Marketing to Individuals: Insights from Pioneers

by | Jun 8, 2013 | 0 comments


October Ivins, Moderator

Demand-driven acquisition of electronic content (particularly e-books) has resulted in the growth in sales of single titles to consumers, which is a different sales model for publishers.  This session discussed some of the issues.

Till Moepert

Till Moepert from Springer Science & Business Media said that in 2011, the Springer board decided that someone had to take care of individual customers.  Prior to that, sales were generally through distributors and other wholesale channels.  Springer has a massive amount of content that is attractive to consumers: 50,000 books, over 2,000 journals, and 2 websites, all accompanied by a powerful backend and established production processes.  There was a big demand for books, but there was no marketing to consumers.  The systems were made on a B2B basis (for example, most payments were based on invoices), so the consumer system had to be built.  People were hired from startups or B2C companies. 

Springer’s product offer included  e-books, print books, and articles sold on a pay per view basis.   (E-books can be sold like any other product on the web!) was established as its leading B2C site for all titles.  The goals were to increase revenue generated on the site, increase the share of e-book sales, and grow the customer share of the wallet vs. the competition by finding the balance between direct sales and those coming through competition (i.e. Amazon).   The value proposition included a vast selection of Springer book titles and full accessibility.  

The marketing strategy included the baseline (pay per click, SEO, affiliate networks, display, cross and upsells), promotions/one-time campaigns (mailings, social media, display), and cross promotions with the B2B site.  Everything is data-driven, and new channels are always being tested.  It was interesting to note that promotions of e-books resulted in a jump in sales of print books, and the highest revenues occurred on the last days of promotions.

Major lessons learned:

  • Retail is detail,
  • Focus, focus, focus,
  • Our customers are not different when buying e-books, and
  • Cooperate with others when you cannot meet a demand.

Marguerite Avery

“Everyone Participate! The Move to Social Media” was the title of Marguerite Avery’s presentation. Representing MIT Press, she said that the purpose of scholarly publishing is to connect individual readers to the appropriate content.  Scholarship is the original social media.  Communication is now many-to-many; social media is inherently participatory.  Authors are using social media platforms to promote their works.  Publishers need to think about how communication patterns have changed; for example,  15% of Americans are now on Twitter. 

Participation and collaboration are very important to authors.  How can publishers facilitate author communications?  Think about content on a platform level.  O’Reilly’s Atlas platform combines communication from authors and publishers.  Authors are thinking about this as a way of promoting their work.  Much marketing benefit can come from platforms like Mendeley and Zotero. 

Jill O'Neill

Jill O’Neill, Director of Communications for NFAIS spoke on “Finding My Next Book: The Reader’s Way of Discovery”.  She asked, “Does serendipitoous discovery still work for you, especially by flat web pages?” 

According to Andrew Romberg in an article on the Digital Book World blog, there are 5 types of discovery:

  • Serendipitous discovery:  Allows you to find a book when you do not know the title by displaying the book’s cover, allowing downloading a sample of the text, sharing discovery of a book with a friend, and buying it through an online vendor.
  • Social discovery:  How are people talking about your books?  People may be blogging about your content, but you may not be aware of it.  It is a highly visual environment; authors might contact bloggers.  (Jill listens to what other people are saying about books on Twitter.)  Social networks like GoodReads, Library Thing, etc. are sources of opinions on books. 
  • Distributed discovery: See the OUP blog for an example.  Someone discovers a title in the context of a larger conversation.  It is accessible to the ordinary individual.  Titles featured on the blog are scholarship of interest to the reader; people purchase books on the basis of a blog entry.  Readers can deepen their knowledge about a topic through blogs and find out about new resources. 
  • Data-driven discoveryGoodreads was acquired by Amazon, in part because it gives them a monopoly on transactions but also behavioral data on how readers read in clusters–who is influencing who.  Publishers should be aware of this.
  • Incentivized discovery:  Publishers announce free copies of books for readers to make postings about and create a buzz.

Two examples of emerging discovery environments are Riffle which stresses the visual appeal of the cover and uses the site to drive marketing through curation without conversation. By knowing what people are reading and are telling others about, then system can upload the cover on the site for potential additional readers of the book.  And Amazon is imitating the Pinterest approach by letting users create their own want lists. 

How can publishers reach individuals?  Use visuals to enhance content elements (be accurate but also amplify them with tables of contents, chapter heads, etc.), and maintain an active online presence (blogging, commenting, lurking).  Make sure all elements of the book are searchable.  You must be out and part of this world if you want to be successful!  People will be interested in your products and buy them if you let them find what you do and if you have great quality content.

Jill Emery

Speaking on “Marketing to individuals: insights from the library”, Jill Emery from Portland State University (PSU) said that the library still has a high impact. It is still seen as a primary source of resource materials, and discovery systems have had a very positive impact.  Discovery via library portals actually increased the last year.  In-depth tagging is possible with next generation library systems; for example, “This is a good book for course X”.  New discovery systems allow linking to multiple places, such as to Amazon, allowing users to the book.  Some libraries share discovery systems with other libraries and show the location of books, or link out to LibraryThing.  Demand-driven acquisition: PSU lets users recommend they library buy a book, or they can buy it themselves.  Their system uses GIST (Get It Soon Toolkit, which is publicly available).


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