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Would you sell advertising space in your book, app, or e-book?

Publishers generally don’t sell advertising space. There’s an underlying fear that this will have a negative impact on readers. What is this fear based on and are there examples of how this model can work?

One of the criticisms of advertising is that it offends the consumer’s sense of good taste by insulting and degrading his intelligence. But surely that’s a criticism in itself? I’d like to think that as a consumer you are deemed intelligent enough to decide what is the right product for your needs.

Let’s start with some sums and a hypothetical situation for book publishers and an app build…

 
App build cost: £12,000 + App marketing cost £3,000  = £15,000App retail price to consumer: free, £1.99, £2.99 maximum.= Not the best business model ever?
 

A book publisher wants to create an app/e-book about hair styling. Now a hair care manufacturer is launching a new serum, which retails at £7.99. Their marketing spend is over £500,000 for the UK alone. They would be more than happy to spend a proportion of their budget on reaching a niche audience, interested in hair styling. The value of an app ‘prospect’ for the manufacturer is that its audience is 100% focused on the promotion, unlike a TV or radio promotion (you can’t download an app whilst ironing or driving).

It’s a win-win situation for both publishers and advertisers. But what will the readers think? There’s an assumption by publishers that advertising would lower the value of the book, or make the reader think that the book publisher were a money-making machine and not a curator of quality content. Is that what you think when you read The Guardian or the Financial Times? No one seems to value content less in a newspaper if it’s supported by ads.

The main risk of introducing advertising into book publishing is the possible negative impact on the user’s experience. However, The Guardian’s ‘Eye-witness’ iPad app had 90,000 downloads in its first month, yet was sponsored by Canon. Presumably, Canon paid for the development costs and so The Guardian could give the app away for free. No one thinks any less of the photos knowing that Canon sponsored the venture.

24 symbols, a Spanish start-up, have launched an online reading site, based on a subscription model. On their site you read for free, and non-intrusive ads are featured on each page. Great idea, but we’re yet to see how publishers benefit.

Compared to a print run, creating an app or an ebook is the cheaper option. There must be ways to retain the revenue. What do you think?

 

(thanks to Ashton Editorial for the input)

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Laura Summers

Laura Summers

Co-founder of @bookmachine - the network for forward-thinking #publishing folks; and BookMachine Works - the fresh new creative agency for publishers

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