader’s Digest Canada’s established with web portals for its magazines and digital properties: Best Health magazine and PlaisirsSante.ca with Sympatico.ca; and Reader’s Digest Canada and Sélection du Reader’s Digest with MSN.ca. When Besthealthmag.ca became Sympatico.ca’s health and fitness channel in 2009, the website’s audience grew exponentially, proving the value of investing in online publishing. This paper presents the marketing, web editorial, and business strategies for the publisher’s web properties. The histories of web portals and Reader’s Digest’s web strategy, with an examination of how and why the publisher’s partnerships with portals were established, are covered. As well, the impact of the partnerships on brand awareness and audience growth is discussed. Finally, the implications of partnerships with web portals for the greater Canadian magazine publishing community are considered.

 

 


Acknowledgements

It is with no small thanks to the unrivalled guidance and teaching of Dr. Rowland Lorimer and Dr. John Maxwell that this report is before you. I would also like to acknowledge my “teachers” at Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada in Montreal and Toronto, who expressed their enthusiasm and interest, and lent their immeasurable knowledge and experience to this project. My sincere gratitude goes especially to production editor, Michele Beacom Cant; vice-president of digital media and strategic partnerships, Yann Paquet; and senior web editor, Kat Tancock, for their significant contributions.

Most importantly, I am grateful for the encouragement and strong support from my cohort in the Simon Fraser University Master of Publishing program, and the unwavering friendship of Andy Au, Deanne Beattie, Brandon Gaukel, Cynara Geissler, Tracy Hurren, William Lau, Ryan McClanaghan, Michelle Reid, Lauren Schachter, and Fraser Stuart. Thank you.

 

 


CONTENTS

List of Figures
List of Tables
Glossary

Chapter One
+++Introduction
++++++A Note on Research Method and Analysis
+++Canadian Magazines Online
+++Web Portals in Canada
+++Publisher Profile: Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited
++++++Web Strategy

Chapter Two
+++Case Study: Best Health, Plaisirs Santé, and Sympatico.ca
+++Besthealthmag.ca
+++Sympatico.ca
+++The Partnership
++++++Impact on Traffic
++++++Impact on Brand Awareness and Product Sales
+++The Launch of Plaisirs Santé
+++Web Editorial for Portals
++++++Editorial Staff
++++++Shaping Content
++++++Brand
+++Current Activities

Chapter Three
+++Case Study: Readersdigest.ca, Selection.ca, and MSN.ca
+++Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca
+++MSN.ca
+++The Partnership
+++Publishing Reader’s Digest Content on MSN.ca
+++Projected Outcomes

Chapter Four
+++Conclusion

Appendix
Notes
Reference List
+++Interviews

 

 


List of Figures

Figure 1. Sympatico.ca Home Page, Best Health dropdown menu
Figure 2. The Sympatico.ca Home Page prior to November 2010
Figure 3. Sympatico.ca audience subscription offer
Figure 4. Screenshot of Besthealthmag.ca, with calls to subscribe highlighted

 

 


List of Tables

Table 1. Traffic sources and losses
Table 2. 15-month trend of traffic to Besthealthmag.ca
Table 3. Audience demographic profile for Besthealthmag.ca
Table 4. 15-month trend of traffic to Readersdigest.ca
Table 5. Audience demographic profile for Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca

 

 


Glossary: Analysis Metrics

Reader’s Digest Canada’s web publishing uses the following metrics from comScore and Google Analytics to measure its performance online:

Comparable Sites: Other website in the same category. At comScore, every website belongs to a primary category. For example, Best Health is in the Health category. Other relevant categories would include Lifestyles, Family & Parenting, and Home categories.

Entries/Entrances: The number of entrances to a website. With content pages, entries will indicate the number of times a particular page served as an entrance to the website.

Exits: The number of exits from a website. ComScore refers to sites that visitors go to after as “losses.”

Impressions: In advertising, the number and quality of page impressions is used to gauge the value of a website or page. Interchangeable with “page view.”

Open Rate: Percentage of messages delivered in an email campaign that are confirmed as having been opened by the recipient.

Page View: (PV) A request to load a single page of a website.

Time Spent: The time a visitor spends a website.

Time on Page: How long a visitor spent on a particular page or set of pages.

Total Audience: The size of the complete Canadian population that uses the Internet as calculated by comScore by extrapolated data gathered from random “digit-dial” phone calling.

Unique Visitors (UV): A unit of online traffic to a website, counting each visitor only once in the time frame of the report. This statistic is relevant to site publishers and advertisers as a measure of a site’s true audience size, equivalent to the term “reach” used in other media.

Visitor: A user of a website site.

Visits: The number of unique sessions initiated by all your visitors.

 

 


Chapter One

Introduction

Canadian magazines have been online since 1996.[1] In the 1990s, as excitement and anxiety built around translating print products and brands for digital platforms, many magazines went online without a strategy for online editorial or revenue development. Like other media businesses that depend on ad revenue, including television and radio broadcasters, magazines struggled to navigate the world online. What would be their business strategy? How would they find funding to invest in technological development and programming? For smaller, non-profit magazines, which make up much of the landscape in Canada, building a functional website was simply not within their means.

One of the largest struggles for Canadian magazine websites is one that the country’s publishers are familiar with: the lack of economies of scale. In publishing print magazines, a smaller audience has always meant fewer subscriptions and single-copy sales, and cautious advertisers; fewer readers makes it more difficult to offset the costs of producing a magazine—such as printing, editorial, design, and rights. Though federal cultural policy has stepped in to help address these economic obstacles, digital publishing has yet to be adequately handled in the same way. As well, Canadian magazine websites are in direct competition with international magazine websites. This challenge is further compounded by the fact that online, all content creators—whether their main business is newspaper publishing, television broadcasting, or blogging—are direct competitors and jockey for the same audiences and advertisers.

In order to attract lucrative advertising accounts, websites must have a substantial number of unique visitors who are engaged with the content. This is no small task to be sure, particularly for magazines. For example, editorial for print and the web are different, in so far as the latter needs to be “read” by search engines and appeal to audiences who generally scan content, rather than read it.[2] Producing an engaging magazine website requires editors to re-imagine their magazine brands in terms of content and form. And, for the first time in magazine history, publishers can and must show their advertisers how well their ads are performing. It is possible to know how many people clicked on an ad, or how many “eyeballs” saw the creative. As a result, the definition of “successful editorial” and the ability to sell advertising becomes all about the analytics.

With the help of a strong research department and its many years of expertise, Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada, one of the country’s largest multi-title publishers, is forging ahead into the world of digital publishing. Reader’s Digest uses its strengths and an innovative publishing model to capture large but targeted audiences online, and thereby provide attractive environments for its advertisers. The Reader’s Digest Canada magazines websites are Readersdigest.ca, Selection.ca, Plaisirssante.ca, Besthealthmag.ca and Ourcanada.ca.

In 2008, Reader’s Digest Canada launched Best Health, a Canadian women’s health magazine.[3] Best Health was extremely successful from the start; it earned $1.9 million in advertising revenue in its first year. The success of the print product, however, was only the beginning. The launch of the magazine was in fact the launch of a multi-platform brand: The magazine’s website, Besthealthmag.ca, became an integral part of the Best Health product. Previous to the launch of the magazine, 55 percent of an Internet research panel said they were “extremely interested” or “very interested” in an integrated web component for the soon-to-be-launched title (Boullard, 2008, p. 17). Accordingly, the team behind Best Health engaged the brand’s audience on multiple platforms early on. Today, Besthealthmag.ca attracts approximately half a million unique visitors a month; that’s 1.7 percent of the total Canadian audience online (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). Best Health on Twitter (@besthealthmag) has more than 86,000 followers, making it the most “followed” Canadian magazine brand on the social networking application by leaps and bounds (Twitter, 2010).[4]

How Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada found phenomenal success in digital publishing with the Best Health brand is the primary subject of this report. In the summer of 2009, shortly after the launch of Best Health magazine and Besthealthmag.ca, Reader’s Digest established a partnership with the web portal, Sympatico.ca. The portal—which split from its partner MSN on September 1, 2009, to become an independent portal separate from the former Sympatico.msn.ca— adopted Besthealthmag.ca as its Health and Fitness section, or “channel.” From there, traffic to Besthealtmag.ca grew exponentially. The partnership with Sympatico.ca is the heart of Best Health’s online business. The editorial and production processes that come with working with an online general interest portal are further explored in this report.

To establish the context in which Reader’s Digest Canada launched its various digital initiatives, the first chapter of this report examines the history of Canadian magazines online, and explores the economics of publishing online. This chapter also presents the history of web portals in Canada, followed by a discussion of the publishing activities of Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada.

Chapter two describes the business strategies and mechanics involved in the Best Health-Sympatico.ca partnership. This section of the report details how the partnership with Sympatico.ca was established, the mechanics of producing content for a general interest portal, the impact on the Reader’s Digest websites, the websites’ successes and challenges, and the unique editorial strategies employed. The introduction of the Plaisirs Santé brand, the French-Canadian counterpart to Best Health, is also discussed.

Next, the report describes a different approach to online partnerships for Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca. The development of a partnership with MSN.ca was partly modelled on the company’s success with Sympatico.ca, but has different goals and parameters. In this chapter, decision makers and editors forecast the partnership’s potential impact on the website in terms of editorial and production, and new advertising opportunities as a result of the expected influx of traffic.

The final chapter assesses the implications of Reader’s Digest Canada’s success for other multi-title publishers. There are possibilities for other Canadian magazines to repurpose their material for general interest portals, but how widely applicable is this business model? And considering the changing demands and realities of readers and the media industries, what is the long-term viability of this strategy? There are no conclusive answers; however, the value of publishers’ expertise in building communities, brands, and content is definite.

 

A Note on Research Method and Analysis

The web analytics presented in this report are based on custom reports from comScore, a web-research company internationally recognized as the standard for digital market intelligence for the Internet’s largest sites. Reader’s Digest is a customer of comScore, Inc. Canada. Although the publisher’s web department uses Google Analytics internally, most corporate advertisers prefer comScore’s data due to their recognized impartiality.

ComScore’s intelligence is based on data gathered from a random panel. Very roughly speaking, comScore is to Internet audience data as Nielsen’s ratings are to television: Unlike Google Analytics, which captures data on a website’s server, comScore installs proxy-technology software on the computers of panel members. The software captures information about panel members’ behaviour click-by-click, second-by-second. ComScore’s Canadian panel is composed of roughly 50,000 users (comScore, Inc., 2010); globally, the company estimates that its panel comprises two million users (comScore, Inc. website, 2010b).

ComScore determines its clients’ audience reach based on a figure it calls “total audience”; it represents the complete Canadian population that uses the Internet. The company calculates the number of people in the total audience by conducting phone surveys of a random sample group: “Respondents are asked a variety of questions about their Internet use [such as, Do you use the Internet?], and descriptive information about their households is collected” (comScore, Inc. website, 2010a). These data are extrapolated to establish the total audience number, as well as other demographic details about the Canadian online audience. By combining the total audience data with information gathered from panel members, comScore is able to produce an up-to-date picture of online audience behaviour.

This method, which comScore calls “panel audience measurement,” has some limitations. While the software precisely records panel members’ Internet usage, panel members and phone-survey respondents self-report demographic information; this can result in imprecise findings. Another shortcoming of the panel-sample method is that it favours popular websites since there is a higher probability that the panel members will visit them. Conversely, comScore cannot account for smaller websites if no panel members land on the site. In short, when the data are extrapolated, the method can inflate the number of visitors to larger sites and overlook traffic to smaller sites.

In the interest of protecting Reader’s Digest Magazine Canada’s proprietary information, this report mostly uses comScore’s data. Although this information is public, access to purchased comScore products (including comparative analyses and demographic information) was granted on the basis of my status as an employee of Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada.[5] The data presented show the scale of the partnership’s impact on the Reader’s Digest Canada websites, but are not an exact or up-to-date representation of the websites’ performance metrics.

ComScore’s data support the discussion of Reader’s Digest’s web strategy. Using information gathered from extensive in-person interviews with the digital media executives, and the online marketing and web editorial teams, this report serves as a comprehensive picture of how this major Canadian publisher is building targeted audiences online and grooming those audiences for advertisers.

Please see Glossary for a glossary of web analytics terms.

 

Canadian Magazines Online

The decline of magazines has been predicted since the start of the twentieth century, when film was introduced (Quin, 2003, p. 3). Historically, whenever a new medium for entertainment and information emerges, critics and naysayers speculate that the end of the magazine (or other existing media) is nearing. This was absolutely true at the advent of the Internet.[6] Since its introduction, the Internet has forcefully reshaped the media landscape. Its influence was—and is—so great that predictions of the magazine publishing industry’s imminent demise seemed more likely than ever. In response to the speculation, and making sure not be left in the dust, many magazines publishers launched websites for their titles in the late 1990s.

Theoretically, magazine publishers were well-positioned to take advantage of the features of the new medium, as they already had arresting editorial to offer. A website had the potential to attract new readers and subscribers by offering content (either from the magazine or exclusively online) in a format that was convenient and accessible for readers. However, publishers (and most everyone else) lacked knowledge or expertise about how audiences behaved online, and how to translate magazine content or brands for online audiences. Quin (2003) notes, “By 1996, many magazines were launching sites that were mirror versions of their print products” (p. 8). Early magazine websites were wanting in overall “stickiness” (the quality that makes a user stay on a site, engage with the content, and tell others about it) because without tailoring it for the web, print-magazine content lacks timeliness, interactivity, searchability, and personalization.

There were other challenges, too. For example, monitoring, updating, and editing a magazine website required additional resources in terms of time and money; it often increased editors’ workloads. Most magazine editors were not accustomed to producing daily updates, since they traditionally worked on monthly or weekly production schedules. With smaller staffs and operating budgets than their American counterparts, the vast majority of Canadian magazines did not have the capacity to build and maintain functional websites, market them, cultivate regular audiences, and engage with the audiences in a meaningful way. Another obstacle was gaining rights and permissions for previously published work, since older contracts for writers did not address digital formats. There was always the question, too, of whether making a magazine’s content available online would cannibalize its print operations. Ultimately, without the infrastructure, market research, or knowledge to produce effective online spaces, magazine websites struggled to find audiences and make a profit.

The early 2000s were especially dismal. In his 2002 book Bamboozled at the Revolution: How Big Media Lost Billions in the Battle for the Internet, technology journalist and media critic JohnMatovalli revealed how powerhouse media companies such as Time Warner lost millions in early Internet ventures (Sumner and Rhoades, 2006, p. 118). An essay from Slate.com in 2008, argued that even turning household names, such as Vogue and Esquire, into profitable web properties was “probably not possible, at least not right away,” since advertisers were not willing to pay for online audiences (Blume, 2008). A media expert quoted in the Slate.com essay estimated that “online CPM is worth between one-seventh and one-tenth of a print CPM” (Blume); in short, the online-advertising model looked bleak for everyone, not just small- and medium-sized magazines. In July 2009, Kat Tancock, who is also the author of the blog Magazines Online,[7] wrote, “The debate is still on (and for good reason) about how the media can make money with their online properties. Readership is certainly there, but display advertising isn’t bringing in enough revenue and most readers are unwilling to pay to read articles online” [8] (2009a). Only very savvy publishers could realistically expect to make a profit from sponsorships and advertising online—and a small one at that.

Faced with this reality, publishers were forced to reevaluate their web properties and thus, redefine their goals and measures of success. While most magazine websites were not likely to sell a fair amount of ads in the near future, they could exploit the equity in the brands. Readers invest trust in magazine brands, and looking at the magazine as a brand created more opportunities to increase visibility and revenue. By extending their brands online, through other media, and in-person, publishers could sell subscriptions and increase single-copy sales, and apply the brands to other media, products, and events. Popular magazines lent their brands to television shows, special interest publications, and merchandise, such as T-shirts, books, and calendars (MacKay, 2006, p. 198). For large media companies with resources and experience to maximize vertical and horizontal integration, this transformation was a familiar evolution.[9] A 2003 survey of the leading magazine publishers in the UK showed that more than half thought of themselves as multimedia publishers and communicators, and not just publishers (Dear in MacKay, p. 213).

Online, some magazine websites became hubs for the communities around the brands. Members of the communities went to the websites to interact with editors and each other (MacKay, 2006, p. 153). In the web and print formats, a magazine represents the centre of a community.[10] As noted in Rowland Lorimer’s 2008 study of Alberta Magazines, “Magazines Alberta: Vibrancy, Growth, Interactive Community Leadership,” “…magazines take their lead from their communities of readers, serving their needs and desires, and in doing so, they emerge as significant and distinctive voices in their communities” (Lorimer 2008, key findings). The formation of a community was especially key for Chatelaine, one of Canada’s most popular magazines. In her research in the magazine’s archives, Valerie Korinek looked at correspondence from readers and discovered that magazines and discussion about magazines “‘fostered a sense of identity or membership in a community’” (Korinek in MacKay, 2006, p. 154). This dynamic is dramatically enhanced by the possibilities of online networking on magazine websites. Says McKay, “the community aspect of a magazine is indeed one of the form’s important traits and a prime requirement for [online] success” (p. 154). Recently, publishers have found their web properties with established and engaged online communities are desirable environments for advertisers.

In 2010, the importance of a having a thoughtful online presence is impossible to ignore. As CEO of Meredith Corporation (publisher of Ladies Home Journal, MORE, and Fitness), William Kerr, notes:

The Internet is your friend. Once viewed as a threat, the Internet is a medium that magazines are using as a growth catalyst on many fronts. For our editors, it allows us a more frequent dialogue with readers. For our marketers, it provides another source of potential revenue generation. For our circulation professionals, it provides a low-cost alternative for generating magazine subscriptions. And it is growing at a phenomenal rate (Sumner and Rhoades, 2006, p. 118).

As more and more readers read online in their leisure time, an increasing number of publishers are establishing devoted web editorial and ad sales teams. The user experience has also improved as best practices for producing content online have also emerged: search-engine optimizing content, creating more interactive features, and integrating ways for readers to talk back. And publishers that nurture the communities around their magazines have more engaged online readerships to entice advertisers with. Publishers are also adopting social networking, blogs, email newsletters, and RSS feeds as part of their web strategies. There are also new digital spaces for magazine brands to cultivate audiences, including mobile applications and digital editions. Today, the largest Canadian magazine publishers are looking beyond breaking even. Though small- and medium-sized magazines still struggle to get a return on their investment in online publishing, multi-title publishers are managing to leverage their web properties into money-makers. One way of doing this, as Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada has found, is to partner with a web portal.

 

Web Portals in Canada

“Web portal” loosely describes any website that aggregates links from diverse sources and presents them in a unified and organized way. General interest web portals curate links to news, stock prices, entertainment gossip, and weather forecasts. Much like a newspaper, portals provide value in aggregating this information in one place. Similarly, portals present their content, gathered from syndicates such as Reuters and the Associated Press, in a consistent look and feel. Some web portals produce some content in-house but all portals have editorial teams gathering content from outside sources, including magazine websites. Web-portal editors analyze which articles, slideshows, services and interactive features perform best and choose the next day’s content accordingly. Many major web portals also host search and email services.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, web portals were important pieces of online real estate because they were daily destinations for users—often they were the first pages users visited before going elsewhere on the web. Internet service providers (ISP) and web portals often formed partnerships: When a user purchased access to Internet from an ISP, his or her browser would be programmed with the partner portal site as their home page.[11] Similarly, users of Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail were directed to the service’s partner portal site upon logout.[12] Accordingly, portals generated substantial traffic. Additionally, before Google, portals’ search engines were a popular way to locate relevant information.

Globally, MSNBC, Go.com, Netscape, Lycos, AOL, and Yahoo! dominated the web-portal market during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. While some of these portals went out of business when the bubble burst around 2000, Yahoo! and MSNBC continued to find success. These companies also launched international portals to serve the demand for regional and local content. Yahoo! Canada, MSN.ca, and Sympatico.ca (owned by Bell Canada Enterprises) were established as dedicated services for the Canadian audience. Other Canadian portals include Canoe.ca (which is particularly popular in French Canada), AOL Canada, Canada.com, and myTELUS.com.

In 2003, Bell and Microsoft Canada merged their portal websites into the co-branded portal Sympatico.msn.ca (Canadian Press, 2003). According to Kevin Crull, president of residential services at Bell, “We wanted [Microsoft’s] development capabilities. They wanted our audience” (Avery, 2009). The joint portal combined the large audiences that used MSN’s Hotmail service and those that purchased Bell’s Internet service and/or were readers of Sympatico.ca. At the time, Canada’s online advertising market had an estimated worth of just over $350 million[13] (Lloyd, 2009); accordingly rather than selling consumers to advertisers, the portal’s primary business model was based on selling services to consumers. The partnership allowed MSN to generate additional revenue by offering premium subscription services, developed by Microsoft, to Bell’s customer base (Lloyd). Bell hoped to use Microsoft’s technology to add value to Sympatico.ca.

Over the next five years, Sympatico.msn.ca, which offered content for English speakers and Francophones, became one of the country’s most visited websites and the major Canadian portal, with 18.5 million unique views a month (Lloyd, 2009).

Nonetheless, in the summer of 2009, MSN and Bell realized the partnership was no longer optimally serving either company. The rise of “freeconomics”—an online-business model where basic services are offered for free and revenues are generated from advertising or selling value-added services—lowered the value of Microsoft’s “premium level” services, such as email, and made it necessary to sell advertising to support those services. The companies divorced and re-established their individual (bilingual) portal sites: MSN.ca and Sympatico.ca, and improved their inventory of display-advertising spaces by developing video players as part of their advertising services (Lloyd, 2009). Currently, an ongoing task for Bell and Microsoft is restructuring the portals to operate without the content and technology resources previously afforded by having a joint, co-branded portal.

Today, portal sites are still major online destinations, but the number of visitors, page views, and time spent by users is declining. Microsoft Canada and Bell are engaged in a three-year agreement to exchange traffic, but neither portal site has been able to amass an audience as large as the former readership of Sympatico.msn.ca (Reynolds, interview, August 9, 2010). Meanwhile, engagement on social media sites is rising (Stableford, 2010). Users are turning to Twitter and Facebook for a more personalized experience. Some users are turning to social media first to get the news, and to tap into what their friends are reading and watching. Due to the ebbing popularity of portal sites, advertisers and agencies are taking their ad dollars to Facebook for more ad impressions[14] (Oreskovic, 2010; Walsh, 2010). AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! are responding to this development by offering new customization options, such as personalized home pages. But more importantly, web portals are investing in quality content and thoughtful presentation. In order to become competitive content providers, portals—particularly MSN.ca—are turning to experts in publishing and journalism, including magazines (Stableford, 2010; Microsoft Canada, 2009).

Canadian magazines have a relatively long history of providing content to portal sites. In 1995, Maclean’s partnered with CompuServe Canada, a popular Internet service provider. At the time, CompuServe had three million Canadian subscribers. The partnership gave CompuServe subscribers—who were also the audience for the ISP’s portal—exclusive access to Maclean’s articles before they hit the newsstand (Quin, 2003, p. 9). In exchange, CompuServe drove traffic to the magazine’s online forum, where readers could discuss articles or talk to the writers and editors. Other magazines have sold content from their websites to portals. Selling daily music news from their website, Chartattack.com, to Sympatico.ca was a major revenue source for Chart magazine’s publishers in the early 2000s (Quin, p. 48).

When portals link to and publish magazine content, they gain content to draw and engage visitors, as well as the authority and credibility of an established magazine brand. A 2010 study by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) (Smith, 2010) and a 2008 study by Dynamic Logic (Lakin, 2008) concluded that branded content sites, such as magazine websites, had a greater impact on customer awareness and purchase intent than non-branded websites. Customers and advertisers also positively associated media sites with trust and quality. The OPA survey of 3,000 people found:

Eighty percent of people who said they had purchased brands as a result of online advertising described themselves as having a strong, positive connection to the sites where the ads ran. In most questions regarding trust and ad responsiveness, the branded media sites came out on top.

On the question of which content they are most likely to trust, respondents said: media sites first (72%), then portals (60%), and social media (23%).

Audiences also felt that advertisers were more likely to be of high quality and reputable on media sites (24%) rather than portals (20%), or social media (8%) (Smith).

By partnering with magazine brands, portals can provide advertisers environments where consumers are more trusting and receptive. Ultimately, portals’ burgeoning traffic troubles are creating ripe opportunities for magazine publishers.

 

Publisher Profile: Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited

The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. (RDA) is an international company with offices in 43 countries (Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. website, 2009). Founded in 1922 by DeWitt and Lila Wallace, the company’s flagship publication, Reader’s Digest—known for providing practical and useful information, is the largest independently published magazine in the world with 50 international editions (Sumner and Rhoades, 2006, p. 144). The company is also famous for its sweepstakes and contests—both of which are effective marketing and name-gathering techniques and thus, important parts of the RDA business. Its large customer base and database of prospective customers is possibly the most important asset to the company.

Although it has been slower than others in embracing digital services and products, RDA has always been a multi-brand, multi-media company. It produces and markets hundreds of media products. Annually, the company sells approximately 40 million books, music, and video products around the world (Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. website, 2009). Over the years, RDA has generated a wealth of content, which it can economically repurpose as digital products. For example, contents from the Reader’s Digest book Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things[15] are the source material for the popular series “5 Things to Do with…” series on Readersdigest.ca. RDA owns and operates 78 branded websites. The crown jewel in the company’s digital properties is AllRecipes.com, the world’s largest online food community, with 15 localized websites, including one for Quebec.

The corporation’s relatively recent but rapid expansion into the digital world is part of its strategy to grow by “creating multi-platform communities based on branded content” (Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. website, 2009). RDA also leverages national successes and expands those brands internationally. In 2006, Reader’s Digest Australia launched HealthSmart magazine, a health and lifestyle magazine for women ages 30 to 50 years old. It is now the leading women’s health magazine in Australia and spawned a New Zealand edition in 2009. In 2008, the editorial formula was imported to Canada; with a few tweaks, it became Best Health magazine. And in 2009, the US offices announced the launch of BestYou magazine.[16]

The Canadian offices of Reader’s Digest were established in 1947. The first Canadian edition of Reader’s Digest, Sélection du Reader’s Digest, appeared in 1948; it was, of course, the French-language edition for Canada. Currently, Reader’s Digest Canada is the largest circulation consumer magazine in Canada[17] (Print Measurement Bureau, 2010) and is also recognized as the most trusted and influential magazine in the country conducted by Ropers Reports (in 2009) and Masthead magazine (in January/February 2008) (Ludgate, interview, 2010). The Canadian editorial offices are located in downtown Montreal, Quebec, and advertising sales are headquartered in the business district of Toronto, Ontario. The Montreal office has approximately 170 Reader’s Digest Canada staff members in the finance, editorial, marketing services, promotions, communications, human resources, sales, and administration departments. Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada publishes five magazines: Best Health, Reader’s Digest Canada, Sélection, Our Canada, and More of Our Canada. The magazine division also publishes special interest publications (SIPs) and produces custom publications for companies such as RONA.

 

Web Strategy

In Canada, Reader’s Digest has been online since 1998, the year Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca were launched as online extensions of the magazines. At the time, isolated but dramatic success stories from Silicon Valley created the illusion that e-commerce was the new “Klondike.” However, it was not a simple task to transform two well-established print magazine brands into competitive players in the digital publishing landscape. Reader’s Digest Canada and Sélection initially struggled to define their brands and voices online, and without a clear and considered strategy, the Reader’s Digest Canada magazine websites floundered.

At the time, neither Readersdigest.ca nor Selection.ca had a dedicated editor or a content management system. The websites were updated monthly, mostly with repurposed magazine content. When taken directly from the magazine, the articles did not appeal to the audience of Readersdigest.ca: Many of the features published in Reader’s Digest Canada and Sélection are examples of extended investigative reporting or long-form journalism, but, as the company later found, the online audience was more interested in shorter, more practical food, home, and lifestyle content. As well, the magazine articles, their headlines, and their descriptions made little to no impact on search engines because the text lacked keywords; this made it unlikely that the latent online audience would find the articles by way of search. To make matters more difficult for the provisional web team, Reader’s Digest did not have the digital rights for some of its previously published content.

After the dot-com bust, online businesses adopted more realistic expectations about what they could achieve. As a provisional solution, the Reader’s Digest Canada websites were made into online stores for the company’s books, music and video products, and magazine subscriptions. Meanwhile, the new-business-development team introduced the famous Reader’s Digest sweepstakes program to the magazine websites. This important addition—which cost relatively little to establish—helped the company to build a large database of customers’ email addresses and to draw visitors to the sites daily. The online sweepstakes made Readersdigest.ca one of the top three Canadian magazine websites online, just behind Canadianliving.com. The “sweeps” program was the bread and butter of the company’s online business; in 2003, it made up 70 percent of Reader’s Digest Canada’s online traffic and an even larger percentage in the earlier years.

However, advertisers were interested in putting their products in front of readers who were engaged with content, and therefore could be influenced about their purchasing decisions. The quality of the magazine’s readership is something Reader’s Digest Canada wanted to offer to its online advertisers, too. Fittingly, the publisher has always boasted the quality of its readers. According to vice-president of digital media and strategic partnerships, Yann Paquet, the readers of Reader’s Digest Canada spend 90 minutes a month with the magazine, on average, and themagazine’s readers highly trust the brand (interview, August 11, 2010). Accordingly, Reader’s Digest moved towards producing websites for content, not contests. The company needed to develop online audiences large enough to be worthwhile for advertisers, but specific enough that demographically, they matched advertisers’ targets.

It was time to set new goals for the Canadian Reader’s Digest web properties: The first was to generate revenue with the company’s existing assets—its brands, customers, prospects, and most importantly, content. In 2008, the company hired a dedicated web editor, Jennifer Reynolds, as part of its initiative to makeover the website. Reynolds focused on developing an identity for the websites that was separate from the magazines. As such, the House and Home, Food, and Health “affinities”[18] were launched. Furthermore, content was written and edited to be more “web-friendly”[19] without straying from the Reader’s Digest brand: Articles were generally shorter and geared towards providing practical, everyday lifestyle advice. As well, user-generated content (UGC) features, such as photo galleries, were introduced. In short, Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca were transformed into “content-rich sites” with community interaction (Goyette, interview, July 16, 2010). The change was in-line with the Reader’s Digest brand and produced a more targeted and desirable audience for advertisers. At the same time, the Reader’s Digest Association started an international initiative to digitize its content and build an e-library accessible to its offices around the world, which gave the web editor more content to offer to the readers of Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca.

The second goal for Reader’s Digest Canada’s digital business was to expand traffic beyond sweeps visitors, and increase the loyal and trusting audience they had begun to establish. To fast-track the growth of its online audience, Reader’s Digest launched e-newsletters, which are major traffic drivers and a service to their readers. The company also developed cross-promotional partnerships with websites such as Divine.ca and Yahoo! Canada, sometimes running co-branded contests, or cross-promoting content.

The next step in audience development was to establish relationships with national, general interest web portals to give Reader’s Digest content more exposure. Reader’s Digest considered three different partnership models they could pursue with portals: 1) content for traffic, 2) content for dollars, or 3) content for technology. The first model is what Reader’s Digest ultimately found success with (This is covered in extensive detail in the following chapters). The second, in which the publisher licenses its content, was ruled out because although it would be beneficial to the company’s cash flow, the advantages would be limited in respect to traffic/audience development and advertising. The third model was used for Ourcanada.ca.

The launch of Our Canada magazine in 2004 is considered one of the most successful introductions of a magazine in Canadian history. The bi-monthly publication is made entirely out of submissions from readers about their experiences of Canada. The magazine’s editors receive hundreds of written and photographic submissions each month, which are compiled, edited, and produced into a glossy, fully illustrated print publication. Within two years, Our Canada gathered 238,000 subscribers. The magazine was so popular Reader’s Digest launched More of Our Canada in 2008 so that subscribers could opt to receive 12 issues of Our Canada content a year.

When conceiving an online space for the Our Canada brand, Reader’s Digest knew it needed a website that would facilitate UGC, by allowing users to upload photos, connect in forums, and publish their own blogs. However, developing that technology alone would be costly and risky. Meanwhile, Canoe.ca was looking to expand in the English-language market and had created online tools for community building. The two parties established a mutually beneficial relationship where both could leverage the considerable Our Canada readership and the associated travel and lifestyle content. Beginning in 2009, Our Canada has been hosted on Canoe.ca and uses the portal’s social-networking platform.

In the next five years, Reader’s Digest Canada hopes to grow its digital businesses in terms of advertising dollars, product sales, and revenue generated through renting its e-database of customer names and information[20] (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010c). While expanding into mobile downloads and multimedia—an area of growing importance—Reader’s Digest is also focused on enhancing reader engagement. The managers and web editors are cultivating return users by building “community-focused websites,” which integrate social media and other avenues for readers to shape content and generate dialogue. As Kat Tancock told Masthead Online, “Reader’s Digest has always been a community-focused company. [It was a] natural extension to get into social media and let readers contribute to how they see the brand” (Masthead Online, 2010).

· · ·

In the years since Canadian magazines first went online, Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada has had successes and disappointments in experimenting with business and editorial models for digital publishing. Taking the lessons learned from the early days of the web, Reader’s Digest has a wealth of knowledge and resources to draw upon in this time of flux in the publishing industry.

Of course, the business of online magazines is never static, just as users’ behaviours, demands, and desires are inherently dynamic. For instance, in the 1990s, web portals were formidable features in the online landscape but today their status has diminished due to the success of Google and Facebook. Nonetheless, changing realities also mean new opportunities.

Since digital publishing took hold in Canada, Reader’s Digest’s roster of magazine brands has grown new audiences in new environments. Best Health—the magazine, website, and brand—is a successful confluence of the company’s traditional expertise in brand extension, content production, audience development and engagement, and its new online-business strategies.

 

Chapter Two

Case Study: Best Health, Plaisirs Santé, and Sympatico.ca

In March 2008, Reader’s Digest Canada launched Best Health. The mission of the Best Health brand is to be the “Canadian authority on enhancing the health of women’s minds, bodies and spirits” by providing information about how to “Look Great,” “Eat Well,” “Embrace Life,” and “Get Healthy.” Under these four editorial “pillars,” the brand aims to cater to the interests and aspirations of its audience, and respect their challenges and realities by providing eye-catching design and trusted, practical healthy lifestyle information (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2009b). Best Health’s target demographic is women 35 to 55 years old, and skews slightly younger online. To Reader’s Digest, Best Health represents new territory and its success extended the publisher’s audience reach in the Canadian market. (The subsequent launch of Plaisirs Santé increased that reach into French-language market for women’s health content.)

In the past year, the magazine has been a major Canadian industry mover and shaker. According to Masthead’s report on “The Top 50” magazines in 2009,[21] Best Health posted a positive 102-percent change in revenue from 2008-2009, leaping from 53rd place in the previous year to number 37 (Masthead, 2010). Its current paid circulation is 100,000. Its success has revealed there is still demand in the competitive genre of women’s magazines. Lynn Chambers, group publisher of Canadian Living and Homemakers, observed, “From an advertiser’s point-of-view, magazines are still highly relevant with this target group…What I’d love to see is a continued strengthening of the magazine category as a great way to reach women” (Masthead Online, 2008).

Best Health magazine is published seven times a year but encourages its readership to be apart of its online activities 365 days a year. Best Health uses a “multi-channel branded approach [to reach its audience], including…media, events, seminars and products” and “keep[s] community building at the centre of everything [it does]” (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2009b). Readers’ contributions in tips and personal stories are regular features in the magazine. As Boullard notes, reader involvement breeds loyalty because participants are more likely to feel they played a role in developing the magazine (2008, p. 8). The brand’s focus on connecting and supporting women has resulted in a coveted readership: They are deeply engaged, trusting, and devoted. To advertisers across a broad spectrum, this audience is highly valuable.

 

Besthealthmag.ca

Besthealthmag.ca was launched in tandem with the print magazine in March 2008. The website was designed as a “women’s healthy lifestyle [online] community” (Reader’s Digest Canada Magazines Limited, 2010c). Editorial on Besthealthmag.ca is organized into the same four editorial pillars as the magazine. The content takes shape in the form of slideshows, articles (most are original articles but some are from the magazine or repurposed from Reader’s Digest books), recipes, and quizzes. The website is updated several times a day with at least two new stories and one blog post a day. Besthealthmag.ca also features a multi-author blog, commenting and rating capabilities, forums, and interactive online tools. The website is complemented by accounts on Facebook and Twitter, which allow the web editors and readers to personally engage with one another. Readers are a part of creating and shaping the content on Besthealthmag.ca by commenting and rating stories, contributing to forums, or writing their own blogs. Readers can also preview and/or subscribe to the magazine online, and purchase Best Health branded products through the Reader’s Digest Canada online store.

The Best Health web team started small with one dedicated web editor, Kat Tancock. In less than a year, Tancock increased the number of unique visitors by more than 600 percent: There were 15,000 unique visitors in June 2008 and 100,000 in May 2009[22] (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010d). Reynolds attributes the dramatic growth to Tancock’s launch of several popular e-newsletters that provided multiple “clickable” links back to the site, and optimizing content for search (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010d). Any content that was previously published in the magazine was edited for the web by strategically incorporating keywords into headlines and subheads. By making it easier to find Best Health articles through Google, search traffic increased. The detailed data from Google Analytics allowed Tancock to determine which headlines, keywords, and tags produced the most clicks and highest open rates.

By the summer of 2009, Reader’s Digest Canada had a desirable web property in its hands and an editor with an intimate knowledge of Best Health’s online community. As well, as web editor, Tancock was very successful in building a community of readers, who were enthusiastic about interacting online (Paquet, interview, August 11, 2010). In order to increase the value of the Best Health website and brand to its advertisers, and increase company’s list of customers and prospects, the Reader’s Digest’s digital media executives knew they needed new users and readers. Moreover, substantial online audiences could be found on web portals. Initially, Reader’s Digest sought a partnership between a high-traffic portal and Readersdigest.ca and/or Selection.ca, but a ripe opportunity arose for Besthealthmag.ca with Sympatico.ca.

 

Sympatico.ca

Sympatico.ca is a web portal owned by Bell Canada. Within the Sympatico.ca network, there are 23 websites, otherwise known was “online properties.” According to its advertising information, the Sympatico.ca network captures 85 percent of the Canadian online audience, with more than 17 million unique visitors each month[23] (Sympatico.ca Advertising website, 2010).

When Sympatico.ca and MSN.ca parted ways, many members of the joint portal’s sales staff—and thus its national advertising accounts—remained with Sympatico.ca. Bell also retained advertisers with its strong hold on mobile marketing (Bell claims Sympatico.ca has the largest mobile advertising network in the country), which it could leverage in combination with its television and Internet platforms (Bell Canada Enterprises, 2009). Sympatico.ca also continued to offer display-advertising inventory on Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Messenger (its instant message software) to its advertisers (Bell Canada Enterprises, 2009).

In 1995, when the portal first launched, Sympatico.ca established a commitment to offering Canadian content in both official languages. The portal has separate editorial teams for English and French content, instead of just translating content to minimize costs. Sympatico.ca aims to produce content for Canadian users that authentically “reflects their voice and culture” (Sympatico.ca Advertising website, 2010).

As part of offering quality content to attract readers, the portal’s editors and managers developed the popular channels Celebedge.ca (celebrity news and gossip), Fashionism.ca (fashion and red-carpet looks; the portal’s most popular channel), InMusic.ca (music news and videos), Sync.ca (technology), and Push.ca (skateboard and snowboarding). According to comScore, approximately 6.8 million Canadians visited Sympatico.ca’s portals channels in 2009 (Bell Canada Enterprises, 2009). These channels are easier to market to users than the portal as whole because they are conceptually concrete as products. Style-savvy readers may have a relationship with Fashionism.ca but little recognition of or loyalty towards the Sympatico.ca brand, for example. And while the overall portal’s audience numbers are substantial, advertisers are more interested targeting the niche audiences who visit branded channels within the portal. The branded channels were a part of the former joint portal but they stayed on Sympatico.ca after the split.

On its own, Sympatico.ca gained greater editorial flexibility, which its editors and managers used to develop additional branded channels. Most of the content for these channels would be sourced from what Kevin Crull, president of residential services at Bell, called “top content providers” (Avery, 2009). In August 2009, Sympatico.ca announced four new channels: InMovies.ca, Autos, YourMoney.ca, and its new health and fitness channel, Best Health.

 

The Partnership

Behind the scenes of the MSN-Sympatico.ca split, Sympatico.ca and Reader’s Digest Canada were establishing the details of a partnership, and the timing was right for such a deal. As previously noted, both Reader’s Digest and Bell were seeking out opportunities to develop new business: Reader’s Digest needed more exposure for its up-and-coming brand in the marketplace and Sympatico.ca’s management was seeking high-quality content. Both parties saw a demand in the marketplace for health and fitness content, particularly in the sought-after demographic of women 35 to 55. Additionally, diet and fitness was an editorial niche that MSN (with content from Transcontinental) fulfilled in the former joint portal and Sympatico.ca needed to replace it after the split. So, the companies began to look into the possibility of a partnership to make Best Health the portal’s Health and Fitness channel. First, Bell and Reader’s Digest Canada investigated the potential benefits of working together.

As one of the three largest magazine publishers in the country, Reader’s Digest offers expertise in organizing content, building community, managing editorial, and developing brands (Paquet, interview, August 11, 2010). Best Health would be an asset to Sympatico.ca because of its wealth of quality health and lifestyle content. And since Best Health’s dedicated and specialized web editorial staff would produce this content, the need for Sympatico.ca to hire its own health-and-fitness editors would be eliminated. Also, Besthealthmag.ca offered an attractive amount of reader engagement and commenting on articles; by making Besthealthmag.ca its health and wellness channel, the portal could carve out a niche in its broad audience.

Perhaps one of the most important draws for Sympatico.ca was the cachet of a Reader’s Digest-developed brand, which had already been quickly established over its first year (Tancock, email interview, July 7, 2010). The general principle behind branding is that “a recognizable brand will more easily attract and retain customers than an unrecognizable one” (Bellamy and Traudt in Blevins, 2004, p. 250). Although a prominent brand name does not guarantee success, it can help lower barriers to entry (Blevins, p. 250). Moreover, a magazine brand imbues an inherent level of trustworthiness in the content, as illustrated by the OPA and Dynamic Logic studies discussed earlier.

On the other hand, partnering with Sympatico.ca would assist Reader’s Digest in its efforts to create what Tony Cioffi, President and CEO of Reader’s Digest, calls “multi-platform communities based on branded content” (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada, 2009a). While Best Health’s website had already established the brand and its community on an online platform, the potential partnership would be a way to expand its presence; a partnership with Sympatico.ca would provide daily opportunities for Best Health’s editors to engage with a new audience (Reynolds, interview, August 9, 2010).

The most important advantage for Reader’s Digest in the potential partnership was an increase in traffic. While the number of visits to Besthealthmag.ca was respectable for a magazine website in its first year, and the site’s traffic from search and organic traffic (either through word of mouth or driven from callouts in the magazine) was significant, having Best Health content featured on a portal would multiply that traffic exponentially. A partnership with Sympatico.ca would offer Best Health a dedicated channel, meaning users seeking health and fitness content on the portal would be directed only to Besthealthmag.ca. This arrangement would virtually guarantee more readers for Best Health’s articles. Ultimately, a larger audience would present new sponsorship opportunities, more revenue, and eventually, it could justify hiring more members for the website’s editorial staff.

To definitively determine if there would be an increase in traffic for both parties, the companies consulted an Internet audience measurement agency to determine the size of the audience if a partnership were established. By combining the number of people who visit “Site A” (e.g. Besthealthmag.ca) and “Site B” (e.g. Sympatico.ca), and subtracting how many visit both, the size of the combined audience can be projected.[24] At comScore, the combined audience is called the “audience duplication number.” If the audience of either site is comparable to the audience duplication number—or, in other words, there is a large overlap between the audiences—then a partnership would be effectively futile. Conversely, if a strong overlap is not evident, then there is opportunity for growth through forming a partnership. The calculations showed that both websites would gain traffic.

The benefits of a partnership were clear to both parties. As identified by Zahra Young, the director of marketing, e-commerce, partnerships, new magazines & series, Reader’s Digest four main goals/opportunities in establishing the partnership were to:

    • Generate advertising sales revenue [via increasing site traffic]
    • Increase brand awareness
    • Generate subscriptions and product sales
    • Generate new prospective customers [via email gathering]

(Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010b)

Now came time to establish the details. Targets for traffic were set. Sympatico.ca would be responsible for directing traffic to Besthealthmag.ca and highlighting Best Health content on its home page. Best Health gained a tab on the portal’s navigation (see figure 1). When hovered over, the button revealed the four Best Health editorial categories and the “Health News” newswire. All of these links took the user to the corresponding section on Besthealthmag.ca. Best Health was also given a “brick” below the fold on the home page, to highlight articles chosen by Besthealthmag.ca’s editors (see figure 2). Sympatico.ca would also direct traffic to Best Health articles by featuring them on the home-page viewer, which is the dominating feature on the home page. In return, Best Health would draw traffic to Sympatico.ca by linking to the portal’s home page and helping to cultivate a regular readership by offering clickable and inviting content.


Figure 1. Sympatico.ca Home Page, Best Health dropdown menu. Each of the portal’s channels has a dropdown menu onthe home page. NB: The Sympatico.ca homepage was redesigned in November 2010. In the new design, the Best Health “brick” is located just below the fold.

 


Figure 2. The Sympatico.ca Home Page prior to November 2010.

 

A unique aspect of the partnership is its revenue-sharing model: In this agreement, the companies’ sales teams work collaboratively to sell their shared online display-advertising inventory. Both parties are motivated to support traffic to Besthealthmag.ca and Sympatico.ca because if Besthealthmag.ca’s traffic sags, so do Sympatico.ca’s revenues, and vice versa. Under the partnership, two groups sell ads for the health and fitness channel: the Reader’s Digest media sales team, which sells integrated, cross-platform (print and online) advertising, and the Sympatico.ca sales team, which sells online advertising only. The Reader’s Digest media sales team lends Sympatico.ca’s team know-how in building, pitching and selling multimedia brands.

A final synergy established through the deal was the possibility of running co-branded contests. Best Health’s digital marketing department could produce the contest creative (i.e. display ads, entry pages, etc.), and source the prizes. The contests could be promoted on the websites’ home pages, contest hubs, newsletters, banners, and in Best Health, increasing the exposure of both brands (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010b). More importantly, however, contests are simple ways for Sympatico.ca and Best Health to gather names, emails and other customer data. For Best Health, a contest is an opportunity to acquire a new subscriber: special subscription offers on contest entry forms (see figure 3) can create new customers. The online entry forms also offer Best Health an easy way to build the readership of its free e- newsletters: Entrants need only to check off a box on the form.


Figure 3. Sympatico.ca audience subscription offer.

 

Best Health began working with Sympatico.ca at the beginning of August 2009,[25] as it progressively integrated its content on to Sympatico.ca’s existing health and wellness channel. The official launch on September 1, 2009, was supported by a public-relations campaign to raise awareness of the partnership in the public, as well as the industry. In the first three weeks of integration, the website drew over 1.5 million visits—approximately ten times the number of users before the partnership[26] (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010; Bailey and Tcholakian, 2009). This increase in traffic meant new visitors, and countless additional opportunities to build lasting relationships with readers.

The partnership was the first of its kind in Canada (Paquet, interview, August 11, 2010). The making of a magazine brand into the channel of a high-traffic web portal was unprecedented. The partnership was effectively a merging of Besthealthmag.ca into Sympatico.ca. To any outsider, Besthealthmag.ca is just another of Sympatico.ca’s branded channels, except it offers other branded products, such as the magazine. Says Jennifer Goldberg, web editor of Besthealthmag.ca, some of the comments left on the website indicate that some users believe that the content is produced and published by Sympatico.ca (interview, July 21, 2010). Like Fashionism (fashionism.ca), Best Health has its own domain, but its relationship as a property under the Sympatico.ca umbrella is patent. Now a part of a web portal, Best Health was transforming itself into a media brand, and not just a print magazine. Furthermore, this partnership demonstrated how it was possible for a Canadian magazine brand to build a readership large enough to attract major national advertisers.

 

Impact on Traffic

To say that the traffic to Besthealthmag.ca increased in August 2009 is a gross understatement. Reader’s Digest’s Google Analytics data for Besthealthmag.ca illustrates the enormous impact of the partnership:


Source: Best Health/Sympatico.ca Partnership Update, prepared by Zahra Young (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010a)

 

It is understood at Reader’s Digest that the scale of the audience’s growth simply would not be possible without a partnership like this (Tancock, email interview, July 7, 2010). Though dramatic, the increase in users matched Reader’s Digest and Sympatico.ca’s expectations for Besthealthmag.ca, which were based on traffic to the portal’s previous health and fitness section. ComScore measured 465,000 unique visitors to the site in July 2010, and 976,000 total visits or “entries.” Three hundred and seventy-one (371,000) unique visitors (80 percent) and 676,000 visits (69 percent) were directed from a Sympatico.ca property (see “Traffic Sources and Losses,” p. 55). As well, the website gained tens of thousands of Best Health newsletter subscribers (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010a).

Notably, the partnership also increased the website’s male readership. Aside from the occasional “Male Call” article or a small tidbit in Best Health’s front-of-book section, “New and Now,” content in the magazine is primarily directed at women. A similar editorial makeup was initially adopted for the website; however, a higher proportion of Sympatico.ca’s readership is male. To better serve the portal’s readership, Besthealthmag.ca included a “Men’s Health” category in its “Get Healthy” section online and tailored more of its content to be gender neutral. Currently, over a third (37.3 percent) of the website’s readership is male (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010).

Since Besthealthmag.ca directs traffic back to the Sympatico.ca websites, there have been gains for Sympatico.ca, as well, in terms of traffic: In July 2010, 214,000 unique visitors (46 percent) clicked to another site in the Sympatico.ca network after visiting the Best Health channel (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). The partnership also boosted Sympatico.ca’s Health and Fitness channel into the number seven spot in the “Health” category, as defined by comScore. Aside from About.com’s Health channel and Health.com, the Sympatico.ca Health and Fitness channel performs better in Canada than any other portal or media site in the same category,[27] including MSN Health (Rank 26), CNN Health (Rank 25), and Canoe Health (Rank 8) (comScore, Inc. Canada).

As a result of the partnership, the sales teams for Reader’s Digest and Sympatico.ca can offer their advertisers improved ways to reach more consumers. For example, an advertiser may sponsor a section on Best Health’s site and purchase ad space anywhere on the Sympatico.ca network (also known as “run-of-site advertising”) at a discounted rate. Obviously, the partnership produced another important incentive for advertisers: the website’s increased readership. The larger audience was an important selling point for companies such as Becel, Shredded Wheat, and Splenda, who have sponsored entire categories of content (Heart Health, Simple Living, and Diabetes, respectively). Most notably, VICHY, the international skincare brand, partnered with Best Health to launch its own dedicated micro-site, the VICHY Best Health Challenge, “an invitation to women across Canada to dare themselves to Look Great, Get Healthy, Eat Well and Embrace Life” (Best Health 2010b). An initiative of this size simply could not be launched or sustained by Best Health without the sponsorship of VICHY—which would not be possible without the partnership with Sympatico.ca.

 

Impact on Brand Awareness and Product Sales

Like being on the newsstand, being on a web portal works as a powerful marketing and promotion tool for a magazine and its brand. Sometimes, it makes the first impression, setting the tone for the reader’s future interactions with the brand. Partly because there is no simple way gauge this change, there are no available data to indicate that Best Health magazine or brand are more well-known since partnering with Sympatico.ca.[28] However, it is safe to venture that by simply being on Sympatico.ca’s home page, the network’s most popular property, more Canadians are aware that Best Health exists since its visibility has increased.

Reaching Sympatico.ca’s audience means more people interact with Best Health and may develop a positive perception of the brand. Accordingly, this strategic partnership offers Reader’s Digest an opportunity to substantially grow the online brand community. In the framework for analyzing online brand communities put forward by Madupu and Cooley (2010), online brand communities exist because their members seek “information, self-discovery, social integration, social enhancement, and entertainment” (p.127). When those needs are served and members feel integrated into the community, they recommend the brand to outsiders out of a felt responsibility to contribute to the success and longevity of the brand (Madupu and Cooley, p.141). The more active participants (those that create content or offer their opinions) there are in such a community, the larger the force is to convert first-time visitors into return visitors. The formidable online community Best Health brought into its partnership with Sympatico.ca worked powerfully to its advantage: Readers who were introduced to Besthealthmag.ca through Sympatico.ca were “welcomed” by the existing brand community and the community “wardens” (in this case, the publisher and the web editorial team).

Perhaps due to the strength of the online brand community, the percentage of traffic to Besthealthmag.ca from Sympatico.ca’s position is diminishing since the partnership began (Google Analytics report, September-November 2010). Besthealthmag.ca is becoming a regular destination for more users, who are bookmaking the website and landing there directly, rather than arriving via Sympatico.ca properties. This development illustrates growing audience loyalty and brand recognition for Best Health.

Does this brand awareness and community engagement translate to magazine sales? Traditionally, one of the primary goals for a magazine website was to sell subscriptions (Sumner and Rhoades, 2006, p. 79). However, anecdotal evidence does not suggest that a larger online readership translates into increased subscriptions or newsstand sales[29] (Goldberg, interview, July 21, 2010; McAuley, interview, July 28, 2010). Even if one were to assume that the entire readership of Best Health magazine is part of the website’s audience, the overlap between the print and online audienceswould be small compared to the actual number of monthly unique visitors. Furthermore, if most of the traffic is from a Sympatico.ca property, rather than direct traffic, then it is highly probable that most readers do not interact with Best Health in magazine form. It is especially telling that the number of visitors on articles, slideshows, and blog content dwarfs the traffic to pages about the magazine, such as the table of contents, the magazine preview, or pages where readers can buy a subscription (Google Analytics report, 2010).

Even still, the web designers and editors endeavour to support the magazine and make it visible to its online readers. Above the fold on the Besthealthmag.ca home page, there are multiple calls to action to subscribe and a tab in the main navigation for content related to the current issue of the magazine (see figure 4). Additionally, a subscription form appears at the bottom of the right-hand column of every page; the digital marketing team sometimes sweetens the deal with a chance to win a $50,000 car, for example, if you subscribe (Best Health, 2010a). Magazine subscriptions are also promoted in the weekly and daily e-newsletters, and the editorial team reminds readers to subscribe by appending articles originally published in the magazine with the note:

This article was originally titled “[Name of the article in the magazine]” in the [September 2010] issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience—andnever miss an issue!—and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health (Best Health, 2010a; emphasis in original).

Continuing to support the magazine online is important to the Reader’s Digest media sales team, as they sell cross-platform advertising; to effectively sell the Best Health audience, the strength of the print readership needs to be maintained—for as long as people are interested in print magazines.

A brand can adapt to different media as readers’ attitudes and preferences shift. A brand can have a life beyond the print magazine, as is the case with Gourmet magazine. A significant goal for the company’s digital and social media strategies was to raise awareness of the Best Health brand among Canadians. Building platform-agnostic relationships between community members and the brand is the first step in creating additional revenue streams—including digital services, such as mobile apps and SMS subscriptions; in-person events, and books—out of a magazine brand.

Figure 4
Figure 4 A screenshot of Besthealthmag.ca, with calls to subscribe highlighted. NB: the middle area of the page wasomitted.

 

The Launch of Plaisirs Santé

Even before the launch of the partnership with Sympatico.ca, Reader’s Digest began to investigate the viability of launching a French-language version of the brand. When preparing for the launch of Best Health, the company published Special Interest Publications (“SIPs” or “newsstand specials”) called No Fail Weight Loss under the Best Health brand. These digest-sized magazines, which are sold on newsstands, include recipes, workout programs, and weight-loss and nutrition advice. SIPs are a cost-effective way to try out content, design and branding in the market.[30] Accordingly, Reader’s Digest published a French edition of No Fail Weight Loss (Maigrir Sans Faute) under the Plaisirs Santé (meaning “Best Health” or “Healthy Pleasures”) brand, to test the appeal of women’s health and fitness content in the French Canadian market. The publisher also tested the content in the lifestyle section of Sélection du Reader’s Digest and created a channel for the brand on Selection.ca.[31]

The market research showed there was a positive response from advertisers and readers, but the projected profit and losses showed the publisher that the timing was not right to launch a print magazine. However, Reader’s Digest could build a large and desirable readership online—through a partnership with Sympatico.ca, which it secured for the launch of the website.

Plaisirssante.ca debuted on Sympatico.ca in January 2010. Within its first month online, Plaisirssante.ca drew 300,000 visitors and 1.5 million page views (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010d). Additional traffic is driven to the website through promotion on the main navigation and in the health section of Selection.ca, and in print in Sélection.

Directed at readers in Quebec, content on Plaisirssante.ca is more localized and “less conservative,” says its web editor, Stéphanie Letourneau (email interview, August 16, 2010). Its target demographic skews slightly younger as well (women 25-50). While the English audience generally looks for more “newsy” stories, the French editors find that their readers click more on content related to sex and weight-loss (Letourneau). But overall, like Besthealthmag.ca, Plaisirssante.ca’s focus is to deliver “healthy lifestyle information that’s inspiring, attainable, and fun” (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2009b). The French website is also organized into four parallel editorial pillars: “Mon Look,” “Ma Santé,” “Mon Assiette,” and “Ma Vie.”[32]

For Reader’s Digest Canada, Plaisirs Santé was a landmark initiative: the launch of a brand that started online, rather than in print. Not only does the success of Plaisirs Santé mark significant progress in the company’s overall efforts to move into digital publishing, but in the short term, it also means move revenues, and fuller exploitation of the market interested in health and fitness content. The stake in the French market presents improved opportunities for the Sympatico.ca and Reader’s Digest media sales teams. With Plaisirs Santé as part of the Sympatico.ca family, Sympatico.ca and Reader’s Digest may offer national advertisers tremendous flexibility and reach with this bilingual, cross-platform brand.

 

Web Editorial for Portals

Best Health’s web editors are responsible for producing content that works for advertisers, the Sympatico.ca home-page editors, and both websites’ readers. The content on Besthealthmag.ca evolves according to the changing needs of these stakeholders. This section discusses the editorial practices and strategies unique to Besthealthmag.ca, which have developed out of its partnership with a national general interest portal.

 

Editorial Staff

The Besthealthmag.ca editorial team has changed substantially as the website has grown. Besthealthmag.ca is primarily managed by web editor Jennifer Goldberg and assistant web editor Alicia McAuley.[33] Goldberg and McAuley plan and assign content, oversee production, and manage and contribute to the Best Health blog. The editors also respond to comments from readers and are responsible for posting on Facebook and Twitter. Aside from a handful of freelancers and the senior web editor (Tancock, who manages editorial on all the Reader’s Digest Canada magazine websites), the two editors compose the entire web team for the audience of over half a million users.

On a Canadian scale, the Best Health web editorial team is quite big. Many magazines rely on just one dedicated editor (or, in many cases, volunteers). In comparison, Self.com, the website for a comparable U.S. publication—with a print circulation of over one million (Condé Nast, 2010), employs a web team of four members.

According to web editor, Jennifer Goldberg, the Besthealthmag.ca editorial team is an agile operation, whose small size works to its advantage. Although there are limitations to having just three editors —such as how much they can produce and cover—Best Health’s web team discusses ideas easily and efficiently. This ease of communication makes it simple to make changes as requested by the portal site. Without the managerial bureaucracy that exists with publishers that license content from many of their magazine brands, “a small team of flexible and creative editors probably works better as a partner for a portal than a larger team that may work more slowly,” says Goldberg (email interview, October 26, 2010). For example, without a lot of lead-time, Sympatico.ca can coordinate special projects with the Best Health web editorial team, as they are more adaptable and work closely with one another.

 

Shaping Content

While working with Sympatico.ca brings Best Health content to a larger audience, there are also increased demands on the online editorial and production staff. The partnership requires coordination and extensive planning on the part of the Best Health web editors to plan upcoming content with the home-page editors for Sympatico.ca.

New editorial strategies emerge when needing to consider two audiences and the expectations and predilections of an additional editorial team. Sympatico.ca’s home-page editors select their content based on what they think will engage visitors and increase their time on the site; accordingly, content providers, such as Best Health, must design content strategically to get optimal placement on the portal’s home page.[34] The articles, blogs and slideshows Best Health’s web editors offer to their readers need to be interesting, valuable, and informative to a broad audience—it has to be the kind of content that will be the most “clickable.” This is what Halligan and Shan (2010) call “remarkable content”:

Remarkable content attracts links from other web sites pointing to your web site.…Every one of these links (remarks)…send[s] you qualified visitors, and they signal to Google that your website is worthy of ranking for important keywords in your market…. remarkable content is easily and quickly spread on social media sites.

Ultimately, the high-level goal for the web editorial team is to produce content that performs. In the past, search engine optimizing content was a vital editorial practice for Besthealthmag.ca. Today, search traffic makes up less than five percent of the site’s total traffic (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). Accordingly, Best Health’s editorial is meant to appeal to an audience that does not actively seek out health and fitness content but will be exposed to it on the portal site. One primary method to generate traffic from the portal audience is incorporating topics, titles, and descriptions that grab the attention of online readers. Not unlike any other website, analytics are a helpful resource in determining what sorts of subjects, keywords, and—speaking more generally—ideas are relevant and compelling. The web team has found that historically, articles related to the following topics are highly likely to gather an audience and be promoted in a strong position on the Sympatico.ca home page:

  • Weight loss (This topic performs particularly well on Mondays, after readers have had indulgent weekends)
  • Sleep (Articles on this topic especially grabs readers on Fridays, as they are likely to have lost sleep over the week)
  • Diabetes
  • Food (Articles on healthy eating, dieting and nutrition, as well as recipes, aregenerally successful)

The web editorial team has also found that articles with a “negative” spin perform well (Goldberg, interview, July 21, 2010; McAuley, interview, July 28, 2010). For example, “The worst Halloween treats you can eat”[35] and “Top 10 weight-loss mistakes”[36] are titles written with the understanding that readers are curious about how they could be harming their health (or their waistline). Words such as weird, strange, easy, tips, surprising, and unusual, and titles with numbers (e.g. “7 things that are secretly making you gain weight”[37] ) also work well to bring readers to Best Health’s website from Sympatico.ca (Goldberg; McAuley). Articles with numbered titles are often made into slideshows, which increase page views and time spent on site—and thus, the number of impressions for advertisements.

Reader engagement is also integral to the editorial strategy for Besthealthmag.ca, as community and dialogue are central to the brand. Readers are always invited to comment and join in the conversation, particularly on blog posts on “newsy” or controversial topics. Similarly, the web editors use Facebook and Twitter to draw the Best Health social media community to the site. For instance, in October 2010, the editors asked Best Health’s Facebook fans, “Have you had laser eye surgery? What was it like?” and linked to their story “Is laser eye surgery right for you?”[38] (Facebook, 2010[39]). The editors also use social networks to produce user-generated content. In another Facebook post, the Best Health editors wrote, “Happy Friday, everyone! Office party today for our soon-to-be-married associate web editor. What are your best tips for a happy, healthy marriage? (Let us know and we may feature them on our site!)” (Facebook[40] ) The responses from readers were used to produce the slideshow “The best advice for a healthy relationship.”[41] Essentially, Facebook and Twitter are two additional avenues to expose readers to the brand and content, and increase the dialogue around health issues for women.

The use of social media to promote Best Health content does not mean that Besthealthmag.ca is an insular community or a “walled garden.” Aufderheide (in Blevins, 2004) notes that only linking to one’s own content “structure[s] the user as a consumer of branded services”—and not trust-worthy reporting (p. 248). The practice of linking to sources and resources “is the key gesture to being a citizen of the web and not just a product on the web” (Sholin, 2009). In order to increase the credibility of the content and brand, Best Health links out to research studies, health stories by other media websites, and blog posts. This connects Best Health with the larger community of health and fitness websites, and increases the likelihood that other websites will link back to Besthealthmag.ca (and increase its ranking within Google). Making more quality content (regardless of the brand) available to the user has multiple benefits, including improving user experience. After all, the quality of the user and their satisfaction is much more valuable to the publisher and the advertiser:

By adding links out to stories…readers will find interesting, [websites are] extending their brands: Not only do they create content for their readers, they’re presenting themselves as the experts in those content areas, giving their subscribers even more value. And you can make a lot more money off a newsletter subscriber than off a click (Tancock, 2009b).

The best practices presented above are at the foundation of the success Besthealthmag.ca has found since partnering Sympatico.ca. Using these techniques, the editorial team manages to create articles that grab the attention of daily readers on a crowded portal page—and on Besthealthmag.ca, which itself is densely populated with a growing archive of useful and interesting content. Quality content is the foundation for building a quality readership and community—the elements of a website that produce an appealing environment for advertisers.

 

Brand

One of the challenges of being a part of a web portal is working with at least two brands (in this case, Best Health and Sympatico.ca), and dozens of advertising brands. When the editorial team plans lineups of content, it creates stories around the Best Health brand while remaining “very mindful of the Sympatico.ca audience” (Tancock, email interview, July 7, 2010).

The Best Health brand has four editorial pillars but content under “Look Great” and “Embrace Life” does not necessarily fit Sympatico.ca’s editorial mandate for its health and fitness channel. Moreover, Sympatico.ca already publishes fashion and beauty content under the Fashionism channel, and has a separate lifestyle channel. Since Sympatico.ca features only Best Health’s health and fitness articles on its home page, “Get Healthy” and “Eat Well” stories generate the most page views for Besthealthmag.ca.

Nonetheless, beauty and lifestyle content are integral parts of the Best Health brand, and for some readers who come directly to Besthealthmag.ca, it may be the content they are looking for. To maintain the brand’s editorial voice, the editorial team tries to produce an equal number of articles for each pillar, even though “Look Great” and “Embrace Life” life articles are usually not pitched to Sympatico.ca.

Additionally, the editors need to consider the communities associated with each brand. For Sympatico.ca, they aim to produce items that are not specifically aimed at women because the portal has a broader audience than Best Health. While this is a departure from the Best Health brand, it is beneficial for Besthealthmag.ca’s traffic: Tancock has found that stories that appeal to men and women—such as articles related to fitness, weight loss and healthy eating—produce more clicks (Tancock, email interview, July 7, 2010). At the same time, the web editorial team still publishes more gender-specific, serious issue-oriented, or news-related stories (which have a narrower appeal) on Besthealthmag.ca as a way of keeping Best Health content informative, authoritative and insightful—in other words, true to the brand.

 

Current Activities

A highly trafficked website with the right audience can draw coveted advertisers, who demand unique and prominent ways to showcase their products. This was true for Besthealthmag.ca. However, the original website (launched in March 2008) was not designed with the partnership with Sympatico.ca in mind. In the summer of 2010, Besthealthmag.ca and Plaisirssante.ca were given makeovers (Masthead Online, 2010). The redesign lends the websites a different colour scheme and allows for many more points of entry into Best Health’s (and the Reader’s Digest Association’s) vast bank of health content. Overall, the site was made more functional, usable, and “sticky.”

The redesign also shows that Best Health is part of the Sympatico.ca media family more overtly by visually integrating the two brands. Since links to health and fitness content on the Sympatico.ca portal take the reader directly to Besthealthmag.ca, arriving at the old website was sometimes jarring for the first-time user. In the redesign, the Sympatico.ca logo is prominently featured in the upper right-hand corner of the website to signal the connection between the two properties. On most pages, Besthealthmag.ca also features links to lifestyle content from Sympatico.ca, increasing brand awareness for the portal amongst visitors.

Additionally, the new design allows Best Health’s advertisers to do more with the larger audience: “One of the challenges with the old site was it didn’t always allow for the flexibility with advertisers,” Tancock told Masthead Online (Masthead Online, 2010).

The first custom-built program for the new site was the previously mentioned VICHY Best Health Challenge, where participants “pick a [health or fitness] goal and reach it, with help and support from the Best Health community of women” (Best Health, 2010b). The VICHY Best Health Challenge is a multi-platform content and advertising program sponsored by the international skincare company. Each issue of the print magazine includes Challenge-based content. Online, registered participants (called “Challengers”) can set goals, take part in daily challenges, discuss and ask questions in the forums, and write about their experiences on their blogs. The micro-site has its own branding and exclusive content from beauty, fitness, and nutrition experts, and a life coach. The Challenge is also supported by a weekly newsletter, which features new content and forum discussions, and promotes online-community engagement. Best Health’s Editor-in-Chief Bonnie Munday notes, “The Challenge enabled us to create a unique setting for women to empower and inspire one another…Plus, the response to our call for participation in the program was tremendous” (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010a).

Since the program is targeted at a specific audience that may or may not have been readers of Besthealthmag.ca or of Sympatico.ca, the Challenge has the potential to introduce a new audience to the web portal; community members who visit the Challenge website directly (perhaps having been prompted by the magazine), also see Sympatico.ca’s branding and links to its content. With the Best Health Challenge, the partnership is further evolving into a symbiosis where both media brands support each other in brand awareness and traffic driving, and ultimately, shared advertising revenue.

 

Chapter Three

Case Study: Readersdigest.ca, Selection.ca, and MSN.ca

The success of the Best Health and Sympatico.ca partnership proved that Reader’s Digest Canada could leverage its content and brands online to produce advertiser-friendly environments. With this in mind, Reader’s Digest Canada sought out another formidable online partner for its flagship magazine websites, Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca, with the hope of replicating the audience growth that came out of the first partnership. MSN.ca had an audience large enough to appeal to Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca’s potential and existing advertisers; and Reader’s Digest Canada had content, experience and a trusted brand to offer the portal. A partnership was finalized late in the summer of 2010. After months of planning and negotiation, in October 2010, content from Selection.ca was published on MSN.ca.”[42]

 

Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca

Readersdigest.ca has five content “affinities”: Health, Food, Home and Garden, Pets (which premiered in October 2009), and Travel (which was added in April 2010). The website is updated with two to three new articles daily, and offers readers practical home and lifestyle content that they can use to improve their everyday lives. Readersdigest.ca also offers special content features such as a Halloween Guide for October and an Outdoor Entertaining section in the summer months. Overall, the website mirrors the “RD Living” section of the magazine: It is a collection of consumer-oriented articles and tips, written in a casual and friendly voice. The content is comparable to that found in the magazines Canadian Living, Homemakers, and U.S. brands such as Martha Stewart Living, Good Housekeeping, and Real Simple. The Readersdigest.ca readership—of approximately 378,000 unique visitors a month—is 66 percent female (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). The average reader is over 35 years old, and has a yearly household income of $40,000-$60,000 (comScore, Inc. Canada).[43]

The English-language audience in Canada far outnumbers its French counterpart[44] ; as a result, the digital strategy at Reader’s Digest Canada is very much oriented towards the English market. Readersdigest.ca has two full-time editors, while Selection.ca has just one part-time web editor and one of the magazine’s print editors is responsible for a considerable portion of the website’s upkeep. Still, the French Canadian readership is an integral part of the publisher’s history, and Quebec is a market where a magazine can develop an exceptionally loyal readership partly because there are fewer competitors from the United States. For that reason, Selection.ca has found an audience with more ease and less marketing.

Selection.ca is geared towards younger readers (the lower age bracket of its target audience is 18-25 years old). There is a larger focus on consumer tips and product-oriented content on Selection.ca, instead of the instructional “how-to” articles that appear on the English site (Barillaro, interview, July 8, 2010). The four Selection.ca affinities are Bien Manger, Maison, Santé, and Animaux.[45] And like Plaisirssante.ca, Selection.ca produces more local content to appeal to readers inQuebec, who make up most of the French-language audience in Canada (approximately 90 percent) (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010).

For Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca, one of the publisher’s primary goals is to build community engagement. Both websites have a substantial number of return users, and the websites have cultivated a nascent sense of community (Paquet, interview, August 11, 2010). However, there is potential to foster more “active users.” Currently, Readersdigest.ca has interactive features such as polls and “Join the Debate,” a feature that invites users to discuss a topic featured in the magazine.[46] The websites’ editors are also using social media to encourage more interaction. In the summer of 2010, Readersdigest.ca re-established its presence on Facebook[47] ; since then, it has been using similar practices to Besthealthmag.ca (i.e. linking to recent articles; asking questions to Facebook fans to spark discussions) to engage its audience and promote fresh content. A partnership with a portal is another mechanism to stimulate more activity in the online community by drawing more traffic. Having a platform to invite new audiences into the Reader’s Digest brand communities is one of the most important opportunities in working with MSN.ca.

 

MSN.ca

When MSN Canada and Sympatico.ca ended their partnership, the former emerged as the stronger of the two portal sites (Reynolds, interview, August 9, 2010). Microsoft also claims it is the number one home-page portal in Canada, with 10 million unique visitors a month (Microsoft Advertising website, 2010b). To prepare for the newly reestablished MSN.ca, Microsoft added about 60 advertising and editorial staff (Avery, 2009). Though Sympatico.ca staff had close relationships with Canadian brands, international campaigns drifted towards MSN.ca and its international sales team (Lloyd, 2009). Furthermore, during the relaunch, Microsoft Canada executives announced they would seek out Canadian advertising accounts for MSN.ca by offering Canadian content on the portal.

However, MSN.ca also lost many of its content providers in the split. Microsoft Canada planned to offer the same channels on the new MSN.ca as the former joint portal did (Lloyd, 2009). So, content was sourced from MSNBC, BBC, Delish, CBC/Radio-Canada, Chatelaine and Protégez-vous to populate the portal (Microsoft Canada, 2009). Today, the English-language site has 15 channels, including one that is branded—Delish, its food and recipe channel (Microsoft Advertising website, 2010a). The majority of content published on MSN.ca is from third parties. MSN.ca’s largest content partnership is with Rogers Media, which provides content to the portal site under numerous magazines brands. Reader’s Digest Canada is the second largest Canadian media company to partner with MSN.ca.[48] Establishing a partnership with Reader’s Digest reflects MSN.ca’s efforts to compete with Sympatico.ca in providing Canadian content to its audience.

 

The Partnership

Though Reader’s Digest had already forged a partnership with a web portal, initiating another one would require the company to evaluate the details of a deal anew to negotiate the most beneficial (and profitable) arrangement for its websites. First off, the company needed to find the portal that could provide the optimal audience for Reader’s Digest. Next, Reader’s Digest and the portal would have to decide if money would be exchanged. They would also need to determine what kind of content Reader’s Digest would provide and how the would portal link users back to Readersdigest.ca or Selection.ca. Advertising sales would be another point of discussion. In short, the partnership with Sympatico.ca could only serve as a scanty outline for how to create a successful partnership involving different magazine brands and a distinct web portal.

The finalized partnership gives MSN.ca access to Reader’s Digest content from across Reader’s Digest’s affinities, with a focus on lifestyle and travel. Articles from Readersdigest.ca or Selection.ca are hosted on the portal site, thus making Reader’s Digest content visible to many more readers; links in the articles to Readersdigest.ca or Selection.ca will drive traffic to the respective sites—if readers are inclined to click through. If the partnership is successful, Reader’s Digest will gain additional and/or larger accounts based on the increased traffic sourced from the portal. Ideally, a presence on MSN.ca will also result in readers actively seeking out Readersdigest.ca or Selection.ca content independently, and/or increasing engagement with the brands through signing up for newsletters, purchasing products, entering contests or buying subscriptions.

Reader’s Digest offered MSN.ca other editorial efficiencies besides a supply of original content. MSN.ca’s home-page editors work with many content providers, and those that can simplify the process are at an advantage. Thus, due to its size and numerous magazine brands, Rogers Media’s significant relationship with MSN.ca is likely a cumbersome one. Although Rogers offers a wealth of content and powerful brand names, the company’s organizational structure offers limited flexibility. Conversely, Reader’s Digest has only one contact person responsible for liaising with MSN.ca to deliver French and English content: Maria Barillaro, associate web editor for Readersdigest.ca. As Goldberg suggested when speaking about the benefits of working with the Best Health editorial team, a smaller team means the process is streamlined but the content offered to the portal is still rich and varied (Goldberg, email interview, October 26, 2010).

In several ways, this partnership is very similar to the Besthealthmag.ca/Sympatico.ca deal: Again, Reader’s Digest is offering its partner the benefit of a web editorial staff that is well-versed in creating quality content. Similarly, the publisher is leveraging its recognized media brands and content on digital platforms to seek new audiences; in turn, the portal can offer its audience an enriched experience. The salient differences of the partnership are in the details: Reader’s Digest content will be published in thematic channels alongside content from other providers. The publisher’s content will be simply branded with the display of a logo on MSN.ca. Thus, without dedicated channels for Reader’s Digest’s brands, it will be harder to establish a presence on the busy portal site and get readers to notice their stories. Furthermore, since MSN.ca is not relying only on Readersdigest.ca to supply content for their channels; accordingly, there are no guarantees that items from Reader’s Digest will be published on MSN.ca, particularly if other content partners present stories that are more competitive. Furthermore, the popularity of story on MSN.ca will not directly translate into traffic for Reader’s Digest’s websites if the “related stories” or internal links are not appealing to readers.

 

Publishing Reader’s Digest Content on MSN.ca

In the initial months of the partnership, the primary editorial challenge will be to build successful articles by creating content that will appeal to the MSN.ca editors, and draw people back to the Sélection or Reader’s Digest websites, such as recipes, how-to articles, and slideshows. When preparing content with a portal audience in mind, there are new considerations. For example, at the most basic level, there is a different audience to cater to. As the editors of Besthealthmag.ca have found working in a portal environment, a key editorial responsibility in this type of partnership is producing the content that MSN.ca calls for (for its audience) while making sure to maintain the integrity of the Reader’s Digest content and brands.

Keeping in mind what Reader’s Digest can offer that is unique from the portal’s other content providers, Barillaro designs a lineup of content for MSN.ca. For MSN.ca’s French site, Barillaro pitches items for the portal’s Maison, Vie Practique, Cuisine, Amour et sexualité, Famille, and Mode et beauté[49] channels. For the English site, Readersdigest.ca will provide content for the Lifestyle and Travel channels (Barillaro, interview, August 4, 2010). When offering articles to MSN.ca, it is important for the editor to show that there is an audience for each article or gallery. For example, when pitching “5 delicious low-fat Thanksgiving recipes,” the editor would highlight the thousands of health-conscious homemakers who are planning holiday dinners. Producing original articles for MSN.ca will also be priority for Readersdigest.ca’s editors, as it gives editors the ability to target the MSN.ca audience directly.

Along with additional administration and correspondence, the partnership creates new demands on the editorial teams for Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca. When MSN.ca publishes an article or gallery from either website, Barillaro must review and monitor the content on the portal. She moderates comments posted on the syndicated articles (and alerts an MSN.ca editor if there is an issue), and ensures that the content has been accurately reproduced on the portal site (i.e. all the images appear correctly, and all the links are functional). To improve the performance of Reader’s Digest articles on the portal, the editor also notes patterns in the type of content MSN.ca has selected, and which stories or techniques successfully drive users back to the Reader’s Digest websites. Another responsibility for the web editor is keeping an eye on competing content providers to stay abreast of successful practices and new trends.

At the moment, Barillaro is playing a game of “fill in the blanks,” armed only with some basic clues about MSN.ca’s readers and their behaviour. Each partnership has unique qualities that make creating successful content a dynamic and sometimes unpredictable process. For example, each portal designed differently—leading users’ eyes in a different pattern on the home page—and each portal has a unique content delivery system, different content providers, and a distinctive audience. This is an intricate environment for a web editor to approach. As Barillaro observes how the audience and traffic patterns shift in the coming months, as a result of the partnership with MSN.ca, the most “clickable” words will be more apparent and a better understanding of what the Reader’s Digest Canada and Sélection brands can offer to a broad audience of online Canadians will emerge.

 

Projected Outcomes

At this time, it is still too early to tell the exact impact on traffic and audience development this partnership will have, and whether the company’s audience-growth and revenue goals will be met. The number of visitors to Readerdigest.ca or Selection.ca will increase; however, without a dedicated channel or a revenue-sharing model that Besthealthmag.ca has the advantage of, the audience growth will likely be less dramatic.

For multiple reasons, including taking advantage of the influx of traffic they expect from MSN.ca, Reader’s Digest’s digital media team is in the midst of redesigning of Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca. Like the redesign of Besthealthmag.ca, the new look will treat each page of the website like a “landing page,” with multiple points of entry to other content on the site. By having fully branded pages, the design will signal to first-time visitors where they are as soon as they arrive from MSN.ca. Furthermore, at a time when there will be many new visitors, Reader’s Digest is also introducing new games and humour affinities to the website to capitalize on those areas of content. Games and humour have already proven to be popular among the existing Readersdigest.ca audience, and having more of this type of content on the website is certain to increase the time spent on the website.

Overall, the publisher is forging ahead with confidence that the partnership will be hugely beneficial to its online business. The anticipated success of the partnership with MSN.ca is a significant part of the publisher’s plan to expand its reach in the digital market and become the top Canadian magazine brand online. Reader’s Digest is not widely known for offering cutting-edge technology or sophisticated web strategies, but already, the company has expanded into the largest publisher’s digital network in Canada (Scott, 2010). If this second portal partnership does well, it will confirm the viability of the portal partnership strategy.

 

Chapter Four

Conclusion

If one is to accept the Best Health/Sympatico.ca partnership as a typical example of what a magazine publisher can accomplish by teaming with a portal, then it appears that Reader’s Digest Canada has done the formerly impossible: It successfully attracted regular and targeted traffic to a Canadian magazine website—and made it profitable. This business model is not the only way for Canadian magazine companies to build an online audience; undoubtedly, other models and strategies have worked for other publishers. However, it shows tremendous promise. For Best Health, a presence on the Sympatico.ca home page continues to be its primary traffic driver; Reader’s Digest simply could not have gathered the same size audience without a partnership of this sort, despite putting tremendous effort into search engine marketing, SEO, and newsletter campaigns. The portal is a crucial partner for revenue generation, name gathering, and audience development—and this will continue to be true as long as portals continue to be a destination for web users.

As such, there are opportunities for other established, multi-title magazine companies to leverage their content and publishing expertise to forge similar relationships with popular websites. Generally, a perennial problem for Canadian media companies is a lack of economies of scale. As stated in the introduction to this paper, this is a quandary online, too, as Canadian audiences are usually too small to generate sufficient ad sales—and those revenues are needed to support capable web editorial teams. However, large audiences are not entirely absent from Canadian websites. Major national portals such as MSN.ca and Sympatico.ca have substantial audiences and, fortunately for publishers and media companies, they need content but do not have the resources or experience to produce it. Meanwhile, the multi-title Canadian publishers—Transcontinental, Rogers Media, TVA, and St. Joseph’s—have the know-how to build brands, produce content on a regular schedule, and market the brands properly. As well, large magazine publishers have vital, existing relationships with audiences, writers, photographers, and advertisers. Publishers can also provide Canadian-specific content in place of international newsfeeds. Essentially, when viewed in broad strokes, the needs and strengths of portals and publishers are perfectly complimentary.[50]

A potential challenge for Reader’s Digest Canada in the coming years will be to find alternative revenue sources if the viability of this business model wanes. For several years, experts have been predicting the downfall of portals (Joel, 2010; Stableford, 2010). Even when the portals were popular web destinations a decade ago, there was only room for a handful of players. This led to huge losses for companies as formidable as NBC (with its portal, Snap) and ABC/Disney (with its Go! Network portal).

Web users have become savvier since the days of Go! And Snap. One of new media’s salient characteristics is the decline of the media monolith. Today even the New York Times website can barely compete with online blog news sites like Gawker[51] (part of the multi-site Gawker network) and the Huffington Post.[52] Generally web-native users form their own “surfing patterns,” picking and choosing where they get their information and entertainment, regardless of platform, and sometimes, production value. They curate their own content, according to their moods, tastes, and other preferences. Applications such as RSS-feed readers and applications for tablets such as Flipboard[53] —which presents social media content from Facebook, Twitter and blogs, into a magazine-like form—are totems of this shift. Portals websites need to adapt to these new behaviours. They need to consider how they will provide value to a user who has an abundance of content at his or her disposal.

The future of the portal also depends on them not becoming “walled gardens,” where most of the content and services offered are owned by the portal’s parent company (Aufderheide in Blevins, 2004, p.248). Walled gardens offer owners attractive economic advantages but are a detriment to user experience. For example, according to Kerschbaumer, Go!’s downfall can be attributed to the fact that the Disney portal primarily offered advertising and cross-promotion (for Disney, ESPN, and ABC), not expert content. Kerschbaumer adds, “Success in the portal game has hinged on the ability of the portal itself to be neutral. When visitors…do a search, they want to feel comfortable that they aren’t being pushed to certain sites” (in Blevins, 2004, p.266). In 2010, users feel entitled to choice because they have access to a glut of information and entertainment available to them online, as well as through traditional media, including radio, television, print, and film. Today, the idea of web portals generally brings to mind middling content packaged for the broadest possible audience—in other words, it represents many qualities that are antithetical to what audiences are accustomed to getting online. Google, on the other hand, serves as a platform that consistently presents the most relevant content for the user as decided by an objective algorithm.[54] Accordingly, it is the second most popular site in the world[55] (Arrington, 2010). Furthermore, portals offer information under the large umbrella of “general interest,” which can vary from breaking news to costume ideas for pets, but portals are not established as leaders or experts in most of the topics they cover.

Thus, offering quality, branded content is important to the survival of web portals. As an increasing number of users move towards personalizing their content streams, portals need to make themselves into destinations by narrowing their content down, and giving themselves a distinctive voice (or voices) so that users willingly return to the sites. Publishers can play a crucial role in this necessary evolution: If portals offer the appealing content from the media brands readers trust—such as magazine brands, they will visit regularly to read and to touch base with the online communities built around the sites’ channels. As well, partnerships with multiple publishers can provide a diversity of personalities, ideas, and views, which will prevent the “walled garden” predicament. In turn, portals will have “quality users” to offer to advertisers.

As illustrated by the online partnerships presented in this discussion, portals are already making moves to compete with branded blogs and branded news websites for audiences. In the late summer of 2010, AOL (America Online) hired Former Canwest Global Communications executive Graham Moysey to be the new general manager of AOL Canada (Beer, 2010). Moysey is part of AOL’s “very bold and ambitious plan around quality and unique content creation.” Part of that plan is to make use of its content assets such as Engadget, MapQuest, and AOL Health (Beer).

A decade ago, AOL bought out the world’s largest media company, Time Warner. AOL’s CEO, Stephen Case, championed the merger by arguing that media companies could be successful on digital platforms if their strategies were smart (Lohr, 2000). His predictions were entirely accurate—even when considering the fact that the AOL-Time Warner merger was called, “One of the biggest disasters that have occurred to our country” by Time Warner’s major stockholder, Ted Turner (Arango, 2010). Case knew that the Internet would be the dominant medium for the years to come, but what audiences were seeking was not technology but content. The companies split in January 2010, and all the executives involved with the AOL-Time Warner transaction claim AOL was responsible for the merger’s undoing because it did not meet the projections that were the basis of the deal. Conversely, Time Warner now has a formidable network of online content providers including the successful magazine-brand websites SportsIllustrated.com, People.com, Time.com, and EW.com,[56] and the hugely popular news website, CNN.com. Time Warner’s CEO, Gerald Levin, told the New York Times, “AOL was the Google of its time. It was how you got to the Internet, but it was using some old media business ideas that were undone by the Internet itself, and that’s why Google came along” (Arango, 2010).

Bell held a similarly precarious position in Canada, since it was primarily a technology service provider; however, in September 2010, the telecom bought a majority share in CTV Inc., giving Bell exclusive access to CTV programming. The deal typifies the growing consolidation of media and telecom carriers: Rogers, Quebecor’s Vidéotron, and Shaw—all Internet service providers—have also invested in exclusive content deals to attract customers (Ladurantaye, 2010). This trend indicates a movement towards the walled-garden predicament, but also represents telecoms’ valuation of content providers. So, will Canadian web portals, like AOL.com in the U.S., be a ball and chain to content creators, or are they a boon to media industries such as publishing? The answer is more likely the latter.

Regardless of the fate of MSN.ca and Sympatico.ca in the coming years, Reader’s Digest Canada and the country’s web portals have found a way to satisfy some of their most essential needs at the moment: traffic and content, respectively. Publishers live by the maxim that “content is king,” but, as Reader’s Digest Canada recognizes, quality content alone is not sufficient to generate a valuable audience for a brand, particularly in a country where the audience is inherently small. Thus, magazine publishers’ partnerships with web portals are not only effective but also necessary; they are borne out of Canadian media-industry realities. Developing a business model that makes Canadian magazine content profitable online is a landmark accomplishment for Reader’s Digest Canada. With these partnerships, the publisher has shown that a traditional media company can adapt to the new-media landscape and successfully transfer its enduring strengths onto digital platforms.

 

 


Appendix

(Source: ComScore reports, generated September 2010)

1. Traffic sources and losses

“Sources” (below) represent where users come from immediately before Besthealthmag.ca and “Losses” (bottom) represents where they went to immediately after.

“Entries” or “Exits” represent the aggregate number of times that source or loss transition happened. E.g. 371,000 unique visitors came from a Sympatico.ca property. These 371,000 visitors made came from a Sympatico.ca property to Besthealthmag.ca 976,000 times.

Appendix 1

 

2. 15-month trend of traffic to Besthealthmag.ca

Appendix 2-1

Appendix 2-2

 

3. Audience demographic profile for Besthealthmag.ca

% Composition Unique Visitors: proportion of visitors from this demographic
Composition Index UV (Unique Visitors): relation to index for websites in Canada
% Composition Pages: proportion of page views from this demographic
% Composition Minutes: proportion of BH’s minutes spend by this demographic

Appendix 3
Appendix 3-1

 

4. 15-month trend of traffic to Readersdigest.ca

Appendix 4

 

5. Audience demographic profile for Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca

Appendix 5
Appendix 5-1

 

 


Notes

1 The first Canadian magazine website was Shift, a digital culture magazine founded in 1991, and which folded in 2003. Its website was in operation from 1996 to 2004 (Quin, 2003). RETURN

2 Conventional wisdom holds that online content should be written and edited to cater to short attention spans. However, websites are finding that certain readers are interested in long-form journalism online and that the longest pieces can actually drive the most amount of traffic: New York Times Magazine editor Gerry Marzorati’s claimed, “Contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s our longest pieces that attract the most online traffic” (Garber, 2010). RETURN

3 The launch of Best Health is extensively covered in Lise Hélène Boullard’s project report, “Finding Out What Women Want” (2008). RETURN

4 To compare, Maclean’s magazine (@macleansmag) has 8,030 followers, Canadian Living (@canadian_living) has 4,806 followers, and Chatelaine (@chatelainemag) has 4,553 followers (November 8, 2010). RETURN

5 I interned at Reader’s Digest Canada in the summer of 2010. I worked on four of the publisher’s magazines and provided production and editorial assistance for two of its websites: Readersdigest.ca and Besthealtmag.ca. This report partly draws on my experiences during that time. RETURN

6 Anicka Quin (2003) posits 1994 as the approximate introduction of the web to the general public in North America (p.1). RETURN

7 Magazinesonline.wordpress.com RETURN

8 Various websites have implemented “paywalls” over the years but with little success. With the notable exception of the Wall Street Journal , charging for online content is an outmoded practice in 2010. RETURN

9 Brand extension in the magazine publishing industry is just as prevalent today: Robert Sauerberg, president of Condé Nast, told the New York Times “he and his staff had been working on creating what he called “12-course content meals”—package deals that would include access to multiple Condé Nast magazines delivered in multiple ways, like print, tablet, mobile, and Internet, as well as invitations to magazine- sponsored events. Tom Harty, lead of Meredith’s magazines division said he would be expanding the company’s licensed products (Peters, 2010, November 28, 2010). RETURN

10 In the midst of the financial maelstrom of 2008 and 2009, some magazines, including Cosmogirl and Gourmet, shut down their print operations and now exclusively serve their online community (Blume 2008). RETURN

11 Today, this trend persists when less tech-savvy users retain the home page that was programmed on their Internet browser when they purchased their computer.generated substantial traffic. Additionally, before Google, portals’ search engines were a popular way to locate relevant information. RETURN

12 In Canada, Yahoo! Canada and Sympatico.msn.ca, respectively. RETURN

13 According to eMarketer Digital Intelligence, total ad spending in Canada will reach CAD $11.55 billion in 2010 (http://bit.ly/8YtYkc). RETURN

14 “Nearly one of every four graphical, online display ads viewed in the United States in the third quarter [of 2010] was on [Facebook], according to a new report by comScore… Facebook racked-up more ad impressions in the third quarter than the next four companies combined, which includes Yahoo, Microsoft Corp, News Corporation’s Fox Interactive Media and Google Inc… Analysts note that Facebook ads sell at a significant discount to display ads sold on traditional Web portals like Yahoo.” (Oreskovic, November 8, 2010) RETURN

15 2004, Reader’s Digest Association RETURN

16 In September 2009, Reader’s Digest closed the magazine after the short test launch. RETURN

17 Three professional and association magazines, What’s Cookin’, CAA, and Westworld, have larger circulations (Print Measurement Bureau, 2010). RETURN

18 On Selection.ca, the main affinities were Bien Manger, Maison, and Santé. RETURN

19 See Footnote 2. RETURN

20 Reader’s Digest also offers its some of its advertisers the use of its reader database to distribute direct mail campaigns, samples and custom publications such as The Magazine RONA (Bailey and Tcholakian 2009). RETURN

21 Masthead Top 50 Methodology: Advertising revenue was supplied by Nielsen Leading National Advertisers. Subscription and newsstand revenues are calculated using data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations and Canadian Circulations Audit Bureau and available in CARD. The survey takes into account discounts applied across the board. Revenue from special interest publications, websites, events, government grants and other ancillary products is not included (Masthead 2010). RETURN

22 According to comScore, the number of unique visitors was roughly 79,000. RETURN

23 The Sympatico.ca home page has approximately 8 million visitors a month (Sympatico.ca Advertising website, 2010). RETURN

24 In this case, Bell could offer only approximate numbers for their “individual site traffic,” as Sympatico.ca did not yet exist. RETURN

25 The partnership was made official and widely announced on September 1, the date Sympatico.ca and MSN.ca launched their independent portals. RETURN

26 According to comScore, Besthealthmag.ca had approximately 62,000 unique users in July 2009, and 857,000 in August 2009 (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). RETURN

27 The following websites rank higher than Besthealthmag.ca in the health category: 1) WebMD Health, 2) Everyday Health (http://www.everydayhealth.com), 3) About.com Health (http://www.about.com/health), 4) LIVESTRONG – eHow Health (http://www.livestrong.com), 5) Health.com, and 6) Shoppersdrugmart.ca (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). RETURN

28 Best Health magazine isn’t yet measured in PMB. RETURN

29 The conversion rate—the rate in which a company converts casual visitors into paying customers—is not measured within the web editorial department. RETURN

30 No Fail Weight Lossis still published on a quarterly basis and is an additional revenue stream for Reader’sDigest. RETURN

31 The initial incarnations of the website did not have any of the community and social media tools it has today. RETURN

32 My Look, My Health, My Diet, My Life RETURN

33 At Plaisirs Santé, there is just one web editor, and a part-time editorial assistant web editor (Tancock, who manages editorial on all the Reader’s Digest Canada magazine websites), the two editors compose the entire web team for the audience of over half a million users. RETURN

34 An item’s position on the page can dramatically influence its success. For example, placement on a “slider,” a tab on the home-page viewer (see figure 1), gives stories more visibility and clicks. Since it occupies prime real estate on the page (i.e. it is a large box in the centre of the page, above the fold), articles featured on the viewer become the most popular on Besthealthmag.ca, without fail. RETURN

35 http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/healthy-eating/the-worst-halloween-treats-you-can-eat RETURN

36 http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/weight-loss/top-10-weigh-loss-mistakes RETURN

37 http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/weight-loss/7-things-that-are-secretly-making-you-gain-weight RETURN

38 http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/health/is-laser-eye-surgery-right-for-you RETURN

39 http://www.facebook.com/besthealth#!/besthealth/posts/124272757629437 RETURN

40 http://www.facebook.com/besthealth#!/besthealth/posts/124272757629437 RETURN

41 http://www.besthealthmag.ca/embrace-life/relationships/the-best-advice-for-a-healthy-relationship RETURN

42 The article “Faites votre autobilan de santé” (http://styledevie.ca.msn.com/sante-mieux-etre/selection-galeriedephotos.aspx?cp-documentid=25943804) appeared in the portal’s health section. RETURN

43 For more detailed information, see Audience Demographic Profile for Readersdigest.ca and Selection.ca, p. 58. RETURN

44 According to comScore, there were 381,000 unique visitors to Readersdigest.ca vs. 90,000 unique visitors to Selection.ca (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). RETURN

45 Good Eating, Home, Health, and Pets RETURN

46 Only the former is a part of Selection.ca. RETURN

47 The Facebook page had been stagnant for more than a year. RETURN

48 For its French home page, MSN.ca also publishes content from Transcontinental. RETURN

49 Home, Living, Cooking , Love and sexuality, Family , and Fashion and beauty RETURN

50 Smaller magazine brands such as Geist or The Walrus have niche audiences—and fewer resources—and will find it more difficult to establish relationships with portal sites. RETURN

51 http://gawker.com/ RETURN

52 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/; While lean and immensely popular, sites such as Gawker and the Huffington Post have also garnered criticism for their use of content created by “old media” companies such as the New York Times. By regularly citing and repurposing content, such sites exploit reporting and other production costs other companies pay for. RETURN

53 http://www.flipboard.com RETURN

54 Seemingly immune to corporate imperatives…RETURN

55 Facebook is the most popular website in the world (Arrington, 2010).RETURN

56 The website for Entertainment Weekly.RETURN

 

 


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Interviews

Barillaro, Maria (Associate Web Editor, Readersdigest.ca). 2010. Interview with Author, July 8.

Barillaro, Maria (Associate Web Editor, Readersdigest.ca). 2010. Interview with Author, August 4.

Goldberg, Jennifer (Web Editor, Besthealthmag.ca). 2010. Interview with Author, July 21.

Goldberg, Jennifer (Web Editor, Besthealthmag.ca). 2010. Email interview with Author, October 26.

Goyette, Robert (Editor-in-Chief, Magazines and Vice-President, Books, Reader’s Digest Canada). 2010. Interview with Author, July 16.

Letourneau, Stephanie (Web Editor, Plaisirssante.ca). 2010. Email Interview with Author, August 16.

Li, Martha (Associate Web Editor, Readersdigest.ca). 2010. Email Interview with Author, July 9.

Ludgate, John (Corporate & Advertising Research Manager, Reader’s Digest Canada). 2010. Email Interview with Author, November 25.

McAuley, Alicia (Associate Web Editor, Besthealthmag.ca). 2010. Interview with Author, July 28.

Paquet, Yann (Vice-President, Digital media and Strategic Partnerships, Reader’s Digest Canada). 2010. Interview with Author, August 11.

Reynolds, Jennifer (Sites Manager, Reader’s Digest Canada). 2010. Interview with Author, August 9.

Tancock, Kat (Senior Web Editor, Reader’s Digest Canada). 2010. Phone Interview with Author, June 21.

Tancock, Kat (Senior Web Editor, Reader’s Digest Canada). 2010. Phone Interview with Author, June 28.

Tancock, Kat (Senior Web Editor, Reader’s Digest Canada). 2010. Email Interview with Author, July 7.

Young, Zahra (Director of E-Commerce and Audience Development at Reader’s Digest; Director of Marketing, eCommerce, Partnerships, New Magazines & Series at Reader’s Digest Association). 2010. Interview with Author, August 4.


Editorial Standards and Detail Editing at Lone Pine Publishing

 

By Kelsey Dawn Everton

ABSTRACT: This report examines the evolution and current state of detail editing—including copy editing, proofreading, and other fine-level work—at Lone Pine Publishing, a mid-sized book publisher. Though budget and resource limitations and shifting editorial roles have necessitated some editorial changes, detail editing remains paramount to Lone Pine’s books. This report begins with an analysis of detail editing at Lone Pine, including several specific detail-oriented editorial projects, and establishes how detail editing fits into the larger editorial process. Next, it examines wider editorial trends in Canadian trade book editing, and what they mean: some critics have questioned whether texts are as well edited as they used to be. The report concludes with a case study of ebook creation at Lone Pine, and considers where detail editing at Lone Pine will go in the future.

 

 


DEDICATION

For my mom,

who has always been my editor.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My sincerest thanks to Mary Schendlinger and Rowland Lorimer for their insightful, patient feedback and assistance in shaping this report. I am also grateful to all the students and staff of the Master of Publishing Program for everything I‘ve learned from them.

Thank you to everyone at Lone Pine Publishing and in the offices for sharing their time and expertise with me, especially Nancy Foulds, Sheila Quinlan, Gary Whyte, Nicholle Carrière, Faye Boer, Tracey Comeau, Wendy Pirk, Gene Longson, Ken Davis, Tom Lore, Glen Rollans, and Shane Kennedy.

Andy, Amy and Rick, and the GAP girls: your encouragement has meant so much to me. Thank you.

And thank you to my parents, Rob and Gisela Everton, for all of their love and support, and for always cheering me on.

 

 


CONTENTS

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Introduction: A Brief History of Lone Pine Publishing

Chapter 1: Detail Editing at Lone Pine
++++Detail Editing Projects
++++Detail Editing in Context

Chapter 2: Editing at Lone Pine
++++Editorial Structure
++++The Evolution of Editing at Lone Pine

Chapter 3: Standards of Detail Editing in Canadian Trade Book Publishing

Chapter 4: The Future of Detail Editing at Lone Pine
++++A Case Study: Ebooks at Lone Pine
++++Looking to Lone Pine’s Future

Notes

Bibliography

 

 


INTRODUCTION

A BRIEF HISTORY OF LONE PINE PUBLISHING

Lone Pine Publishing, a trade book publisher in Edmonton, Alberta, was founded in 1980 by Grant Kennedy and Shane Kennedy. Lone Pine’s regional mandate was evident right from the start—its first book published was The Albertans, featuring profiles of noteworthy and influential Albertans. Lone Pine‘s main focus, however, was nature and natural history, and Lone Pine’s early titles focused on outdoor living in Alberta. One early title was the Canadian Rockies Access Guide, which is still in print.

Regional publishing flourished in Alberta during the early 1980s. From Lone Pine’s beginnings as a regional Alberta publisher, it expanded to become a regional publisher in other parts of Canada and the United States: “We have attempted to be a good regional publisher in every region where we are present.”[1] This ultra-regional business model means that Lone Pine can produce book series like Birds of Alberta, Birds of British Columbia, Birds of Ontario, Birds of Washington State, and Birds of Texas—which may have considerable overlap but will also be tailored to specific regions.

Lone Pine’s editorial mandate is market-driven. Titles in a series are developed and selected based on how previous books have sold and in what markets. In the 1990s, Lone Pine published a series of gardening guides by Lois Hole, who went on to become Alberta’s fifteenth Lieutenant Governor; the success of these titles encouraged Lone Pine to develop its own lines of gardening guides.

A characteristic that sets Lone Pine apart from many other regional publishers is that it handles its own sales and distribution. A large percentage of Lone Pine books are distributed through non-traditional distribution channels, including through Lone Pine racks at grocery stores such as Superstore, businesses such as Canadian Tire, and small retail outlets throughout the country. Since Lone Pine has a distribution system in place, it also sells and distributes books for a number of other small publishers.

Lone Pine is a distinctive brand, especially in certain regions such as Alberta. The publisher’s name is known, and Lone Pine books are identifiable by the public as being published by Lone Pine, which is uncommon for book publishers. This brand recognition is in part a result of Lone Pine’s non-traditional distribution.

As of 2010, Lone Pine publishes twelve to twenty new titles per year, including gardening books, nature guides, popular history books, and cookbooks.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

DETAIL EDITING AT LONE PINE

During the summer of 2010, I was an intern at Lone Pine Publishing. My job as an intern was to provide editorial support to the in-house editorial team, particularly with detail editing. During the summer at Lone Pine, most titles are in various stages of editorial development. Most books come out in the spring—for example, in advance of the gardening season—which means that books enter production during the fall so that they are in the warehouse for early spring. When one editor went on maternity leave early in 2010, Lone Pine decided that the addition of a summer editorial intern would free up time for the remaining editorial staff to focus on the bigger-picture work on their spring 2011 titles. My vantage point for this report, therefore, is that of a designated detail editor, a new layer of editorial support at Lone Pine, who was in a good position to both observe and experience firsthand detail editing at Lone Pine.

What is detail editing? It’s not a term found in the Editors’ Association of Canada’s (EAC) Professional Editorial Standards. Nor is it found in many other descriptions of the editorial process, most of which divide editing into roles: acquiring editor, stylistic (line) editor, copy editor, proofreader, managing editor, and so on.[2] But editing is practically synonymous with handling detail. Editors “are people who are good at process…Their jobs are to aggregate information, parse it, restructure it, and make sure it meets standards. They are basically QA [quality assurance] for language and meaning.”[3] Detail editing, then, is an encompassing term that differs slightly in meaning from publisher to publisher and from project to project. It covers the myriad of detail-oriented editorial tasks that are necessary in the completion of a project, which may include copy editing, proofreading, fact checking, and other required fine-level work. Since my internship was during the summer, when few titles are in production, my job involved less copy editing and proofreading than might be expected at other times of the year. But it did involve a number of important detail-oriented tasks that all came down to ensuring the accuracy and reliability of Lone Pine’s books.

Every publisher handles detail editing differently. Normally at Lone Pine, one editor handles all aspects of the editorial process for a specific project, including copy editing, proofreading, and other detail work. Typically there isn’t a designated detail editor who takes on those particular tasks. Some detail tasks—ones that aren’t necessarily specific to one project, for instance, or that are specialized in some way—are divided amongst editors according to their workload, skill set, and specific knowledge. For example, many Lone Pine books rely highly on commissioned illustrations of birds, bugs, mammals, and other species. Many of the illustration-tracking editorial tasks are given to one editor, Gary Whyte, because he has the best understanding of how the illustrations database operates. Other detail tasks, such as quickly checking over a reprint file from production before it is sent to the printer, are assigned to whichever editor is least busy at the time. Everyone in the editorial department at Lone Pine, then, is involved in detail editing.

Detail editing is important to all publishers. Publishers strive to avoid embarrassing typos and mistakes in grammar or usage because those convey a sense of amateurism and incompetence. Publishers want to be taken seriously and want to be seen as expert and capable. Mistakes and errors in all sorts of details suggest sloppiness and unreliability. This is true in more than just publishing: job seekers are nearly always encouraged to make sure there are no misspellings in their cover letters and résumés, because those imply a lack of care and responsibility.[4] The importance of detail editing in publishing goes far beyond correcting typos, however. Ensuring attention to editorial detail adds a mark of professionalism to a publication, and with professionalism comes credibility. Credibility is one of Thomas Woll’s three Cs for successful publishing: “Credibility is a fragile trait that is built over time but it is one you ultimately must have to be successful. To be credible, you must focus on commitment and consistency.”[5] Commitment and consistency are absolutely crucial, but detail editing can go a long way to ensuring a publisher’s credibility as well.

Credibility is particularly important to a publisher like Lone Pine, because their brand and reputation are built on small details being correct and trustworthy. Accuracy in details is especially crucial in the information-based types of books that Lone Pine produces, including guidebooks, gardening books, and cookbooks. A photo caption that misidentifies a bird species could be disastrous in a guidebook, which is supposed to be a dependable source of information; the reader, instead of understanding it was just a mistake, could easily assume the author did not know what he was talking about and discredit the entire book. Seemingly minor (and even unintentional) omissions or errors can seriously compromise the integrity of an entire publication. A 2003 issue of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s PureCanada magazine had a number of such small errors, including leaving out Prince Edward Island and misspelling Nunavut on a map; such infelicities call into question the reliability (and biases) of the entire publication.[6] Similar mistakes have occasionally occurred at Lone Pine—a heading for a “Makkard” instead of “Mallard” that had somehow crept into a fifth edition of a bird book had one reader outraged and demanding his money back. Presumably he not only lost his faith in the book, but also in the publisher and the Lone Pine brand. Books like nature guides and cookbooks need to be reliable in their smallest details in order to be credible and taken seriously in their larger ones. The Lone Pine brand and reputation are built on being reliable and trustworthy, and so detail editing work is essential.

 

Detail Editing Projects

The tasks I performed at Lone Pine were many and diverse, but all were detail-oriented. It should be noted that this discussion of detail editorial work is not limited to what I did as a detail editor, but applies also to all editors at Lone Pine, since editors often perform various detail editing tasks on their own titles. Also, many more reprints than new titles were published during the summer, which is why this conversation may refer more to detail editing in reprints than in new titles. But the tasks and theory of detail editing apply equally to all types of projects, including new titles and reprints.

One detail editing project was to do a preliminary edit of and create a style guide for an upcoming cookbook by the executive chef of a local Italian restaurant group, Sorrentino’s. Cookbooks present a number of genre-specific editorial challenges. Cookbook readers expect consistency and clarity. Ingredients must be included in both the ingredient list and in the directions: a reader would be most irate to discover, halfway through making a dish, that the recipe directions include an ingredient that is not on the list and that she therefore didn‘t pick up on her trip to the grocery store. Directions also must be straightforward and complete; leaving out cooking time or temperature would frustrate readers. Bonnie Stern, a cookbook author, demonstrates the importance of details in a cookbook by explaining how one recipe didn’t work: “In one of my books I included a recipe for a ‘magic’ cake. You put the dry ingredients in a baking pan and make three indentations. In one you put the vanilla, in another the milk, and oil in the third. Somehow, I neglected to say ‘stir.’ And no one did!”[7]

To create a style guide for this new cookbook, I looked first to a previous Lone Pine cookbook style sheet. While it was extremely helpful—explaining, for example, to use both metric and Imperial measurements, and to add an s to the end of 2 lbs but not 2 Tbsp—it did not cover things like exactly how to form the telegraphed, or abbreviated, cookbook direction style (“heat milk in pot over medium” instead of “heat the milk in a pot over medium heat”), likely because previous cookbook editors had internalized the rules for doing so. The previous style guide also didn’t cover how to treat some of the rare Italian ingredients that hadn‘t been featured in previous cookbooks: should it be recioto wine or just recioto? recioto or reciota? capitalized or not? italicized as a foreign word or not? Many new decisions had to be made for the sake of consistency and clarity. Equipped with the previous style guide, I went through the cookbook manuscript. Some changes were obvious—for example, adding metric measurements of millilitres and kilograms in brackets behind the cups and pounds. Others were more debatable, and were added to a list of style guide questions. In particular, in the interest of creating a telegraphed cookbook style, should small words like the and a be used? If so, when?

Lone Pine’s offices have a collection of literally hundreds of cookbooks, so those were used to do an informal survey of how other publishers handle cookbook directions. Some used both the and a (“put the onions in a pan”), some used neither (“put onions in pan”), and some used one and not the other. While there were exceptions, a pattern emerged: oversized, photo-heavy, glossy cookbooks, the ones that often featured luxurious travel accounts and profiles, gave directions in full sentences, using the and a. Functional, practical cookbooks omitted the small words altogether and gave directions in terse, economical terms. The tone for this Sorrentino’s cookbook was to be somewhere in between: a beautiful gourmet cookbook by a local celebrity of sorts, but one with recipes that were intended to be made at home by real, everyday people. In consultation with the editorial director, Nancy Foulds, we established a new tone that was appropriate for this project, omitting the unless it was absolutely necessary and retaining a: “put onions in a pan.” A similar process was undertaken for every cookbook style question: a survey of what other publishers and sources did and an analysis of the options, followed by in-house discussion and a final decision. In this case, detail editing was crucial not only for consistency and clarity, but also for establishing and formalizing the tone of the entire book.

Another of the editorial support tasks necessary at Lone Pine is to format manuscripts that have come in electronically from their authors. Usually, the project editor will do this at some point during the editorial process, but a detail editor doing some of the formatting up front will save the project editor time. The production department at Lone Pine requires that all files be submitted to them in Microsoft Word .doc files, 12-pt Times (not Times New Roman), with no styles or heading levels applied. Therefore, any styles that the author has introduced must be removed before sending the file to production—or in this case, before passing the file along to its editor. A number of other detail tasks must be done at Lone Pine when formatting an electronic manuscript, all intended to make the job of the next editor and production staff easier. Double word spaces between sentences—which generations of students were taught to do—are replaced with a single space. Paragraphs are separated by a single blank line. Soft returns or carriage returns, which show up as an arrow (↵) when viewing hidden formatting marks, are replaced by hard returns or paragraph breaks (¶). Extra paragraph marks that manually force paragraphs to start a new page are eliminated and, if necessary, page breaks are added. Lists or tables for which the author has lined up columns using tabs or extra word spaces are properly formatted. Non-breaking spaces between numbers and measurements—for example, 15 cm—are added so that the 15 won’t fall at the end of one line and the cm at the beginning of the next. Of course, all of these things will need to be quickly checked again just before the editor sends the file to production, but getting the bulk of it done at the beginning of the editorial process saves time and aggravation. The exact detail editing tasks performed depend on the manuscript. For one cookbook manuscript, I arranged all the elements of each recipe into a consistent order (recipe title, recipe contributor, story about the recipe, number of people the recipe served, ingredient list, and then cooking directions) and moved some material (such as contributors’ contact information and recipe submission numbers) out of the manuscript and into a spreadsheet. For one gardening book, the project editor, Sheila Quinlan, authorized me to fix any spelling or grammatical mistakes I happened to notice while formatting. Detail editing through formatting aims to create a smooth journey in-house for the manuscript, and therefore a clean final product.

Another example of detail editing work at Lone Pine relates to marketing. Editorial and production staff work very closely with marketing at Lone Pine. Many publishers prepare advance book information sheets (ABIs), or tipsheets, early in a book’s life at the publishing house. At Douglas & McIntyre, for example, an ABI “contains such information as the book’s title and physical specifications, as well as a summary of the book, perhaps a table of contents, an author biography, and a list of the author’s previous work. The ABI forms the basis of all jacket and catalogue copy.”[8] At Lone Pine, editorial doesn’t provide a formal ABI that marketing later draws from; instead, marketing creates two sellsheets (one preliminary and one more detailed closer to the book’s release) in consultation with editorial. Instead of functioning as an in-house guide as ABIs do, sellsheets are targeted more at those outside the house, such as booksellers, and include information like title, author bio, and marketing copy. This marketing copy is written based on information about the book sent to marketing by the editorial director and the project’s editor. Before distributing sellsheets, marketing sends them back to editorial for approval. Attention to detail here is important not only to catch typos and use consistent formatting (for example, the first words on each bullet point on Lone Pine sellsheets is to be capitalized, and the last bullet point is to be followed by a period) but also to make sure that the description and its tone are accurate and that the information (such as number of pages) is correct. As a detail editor, I checked over several sellsheets and made corrections and gathered information when necessary—such as tracking down a gardening-related author bio from an author who had written other Lone Pine books, but not other gardening ones.

The detail editing project that this report looks at most closely is the editorial work that goes into reprinting books. At Lone Pine, books are expected to have a long life and several reprints. Books are intended to make money over the long term (on the backlist), which fits very well with the types of books that Lone Pine publishes: a guide to identifying edible and medicinal plants in Canada, for example, will be relevant not only in the year it is published but for many years to come. Accordingly, every year Lone Pine puts out several reprints. Books are reprinted based on projected sales; a database that tracks sales and returns predicts when a reprint will be needed, and production and marketing staff meet to review which books to reprint. In 2009, 27 books were reprinted.[9] After Lone Pine decides what to reprint, production staff locate the most recent electronic version of the book. Depending on when the book was published or last reprinted, the file may have to be converted from one desktop-publishing format to another; for example, some production files need to be converted from Quark, which Lone Pine used previously, to Adobe InDesign. After production converts the file and makes any design changes that are deemed necessary, the file is passed along to editorial, as either a print-out or an electronic file. According to Gary Whyte, a long-time editor at and former editorial director of Lone Pine, it is Lone Pine policy that absolutely everything production does goes back to editorial for approval.[10]

Checking a reprint is similar to proofreading a new book, but condensed. The same types of things are looked for—errors in type size and style, image placement, text flow, etc.—but it is not read word by word as the first proof of a new book would be.[11] If editorial notices any errors or changes that need to be made to a book after it is published, those are written right in the editorial department copy of the book and flagged. After editorial receives a reprint file, it is checked against the editorial house copy of the most recently published edition—a printed copy of the book in which editors mark any changes, mistakes, or inconsistencies that were discovered after the book was printed (or too late in the publishing process to correct). Any changes that were marked in the book are then marked on the reprint. For example, Container Gardening for the Midwest omitted a few of one photographer’s photo credits on the copyright page, so those were added when the book was reprinted. Any typos that were identified after the book was printed are also corrected in the reprint. For example, a reference to a ganzania that should have been gazania was noticed after Annuals of Ontario was published, and so was noted in the editorial copy and fixed for the reprint. Reprints are an opportunity to correct any mistakes in the previous edition and also a chance to keep the book up to date—for example, websites and phone numbers for nature organizations in Compact Guide to British Columbia Birds were updated in the most recent reprint.

While the reprint file is theoretically virtually the same as the file that was sent to the printer for the previous edition (except for revisions), various infelicities creep in on occasion. Conversion from one file type to another, such as from Quark to InDesign, may (or may not) introduce problems that weren’t in the original book. And, since original image files may have been edited or renamed, a photograph of a rose could be substituted with a different flower or missing altogether. Some of the most important things to watch for when checking a reprint at Lone Pine are photos and illustrations (placement, size, cropping), text flow (does the text wrap around images correctly? have bad line breaks or “rivers” of white space been introduced? is the right material on the right page?), page numbers and headings (does each page have a heading and page number, and are they accurate?) and fonts (are they used consistently?). In Lone Pine‘s bird guide books, each bird species gets a one- or two-page account, with an illustration, an overall description, and detailed information about the bird’s size, colour, nesting habits, bird calls, and so on; accounts are divided into sections based on bird types. In the reprint file for Compact Guide to Atlantic Canada Birds, the headings of one section were in a different font than the headings of the other sections, even though the heading fonts had been consistent in the original book. Editorial identified the inconsistency and production easily corrected it before the reprint went to press. In another bird guidebook, the 348-page Birds of Florida, overall descriptions for each species started with a drop cap. Editorial noticed that in the reprint file, whenever the first word of an account started with the letter A, the spacing around the drop cap was incorrect (but curiously, not when the account started with the indefinite article a). Also, when the first letter of the account started with a W, the justification of the line between the heading and the drop cap—the line that contained the italicized scientific name—was altered. It wasn‘t editorial’s job to determine why this was happening, just to point out the pattern that it was. Production was able to change the file settings to correct it.

After production makes the editor’s changes to the reprint file and the editor approves them—occasionally the document goes back and forth several times until everyone is satisfied with the changes—the reprint is sent to the printer. Lone Pine’s black and white titles are printed in Canada, while full-colour books, such as bird guides and gardening titles, are printed in Hong Kong. After the printer receives the file, they set everything up and return a proof, called a plotter, to Lone Pine. The plotter is a copy of the book as they will print it, although not printed on the same stock as the final book will be. (“Wet proofs” are printed on the same stock and with the exact colour as the final book; Lone Pine requests sample wet proof signatures for new titles but not for reprints.) A plotter isn’t bound, but is gathered into signatures. Production checks the plotter, and then gives it to editorial to quickly check for anything that may have gone awry, such as an image missing or pages in the wrong order. Since changes made to the book after it has reached the plotter stage are expensive, minor errors that editorial notices at this stage, such as typos, will likely go uncorrected (but flagged for correction in the next edition). But any mistakes that were caused by the printer, or that are egregious, or that indicate some other problem, will be fixed. For example, editorial noticed that none of the changes they had made to the reprint file of Birds of Texas showed up in the printer’s proof: for whatever reason, a wrong file had been sent to the printer. Without editors to check for the smallest details, the wrong reprint file would have ended up being printed. Detail editing is not just about the details; the details point to and shape the big picture.

Another example demonstrates the big-picture implications of detail editing. At Lone Pine, front and back covers are handled by a different member of production than book interiors, and the reprint files that are passed to editorial for approval usually don’t include the cover: typically no changes are made to the cover, anyway. The plotters from the printer, however, typically do include the cover. In one case, Lone Pine was reprinting a self-help book that had previously been published by another publisher, and so the design and layout were new. The foreword in the previous edition was removed and replaced by a foreword written by a different individual; the original foreword’s author no longer wished to endorse the teachings of the book. But when editorial received the plotter, complete with the cover, they noticed that an excerpt from the original foreword, credited to the author of the now-removed foreword, still appeared on the back cover. Certainly the author who wanted his introduction taken out also wished the complimentary blurb on the cover to be removed. Fortunately, this oversight could be corrected before the book was reprinted.

While reprints are not typically checked word by word, in some instances certain books, or parts of books, are checked more closely. In one book, a problem in file conversion meant that production had to re-create and rekey an entire table that featured many rows and columns of temperature highs, lows, and averages for different cities. In that case, editorial methodically checked every single word and number on the table against the original in the published book. This example demonstrates that communication between production and editorial is imperative. Had production not informed editorial that the table had been rekeyed, editorial wouldn’t have known to check it so closely and likely would not have done so. While it would be ideal to have each reprint checked word by word and line by line against the original, that would not be practical at Lone Pine (or most any publisher). Nor would it be the most efficient way of doing things. Instead, Lone Pine relies on editors who look for the most common things that can go wrong in a reprint, and on communication between production staff and editors to locate anything that might be an exception to the norm. It’s a balancing situation that speaks to detail editing in general: trying to achieve the best-quality product with the most efficient use of time and resources.

Editorial is a necessary step (or several necessary steps) in the reprint process at Lone Pine. Even though the reprint should theoretically be the same as the original book, which was already approved by editorial before it was printed, the above examples show that it is rarely so straightforward. While most elements of a reprint are correct and do not need adjustment, there are nearly always some details—from the relatively minor to the quite significant—to fix or improve. And whether the details are small or weighty, they are important and worthwhile.

Detail-oriented projects at Lone Pine, whether creating cookbook style guides, formatting manuscripts, evaluating marketing copy, checking reprints, or doing one of the dozens of other everyday detail tasks, reveal much about Lone Pine’s editorial priorities. Because reliability and trustworthiness are essential to Lone Pine’s brand, there must be good quality detail editing. But the company has had to adapt detail editing processes and priorities as new realities have emerged. When Lone Pine had a larger editorial staff, style guide updating was constantly in progress; now it is done more infrequently on an as-needed basis. This practice has disadvantages, as any editor would agree—for one, decisions that aren’t written down can be forgotten and need to be made all over again. But updating style guides less often is also an attempt to address the shrinking time and other resources available for detail editing, and to focus on the tasks that are most crucial. Overall, detail editing at Lone Pine demonstrates the company’s priority for a balance between quality and efficiency, ideally achieving both.

 

Detail Editing in Context

The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC), a non-profit organization of in-house and freelance Canadian editors, has compiled and published a guide of Professional Editorial Standards, most recently updated in 2009. As its name suggests, this guide provides a list of standards that professional editors will live up to, and details what editorial tasks are carried out at different stages of editing. The first part of the EAC document, The Fundamentals of Editing, explains what all editors should know and do. Among other things, they will have knowledge of the publishing process and the editor’s role within it, and be able to determine and perform the appropriate editorial involvement. Above all, they understand what editing is and what the implications of the editing process are.

The remaining four parts of Professional Editorial Standards establish what needs to be done in the editing process, and divides editing into four stages: structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Structural editing is “assessing and shaping material to improve its organization and content.”[12] In this stage, the editor evaluates a manuscript’s organization and restructures material as necessary. The structural editor may suggest deleting some parts of the manuscript that are repetitive or that detract from the overall argument or narrative, or suggest adding new sections that would enhance the overall work.

Stylistic editing is “editing to clarify meaning, improve flow, and smooth language.”[13] Focus here is on the tone and style of writing, making sure that the sentences and paragraphs clearly communicate the author’s meaning. Stylistic editing can include rearranging sentence order, changing words to be more precise, and eliminating wordiness, all while retaining the author’s voice and an appropriate tone.

Copy editing seeks “to ensure correctness, consistency, accuracy, and completeness.”[14] This stage involves correcting errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage, and identifying errors in logic or fact. The copy editor applies editorial style consistently—for example, when to use Roman numerals and when to spell out numbers—and either works from a previous editor’s style sheet or starts a new one. The copy editor checks and confirms details and information, such as website links and material presented in tables.

The final stage of the EAC document is proofreading, which is “examining material after layout to correct errors in textual and visual elements.”[15] The proofreader reads the first proof word by word, and ensures that all material is there—headings, paragraphs, images—and that it is presented consistently. This can entail checking the layout against the original manuscript to ensure all content is there and accurate. The proofreader marks changes that need to be made (for example, bad end-of-line word breaks) and then ensures on subsequent proofs that those changes have been made, and that those changes don’t create further layout problems. A crucial part of proofreading is not overstepping one’s boundaries, and not performing other editorial tasks (structural, stylistic, or copy editing) unless otherwise instructed.

There is no category in the EAC guidelines called detail editing, but the difference is only one in naming: different parts of detail editing are found in the EAC‘s categories of copy editing, proofreading, and (to a slightly lesser extent) stylistic editing. Every publisher must handle details somehow, but will approach how to handle detail editing, and how to apply editorial standards, differently. The EAC guidelines themselves, which are very clear about dividing the editorial process into stages, acknowledge that “not all publications go through [all stages separately]…The exact editorial process followed for a given publication will vary, depending on factors such as the quality of the original material, the intended audience and purpose, set practices within the company or organization, production methods and tools, schedule, and budget.”[16] Just as all publishers have different ways of handling the editorial processes detailed in the EAC guidelines, publishers have different ways of handling details, which are most closely aligned with the EAC stages of copy editing and proofreading. Harbour Publishing, a regional publisher in British Columbia, relied on freelancers to perform nearly all of the editorial duties for Birds of the Raincoast (a title quite similar to something that Lone Pine might produce). The project was controlled centrally by in-house personnel, but copy editing, for example, was done by a freelancer; proofing was also done by freelance editorial staff, although the layout was also closely and repeatedly checked by in-house staff.[17] Folklore Publishing, a small history publisher in Alberta with an in-house staff of only two, relies almost entirely on freelance staff to edit manuscripts: one freelancer does a substantive edit and another does a proofread before the manuscript is sent to contract production staff.[18] Proofs in the layout stage at Folklore are usually checked by administrative staff in-house. The University of Alberta Press (UAP), a scholarly publisher that also publishes trade titles (including fiction and poetry), also relies largely on freelance staff, who sometimes do more than one step of editing at a time—such as combining stylistic editing with copy editing. “As for what kind of editing is done, and when, it depends entirely on the project and on the skill level of the editor,” says Peter Midgley, Senior Editor (Acquisitions) at UAP.[19] Final detail work (approving and checking the freelancer’s work, and then proofing after layout) is done in-house. Others, such as Lone Pine, use mainly in-house staff with one editor handling all stages of editing on a project. There is no one correct editing method: “[t]he EAC standards outline tasks that must be done, but I’ve never heard of any company that follows it literally, with different people for each layer, on every project.”[20] Each of these publishers—and indeed, every publisher—has a slightly different way of applying editorial standards in general, including with detail editing.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

EDITING AT LONE PINE

Drawing from the explanation of detail editing at Lone Pine set out in the previous chapter, this chapter examines the overall editorial process at Lone Pine in order to establish how detail editing fits into that process. Rather than a task-oriented structure of editing, in which different editors perform different duties on the same manuscript, Lone Pine prefers a project-oriented structure, in which one editor has ownership of a project and works on it from start to finish. At Lone Pine, an editor usually works on a book from the time the manuscript is delivered to the publisher to the time the layout is sent to the printer: reordering the text (structural editing), smoothing out the language and tone (stylistic editing), ensuring accuracy in cross-references and information (copy editing), and checking the composed pages (proofreading). Instead of dividing tasks among editors, Lone Pine divides projects among editors, often by category: for example, Sheila Quinlan edits most of Lone Pine’s gardening books.

There are always exceptions to how a project-oriented structure is employed in reality. At Lone Pine, a few big books are the collaborative efforts of more than one editor. The 448-page Mammals of Canada, which was undergoing editorial work during the summer of 2010, was so complicated that multiple editors (and external reviewers) were involved, working on the text, coordinating illustrations, and consulting on design. Occasionally, editors might share other manuscripts in response to workload and availability. Even manuscripts that are handled entirely by one editor get some input from another member of the editorial team: Sheila Quinlan says that the editorial director will still do “a quick read-through” near the end of the editorial process and offer some final suggestions and corrections.[21] But largely, editing at Lone Pine is done on a complete project basis.

 

Editorial Structure

Lone Pine retains an in-house editorial structure, composed of an editorial director (Nancy Foulds) and three or four full-time editors. During the summer of 2010, the full-time editorial staff members were Gary Whyte, Nicholle Carrière, and Sheila Quinlan; I was filling in for Wendy Pirk, who was on maternity leave. A few part-time staff members (usually former full-time editorial employees) and freelance editors supplement the editorial team whenever necessary.

Lone Pine does not accept unsolicited submissions, but does accept book proposals on the topics of natural history, gardening, and outdoor recreation.[22] Most book concepts, however, are developed in-house, with consultation among the editorial department, the publisher, and marketing. Books at Lone Pine are very publisher- and marketing-driven. Shane Kennedy, the publisher of Lone Pine, has a very important and active role in determining the shape and direction of Lone Pine’s books. Often he will see a book in a bookstore that is within Lone Pine’s purview and know that Lone Pine could do a better job on the topic; a wild game and fish cookbook project entered development during the summer of 2010 as a result of Kennedy’s direction. Marketing also provides valuable direction; for example, if a guide for perennial flowers in a certain region has done well, maybe Lone Pine should consider developing a book for annual flowers for the same region. After a book concept is established and developed by editorial, the publisher, and marketing, the editorial director locates an author or authors to write the book. If it is a regional title, as many of Lone Pine’s titles are, Lone Pine will seek to engage at least one author who is a subject expert from within that region. For example, of the three authors of Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook, one (Becky Selengut) is a chef and culinary instructor who lives in Washington; the other two authors contribute to other titles in the series.

Book concepts and ideas have a long life at Lone Pine. When Nancy Foulds joined Lone Pine in 1995, a book called Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia was in development.[23] It was a massive undertaking, billed as a bible for the forestry people of the province, and Lone Pine saw it as an important and worthwhile project. Because it covered such a wide range of species and locations, several different authors, who were experts in different fields, were working on it simultaneously. As with any large and complicated project, there were difficulties. There was no consistent authorial voice: parts written by different authors took on different tones; even some sentences within a single paragraph sounded vastly different. Contributions from one author in particular were written in an archaic, outdated style that did not fit in with the rest. Even though computer use and publishing technology had come a long way by the mid-’90s, it was still a significant editorial challenge to bring all these different contributions and voices together into one unified whole. One delay led to another, but Lone Pine never shelved the project, and advances in technology made it progressively more possible to compile and edit text electronically. Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia was finally published in 2006, after being actively in development for over a decade. Similarly, an idea introduced in an editorial concept meeting might not fit in with the current list or priorities, but could resurface years later and undergo development.

The relationships that editorial at Lone Pine has with its authors are very hands-on. The editor has a lot of leeway to craft and shape the book, and there is not much back and forth between editor and author. Typically, the author sees the manuscript twice more after submitting it: once after the editor has nearly completed editing, to resolve any queries and make any final changes, and once after the book has gone to production and pages have been composed. The author does see the edited text, but in a final version; that is, the author normally doesn‘t see the marked-up manuscript in either paper or electronic form. The author still has the chance to question and disagree with the editor’s work, but negotiation between editor and author about every change and decision does not take place. One of the points in the Professional Editorial Standards is that editors should “[u]se judgment about when to query the author…and when to resolve problems without consultation,”[24] and at Lone Pine editors certainly have greater authority to resolve problems independently than at some other publishing houses.

Lone Pine’s editorial practices—that books are mainly publisher- or editor-driven, and that little author–editor negotiation is expected—are defined by the type of books that Lone Pine publishes. Most titles are information-based, such as guidebooks, and all are non-fiction. In non-literary non-fiction publishing, many authors are subject experts rather than professional writers; they write books based on their authority and knowledge on certain topics, rather than their skills as writers. Such non-fiction projects require different types of editing than, say, a novel by an established writer. According to what is termed a conservative estimate, 50% of Canadian trade non-fiction books are in practice, if not in name, a collaboration to some degree between the author and the editor (in the United States, the percentage may be as high as 80%).[25] While some of Lone Pine’s authors are full-time professional writers, others are subject experts who are passionate about a particular topic. The nature of non-fiction editing lends itself quite easily to a project-based editorial approach, with a high degree of editorial authority and autonomy and the editor very invested in and responsible for all stages of a manuscript.

 

The Evolution of Editing at Lone Pine

Editing at Lone Pine has changed over the last few years. Five or six years ago, Lone Pine had a much larger in-house editorial team, which included about six in-house editors and four or five in-house authors. Three of these authors wrote Lone Pine’s gardening guides, and two were ghost writers: ghost writers in this case referring not to those who write or rewrite a book that is credited to another author (the usual meaning), but writers who wrote actual ghost stories for an imprint of Lone Pine called Ghost House Books. When Lone Pine had in-house authors, the relationships between editors and authors were very strong; it was easy to have good communication about deadlines and editing suggestions when the two groups saw each other every day. Today, there is a smaller editorial staff and there are no in-house authors, although some of the authors who formerly worked in-house still write books for Lone Pine.

There are a few possible reasons for the smaller in-house editorial department (both editors and authors) over the last few years. A number of existing book series have neared completion, such as the Birds of… series, which consists of around 50 titles for different cities, provinces, states, and regions. There are still ways to repurpose material and continue with bird guidebooks (for example, with books such as Compact Guide to Atlantic Canada Birds; there are currently around 15 Compact Guide bird books), but books in the series are not being turned out as quickly as they were in past years. This slowdown likely also relates to the economic situation in the United States, which has been a huge expansion market for Lone Pine. It was no longer practical to produce as many regional titles for US markets when book sales there were slowing. So a combination of a wrap-up of existing series, slower sales in the US, and a smaller editorial staff—which have likely influenced each other—has resulted in fewer books being published per year: from a high of thirty to thirty-five in the past to around twelve to twenty today.

Since some of the existing series are nearing completion, Lone Pine will be looking to develop some new series to continue their publishing model, and this could demand considerable staff time. When Lone Pine started developing its gardening series in the mid-’90s, it took a lot of time and effort to get started: they had to develop the concept and design, build up a library of photographs, and cultivate relationships with garden writers and photographers. The first two gardening titles published were Perennials of British Columbia (2000) and Perennials of Ontario (2001), and after those years of prep work were done for the first few titles, it became much easier to continue with that series (e.g., Perennials for Northern California) and to expand the concept to other series (e.g., Annuals for Ontario, Best Garden Plants for British Columbia, Tree and Shrub Gardening for Northern California). The latest addition to the gardening series is Vegetable Gardening for…, of which three titles were in development in 2010. So if Lone Pine looks to develop completely new series in the coming years, as the gardening field was new in the 1990s, there could be another increase in editorial staff.

However, even though there could be a high demand on editorial, it‘s likely that the in-house department won’t increase considerably. Lone Pine’s use of technology has made editing much more portable. Editing is done almost exclusively electronically today, rather than on paper. As noted earlier, electronic editing made it much easier to edit a multi-contributor project like Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia in 2006 than it was in 1995. Since technology has made editing more portable, it is possible for personnel to work remotely, which has both pros and cons for Lone Pine and for the editors themselves.

For example, in 2007 and 2008, two editors, Sheila Quinlan and Wendy Pirk, worked for Lone Pine as full-time employees from Barbados. They did virtually the same editorial tasks that they would have done at the office in Edmonton, but did absolutely everything electronically, emailing files and questions and checking in with the office daily via Skype. After files were laid out, the editors worked from PDFs and marked up any changes electronically, rather than shipping paper back and forth. The pros for the editors were that they had the flexibility to set their own hours and the opportunity to experience life in another country, and they were also able to travel to and work from other international destinations during their time abroad. The company benefited because it had a two-year commitment from the editors and a staff presence in Barbados, where some of the company’s international arrangements are based. But there were difficulties as well. Even though it is possible to do nearly all editorial work electronically, some tasks are best done in-house, by hand, such a quickly checking over a reprint, as detailed in chapter 1. While production would have been able to email the reprint file to the editors in Barbados, the editors wouldn‘t have had the marked-up editorial department copy of the original printing, or any copy of the book, for that matter. The tight turnaround times necessary when producing reprints would have made it impractical to ship a copy of the originally printed book to Barbados to be checked against the proofs. Also, Sheila Quinlan notes that communication to and from the office definitely suffered: “sometimes it’s nice to just be able to go over to production and talk to whoever is doing your book about what needs to be done. Email isn’t always ideal when you just have a quick question or comment.”[26]

Even if it isn’t always efficient, technology has made remote editing more possible for Lone Pine than it has ever been before. It has also made it possible to keep the in-house editorial staff smaller: while it is still important for Lone Pine to have a core team in-house, some projects and tasks can be assigned to part-time or freelance staff working outside the office. According to Gary Whyte, one of the major ongoing changes in editing at Lone Pine is that they are trying to make more use of external resources (i.e., freelancers), while retaining central control and communication in-house.[27] Some projects are more easily edited out-of-house than others. Projects that highly depend on illustrations and a lot of technical details are kept in-house, while other, relatively straightforward projects are more likely to be sent to a freelancer. For example, during the summer of 2010, a gardening question-and-answer guide called Just Ask Jerry was assigned to Kathy van Denderen, a regular Lone Pine freelance editor. She worked from outside the office, but would occasionally stop by the office for editorial meetings. It is telling that even though technology makes it possible for editorial work to be done from anywhere in the world, nearly all of Lone Pine’s freelance editors live in Edmonton; it makes it that much easier to pick things up at the office or consult in person.

The smaller in-house editorial staff at Lone Pine has necessitated some changes in editing process, and some sacrifices. Only a few years ago, nearly every book was worked on by at least two editors, or had a “second set of eyes read-through” by a second, separate editor.[28] Having a fresh set of eyes on a manuscript has obvious advantages. When an editor has been closely working on a manuscript for weeks or months, it can be very helpful to have input from someone further removed from the project. The second editor will catch things the first editor did not, and will raise different concerns. The luxury of having a second editor work on a manuscript has largely had to be surrendered now that there are fewer editors. However, Lone Pine‘s commitment to having a core in-house editorial team somewhat mitigates the effect of having only one editor work on a manuscript—there are always other editors around to consult with or get feedback from on tricky points. Freelance editors often feel isolated because they don’t have the opportunity to work closely with other editors. A strong in-house editorial core benefits not only the in-house staff, but freelancers as well if there is solid communication.

Lone Pine’s smaller in-house staff has also meant that there is less time for long-term, forward-looking projects. As discussed previously, house style sheets are updated less frequently than they once were. Another editorial department project that has been long in development is the upgrading of Lone Pine’s illustrations database. For nature guidebooks, Lone Pine commissions illustrations of each featured species, both plants and animals: trees, flowers, berries, birds, bugs, butterflies, mammals, and so on. By commissioning illustrations rather than renting or using stock sources, Lone Pine owns the images and is able to reuse them in whatever manner they wish. With over 5,000 images, Lone Pine’s illustrations collection is a huge and extremely valuable resource for the company. Naturally, it is very important that editors and production staff be able to search for and locate illustrations, which are identified by an in-house numbering system related to the species’ scientific family name. The illustrations database was created around fifteen years ago using FileMaker 2; in 2010, the current version of FileMaker is 11. The illustrations database has been updated with new illustration listings, but databases have changed considerably in the past fifteen years, and the database structure itself is outdated. Maintaining the database requires considerable work-arounds. Possibly the biggest drawback of the current illustrations database is that it does not contain all forms of visual media; photographs are catalogued elsewhere in a separate system. Lone Pine prefers to own photographs outright as well so they can be reused, but in many cases that has not been possible. The current database cannot accommodate details like restrictions on image usage since it was not set up to include that. Also, the database helps only to store information; if it were set up as a relational database, with pieces of text (for example, information about bird habitat and nesting habits), it could be used to assist with production.[29] The task of upgrading the database has long been in development, but more short-term projects take priority, especially with a smaller in-house editorial staff. The current system still works, even though it is not as efficient as it could be, and so upgrading to a new system (and then adapting editorial workflow to the implications of that system) has less urgency.

A final recent change in editing at Lone Pine is a move away from so much paper. Nearly all text is edited electronically with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes function, instead of marking up paper. Also, Lone Pine used to print out a colour copy of a book once it was laid out, and courier it to the author for approval and for any changes; now, the author is emailed a PDF version of the layout, along with instructions for how to mark any changes electronically. Production at Lone Pine typically still prints out layouts for editorial to proof and approve, but increasingly more of that work is done on-screen as well. Working electronically seems relatively straightforward and intuitive today, but the effect it has had on editorial processes and efficiencies should not be underestimated.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

STANDARDS OF DETAIL EDITING IN CANADIAN TRADE BOOK PUBLISHING

Over the past five to ten years, there has been much debate over the supposedly declining state of editing in Canadian trade book publishing—and in particular, detail editing. In 2006, Rawi Hage’s debut novel, De Niro’s Game, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The Giller is Canada’s most prestigious fiction prize, and can be extremely influential on sales for the finalists and particularly the winner. But critics were quick to point out that De Niro’s Game, published by House of Anansi Press, contained several noticeable typographical and grammatical errors: “[t]he possessive word ‘children’s’ is spelled with the apostrophe after the ‘s’ instead of before it. Led, the past tense of lead, is spelt l-e-a-d. The word lying is written as ‘laying.’ Letters and words are missing from sentences.”[30] These are the types of things that are usually corrected in the copy-editing or proofreading stages, but a certain number of such errors go unnoticed in virtually any publication. However, these mistakes were not only publicly pointed out, but “some seriously raised the issue of whether [De Niro’s Game] deserved to be considered for a major literary award” as a result of those mistakes.[31] Do grammatical or syntactic oversights on the part of the editorial team compromise a book’s merit? The 2006 Giller jury evidently was willing to overlook them, but others disagreed. Indeed, when a reader is constantly pulled out of the world of a novel by glaring typos and mistakes, it can diminish the story’s impact and emotional power.

Debates on detail editing are not limited to literary fiction or to Canada. After the release of each new Harry Potter book, newspaper articles, magazine features, and blogs popped up decrying a lack of attention to detail in the books. “It’s nice to know that despite the billions of dollars involved in JK Rowling’s creation, they still manage to botch things up like proofreading,” one blogger concluded, after pointing out a reference to a “site” in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that should have been “sight.”[32] Fans also pointed out detail errors in content: for example, a minor character, Marcus Flint, is said to be in his sixth year of school in the first book, but appears again in school in book three, by which time he should have graduated.[33] Editors in the U.K., the U.S., and Canada worked to tailor the books for the markets in their countries, both for language and for continuity, and so different detail editing concerns were raised with each different edition.

In 2010, Penguin Group Australia destroyed and reprinted 7,000 copies of The Pasta Bible for a single typo: a recipe that called for “salt and freshly ground black people” instead of “pepper.” It was called the “worst typo ever”[34] and received significant media attention. An automated spellchecker was officially blamed for the error, and the publishers said they regretted the error but they realized it was extremely difficult for editors to catch absolutely everything. Later in 2010, 8,000 copies of the UK edition of Jonathan Franzen’s highly acclaimed novel Freedom had to be reprinted because an earlier version of the manuscript had inadvertently gone to press. It was “an early draft manuscript, and contains hundreds of mistakes in spelling, grammar and characterisation.”[35] The errors in Freedom were attributed to the typesetters sending a wrong version of the file to the printer, not the editors overlooking some errors as was the case with De Niro’s Game, but it still speaks to the importance of detail editing and detail editors. Effectively, editors ultimately give approval to the quality of what is published.

It could be suggested that editors today rely too much on technology for detail editing. Spellcheckers are common in today’s word processors—and even online, with Google gently asking “did you mean…?” when a word or phrase is typed incorrectly. But spellcheckers are not infallible; whether or not an automated spellchecker actually was responsible for substituting “people” for “pepper” in The Pasta Bible, it’s plausible that it could have been. Automated spellcheckers don’t know the difference between “here” and “hear” and so can’t correct homophones to tell you that you‘ve used the wrong version of their/there/they’re. Likewise, automatic grammar checks can identify some problems, such as subject/verb disagreement: a sentence such as “Bob and Jim was in the room” can automatically be marked as incorrect. But other times a perfectly grammatical sentence will be flagged as incorrect, or an instance of incorrect grammar will go unnoticed. Automated tools have their limitations, as editors are well aware. Besides, even a perfectly grammatical sentence can be very bad writing, requiring an editor to smooth out the words manually. Spellcheckers and the like can be useful tools for editors, catching that one time in a manuscript that a word is spelled incorrectly. But they cannot be relied upon to do an editor’s job, and most of the time, they are not.

Electronic tools can also present new opportunities for editors. Using Find and Replace, an editor can easily switch all occurrences of “color” to “colour” and be confident that all instances of the word have been changed. When editing on paper, an editor would have to go through the manuscript manually to locate each usage—which could be extremely time-consuming, especially if the decision to change from American to Canadian spelling was made at the last minute, requiring a pass through the manuscript dedicated solely to checking for that one thing. Similarly, electronic editing tools make it possible to reverse a bad editing decision quickly and comprehensively: “searching a document [on paper] to undo a bad style decision takes a long time and risks missing a few instances.”[36] Of course, there are downsides to these tools as well. Attempting to automatically change every use of the suffix “-ise” to “-ize” will also create improperly spelled words like “compromize” or “raized” or “dizease.” Once again, nothing automatic is foolproof.

Publishers also increasingly use automated conversion programs to change files from one form to another. Automated conversion from print files to EPUB, along with the editor’s role in ebook creation, is examined further in chapter 4.

Some have suggested that less attention to detail editing and higher reliance on editing technology is having a net negative effect on our society. Responding to the “ground black people” debacle, one copy editor asserted that “cutbacks on editing and increased reliance on technology will result in a decrease in quality and an increase in errors…these measures are helping to make ours a less literate culture.”[37] To call us “a less literate culture” based on trends in detail editing is a strong statement indeed. While it is an extreme viewpoint, there are legitimate concerns about the current state—and future—of detail editing. Why has its role in publishing changed?

There has undoubtedly been a shift in editorial priorities—responding to technological changes and opportunities, certainly, but also reacting to the publishing culture at large. In the past, editors were able to look for manuscripts they felt had potential, and then were able to spend time working with the author on improving them. This process was sometimes extensive, with dedicated, unswervingly committed editors drawing out (or reshaping) the very best from their authors, such as T.S. Eliot with his editor Ezra Pound. The editorial focus was on finding promise and developing it. Today, the focus is increasingly on acquisitions. With smaller budgets for editorial departments, publishers and editors have to look for manuscripts that are cleaner: already well developed in concept and smooth in execution. Editors, then, look to acquire already-polished manuscripts. Also, marketing departments have a much larger role in what is acquired and published than they did in the past. Publishers understandably want and need to sell what they publish, and marketing departments look for books that they can sell and make a profit from. Books that require less developmental editing require less of an investment of time, money, and other resources by the publisher, therefore leading to a greater opportunity for profit. The combination of increased importance of marketing and smaller editorial budgets has causally influenced the shift from development to acquisitions. Similarly, editors have seen acquiring a good title as being potentially more profitable career-wise than editing a good title,[38] and so there is pressure to focus on acquisitions from inside the editing profession itself.

In some types of trade publishing, agents have undoubtedly also affected this shift as they assume some of the responsibilities formerly ascribed to editors: “[t]oday’s agents nurture authors, work closely with them in development of their work, perform a great many editorial tasks, and lend strong emotional and psychological support…agents have become the islands of stability and reliability that were once the province of editors.”[39] Editors rely on agents to send them polished work that meets the publisher’s established criteria; the agent then increasingly plays the role of filter, screening manuscripts before they are seen by the publishing house. It is easy to see how agents have taken on some of the traditional editorial tasks in such a case. But the increased emphasis on acquisitions in editorial departments is not limited to publishing houses that find their manuscripts through the slush pile (or submissions from agents). Most of Lone Pine’s titles are publisher-driven: ideas are conceived and developed in-house and then authors are located and contracted to write them. But while ideas are developed in-house—which requires editorial time and effort—the submitted manuscript does have to conform to the publisher’s expectations. Authors whose manuscripts require considerable extra editorial time to be organized and smoothed out are less likely to be rehired than authors who submit dependably solid, polished works. Even in publisher-driven books, selective acquisitions work is crucial.

Some have bemoaned the loss of editors like Maxwell Perkins, the devoted, compassionate editor of the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in the early part of the twentieth century. Perkins is known for the thoughtfulness and care he put into working with authors to truly draw out their potential, evidenced in his well-crafted editorial letters. “‘Where are today’s Maxwell Perkinses?’ is the plaintive cry of authors who discover horrifying grammatical, syntactic, factual, and typographic errors in their freshly minted books, or, worse, have them gleefully pointed out by friends and critics.”[40] Indeed, this same refrain arises again and again when errors are found, such as in Rawi Hage’s De Niro’s Game. The question really being asked is what has happened to the editors of yesteryear, the editors who were nurturing to authors while at the same time ruthlessly conscientious about ensuring accuracy. The reality is that editing today is very different than it was at the beginning of the twentieth century. The editing profession has taken on a myriad of tasks, including developing book concepts and outlines, meeting with sales and marketing personnel and writing marketing materials, tracking copyright information and permissions, applying for Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) listings, coordinating with production staff, corresponding with authors and agents…and somewhere in there, actually doing what is most commonly thought of as editing—working with the text itself. Constantly questioning what has happened to editors like Maxwell Perkins “oversimplifies editing both now and then, and fails to take into account that today’s editors simply don‘t perform the same tasks as their forebears did.”[41]

Stuart Woods quotes an agent as referring to today’s editors as “glorified ‘project managers.'”[42] Woods describes how in-house editors have been increasingly forced to focus on managing projects, with the editors and the publishing company having little or no time or inclination to actually edit the manuscript. To get that editorial attention to the text, authors have had to hire freelancers themselves, without having any certainty of eventual publication. This editing model has been affected by publishers’ desire for more polished manuscripts, and illustrates a significant change in the editorial priorities of publishing houses. The project manager designation, however, does not have to be as pejorative to editors as Woods’s comment suggests. Editors often do have to manage all stages of a project, and they assume a much wider range of responsibility than did editors of previous generations. Hinting that editors are not doing as good a job as they used to does oversimplify the evolving role of editors. It also assumes that editors’ primary responsibility is detail work, when in reality there may only be the time and budget for that to be a very small part of the job.

However, these concerns about shifting editorial priorities are nothing new. In the 1970s and ’80s, publishing houses increasingly employed freelance editors to do tasks like copy editing and proofreading, since the work could be done more inexpensively by freelancers than by in-house staff—not necessarily because in-house staff make more money than freelancers, but because freelancers can be engaged on a project-by-project basis, only when they are needed. As a result, in-house editorial departments shrunk. This shift was also in part a result of a shift in focus to acquisitions and to the editor’s increasing role as a project manager. According to most sources, the biggest things that editorial departments lost as more and more work was sent out-of-house were cohesion and continuity: there was a “loss of personal, day-to-day communication” that comes from people interacting in person on a daily basis.[43] Since these explanations for evolving editorial priorities have been around for at least the past thirty years, what—if anything—is different in the more recent past? Why are publishers, in Canada and around the world, accused of giving lower priority to detail editing in the past five to ten years?

The answer is undoubtedly in part because publishers have given lower priority to detail editing. For all the reasons discussed earlier—lower editorial budgets, a greater priority on acquisitions, diversifying job responsibilities, and a move to freelance editors—some changes necessarily had to be made. And a lower priority on detail editing has been one of these sacrifices. Like good businesspeople, publishers have tightened their budgets and improved their bottom lines by putting less time and attention into tasks that are deemed dispensable, including detail editing. This trend has been seen in publishers large and small; according to Mary Schendlinger, some of the companies that were traditionally “yardsticks” for detail editing standards, such as Penguin, have been “slipping in the proofing department too.”[44] A “sea change in editorial priorities” at Penguin Canada in the mid-2000s replaced most in-house editors skilled at line editing with acquisitions editors.[45] When such a change occurs, the publishing house necessarily relies on freelance editors to work with the text itself, and to conduct many different levels of editing. Detail editing can often then suffer. This is not at all to suggest that in-house editors are better than freelancers; even though in-house editors have access to more training, knowledge, and experience, there is no guarantee that they will be better editors. Nor does it suggest that freelance editors are inferior in skill or ability than in-house editors. Most publishing houses no longer have the resources to train editors in-house, so editors learn the business through training programs, courses, and on-the-job freelance experience. These freelance editors treat editing very professionally, as the creation of the EAC’s Professional Editorial Standards demonstrates. The two editors who were awarded the EAC’s Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence in 2002, David Peebles and Susan Goldberg, were both freelance editors who had not had the opportunity to learn the editing profession from inside a publishing house. Instead, they had taken editing courses and been mentored by experienced editors from within the publishing house; Dennis Bockus refers to this approach to using freelancers as “the new model of publishing in action.”[46] But using freelancers for detail editing (a cost-saving measure) can also result in less detail editing. For example, a freelance proofreader might mark up a laid-out text so that it can go back to production, but the corrected proof might not get back to that proofreader to double-check, because of time limitations or budget concerns. Or that proofreader could fail to notice style inconsistencies that had been discussed at length in-house; for example, in a gardening book, how should the names of varieties of plants be handled—in single quotations, or double, or none? Of course, both situations can also occur with in-house editors—the quality of both in-house and freelance editors can be uneven—but physical distance makes oversights more likely to happen.

Detail editing, then, has been given lower priority largely for economic reasons: some things have just had to be cut. The more interesting question is how publishers have been able to justify deeming detail editing as dispensable—or at least more dispensable than other tasks. After all, there are several good reasons why detail editing is important, such as reliability, professionalism, and credibility (as discussed in chapter 1). Perhaps there are fewer readers (and editors) who are as fastidious about the rules of grammar and word usage than there once were. Quill and Quire points out that “[t]he line between the relaxed grammar of conversation and formal grammar of the printed word is blurring,” and so general readers can often easily make sense of what are technically prescriptive mistakes in language use.[47] It is not uncommon to hear that today’s generation places less importance on things like grammar, but this argument isn’t new, either: in 1986, an editor for Harper and Row stated that “there simply isn’t the old interest in grammatical precision among young people anymore.”[48] What is new today is the cultural influence of, and the opportunities afforded by, technology. Tools like email, text messaging, and Twitter have brought relaxed grammar and language use to the mainstream, with their focus on immediacy, brevity, and communication, not necessarily grammatical correctness. Creative and playful use of language has been around for centuries; it is not the result of new technologies. However, new technologies do make relaxed language use more prevalent and widespread, and they accelerate the speed at which it gains acceptance.

What is different today is that current technologies make correcting many errors simple, and at least theoretically instant. It is common to see articles or news stories posted online along with messages like “This article has been edited to correct a previously published version.”[49] The focus is on getting out content quickly. And it can be made available quickly partly because there is time to fix things later. When an error is discovered in a print newspaper, the newspaper can‘t prevent its readership from seeing the error; all it can do is print a correction in the next issue. Online, however, if an editor or author discovers an infelicity after a piece is posted—or if a reader notices and leaves a comment about it—it can be corrected immediately, and every future reader of the piece will see the corrected version. This ability means that more errors can be fixed, because technology makes it so straightforward, but it could also lead to some editors being less careful, knowing that instant fixes can be made afterward. A similar application of content-first, correction-second can be seen in informal communication habits. A study on the language and literacies of messaging reported that instant messaging users will often fix a spelling mistake made in one message in the next, preceding the corrected spelling with an asterisk, although the reasons behind the development of this convention are unclear.[50] I can anecdotally confirm that although I have no idea how I learned the standard, over the years I have corrected my own typos in MSN Messenger and Gmail Chat in such a fashion. Today’s technology mediates a culture that allows for small errors because they can be instantly corrected.

But how does this culture affect book publishers? Even though ebooks and other forms of digital publishing are becoming increasingly important, print publishing is still the priority of most Canadian book publishers in 2010. Accordingly, the nature of print makes books more like the printed newspapers discussed previously: printed mistakes can’t be retracted immediately so that no one else will see them. But developments in printing technology make it considerably easier than it used to be to fix mistakes late in the publishing process. Not that long ago, in the days before desktop publishing, if necessary changes were discovered after a manuscript had gone to production, editors had to communicate the changes to typesetters, who had to create new hot lead casts for every single change. Fixing mistakes late in the process was a major ordeal—and very costly. At that stage, it was only economically feasible to correct the most serious errors, and so great attention had to be paid to catching detail errors before the manuscript reached the typesetter. Today, it can be quite expensive to make changes after a book has gone to the printer—as seen with Lone Pine’s philosophy to make only the most critical changes after a book progresses to the plotter stage—but before that, it is more straightforward. In electronic layouts, typos can be corrected, text reflowed, or images switched for only the cost of the production staff’s time and perhaps some pages printed out. Not insignificant expenses to be sure, but not nearly as costly or time-consuming as recasting hot lead. As a result, editorial staffs have become accustomed to making last-minute adjustments and changes. Hearing an editor say “We‘ll catch that after it goes to layout” is not uncommon today. In such a climate, detail editing can easily become an afterthought, not a primary focus.

Printing technology has also helped to reduce the number of errors in books. Accidental typos rarely require a publisher to do a whole reprinting; exceptions are made only in special circumstances, such as when the mistake is extremely offensive (e.g., the “ground black people” incident) or when an author commands that type of influence (e.g., the best-selling and critically acclaimed Jonathan Franzen). Most of the time, however, any mistakes discovered are merely corrected in subsequent reprints and editions. Printing technology has influenced this practice; print runs can be more conservative thanks to the use of print-on-demand (POD). There are many possible ways for publishers to use POD; one is to mitigate the impact of a shortage of books by running off POD copies, keeping the book in stock temporarily while reprinting more offset copies (which are cheaper to print, but take more time). Most publishers hope for a second printing of their books—especially if the first can be a smaller printing—and anticipate that any mistakes discovered can be fixed at that point. The much-decried mistakes in De Niro’s Game, for instance, were fixed in the next printing.

Technology has both influenced and made possible an overall tolerance for detail errors. There are undoubtedly still groups that fervently plea for correctness in the written and published word; books like Lynne Trusse’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves prove that some people care about grammar and punctuation, and care about it passionately. Overall, though, many people have become more tolerant of minor errors because electronic communications technology (such as email and text messaging) and online sources (such as news websites) have made them regular, accepted, and easy to fix. Publishers have perhaps capitalized on this overall trend by giving detail editing a lower priority, knowing that things can be changed further down the line—it is one of many ways to justify seeing detail editing as dispensable. Also, editors know that they are able to make changes throughout the publishing process, so it is no longer necessary to catch everything all at once; this can be a cost-effective measure and ensure very high-quality detail editing, but can also result in detail errors if something that the editor meant to review on the next proof is forgotten. These more recent technology-related changes combine with changes in overall editorial priorities over the past thirty to forty years—such as a shift to acquisitions and to editors as project managers—to make detail editing less central than it used to be. Quite simply, detail editing is less central in trade book publishing today because it no longer has to be.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

THE FUTURE OF DETAIL EDITING AT LONE PINE

Lone Pine today faces several detail editing concerns and constraints. There is the same amount of detail work to be done by a smaller in-house editorial staff; there is an overall trend in publishing that detail editing is one of the first things to be cut back to reduce costs; there are uncertainties about how to involve editorial in the ebook/digital content creation process (and how to handle that extra workload). None of these concerns are unique to Lone Pine; they are also being faced by other trade book publishers across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and beyond. The types of publications that Lone Pine produces, however, set it apart from many other trade publishers. Lone Pine produces guidebooks and books that are heavily information-based; minor errors in that information undercut the credibility of all of the information. It is likely that for the information-based publishing that Lone Pine does, detail editing will remain a priority, because it will distinguish the company to its readers as a professional and trustworthy publisher.

If detail editing is to stay as important as it has been, Lone Pine may have to find other ways to reduce editorial time, and/or find other areas to cut back. It is possible that detail editing will continue at the expense of some substantive work. However, for trade publishers of fiction, poetry, narrative non-fiction, and so on, substantive editing will likely continue to have a higher priority than detail work. This is not to say that substantive editing is not important to a guidebook; it is. For example, a guidebook must include the appropriate animals for a region and not leave out any notable ones. But just as a considerable amount of developmental and structural editing of novels has shifted over to agents, the substantive editing needed for Lone Pine’s information-based texts may increasingly shift over to authors and technical reviewers. The substantive work will still get done, but in a slightly different way.

In spite of the trends in the larger publishing industry and the pressures from within the company to reduce costs and eliminate expendable tasks, Lone Pine intends—and needs—to keep detail editing central. Its future depends in part on the quality and credibility of the products it produces, whatever form those products take. As digital reading and publishing become more common, book publishers have to consider other ways to use their content. Lone Pine is already well accustomed to repurposing content in different print capacities (much of the content in Vegetable Gardening for Ontario, for example, is reused in Vegetable Gardening for British Columbia; content from Lone Pine’s full-length bird books is compiled and condensed in the Compact Guide series), but developing content for different, multiple mediums brings new complexities. The concerns are not only production-related (i.e., how do we actually create an ebook?) but also editorial-related (i.e., how do we develop and curate content for ebooks?). The following case study examines some of the practical and theoretical challenges in ebook creation at Lone Pine.

 

A Case Study: Ebooks at Lone Pine

Ebooks are becoming increasingly important for readers and publishers. Statistics released from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) show that in the United States, ebooks generated 9.03% of trade book sales in the first three-quarters of 2010, compared to 3.31% of sales in 2009. In dollars, ebooks account for $263 million so far in 2010, compared to $89.8 million over the same period in 2009—a 193% increase.[51] These are American figures, but the Canadian percentages are likely comparable (if a little lower, owing to several factors such as the Kindle ereader not being available in Canada at all until late 2009). But publishers in Canada (and elsewhere) have faced difficulties in making the transition to digital publishing. When the Giller Prize shortlist was announced on October 5, 2010, Twitter users were quick to point out that only two of the five shortlisted titles were available as ebooks.[52] Adapting to ebooks has not been a fast process for publishing houses, not least because of a confusing tangle of file formats, distribution channels, and price points to navigate. Ebook production has made publishers rethink their entire production processes.

Ebooks present editors with challenges as well. Many ebook file formats reflow text, which makes some traditional editorial proofing tasks, such as looking for bad end-of-line breaks, no longer entirely relevant (because the line breaks will change depending on the screen size, how zoomed-in the reader is, and what font is selected). Until recently, many publishers have treated ebooks as an add-on to their existing print publishing; print production files were converted to a format such as PDF or EPUB and instantly made available for distribution. In such a scenario, editors often don’t have the opportunity to edit the file after it has been converted and “laid out” as an ebook. Sometimes they don‘t have the opportunity to see the ebook at all, or so it seems. For example, in the preface to Brandon Sanderson’s novel The Way of Kings, the author explains that the illustrations in the book are very important to the story—but the illustrations are illegible in the ebook version. Since the illustrations are so important in this case, containing information that is not replicated in the text, the question arises: did anyone—the publisher, the editor, the author—see the ebook before it was made available for purchase? According to Rich Adin, an editor, the publishing industry “treat[s ebooks] as Cinderella stepchildren—as a way to do the work of increasing revenues without being given an opportunity to shine on their own.”[53] The process of ebook development will become more organic with time as publishers adapt, but it is currently a complicated (and groundbreaking) time for editors and editorial departments.

In 2009 and 2010, Lone Pine participated in an ebook conversion project coordinated by the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP). A number of Canadian publishers worked co-operatively to secure discount ebook conversion pricing from an overseas company; since there would be so many publications sent for conversion at the same time, rates would be cheaper. Lone Pine had recognized the need to participate in the ebook publishing industry but hadn’t been able to devote considerable time to it, especially with a decrease in production staff around the same time. So with the multiple-publisher conversion project and the reasonable rates, Lone Pine decided to convert a significant portion of its backlist and current books, some 350 titles, to ebooks. The conversion company said that they could convert files from any format into EPUB, and so Lone Pine sent files in a number of different formats (InDesign, Quark, PDF, etc.). Some books were so old that there were no electronic files, only film; for conversion to ebooks, film is transferred to what is called copy-dots by using a camera to take a photo of each page. Lone Pine production staff located the 350 final book files (or the file of the most recent reprint) and sent those to the conversion company.

The results of the ebook conversion were extremely disappointing. Many of Lone Pine’s books depend heavily on illustrations and photos. A bird guide, for example, is printed in full colour, with at least one large illustration, and sometimes two, per species account (every one or two pages). In some of the bird books there is also a photograph of a bird’s egg to go along with each species account. The main purpose of a guidebook is to identify species, so illustrations are as crucial as text. In Lone Pine’s print books, illustrations are roughly consistent in size throughout the book—about half to three-quarters of a page is normal. But in the ebook version of Birds of the Rocky Mountains, for example, illustrations are inconsistently sized. Sometimes they take up an entire screen on the iPad or on a computer screen using Adobe Digital Editions, which bumps the caption to the next screen, which contains no other text. When the images are oversized, they are very pixelated and unclear. In other entries, the main account illustrations are just tiny rectangles amongst the text. Some images are correctly sized: they look appropriately balanced and placed with the text, and the image quality is good and clear. But in this ebook, there appears to have been no consistent way of treating the images, and the blurred and stretched images especially give the ebook an amateur and unpolished appearance.

Also, the front of the print book Birds of the Rocky Mountains contains an illustrated reference guide, showing thumbnail images of each bird discussed in the book and what page it can be found on for easy reference. In the ebook, the reference guide images and text were resized and stretched to the point of being practically illegible, rendering the reference guide useless. The reference guide is also not clickable: you can’t click on an image or bird name and be taken directly to that account. Instead, each bird account refers to a barely legible page number that corresponds to the print version, and print page numbers have no meaning in an ebook that reflows according to screen and font size. Even if the images had been properly sized and clear, the reference guide would have been a feature of very limited relevance in an ebook unless it were redesigned.

The images are not the only area of concern in the Lone Pine ebooks: errors were also introduced in the text. Headers in particular are an area of difficulty—which is a big problem, because headers are some of the largest, most noticeable features in the book, and important to readers. In Birds of the Rocky Mountains, “Pied-billed Grebe” becomes “Pieb-billeb Grebe” in the large header at the top of the page, even though just below in the main body text it is spelled correctly. Similarly, “Semipalmated Sandpiper” becomes “Simipalmatid” and “Swainson’s Thrush” becomes “Th1ush” in the headers; in another book, Rocky Mountain Nature Guide, there are listings for “Turkey Valture,” “Rea-napea Sapsucker,” “TownsBnd’S Solitaire,” and “House Spaarow,” among others. None of these misspellings were present in the original print versions; they were somehow introduced during the conversion process. Lone Pine production staff doesn’t have a definitive explanation for how these types of errors were introduced. It could be that in the conversion process, character recognition software misidentified some letters, especially in the particular fonts that were used for headers. It is also possible that certain portions of the text were rekeyed manually for the ebooks: it is easy to imagine that happening where there are headers with missed letters (e.g., “Eurpean Starling”) or where there are periods behind the occasional header (e.g. “Broad-tailed Hummingbird.”) when no other headers are followed by a period.

There are other problems with the text. Extra paragraph breaks appear in the middle of paragraphs; some blocks of text are left-justified while others are centred; italics are not used consistently; hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes are often misused; certain character combinations appear incorrectly or don’t appear at all. The most serious problems are ones that can lead to inaccuracy and (in a guidebook) misidentification. For example, a number is inexplicably replaced with a question mark in at least one entry in Rocky Mountain Nature Guide, showing one berry measurement as “?-. in.”

As discussed in chapter 1, Lone Pine has a policy that everything production does must return to editorial for approval. Even reprints, which theoretically should be virtually identical to the previously published book, are proofed and approved by an editor before being printed. In this ebook project, however, the editorial department was completely uninvolved. Production gathered the titles and sent them to the conversion company, and the ebooks were returned in an unacceptable state. There was no opportunity for editorial to review and make corrections; Nancy Foulds says it was almost “like editorial had never happened.”[54] As a result, none of the 350 titles that were converted to ebooks are available to the public; as of late 2010, Lone Pine has no ebook titles available for purchase.

This case study illustrates the evolving role and retained importance of detail editing at Lone Pine. In hindsight, Lone Pine could have converted fewer titles in the ACP project and learned lessons on a small scale from that process.[55] Either way, however, editorial would definitely need to be involved. Editors need to be part of the ebook creation process, the same as they are with new titles and reprints and every other process of publishing. Also, in most cases, ebooks are not—or at least should not be—merely electronic replications of print books. They are their own medium and need to be thought of as their own entity with their own organization and resources; for example, the page number–based reference guide of a print book doesn’t work verbatim in an ebook. In addition, detail editing cannot be fully automated. Just as spellcheckers do not catch everything, ebook conversion software does not recognize and correctly handle everything either. Lone Pine (and other publishers) needs to maintain a commitment to detail editing as publishing transitions continue, keeping it a priority.

 

Looking to Lone Pine’s Future

In today’s quickly adapting publishing climate, there are many changes ahead for Lone Pine. One priority for the near future is to enter the ebook arena. While ebooks are not yet being actively created, production processes have begun to shift in anticipation: print books are designed with later conversion into ebooks in mind, and styles and formatting are applied accordingly. Undoubtedly, the editorial department will become more involved in developing and organizing content as ebooks are given their own status. Information-based texts such as nature guides lend themselves well to new renditions in ebook form, but new media is also not limited to ebooks: publishers have begun to create digital content in other forms. Travel guides are a good example of the innovation publishers are experimenting with. At a very simple level, some travel publishers provide audio tours that augment their print guides: for example, you can download a Rick Steves podcast to your iPod that will guide you through a walking tour of a neighbourhood in Paris. Digital content can also become much more complex: the travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet offers ebooks and apps (for the iPhone/iPad, Nokia, and Android) that provide city guides with information on accommodations, restaurants, and recommended experiences, all tied to GPS coordinates that pinpoint and respond to your location. Many travel details, such as restaurant information, can change frequently, and travel guides benefit from being able to update that information frequently and instantly in a digital publication or app; also, travellers enjoy the portability—and up-to-date information—of electronic media.

Travel guides are more ephemeral than nature guides, but some of the same principles of digital content apply. It is easy to imagine that a bird guidebook could be a very functional ebook or app, incorporating not only illustrations and text but also audio and video clips of bird calls and flight patterns and interactive maps of birds seen in the area. The National Audubon Society, a nature guide publisher (and a direct competitor of Lone Pine in some markets), has partnered with a digital publishing company called Green Mountain Digital to produce the Audubon Guides—”a comprehensive series of digital field guide apps to North American nature.”[56] There are currently over twenty titles in the Audubon Guide app series, ranging from narrowly focused (Audubon Birds of Central Park, $4.99, and Audubon Birds Texas, $6.99) to all-encompassing (the North America–wide Audubon Guides: A Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Wildflowers and Trees, $39.99). These apps offer the standard information one would expect to find in a nature guide, plus a library of bird calls and the ability to search for a bird based on characteristics like wing shape and colour, making it even more useful than a print book for identifying different species. These apps also offer the ability to track where the reader has seen certain birds and when; reviewers have pointed out that the function would be even more useful if that information could be shared with other app users, so that birders could see exactly where a fellow enthusiast spotted a rarely seen bird. Developing apps such as the Audubon Guides requires significant investment, and Lone Pine is still a while away from seriously committing to a project of that magnitude. It is likely that Lone Pine will test the digital nature guide world with a few ebooks and proceed from there. But the possibilities that digital media present for nature guides (and other information-based books) are intriguing, and they showcase how much room there is for the guidebook genre to enhance and add to its print form.

Many different publishing alternatives lie ahead for Lone Pine, but what does all this mean for detail editing? The case study of ebooks at Lone Pine demonstrates that the role of editors will continue to adapt and evolve—and even grow—as book publishing expands into other mediums. It won’t be enough for print books to be transferred automatically into digital media: the curatorial role of editors will be magnified as digital content becomes thought of as its own legitimate and separate entity, not just a spin-off. Editors will need to rethink the experience of a book as they develop digital content, and detail editors will be the ones compiling and repurposing content and navigation devices, ensuring internal consistency and thinking through the minutiae behind reader experience. As readers continue to become accustomed to interacting with digital content, the role of the detail editor will incorporate new responsibilities—and perhaps even see an increase in perceived importance. There is an opportunity for detail editors, as those who are skilled and meticulous enough to pull content together in a unified way, to become essential in proper digital content creation and curation.

There is another forthcoming change that will affect editorial processes at Lone Pine. The company plans to implement Adobe InCopy to streamline editing—and detail editing in particular. InCopy works with InDesign to “[e]nable a parallel workflow between design and editorial staff, precisely fit copy to layout, and efficiently meet editorial deadlines.”[57] Twenty years ago, every single editorial change noted after a document went to layout had to be made manually by a typesetter. Today, every single editorial change at Lone Pine has to be marked up manually and returned to production staff, who then make the change and return it to editorial for approval; editorial and production must occasionally go back and forth numerous times over one single little change. InCopy aims to eliminate the need for this laborious process by allowing editors to make editorial changes and corrections to the layout themselves. Lone Pine editors are hopeful that when this software is put into place, it will save them considerable time: detail editing processes should be faster, and editors should have more control. It should also allow editors the opportunity to make small, fiddly, improving but non-essential corrections that might not otherwise be made when one is working with a designer; this could ensure even more accuracy and precision in detail editing. InCopy could even improve collaboration between editors and authors: authors (and editors) would have much greater ability to edit and rewrite text after seeing it in a laid-out, final-looking form. It may be difficult to implement major changes that adjust editorial and production workflow—and that blur the boundaries between editorial and production staff. Publishers have traditionally kept these roles divided, but editorial and production staff have always worked closely together by necessity to finish a publication; with current technologies, the collaboration between the two roles could be increased and be more efficient. The process to incorporate InCopy at Lone Pine could be complex and require some redefining of staff roles, but it could also be a major turning point in editorial processes.

Many contextual and technological changes are currently underway in publishing and at Lone Pine. Given all of these changes, it seems that while editorial processes at Lone Pine will necessarily evolve and adapt, detail editing will remain central as a way to convey the brand’s professionalism and reliability to its readers. Currently many of Lone Pine’s books are edited from start to finish primarily by one editor, and with a trend toward a smaller in-house editorial staff, it doesn‘t seem likely that will change. Perhaps, since the smaller in-house staff simply cannot do everything, freelancers can be brought in more frequently to do task-oriented projects. For example, a freelancer could do an early proofread of a layout before it was returned to the project editor; manuscripts benefit from a fresh set of eyes, and some time would be freed up for the project editor. Freelance editors could become more central to detail editing at Lone Pine than they are currently.

The detail editing that is most important to Lone Pine today has less to do with spelling and grammar and more to do with accuracy of information; these characteristics are absolutely essential to its publishing model. In that way, perhaps Lone Pine is more similar to the overall trends in the evolution of detail editing than it would first appear, and it is possible that some forms of detail editing will take on a lower priority in the years and months to come. However, details like spelling and word usage remain important because they help to ensure that all-important accuracy. In the future, Lone Pine will have to continue devising detail editing practices that balance quality and reliability with the resources available. As well, for Lone Pine and all trade book publishers, new detail editing processes and opportunities will develop and adapt in response to new technologies and publishing mediums.

 

 


NOTES

1 Shane Kennedy and Grant Kennedy, “About Lone Pine Publishing,” Lone Pine Publishing, http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about (accessed September 17, 2010). RETURN

2 Leslie T. Sharpe and Irene Gunther, Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 8–22. RETURN

3 Paul Ford, “Real Editors Ship,” Ftrain.com, July 20, 2010, http://www.ftrain.com/editors-ship-dammit.html (accessed July 22, 2010). RETURN

4 For example, see Youth Canada, “Writing a Resume,” Government of Canada, http://www.youth.gc.ca/eng/topics/jobs/resume.shtml (accessed September 25, 2010). RETURN

5 Thomas Woll, Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2006), 5. RETURN

6 Douglas Johnston, “By the Look of Things, This Land Isn‘t My Land,” The Globe and Mail, July 14, 2003. RETURN

7 Bonnie Stern, “Recipe for Success: For Cookbook Authors, Cooking is the Easy Part,” Quill and Quire, October 2003, 46. RETURN

8 Iva W. Cheung, “The Editorial Handbook: A Comprehensive Document to Guide Authors through the Editorial Process at Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group” (Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2005), 29. RETURN

9 Gene Longson, interview by author, Edmonton, October 7, 2010. RETURN

10 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN

11 All of these things to watch for while proofreading are listed in Professional Editorial Standards. Editors‘ Association of Canada, Professional Editorial Standards (Toronto: EAC, 2009), 12–13. RETURN

12 EAC, Professional Editorial Standards, 6. RETURN

13 Ibid., 8. RETURN

14 Ibid., 10. RETURN

15 Ibid., 12. RETURN

16 Ibid., 1. RETURN

17 Peter Frederick Read, “Birds of the Raincoast: Some Reflections on Production and Process Management” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2005), 30, 45, 53. RETURN

18 Tracey Comeau (Administrative Assistant, Folklore Publishing), email message to author, October 12, 2010. RETURN

19 Peter Midgley, email message to author, October 5, 2010. RETURN

20 Mary Schendlinger, email message to author, September 19, 2010. RETURN

21 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 8, 2010. RETURN

22 Lone Pine Publishing, “Book Proposal Guidelines,” http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about/book_proposals (accessed October 2, 2010). RETURN

23 Nancy Foulds, interview by author, Edmonton, August 25, 2010. RETURN

24 EAC, Professional Editorial Standards, 11. RETURN

25 Rick Archbold, “Who Really Wrote It? The Nature of the Author–Editor Relationship Makes It Sometimes Hard to Tell,” Quill and Quire, September 2008, 11. RETURN

26 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 6, 2010. RETURN

27 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN

28 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 8, 2010. RETURN

29 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN

30 CBC Arts, “Awards Spotlight Novel‘s Proofreading Errors,” CBC News, November 7, 2006, http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/story/2006/11/07/hage-proofreading.html (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN

31 Brian Bethune, “Notes from a Glass House,” Macleans.ca, January 4, 2007, http://www2.macleans.ca/2007/01/ (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN

32 mcg[pseud.], “Harry Potter and the Search for a Proofreader,” A Pinoy Blog about Nothing, July 17, 2005, http://clickmomukhamo.com/blog/archives/2005/07/17/harry-potter-and-the-typo-error/ (accessed September 3, 2010). RETURN

33 Jennifer Vineyard, “Have You Found a ‘Flint’? ‘Harry Potter’ Editor on How Fans Shaped the Series,” MTV, September 23, 2008, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1595414/20080922/story.jhtml (accessed October 6, 2010). RETURN

34 Huffington Post, “‘Freshly Ground Black People’: World‘s Worst Typo Leaves Publisher Reeling,” April 17, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/17/ground-black-people-cookb_n_541817.html (accessed October 14, 2010). RETURN

35 Rowenna Davis and Alison Flood, “Jonathan Franzen‘s Book Freedom Suffers UK Recall,” The Guardian, October 1, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/01/jonathan-franzen-freedom-uk-recall (accessed October 4, 2010). RETURN

36 Carol Fisher Saller, “Best Practices in Copyediting: Paper vs. Plastic,” The Subversive Copy Editor, June 3, 2010, http://www.subversivecopyeditor.com/blog/2010/06/copyeditors-who-are-allowed-to-edit-on-paper-are-dwindling-in-number-but-judging-from-my-mail-copyeditors-who-would-like-to.html (accessed October 16, 2010). RETURN

37 Peter Rozovsky, comment on “Publisher Attacks Readers Who Complain about Sloppy Editing,” Detectives Beyond Borders, comment posted April 19, 2010, http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2010/04/publisher-makes-mistake-then-attacks.html#7894700019804803455 (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN

38 Sharpe and Gunther, Editing Fact and Fiction, 3. RETURN

39 Richard Curtis, “Are Editors Necessary?” in Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know about What Editors Do, 3rd ed., edited by Gerald Gross (New York: Grove Press, 1993), 33. RETURN

40 Ibid., 30. RETURN

41 Ibid., 30. RETURN

42 Stuart Woods, “Editors-for-Hire,” Quill and Quire, June 2009, 24. RETURN

43 Allegra Robinson, “Strength in Numbers: Should Publishers Hire More In-House Editors and Fewer Freelancers?” Quill and Quire, November 2005, 9. RETURN

44 Mary Schendlinger, email message to author, September 11, 2010. RETURN

45 Stuart Woods, “Editors for Hire,” 24. RETURN

46 Dennis Bockus, “Caution: Falling Standards: Why Editorial Quality is Suffering,” Quill and Quire, November 2003, 13. RETURN

47 Bryony Lewicki, “Canadian Books Communicate Real Good,” Quill and Quire QuillBlog, January 16, 2007, http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2007/01/16/985 (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN

48 Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, “Vanishing Breed of Editors with an Instinct for Order,” New York Times, November 3, 1986, http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca (accessed October 14, 2010). RETURN

49 For example, see Greg Quill, “Money Squeeze Forces CBC to Cancel 2 Shows,” thestar.com, March 11, 2009, http://www.thestar.com/Entertainment/article/600071 (accessed October 16, 2010). RETURN

50 Gloria E. Jacobs, “Complicating Contexts: Issues of Methodology in Researching the Language and Literacies of Instant Messaging,” Reading Research Quarterly 39, no. 4 (2004): 402. RETURN

51 Association of American Publishers, “AAP Reports Publisher Book Sales for August,” October 14, 2010, http://www.publishers.org/main/PressCenter/Archicves/2010_Oct/AugustStatsPressRelease.htm (accessed October 17, 2010). RETURN

52 Ten days later, Kobo announced that all five nominees were available as ebooks through their store. RETURN

53 Rich Adin, “The Problem Is: Publishers Don‘t Read Ebooks!” An American Editor, September 15, 2010, http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/the-problem-is-publishers-dont-read-ebooks/ (accessed September 18, 2010). RETURN

54 Nancy Foulds, interview by author, Edmonton, August 25, 2010. RETURN

55 Gene Longson, Production Manager, suggests that converting three or four titles to EPUB would have been a useful and manageable project. RETURN

56 Green Mountain Digital, “Audubon Guides,” http://www.greenmountaindigital.com/products/audubon/ (accessed November 7, 2010). RETURN

57 Adobe, “What is InCopy?” http://www.adobe.com/products/incopy/ (accessed October 20, 2010). RETURN


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adin, Rich. “The Problem Is: Publishers Don‘t Read Ebooks!” An American Editor, September 15, 2010. http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/the-problem-is-publishers-dont-read-ebooks/ (accessed September 18, 2010).

Adobe. “What is InCopy?” http://www.adobe.com/products/incopy/ (accessed October 20, 2010).

Archbold, Rick. “Who Really Wrote It? The Nature of the Author–Editor Relationship Makes It Sometimes Hard to Tell.” Quill and Quire, September 2008.

Association of American Publishers. “AAP Reports Publisher Book Sales for August.” October 14, 2010. http://www.publishers.org/main/PressCenter/Archicves/2010_Oct/AugustStatsPressRelease.htm (accessed October 17, 2010).

Bethune, Brian. “Notes from a Glass House.” Macleans.ca, January 4, 2007. http://www2.macleans.ca/2007/01/ (accessed August 15, 2010).

Bockus, Dennis. “Caution: Falling Standards: Why Editorial Quality is Suffering.” Quill and Quire, November 2003.

CBC Arts. “Awards Spotlight Novel‘s Proofreading Errors.” CBC News, November 7, 2006. http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/story/2006/11/07/hage-proofreading.html (accessed August 15, 2010).

Cheung, Iva W. “The Editorial Handbook: A Comprehensive Document to Guide Authors through the Editorial Process at Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group.” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2005.

Curtis, Richard. “Are Editors Necessary?” In Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know about What Editors Do, 3rd ed., edited by Gerald Gross, 29–36. New York: Grove Press, 1993.

Davis, Rowenna, and Alison Flood. “Jonathan Franzen‘s Book Freedom Suffers UK Recall.” The Guardian, October 1, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/01/jonathan-franzen-freedom-uk-recall (accessed October 4, 2010).

Editors‘ Association of Canada. Professional Editorial Standards. Toronto: Editors‘ Association of Canada, 2009.

Ford, Paul. “Real Editors Ship.” Ftrain.com, July 20, 2010. http://www.ftrain.com/editors-ship-dammit.html (accessed July 22, 2010).

Green Mountain Digital. “Audubon Guides.” http://www.greenmountaindigital.com/products/audubon/ (accessed November 7, 2010).

Huffington Post. “‘Freshly Ground Black People’: World‘s Worst Typo Leaves Publisher Reeling.” April 17, 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/17/ground-black-people-cookb_n_541817.html (accessed October 14, 2010).

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Johnston, Douglas. “By the Look of Things, This Land Isn‘t My Land.” The Globe and Mail, July 14, 2003.

Kennedy, Shane, and Grant Kennedy. “About Lone Pine Publishing.” Lone Pine Publishing. http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about (accessed September 17, 2010).

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Lewicki, Bryony. “Canadian Books Communicate Real Good.” Quill and Quire QuillBlog, January 16, 2007. http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2007/01/16/985 (accessed August 15, 2010).

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Rozovsky, Peter. Comment on “Publisher Attacks Readers Who Complain about Sloppy Editing.” Detectives Beyond Borders, April 19, 2010. http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2010/04/publisher-makes-mistake-thenattacks.html#7894700019804803455 (accessed August 15, 2010).

Saller, Carol Fisher. “Best Practices in Copyediting: Paper vs. Plastic.” The Subversive Copy Editor, June 3, 2010. http://www.subversivecopyeditor.com/blog/2010/06/copyeditors-who-are-allowed-to-edit-on-paper-are-dwindling-in-number-but-judging-from-my-mail-copyeditors-who-would-like-to.html (accessed October 16, 2010).

Sharpe, Leslie T., and Irene Gunther. Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Stern, Bonnie. “Recipe for Success: For Cookbook Authors, Cooking is the Easy Part.” Quill and Quire, October 2003.

Vineyard, Jennifer. “Have You Found a ‘Flint’? ‘Harry Potter’ Editor on How Fans Shaped the Series.” MTV, September 23, 2008. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1595414/20080922/story.jhtml (accessed October 6, 2010).

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Woods, Stuart. “Editors-for-Hire.” Quill and Quire, June 2009.


Community-Run Writer-In-Residence Programs in Canada

 

By Ann-Marie Joan Metten

ABSTRACT: This project report documents the development of a web resource for writers on author residencies available across Canada. Author residencies in Canada originated at universities and then were hosted at public libraries, but now often are run by community arts organizations, especially in Western Canada. Many of these community-based writer-in-residence programs take place in writers’ houses; for example, Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon; Roderick Haig-Brown House in Campbell River, BC; R.D. Lawrence Place in Minden Hills, Ontario; Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver; Wallace Stegner House in Eastend, Saskatchewan; and now Maison Gabrielle-Roy in St-Boniface, Manitoba. These writer-in-residence programs began to emerge mainly in the mid-2000s and now serve as indirect support to the book publishing industry through direct grants to writers. A web resource profiling community-run and other writer-in-residence programs was developed between April and September 2010, and shared with writers and writers’ associations in late September 2010.

 


Acknowledgements

Thank you to authors Sharon Butala and Katherine Govier for sharing stories of their efforts to establish a collective of community-run author residencies hosted at writers’ houses. Thanks also to Elsa Franklin, the Haig-Brown and McMonagle families, and friends of George Ryga House, Wallace Stegner House, R.D. Lawrence Place, and Maison Gabrielle-Roy for histories of the founding of those writers’ houses and their writer-in-residence programs. Thank you to Don Oravec of the Writers’ Trust of Canada for providing a final review of this report. Special thanks to Joy Kogawa for sharing her dream of recovering her childhood home and for giving me and others the space to establish a writer-in-residence program there.

Personal thanks and deep gratitude to Andrew Metten for his constancy and for the encouragement he shares generously.

 


CONTENTS

List of Figures

List of Tables

1: Writer-in-residence programs as indirect support for book publishers in Canada
1.1 Government funding for writers supports Canadian publishing
1.2 Canada Council Author Residencies Program
1.3 Types of writer-in-residence projects
++++1.3.1 University-based author residencies
++++1.3.2 Library-based author residencies
++++1.3.3 Writers’ houses–based author residencies
1.4 Comparing three types of residencies
++++1.4.1 Comparative levels of funding

2: Writers’ houses in Canada
2.1 Writers’ houses–based residencies
++++2.1.1 Berton House
++++2.1.2 Roderick Haig-Brown House
++++2.1.3 Historic Joy Kogawa House
++++2.1.4 R.D. Lawrence Place
++++2.1.5 Maison Gabrielle-Roy
++++2.1.6 Wallace Stegner House
2.2 Other planned writer-in-residence programs
++++2.2.1 Al Purdy A-Frame
++++2.2.2 George Ryga House
2.3 Future writers’ houses
2.4 The attraction of writers’ houses
2.5 Writers’ houses as museums

3: The value of community-run author residencies in Canada
3.1 Overview of support to publishers through writers’ houses–based author residencies
++++3.1.1 Work published and awards granted
++++3.1.2 What sales levels were achieved?
++++3.1.3 Did the residency influence the decision to publish?
3.2 Residencies as a benefit to writers
3.3 Other benefits: Developing a community of readers

4: Author residency web resource project
4.1 Determining a need
++++4.1.1 Existing residency resources
++++4.1.2 Variable web search results
4.2 Planning a web resource for writers
++++4.2.1 Project methodology
++++4.2.2 Including stakeholders
4.3 Initiating the project
4.4 Analyzing content
++++4.4.1 Information the web resource provides
++++4.4.2 Author residency or writer’s retreat?
++++4.4.3 Populating the web resource
4.5 Implementation: Gathering information and ensuring accuracy
4.6 Staging: Getting the word out
++++4.6.1 Tracking press release usage
4.7 Post Implementation: Google Analytics pattern of use
++++4.7.1 Running Google Analytics reports
++++4.7.2 What Google Analytics revealed
++++4.7.3 Improved Google search results

5: Conclusions and Recommendations
5.1 Writers’ houses as hosts for writer-in-residence programs
5.2 Who administers community-run author residencies?
5.3 Will community-run programs endure? Same amount of money, more programs
5.4 Another project is needed: A writers’ houses collective
5.5 Community-run residency programs and book publishers
5.6 Working together

Bibliography
Works Cited
Interviews
Correspondence
Works Consulted

 


List of Figures

Figure 4-1. Overview of Project Methodology for Author Residencies Web Resource

 

List of Tables

Table 1-1. Canada Council Author Residencies Program Budget, 2003 to 2009

Table 1-2. Canada Council Author Residencies Grant Awards, 2003 to 2009

Table 2-1. Writers’ Houses as Residency Hosts in Canada

Table 2-2. Writers’ Houses as Museums in Canada

Table 3-1. Work Produced While in Residence at Three Community-Run Writer-in-Residence Programs

Table 4-1 Publication dates to track in Google Analytics

 


1: Writer-in-residence programs as indirect support for book publishers in Canada

The book publishing industry in Canada enjoys industrial and cultural assistance directly to individual publishers through federally funded grant programs such as the Canada Book Fund, and through structural support such as copyright or the public lending right. The publishing industry also enjoys indirect support, in the form of financial awards to writers through grants, and in particular through writer-in-residence programs at universities, at public libraries, and at community-run arts organizations. These writer-in-residence programs assist the book publishing industry in a major way. Writer-in-residence programs are important cultural partners that work within a “framework of complementary goals” to promote Canadian literature and to “bring cultural content to Canada” (Lorimer Forthcoming [September 2010 draft], p. 128). The hosts of writer-in-residence programs, like other cultural partners in the newspaper, magazines, television, and radio; in libraries, awards programs; and in certain parts of the education system, have the same interests as book publishers: to encourage Canadian writers and to make their work available to Canadian readers.

Writer-in-residence programs offer cultural support to Canadian book publishers in a number of ways. Author residency programs create a time and place for writers to produce manuscripts that book publishers later work up into commercially viable additions to their lists. Through public events and community programming, author residencies celebrate books and authorship, increasing readership and so expanding the market for a writer’s work. And through collaboration with other writers, the writer-in-

residence appointment promotes the writer to the position of expert who shares his or her skills and wisdom to enhance the ability of other writers. Appointment to the role of writer in residence expresses, as Lorimer says, ―admiration for the contribution books and authors make to Canadian society and the world‖ (p. 134). Author residencies, then, can be seen as cultural partners for the book publishing industry in Canada.

 

1.1 Government funding for writers supports Canadian publishing

Most author residencies are funded by federal and provincial government agencies. The main government support for writer-in-residence programs is sourced through the Author Residencies program of the Writing and Publishing section of the Canada Council for the Arts, although federal funding is also available through the Canada Council Aboriginal Emerging Writers Residencies. Additional support is sourced through provincial arts councils; for example, through the Manitoba Arts Council Artists in Community Residency Program. The Manitoba Arts Council also funds the Deep Bay Artists’ Residency in Riding Mountain National Park of Canada. Arts New Brunswick provides New Brunswick Artist in Residence funding, as well as collaborative residencies with Manitoba and Quebec. Also available are the Manitoba–New Brunswick Creative Residency, a partnership between the New Brunswick Arts Board and the Manitoba Arts Council, and the New Brunswick–Quebec Creative Residency, a partnership between the New Brunswick Arts Board and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (Canada 2010; Lorimer and Murzyn 1993). In the past, the British Columbia Arts Council has funded author residencies through professional arts project grants. These government grants at both provincial and federal levels are part of government infrastructure for the book publishing industry, through indirect support to writers rather than direct support to publishers.