Posts Tagged: marketing

BookNet Canada hiring Marketing Associate for 1-year contract

BookNet Canada is hiring a Marketing Associate for a 1-year contract.

BookNet Canada is a non-profit organization that develops technology, standards, and education to serve the Canadian book industry. BNC services and research help companies promote and sell books, streamline workflows, and analyze and adapt to a rapidly changing market.

Marketing Associate Position Description:

Your main role is to communicate BookNet’s offerings and events to current and potential clients, and to enhance BookNet’s authority as a thought leader in the Canadian book industry. You’ll be responsible for maintaining the company social media strategy and managing all social media accounts and external communication channels. This includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, our blog, and BookNet’s weekly eNews newsletter. You’ll refine content strategies for all of these channels, and write or solicit content as needed.

Action is meaningless without analytics, so you’ll also be responsible for tracking and reporting on various metrics, both for your own efforts (social media channels) and for the Marketing department (website stats, event-related metrics, etc.).

Finally, you’ll be reporting to the Marketing & Communications Manager and assisting with a variety of general duties as needed (editing, light design work, proofreading, creating video tutorials, some administrative tasks, preparing for and working at our annual Tech Forum conference, etc.).

Qualifications:

  • College diploma or equivalent current course study in a Publishing program
  • Marketing experience: writing copy & calls-to-action, creating social media campaigns, etc.
  • Experience with Google Analytics and social media management programs (HootSuite, etc.)
  • Some familiarity with Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator)
  • A strong interest in the intersection of books and technology
  • Experience with event planning, video editing, or podcasting would be a bonus
  • Strong problem-solving skills and the ability to work independently
  • Flexible, organized, and attentive to detail—the Marketing department always has multiple projects on the go, and some of them get turned around very quickly
  • A love of and commitment to deadlines

The other important bits:

This is a one-year contract position. Apply by e-mail only. Attach a resume and cover letter as PDFs and send to jobs@booknetcanada.ca with subject line “Marketing Associate position” as soon as possible and no later than Sept. 9, 2016.


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

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——— . “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/.

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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/.

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——— . “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/.

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——— . “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/.

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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.

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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.


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.


A Lean Start-Up: Building Engage Books as a Publisher in the 21st Century

 

By Alexandros Roscoe Roumanis

ABSTRACT: Engage Books LTD is a publishing company that I created while in debt, halfway through my Masters program. This paper follows my initial plan to start this company through to the end of my first 14 months in business. I will demonstrate how I began Engage Books as a lean start-up company and built it from the ground up, with the goal of building a list of classic titles that will fund a larger investment in new titles. Furthermore, I will explain how print on demand technology, and world wide distribution have made this possible. I will also examine what the company has accomplished through book sales, events, internet marketing, and the brand that Engage Books has begun to cement in its first year of business. Lastly, I will take a look at where Engage Books stands as a company, and what will take to move it forward.

 


Dedication

For my wife Dayna

 

 


Acknowledgements

Throughout my MPub studies, I was fortunate to have direction from amazing teachers, and the many professionals who graced our classrooms. A special thank you to Professor Roberto Dosil for all of his help and encouragement in design strategy and his encouragement in building a publishing company with classic titles, and to Professor John Maxwell, who was an amazing source for technical advice and was instrumental in shaping the topic and focus of this paper.

Thanks to Brian Hades of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing for all of his help and support as my industry supervisor. I would also like to thank my classmates from the MPub group of 2007-08 for an exciting year, and for bouncing countless ideas back and forth, especially to Andrew Wilmot for his editorial support.

A special thanks to Paschal Ssemaganda for all of his help in building an online strategy. Without his help engagebooks.ca would not be what it is today.

Also I would like to thank my parents Victoria Roscoe-Roumanis and Christos Roumanis, and Rick and Pat Martin for all of their encouragement in continuing with my education, and in building a company. I would also like to thank my wife Dayna Roumanis, who has encouraged me more than anyone in following my path through university, and who has always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.

 

 


CONTENTS

List of Figures

Part 1: Introduction
++++a. Building a Lean Start-up Company
++++b. Getting off the Ground and Plans for Future Growth

Part 2: Background Strategies
++++a. Engage Books: Background and the Four Imprints
++++b. Building a Brand
++++++– Branding Engage Books and its Four Imprints
++++c. Building a Backlist with Public Domain Titles
++++++– Adding Value to a Classic Title

Part 3: Background Tactics
++++a. Print on Demand
++++b. Lightning Source INC (LSI)—POD Provider of Choice
++++c. Distribution through Ingram, Returns, Warehousing and Shipping

Part 4: Marketing
++++a. How the Online Environment Affects Design & Marketing
++++b. Marketing on Amazon.com

Part 5: Analysis
++++a. Sales: Monthly Analysis of Sales & Trends
++++b. Projecting Future Sales

Part 6: Conclusions

Part 7: Appendix
++++a. Website and Google Analytics
++++b. Events
++++c. Monthly Sales Reports

Notes

Bibliography

 

 


List of Figures

Figure 1: Engage Books Colour Scheme

Figure 2: Engage Logos

Figure 3: Double Page Spread of an AD Classic Title

Figure 4: AD Classic Cover Images

Figure 5: AD Classic Bookspines

Figure 6: SF Classic Cover Spread

Figure 7: Edition Comparison

Figure 8: AD Classic Earnings

Figure 9: SF Classic Earnings

Figure 10: Amazon.com Promotional Email 1

Figure 11: Amazon.com Promotional Email 2

Figure 12: Books Sold Per Title in the US and Canadian Markets

Figure 13: Books in Print

Figure 14: US and Canadian Sales in US Dollars

Figure 15: Monthly Combined Average Earnings Divided by All Titles in Print

Figure 16: Projected Backlist Earnings in US and Canada Based on the Number of Titles in Print

 

 


Part 1: Introduction

a. Building a Lean Start-up Company

This paper explores the strategies and tactics which enabled me in 2008 to establish Engage Books as a publishing company with four imprints. I will discuss the branding strategies for each imprint, and the company as a whole. I will explain how I used works from the public domain and print-on-demand production technology to build Engage Books as a lean start-up company with very little initial investment. I will examine my experience marketing Engage Books, with a focus on how marketing online affects the physical design of a book, and how to successfully market on Amazon.com. Finally I will analyze Engage Books’ monthly sales and trends in order to demonstrate where the company is today, and to project where the company will be in the future. I will also explain how the earnings generated from Engage Books’ backlist will help fund new books which require a larger initial investment. But first I’ll discuss how the idea for Engage Books began.

 

b. Getting off the Ground and Plans for Future Growth

When I first decided to start a publishing company in Vancouver, BC, it was because I saw an open opportunity in the market. Vancouver has over thirty book publishing companies, and not one of them publishes science fiction. Vancouver has a prominent and vibrant science fiction community: various television series such as The Outer Limits, X Files, The Dead Zone, Andromeda, 7 Days, Stargate Atlantis, and Battlestar Galactica are filmed here, as are movies like The 6th Day, Twilight, X-Men, Watchmen, and resident authors such as William Gibson, Spider Robinson, and Sean Russell all call Vancouver home. While I was confident that a Vancouver based science fiction publisher would fit nicely in this diverse community, I expected that I would need about $100,000 and the expertise to make this a reality. As I didn’t have anything close to $100,000 I decided to first search for a school that could provide me with the skills I needed.

It just so happened that the preeminent publishing program in Canada, the Master of Publishing (MPub) program at Simon Fraser University (SFU), was also located in Vancouver. As I didn’t have any experience in publishing, I knew it would be difficult getting into a competitive program, and with only a month before the application deadline, I worked hard at putting together the best application I could manage. On my twenty-fourth birthday, a letter arrived from MPub. It turned out that there were sixteen other candidates with more experience in publishing, and who were better suited for the program, and my application was rejected. Soon after this, I set up a meeting with three MPub instructors: Rowland Lorimer, John Maxwell and Ron Woodward, and asked how I could create a successful application over the following twelve months. The consensus was that I needed experience in publishing, either by getting an entry level job, volunteering, or taking courses. I immediately enrolled in two publishing courses through SFU over the following summer semester, and I sent out applications to all book publishers in the Vancouver area. After several rejections I was contacted by Ron Hatch at Ronsdale Press for a Volunteer position, which I immediately accepted. I learned a great deal from Ron, and was impressed that he was able to run a successful publishing company from his home in Vancouver. In the fall I took a design course in publishing, and eventually I was offered a job as a Pagination Specialist at Canpages, a publisher of telephone directories. At the time of my second application, I had taken three publishing courses, volunteered, and gained entry level experience in publishing. Lo and behold, on my twenty-fifth birthday I was accepted into the MPub program.

Throughout my studies in MPub I had focused many of my assignments on how best to start a publishing house, developing a strategy, tactics, and a brand for the company. Towards the end of my second semester I was working on the layout and design of my first title, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, with the help of my design instructor and director of the CCSP Press, Roberto Dosil. The release of this title occurred at the start of my third semester, on May 31, 2008. In order to make this release possible, I developed a business strategy that would allow for me to create a lean start-up company, build it from the ground up and to create a strong backlist of classic titles, with room for future growth through the release of new titles.

 

 

Part 2: Background Strategies

a. Engage Books: Background and the Four Imprints

When I first envisioned starting a publishing company it was with the goal of producing original science fiction titles with both new and established authors. During my time in the MPub program, this vision grew into a multifaceted company that would allow me to publish a variety of genres through the use of several imprints acting symbiotically for one another and for the larger company. While learning about publishing history, I saw how publishers since the time of Gutenberg in the fifteenth century had built their companies without the costs involved in developing new titles and paying authors. In fact, these early publishers were not restricted by modern copyright laws that protected creative works for a specified period of time. Even when copyright laws were developed some publishers started their companies by first publishing titles whose copyright had expired and were now in the public domain.

With this knowledge in mind, my overall strategy was to set Engage Books up as the parent company of four imprints. AD Classic Books represents the greats from the past two thousand years, such as Machiavelli and Mary Shelley. Each book includes illustrations from one or two artists. BC Classic Books showcases the legends from the time of Homer and Plato. Each book will also include illustrations. SF Classic Books are stories from the heroes in science fiction such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. These books include classic illustrations from various illustrators, maps, original reviews, author forewords, letters and biographies. This line of books has launched with Journey to the Center of the Earth with an introduction by science fiction author Mark Rich. Engage SF publishes new titles by today’s leaders in the science fiction field.

With multiple imprints I would be able to repackage titles, as I have done with Journey to the Center of the Earth, currently published by AD Classic and SF Classic, and in the future publish it again through the parent company, Engage Books. Repackaging a title gives me the ability to sell the same title with multiple price points, and with different levels of added material, such as illustrations, forewords and biographies. Multiple imprints would also give me the ability to build a distinctive brand for each imprint. The philosophy behind this decision is similar to that of Random House, which originally published anything that was of interest to the company without keeping to one specific genre. However my plans differed from Random House with my decision to start my operations with multiple imprints. The decision to follow this route took my idea of creating a strictly science fiction publishing house in a new and dynamic direction, one that would allow me to publish any title across any genre. In fact, I have taken advantage of this decision by publishing two titles through the parent company, Engage Books. The first title was a lined journal (9.25” x 7.5”, 108 pages) that I published as a fundraiser for my 60km walk for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer in August of 2009, with all proceeds going to the BC Cancer Foundation. My second Engage title was a cookbook (9.25” x 7.5”, 108 pages) entitled Criminal Desserts: Cops for Cancer Cookbook, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Developing Engage Books with the flexibility to produce multiple titles in different editions gave me the freedom to publish two titles that would have otherwise had no place amongst a list of science fiction titles, and it provides an umbrella brand for the four imprints AD Classic, BC Classic, SF Classic and Engage SF. While Engage Books has the freedom to publish any title of interest to me, such as the two aforementioned books, the four imprints each have a distinctive mandate.

The first two imprints, AD Classic and BC Classic, were created with the idea of providing Engage Books with a strong backlist of classic titles currently in the public domain. BC Classic would publish classic titles from the time of Homer, Plato and Aristotle, until the year 1 BC, while AD Classic would initially publish any classic title from the year 1 AD until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when copyright takes effect. I say initially because AD Classic has the potential of signing contracts with authors or estates that hold copyright to specific titles that are widely considered to be classic literature. The first AD Classic title published was H. G. Wells 1898 novel The War of the Worlds on May 31, 2008. While I was unable to gain permission from the estate of Wells to publish this title in the UK as copyright does not expire until January 1st 2017, I was able to publish the novel in Canada and the US, copyright having already expired in these two countries.

With a publishing mandate in place, I had to decide who my target markets would be, and what trade discount would be optimal in order to reach retailers who serviced those markets. I intended for both AD Classic and BC Classic to be marketed towards libraries, schools and online to individual consumers, with each title being sold at a 25% trade discount as libraries, school bookstores and online retailers will buy books at this percentage.[1]

The idea behind SF Classic is very similar to that of AD Classic and BC Classic, in that the titles published would initially come from classic titles in the public domain, with the potential for future growth through the inclusion of science fiction works that are considered to be modern classics, such as Orson Scott Card’s 1974 novel, Ender’s Game.

The distinction with SF Classic is that a science fiction title published by AD Classic would be repackaged with the inclusion of title-specific supplementary material. Science fiction and its surrounding culture has an established history of collecting merchandise, especially if there is a perceived value attached to an otherwise common item. With respect to books, science fiction fans tend to actively look for collector’s editions, and it is often the inclusion of title-specific additional content that makes an otherwise common book into a collectable. The first SF Classic title published on June 1, 2009 was a repackaged edition of AD Classic’s 184-page edition of A Journey to the Center of the Earth. The SF Classic edition is 260 pages with 50 full-page illustrations by Édouard Riou, several historical reviews ranging from 1871 to 1990, a biography of the author, a poem of tribute written after Verne’s death in 1905, a 10-page interview article on Verne published by Strand Magazine in 1895, and a commissioned introduction by science fiction author Mark Rich.

Since each edition would have a similar assortment of added items, I had to decide how to best reach my target market of science fiction enthusiasts, and what trade discount would be optimal in order to reach them. I decided that Engage SF would be best suited to bookstores, where shoppers could flip through the book and see the supplemental content, which is difficult to do on websites like Amazon.com, where books have a limited search ability through Amazon.com’s Search Inside the Book program. In order to reach bookstores, I made the paperback available at a 40% trade discount, with a 1,000 copy limited edition hardcover available at a 20% trade discount and targeted to online consumers. (For information on trade discount choices see Part 3: c) The hardcover edition is not marketed through bookstores because only 1,000 copies are available, and the profit margin of selling through online retailers is much higher at 20%.

Engage SF would begin by publishing new science fiction titles. While envisioning the company as a whole, I knew that the establishment of the AD Classic, BC Classic and SF Classic imprints would be important for the imprint Engage SF to be able to begin publishing new authors. My goal here was that the backlist created by the first three imprints would create enough income to fund Engage SF. The first three imprints also provides Engage Books with three critical qualities: commitment, consistency and credibility, all of which I needed to achieve before Engage SF could launch. The act of setting up the other imprints and successfully producing quality products establishes my commitment, while the act of releasing titles on a regular basis creates consistency. Both of these elements together builds the credibility that is needed to launch Engage SF.[2] My goal is to have a sound distribution network in place with fulfillment through Ingram (For information on Ingram see Part 3: c), a credible sales force that can successfully market Engage SF to bookstores, while my own marketing gets consumers into bookstores and, at the same time, attracts authors through Engage Books’ established credibility.

 

b. Building a Brand

Building a publishing company’s identity is important in order for consumers, authors, business partners, and retailers to associate its imprints and books with the company’s reputation and credibility. This in itself will encourage repeat business as people will come to recognize the Engage Books brand. When building Engage’s credibility for the quality of its books, it is important that subsequent books, on bookshelves or in a catalogue, can be seen as belonging to the same line of books. This is necessary in order to promote repeat business. Creating an identity is done through effective branding, consistently implementing logos, colours and fonts, which I knew I needed to develop in order to support a series of books that people would recognize after only having bought or read their first Engage Books title. I knew it would be important to look at how other publishers have branded a series of books, and why branding is important among classic titles when there are various editions of the same title all vying for market share. For Engage Books and its imprints I will examine how and why I developed a particular colour scheme, a set of logos, the choice of an interior font and the cover design. All of the elements I will discuss are visible both online and in bookstores. I will not discuss physical attributes like die-cuts, type indents on the cover and other tactile responses, which are only available to browsers in a bookstore. Before we look at what I have done with Engage Books it is important to look at the strategies that other publishers have already implemented.

Many publishers try their hand at making a profit on public domain classics. Works by authors such as Shakespeare, Dickens, and Melville have been reprinted by numerous publishers ever since they have entered the public domain. To illustrate this, when F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, This Side of Paradise, went into the public domain in 1996, nine new editions were published by nine different publishers, with some at bargain prices.[3] While studying the various editions of classic titles by different publishers, I found that the successful publishers were those who understood the importance of grouping titles in a recognizable series. In 1957 McClelland & Stewart created the New Canadian Library in order to brand their collection of classic Canadian literature, which resulted in an increase in sales for each titles added to the series.[4] Other publishers of classics have created their own recognizable series, including: Random House’s trio of Modern Library, Everyman’s Library and Bantam Classics, Oxford University Press’ World Classics, Barnes & Noble Classics and the recent launch of BookSurge Classics by Amazon.com. With all of these imprints fighting for market share, I felt it was important that AD Classic and BC Classic be distinctly recognizable, so that consumers would want to collect the series as a whole.

Penguin Classics has had tremendous success at branding their series of over 1,300 titles, all of which were repackaged in 1985 by “making the books look cleaner, with more appealing art [ensuring] all the books will have a uniform look.”[5] In order to be successful in this market, I designed a uniform line of books paying particular attention to trim size, colour, and art. Creating and branding a recognizable line would demonstrably enhance my chances of success. With “a line or series of books, a publisher can increase the likelihood of sales of its books by decreasing the uncertainty consumers experience when making purchasing decisions.”[6] This was accomplished by McClelland & Stewart’s Emblem Edition, which repackaged their own backlist titles as “a 1996 title, which averaged 500 copies in net sales in each of the four years before it was given an Emblem edition, averaged net sales of 8,000 copies per year in the two years following being made part of the line,”[7] demonstrating the power of a book’s inclusion into a branded series. I understood that the success of a series would revolve around branding and how I applied this to my imprints.

 

Branding Engage Books and its Four Imprints

A comprehensive branding strategy is important for any company to succeed. This section explores the many branding strategies I have implemented for Engage Books and its imprints. I will discuss how I chose a colour scheme, logo design, interior design, cover design, and chose a unique method of cataloguing books on a shelf.

When deciding on a brand for Engage Books and its imprints, I first decided on a colour scheme that would give each imprint a distinctive colour, including a neutral complementary colour that would perform well as a background when all of the colours are placed together. To create a colour scheme, I used the website kuler.adobe.com which allows users to modify the CMYK values to a grouping of five colours and import them into Adobe Creative Suite. I decided on using orange for AD Classic as it is reminiscent of the original 1946 to 1961 line of Penguin Classics, and gave my series a modern classic feel.

With BC Classic I wanted a colour that could speak for the period prior to 1 BC. In ancient times the sun was worshiped as a solar deity and was a major part of mythologies in Greece and Rome, monuments were constructed to track the passage of the sun in the sky from stone megaliths in Egypt, Stonehenge in England, and the pyramid of El Castillo in Mexico. The importance of the sun in ancient times was a deciding factor for choosing yellow, and it complements the orange used in AD Classic.

For Engage Books, Engage SF and SF Classic, I decided to use two different tones of red. Since SF Classic would be publishing classic titles, I felt that a dark rust would be indicative of an older title. In addition, the colours used in the classic lines, ranging from yellow and orange to rust, go from light to dark in a linear progression based on the time periods in which they were written. Science fiction comes last in this linear range as it has its roots in the nineteenth century with authors like Shelley, Verne and Wells. As Engage Books and Engage SF would be publishing new titles, I felt that a vibrant red would make these titles stand out from the muted colours used in the classic imprints. The colour scheme can be viewed on the kuler website, and is labelled Engage.

 

Figure 1: Engage Books Colour Scheme

 

With a colour scheme selected, my next task was to create a series of logos for Engage Books and its imprints in a way that would tie them together as a cohesive whole. I wanted Engage Books to have a simple design, and I found that the typeface News Gothic, designed by Morris Fuller Benton and released by the American Type Founders in 1908[8] , spaced open would work with the imprint logos I had in mind. AD Classic and BC Classic were both set in Minion Pro, designed by Robert Slimbach and released by Adobe in 1990. It was “inspired by classical, old style typefaces of the late Renaissance, a period of elegant, beautiful, and highly readable type.”[9] Minion Pro would establish both imprints visually as classic lines with an ease of legibility that is beneficial for a shrunken logo on a book spine. With SF Classic I envisioned a different classic look, and I stumbled on Space Woozies, a typeface developed by Omega Font Labs, which I felt would appeal to a science fiction audience while at the same time resembling the typefaces used in early twentieth century science fiction pulp magazines. I decided to create a new font for Engage SF since this imprint would be publishing stories set in future time periods, and I felt that it needed a uniqueness that would set it apart from the established history invariably provided by other fonts. Lastly, I set each imprint’s name inside a box with rounded corners, colour coded according to each imprint, which unified the imprints in a definitive way that is clearly recognizable when placed side by side.

 

Figure 2: Engage Logos

 

When it came to establishing a design for the interior of the books, I had the help of my design instructor from the MPub program, Roberto Dosil. Not only was Minion Pro a fitting font for the logos of AD Classic and BC Classic, it was also used to set the text throughout the series as it is “in the typographic sense, remarkably economical to set. That is to say that it gives, size for size, a few more characters per line than most text faces, without appearing squished or compressed.”[10] I felt that the ability to fit more words on a page was vital for a classic series, as many classics are quite long, and it is important to keep the page count down in order to price a title competitively among other editions in the market.

 

Figure 3: Double Page Spread of an AD Classic Title

 

With my logos, colour scheme and interior typography decided on, my next task was to create a cover design solution to be applied consistently for both AD Classic and BC Classic, as these would be the first imprints to launch. I understood that AD Classic and BC Classic would need a uniform design that spans both series, linking them together visually and thematically. In keeping with the simplicity of Penguin Classics, I decided to fill the top 80% of the cover with an image. The style of the cover images are primarily targeted to a university audience, with the use of cover art by well-known contemporary artists such as Caspar Friedrich, John Tenniel and Moretto da Brescia, as well as contemporary photographs that maintain this classic style. I decided to place the title and author name in the bottom 20% of the cover, encased in a simple and economical black box. The font size and dimensions of the box allows for a long title name, while at the same time creating leeway for the title to take up two lines if necessary. When the title is shrunk to a thumbnail, the font size remains legible, which is important because the target market of AD Classic and BC Classic are consumers looking at small thumbnails online, or library buyers browsing through an Ingram catalogue.

 

Figure 4: AD Classic Cover Images

 

The differences between AD Classic and BC Classic will be the font used for the book titles; where AD Classic uses the modern classic font Minion Pro, BC Classic will use a Greek style font that is indicative of the period in which they were written. The orange series logo for AD Classic and the yellow series logo for BC Classic will always be on the top right or left side of the front cover, depending on how it best fits with the cover image, and it will also appear at the bottom of each book’s spine. Another design element that brands the series as a whole, and of which I am particularly proud of, is the inclusion of the year of original publication on the spine. This concept is what gave me the idea for the names AD Classic and BC Classic, as the year on the spine would immediately precede the AD or BC logo. During my research of other series I did not come across this design element, and I believe that it will not only set AD Classic and BC Classic apart, but it will organize the series in a visual way that has never before been accomplished. Instead of organizing classic titles by an author’s last name or genre, both series can be organized and shelved by year. For the consumers who adopt this type of categorization, they will be drawn back to AD Classic and BC Classic to fill their shelves.

 

Figure 5: AD Classic Bookspines

 

The branding of SF Classic has some similar elements to those established with AD Classic and BC Classic, yet there are still quite a few differences. I felt it was important that I commission new artwork for the cover images, so that I could have complete control over each book in the series visually representing the pulps from the mid twentieth century. From a thematic standpoint, I felt that a resemblance to science fiction pulps would tie the series together visually, and that it would create a collectors feel. For my first title, Journey to the Center of the Earth I hired recent graduate from Emily Carr, Sanjini Mudaliar. With my direction and her creative freedom we were able to create an illustration that represented my vision. The type used on the front cover was also geared to reflect early science fiction pulp magazines, with a progressive change in font size. The author’s name was also enlarged as classic science fiction authors are well known among readers of the genre. The enlargement of the book title and author’s name was important in ensuring that it would catch people’s attention when browsing in bookstores. Since the artwork for this series was being done on commission, it allowed me to work with the artist in ensuring that a suitable space would be left for the title, author’s name and other type used on the cover. As is the case with AD Classic and BC Classic, I placed the logo on the top right or left corner of the cover and on the spine. I also allowed for SF Classic to be shelved by year of publication, by placing the year on the spine. However I understood that science fiction fans are also used to collecting items in a numbered series, and to accommodate this I placed a starred number at the top of the spine.

 

Figure 6: SF Classic Cover Spread

 

For the first book published under the Engage SF imprint, I have recently signed a contract with Chris Stevenson for the rights to publish his novel, Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars. However, as I have yet to publish an Engage SF title at the time that I write this project report, I will only be able to discuss the specifics of my vision for Planet Janitor. I envision a cover design which builds on past science fiction editions, but is also unique within the genre. I believe that this imprint should also have a collectors feel, attained by using the same numbering and dating system of SF Classic, as well as incorporating a design device that will be seen when several books are displayed spine out on a bookstore shelf. I also understand that “science fiction fans are probably the only category of readers who really care about the quality of art on their books. They know their artists and consider them heroes.”[11] With this in mind, I will ensure that a well known science fiction illustrator is commissioned for each title that Engage SF publishes.

It is my belief that the amalgamation and consistent implementation of these design strategies will help build brand recognition for Engage Books. Not only that, but the branding elements will help to create a readers and collectors loyalty for each imprint, which in turn will encourage repeat business from customers who have enjoyed their first experience with Engage Books.

 

c. Building a Backlist with Public Domain Titles

Copyright is defined as “the exclusive right to produce literary… work, given by law for a certain period.”[12] The public domain is a collection of works that are not protected by copyright, typically because the copyright term has expired. It is important to understand the different durations in various countries to determine if a title is still protected by copyright. Since Engage Books was going to start by publishing classic titles in the public domain, I also felt it was important to understand how various editions of the same title have done in the market. While publishers have always seen opportunity in publishing public domain books because of the minimal in-house costs of doing so, this creates a fair bit of competition. Although publishers generally print large quantities to lower the per-unit cost to stay competitive with other editions of the same title, it seemed to me that there was another way to attract consumer attention rather than through price point. This section explores the viability of starting Engage Books by publishing public domain books, while focusing on the strategies required to stand out as a company by adding supplementary material that complements the original work.

Before I could choose a list of classic titles to publish, I had to understand how the public domain works in the Canadian, US and UK markets. Various works that are part of popular culture, such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, still retain copyright. However, due to the efforts of “a select group of copyright holders such as Disney, which actively lobbied for the US term extension to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain,”[13] The Lord of the Rings, which was published in 1955, will enter the public domain in 2050 since the 1998 US copyright amendment increased the original copyright term for works published after January 1, 1923 “by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection of 95 years.”[14] However, for anything that was published prior to January 1, 1923, the maximum copyright term of 75 years has expired and the work is available for anyone to reproduce, amend, or create spin-off stories. While Great Britain amended their copyright duration in 1989 to a term that lasts for 70 years after the death of the author, Canadian copyright lasts for “the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year.”[15] With these barriers in mind, it is possible to access a treasure trove of titles that would be of interest to the marketplace.

While the stories that Engage Books has initially published have already been around for decades, they continue to remain popular among both experienced and new readers who have an interest in broadening their experience, and also among readers who wish to relive stories they might have read as a child. There is also a desire to read books that have re-emerged in popular culture through movies, television and word of mouth. Keeping these preferences in mind, I understood that classic titles tend to provide publishers with a steady flow of income, rather than fast earners[16] and that the classics I published would have to reflect this. I looked to Penguin Classics, which is considered the most successful[17] at building a list of titles that will continue to earn a profit. According to Penguin Books president Kathryn Court: “we do want to feel the book has already stood the test of time… It’s really about books we believe will be around 50 years from now.”[18] And so I began to create a list of titles that I believed would continue to be read in the distant and not so distant future.

I researched my first title, The War of the Worlds, in great detail to see if it had stood the test of time, looking at the many editions that have been published since it was first published in 1898. Even though the novel is science fiction, it should be noted that classics in this genre “have transcended their subject matter with universal themes that appeal to a wide and diverse audience.”[19] The War of the Worlds has been continuously in print for over 100 years in no fewer than 362 unique editions.[20] There is no doubt that copyright had an influence on the number of publishers willing to publish H.G. Wells’ stories. Wells died on August 13, 1946, which placed The War of the Worlds in the public domain in Canada on January 1, 1997, and in the US on January 1, 1972. Due to UK copyright extensions, The War of the Worlds won’t enter the public domain in the UK until January 1, 2017. However, the copyright expiration in the US in 1972 resulted in six editions of The War of the Worlds being published that year, three editions in 1973 and eight editions published in 1974. This is a significant rise in publication numbers over the three-year period between 1969-71, when only two editions were published.

With The War of the Worlds already established as a classic, and the clear fact that copyright expiration creates an increase in competition, I wanted to explore the different ways that some publications stood out from the many other editions already produced, and how I was going to set myself apart through my classic imprints. Since AD Classic and BC Classic are targeted to libraries, schools and an online market where the competition from other editions of the same title are many, I knew that price point would be a key factor. With this in mind, I decided to keep the page count low while adding value to the cover art, and including public domain illustrations in the interior. Since I have done the design myself I may be biased in my methods, but I believed that a large cover image, unobstructed by type, would appeal to this demographic. I also believed that the addition of illustrations in each AD Classic title would increase the value of the book over other editions of the same title.

I will spend more time discussing how the target market for SF Classic differs significantly from the target market of AD Classic, and BC Classic respectively. But before I can explain how a science fiction imprint that specializes in publishing classics is a viable way of competing with the other players in the market, I want to explore the culture of the genre. Classics are defined as works that have had a large impact on society: “trailing behind them [are] the traces they have left in the culture.”[21] Science fiction classics are no different.

Science fiction has had a significant impact on popular culture ever since the genre truly began in 1818 with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.[22] Since then popular culture has evolved the Frankenstein monster from a naive character to a corrupt one through several film adaptations. Science Fiction has also invented many of the words we take for granted, such as the word robot. Science Fiction writers have labelled artificial mechanical men with that term since Czech writer Karl Capek coined the term in the 1930’s,[23] so that when they were finally created they were called robots. Science Fiction in popular culture has been obsessed with looking at the way things could be through technological change, like robots, and their potential impact on society. It is this “change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today,”[24] making the science fiction classics applicable to an understanding of the future that remains continuously relevant to modern readers.

Now that the science fiction genre is classified as being relevant to classic literature, I can identify the target market. Spencer and Weiss claim “the readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy are as varied as the population. They range from young to old and fans to scholars of fantastic literature themes and techniques.”[25] Not only does the science fiction market have a wide age range, but they tend to come from all walks of life. The reason that SF Classic would appeal to such a diverse audience lies in the reader’s familiarity of a classic work through popular culture. Because of their impact on popular culture, classics “hide in the layers of memory disguised as the individual’s or the collective unconscious”[26] therefore, readers are familiar with the work, even without having read it. In a book purchasing study conducted by Rowland Lorimer and Roger Barnes, “book purchasers made clear that they chose by author, subject and genre.”[27] Science fiction readers love to explore within their chosen genre, and tend to read the classics that have had an impact both on popular culture and science fiction. These readers can also be classified as “bookish in that they do work at it. Sadly, few of them do so to the point of puncturing the comforting bubble of their favourite genre,”[28] however, this trend is all a science fiction publisher could ask for. Since readers are unlikely to venture outside of the science fiction realm, they would not likely be drawn to Penguin’s vast library or even AD Classic’s for that matter. They would most likely purchase from a publisher who can show them a complete science fiction list that would interest them, while offering supplementary material pertinent to the title and genre across that publisher’s line.

 

Adding Value to a Classic Title

As discussed earlier, adding value to a classic work is vital if it is to stand out among the various editions in the market. Many publishers underestimate that “the need to add value to basic information represents a continuing opportunity for publishers. It is only constrained by the imagination and determination of publishers.”[29] While science fiction publishers such as Tor, Del Rey and BenBella do publish classics, they are inconsistent in adding value to their titles, and seldom even go so far as to add a foreword. In order to understand the value that can be added to a classic, we will examine various current editions of The War of the Worlds that flood the market, and how they rank on Amazon.com. The daily snapshot that Amazon.com provides does not offer enough information to make a proper analysis. Therefore, I used a program called TitleZ[30] which was developed by Planning Shop president Rhonda Abrams which “has broken the [Amazon.com] sales history of titles into seven-day, 30- day, 90-day and lifetime averages,”[31] since November 2004. Through this software, we can look at the success of how added content to editions of The War of the Worlds has affected sales.

This comparison of The War of the Worlds supports Lorimer and Barnes’ study that price point is secondary to content. The following three editions all contain supplementary material in varying amounts. The Penguin Classics edition includes four additional items: a biography on Wells, a list of further reading, detailed notes and a foreword by Brian Aldiss. It is priced at $7.00 and has a lifetime sales rank of 199,595[32] . The Modern Library edition includes two additional items: the transcripts of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast, and an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke. It is sold at $5.95 and has a lifetime sales rank of 260,404.[33] The Scholastic Classics edition includes a foreword by Orson Scott Card, is sold at $3.99 and has a lifetime sales rank of 651,862.[34] These figures (Edition Comparison) suggest that a book’s marketplace value is increased with a greater amount of supplementary material, and can therefore be priced higher than books with less supplementary material, and still perform better in the marketplace.

 

Figure 7: Edition Comparison

 

Penguin books had good judgement in determining classic titles in 1946 when they first published The War of the Worlds. In order for SF Classic to compete in the marketplace with a title like The War of the Worlds it is important that content take precedent over everything else, including price. Therefore we will look at unique items that can be added to a title like The War of the Worlds to increase its marketplace value. A SF Classic edition will stand out by including an article ‘Intelligence on Mars’ from The Saturday Review on April 4, 1896 in which Wells “reasoned with great consistency about the probability of intellectual beings on Mars, and even argued that the Martians might be far in advance of the earthlings.”[35] Also, Wells has written several letters regarding The War of the Worlds that were sent to friends, critics, and his publisher, which can be included in the SF Classic edition. In a letter to Elizabeth Healey in 1896, Wells wrote:

“…Also between ourselves I’m doing the dearest little serial for Pearson’s new magazine, in which I completely wreck and destroy Woking – killing my neighbours in painful and eccentric ways – then proceed via Kingston and Richmond to London, which I sack, selecting South Kensington for feats of peculiar atrocity.”[36]

Also, In 1898 there were nineteen reviews of The War of the Worlds, in which one critic wrote that “among the younger writers of the day Mr. Wells is the most distinctly original, and the least indebted to predecessors.”[37] Reviews like this would help increase the collectors value of the edition. While a foreword and biography are commonplace among editions of The War of the Worlds, SF Classic will also include the article by Wells on Martians, snippets of his letters, the most provocative reviews, a hand drawn sketch of a Martian in a copy of The War of the Worlds by Wells himself,[38] illustrations from the original 1898 publication, as well as illustrations from various artists, to make a total of seven distinct categories of supplementary items. Fans of the genre will be receptive to the added value, all of which can be done from the public domain.

The growth of Engage Books, with a backlist of public domain titles through AD Classic, BC Classic and SF Classic, is a concept that has been used successfully by publishers in the past. This publishing model is in line with copyright, which is “to foster the creation of new works that will one day enter the public domain where they can be freely used to enrich everyone’s lives.”[39] Protecting the rights of the creator and their estate for a sufficient period of time is certainly necessary to encourage writers to create new works. And it should also be noted that the efforts by copyright holders to extend the original terms “will not foster further creative activity, it is not required under international intellectual property law, and it effectively constitutes a massive transfer of wealth from the public to a select group of copyright holders.”[40]

Building Engage Books by first publishing classics provides a cultural service. To illustrate this, when Verso Books launched a 150th anniversary edition of Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto it was reviewed “not only as a great work of literature but that, 150 years later, it still has much to teach us for the next millennium.”[41] The availability of public domain works will create competition among publishers, effectively reducing the price point to the consumer, which is possible because the work requires few in-house development costs and no royalties. My decision to publish public domain works is also “important in allowing the ‘inspiration’ so important to artistic success to flourish,”[42] and this type of mentality will ensure that authors will be available when Engage Books is ready to publish new titles in the future.

 

 

Part 3: Background Tactics

a. Print on Demand

I founded Engage Books with the goal of providing a wide range of titles in an innovative way. All of Engage’s books are printed on demand (POD), and available for short run orders through Lightning Source INC (LSI). This means that a single copy or multiple copies are printed within 24 hours of an order, and shipped to booksellers around the world. This section looks at why I decided to use POD for Engage Books, and how the technology has changed the publishing industry.

POD technology is responsible for the re-formation of the book market as single copies of books can be printed at a moments notice in various locations around the world.[43] What this means is that Engage Books would not have to produce books by printing hundreds or thousands of copies and warehousing them; rather it would use POD technology to have books printed where they will get to the consumer faster. POD would give Engage Books the “ability to print small quantities – even single copies – of books far more quickly and inexpensively than with traditional processes.”[44] Producing books quickly to meet demand and at a low cost was important to me, since I didn’t have money in the bank. POD would allow the company to reduce printing costs, inventory costs and shipping costs. Speed was also important to me, because in order to gain credibility with booksellers and consumers, I needed to get books shipped within hours of an order. The speed at which POD books can reach the consumer can be seen by Trafford Publishing’s turnaround as “an order came in for one copy or ten copies, the books were printed that day and shipped out.”[45] According to Thomas Woll, the print-and-distribute method is ideal for a company because you are eliminating the risk of the transaction, with no money tied up in inventory and “every penny of gross margin will cover some part of your fixed overheads.”[46] This method will provide Engage Books with a relatively risk-free start, as very little capital is needed to start the company.

 

b. Lightning Source INC (LSI)—POD Provider of Choice

With a POD model established for Engage Books, I needed to decide on a POD printer to fulfill my orders. It seemed to me that the cost of printing would be a major factor in this decision, with fulfilment and production being just as important.

Before I researched the cost of POD, I made a list of the companies that provide POD services. While researching this, I ran into critics who called the POD process vanity publishing, as the book hasn’t gone through the traditional process, and are perceived to be of a lesser quality because some individuals who publish in this manner lack resources for editing and design, among other things. The vanity accusation assumes that the book is being printed through a subsidy publisher such as Arthur House, BookSurge, Lulu or iUniverse, which “make most of their money by selling publishing and distribution services.”[47] Their primary focus is not selling to bookstores, rather, they compete for authors as income. I didn’t want Engage Books to rely on a company who is more concerned with the upfront costs of setting up a title, than with the actual sale and distribution of the POD book. I wanted Engage Books to follow the same path that traditional publishers have taken to keep their out-of-print books in print and selling. Using this model ensures that “when a copy is ordered, a service such as Lightning Source INC (LSI), a division of the major book wholesaler, Ingram, prints a single copy and sends it to the buyer or the bookstore.”[48] When researching LSI, I found that major publishers, such as John Wiley & Sons, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, and Simon & Schuster were LSI clients, which increased LSI’s credibility over BookSurge and Lulu in my mind. LSI also has a strict policy of not doing business with authors directly, because they want to deal with professionals who understand the publishing business, and these companies will grow their business at a much faster rate. I also learned that utilizing LSI would greatly reduce the shipping costs associated with traditional print-run publishing. “The economies here are that publishers can avoid single package mailing fees by being part of the large daily shipments between Lightning Source and Amazon.com,”[49] and other retailers.

Lightning Source also provides distribution to various clients including libraries, universities, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble. Publisher clients of LSI “are paid the wholesale price of the book, less the printing charge for each book sold.”[50] The set-up cost per title is nominal for this service at $75.00 US and a $12.00 yearly catalog fee. When I first researched the potential of using LSI as a provider I examined POD costs for the different editions and discounts provided by the Engage Books imprints, AD Classic, BC Classic and SF Classic. My research considered the trade paperback and hardcover costs of printing a 6” x 9” copy of Engage’s imprints AD Classic and BC Classic. Both of these imprints are marketed to libraries, university courses, and consumers through online sales, and they are sold at a retail discount of 25% for both paperback and hardcover editions. I will examine AD Classic’s 184-page paperback edition and 188-page hardcover edition of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, since they are both in print and more relevant than a made up number. Both editions provide a reasonable income per-copy, and can create a steady earner over time.

 

Figure 8: AD Classic Earnings

*LSI Paperback flat charge of $0.90 per unit and $0.013 per page
*LSI Hardcover flat charge of $6.00 per unit and $0.013 per page

 

Next I researched the trade paperback and hardcover costs of printing a 6” x 9” copy of a SF Classic title. I will demonstrate this research by looking at Engage’s newest SF Classic title Journey to the Center of the Earth (Illustrated Collectors Edition) with a 40% discount and a 20% discount. The 40% discount is the paperback edition already published and is marketed to both online retailers and bookstores. The 20% discount will apply to a 1,000 copy limited hardcover edition, to be marketed to consumers shopping online. The extent of SF Classic’s 6” x 9” paperback version of Journey to the Center of the Earth is 260 pages. The increased page count is due to the content added to this edition; – 50 full-page illustrations, a biography, historical reviews, a poem, a ten-page article on Verne and an introduction by Mark Rich.

 

Figure 9: SF Classic Earnings

*LSI Paperback flat charge of $0.90 per unit and $0.013 per page
*LSI Hardcover flat charge of $6.00 per unit and $0.013 per page

 

When deciding on a retail price for a SF Classic’s edition, I wanted it to reflect the extra work that went into producing the title. The profit on a SF Classic paperback is much higher than the amount earned on an AD Classic paperback. The SF Classic hardcover earnings over AD Classic’s hardcover earnings not only reflects the extra work put into the title, but it follows my theory that science fiction consumers are interested in collectors items that have a limited number of copies in the market. In fact other publisher have had success at this, such as SoulWave Publishers, Inc. which sold-out of 200 limited edition copies of Robert J. Sawyer’s The Terminal Experiment at $50 each, and Easton Press’ sold-out limited editions of 1,200 to 3,000 copies of novels by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein at $79.95 each. I was hesitant at first to create a 1,000 copy limited edition hardcover, as I will have to actively put an end to the sale of this title when it reaches its target, unlike publishers of traditional limited editions who initially print all 1,000 copies in one print-run. But, I realized that this was the only way that I could justify pricing the titles so high, and once the hardcover is sold out, Engage Books will earn $22,580. This income would provide Engage Books with a greater ability to publish new titles and new authors.

I knew that the profit after the wholesale discount and print cost, did not reflect the earnings that Engage Books would receive, as there were development costs, and overhead to factor in as well. As stated earlier, the development costs include a one time $75 set up fee, a yearly catalogue fee of $12, and the value of my time in producing each new title. The overhead costs are negligible as I work out of a home office. But, when I researched these LSI print figures I was confident that I would be able to build a list of titles that would sell enough copies to build a strong financial base for Engage Books. However, I still needed to decide on whether or not to accept returns, and what LSI’s return terms and costs were.

 

c. Distribution through Ingram, Returns, Warehousing and Shipping

Now that I had decided on a POD printer for Engage Books, I needed to look at the distribution model that would get my books out fast, efficiently and at a low cost. LSI titles are distributed by Ingram Book Company, of which LSI is a subsidiary, and from which booksellers around the world can order from over 8,000 LSI publishers or 2.6 million in-stock titles.[51] Or looking at it from the other side of the coin, Ingram “provides librarians and booksellers with immediate access to the largest selection of books and book-related products in the industry”[52] with more than 56,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide, and with libraries making titles available to more than 148 million library patrons.[53]

Suffice it to say, I was very pleased with the wide distribution offered through Ingram. With the research I had done on LSI, I was aware that a title could be printed within hours of an order, and shipped out through Ingram along with a book buyer’s regular purchase. This also meant that I would not have to worry about storing printed books in a warehouse, as books are shipped to order, and I did not have to worry about shipping costs which are handled by the book buyer or Ingram, depending on that companies relationship with Ingram. As I had eliminated two very traditional overhead standards, warehousing and shipping to retailers, I had to decide on what to do with returns and how this process would be handled by Ingram.

According to the Cross River Publishing Consultants study on returns, 31.3 percent of hardcover trade books in the US are returned.[54] If the POD books are only printed when a consumer shopping through an e-retailer wants a copy, the return rate is much lower, however, as bookstores purchase through Ingram’s catalogue, returns are bound to increase. LSI charges a $2.00 per book shipping and handling fee when returning a title to the publisher, therefore according to Lightning Source “publishers must balance the risk of returns versus the opportunity to perhaps sell more books.”[55] Since the goal of Engage Books is operating with the least amount of cost possible, it makes sense to not allow for returns, especially since the addition of a $2.00 per book charge will reduce the prospect of making a profit on a second sale of the returned book, and in some instances create a loss. But I wanted to make sure that a no return policy wouldn’t drastically affect the potential for sales.

Since AD Classic and BC Classic are marketed to consumers shopping directly online, professors choosing a particular edition for their course and placing the order though their school bookstore, and libraries, I decided to flag my books as non-returnable through LSI. Firstly, the returnable status has no bearing on consumers shopping online and e-retailers such as Amazon.com would not be able to return bulk purchases. Secondly, university bookstores would have no choice but to fulfill a professor’s request for a particular title, regardless of its return status. This assumption was proven by Stanford University’s order for 110 copies of AD Classic’s Frankenstein to fulfill Professor Robert Harrison’s order for his Introduction to the Humanities course. However the university bookstore does have the option of ordering a quantity that it expects to sell, and it likely factors in the risk of being unable to return a title. When Stanford requested seven free desk copies of Frankenstein for the instructor and TA’s, they referred to an order to satisfy a 144-person class, of which the bookstore chose to order 110 copies. Thirdly, when libraries order AD Classic titles, they do not have to worry about returning a book that does not sell as bookstores do, however they may be worried that a title will not meet their expectations and that they will be unable to return it. Over time, I expect to change this uncertainty through the credibility of Engage Books in the market. Since AD Classic and BC Classic were not returnable I did not have to worry about Ingram’s return policy.

As SF Classic paperbacks are marketed to Bookstores, I knew that a no-returns policy would not be well received. I did not want to provide a deep discount of 50-55 percent in order to justify a no-returns policy with bookstores, as a deep discount could infer that there is little value to the SF Classic series. My reasoning behind this is that deep discounts are generally associated with books that are not selling fast enough, or have been remaindered. Instead I decided to follow the traditional route. Bookstores expect to not only receive a minimum discount of 40% but they want to ensure that they can return a title that isn’t selling for a full refund or credit. So I decided to place the SF Classic paperback line as returnable, through LSI, which would place Engage Books at risk of being “charged for the current wholesale cost of each book returned, plus a $2.00 per book shipping and handling charge.”[56] When a book is returned through Ingram, LSI will also warehouse them until there are enough returns to cover the amalgamated shipping charge of $2.00 per book. LSI could warehouse 20 copies in order for the $2.00 per book charge to reach $40.00, which should be enough to cover shipping to Canada. When it came to deciding on a return policy for SF Classic hardcover titles, I knew that my primary focus was not on booksellers, rather it was towards online consumers, as the hardcover edition would be limited to 1,000 copies with a 20 percent discount in order to increase the per unit profit on this limited series. Therefore a no returns policy for SF Classic hardcovers made sense, especially since the prospect of paying the print cost of $9.38 for Journey to the Center of the Earth (Illustrated Collectors Edition) plus the added $2.00 shipping fee for a return is quite high.

When deciding on the return policy for Engage Books, I knew that it would depend on who my target audience was. For my first engage title, Breast Cancer Journal, proceeds would be donated to the BC Cancer Foundation. A 20% discount seemed appropriate, since online retailers such as Amazon.com would still list this title, and my intention was to target online consumers and to direct sell short run orders. My second book published under Engage Books, Criminal Desserts: Cops for Cancer Cookbook, was marketed to bookstores, online retailers, and direct selling by the authors, so a 40% discount was appropriate in this case. However when it came to Engage SF I knew that each new title would need to be discounted at 40% since it would be imperative to get each title out to as many bookstores as possible for it to coincide with my consumer marketing efforts.

 

 

Part 4: Marketing

a. How the Online Environment Affects Design & Marketing

When I began to research my marketing plans for Engage Books I wanted to understand how the print specifications offered by LSI would reflect on marketing online and in bookstores. I wanted to see how I could use this to my advantage, and how this would affect my design decisions, marketing plans, and costs.

When consumers pick up a book they experience firsthand the weight of the book, the feel of type indents on the cover, the presence of jacket flaps, die-cuts, clothbound covers, and many other tactile stimulus. For this reason, the relationship between marketing and design was closely correlated, yet this is beginning to change. As the selling of books begins to move into an online setting, this relationship seems to be weakening. I think it is a reasonable assumption that “if the book is to sell mainly in bookstores, it will need an attractive jacket [and]… if it is a mail order book, it should be printed on lightweight paper, to save on postage costs.”[57] The contrast between bookselling in the physical world and that of the online world, is that one relies on physical design and the other on information. Other than the cover art, the physical design of a book becomes almost secondary when sold online as there is an abundance of readily available information: book reviews by both professionals and readers, author quotes, a chapter preview and links to other books from an author’s collection. If the website, whether it be an online database or the author’s own, is effective in providing this information, the book can be purchased without the help of the book’s physical design.

It seems to me that instead of dealing solely with a traditional book designer, publishers may now increasingly deal with web designers, as the online presence of a book begins to exceed that of the offline presence. It has also been suggested that “web content developers will become book publishers, or partners with them.”[58] Spending more money on a book’s visibility online allows the book to meet diversified markets. I realized that publishers would have to decide “whether the few grand they might spend in [Publisher’s Weekly], or The NY Times Book Review, would be better spent on Google Adwords.”[59] With an understanding of the value of marketing online and offline, I would be able to decide on how to divide my marketing efforts.

I came to realize that with the selling and consumption of books increasingly shifting into an electronic environment, the costs of selling, promoting and manufacturing books are reduced through effective technology. As for book promotion, an online setting can allow for less pricey means of marketing. Having your book in an online database like Amazon.com, and maintaining an effective website for both the publishing house and the author, can reach more consumers without costing an arm and a leg. And “it is becoming clear that the practices of marketing online reach every corner of the book trade,”[60] which is making costly marketing efforts offline less attractive to publishers. If I were to purchase ad space for Frankenstein through Google Adwords, my advertisement would appear when people searched for Frankenstein on Google Search. With the use of online features like Google Adwords, “you only pay for [the advertisement] if there is ‘clickthru,’ so all the impressions of people just looking, which is, after all, all you get from PW or the Times, are actually free.”[61] Even though consumers won’t see the cover art or Engage’s brand through Google Adwords for Frankenstein, only the consumers who are interested will click through, where they will see the cover and branding. The electronic environment greatly decreases the costs of promotion since a great deal of a book’s online visibility is essentially free for the publisher. Bloggers are acting as promoters by creating online conversations around a book, yet without demanding a dime in return. For this reason, I must consider the notion that a book’s online visibility, as opposed to that of the physical world, deserves greater attention than ever before.

Through online means, books can not only be printed and distributed much more efficiently, but the overall cost per book can be reduced through the streamlined production process offered by POD printers like LSI. In the case of my POD titles printed through LSI, the production specifications are standard and limited to certain formats, and I can’t add extra touches like die cuts, French flaps, or metallic inks. Therefore my marketing focus online needed to take advantage of the many ways to market books cheaply and effectively. As I have previously mentioned, book design is related to marketing in a store setting, and is meant to lure a reader in. In an online setting however, book design is no longer what entices a reader to click on or purchase a book, but rather the comments that are made by other readers or the recommendations made by online retailers like Amazon.com.

 

b. Marketing on Amazon.com

It is crucial for me to place my books on sites like Amazon.com, sites that exist as something similar to an online contemporary book database, which “for most practical purposes, rivals the Library of Congress.”62 Due to the increasing amount of online communication and activity it is essential that I place a substantial amount of marketing and bibliographical data on such online databases in a timely manner so as not to neglect online communities which comprise a substantial segment of those who purchase books. Luckily for me, Ingram provides online sites such as Amazon.com with the bibliographic data from all of LSI’s clients within a week of publication. My book’s bibliographic data, and the front cover are delivered electronically to Amazon.com by LSI, however there are many other ways that publishers can take advantage of Amazon.com if they know how.

Online databases like Amazon.com are beneficial promotional mechanisms, and there are many ways that they bring awareness to titles through cross-promotional strategies manifested in automated referrals and recommendations.63 In order to become successful at selling books on Amazon.com it is necessary to understand how Amazon.com’s automated system works, so that I can take advantage of these benefits. I paid attention to Amazon.com’s cross-promotional email operations after I published Cranford (AD Classic). I had purchased a couple of copies and shipped them to friends in the US, using different Amazon.com accounts. Soon afterwards, I received an email from Amazon.com which read “As someone who has purchased or rated books by Elizabeth Gaskell, you might like to know that Wives and Daughters Complete and Unabridged is now available. You can order yours for just $10.50 by following the link below.” I wondered whether the publisher had paid Amazon.com to send this email out, or if it was an automated system. I soon found out when I published Journey to the Center of the Earth (AD Classic) and I received an email from Amazon.com that read “As someone who has purchased or rated books by Jules Verne, you might like to know that Journey to the Center of the Earth (AD Classic) is now available. You can order yours for just $6.95 by following the link below.” As I had previously ordered a book by Jules Verne for research into this title, the automated system picked up on this and sent out notifications to select individuals in their mailing list that fit similar parameters. I know this is the case because sales for A Journey to the Center of the Earth spiked immediately. With this newfound knowledge I was able to get Amazon.com to send out promotional emails to members of their email lists, for my next titles by purchasing copies of my own book with different accounts within a couple weeks of the book appearing on Amazon.com’s database. And sure enough Amazon.com sent out emails to their lists, but some of the emails were not very efficient or accurate. One in particular read:

 

Figure 10: Amazon.com Promotional Email 1

“Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated The War of the Worlds (AD Classic) by H. G. Wells have also purchased Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (AD Classic) by Lewis Carroll. For this reason, you might like to know that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (AD Classic) is now available. You can order yours for just $6.95 by following the link below.”

 

It seemed to me that customers who had purchased The War of the Worlds (AD Classic) would not necessarily be interested in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (AD Classic) as the genre, and target audience is not the same. However, book sales for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland spiked to 69 copies sold in March 2009, which makes me believe that Amazon.com likely sent out emails that were similar to the one I had received for Journey to the Center of the Earth (AD Classic). But the following email in particular did not make any marketing sense.

 

Figure 11: Amazon.com Promotional Email 2

“Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated Frankenstein (AD Classic) by Mary Shelley have also purchased Breast Cancer Journal (All Proceeds from this Notebook Benefit The Weekend to End Breast Cancer to Support Research into Finding a Cure) Engage Books by A. R. Roumanis. For this reason, you might like to know that Breast Cancer Journal (All Proceeds from this Notebook Benefit The Weekend to End Breast Cancer to Support Research into Finding a Cure) Engage Books is now available. You can order yours for just $8.95 by following the link below.”

 

Sales for this book did not spike as they did with the aforementioned Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which likely happened because Breast Cancer Journal did not have a famous author which would allow the automated system to send out emails to customers who had purchased other books by that same author.

Tinkering with Amazon.com’s automated system also brought up another key feature of Amazon.com’s inner workings. After purchasing two of my own books, Robinson Crusoe and The Prince together, on three separate occasions, with different Amazon.com accounts, on the same day, Amazon.com linked these titles together on the Robinson Crusoe listing page; “Customers buy this book with The Prince (AD Classic) by Niccolò Machiavelli, price for both 13.90,” and they mirrored this advertisement on the listing page for The Prince. This made me realize that I could prompt Amazon.com to link my titles with other appropriate and popular books on Amazon.com, by purchasing them together with different accounts. Three months after I had linked The Prince and Robinson Crusoe, I noticed that Amazon.com had removed the “Customers who buy this book” link to more appropriate links such as The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul for The Prince, and Great Expectations (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens for Robinson Crusoe. This led me to believe that Amazon.com’s automated system was dependent on shifting trends, which meant that I would have to be sure that I linked two titles appropriately, so that consumers would keep them linked in the future through regular purchases.

The insight I learned from consumer trends in purchases gave me a better understanding of how I could manipulate Amazon.com’s search field. When I first began searching for my books on Amazon.com, I would type in the book title followed by (AD Classic). When I did this for more than a week in a row for A Journey to the Center of the Earth, I noticed that A Journey to the Center of the Earth (AD Classic) appeared at the bottom of Amazon.com’s drop down list, attached to its search field. This drop down list is integrated into Amazon.com’s database and has nothing to do with my own web browser, as I experimented on several computers. As I continued to search for this title in the same way for another week, my search term rose to the top of the suggested search field. I thought that this was a great way to promote my title, as some people who begin by typing in A Journey to the Center… tend to click on Amazon.com’s search suggestions, and since mine was at the top of the list it would remain there. I found out that I was wrong after returning home from a week-long vacation and my search term had dropped to the bottom of the list. People weren’t clicking on it because they did not associate AD Classic with their search, and clicked on other key words, such as the suffix Jules Verne. This brought me to the realization that I would need to come up with a search term that would place my edition in the first two or three spots, and that this search term would be popular with consumers to the point that they would continue to click on this suggestion, thereby keeping it high in the search suggestion field. The search suggestion I came up with was Journey to the Center of the Earth Illustrated, as the key word ‘illustrated’ placed my AD Classic and SF Classic editions in the top two search field spots respectively. And this search suggestion remains within the top three spots, several weeks after I had initially bumped it to the top of the list due to customers regularly clicking on this suggestion.

Experimenting with search suggestions, brings me to various ways to manipulate Amazon.com’s tagging system. Tagging is used by Amazon.com as a secondary method to show customers similar products. Customer tags “feed into normal search results, pairings, and recommendations.”[64] These are all important to take advantage of. When tagging a title such as Frankenstein, there are several types of tags that create the best results. While it is important to specify the genre with tags like, classic, science fiction, horror and undead, it is important to keep in mind that hundreds if not thousands of other customers have used these search terms, and quite a few books have multiple tags for these generic suggestions that reach into the hundreds. This is important to understand because Amazon.com uses tags for search results, pairings, and recommendations, on books that have received top results for a particular tag. Because of this, I suggest that publishers also use unique tags for their books. In fact, some of the best tags can be found by typing Robinson Crusoe in Amazon.com’s search field, and looking at the different suffixes that appear there. Some of the most popular suffixes are, by Daniel Defoe, hardcover, unabridged, illustrated, for kids and Defoe and it is important to use these terms as tags. The first tag, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe would not only bump my edition up in search results, and possibly pair it with another title, but most importantly it would be used to give customers recommendations. When a customer searches for this exact term, and they click on any title in search results, my edition of Robinson Crusoe will appear on that books profile page with a prompt by Amazon.com stating “Looking for “Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe” Products? Other customers suggested these items:” and a picture of my edition with rankings, the price point, and a link is displayed as a free advertisement. There are no other titles displayed, because publishers such as Penguin, Norton, Modern Library, Oxford, Barnes & Noble and Signet Classics, have not thought to tag their editions of Robinson Crusoe in this manner. When a few dozen such tags are entered, it will greatly increase the exposure of my edition of Robinson Crusoe on Amazon.com, and when customers click on any other edition of Robinson Crusoe they will likely find my book on that editions profile page.

Another area to market a title on Amazon.com is to tag it for Amazon search. Unlike Amazon.com’s regular tags, the search tags only help raise a books status in search rankings when a specific search term is used. There is also a disclaimer that search tags are reviewed by Amazon.com employees to ensure that they are relevant terms. While it is also helpful to insert obscure tags that match customer search results, this is a great place to enter alternate spellings. When typing in Robinson Crusoe in the search field, try mixing the letters up and see if you still get a search suggestion. I found that when I typed in Robinsonc the search field gave me the suggestion of Robinsoncrusoe because other customers had entered this as a search term. With this information, I entered Robinsoncrusoe as a tag for Amazon search and it was approved by an Amazon.com employee three weeks later, and my edition of Robinson Crusoe now appears at the top of the listings whenever this search term is used. (Note: In August 2009 Amazon.com removed the tag it for Amazon search function, however search terms that had previously been entered and accepted by Amazon.com continue to appear in search results.)

A final item of interest is to link a hardcover and a paperback of the same title on Amazon.com so that the paperback is accessible from the profile page of the hardcover edition. Amazon.com allows publishers to link paperback, hardcover, audio, and kindle books through Amazon.com’s Book Content Update form at www.amazon.com/add-content-books. Generally the hardcover edition will have a profile page (accessible through search results) on Amazon.com while the other formats will not have their own profile page (so they won’t be accessible through search results), but the other formats will have small links to their books (which are hidden within the Amazon.com database) posted on the hardcovers page. This is significant for Engage Books because Amazon.com has started doing this with classic books that have multiple publishers, and they don’t seem to mind that many of these books have differences, such as illustrations, translations, forewords etc. So, currently the AD Classic edition of The Prince (AD Classic Library Edition)(Hardcover) was added to this conglomerate of linked books, and it is the profile page from which 108 other editions are accessible. By profile page, I mean that 108 other editions, whether they are in paperback, hardcover, electronic or audio formats are only accessible on Amazon.com through small links on the page where my edition is sold. This also means that the AD Classic edition receives all of the reviews that the other books have accumulated, which is currently 304 reviews, and it gets ranked high in search rankings. Currently it is ranked #1 on searches for The Prince, which is above Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and #3 on searches for Prince. Bumping my edition up in rank is due to the power of having so many editions linked together, because all of the editions’ tags and reviews combined overpower an edition that is not linked to another title. My edition ended up as the profile page purely by chance, and it is likely that Amazon.com will eventually rotate my book out for another one, but currently The Prince has sold an average of four copies a day in both August and September 2009.

 

 

Part 5: Analysis

a. Monthly Analysis of Sales & Trends

When I published my first title in June 2008, there was no way of knowing if Engage Books would be a success or not. With a slow start of only two books sold in the first month of business, I wondered what it would take to succeed. It wasn’t until the second month of business with three books in print and 25 books sold, that I was more comfortable, and by the third month with four books in print and sales of 43 books I felt confident that I was building a list of titles that would grow into a successful long-tail business. Each new title added to the backlist of Engage Book would slightly increase the company’s earnings, so that their combined presence in the market would generate a substantial income that would continue growing, and in so doing, provide Engage Books with the ability to fund larger projects.

In order to determine how large a backlist Engage Books must have in print before it generates enough income to fund large projects, we must analyse the sales data since Engage Books began business in June 2008. The following graph shows how many books were sold each month from June 2008 to July 2009 in both the US and Canadian markets.

 

Figure 12: Books Sold Per Title in the US and Canadian Markets

 

Since the company grew from one book in June 2008 to thirteen books in August 2009, one would think that there would be an upwards curve in book sales. However, this is not the case, and there are several highs and lows on the graph where an analysis of sales trends can help us understand these shifts. One of the most obvious discrepancies is when one particular book sells in unusually large quantities in any given month. I will explain to the best of my knowledge why certain books sold more than 50 copies in a month. The first occurrence is in November 2008 when A Journey to the Center of the Earth sold 74 copies. This is due to the DVD release of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D starring Brendan Fraser on October 28, 2008. The marketing for this release ran throughout November until Christmas, which led to an additional sale of 74 copies in December. The third spike occurred in February 2009, when 119 copies of Frankenstein were sold. This occurred when Stanford University placed an order for 110 titles for a Humanities course. The fourth spike in March 2009 occurred when Amazon.com sent out an email to a select list of customers that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was available for purchase, which led to 69 copies being sold. The fifth spike in April 2009 for 58 copies of Frankenstein were mostly sold on Amazon.com, and it is my assumption that many of these purchases where from students purchasing copies for their Stanford course which started in May. The sixth spike in June 2009 for Frankenstein is due to another order from Stanford for a second semester of the same humanities course. The reason for the seventh spike in July 2009 for Robinson Crusoe is not known to me. It could be due to a university, or large chain bookstore order. Or it could be in response to Life on a Desert Island based on Robinson Crusoe which was performed as a one-man outdoor spectacle play in Central Park, New York, from July 11 until September 2009. The eighth spike in August of 122 copies and the ninth spike in September of 118 copies of The Prince (AD Classic Library Edition) occurred when Amazon.com placed this book as the profile page from which 108 other editions are available. See Part 4, ‘Marketing on Amazon.com’ for further details on Amazon.com profile pages.

There is no doubt that the global financial crisis which began in September 2008[65] had an affect on book sales. However, since Engage Books does not have prior sales data, and there hasn’t yet been a study on book purchases in North America in 2008/2009, and since Booknet Canada will not provide me with data, there is not a definitive way to determine whether the economy had anything to do with declines in October 2008, January 2009 and May 2009. It is likely that these declines are due to the fact that no significant purchases were made for any one title in these months. And it is probable that the economic downturn has caused declines in overall sales since Engage Books began business.

 

b. Projecting Future Sales

With any company it is important to understand how it will grow, and how this growth will affect the company’s revenue stream. With an understanding of this I will have a better idea of how quickly I can grow Engage Books. In order to begin projecting future growth, we must look at how many titles Engage Books had in print in each month since June 2008.

 

Figure 13: Books in Print

 

While the number of titles in print grows from one to twelve titles, it is certainly not representative of the future output for Engage Books. While there are periods with no growth it is reasonable to assume that the output of Engage Books will increase when this paper is finished, and Engage Books earns enough income to support my full attention. I would estimate that an output of 30 titles a year is reasonable, once I can devote more of my time to Engage Books. This brings us to the question of determining how much Engage Books will earn one, two and three years from now. In order to do this we must look at Engage Books earnings from June 2008 to July 2009.

 

Figure 14: US and Canadian Sales in US Dollars

 

These numbers (See Appendix C for exact figures) are vital in order to determine an average earning per book in print for each month. An average earning per book in print will give us a baseline figure from which we can multiply to project future earnings. To calculate this average, I divided the sales of each month by the number of books in print, in order to create the following graph.

 

Figure 15: Monthly Combined Average Earnings Divided by All Titles in Print

 

This graph is instrumental in determining an average earning per book in print over a one month period. While my books are priced differently, especially the to-be-published $39.95 edition of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1000 Copy Limited Edition), this sales average will help me calculate a monthly average from which I can calculate future sales. When calculating an average earning per book in print, I added the average sales from each month (except for June 2008) to reach a total of $541, which I divided by 15 months, to reach an average earning of $36.07 per book in print. Overall, $36.07 is representative of earnings so far, and it is a good indication from which to project future earnings, which can be done by multiplying this figure by a projected number of titles in print. But first we’ll take a look at what can be done to increase the average earning per book each month.

The sales spikes discussed in the section on the Monthly Analysis of Sales and Trends may look like random events on the surface, but there are many ways to manipulate these spikes. Firstly, whenever I have published a book with an upcoming movie tie-in or television release, there has been a spike in sales due to the production companies marketing efforts. When I published A Journey to the Center of the Earth there was a sales spike leading up to the DVD release, and there will be another one when it is first aired on television. With this in mind, I have chosen my following AD Classic book releases on the upcoming theatrical release of A Christmas Carol and Sherlock Holmes. Secondly, Stanford University’s order of over 200 copies of Frankenstein over two semesters, has not only caused two sales spikes, but has also driven students to purchase their own copies off of Amazon.com. As Stanford found my book on their own, likely from an online database like Amazon.com, I plan on marketing directly to universities across North America through digital and print catalogues, to increase the likelihood of my books being adopted for a course. Thirdly, Amazon.com has sent out emails to their customers when I have released a new title based on the number of purchases in the first few weeks after publication. In order to manipulate this I will market each new release through Facebook, Twitter and email campaigns.

 

Figure 16: Projected Backlist Earnings in US and Canada Based on the Number of Titles in Print

 

All other things being equal, this is a growth model for a straight long-tail business. From this graph we can project that Engage Books will make an average of $541.05 in one month with 15 books in print, which would also generate $6,492.60 over a twelve month period. With 35 books in print, monthly earnings would reach $1,262.45 or $15,149.40 over twelve months. With 70 books in print monthly earnings reach $2,524.90 or $30,298.80 over twelve months. And with 100 titles in print monthly earnings reach $3,607 or $43,284 over twelve months. With these numbers in mind it would be reasonable to say that Engage Books would be ready to invest in larger projects when 70 books are in print, or with $30,298.80 in yearly earnings as I would have enough income to both concentrate full time on these projects and to fund them. At an output of 30 books a year, this number would be reached within two years, when including the thirteen books already in print. Within three years, Engage Books is projected to earn $43,284 with 100 titles in print. These numbers assume that there will be no growth on earnings per title, however the average earning per book is likely to change.

While the numbers calculated since Engage Books began operations are accurate, there are a few reasons why the future might look more promising than I have projected. First, Engage Books began in a global recession, which saw a decline in retail sales in both the US and Canada. It is more than likely that as the economy improves, sales will increase, and the average earnings per book would also increase. Second, with a larger number of titles in print, and with increased exposure in the market, Engage Books will experience a growth in brand recognition. This will come from people who have seen Engage Books online (See Appendix A), at events (See Appendix B), or who are among the over 1,700 people who have already purchased a book (See Appendix C). Third, while Engage Books does have worldwide distribution through Ingram, and is present in their online and new release catalogue, Ingram doesn’t actively promote my books to prospective library, retail and wholesale buyers. With the establishment of a sales team to market directly to trade channels such as bookstores, which I plan on contracting out in 2010, Engage Books sales will increase significantly. With these three factors in consideration, it is conceivable that Engage Books could launch an original title in one year.

It is my belief that Engage Books can reach monthly earnings of $2,000 within one year, while experiencing a growth in brand recognition and establishing an agreement with an outside sales force. With this in mind I have just signed a contract with Chris Stevenson to publish a 80,000 to 90,000 word novel entitled Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars for Engage SF. Chris Stevenson has agreed to not receive an advance against royalties and this book will be edited by an editor who has agreed to accept payment in the form of a royalty based on book sales. This will reduce the initial investment from Engage Books, and will allow for more funds to be allocated to cover art, print costs, and marketing. Also, I have been accepting short story submissions for some time now, and have agreed to publish two authors for a short story anthology of ten to twelve authors. It is my goal to have Planet Janitor released by September 2010, and to have the anthology, along with one other full length novel, to be released shortly thereafter.

In order to expand the release of original titles it will be necessary to outsource each book to a freelance editor, as I currently have no plans to hire fulltime employees. This is from a personal belief that I should keep my staff lean through outsourcing, until I reach an output that would benefit from a full-time employee and establish the income necessary to pay for this persons salary. To increase profits to fund further growth, I will actively sell subsidiary rights of first serial, video game, theatrical, and foreign rights to third parties. For Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars I am working on getting this made into a video game, and am actively approaching game companies such as EA to make this possible. The establishment of a video game for Planet Janitor would not only provide Engage Books with subsidiary income, but it would also boost marketing efforts and consumer recognition as the videogame company would promote and distribute their new title.

Beyond the three original titles planned for 2010, I plan to expand Engage Books further. This expansion will be funded by the projected backlist earnings calculated earlier of $30,298 in year two and $43,284 in year three. I intend on building a stable output in 2011 by establishing two seasons: a spring release of two titles and a fall release of two additional titles. In 2012 I will expand this output further to three titles in both the spring and fall seasons. Beyond this three year projection ending in 2012, I will re-evaluate the growth of original titles to see if I should maintain a three book output or add additional titles to each season. In my projections I find it valuable to maintain consistency in the yearly output of original titles and in the establishment of two recurring seasons. This consistency will ensure that both consumers and retailers, who come to know Engage Books, will expect regular releases in consistent numbers, and timeframes. If I should fail to release original titles in a season, or should I fail in producing the same number of titles in a future year, I will lose credibility from those who have come to expect consistency from Engage Books. Credibility is vital in order for Engage Books to become established as a reputable publisher in the industry.

 

 

Part 6: Conclusions

The idea for Engage Books began with what I saw as an opportunity in that there were no science fiction publishers in Vancouver, a city that is very receptive to the genre in many other industries. This opportunity led to the establishment of a set of strategies and tactics that could facilitate such an endeavour. In formulating a plan to have four imprints under Engage Books, I basically gave myself the freedom to publish across multiple genres, as is seen with the recent release of a cookbook under Engage Books. However, having four imprints under one parent company did give me the task of building a branding strategy for all of them. But, had I only focused on branding a science fiction press, I would have never come up with the idea of placing the year of publication on a book spine, which is my most unique branding tactic, and one that I feel will bring repeat business, through brand recognition, back to Engage Books and its imprints.

The process of building Engage Books from the ground-up has been, to say the least, unconventional. While I have started a company in the same way that many publishers have already done using public domain titles, I have expanded on this strategy by publishing through print-on-demand production. This relatively new technology coupled with copyright free works from the public domain, has allowed me to build Engage Books as a lean start-up company. That is to say that very little in the way of an investment, other than my own time, went into the development of each title published, and I was able to build a backlist that would provide Engage Books with the capital necessary to fund the development of new titles.

Having had the experience of publishing thirteen titles for Engage Books, I have discovered many important aspects of marketing online. While a web presence through a website, blog, and social networking is important, it is doubly important to actively market on Amazon.com. While marketing on Amazon.com I learned how to manipulate the site’s automated system to my benefit, including automated customer emails, linking books, search field, generic tags, tags for Amazon search, and linking editions. While this knowledge is important, it is crucial that I did not learn this while promoting a new title for Engage SF. Learning Amazon.com marketing tactics on-the-go when publishing a classic title for AD Classic is acceptable to me, because there is little invested in the title. However, when I publish Chris Stevenson’s Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars the development cost will be much higher, there will be a substantial marketing budget, and the immediate success of this title will be important for both Engage Books, Chris Stevenson, and the editor involved. Therefore, it is worthwhile for me to have built a backlist of classic titles, so that I could learn from my successes and failures for the betterment of new titles.

As for the future of Engage Books, I have a three year plan in place for success. For the development of new titles I would be able to utilize funds from AD Classic, BC Classic, and SF Classic in order to survive the first three years of operation. This is important because in “each new book season, effectively, small companies bet a very high percentage of the liquid assets of the company on new titles,”[66] and because of the risk involved, banks are reluctant to offer loans, short of a publisher putting up his house as collateral. As I don’t have money to the bank or a house for collateral, utilizing funds from the other imprints is the logical choice. Also in the first three years of operation, Engage Books would not qualify for Canada Book Fund (CBF) assistance, as a criterion for financial aid is that publishers must “have been in business for a minimum of 36 months.”[67] Engage Books does not have the luxury to start business with CBF funding as some Canadian imprints do, since their parent company can transfer their eligibility onto the imprint. Engage Books would have to publish “a minimum of 12 new Canadian-authored trade books”[68] to be eligible for this funding. Therefore, using the backlists of AD Classic, BC Classic and SF Classic as a support mechanism for the first three years is a viable way for a publishing house to enter the industry.

The Engage Books model is a means for a publisher to enter the industry with little up-front capital, with the opportunity to expand business and become a traditional publisher. While “McClelland and Stewart’s great success with its Emblem Series of fiction tapped the accumulated value added or, differently stated, the cultural capital of the firm,”[69] Engage Books’ ability to tap the cultural capital of the public domain to build three of its imprints in order to fund the forth imprint, will give the latter imprint an edge in the industry. No shipping costs, coupled with minimal to no returns and no warehousing fees, and a guaranteed earning on each book sold, will propel Engage Books into a successful business. Currently, “at major online booksellers, the profusion of POD books may eventually eclipse established titles,”[70] and throughout this process Engage Books will compete on equal terms with large publishers. Also, as more and more publishers turn towards POD this in turn should reduce the cost of printing with POD as competition increases and technology improves, thereby increasing the profit on each book sold. The feasibility of Engage Books lies in the use of works from the public domain, printed through POD, in order to have a financial backing from which to create new titles that readers will want to explore, and collect.

 

 


Part 7: Appendix

Appendix A: Website and Google Analytics

Appendix A.1

 

Appendix A.2

 

Appendix A.3

 

Appendix A.4

 

Appendix A.5

 

Appendix A.6

 

Appendix A.7

 

Appendix A.8

 

 

Appendix B: Events

Appendix B.1 Appendix B.2

 

 

Appendix C: Monthly Sales Reports from LSI

Appendix C.1 Appendix C.2 Appendix C.3 Appendix C.4 Appendix C.5 Appendix C.6 Appendix C.7 Appendix C.8 Appendix C.9 Appendix C.10 Appendix C.11 Appendix C.12 Appendix C.13 Appendix C.14 Appendix C.15 Appendix C.16 Appendix C.17 Appendix C.18 Appendix C.19 Appendix C.20 Appendix C.21 Appendix C.22 Appendix C.23 Appendix C.24 Appendix C.25 Appendix C.26 Appendix C.27 Appendix C.28 Appendix C.29 Appendix C.30 Appendix C.31 Appendix C.32 Appendix C.33 Appendix C.34 Appendix C.35 Appendix C.36 Appendix C.37


Notes

1 Dan Poynter, The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book (Santa Barbara, CA, Para Publishing, 2003) 146. RETURN

2 Thomas Woll, Publishing For Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers, Third Edition, (Chicago Illinois, Chicago Review Press, 2006) 3-5. RETURN

3 Stephen Fishman, The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More, 3rd Edition, (Berkley California, Nolo Press, 2006) 12. RETURN

4 Medbh Bidwell, New-Format Reprints: Creating McClelland & Stewart’s Emblem Editions out of Backlist Titles, Book Publishing 1, (Vancouver British Columbia, CCSP Press, 2005) 139. RETURN

5 Michael Rogers, Book Reviews: Classic Returns, (Library Journal, November 1, 2002) 134. RETURN

6 Medbh Bidwell; 139. RETURN

7 Ibid; 152. RETURN

8 “News Gothic,” Wikipedia, available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Gothic accessed on Oct 13, 2009. RETURN

9 “Minion Pro,” Adobe Font (Adobe Systems Incorporated) available from http://store1.adobe.com/cfusion/store/html/index.cfm?store=OLS-US&event=displayFontPackage&code=1719 accessed on June 8, 2009. RETURN

10 Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style (Vancouver, British Columbia, Hartley & Marks Publishers, 1999) 225. RETURN

11 Roy Paul Nelson, “Book Design,” The Publishing Process: Communication 372-4 Course Reader, Comp. Jane Cowan. (Simon Fraser University: Center for Online and Distance Education, Spring 2005) 11. RETURN

12 Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language (New York. Lexicon Publications, 1988) 216. RETURN

13 Michael Geist, The Upcoming Copyright Clash: A Legal scholar argues for the public use over private interest in Canadian Policy, (Literary Review of Canada, June 2005) 24. RETURN

14 All About Copyrights, stopfales.gov/smallbusiness (First Gov), available from http://www.uspto.gov/smallbusiness/copyrights/faq.html , accessed on June 3, 2009. RETURN

15 “Copyright Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-42),” Department of Justice Canada, available from http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/C-42/section-6.html, accessed on June 3rd 2009. RETURN

16 Boyd Tonkin, News that stays news, New Statesman & Society 6.n260 (July 9, 1993) 42. Gale. Simon Fraser University, available from http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=CPI, accessed on June 4, 2009. RETURN

17 Edward Bradbury, Literary Supplement: The Penguin Classics, (Contemporary Review; July 1996, Vol. 269 Issue 1566) 49. RETURN

18 Rachel Deahl, Branding: Keeping the Classics Alive and Well, Publishers Weekly, October 2, 2006. RETURN

19 Marshall B. Tymn, Science Fiction; A Teachers Guide and Resource Book, (Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House INC, 1988) ix. RETURN

20 Chez Zews, The War of the Worlds Book Cover Collection, http://drzeus.best.vwh.net/wotw/, accessed on June 9, 2009. RETURN

21 Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics?, (New York, Parthenon Books, 1999) 5. RETURN

22 James Gunn, The Road to Science Fiction: From Gilgamesh to Wells, (New York and Scarborough Ontario, The New American Library, 1977) 13. RETURN

23 Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, (Cincinnati Ohio, Writer’s Digest Books, 2001) 39. RETURN

24 Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Science Fiction, (Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company INC, 1981) 20. RETURN

25 Hugh Spencer and Allan Weiss, Destination Out of this World: Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, (Ottawa Ontario, National Library of Canada, 1995) 21. RETURN

26 Italvo Calvino; 4. RETURN

27 Rowland Lorimer, 130. RETURN

28 John W. Silbersack, “Editing the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Novel” Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do, Third Edition, (New York, Grove Press, 1993) 297. RETURN

29 Rowland Lorimer, 224. RETURN

30 http://www.titlez.com/. RETURN

31 Jim Milliot, Planning Shop’s New Service Tracks Amazon Sales Rankings, (Publishers Weekly, Vol. 254, Issue 13, 3/26/2007). RETURN

32 TitleZ, http://www.titlez.com/app/main.aspx, retrieved on December 4, 2007. RETURN

33 Ibid. RETURN

34 Ibid. RETURN

35 Ingvald Raknem, H. G. Wells and his Critics, (Oslo Norway, Scandinavian University Books, 1962) 401. RETURN

36 David C. Smith, The Correspondences of H.G. Wells Volume 1 1880-1903, (London, Pickering & Chatto, 1998) 261. RETURN

37 Ingvald Raknem; 400. RETURN

38 Leon Stover, The War of the Worlds, A Critical Text of the 1898 London First Edition, with an Introduction, illustrations and Appendices, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2001) 16. RETURN

39 Stephen Fishman; 10. RETURN

40 Michael Geist; 24. RETURN

41 Michael Rogers, Classic Returns, Library Journal 05/15/98, Vol. 123 Issue 9. RETURN

42 Simon Stokes, The Copyright System: Its Justification and History, Revised Paperback Edition, (Portland Oregon, Hart Publishing, 2003) 19. RETURN

43 Rowland Lorimer; 188. RETURN

44 Jim Wallace, Exploring IBM POD Technology, (Gulf Breeze Florida, Maximum Press, 1997) 82-83. RETURN

45 Rowland Lorimer; 208. RETURN

46 Thomas Woll; 29. RETURN

47 Ann Haugland, Opening the Gates: Print On-Demand Publishing as Cultural Production, (Publishing Research Quarterly, Fall 2006) 5. RETURN

48 Ibid; 1. RETURN

49 Rowland Lorimer; 214. RETURN

50 Lightning Source POD Publisher Operating Manual, Version 4.5, 03/10/07, http://3d.openmute.org/modules/mantis/file_download.php?file_id=1261&type=bug, retretived on December 4, 2007. RETURN

51 Retailers http://www.ingrambook.com/default.aspx Accessed on June 15, 2009. RETURN

52 Ingram Digital, Ingram will realign and reorganize to serve the physical and digital content trade “faster, more effectively” May 26, 2009 http://www.ingrambook.com/about/newsroom_detail.aspx?id=247 Accessed on June 15, 2009. RETURN

53 Ingram Content Group, Available from http://www.talktoingram.com/ Accessed on June 15, 2009. RETURN

54 Thomas Woll; 323. RETURN

55 Lightning Source; 12. RETURN

56 Lightning Source INC, Print on Demand Publisher Operating Manual, Version 4.11 https://www.lightningsource.com/ops/files/pod/USPODOpsManual.pdf Retrieved on June 15, 2009. RETURN

57 Nelson, M. (2006)The Blog Phenomenon and the Book Publishing Industry. In Publishing Research Quarterly. Vol. 22 Issue 2, (P 3-26). RETURN

58 Shatzkin, Mike. (2006) Publishing and Digital Change: What’s Next? Presented to the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia annual retreat at Qualicum Beach, BC on February 11, 2006. 22. RETURN

59 Ibid; 22. RETURN

60 Maxwell, J. W. (2005) PEXOD: The Publisher’s Extensible Online Database. In R. Lorimer, J. W. Maxwell, & J. G. Shoichet (Eds.), Book Publishing 1 (pp. 326-343). Vancouver, BC: Canadian Center for Studies in Publishing Press. RETURN

61 Shatzkin, Mike; 22. RETURN

62 Maxwell; 328. RETURN

63 Ibid; 329. RETURN

64 Aaron Shepard, Aiming at Amazon. Shepard Publications, Olympia Washington, 2009. P. 92. RETURN

65 “Global Financial Crisis in 2009” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, (Wikimedia Foundation Inc.), available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_financial_crisis_in_September_2008, accessed on August 13, 2009. RETURN

66 Rowland Lorimer; 248. RETURN

67 Ibid; 137. RETURN

68 Ibid; 137. RETURN

69 Medbh Bidwell; 139. RETURN

70 Rudy Shur, “The Problem With POD” Publishers Weekly, http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/hww/results/external_link_maincontentframe.jhtml?_DAR GS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.9, January 16, 2006, retrieved on December 3, 2007. RETURN

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Adobe Systems Incorporated. Minion Pro http://store1.adobe.com/cfusion/store/html/index.cfm?store=OLSUS& event=displayFontPackage&code=1719 accessed on June 8, 2009

All About Copyrights, stopfales.gov/smallbusiness (First Gov), available from http://www.uspto.gov/smallbusiness/copyrights/faq.html , accessed on June 3, 2009

Asimov, Isaac. Asimov on Science Fiction, Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company, INC, 1981

Bidwell, Medbh. New-Format Reprints: Creating McClelland & Stewart’s Emblem Editions out of Backlist Titles, Book Publishing 1, Vancouver British Columbia, CCSP Press, 2005

Bradbury, Edward. Literary Supplement: The Penguin Classics, Contemporary Review; Vol. 269 Issue 1566, July 1996

Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style, Hartley & Marks Publishers, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1999

Calvino, Italo. Why Read the Classics?, New York, Parthenon Books, 1999

Card, Orson Scott. How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Cincinnati Ohio, Writer’s Digest Books, 2001

Deahl, Rachel. Branding: Keeping the Classics Alive and Well, Publishers Weekly, October 2, 2006

Department of Justice Canada “Copyright Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-42),” available from http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/C-42/section-6.html, accessed on June 3rd, 2009

Fishman, Stephen. The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More, 3rd Edition, Berkley California, Nolo Press, 2006

Geist, Michael. The Upcoming Copyright Clash: A Legal scholar argues for the public use over private interest in Canadian Policy, Literary Review of Canada, June 2005

Gunn, James. The Road to Science Fiction: From Gilgamesh to Wells, New York and Scarborough Ontario, The New American Library, 1977

Haugland, Ann. Opening the Gates: Print On-Demand Publishing as Cultural Production, Publishing Research Quarterly, Fall 2006

Ingram Content Group. Available from http://www.talktoingram.com/ accessed on June 15, 2009

Ingram Digital. Ingram will realign and reorganize to serve the physical and digital content trade “faster, more effectively” May 26, 2009 http://www.ingrambook.com/about/newsroom_detail.aspx?id=247 accessed on June 15, 2009

Lightning Source POD Publisher Operating Manual, Version 4.5, 03/10/07, http://3d.openmute.org/modules/mantis/file_download.php?file_id=1261&type =bug, accessed on July 4, 2009

Lorimer, Rowland. Books and Canadian Civilization, Vancouver British Columbia, Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing Press, 2007

Milliot, Jim. Planning Shop’s New Service Tracks Amazon Sales Rankings, Publishers Weekly, Vol. 254, Issue 13, 3/26/2007

Nelson, Roy Paul. “Book Design.” The Publishing Process: Communication 372-4 Course Reader. Reading 7.2 1-13. Comp. Jane Cowan. Simon Fraser University: Center for Online and Distance Education, Spring 2005

Poynter, Dan. The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book, Santa Barbara, CA, Para Publishing, 2003

Raknem, Ingvald. H. G. Wells and his Critics, Oslo Norway, Scandinavian University Books, 1962

Rogers, Michael. Book Reviews: Classic Returns, Library Journal, http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/hww/results/results_fulltext_ maincontentframe.jhtml;hwwilsonid=FHDO5WU5Z224NQA3DILSFF4ADUNGI IV0, November 1, 2002, accessed on July 2, 2009

Rogers, Michael. Classic Returns, Library Journal 05/15/98, Vol. 123 Issue 9

Shur, Rudy. “The Problem With POD” Publishers Weekly, http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/hww/results/external_link_ma incontentframe.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.9, January 16, 2006, accessed on July 3, 2009

Silbersack, John W. “Editing the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Novel” Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do, Third Edition, New York, Grove Press, 1993

Smith, David C. The Correspondences of H.G. Wells, Volume 1 1880-1903, London, Pickering & Chatto, 1998

Spencer, Hugh and Weiss, Allan. Destination Out of this World: Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Ottawa Ontario, National Library of Canada, 1995

Stokes, Simon. The Copyright System: Its Justification and History, Revised Paperback Edition, Portland Oregon, Hart Publishing, 2003

Stover, Leon. The War of the Worlds, A Critical Text of the 1898 London First Edition, with an Introduction, illustrations and Appendices, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2001

TitleZ, http://www.titlez.com/app/main.aspx, accessed on July 4, 2009

Tonkin, Boyd. News that stays news, New Statesman & Society 6.n260 (July 9, 1993) 42. Gale. Simon Fraser University, http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=CPI, accessed on July 3, 2009

Tymn, Marshall B. Science Fiction; A Teachers Guide and Resource Book, Mercer Island, Washington. Starmont House INC, 1988

Wallace, Jim. Exploring IBM POD Technology, Gulf Breeze Florida, Maximum Press, 1997

Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, New York, Lexicon Publications, 1988

Woll, Thomas. Publishing For Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers, Third Edition, Chicago Illinois, Chicago Review Press, 2007

Zews, Chez. The War of the Worlds Book Cover Collection, http://drzeus.best.vwh.net/wotw/, accessed on July 2, 2009


Digital Publishing: How Publishers Can Monetize Content On The Web

By Crissy Campbell

ABSTRACT: This paper seeks to illustrate how publishers can take their existing knowledge, expertise and content, and use online tools that are readily available to monetize their content online.

By looking at two case studies – Boxcar Marketing and its online marketing training program and Capulet Communications and its ebook, both which are projects that monetize the companies’ content – the paper explores tactics and best practices for building an online business strategy around content monetization. More specifically, the paper describes the details of feasible online business strategies.

This paper is meant as a how-to, to show how publishers can take advantage of the web to create sustainable online business models based on monetizing content online. The paper provides a workable business case that sorts out the details of online publishing strategies for others to use and build upon.

 

 


Acknowledgements

I would like to thank John Maxwell and Rowland Lorimer for their guidance and encouragement throughout the writing of this project report. I would also like to thank Jo-Anne Ray for her assistance and Darren Barefoot for taking the time to answer my questions about Capulet Communications. I would especially like to thank Monique Trottier for sharing her knowledge and giving me a terrific internship and employment opportunity with Boxcar Marketing. Her help and enthusiasm made this report possible.

I would like to thank my family, friends and fellow classmates for all of their support. And finally, a special thank you to Bob for always being there.

 

 


CONTENTS

Acknowledgements

List of Figures

1: Introduction

2: The New Business Environment
2.1 The New Market
2.2 Pricing Models
++++2.2.1 Direct Sales
++++2.2.2 Affiliates
++++2.2.3 Subscription
++++2.2.4 Freemium
2.3 The New Users
2.4 Marketing To the New Users
++++2.4.1 Get Attention
++++2.4.2 Earn Trust
++++2.4.3 Secure Permission

3: Digital Publishing
3.1 Big Publishers Versus Small Publishers
3.2 Steps Small Publishers Can Take To Monetize Content Online
++++3.2.1 Define Business and Marketing Objectives
++++3.2.2 Define Audience
++++3.2.3 Format Content
++++3.2.4 Develop Search Engine Optimization Strategy
++++3.2.5 Create Marketing and Outreach Plan
3.3 Measurement Strategy

4: Case Study: Capulet Communications
4.1 Introduction to Capulet Communications
4.2 Marketing
4.3 Costing Model

5: Case Study: Boxcar Marketing Pro
5.1 Introduction to Boxcar Marketing
5.2 Research
5.3 The Business Plan
++++5.3.1 Audience
++++5.3.2 Marketing Plan
5.4 Content Generation and Packaging
5.5 Delivery Platform
5.6 Marketing and Outreach Plan
++++5.6.1 Leveraging Existing Platforms: Boxcar Blog and Underwire
++++5.6.2 Social Media
++++5.6.3 Blogger Outreach
++++5.6.4 Leveraging Partnerships
++++5.6.5 Advertising and Direct Mail
5.7 Financials and Sales Plan
++++5.7.1 Costing Structure
++++5.7.2 Targets
++++5.7.3 Recouping Costs
5.8 Measuring Success

6: Conclusion: How Publishers Should Move Forward

Appendices

Appendix A: Personas
Boxcar Marketing’s Primary Personas
Boxcar Marketing’s Secondary Personas

Appendix B: Keywords

Appendix C: Resources and Tools for Publishers

Reference List

Notes

 


List of Figures

Figure 1: Engagement Ladder
Figure 2: Boxcar Marketing Pro Content
Figure 3: Competitor’s Pricing
Figure 4: Boxcar Marketing Pro Costs
Figure 5: Sales Target
Figure 6: Conversion Rates
Figure 7: ROI Funnel

 

 


1: INTRODUCTION

Throughout the first decade of the new millennium the internet has been embraced by institutions, businesses and members of the public and this has eased public access to information – far beyond what was conceivable before the internet. The immediate accessibility of any content uploaded to the web as well as the democratization of online publishing tools, has turned internet users from recipients of information into recipients and participants in the formation of content. In other words, we have all become publishers. As Clay Shirky points out,

We’re not just readers anymore, or listeners or viewers. We’re not customers and we’re certainly not consumers. We’re users. We don’t consume content, we use it, and mostly we use it to support our conversations with one another, because we’re media outlets now too.[1]

As media outlets, internet users are flooding the web with personal blogs, twitter updates, product reviews, and other forms of user-generated content. With these changes to the public’s relationship to content, culture has become overloaded by the vast amount of information available.

This revolutionary change from relative inaccessibility and unavailability to information abundance is a major challenge to book publishers – one that cannot be solved by simply adding a social media position on staff. Rather, it requires publishers to restructure the way they do business.

The web is an opportunity for publishers. With cheap distribution on a much larger scale, the ability to reach highly targeted markets, and the ability to get precise metrics on markets’ behaviours online, publishers should be rushing to the web. But so far they have been hesitant to overthrow the existing business models that they have been comfortable working within for years. While publishers do not need to completely throw out their old way of doing business, they do need to build on and restructure their old models in order to succeed within the new media order.

Publishers are, essentially, experts at making content and information available to the public. They have knowledge, expertise and existing archives of content that are still valuable today and they need to find ways to bring their knowledge, expertise and content over onto the web. One way is to repackage this existing content to sell online and thereby monetize their content on the web.

Online everyone can now publish content and information, including teachers with offline content that can be sold on the web, business professionals with expertise that can be sold online, and traditional nonfiction book publishers with content from print books that can be repackaged for the web. In addition, traditional book publishers have expertise in editing, content packaging, and marketing, all which are valuable online. This paper seeks to illustrate how publishers can take their existing knowledge, expertise and content, and use online tools that are readily available to monetize their content online.

This paper shows how publishers – and anyone with nonfiction content – can monetize their content by building on existing online models. At my internship with Boxcar Marketing, a small online marketing company, I worked to develop an online marketing training program, called Boxcar Marketing Pro, to monetize the company’s content. By looking at how Boxcar Marketing Pro developed as well as at how Capulet Communications, also a small online marketing company, monetized their content by publishing an ebook, I explore tactics and best practices for building an online business strategy around content monetization. More specifically, I describe the details of feasible online business strategies.

This paper is meant as a how-to, to show how publishers can take advantage of the web to create sustainable online business models based on monetizing content online. The paper provides a workable business case that sorts out the details of online publishing strategies for others to use and build upon.

Part Two looks at the current business environment and the problems and opportunities that exist within it. Part Three explores the steps publishers can take to monetize content online. Part Four looks at Capulet Communications’ project and the results that it achieved. Part Five explores Boxcar Marketing’s project, Boxcar Marketing Pro, and outline the steps Boxcar took to monetize the company’s content. The paper concludes by examining what publishers can learn from these projects and how they can use Boxcar Marketing’s case study going forward.

 

2: THE NEW BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT

2.1 The New Market

Back in 2004, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, coined the term for the web’s new market, the Long Tail. The theory of the Long Tail is based on the idea that, with the web, the cost of reaching consumers has fallen dramatically, giving rise to more choice in the market which significantly changes consumption patterns. With more choice, Anderson says,

Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail.[2]

According to Anderson, in Long Tail markets, there is much more potential to make money from previously unprofitable niche products and services, and these niche products can “collectively…comprise a market rivalling the hits.”[3]

In the online marketplace, the cost of reaching consumers has dropped because of three factors: the democratization of tools of production, democratized distribution and the ability to connect supply with demand.[4] Personal computers, the internet and relatively cheap technology and software have democratized the tools of production. Anyone with a computer can set up a blog and become published online. Software like GarageBand and iMovie (which are preinstalled on any Mac computer) give users the ability to record and produce music and films. Production costs are no longer a major barrier to entry. The internet has also democratized distribution, making everyone a distributor with no geographical limits and no costs of physical shelf space and warehousing. The third factor – connecting supply and demand – is the most important because, as Anderson states, it “helps people find what they want in this new superabundance of variety [and is where]…the potential of the Long Tail marketplace is truly unleashed.”[5]

Before the web, consumers found out about goods through mass media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines) and then passed along this information to family and friends via phone or face-to-face conversations. The information from mass media was usually from advertisers or columnists serving their own interests and most truly valuable information was from friends and family who had bought the product or experienced it themselves and could give their opinion about it. In these circumstances, hyper-targeted products and information are scarce and search costs – things that get in the way of finding what consumers want, like wasted time, hassle, and mistaken purchases[6] – are high.

These dynamics completely change with the web. In this interconnected and hyperlinked environment, consumers now find products with Google’s organic search and peer recommendations and rankings. When consumers are looking for products or information they “Google it” and, almost immediately, have a list of search results regarding the product or information they were looking for from all over the world. From here, they can delve further, clicking on their search results to read peer reviews and get unmediated opinions from peers who have bought the product. Anderson calls these filters. With quality filters consumers move from consuming mass marketed goods to niche goods that are tailored to personal tastes and areas of interest. As Seth Godin states, “the internet was supposed to homogenize us but what it has done is create silos of interest.”[7]

Long Tail markets “…are not pre-filtered by the requirements of distribution bottlenecks…”[8] so consumers need to do the filtering themselves. And once there are quality filters in place the “odds of finding something just right for you are actually greater in the Tail.”[9] Anderson argues that when search costs are low, not only is there less hassle, but also consumers have a better chance of finding what they like. And in an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, “narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”[10]

The Long Tail is a huge opportunity for publishers. Rather than being costly, online publishing is actually a viable, smarter solution than traditional print publishing. Online content has lower storage and distribution costs as well as lower marketing costs. Products online, if optimized for search, are more likely to be found by those looking for that type of content. When negotiating the online space, taking advantage of Long Tail market dynamics and publishing niche products is where publishers will succeed.

 

2.2 Pricing Models

In a world where information is no longer scarce and consumers have moved from passive readers and listeners to users and creators of content, how do publishers charge for content? Markets rely on supply and demand and the abundance of supply, in this case content, drives the cost of goods down, even to zero.

Many digital goods cost nothing. News, music and software can all be found for free, or almost free, on the web. Google offers most of its services, like Google Search and Gmail, for free. Copies of digital files – like music, movies and books – are freely available as well.

As a publisher trying to build a business model online, how does one compete with free? Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired magazine, argues that because the internet is “a copy machine…you need to sell things which cannot be copied.”[11] These are qualities that are better than free – for example, trust, immediacy, accessibility, personalization, and findability. Chris Anderson has a similar argument, noting, “…as commodities become cheaper, value moves elsewhere.”[12] And “the way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to find the adjacent scarcity.”[13] While content is abundant online, quality and expertise is scarce. This is where publishers have the upper hand. They are experts in their subject fields and, in the case of traditional publishers, are also experts at editing, packaging and selling content that is far superior than most of the free content online.

Anderson argues that there are now two economies, the attention economy and the reputation economy.[14] The web is about getting attention – website traffic – and then building a reputation from that traffic – page rank and links.

But how do publishers turn this attention and reputation into revenue?

Google offers Google Search and Gmail for free because these types services are also available elsewhere and having people use its services builds its reputation. But Google charges for its ad program, AdWords, because it has value that no one else can offer. AdWords is built on a brokerage model, replacing the ad agency’s role as the middleman between advertisers and consumers. By positioning itself this way, Google has built a reputation around its brand and has become the world’s most popular search engine. This means that it can earn revenue from its ad programs that have a reach that no one else can match. And something must be working – in 2009 Google earned $23.7 billion in revenue.[15] As Seth Godin states,

People will pay for content if it is so unique they can’t get it anywhere else, so fast they benefit from getting it before anyone else, or so related to their tribe that paying for it brings them closer to other people.[16]

What do these new online pricing models look like? The following is a list of different ecommerce models that are in place on the web, from familiar models such as direct sales and subscription, to Freemium, a model based around Chris Anderson’s ideas about free.

 

2.2.1 Direct Sales

Direct sales is the most obvious and traditional ecommerce model. This includes companies like Amazon, Ikea and Walmart who sell their products online directly to buyers, similar to the conventional catalogue model. Direct sales can also include content and data sales where companies and organizations, such as Healthcare Canada, sell research data and reports to consumers.

 

2.2.2 Affiliates

Affiliate pricing models are based on partnerships in which people that like a business or product elect to be an affiliate for it. This model is based on a referral system where the affiliate markets the business on their website and to their community, often with a widget or button that links to a shopping cart, to help “benefit…the community, and to be compensated for that promotion.”[17] For example, because I like books, I could elect to be an Amazon Affiliate through Amazon’s Associates program. I would then put the Amazon Affiliate widget on my blog that advertises books that I like. If any of my blog readers click on the widget and buy the book, I get compensated. This helps Amazon because I am promoting and recommending books to people that trust me (my blog fans), this helps the community because they are finding out about good books, and it benefits me because I earn revenue for this promotion.

 

2.2.3 Subscription

Subscription models are based on charging a flat fee for access to a large volume of exclusive content. For this model to work, companies need to offer content that no one else has, that isn’t available for free somewhere else or that is more convenient to access with the subscription. For example, The Chicago Manual of Style is actually easier to use online, rather than in print, because there is a search feature that makes it quicker and easier to look something up. The content also needs to be dynamic so that users have a need to return and appreciate the duration of the subscription. Many subscription websites offer free content so that new visitors can sample what is offered on the website. These sites then market their ‘premium’ content as only available to subscribers or members. Examples of subscription models include Netflix, MarketingProfs, Mequoda, scholarly journals, and O’Reilly’s Safari Books Online program. These sites require registration and payment for full access and offer valuable content that users will pay for because the benefits outweigh the costs.

 

2.2.4 Freemium

Freemium models are about leveraging free content in order to charge for more valuable content where “…a few paying customers subsidize many unpaying ones.”[18] Basically, marketers use the free content to get attention – “Free is a relatively cheap way to get attention”[19] – and then offer a premium version that a small group of users will pay for, covering the costs of the free content for everyone else. Examples of Freemium models include Flickr, LinkedIn and MarketingProfs. Flickr and LinkedIn both offer basic free accounts to members but they also have paid ‘pro’ accounts that allow members to do more things – upload more photos at a time, for example. MarketingProfs offers some of its basic marketing information and content for free, but charges for its more advanced content and offers a ‘pro’ membership to those who want access to its extensive content archives. Anderson argues,

…[This model works because] It can accommodate the varying psychologies of a range of consumers, from those who have more time than money to those who have more money than time…Free plus Paid can span the full psychology of consumerism.[20]

Freemium models make publishers nervous, but it is one that they should explore because it an interesting business model that, when done well, works both to market the company and to earn revenue for the business.

 

2.3 The New Users

These new pricing models need to work within the needs of the new consumers – the users. These new users affect how businesses market and sell to their customers.

The generation born between 1982 and 2000 is referred to as the Digital Millennials. They are the most digitally connected generation in history and are, as Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins state, “…redefining…the rules of engagement for brands.”[21] Growing up online has empowered this generation, influencing their behaviours and values and it is largely with the Digital Millennials’ influence that the new consumers have emerged.

The new users are characterized by hyper-connectedness, empowerment and self-expression – they want to share and expect others to as well. As the Cluetrain Manifesto says, markets have become conversations,[22] which means that users are talking amongst themselves and expect marketers to talk to them in the same way. All of this is enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange. Social media tools like Facebook, WordPress, wikis and product review forms have made it much easier for users to express themselves and connect with one another. As a result, users are more informed and more organized. If a brand is attempting to sell a faulty product, the market will publicize this – on their blogs, on their Twitter feeds and with other tools.

These new users value authenticity and transparency and rely on friends’ word-of-mouth reviews and recommendations to tell them what to consume. As Monique Trottier says,

We trust our friends. Not commercials. Commercials tell us what is available to buy. Our friends tell us whether we want to buy it or not.[23]

One of the most important aspects of these new users is the growing level at which they are participating in communities online. In December 2009, global consumers spent more than five and a half hours on social networking sites that month, an 82% increase from the same time the year before.[24] Clay Shirky believes that the rise in participation in online communities is because communities and groups are inherent to the internet. The impact that these online communities are having on society’s ability to communicate cannot be overstated. As Shirky argues, “we’re living through the largest increase in human expressive capability in history.”[25] For example, as of February 2010, Twitter reported that people were tweeting 50 million tweets a day – an average of 600 tweets per second.[26]

People have always been able to form groups. The difference with the web is that it gives people new tools that extend this ability, allowing individuals to create larger, more effective groups with less effort. The amount of relief money raised for Haiti earlier this year was a direct result of the ability for groups to quickly get together online and work to spread the word, asking for donations. According to Mashable.com, a social media news blog, and the American Red Cross, two days after the earthquake in Haiti the American Red Cross had raised $5 million through their online text message campaign.[27] The amount of money raised was unprecedented and would never have reached the amount that it did without the web and its inherent ability to bring people together.

 

2.4 Marketing To the New Users

Seth Godin refers to these new groups that users are forming as Tribes. According to Godin, tribes are groups of people that form around strong common interests. They are based on shared ideas and values and, due to the global reach of the internet, even those on the fringes can now find and connect with a tribe. Godin claims that marketing to new users is about helping tribes connect and find each other. In addition, Godin points out that the tribes users form need guidance, so marketing is also about positioning oneself as a leader within these tribes.[28]

The idea of leading tribes makes perfect sense for book publishers because, as Richard Nash pointed out at BookNet Canada’s Technology Forum this year,[29] books are cultural objects that serve to build community. Using Oprah as an example, Nash argues that, contrary to the popular notion that she saved books, Oprah actually needed books to build her audience. Readers read in order to feel connected to the writer and to other readers and Oprah provided a space for readers to connect. So, essentially, publishers are in the “writer-reader connection business” and need to leverage this by building connections with their books. Nash argues that “content isn’t king; culture is,” and culture is the reason that people read, not content. In other words, communities and connecting are inherent to books.

Namaste Publishing, a small Vancouver spirituality publisher, is an excellent example of a publisher leading its tribe.[30] Namaste publishes innovative books on self-help, spirituality and alternative health. These books contain teachings that resonate with readers and, because of this, Namaste has a strong group of loyal fans. These fans want to connect with other readers as well as with Namaste’s writers, so Namaste wanted to provide a space for engagement amongst the group. To do so, Namaste hired Boxcar Marketing to transform the company from a traditional publisher to a leader of a spiritual community.

To become a leader, both Namaste’s online presence and traditional business model needed a major redevelopment. Through a website redesign headed by Boxcar Marketing, Namaste integrated various social web tools and transformed the website from a disconnected collection of sites and blogs into a social platform for the community. Now, visitors to the site can sign up for an account, post spiritual statuses (similar to Facebook status’ but with a focus on one’s spiritual state) and connect with others through forums and other spiritual spaces. In addition, Boxcar Marketing worked to establish a digital publishing business model for the company. The model is based loosely on Mequoda’s Media Pyramid strategy where a business leverages free content to attract email and blog subscribers to build permission, and repurposes content to create many different products in order “to pull customers up the pyramid to maximize profit.”[31] Namastehas a number of blogs that bring in readers, including the Namaste Publishing blog written by the publisher Constance Kellough; Bizah’s blog written by a fictional “student of truth”[32]; and author blogs. The company then builds on these blogs to create paid online courses, such as The Journey to Higher Consciousness, and events, such as Namaste Radio. This audience wanted to form a tribe and Namaste took the opportunity to lead and facilitate these connections and create a business model around it.

To become a leader, one must get the tribes’ attention, earn their trust, and secure their permission.

 

2.4.1 Get Attention

To start, publishers need to get attention by identifying the compelling or remarkable aspects of their product and tell a story that people will want to share. They need to create something worth talking about, tell the people who want to hear it, and those people will spread the word for them. While finding the core element of one’s product has always been important, marketers now need to position this in terms of new users’ behaviours. That is, marketers need get attention by encouraging user empowerment and self-expression.

Monique Trottier points out that what publishers are ultimately trying to do with the compelling aspects of their product is encourage word of mouth because “online word of mouth is persistent.”[33] Online, everything is logged and archived by search engines so that nothing ever goes away, which means that online marketing efforts have a lasting effect. Trottier continues on to say that, for marketers, the key is to encourage word of mouth by “…giving people the tools to pass it on. To share. To do the word of mouth marketing for you.”[34]

A good example of a product that tells a remarkable story is TOMS Shoes, an online shoe retailer based in California. When consumers buy shoes from TOMS, they are not only buying a pair of shoes for themselves, they are also buying a pair shoes for someone in the developing world: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.”[35] This is an incredibly compelling story that is easy to tell – it is not complicated – and that consumers want to tell about their purchase – their shoes represent a kind act on their part.

In addition, TOMS Shoes enables the story to spread by giving consumers a way to share. On the TOMS shoes website, visitors are encouraged to tell the TOMS story (with links to email, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks), share the TOMS documentary (where visitors can request a copy of the film and get instructions of how to screen it to a group) and upload their TOMS pictures (where visitors can add photos of themselves wearing the shoes and become a visible part of the community). By positioning the brand as a movement that consumers can get involved in, TOMS is succeeding in attracting attention to its product and the brand overall.

In terms of finding the story or compelling aspects within products based on content and ideas, the key is to pinpoint what users are buying. For example, high fashion magazines are not selling clothing; they are selling a lifestyle based on that clothing. So the story that fashion magazines are telling is a particular lifestyle – which is specific to each high fashion magazine. And this lifestyle story is what empowers users and encourages them to spread the word.

 

2.4.2 Earn Trust

When everyone is linked, trust is important, as Mitch Joel states,

In a world where we’re all connected, one opinion quickly turns into everyone’s opinion. How you build trust in your brand, your business, and yourself is going to be an important part of how your business is going to adapt and evolve.[36]

If publishers want people to spread their story to their family and friends, embed their video on their site, or paste their widget on their blog, they need to be trusted. Andrew Girdwood, head of strategy at bigmouthmedia, states, “Trust has now become the biggest challenge for marketers, and one which many are eager to address.”[37]

Trust requires publishers to be authentic in conversations with their communities. This means publishers need to be personable online and treat the social media space as a “cocktail party”[38] – instead of just talking about themselves, they should encourage conservations by introducing others to each other, asking questions, and be genuinely interested in what others have to say. Above all, when earning trust, transparency is key. Mooney and Rollins sum this up nicely,

The vast majority of online consumers simply want to make informed decisions and to do so, ironically, they go online to seek largely subjective perspectives from complete strangers. This seems like a contradiction: isn’t objectivity consumers’ Holy Grail? No, transparency is.[39]

Transparency requires that publishers don’t filter out negative comments about their brand. Smart companies embrace the conflicts that make communities thrive,[40] and most companies’ concerns are unnecessary. Mitch Joel states that

According to Brett Hurt, founder and CEO of Bazaarvoice, Bazaarvoice has served over 10 billion peer reviews to date, and the majority of them are 4.5 out of five stars. Even more surprising, a negative review converts more effectively into a sale than a positive review.[41]

Consumers who read a negative review trust that site because it is honest and consumers are more likely to make a purchase on a site that they trust.

Mitch Joel argues, “Attention does not equal trust and Traffic doesn’t mean you’re building community.”[42] Although a brand may be getting attention, it could be for the wrong reasons. The online attention that BP has received about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a perfect example of attention and traffic not equalling trust. BP has received a ton of attention for the falsity of its online PR. Instead of spending time and effort to regain the public’s trust after the oil spill, BP bought sponsored links so that it would be in Google’s top results for the search term “oil spill”.[43] This manufactured effort to control what information searchers come across only provided fuel for the firestorm that has been brewing online – for example, as of July 2010 there is a fake BP Twitter account that mocks BP’s PR efforts, and a “Boycott BP” Facebook page with over half a million users behind it. Once online communities discover falsity the critical response can be detrimental for the brand.

 

2.4.3 Secure Permission

Earning trust leads to securing permission – permission to tell users about the next story, to send them an event invitation on Facebook, or to send them a monthly newsletter. Seth Godin argues,

The future of marketing is based on permission. It’s based on sending messages to people who want to get them, who choose to get them, who would miss you if you didn’t send them.[44]

The key is that once a publisher has someone’s permission, that person is much more valuable than a whole group of people who have not given their consent. For example, response emails – emails sent to people in response to requests for information or to orders being placed – “…will frequently generate more than 50% open rates.”[45] This means that at least half of the people that receive these emails open them – a huge percentage compared to regular email newsletters where 25% open rates are average.[46] This is because users are more receptive to marketing when they recognize a name and expect to hear from the marketer. This works in publishers’ favour, too, because they know that they are sending information to an interested audience.

Publishers can earn permission by becoming a resource. People appreciate useful tips and information and will pay attention to those giving it out. Publishers can also earn permission by supporting users’ online behaviours. Mooney and Rollins say that the three online behaviours that marketers should be encouraging are creating, sharing, and influencing.[47] Essentially, publishers want to create a space to encourage dialogue and conversations around their story. Namaste Publishing, for example, has earned permission through its various spirituality blogs by positioning the blogs as both a place for self-help and alternative health advice as well as a place to discuss, and have conservations around, spirituality.

All of the above marketing tactics – get attention, earn trust and secure permission – is a result of having to work within a new purchase funnel. Old consumers would move within the purchase funnel from awareness to interest to purchase. They would see a commercial on TV, something in the commercial would make them want what was being advertised, and then they would go to a store and buy it. But, as Mooney and Rollins argue, new users take the “scenic route,”[48] moving from awareness and interest – which usually happens online through their friends and tribes’ recommendations – to having conversations, making connections, joining groups, and comparing reviews, until, eventually, they arrive at the purchasing stage. And new users do not stop here. Next, they move to the post-purchasing stage where they submit their opinions and reviews online for the next round of buyers to use to make their buying decisions. Mooney and Rollins argue that marketers must “…allocate more resources for strengthening the peer connections and conversations along the way [to purchase]”[49] because these interactions are how users make buying decisions. Marketing is now about supporting, and leading, this longer, more engaged route.

Any online business strategy needs to work within the new market realities and how users are engaging online – both with brands and with each other. This means that publishers should focus their efforts at the niche level and appeal to users by supporting and leading tribes through the new purchase funnel. Publishers need to find the compelling aspects of their product that users will want to share, earn trust by being authentic in conversations with communities, and secure permission to continue engaging with these communities in the future. Markets have changed significantly and marketers’ tactics need to change with them if they want to succeed online.

This section outlined the new online market realities and how publishers need to work within them. The effects of the Long Tail and the over-abundance of content have demanded new online business models, while the new users and how they interact online require new marketing tactics. Building on and leveraging this new market landscape, the next section outlines the steps that small publishers can take to monetize content online.

 

3: DIGITAL PUBLISHING

A digital publishing project requires a different workflow process than traditional publishers are accustomed to. Fortunately for smaller companies, changes to workflow are often much easier in smaller organizations than in larger companies.

 

3.1 Big Publishers Versus Small Publishers

In this era of media fragmentation and change, small organizations may have the upper hand – and this is no less true for publishers. Anyone familiar with the traditional publishing industry knows that there are vast differences between the way big publishing houses are run – with disparate, specialized roles for each employee – and the way small publishing houses are run – with employees doing everything from acquisitions to sales. This difference in organization affects how publishers are able to respond to change. In a big publishing house, any change to workflow processes is very complicated and moving over into digital publishing requires figuring out how to manage production, authors, contracts and staff and any decision about formats, digital rights management or distribution is extremely complicated – so much so that it actually impedes big publishers from implementing change.[50]

Small publishers have the upper hand when it comes to adapting. They can experiment with new business models, monitor their progress and quickly try something else if the new model does not succeed. In “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” Shirky argues that we need to move away from complexity and towards simplicity. He builds his argument by looking at the success of YouTube. In the past, large TV networks relied on complex productions and had a monopoly because they were the only ones who could afford such complexity. But Youtube has created “a world where complexity is neither an absolute requirement nor an automatic advantage.” [51] As Shirky states,

…When the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.[52]

Because small organizations have more adaptable workflow processes than larger companies, small publishers have an opportunity to start experimenting with simple business models, using simple tools and simple work flow processes before the big publishing houses have turned themselves around.

 

3.2 Steps Small Publishers Can Take To Monetize Content Online

While publishers are often told that they need to start publishing digitally, it involves specific steps that are very different from traditional publishing and, for many, the process is unclear. The subsequent section outlines the steps that publishers can follow to monetize their existing content on the web.

 

3.2.1 Define Business and Marketing Objectives

Publishers need to start by identifying their business objectives. These are the overall business goals for the project. While a mission or purpose outlines what a publisher wants to do, business objectives are measurable and help to prioritize business tasks and strategies. Common business goals are: sell product, create demand (for a product, service or event), create awareness (about a product, story, issue or brand) and get permission (to market to someone in the future).

Next, publishers need to build on their business objectives and the company’s overall identity, and define the marketing goals. Common goals include: promote engagement or awareness (about a story, issue, product or brand), promote a certain community or lifestyle, be a friend, or be an expert. The marketing objectives are how the company will position itself in order to reach the business goals. In other words, while business goals help to define tasks, marketing objectives define how a company will approach these tasks.

At this stage, publishers should further develop their strategy with a 7-Sentence Marketing Plan. The 7-Sentence Marketing Plan was developed by the authors of Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinsoon and Michael W. McLaughlin, and is only seven sentences because it forces one to focus. A 7-Sentence Marketing Plan answers the following questions:

 

Sentence 1: What is the purpose of your marketing?

Sentence 2: Who is your target market?

Sentence 3: What is your niche?

Sentence 4: What are the benefits and competitive advantage?

Sentence 5: What is your business identity?

Sentence 6: What tactics, strategies and weapons will you use to carry out your marketing?

Sentence 7: How much money will you allocate to marketing?[53]

 

Once this is completed, publishers will have a concise, yet thorough, strategy document to use as a platform to build the project on. While the 7-Sentence Marketing plan is not the only method for defining a strategy, it is the approach preferred at Boxcar Marketing because it is quick and effective.

When monetizing content on the web, publishers need to start by outlining their business and marketing goals and writing a 7-Sentence Marketing plan in order to narrow the scope of the project. Once these initial steps are completed, publishers should define their audience.

 

3.2.2 Define Audience

The next step in monetizing content on the web is defining the target audience and developing audience personas in order to focus the project. The development of personas includes defining basic audience demographics – age, sex, location, and profession – and then building on these to define the audiences’ psychographics – values, attitudes and interests. When defining their audience, publishers should also have a basic understanding of how audiences behave online. The figure below is called the “Engagement Ladder” from industry analyst firm Forrester and it depicts typical web behaviours.[54] As the ladder shows, most users on the web are “Spectators” – they read blogs, watch videos, sign up for email newsletters and join Facebook pages, but they never actively comment or engage with brands online.

 

Figure 1: Engagement Ladder

Figure 1

 

For publishers, it is important to consider where on the ladder their target audience fits because this determines their engagement strategy. How a publisher engages with Spectators is much different than how a publisher engages with Creators, for example.

From here, publishers can take their audience definition – both demographics and psychographics – and narrow the audience down further by developing personas. Personas are character sketches of individual audience members that define who the content is for. They are an important part of the process because, as Monique Trottier says, “Online communications are about one-to-one communications,”[55] and personas allow one to start thinking of the audience in a more personal, tangible way. As an advocate of using personas for online design, Christina Wodtke says

Instead of a vague design target of ‘users’ (who are capable of anything), you have a specific, targeted person with things that he needs and wants, as well as things that he doesn’t need and can’t use. Suddenly, prioritizing features becomes an easier job.[56]

By developing personas one moves away from thinking about the project team wants and towards what the persona wants. While Wodtke advocates using personas in website design, they are equally applicable to business strategy development.

To create personas,[57] publishers need to start with a discovery document that helps to define who the broader audience is. A discovery document involves researching who will buy the publishers’ content, and should include:

  • Primary and secondary audiences
  • Technical know-how of target users
  • Age range, gender distribution and other demographics
  • Psychographics like morals, values and cultural background
  • Social patterns including how they relate to family and friends in the context of the product
  • Competitor’s products of interest to users
  • Non-competing products of interest to users
  • Needs and common complaints

Building on the discovery document with its broad audience outline, the next step is narrowing the specifics of the audience down by developing the personas. Ideally, a project will have both primary personas – common user types that are important to the business success of the project – and secondary personas – user types that are very different from primary users but whose needs still need to be addressed for the success of the project. This helps to ensure that all user needs are outlined. A persona should include: user’s name; demographics and psychographics; professional and personal background; internet or technical profile (i.e. where in the engagement ladder do they sit? How comfortable are they online and what activities do they perform on the web? This is important for determining how the audience will interact with the brand online); favourite websites; and goals with I need / I want statements. Developing detailed personas will all of these elements help publishers to visualize their audience members, understand their needs and prepares publishers to address these needs as the project progresses.

Defining the audience, writing a discovery document and creating personas are crucial steps when monetizing content on the web, because they help publishers understand who their project is for, what their needs are and how publishers should position their project. Once this is completed, publishers can start formatting their content.

 

3.2.3 Format Content

The next step in monetizing content online is deciding on a format for the content. While the content already exists, it needs to be specifically packaged for the audience that was defined in the persona stage – an audience that was not necessarily in mind when the content and information was originally created. When deciding on a format, the following are things that publishers should consider (note: think about the personas when going through this exercise):

  • How will the material be consumed? Will it be read on-line or downloaded for off-line use?
  • How much interaction will users want to have with the content? Is just text ok, or will users benefit from images and diagrams?
  • To what extent is search necessary to the use of the material?
  • To what extent is highlighting, annotating, note taking and excerpting critical to the use of the content?
  • To what extent is metadata necessary to find and use the content?
  • What countries does the company have the rights to sell the files in?

Once this exercise is completed, publishers need to determine how the content will be packaged – will it be most effective as a video, podcast, whitepaper, chapter or webinar? The format should suit the content as well as the personas’ needs and goals. Publishers also have to consider their budget and the up-front costs of the format they choose. Whereas a whitepaper is fairly affordable – approximately five hours to create – a video can be expensive due to the editing time that is required, starting at approximately $2000 per video.

An important step in the digital publishing process it determining the format for content and how it will be packaged – there are many more options online than with traditional text and audiences have different expectations. Once the format and packaging has been determined, the next step when monetizing content online is developing a search engine optimization strategy.

 

3.2.4 Develop Search Engine Optimization Strategy

The next step in a content monetization project is developing a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy so that the project and its content can be found. Consumers find what they want online by searching for it, so publishers need to strategize how they will appear in search results. As Monique Trottier says, “Search optimization is the number one thing you need to focus on. Traffic to your website means business.”[58] To start, publishers should determine their keywords and search phrases that they want to appear in search results for. These are words that their audience will use when searching. There are a number of ways to do this. If publishers already have a website with similar content to what they want to sell, they can look at their site’s analytics and see what keyword phrases visitors are using to find various pages of the site. If publishers do not have a website related to the content they want to sell, they can develop an initial keyword list by searching for similar content online and noting what keywords other brands are using. By tracking the keywords that keep coming up while also considering what keywords the personas would use to find the content, publishers can establish initial keywords that they can edit and refine as the project develops.

Next, publishers should take these keywords and plug them into Google Insights for Search and Google’s External Keyword Tool (both free) so that they can see how often these keywords are used in searches and also get ideas for keywords they may have missed. Google Insights for Search is a tool that looks at the trends in search terms. Publishers can enter a term and see the changes in its use over time. Publishers can also plug in multiple terms to see how their popularity compares. Google’s External Keyword Tool is a tool that shows how often that term is being searched for by geographic area and it also gives keyword suggestions for similar terms that publishers may not have thought of. With the data, publishers can create a keyword list to refer to when they are creating any type of content for the project. It is important to use these keywords in key messages; blog post titles, tags and content; and in content on social networks, because search engines use this content when ranking websites and determining search results. In YouTube, for example, in order for a video to appear in search results, it is important that the video title, description and tags all include the keywords.

An SEO strategy with a thorough keyword list that is used when creating content is necessary for publishers and their materials to be found online. Once publishers have developed a SEO strategy, the next step in monetizing their content online is creating a marketing and outreach plan.

 

3.2.5 Create Marketing and Outreach Plan

At this stage in the development of a digital publishing strategy, publishers need to develop a marketing and outreach plan by choosing their marketing tactics. For each tactic, they should determine the strategy and goal behind it and what tracking tools will track the tactics’ success. This ensures that all marketing activities are accountable to specific goals and can be modified according their success. The following outlines tactics to consider for marketing digital content.

Blogger outreach is an important online marketing tactic because it is basically online public relations. Blogger outreach helps to get a project’s story noticed and build links back the site – which is important for SEO. There are two aspects to blogger outreach. This first is approaching bloggers who are leaders in their community who would be interested in the project’s story. Publishers should find these people and pitch the project in way that entices them to talk about it. The second aspect of blogger outreach is listening for opportunities to integrate oneself into the conversation. To do this, publishers should set up Google Alerts and saved Twitter searches for the company’s brand name, competitors’ names, and keywords and then, when a related story or conversation arises, join the conversation and find an appropriate time to introduce the project. Blogger outreach can be monitored by an increase in a site’s referral traffic and incoming links.

Social media is an excellent tactic for community building. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are platforms for conversation and a chance to engage an audience on a personal level. The goal of social media is to be interesting and engaging and gain followers and fans. Monitoring tools include Facebook Insights and Twitter platforms like Hootsuite, that show statistics like number of clicks and retweets.

Email newsletters are an effective marketing tactic because subscribers have given publishers permission to market to them. Publishers should be clear in the signup process how often the newsletter will get sent out and follow this schedule. They can use the newsletter to talk about the program, give useful advice and promote special offers. The goal is to further interest readers in the content and brand. Publishers can monitor newsletter open rates and click-throughs with email newsletter services like Campaign Monitor, Mail Chimp, or Constant Contact.

Blogs are good tactics for content generation and for positioning publishers as leaders or resources. Blog posts can be repurposed for blogger outreach, social media and email newsletter fodder. Blogs are also good for SEO because every post is a new page on a website, it creates fresh content for site, and is a chance to integrate keywords – all of which Google looks for when ranking websites. Blogs’ success relies on their level of engagement, which can be monitored through Google Analytics and by looking at the number of comments that blogs receive.

Lastly, contests are another tactic to consider. They are fun, a chance to be creative and, when well executed, can work to promote engagement and buzz about a campaign or brand. Contests can be monitored by looking at the number of entries and by looking at Google Analytics – particularly site traffic, referral traffic and incoming links.

Once tactics have been determined, publishers should create a marketing calendar that outlines weekly or monthly content themes that are carried over across all of the marketing platforms. For example, with the Boxcar Marketing Pro project, if Boxcar were planning to release the How to Use LinkedIn for Business whitepaper at the end of the month, Boxcar would spend that month prior to the release tweeting and blogging about LinkedIn, and position these messages as teaser for the actual report. A marketing calendar helps publishers stay focused in their marketing and ties themes together for the audience. Preferably, a marketing calendar is in the form of a weekly activity timeline so that publishers can be consistent and thorough in their marketing. Ideally, the plan would look like this:

  1. Spend time listening and building platforms.
  2. Join in, start conversations and develop relationships.
  3. Push content out through a blog, email newsletter, Twitter, Facebook and blogger outreach. Establish the company as a leader.
  4. Tie online promotions to offline activities.
  5. Pay for some advertising (online or offline).
  6. Monitor and optimize activities.

A detailed marketing and outreach plan is crucial to a digital publishing strategy because this determines how publishers’ will attract attention to their content. More important than the marketing plan, however, is how publishers will measure the success of their content monetization project and adapt as the project moves forward.

 

3.3 Measurement Strategy

A measurement strategy should be at the core of any digital publishing strategy. The ability to measure the success of marketing online is far more accurate than measurements offline. With any online marketing efforts, publishers need to always ensure that the tactics link back to the strategy, objectives, and goals. Tracking, analysing and responding to the numbers is key to successful online marketing. This includes not only looking at the web stats but analyzing them and using them, as Jason Burby and Shane Atchison authors of Actionable Web Analytics argue, “…to make changes to your site and business decisions based on the data.”[59] In other words, a measurement strategy is about action.

To begin with, publishers need to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) for their campaign.[60] With the business and marketing goals in mind, what is measurable? Publishers trying to sell digital content will want to create awareness about their product, attract customers and loyal fans, and, ultimately, sell the product. Publishers need to think of the actions or goal-paths that lead to these goals. What, of these actions, is measurable? For example, if the goal is to sell the product, the action that leads to a sale is visiting all of the webpages in the checkout process. How many visitors land on the final thank-you page after checkout is measurable and it indicates that they have completed the sale. The development process for KPIs can be visualized as a funnel:

Goal > Action > Measurement (KPI)

With the goals related to selling digital content – creating awareness, attracting customers and promotion engagement, and selling the product – below are some KPIs that publishers should consider. While there are general guidelines for web traffic numbers, what may be ‘normal’ for one site is completely abnormal for another and it is more meaningful to establish a baseline for a particular site and then measure how that fluctuates over time.

 

3.3.1.1 KPIs Linked to Product and Brand Awareness

KPIs linked to product and brand awareness should focus on the number of people that visit a website and how they found it. Basically, are people aware of and visiting the site? If they are, how did they get there and what was their level of awareness before they visited? Did they already know about the brand and type in the URL? Did they find the site on another website because others are recommending it? The following is a list of web statistics that can help gage the level of awareness about a product and brand.

  • Unique Visitors. This shows how many people are visiting a website.
  • Direct Traffic. This shows how many people are coming directly to a site by typing in the URL in their address bar. These visitors are coming to the site having already heard about the product or brand.
  • Referral Traffic. This shows where visitors are coming from. This is important because referrals are like recommendations. Websites will want to build a relationship with the sites that are directing traffic to them.
  • Search traffic. This does not show current awareness but how people are finding the site, which is important for keywords and site content. If familiar keywords are seen month over month, then it indicates a strong interest in a topic or category, which one may want to profile on the home page. Trending keywords should also be used in the site content, for example, as blog posts and page titles, in order to capitalize on new traffic sources.

 

3.3.1.2 KPIs Linked to Customer Acquisition and Engagement

KPIs linked to customer acquisition and engagement focus on how people interact with a website as well as how they interact with the brand on social networks. Are people spending time on the site? What are they doing? Are they engaging with the brand by listening, sharing or commenting? These are web statistics that show the amount of customers a brand is acquiring and their level of engagement with a site:

  • Visits (or visitor sessions). Visits displays the total number of times people come to a site. For example, a user comes to the site today and comes to the site tomorrow. This is one unique visitor and 2 visits. Visits is a good indicator of the engagement level of a site because it shows if people are returning.
  • Page Views. Pages Views are the total number of pages requested and served by a web server. This is also a good engagement indicator.
  • Send to a Friend or Share clicks. This shows how many people think that the site’s content is something worth sharing with their friends. They are doing word of mouth marketing for the company.
  • Average Time on Site. The length of users’ site visits shows how long visitors are spending on the site, which is another good engagement indicator.
  • Bounce Rate. This shows whether visitors are spending time on the site or are landing on a webpage and immediately leaving. If the bounce rate is well over 50%, investigate why. Are people not finding what they need?
  • Content Consumption. What are the top-level pages? How long are visitors spending on these pages? Is this the most important content or are visitors not finding what they need?
  • Exit Pages. What the site’s top exit pages? Why are people leaving here? Is it because they are finished exploring the site or because they cannot find what they are looking for or cannot complete what they are trying to do?
  • Number of Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers, Blog RSS Subscribers, Blog Comments. Are people engaging with the site? How do these numbers change month over month? If there is an increase or decrease one month, what activities caused this?

 

3.3.1.3 KPIs Linked to Ecommerce and Sales

KPIs related to ecommerce and sales focus on how many people are buying, at what levels and their behaviours during the purchase process. The following are web statistics related to sales:

  • Overall Purchase Conversion. This is the number of orders divided by the number of total visits to a site. How many visitors are purchasing content?
  • Browse to Buy Ratio. How many visitors are not buying content? How far down the purchase funnel do they get? Where in the cart are people dropping off? Why?
  • Average Order Size and Items Per Order. How much do customers buy per order? What does this show about their purchasing habits? How much is each customer worth? Divide total site visitors by total sales.
  • Conversion of Nonsubscribers to Subscribers and Number of Repeat Visits. This is for subscription sites. How often are visitors converted to new subscribers? Are people returning to the site once they have a subscription? Why or why not?

 

3.3.1.4 Identify Improvements

Once KPIs start getting tracked, publishers can locate where the problems are with their websites and where improvements can be made. A common issue is what is referred to as “pogo-sticking.”[61] This is when there are a lot of pageviews but a low average time spent on the site. This indicates that visitors are searching around the site and not finding what they are looking for. Another common issue is exit pages. If there are pages that are consistently top exit pages, and they are not thank-you or contact pages – in other words, they should not be exit pages – publishers need to explore why. For example, are these top exit pages confusing? Do they have complicated forms that visitors do not want to fill out? Are pages missing clear calls to action, so visitors do not know what to do or where to go? Once the problem has been identified, publishers can make improvements.

 

3.3.1.5 Tracking the Numbers

It is important for publishers to spend time every month analyzing the numbers. With the KPIs, they should create a KPI scorecard that is filled in monthly and go back over previous months to determine a benchmark or baseline. What were the numbers like the last couple of months? What were they like a year ago? Looking at the numbers month over month, are they generally the same? Where do they fluctuate? What does this mean in relation to the goals and objectives?

To help track the numbers, publishers can use the Goals feature within Google Analytics to create goals for the website and put a value on different traffic sources. This way it is easier to see how the KPIs are performing. It is also useful to use the Annotations feature. This records marketing activities in a timeline and positions them in relation to the web traffic. For example, if I ran a contest throughout the month of June I can enter the start and end date and see how this affected the number of visitors to my site. Where did those visitors come from? I can look back and use this information as a benchmark for what to expect for the next contest.

With a baseline, publishers can evaluate the numbers to see the results of their marketing activities. The numbers will show what should be repeated, modified, or discarded for something new. By spending time to create a measurement system and scorecard publishers can monitor their marketing activities and, most importantly, adapt their strategy according to the numbers.

 

3.3.1.6 Return on Investment

A common complaint is that, while it is easy to get numbers online, it is difficult to relate them to Return on Investment (ROI) for the company. In “The Basics of Social Media ROI”[62] Oliver Blanchard outlines how to measure ROI with a company’s social media and online activities by demonstrating how to create an ROI funnel that keeps the business goals and the value of actions in check. He says to start by establishing a baseline for the numbers, so that a company can determine the numbers before online marketing and after. Then he says to create an activity timeline that outlines all of the company’s marketing activities, which should already be outlined in Google Analytics’ Annotations. Next, he says to outline the KPI numbers – sales revenue, number of transactions, new customers, etc. With all of the information laid out, a company can compare their marketing activities with numbers, and look for patterns in data and prove relationships – how certain marketing activities correlate with the KPIs.

From here, companies can place a value on users’ behaviour. Which behaviours lead to sales? Which behaviours lead to indirect sales, like speaker requests? How much are these behaviours worth? For example, publishers can calculate lead value by:

(leads closed x average revenue per sale) / total leads = average lead value.[63]

This helps to put a value on the time spent on online marketing activities, like social media and blogger outreach.

ROI can be measured online. It is just a matter of recording everything – online activities, campaigns, website traffic patterns, transactions, etc. – and analyzing the data in relation to valuable behaviours and revenue.

A measurement strategy should be at the core of a publisher’s overall business plan. This means developing it during the business plan’s initial stages, refining as the business plan develops and measuring and tracking throughout the business’ lifetime. Without a metric strategy in place, it is almost impossible to accurately understanding how a business is performing and, in turn, impossible to know where to make improvements.

This section outlined the steps that publishers can follow to monetize their existing content on the web. To gain further understanding of the content monetization process and what to expect, the next sections are case studies of content monetization projects, including Capulet Communications and their book Friends with Benefits and Boxcar Marketing and its online marketing training program, Boxcar Marketing Pro.

 

4: CASE STUDY: CAPULET COMMUNICATIONS

Before Monique Trottier and I started Boxcar Marketing Pro, our online marketing training program, Boxcar Marketing studied a similar project carried out by Capulet Communications, a firm with which Boxcar Marketing has a close working relationship. Capulet’s project is related to the plans for Boxcar Marketing Pro in that they took content that they already had in various formats – presentation notes, online marketing guidelines that they had developed for clients over the years, etc. – repackaged it, and sold it online. Their content not only brought in extra income for the company, but it brought in project requests as well. Because the project is so similar and was in many ways what incited Boxcar Marketing Pro, it is useful to examine their project first.

 

4.1 Introduction to Capulet Communications

Capulet Communications Inc. (“Capulet”) is an online marketing company that helps businesses reach their customers in creative and remarkable ways. Owned and run by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo, Capulet specializes in reaching out to online influencers with blogger and social media outreach, running online marketing campaigns, and writing web content.[64]

In 2007, Barefoot and Szabo decided to explore another revenue model for the company. Taking what they knew about online marketing and the common questions that most people have, as well as content from talks that Barefoot had been giving, Barefoot and Szabo wrote and self-published an ebook titled, Getting to First Base: A Social Media Marketing Playbook. The book was aimed at marketers from companies, agencies and small businesses with the purpose of giving them the tools to start taking advantage of the marketing opportunities on the web.

The ebook was successful in building an audience for Capulet and it increased the requests they received for projects and speaking gigs. In addition, Barefoot and Szabo used the ideas in the book to build a full-day Social Media Marketing Bootcamp (which I have attended), giving a copy away for free as part of the cost of the ticket.

In 2009, Capulet published a print version of the ebook, Friends with Benefits, published by No Starch Press and distributed by O’Reilly Media. Barefoot and Szabo continue to repurpose the content from both the ebook and the print book for speaking engagements and marketing opportunities for the company.[65]

 

4.2 Marketing

Capulet marketed their ebook aggressively for a couple of months – deciding to focus their marketing efforts directly before and directly after the ebook’s release – and did not do any marketing after that because they got too busy with other projects. They used a wide variety of promotional tactics, including advertising the book in the bimonthly Capulet newsletter, setting up a Facebook Group (but they admit that they did not do much with it), and promoting and advertising on Barefoot’s blog. In addition, they sent letters to eight “top-level bloggers” in their target audience. The letters were in the form of a love letter (to go with the theme of the book) and included a link to a personalized landing page with a personalized video for each blogger. The eight videos were simple and shot with a hand-held camera and featured Szabo and Barefoot addressing each blogger on why they should care about the book. Capulet also sent twenty to thirty review copies to “secondary-level bloggers”, as well as review copies to any legitimate blogger that asked, sending out 120 review copies in total. They also received email addresses from everyone who bought the book and, in 2009 when they released the print edition, they used the 500 email addresses that they collected to promote their print book. Now, since the print book has been published, Capulet sees the ebook as an asset and gives it away as a ‘value-add’ at events.[66]

The key to Capulet’s marketing is that they created a campaign that was engaging, relevant to their target audience, and reinforced their brand. Capulet understood that they were selling a story, found the best way to tell the story and made it matter to people.

In terms of marketing conversion rates, the list below represents the majority of the sites that sent Capulet referral traffic over fourteen months, and the conversion rate for each site. These statistics were measured by tracking conversion data in Google Analytics. Barefoot says that these numbers reflect what they see on their client sites, except that YouTube is unusually high. As Barefoot notes, they think that this may be because YouTube was referred to from other sites so visitors were already interested and then the video convinced them to buy. Barefoot also notes that the content relating to their book on the referral site affected the conversion rate. Sites with more content and information about their book converted higher than those with just a link.[67]

  • Capulet Communication Website: 7.9%
  • YouTube: 6.4%
  • Facebook: 6.2%
  • TopRankBlog: 5%
  • Direct (reflecting offline marketing): 4%
  • Common Craft: 2.9%
  • Web-Strategist: 2.5%
  • Flickr: 1.27%
  • DarrenBarefoot.com (ran an ad on all 4500 of his archived pages): 1%
  • Seth Godin: 0.8%
  • Google: 0.7%
  • Twitter: 0.7% (note: this could be so low because they stopped promoting the book in March/April 2008)

This numbers are useful benchmarks for us to use for our marketing and give us a good indication of what to expect from our own efforts.

 

4.3 Costing Model

Capulet decided to sell their ebook for $29 and, after costs, made $27 on every book sold. They had one or two people complain about the price point but, other than that, found that people were comfortable with the price. They did not, however, conduct research to see if they would have sold more books at a lower price point. Barefoot says that they did not spend a lot of time thinking about the price, they just did some quick market research on similar books’ price points and choose one that was a little bit higher than the minimum they were willing to charge. This allowed them to offer some books at a discount at $24. On request, they also added a site license model where they charged $300 for a conference to give out unlimited copies to their attendees. Barefoot figures that each site license is worth about ten to twelve copies in sales.[68]

The ebook took one hundred hours to write and Barefoot and Szabo spent sixty hours marketing the book. They sold 500 copies and feel that if they had spent sixty more hours marketing the book, that they could have doubled their sales. 500 copies at $27 equals $13,500; divided by 160 hours spent writing and marketing book means that Capulet earned $84 an hour from the book.

Although $84 an hour is less than Capulet’s hourly business rate, the book really helped to market the company. Almost three years after publication and with zero promotion, they still sell one or two books a week. And since the ebook was published, Capulet receives double the amount of job requests than they did before. But Capulet also admits that, since the ebook, the quality of the job requests they receive has gone down.[69] Although Capulet Communications did not set up an affiliate program, Barefoot admits that, while he estimates that it would have been about ten hours of work to set up, they would have sold noticeably more ebooks with an affiliate program in place.[70]

As Monique Trottier and I develop the Boxcar Marketing Pro project, we have been using Capulet’s project as a guideline – particularly their marketing efforts, conversion rates, and the level of success they saw for their overall project.

 

5: CASE STUDY: BOXCAR MARKETING PRO

5.1 Introduction to Boxcar Marketing

Boxcar Marketing (“Boxcar”) is an online marketing company. Started by James Sherrett and Monique Trottier, the company specializes in helping businesses succeed online through internet marketing, including social media, search engine optimization and email campaigns; website design and online strategy. Boxcar Marketing positions itself as a upfront team that gets the job done and aims to make customers smarter and the client’s job easier.[71]

In the summer of 2009, while I was an intern at Boxcar, Trottier and I started developing Boxcar Marketing Pro, an online marketing training program. This is a project to monetize the company’s existing content that Boxcar has created – content such as notes, resources, and presentation materials that has been created in the process of consulting. Trottier had been exploring this idea for the past year or so and saw an opportunity to sell high-level marketing materials along with resources that help marketers get their work done. While there is a lot of content available on online marketing strategy, social media marketing, and other marketing ‘how-to’ topics, this content is not packaged as tactical templates and checklists that can help execute online marketing strategies, nor is the content portrayed as high-level learning or training packages. Some universities offer online marketing courses for business professionals, Queen’s University for example, but many marketers either cannot afford these courses or do not have time to take them. So Trottier saw an opportunity for Boxcar Marketing to fill this gap. The company already has a lot of useful content – content that is used for speaking engagements, strategy sessions and marketing plans. The project’s purpose is to find a way to repackage this content and sell it online earning extra income for the company. This would be a chance to supplement Boxcar’s existing revenue stream without changing the company’s overall business plan.

Boxcar Marketing is in a good position to take advantage of this opportunity because of its strong following. Trottier began building up an audience for herself in 2005 through her personal blog SoMisguided, which she started while she was working at Raincoast Books. When she started Boxcar Marketing in 2006, she continued to build a following through online channels. The Boxcar Marketing blog, Boxcar’s monthly newsletter Underwire, and Twitter are all platforms where Trottier has built a following by offering free marketing advice. Despite her online efforts, the majority of Trottier and Boxcar’s audience is built through word-of-mouth. Trottier is active in the marketing and technology community, often doing speaking gigs and consulting sessions, and people that have met her or heard her speak often recommend Boxcar Marketing to their colleagues. As of July 2010, Trottier has over 1,100 people following her tweets on her SoMisguided Twitter account. Trottier’s existing audience consists of over 1,100 people throughout Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and San Francisco.[72] Through free online content and paid consultation, Trottier has positioned herself and the company as an authority in the online marketing space and Boxcar Marketing Pro can build this authority further.

This project is meant to generate additional income for Boxcar Marketing that can be used for further developments for the company, like Google and Facebook pay-per-click campaigns and a website redesign. Second, the project is meant as a marketing tool. Boxcar Marketing Pro materials can be used to create an audience for the Boxcar brand and bring in project requests. Boxcar will encourage buyers of the Boxcar Pro materials to take advantage of the company’s other offerings, including its full consulting services.

While the project has not launched yet, this case study explores the processes involved in monetizing content on the web. It highlights Boxcar’s progression, the decisions that were made as the project developed and how the project has unfolded so far. These methods and tactics can be used as a jumping off point for publishers to monetize their own content.

 

5.2 Research

The research for the project began with an examination of different training models and online marketing courses and explored who was doing what, what individuals and companies are willing to pay for, the best way to learn this type of information and how they costed their product.

Boxcar did some broad research online, both inside the marketing industry and outside the industry, to see how other companies are offering and selling content. Boxcar decided to focus on smaller companies who were doing a variety of interesting things with their content and narrowed the majority of the research to six companies. Common Craft is an online video company that produces educational videos for both individuals and organizations.[73] Dell’s Social Media for Small Business offers social media guides and screen casts for small and medium-sized businesses via its Facebook page.[74] My Yoga Online is an online yoga instruction video service.[75] Mequoda is a consultancy company that helps publishers make money online and offers marketing materials in a subscription model.[76] MarketingProfs is a website that offers free and paid marketing resources.[77] Queen’s University’s Executive Development Marketing Program is a university-level marketing course for business professionals.[78]

All of the companies offered something for free – previews, excerpts, or free tips and advice – that helped to give a sense of what they were selling. For example, My Yoga Online provides a free two-minute preview of a video before purchase and Mequoda offers free daily tips and weekly whitepapers. The free content helped to establish these companies’ authority in the space – which is particularly effective if the company is new – and helped to market the paid content. For example, once users sign up to receive Mequoda’s free daily tips and download its free whitepapers, if they want further information on related topics, they can buy their handbooks, case studies, and webinars based on the perceived quality of its content.

In addition, companies that offered site licenses or subscriptions to their content had a fair amount of content available to subscribers. This vast amount of content helps to make the subscription more valuable. Users are more willing to pay a monthly fee for a subscription if they know there is a lot of content that they can use and take advantage of and so the benefits outweigh the cost. For example, MarketingProfs has a ton of valuable content available to its Pro Members, which encourages people to subscribe, including how-to articles, exclusive case studies, online seminars and special reports.[79]

While Boxcar was researching the market, the company was also collecting content ideas. Boxcar researched what others were selling as educational materials, looking at Mequoda, MarketingProfs and Queen’s University’s Executive Development Marketing Program. The research found that presenting content as ‘best practices’ and ‘how-to’ advice was very popular. For example, Mequoda’s “10 Email Newsletter Design Best Practices” and MarketingProfs’ “How to Creating a Content Strategy for B2B Nurturing Campaigns” are both whitepapers that are packaged as tactical, helpful advice. Case studies were also popular. Both Mequoda and MarketingProfs had a number of case studies that explored the marketing strategies within specific companies. Boxcar also found that while Queen’s University’s program was high-level and business-focused, the course seemed to be missing a practical, hands-on component.

Lastly, Boxcar found that creative licensing and costing is important in order to suit the range of audience needs. For example, Common Craft offers its videos in a variety of licenses. First, its videos are available for free for non-commercial sites, like blogs. Next, there are also several licensing models. There is a license for individual use that is higher quality than the free version, a site license for organizations to use internally, and a commercial license for public company websites. There are also options for bundling videos and ebook versions of their videos available for download at the Kindle Store.[80] Capulet also offered more than one pricing option. It had the $29 ebook, as well as the $300 conference license to the book. With a variety of choices, buyers can find an option that suits them.

 

5.3 The Business Plan

Once the market research was completed, Trottier and I outlined the project’s purpose and goals. The business goals for the project are as follows:

  • Sell product. Boxcar wants to sell the kits to earn extra income for the company.
  • Create demand. Boxcar wants to create demand for the kits and the company’s online marketing consulting services.

Building on these business goals, the marketing goals are:

  • Promote awareness about Boxcar Marketing Pro and the Boxcar Marketing brand.
  • Position Boxcar as experts in online marketing.

 

5.3.1 Audience

Once Boxcar Marketing Pro’s goals were determined, Boxcar wrote a discovery document that outlined the project’s primary and secondary target audiences, competing and non-competing products that would be of interest to the audience, and the audience’s needs and goals when buying the product.

Based on Boxcar Marketing’s past and current clientele and Trottier’s experience with their varied needs, Boxcar determined that the project’s primary audience is marketers who need more information about online marketing – either marketing directors who want to brush up on new online marketing information and trends, new marketers who are responsible for implementing marketing strategies and need some guidance, or small business people who have to do the marketing for their company and need to quickly learn and implement tactics. Boxcar Marketing works with marketing directors, marketing managers and small business owners from a variety of industries so Boxcar knows that the program will be valuable to this audience group.

Boxcar also determined that the secondary audience is non-profit groups, environmental groups and volunteers. These are people who are doing outreach and community building with their organization’s website, write their organization’s newsletter or manage the organization’s site. Another secondary audience is trade associations. These are people who want to collect materials for their members for professional development. They may be looking for speakers or research materials that can be passed along and will also see benefit in learning about online marketing. Boxcar works with groups such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association and can see how they would benefit from these materials.

In terms of technical knowledge, in Boxcar’s experience all of these audience groups are fairly proficient online. They use the web, including email and social media, on a daily basis, but want to learn more about how they can use it for marketing purposes. Understanding the audience’s technical abilities is important to know, because it determines both the level of the training materials and how Boxcar can market these to them.

As for competitor’s products of interest to this audience, the following are some of Boxcar Marketing Pro’s competitors: Mequoda, MarketingProfs, MoreVisibility’s training webinars[81], and conferences such as the Vocus User’s Conference,[82] and Internet Marketing Conference.[83] It is important to keep competitors at top of mind when creating content and marketing materials so that Boxcar can position itself competitively. There are also higher-level training programs that are non-competing products of interest to the audience; these include Queen’s University’s Executive Marketing Program and Simon Fraser University’s Executive Programs, such as the Executive MBA.[84] While they are not direct competitors – because Boxcar is targeting people who either cannot afford these programs or do not have the time to take them – they are still useful to look at for content, content delivery, structure and costs.

Next, Boxcar determined what need the program is trying to fill by outlining the audience’s common complaints and goals. In Trottier’s experience with clients, their common complaints are that they are not seeing ROI in their online marketing, they cannot keep up with all of the changes in online marketing, they need to learn more if they want to get ahead but do not have either the time or money to go back to school, and they want structure to their learning – reading blog posts that they stumble across online is not consistent enough to properly learn from.

From what Trottier sees in her training and consultation sessions, the audiences’ goals are to learn how to fully take advantage of the web for marketing, to have measurable ROIs, to save time and money with both their learning and their marketing, to move forward with either their company or their career, to find an online learning program with structure and value and to understand how the web and web culture works.

From the discovery document, audience personas were developed. This helped to further visualize and understand the audience. From the primary and secondary audience targets, I created Julie, a marketing coordinator at a mid-sized publisher; Ruth the publisher of a mid-sized press; Kate the marketing director for a large company; Heather, a small business owner; Dave, a university department marketer; and Duncan, a trade association director.[85] While this exercise did not change the discovery document information, it helped to make audience members and their goals more concrete and gave Boxcar a reference point when making decisions.

 

5.3.2 Marketing Plan

From all of this information, Boxcar wrote a 7-Sentence Marketing Plan:

The purpose of my marketing is to sell 100% of applicable content in a simple, cost-effective manner to create an income stream for Boxcar Marketing. Secondarily it is to generate leads for the company’s full consulting services by showing those in need of online marketing help that Boxcar Marketing can provide quality, results-driven content at a reasonable price. The goal is to encourage the audience to take advantage of all levels of Boxcar’s content, leading up to a consulting contract.

I will accomplish my purpose by creating a model that leverages free content to build trust and brand authority, which then promotes the more valuable paid content to users. The marketing will reinforce the credentials of the Boxcar Marketing team, the easy access to information, the low-risk option of accessing content, and the timeliness of the material.

My target audience is North American marketing people who want to brush up on new online marketing ideas and small business owners who do everything themselves and need be able to quickly learn and implement marketing tools.

Marketing weapons that I plan to employ are Boxcar Marketing’s reputation, Boxcar Marketing’s partners/colleagues, content sharing/exchanging, social media tools like Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Google AdWords. Other tools include: persuasive copy, existing platforms, community and word of mouth, free, customer service, social networks, advertising and direct mail, affiliate program and a marketing calendar.

Boxcar’s niche in the marketplace is that the company is platform agnostic and independent of an agency. Boxcar will position itself as friendly, ask-us-anything, fair, reasonable advice providers who focus on hands-on and high-level strategy tips that, once followed, will show results.

The Boxcar Marketing business identity is a blend of professional, speedy, friendly, personable, fairly priced, flexible shop that offers customized advice for those who want to go beyond the paid content. Boxcar makes its clients look smart and makes customers’ interactions online easy. Boxcar speaks human and geek, and if Boxcar can’t answer a question the company can point customers in the right direction.

I plan to devote 10% of projected gross sales to marketing.

 

5.4 Content Generation and Packaging

Before Boxcar started gathering and creating content, Boxcar needed to develop keywords for the content and marketing materials for SEO purposes, so that Boxcar Marketing Pro would be found online. Keywords came from search terms that visitors use to get to the Boxcar Marketing website, along with common keywords that came up in initial research. Using Google’s External Keyword Tool and Google Insights, Boxcar created a keyword list with keywords categorized by theme.[86] Categorizing keywords by theme makes it easier to determine what keywords to use when writing copy and also makes it easier to create PPC ad campaigns.

Although Boxcar had an idea of what types of content the audience groups are interested in, from my market research and Trottier’s experience and conversations with clients, Boxcar still wanted to ask people directly what they wanted. So Boxcar sent out a survey at the beginning of September through the Underwire monthly newsletter[87] to ask readers what types of content they were interested in. Unfortunately, the survey only got a 1% response rate. While this is not enough data to represent the market, the survey did show that all of the survey respondents were interested in content about online business strategy and the majority were interested in content around social media marketing, content development, and Google analytics.

With all of the research, I gathered the content that Boxcar already had – from Trottier’s presentations and strategy documents – and entered the titles of the materials into a spreadsheet. From here, the titles were categorized so that Boxcar could see common themes within the content. Next, based on the research, Trottier and I added content that the company needs to create to complete these themes. For example, Boxcar often gets asked to develop LinkedIn and Facebook strategies for clients so it was decided that Boxcar needed to create whitepapers on those topics.

Because Boxcar recognized that the audience was looking for higher-level materials with structure to their learning, Boxcar decided to package the content as “kits” based on the common themes that could be seen within the list of content. Each kit will consist of four to six whitepapers, templates and how-to documents that cover the basics within each category and give the audience groups the knowledge and tools they need to be an expert in each subject. Boxcar outlined a Promotions kit, a Web Design kit, an Executive Kit, a Search Marketing kit, an ROI kit, a Publishers kit, and an Operations kit. Each kit includes a combination of whitepapers, tips, how-to, strategies and checklists. Boxcar will also offer the individual content within the kits as a la carte downloads, for those who do not want to buy a full kit. Boxcar has not decided how the kits will be packaged yet, but is considering .zip files with either PDF or .epub files inside.

It was noted during the research stage that almost all of Boxcar’s competitors have content that they give away for free in order to advertise their paid content. This is a valuable marketing tactic, so Boxcar decided to do the same. In order to decide which content should be free and which should be paid, Boxcar categorized the knowledge level of each piece of content, either beginner or advanced, and decided that all of the beginner materials would be available for free. Each kit will have some material that is available for free which will help to market the paid content. While the free material is basic information, the paid portions expand on the free material – similar to how Mequoda’s paid content is an extension of the information that is available for free through its daily tips and whitepapers. In addition, Boxcar already offers free social media, web analytics and email marketing tips in the monthly newsletter and on the Boxcar blog and Boxcar is considering having free previews of the paid content.

In the end, this is what the content grid looked like:

 

Figure 2: Boxcar Marketing Pro Content

Figure 2.1 Figure 2.2

 

5.5 Delivery Platform

Next, Boxcar explored ecommerce services that offer online shopping carts in order to find the best way to sell the kits. These are companies and services that can manage the downloading of the kits and handle online credit card transactions. Boxcar looked at Digital Chalk, a service that lets users create online courses with their course software;[88] CubeCart, which is ecommerce shopping cart software;[89] and E-junkie, a shopping cart platform that provides buy-now buttons to let users sell downloads on their website through PayPal and Google Checkout.[90] Boxcar chose E-junkie because it seemed the most straightforward. E-junkie’s shopping cart allows Boxcar to set up an ecommerce page on the Boxcar website, add E-junkie’s buy-now buttons, load all of the files to one place, and track sales with a similar code to Google Analytics. E-junkie is also inexpensive. The platform starts $5 month and increases depending on the number of products a company is selling.

 

5.6 Marketing and Outreach Plan

With all of this in place, Boxcar developed the marketing and outreach plan. The plan is as follows.

 

5.6.1 Leveraging Existing Platforms: Boxcar Blog and Underwire

Because much the program is building on Boxcar’s existing reputation, marketing for Boxcar Marketing Pro will start on the Boxcar blog and in Underwire, Boxcar Marketing’s monthly newsletter. Boxcar already has an existing audience in these areas that are interested in online marketing so this is a natural place to start. Boxcar will include content excerpts or how-to advice related to the paid content so that readers can be directed to one of the kits for further information. When promoting, Boxcar will make sure to have direct links related to Boxcar Marketing Pro landing pages and to always encourage an upgrade – even if that is just encouraging blog readers to subscribe to the newsletter. Boxcar can monitor conversion rates with analytics to see the number of visitors that are clicking through to Boxcar Marketing Pro landing pages and, out of these visitors, who are buying kits. Boxcar can also monitor interest by looking at the number of blog comments and newsletter subscribers as well as posting surveys and monitoring the response.

 

5.6.2 Social Media

Boxcar Marketing Pro will be promoted on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Since the program is business focused, efforts will be concentrated on LinkedIn and Twitter, which are more popular platforms for business conversations. Boxcar will position itself as a resource in these spaces – answering questions on LinkedIn and directing people to useful content on Twitter, for example – while also promoting the Boxcar Marketing Pro content. A recent study showed that marketers most active on Twitter, promoting both their own content as well as the work of others, see better ROI and are more likely to attribute direct sales revenue to Twitter,[91] so Boxcar will make sure to allocate substantial time to these platforms. Boxcar will encourage sharing on these networks with share and tweet buttons and will also encourage retweeting of Boxcar content. Boxcar can monitor its success with Hootsuite, which will show what types of tweets followers click on, Facebook Insights, and analytics which can show what sites are referring traffic to the Boxcar website and which of these sites are referring traffic that convert to sales.

 

5.6.3 Blogger Outreach

Boxcar has a strong community of fans who are active online so the company will involve them in marketing activities and encourage word of mouth. Boxcar will also perform blogger outreach to the wider community of bloggers and use Google Alerts and Twitter search to find the leaders in the Boxcar’s niche. Boxcar will make it easy for bloggers and others to share promotional content by having benefits lists, excerpts and photos related to the program available on the Boxcar website for bloggers to use. Boxcar can monitor success with this through Google Alerts by recording the number of online mentions received. The company can also monitor the number of incoming links to the site and general traffic increases.

 

5.6.4 Leveraging Partnerships

As noted earlier, Trottier has put a lot of energy into developing the Boxcar Marketing brand and Boxcar will use the name that she has built up to establish credibility for the program. Connected to Boxcar Marketing’s reputation is leveraging the company’s partnerships. Being active in the technology community has meant that Trottier has developed various partnerships in the community. Leveraging partnerships will expand Boxcar’s marketing reach and give access to the company’s partners’ resources, such as their online platforms and customer base. The key to successful partnerships is figuring out how the two parties can both benefit each other. For example, most blogs struggle for content so Trottier can guest blog on a partner’s blog, which will give them content and while also promoting Boxcar Marketing Pro. Boxcar can monitor the success of these partnerships with an increase in incoming links, online mentions and traffic to the site.

Barefoot believes that an affiliate program would have significantly increased Capulet’s sales, so Boxcar will spend some time exploring affiliate options and use Barefoot’s estimate of ten hours as a baseline for developing the program.

 

5.6.5 Advertising and Direct Mail

Boxcar will also promote Boxcar Marketing Pro through advertising and direct mail. Boxcar will do a pay-per-click advertising campaign because it is an effective way to track and monitor both leads and keywords. Boxcar will explore print advertising in Business in Vancouver or Report on Business because some of the target audience fits their readership demographics. Boxcar is also considering a direct mail postcard campaign. Because people get less and less mail now, direct mail is a way to stand out. Similar to how Capulet sent love letters to the top bloggers in their audience group, Boxcar can send out a direct mail campaign related to Boxcar Marketing Pro to top bloggers in the audience groups. In addition, since Boxcar is a partner with AdHack, an advertising community built on crowdsourcing,[92] Boxcar may commission some of AdHack’s creators to produce an online video that can be posted to Boxcar’s online channels. Boxcar can monitor the success of the print and direct mail advertising with unique URLs, and the online advertising can be tracked with analytics.

 

5.7 Financials and Sales Plan

5.7.1 Costing Structure

With all of this planned out, it was time to look at Boxcar Marketing Pro’s costing structure. At this year’s BookNet Canada’s Technology Forum, as well as in an interview on O’Reilly’s Tools of Changing for Publishing, Richard Nash talks about the demand curve. He says that publishers “…capture such a limited amount of the demand under the demand curve,” having only ever captured the demand that lies within the $10 to $30 range. He says, “Below that, we capture no value. Above that, we are giving up most of the value,” arguing that even though some people will pay, say, $10,000 for dinner with Margaret Atwood and others will only ever pay $1 for a digital download, publishers have not figured out how to get that $10,000 from those who are willing to pay it and they refuse to accept anything less than $10 for their product.[93] There is a range of demand for all products and the difficulty of finding a costing model is reaching all of that demand. I started by researching other costing models to see how Boxcar’s competitors were pricing their content:

 

Figure 3: Competitor’s Pricing

Figure 3.1 Figure 3.2
Figure 3.3

 

The majority of the pricing that Boxcar came across was in the $50 to $300 range. To see where Boxcar should be at, the costs were calculated:[94]

 

Figure 4: Boxcar Marketing Pro Costs

Figure 4

 

Each kit has approximately six documents – three on hand and three that need to be written. So Boxcar estimates, based on other writing projects, that it will take twenty-one hours to write and format each kit.

In terms of Boxcar Marketing Pro’s advertising budget, Boxcar will want to spend $500 a month on a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign. This is generally the minimum amount to spend in order to see results and Boxcar will test out both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to see where Boxcar gets the best conversions. Once Boxcar determines which platform has a better conversion rate, how to allocate the PPC advertising budget can be decided. I also budgeted $500 a month for other advertising costs. For example, a Business in Vancouver 1/8 page, black and white ad is $800, so with this money Boxcar could do an ad quarterly, or do three ads a year and one direct mail campaign a year.

Looking at the company’s competitors, Boxcar determined that it could reasonably charge $30 to $100 for a whitepaper or template download. A higher price point, at $50 a download, was decided on because at this price, it makes sense for someone to go through the hassle of a credit card transaction. With that, it was decided to price the kits at $199, hopefully making it more appealing for users to buy the entire package. There’s five paid a la carte downloads in each kit so there is a $50 savings when they buy the whole kit for $199. Boxcar decided against a subscription model because there is not enough content to offer right now, but this model may be explored once Boxcar has built up its content offerings. Including Boxcar’s basic consultation services, which start at $1500, with this pricing model Boxcar have captured four levels of demand for its product and services:

Free > $50 a la carte > $199 kit > $1500 consultation

 

5.7.2 Targets

To break even on the start-up costs of $1,930 Boxcar needs to sell ten kits. In terms of profit, Boxcar is going to aim to make $18,000 a year, by year two. Trottier and I think this is reasonable as a starting point and is a substantial contribution to Boxcar’s additional business development fund. To break even on the yearly costs of $7,380, Boxcar needs to sell thirty-seven kits, or three kits a month. This means that to earn a profit of $18,000 a year Boxcar has to sell just over ten kits a month.

 

Figure 5: Sales Target

Figure 5

 

In terms of a conversion rate, Boxcar will aim for 1% to 3% conversion initially, which is the generally accepted average conversion rate online.[95] Capulet’s marketing conversion rates ranged from 7.9% to 0.7%, with an average of 3%, so aiming for 1% to 3% conversion is reasonable. Once Boxcar has reached 3%, Boxcar will aim for 5%, then 10%. As more content is developed Boxcar will be able to invest more time in marketing as opposed to content development so it can aim for higher conversion rates.

In terms of website visitors, this is what a 1% conversion rate looks like:

 

Figure 6: Conversion Rates

Figure 6

 

Even with just 1% conversion at one thousand unique visits a month, Boxcar would sell ten kits a month, so the goals are realistic.

Boxcar also realizes that the marketing efforts will increase visits to the site. Because Boxcar is often very busy with clients, the company is not consistent in its own marketing. Trottier performed an experiment in April 2010, where she blogged twice a week, tweeted for the company on a regular basis and performed some outreach. From this, Boxcar saw a noticeable increase in traffic to the site. Boxcar had over 60% increase in unique visitors from March to April and, importantly, this traffic continued into May, where Boxcar still saw a 30% increase from March. This gives Boxcar an idea of what can be expected from marketing efforts for the program.

The hours that Capulet spent marketing their book is a good baseline for Boxcar. They spent sixty hours marketing the book over a couple of months, so Boxcar should estimate twenty to thirty hours a month for the Boxcar Marketing Pro program since Boxcar wants to spread marketing efforts out. Unlike Capulet, Boxcar will need to continuously promote the program, since Boxcar will be releasing new kits periodically. It is interesting that Capulet believes that spending sixty more hours marketing the book could have doubled their sales, and Boxcar should track the relationship between marketing hours and sales.

Other than extras like pay-per-click advertising, banner ads and direct mail pieces, Boxcar’s marketing hours and costs will be allocated to Boxcar Marketing’s overall marketing costs. This is because most of the planned marketing tactics – blogging, tweeting, and blogger outreach – are already a part of Boxcar’s business costs and, since the project is meant to market the company as a whole, these costs can be absorbed into the company’s regular business expenses.

 

5.7.3 Recouping Costs

If Boxcar sells ten kits a month with yearly costs at $7,380, it will break even by month four. The kit development costs will take longer to recoup, however because their costs are so high. It will cost just over $16,000 for all seven kits to be developed, so Boxcar will have to launch the program with just three kits, starting with the ones that either have the most demand or the most materials already developed. I believe that three kits will give the program enough weight while balancing what is financially possible. It will cost us $2,310 to develop each kit, which means that after the start-up costs are paid off; each kit will pay for themselves after twelve sales, or, with Boxcar’s target of selling ten kits a month, in the second month.

Trottier and I recognize that the costs are fairly high so another option is to explore where costs can be reduced. All of the estimated hours are based on Boxcar’s experience with other projects so I do not think Boxcar can cut back on those. But the company could try to reduce the hourly rate for those hours. Boxcar could consider hiring an intern to develop the whitepaper templates, ecommerce section on the website and the landing pages. This would cut back on costs but Boxcar would have to factor in training and project management time. The company could also explore hiring an intern for content development – which is where most of the costs are right now. Boxcar would have to be careful, however, because the program is about selling valuable content so quality control is important.

It is interesting that Capulet significantly increased their business requests after they published their ebook. When outlining when Boxcar will recoup the project’s costs Boxcar should keep this in mind and be willing to make less profit if it leads to more business – in Capulet’s case it doubled their business requests.

After six months Boxcar will decide how to move forward with the remaining kits. Also, if Boxcar is not meeting its targets, the company will examine the promotional and financial strategies and see where improvements can be made.

 

5.8 Measuring Success

If, going back to the business plan, Boxcar’s goals are:

  • Sell product.
  • Create demand.

And Boxcar’s marketing goals are:

  • Promote awareness about Boxcar Marketing Pro and the Boxcar Marketing brand.
  • Position Boxcar as experts in online marketing.

What can be measured? Overall, the project’s ROI funnel looks like this:

 

Figure 7: ROI Funnel

Figure 7

 

Boxcar’s direct business goal is to sell kits to add to Boxcar Marketing’s revenue stream. The KPI related to this goal is sales. To measure sales Boxcar would set up a goal funnel in Google Analytics that track visitors’ purchase path. For example, if Boxcar set up a goal that tracks each page that a visitor goes through in the purchase process, ending with the “thank-you for purchasing” page as the goal, Boxcar can measure the number of visitors that land on the thank-you page in relation to the total number of website visitors. Boxcar can also track visitors as they go through the purchase process and see if there are pages in the purchase path where visitors are abandoning the process. If there are common exit pages, then Boxcar will explore how to best optimize those pages, for example with more persuasive copy, a shorter form, or easier ways to complete the task.

The indirect business goal is to increase demand for Boxcar’s consulting services. This can be measure offline, by comparing the number of consultancy contracts before the program and after. Boxcar can also measure online interest in consultancy by adding a button or link to the website for visitors to click on to find out more information about Boxcar’s consulting services.

In terms of marketing goals, Boxcar can measure whether it succeeds at generating awareness of the company and the brand. KPIs related to this include:

  • Number of Facebook fans which can be measured with Facebook Insights
  • Number of Twitter followers, Twitter mentions and retweets, which can be measured using Hootsuite or another Twitter analytics provider
  • Underwire newsletter subscribers which can be measured with Boxcar’s email newsletter software, Campaign Monitor
  • Unique traffic to the website which can be measured with Google Analytics
  • Online mentions which can be measured with Google alerts.
  • Engagement with the Boxcar website by monitoring Google Analytics and tracking:
    • Pageviews
    • Average time on site
    • Top visited content
    • Landing pages
    • Exit pages

Some of these KPIs are also related to measuring Boxcar’s success at establishing itself as an expert in online marketing, namely number of Twitter followers and subscribers to the newsletter. The number of visits to the blog, which can be tracked with Google Analytics, is another indicator of Boxcar’s authority in the online marketing space. LinkedIn also has an “expert” feature where people that answer questions can be graded as “experts” so efforts can be monitored there, too.

As the project moves forward, Boxcar will create a baseline and monitor progress by comparing the KPIs and analytics numbers with online and offline activities. This way Boxcar can monitor can see which activities have the most effect on the project’s goals and the strategy can be adjusted accordingly.

 

6: CONCLUSION: HOW PUBLISHERS SHOULD MOVE FORWARD

As both Boxcar Marketing’s and Capulet Communications’ case studies show, there are opportunities for publishers to monetize their existing content online. When approached strategically, this content will market the brand for its wider business goals and aims, creating broader opportunities for the company.

That is not to say that there are not problems within each of these business models. Capulet became overloaded with other work, had to stop their marketing and promotion efforts and missed out on further sales. In terms of Boxcar Marketing, high costs and time commitments related to content development have hindered the implementation of the project. But publishers can learn from these problems. They should stretch out their marketing efforts so that they do not get overloaded and stop promoting their project. They should be prepared to incur costs and find ways to cut down on expenses – by using interns, for example. Publishers should never underestimate the opportunities and the opportunity costs for a digital publishing project.

The best way to take advantage of these opportunities is by appealing to new market realities and how new users engage with content and brands. This means that publishers should focus their efforts on a niche level and appeal to users by supporting and leading tribes within the new purchase funnel – finding the compelling aspects of the product that users will want to share, earning trust by being authentic in conversations with communities, and securing permission to continue engaging with communities in the future.

The Boxcar Marketing case study serves as a platform for publishers to build their own content monetization programs and outlines the steps that publishers need to take.

To start, publishers need to find opportunity with their content. Is there a need in the marketplace that the company can fill? Does the company have existing content that can be repurposed online to fill this need? Once the content has been determined, publishers need to create a business plan by clearly defining the program’s purpose and goals and outlining the target audience. Preferably, publishers will already have an existing audience base to build on. With the audience in mind, publishers should experiment with how to best deliver the content to the audience in a way that either helps them learn valuable information or gives them ways to interact with and connect with others. This also includes figuring out what can be free that will market the paid content and positioning the free content so that taking advantage of the paid upgrade is encouraged.

Next, publishers should create a thorough marketing plan that covers multiple channels, with clearly defined strategy and goals behind each tool. Each tool should also have measuring tactics in place. Publishers should not use all of the tools, but choose the tools that will help better execute the strategy and reuse content wherever possible. Both of these tactics will help save time and effort. Once the marketing tools have been decided, marketers need to create an activity timeline that helps them company be consistent and thorough in their marketing.

When costing the materials, publishers need to cover the demand curve by experimenting and responding to the market. They should also set reasonable sales targets. If the financials do not work out, publishers need to change their plans so that they do. Boxcar Marketing, for example, had to limit the amount of kits that it started with, so publishers may have to narrow down the size of their programs, too.

With the business and marketing goals, publishers should determine what can be measured. With clearly defined KPIs, they need to create a culture of analysis where all activities are tracked and measured and related back to ROI. Publishers need to schedule time every month to look at the numbers and make strategic changes to the program and the marketing plan in relation to the data.

The Boxcar Marketing Pro case study demonstrates that an online content monetization program does not have to be on a large scale. The initial goal for the project is to sell ten kits a month. By selling just ten kits a month, Boxcar will break even on the start-up costs after the first month and will start to earn $18,000 a year by year two (less kit development costs) – an ample amount of revenue considering that Boxcar is reusing content that is already on hand. This is not a large-scale, unwieldy project but a manageable one that, with the right content, clearly defined audience and well-thought out business plan, many can implement.

Although the Boxcar Marketing Pro strategy is not perfect, it is a workable business plan for digital publishing – an area where there has been lots of discussion but no detailed strategy. The business plan is meant to be a platform to build upon and, now that the model has been developed, it can be refined and adjusted going forward. For example, if as Boxcar Marketing Pro develops it turns out that the $199 price point for the kits is too high, Boxcar can reduce the price point and then adjust the related numbers, like the breakeven point or conversion targets. Because the details have been worked out, it is now just a matter of tweaking and fine-tuning.

Digital publishing itself is an abstract idea, but the business model outlined in this paper gives publishers a concrete strategy to work from. Like the profit and loss statements that publishers create before publishing a book, this strategy works out the numbers for publishing online. Now that the business model has been developed, publishers can benefit from their existing content and earn additional revenue for their companies by taking advantage of the opportunities that exist on the web.

 


APPENDICES

 

Appendix A: Personas

Boxcar Marketing’s Primary Personas

JULIE > PUBLISHING MARKETER

Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)
30-something, female, marketing coordinator of a mid-size publisher. Julie handles marketing and promotions, must report to superiors on the effectiveness of campaigns and needs to lobby for online and marketing budget increases.

She has a wide range of interests both professionally and personally. She is involved with music, art, photography, slow food, design, books, and magazines. She likes recommendations from friends and believes that she is an early adopter.

Quote
I don’t have time to come up with new ideas all the time. I really want to, which means I can’t spend time on the details of the process. I need checklists, I need to show ROI, I need to quickly take an idea and get buy-in and budget. I need to get from idea to execution quickly.

Technical Background
Fairly savvy but might not think so. She uses a lot of technology and can easily pick up how to do something. She’s ok experimenting if it looks easy and useful.
Julie uses/enjoys these websites:

  • http://facebook.com
  • http://www.twitter.com
  • http://blip.fm

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I want to focus on the ideas and execution rather than reporting.
  • I want to easily pull together a report after the fact.
  • I need to know what things I can measure.
  • I need checklists so it’s easier to pass things on to interns or other staff.
  • I want a place to find ideas that I can modify for our purposes.
  • I want to know what’s going to work (because I don’t want to take risks, because I can’t tailor each campaign, because I need to show case studies to my boss)
  • It has to be easy to search and find relevant results
  • I need to quickly see if it is relevant or how it applies to my situation

Useful Content for Julie

  • Links to resources: blogs, inspiration, big thought leaders, things to read, new stories, industry how to/ebooks
  • Checklists: landing pages, campaign templates
  • Ideas + budget
  • Quick mix and match, decision matrix
  • Case studies (local)
  • Author survey: working with blogging authors or authors not online
  • Keyword generation and SEO 101
  • Press release how to
  • How to find audience online
  • ROI: what can you measure
  • Free: what can you give to get
  • Lone evangelist (getting buy-in)

 

RUTH > PUBLISHER

Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

50-something female publisher of a mid-size press. Ruth is a publisher with a huge amount of industry experience. She handles all of the long-term planning for her company, controls the purse strings and has various departments reporting to her.

Ruth says she understands the online world but needs to be convinced of new ideas. She says she wants to see the numbers when asked to part with her money, but it’s really about needing to see credible sources and something she that can relate to before she can learn something new.

Ruth has a wide range of interests both professionally and personally. She is interested in books, magazines, art, design, interior decorating, traveling and staying fit. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. While she used to be an early adopter, she is now part of the early majority.

Quote
I want to spend my money on proven methods that I understand and I can’t afford to jump at every new opportunity. I’ve been working in the industry for over thirty years and while I understand that things are changing, to me, a book is still a book.

Technical Background
She thinks she understands the web but only uses it at a basic level. She has email, visits news and book websites, and is aware of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook but has never used them.

Ruth uses/enjoys the websites:

  • http://booknetcanada.com
  • · http://www.nytimes.com

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to choose tactics well
  • I need to know who to read given limited time
  • I need a filter so I save time
  • I need credible sources that I can relate to
  • I need to quickly see if it is relevant or how it applies to my situation
  • I need to know how online fits in to the bigger publishing picture
  • I want to see case studies from companies I know
  • I want to see value in where I spend my money
  • I want to see reporting/numbers on where I spend my money
  • I want validation and an increased profile for my company
  • I want to network at “C” level
  • I want it to be easy to search and find relevant results

Useful Content for Julie

  • Big Picture: case studies (submit yours) publicity opportunities
  • Short/sweet, executive summaries
  • Inspiration, big idea stuff
  • Who’s doing what and how do I compare
  • Resources: compete.com, ROI calculators
  • Service Directory: who does what on short notice
  • Cost and budget checklists
  • Visuals, graphs, things to put into presentations
  • Cartoons
  • Decision matrix
  • Ad networks
  • Question Box
  • Consulting Help
  • How to choose a path
  • Reading List: who to follow FB, Twitter, Business reading

 

KATE > MARKETING DIRECTOR

Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

Kate is in her late 40s/early 50s and is a female marketing manager for a large company. She has worked for the company for 10 years, has five people reporting to her and reports to the CEO.

Kate develops and executes company-wide marketing and business planning but also tries to stay on top of the smaller marketing campaigns. She’s a big-picture thinker and generally has more ideas than she can execute.

Kate understands and likes the internet but doesn’t know if she’s using it to her full advantage in her marketing. She knows that by now her online marketing shouldn’t be in addition to her offline marketing, but she doesn’t know how to fully integrate the two.

Kate works hard and only has a few interests outside of work. She is interested in mystery novels, interior design and trying to stay active. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. While she used to be an early adopter, she is now part of the early majority.

Quote
I know that professional development is important and I want to stay on top of marketing trends but I can’t fit the high costs of training and conferences in to my budget.

Technical Background
Kate uses the internet daily for email, news, blogs, and community sites. While she doesn’t know how to build websites, she can tell a good one from a bad one.

Kate uses/enjoys these websites:

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to continue to stay relevant in my field with pro-d
  • I need to learn how to integrate online with offline work
  • I need to learn how online marketing can deliver ROI
  • I need to train my staff on a budget
  • I need to justify where I spend my budget
  • I need to report to stakeholders
  • I want to learn both at a hands-on level and at a strategy level
  • I want to have tools for metrics
  • I want to be able to direct those under me to training resources
  • I want to be respected as an expert by stakeholders
  • I want my ideas to be respected and heard
  • I want to fully understand the new marketing rules

 

HEATHER > SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

Heather is 30-something, female, and small business owner. She is the only employee so she does everything herself, wears many hats and needs to be able to quickly learn and implement.

Heather fully understands the web but doesn’t have time to stay on top of every new trend. Her company relies on its’ ‘hip factor’ but she still needs to run a solid business. Heather needs new tools and tips that are reliable, worth her time, and will help stabilize/grow her company.

Heather works hard at her startup yet manages to have lots of different hobbies and interests. She is an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction, enjoys shopping, design, going to the gym, and meeting up with friends. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. She is an early adopter.

Quote
I want the marketing know-how to be successful with my marketing, show ROI, yet not spend tons of time and resources on it.

Technical Background
Heather is tech-savvy. Her business is online and she does most of the design and development of her company’s website herself. She has a blog and a strong online presence.

Heather uses/enjoys these websites:

  • http://www.twitter.com/
  • http://www.sethgodin.com
  • http://www.entrepreneur.com

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to grow my company by building its online presence
  • I need to learn easy-to-implement reliable marketing techniques
  • I need to show ROI from my marketing
  • I need to learn how to do it all myself
  • I need to quickly learn
  • I need information to come to me – I won’t remember to find it
  • I need the value to be apparent right away
  • I need to justify time spent on marketing
  • I want to know how to save time and money
  • I want to have a strategy and goals in place for all my marketing
  • I want to learn both at a hands-on level and at a strategy level

 

Boxcar Marketing’s Secondary Personas

DAVE > UNIVERSITY/COLLEGE DEPARTMENT MARKETER

Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

30-something male, Dave works in the marketing and communications department at a university. Dave reports to the department head and he (along with one other person) does all of the marketing for the entire department. Dave is responsible for developing the communication department’s brand identity. Dave is also responsible for attracting new students and keeping current students involved in the department. His work indirectly affects the budget allocated to communications.

The department is growing and wants to increase it’s visibility in the school by appealing to students, potential students, parents and employers. They know that to do so they need to get more online but they don’t know where to start. They’ve asked Dave to take the lead on this.

Dave is happily married and he and his wife are trying to have a baby. In his spare time he enjoys going on hikes, having dinners with close friends, blogging, and reading fiction

Technical Background
Dave is proficient with the web and enjoys learning new things. He blogs regularly and uses Facebook. He doesn’t know how to use the web for higher-level tasks like SEO, analytics, reporting, but he’s willing to learn.

Dave uses/enjoys these websites:

  • Facebook
  • Dave.blogspot.com
  • Communication Department Website

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to attract new students to the history department
  • I need to engage current students
  • I need to make the department attractive to parents and employers
  • I need to increase the department’s visibility within the school
  • I need to move most (if not all) of the department’s marketing efforts online
  • I need to know how to develop an online marketing plan
  • I need to know how to report on my marketing efforts
  • I need to know how to integrate social media into a marketing plan
  • I need to know the basics of SEO, email newsletters, PPC, landing pages
  • I want checklists and templates – I don’t want to start everything from scratch

 

DUNCAN > TRADE ASSOCIATION DIRECTOR

Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

Duncan is a mid-fifties director for an Energy Association and he wants to collect materials for his member’s professional development. He is looking for material that he can pass along as training material but also sees benefit in knowing this stuff himself. He has a budget for pro-d and would like to find something that he could subscribe his members to, rather than just one-off material.

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to keep the trade association up on trends
  • I need training material that I can pass along to my members
  • I need to give them valuable information
  • I want to easily find valuable information
  • I want to be able to subscribe my members rather than just one-off material
  • I want information that will help members improve their marketing, planning and show ROI

 

 


Appendix B: Keywords

 

Keywords Ad Competition Local Search Vol: July Global Monthly Search Vol Category
advertisement banner 0.8 4400 5400 Advertising
advertising banners 1 8100 12100 Advertising
advertising business internet marketing 1 14800 9900 Advertising
advertising on internet 1 9900 9900 Advertising
advertising on the internet 1 6600 6600 Advertising
banner ad design 1 6600 5400 Advertising
banner ads design 0.73 720 590 Advertising
click through rate 0.93 8100 9900 Advertising
cost per click advertising 1 2400 1300 Advertising
cpc ads 0.86 1600 880 Advertising
cpc advertising 1 2900 1900 Advertising
cpm advertising 1 9900 8100 Advertising
designing banner ads 0.6 260 140 Advertising
effective internet advertising 0.93 1300 720 Advertising
internet advertising banner 0.66 9900 4400 Advertising
internet advertising banners 0.6 480 170 Advertising
internet advertising business 1 22200 12100 Advertising
internet advertising company 1 6600 4400 Advertising
internet advertising seo 0.46 1300 590 Advertising
internet advertising strategies 0.86 390 260 Advertising
internet advertising strategy 0.86 1900 1000 Advertising
internet advertising tips 0.66 390 260 Advertising
internet marketing online advertising 1 27100 14800 Advertising
internet online marketing advertising business 1 6600 3600 Advertising
online advertising roi 0.6 260 210 Advertising
online advertising strategy 0.93 1300 720 Advertising
online banner advertising 1 4400 2900 Advertising
pay per click internet advertising 1 2400 1900 Advertising
pay per click management 1 33100 33100 Advertising
pay per click marketing 1 33100 22200 Advertising
pay per click optimization 1 3600 3600 Advertising
pay per click search engine 1 33100 22200 Advertising
pay per click search engines 1 5400 5400 Advertising
payperclick 1 8100 9900 Advertising
ppc ads 1 4400 3600 Advertising
ppc advertising 1 27100 27100 Advertising
ppc how to 0.6 6600 6600 Advertising
ppc internet advertising 0.86 2400 1300 Advertising
ppc search engine 1 60500 33100 Advertising
ppc search engine internet advertising 1 1600 880 Advertising
ppc search engines 1 4400 3600 Advertising
b2b e marketing 0.46 -1 320 Executive
b2b lead generation 1 4400 4400 Executive
best practices strategy 0.46 880 720 Executive
budget checklist 0.33 -1 2900 Executive
business goal setting 0.86 4400 1900 Executive
business management trends 0.33 -1 590 Executive
business marketing techniques 0.66 2400 1600 Executive
business marketing tips 0.86 4400 2900 Executive
business marketing tools 0.86 2400 1600 Executive
business to business marketing strategy 0.93 590 720 Executive
business to consumer marketing 0.8 720 1000 Executive
company goal setting 0.66 210 260 Executive
consulting internet marketing services 1 6600 3600 Executive
corporate internet marketing 0.73 880 590 Executive
courses internet marketing 0.4 3600 2900 Executive
developing a business plan 0.93 1900 2400 Executive
e business marketing plan 0.33 480 260 Executive
e business marketing strategies 0.6 390 480 Executive
e business marketing strategy 0.73 880 720 Executive
e internet marketing 0.46 6600 5400 Executive
e learning marketing 0.73 590 1000 Executive
e marketing campaigns 0.46 -1 390 Executive
e marketing consultant 0.66 390 390 Executive
e marketing course 0.73 880 880 Executive
e marketing courses 0.6 210 480 Executive
e marketing how 0 -1 390 Executive
e marketing seminar 0.46 260 210 Executive
e marketing solution 0.73 880 880 Executive
e marketing strategies 0.8 3600 2400 Executive
e marketing strategy