If, like me, you spend a lot of time on the internet (like… y’know… enough to clock when adverts change on the same web pages) you will probably have noticed the intense ramping up of aNobii activity across all digital channels recently. In the past two months, their online advertising reached the level of intense saturation usually reserved for dating websites – displaying as gates on pirated videos before you watch them, weird sidebar ad placement on forums, promoted tweets, heaps of whacky Pinterest boards… and so on.
So given the company launched in 2006, why now?
If you’re a publisher, aNobii have been on the radar for a while (maybe because it’s partially owned by three publishers – HC, RH and Penguin). Their CEO Matteo Berlucchi has been giving presentations on publishing for a number of years, and is good at making his voice heard in a progressive but sane way.
But, as is the issue with a lot of publishing ventures that do a hard work in the trade channels, this presence seems to get lost on the way to readers. Berlucchi has refused to give actual numbers of users for aNobii, but the stats on the site speak for themselves – the largest ‘topic’ I can find (‘Free eBooks’) has 220 members. The equivalent group on Goodreads has 1740 members. Doesn’t instil great confidence in me about their reach.
Here’s what I found when I was looking for info on aNobii strategy. As with the site itself, this presentation is flashy, but I’m really not clear as to what it’s saying aside from ‘social is the future of sales’. Well, ok. But how is aNobii leveraging that fact in a distinct and interesting way?
The way I see it, their main competitors are Goodreads – pure reading community – and Amazon – pure storefront. aNobii sits somewhere in the middle, trying to both sell and promote. As soon as you log in, there’s a confusion as to what’s being asked of you – the equal weighting of ‘wishlist’ and ‘followers’ in the interface pretty much encapsulates the dilemma.
According to Berlucchi, his real strategy is ‘to own the Books section on Facebook’ rather than build the site as a destination in and of itself. I guess, then, the news that social reading on Facebook has seen a significant drop off and people find automated updates annoying and intrusive must be a bit of a blow.
Also, if you’ve ever tried to search for anything on Facebook ever you will know exactly how absolutely appalling their algorithm is and how organic discoverability is basically impossible. In my book, Facebook real estate has plummeted in value.
So Amazon is playing the long game and Facebook is playing ‘Risk‘. I would guess that on the way to justifying ROI, the aNobii concept has been confused and now it’s trying to play ping-pong with a baseball bat. I hope they can pull this back into a more structured and meaningful user experience, but I don’t think advertising saturation is going to make their message any clearer to readers and I’m fundamentally sceptical of the possibility of a successful marriage between hard selling and organic community.