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Voice-First Future

A version of this blog post first appeared on the Digital Book World site. Bradley Metrock produced the iBooks Author Conference from 2015 through 2017, before Score Publishing acquired Digital Book World, and has authored many articles on the state of the publishing industry and recent trends.

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Jacob CockcroftJacob Cockcroft is Co-Founder and CEO of The Pigeonhole, a made-for-mobile digital book club, serialising their books in installments delivered straight to a reader’s virtual bookshelf on the iOS app or website. Here he writes on mobile reading and making digital work for your company.

E-books are on the decline. Digital reading is only for romance novels. Waterstone’s no longer sells Kindle eReaders. Excellent, publishers can go back to business as usual. The physical book has prevailed.

Well, OK, if you want to misread the tea leaves. The inescapable truth is that there will be 2.5 billion smart phone users by 2019, all potential readers. The largest industry oversight is a distinct separation between physical and digital reading, with digital being the cheaper, dirty cousin. There is a tally for physical sales and a tally for digital sales, count up the points and see who wins.

This simplicity fails to understand how mobile phones are hard coded into people’s daily routine, behavior and psychology. They are the single most important discovery tool for anything: holidays, clothes, kettles, and of course books, but this discovery tool could be so much more efficient, if used properly. The art is to exploit the opportunities smart phones provide and, most importantly, to use data driven analytics to hone the message. This is something physical books simply can’t offer (in much the same way that digital books can’t bring the touch, feel and smell of a physical book).

Interaction, sociability, discoverability, immediacy, pinpoint targeting, measurable ROI. View digital reading through a marketing lens and it can bring you all these things. But it has to be fun; it has to compete with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat on the home screen of every IOS or Android device. This is the business of habit-forming products, of providing that 10-15 minute hit of endorphins as someone breastfeeds, or waits for the tube, or a friend to turn up in a bar.

This is the battle that we wage at the Pigeonhole. We are building dynamic reading experiences, something to take part in, to feel as though you are on a collective journey with others, discovering the most exciting books of the moment. It’s not enough to just pipe content onto a phone and expect people to churn through hours of turgid reading, the temptations of the other apps are just too great, even for those with the best intentions. There is no great mystery as to why digital completion rates for traditional reading apps are so low.

You have to make it FUN. Satisfying. Exciting. Challenging. This is all possible, more than possible, it’s real. All of our publishing partners have given their experience the thumbs up, and over half who respond to our surveys would actively recommend the Pigeon to fellow readers. It is still early days (we have a community of over 12,000 users and our Android app is coming in September) but we are getting closer and closer to perfecting the experience.

And it is the author who benefits from us more then anyone. Many publishers are acutely aware that they aren’t delivering for their authors on the marketing front; they just don’t have the bandwidth. Our partnerships solve this, giving the author a direct line to their readers, creating genuine buzz around the book across social media, and facilitating those reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to boost the all-important algorithms. In turn, this drives the sales of physical books through direct click-throughs from our site to Amazon and both online and offline word of mouth.

We are the ultimate content marketing platform, using the most powerful thing you can – the book itself. Our serialisations allow any book to fit into any life, whilst offering a structured framework for conversations to play out through between the author and their readers

In this way, digital becomes part of an integrated strategy for the promotion of a book, driving discoverability, author profiles, digital sales and physical sales. Posters on the tube are great, but pound for pound, displays in the Facebook newsfeed of keen readers can be much more powerful. With a holistic strategy like this you really can fulfill the potential digital reading provides.

So my message: Don’t be scared of digital and don’t turn your back on it. You just need to be smarter, more creative and ambitious with it.

book discovery

iauthorFeatured in The Bookseller, Digital Book World and GalleyCat, Adam Kolczynski is best known for iAuthor, the London-based startup. In tackling the perennial problem of book discoverability, Kolczynski has straddled both ends of the publishing spectrum: first as an author, then as a publisher with Polybius Books. Here we interviewed him to catch-up with iAuthor developments.

1) What exactly is iAuthor?

iAuthor is a book discovery platform for a new breed of bibliophile. Think ‘Pinterest for books’. Through a theme-driven and intensely visual approach, iAuthor connects readers to authors; and vice versa. All content is author-generated. No editor’s picks. The result is a true democracy of opportunity. Authors have equal access to readers, regardless of their route to publication.

2) What problem does it solve?

Gabriel Zaid’s 2003 observation is both piquant and prophetic: “The reading of books is growing arithmetically; the writing of books is growing exponentially.” Fast-forward 13 years, and we’re witnessing an alarming asymmetry between reader growth and book numbers. Across key formats, the number of new books released per year is not matched by a commensurate increase in readers. The result? More books are competing for fewer reader eyeballs. Readers feel swamped by digital noise, creating a paradox of choice. Authors are deafened by this same noise, widening the gap between talent and opportunity. Millions of books are left undiscovered. Both ends of the publishing spectrum suffer.

If an overabundance of books weren’t enough, other factors have exacerbated this discoverability problem:

a) A scarcity of attention

Mobile and tablet readers are more time-squeezed than ever, so unknown authors have less time to capture and maintain reader interest.

b) Saturated genre categories

Many book categories have a surplus of books on every topic, particularly in the case of non-fiction. The resulting overlap makes it harder for individual books to stand out.

c) Poor user-experience

Annoying file downloads, restrictive DRM and awkward page navigation deters many readers from sampling books online. Unless readers can try before they buy, the likelihood of an impulse purchase drops significantly.

iAuthor overcomes these obstacles through a unique combination of crowdsourced book themes and user-generated book samples.

3) Who is your target market?

From the book discovery angle: digital-first readers. Voracious book buyers, reviewers, bloggers, book clubs, and more. All those looking to stumble upon their next read with a splurge of serendipity.

From the book promotion angle: authors, publishers and book PR agencies. On hitting 2.2 million page-views and 1.2 million engaged minutes since launch, iAuthor rolled out a signature feature called 7dayAds. Native advertising has been on the rise on social media sites. Sponsored tweets, promotional product pins and Facebook ads have made users both the journey and the destination. With this in mind, 7dayAds targets users who are already “soaked” in iAuthor’s ecosystem, letting them upgrade free book profiles to premium adverts for short promotional bursts.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

iAuthor’s mission is to make books not only searchable but genuinely discoverable. Amazon-style metadata will make a book searchable in seconds…if the buyer already knew of its existence. But what if they didn’t? What if the buyer chanced upon the book? That’s where iAuthor’s ‘serendipitous discovery’ comes in. With well-aimed funding and sustainable scaling, iAuthor can become the marquee platform for book discovery and author brand-building. With 12 New York Times bestselling authors and 16 USA Today bestselling authors aboard iAuthor, the once quixotic notion of top-tier authors sharing promotional space with edgy indies is real and manifest.

5) What will be next for iAuthor after this?

Eric Ries’ lean startup methodology calls for products to be built iteratively, with customer validation at every milestone. By extension, iAuthor is only as robust as its last iteration; and only as ambitious as its next one! In the coming months, we aim to expand our book analytics suite to incorporate stats from readers’ sampling habits, while simultaneously streamlining the inline comments in LitSampler, iAuthor’s proprietary book sampler. iAuthor is proving both ‘sticky’ and habit-forming; an eclectic user-base with genuine discovery intent, not just gratuitous self-promotion. The proposed enhancements will deepen that engagement on all levels.

kids publishing
Sven Huber is founder & CEO of Boolino, Spain’s leading online platform for children’s and YA books. Over the last 15 years he has been working in book publishing and distribution in Spain, Portugal and the US. He is a speaker and sponsor at ‘Publishing for Kids: how to reach book buyers online’ on 9th March in London. Here’s our interview with Sven.

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On Tuesday night London Book Fair held their Tech Tuesday event during Academic Book Week. With the overarching question: ‘Academic book discovery; will the role of the publisher enhance discoverability in the future?’ The panel was comprised of Tom Hatton, founder of RefME; Simon Kerridge, Director of Research Services at University of Kent; Martha Sedgwick, Executive Director of Product Innovation at SAGE, and Simon Tanner, Digital Humanities academic at Kings College London.

The panel discussion was guided by 4 key questions. Here are our 14 top things that we learnt from the night.

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Jef Van der Avoort is co-founder of Squirl, the first location-based book discovery app. Previously he helped brands like LEGO, Philips and Hasbro to create engaging experiences on the border between the analog and digital world.

1) What exactly is Squirl?

Squirl is a location-based book discovery app that lets you bump into the real-world settings from books (e.g. The Plaza Hotel in the Great Gatsby). You can read the excerpt that takes place right where you are standing and check in to the literary location. You may also click through to buy the book. In essence, we are building an augmented story layer on top of the world.

2) What problem does it solve?

Book discovery is the number one issue for authors and publishers. We want to level the playing field by turning the whole world into a bookstore. The places you pass by become portals into different worlds, no matter if it is from a book by a first-time indie author or a bestselling superstar. It is a new, engaging and serendipitous way to discover your next read.

3) Who is your target market?

The casual reader is very important to us. These are people who read 2 or 3 books a year and are mostly overlooked when it comes to publishing tech. Discovering new books is not on top of their list, but they are interested in stories that are relevant to them. Through this geographic relevance we can excite these readers to buy a book they might not have discovered in any other way.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Our first tangible goal is to see a book rise to the New York Times bestseller list because it was discovered through Squirl. On a more macro-level, we would like authors and publishers to see Squirl next to social marketing platforms like Twitter and Goodreads.

5) What will be next for Squirl?

We are very excited with the positive reception we are receiving and we already have some Squirl fans. We are currently raising a seed round to build some great features and advance Squirl to continue to enhance the experience for both readers and authors.

ralph-moellersSmall independent publishers and self-published authors need to maximize the impact of their books and ensure they are easily found on the Internet. Ralph Möllers, the founder of a children’s publisher based in German decided to develop his own book widget, Book2Look, that would enable book buyers, both trade and consumer, to look inside the book before they purchase. The Internet makes content readily available for free. Ralph felt by offering easily digestible free content as a hook would encourage readers to want to read on and most importantly to click ‘buy’. Making the point of discovery the point of purchase.

As a starting point before any book campaign, publishers should think about whom their current readers are and what is happening in the marketplace. Here are some of Ralph Möllers’ latest observations, together with how this led to the development and continuing enhancement of the Book2Look widget.

Your Readers are web savvy

According to BBC research, young people now spend an average of three hours online a day. This seems quite a conservative estimate really, and professionals must spend more than double this amount. Tech savvy millenials are wise to advertising and many use ad blockers to protect them from the ‘lure’ of online shopping ads, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. According to eMarketer, about a quarter of all U.S. internet users, nearly 70 million people will use technology to block online ads in 2016. Publishers therefore need to develop respectful ways of promoting to these readers, as a result of this.  Nielsen Book2Look is therefore an ideal option that lets you share sample content, video, audio clips and other promotional material via the internet on social media sites, on your own site, author site or with retailers, bloggers and reviewers.  Each version can be tailored to meet your audience needs.

Shelf space is decreasing

Despite books such as the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, which achieve huge sales, shelf space for the average book in traditional book stores has been decreasing and this makes discoverability of new books extremely difficult for publishers. Author James Patterson launched an admirable initiative to help indie bookshops survive and thrive – however, in the UK in 2014, almost twice as many bookshops closed down as new ones opened. Between 2009 and 2016*, the number of independent booksellers in the UK and Ireland, has fallen by 25%. With fewer options to browse books in-stores, publishers need to replicate the ability to browse books online, and that’s where Nielsen Book2Look can help you reach a wider audience for your books.

The social media frenzy continues

Trends in Social Media usage are changing. Many Facebook users have migrated to Instagram or Twitter away from parental observation. Groups of friends prefer to communicate via closed groups on Path or What’s App. Professional networks such as Yammer give work colleagues a valid reason to chat online. Nothing remains constant but the one thing all forms of social media have in common is that they give their users the opportunity to share. Nielsen Book2Look lets your readers share sample content. It gives them a valid reason to communicate on their preferred social channels, and you can add a link to your preferred retailer, ensuring that you achieve sales.

Nielsen Book2Look is a tool that encourages readers to share and spread the word about the books they like. A tool that supports your local retailer by offering customised sample content. And lastly but not least, it’s a tool that gives you great analytical data about the performance of your book content that can be connected to your existing Google analytics account.

Conclusion

Today Nielsen Book2Look is helping thousands of publishers of all sizes worldwide to promote and sell their books. Nielsen Book2Look has achieved millions of book views, last year the figure was 20m, and we expect that to increase this year.  Ralph Möllers says: “As a developer and as a publisher I am really proud of this contribution to our industry and I am delighted that so many publishers around the world can take advantage of this remarkable book widget. Even better news is that Nielsen Book has launched its new ISBN Store which enables publishers not only to purchase their ISBNs online but the Book2Look widget too – what could be simpler than that?”

*2016 is seeing a number of new independent bookshops starting up, which might lead to a resurgence of high street retailing, but this is still a hugely competitive market with customers being offered a huge of point of purchase.

book2look

 

Did you make the same mistake I did and assume podcasts are yesterday’s platform, that interest in them has plateaued (at best) and they’re not worth thinking about today? If so, here’s a short article that might help you re-think your stance. If you’re still not convinced have a look at the infographic in this article, paying close attention to the chart showing how podcast listening is on the rise.

What seemed like a fad that’s dying off is actually showing nice growth. I’m contributing to that growth as I now listen to a variety of podcasts during my daily work commute. As I leverage this medium I’m realising it offers some very important lessons for book publishers:

1) Simple, easy subscriptions

When I discover a new podcast I’m interested in I literally click once to subscribe and the content stream comes to me. What could be easier? More importantly, what’s the analogy in the book publishing world? How do I “subscribe” to an author, series or topic? We all have our favorite authors. Wouldn’t it be terrific if a single click could initiate a subscription to everything they write in the future? That includes having samples of their new books delivered automatically to your preferred reading app/device.

2) Steady rhythm

Your favorite podcasts are usually delivered on a predictable schedule. Some are daily while others are weekly. This rhythm leads to anticipation, knowing that today’s edition will be loaded on your device at the usual time. This is another concept that’s totally foreign to book publishers. Books are released according to seemingly random schedules and some publishers are still even locked into the old “season” model. If you’re going to enable readers to subscribe to an author or topic as described above, be sure to produce a steady, engaging stream of valuable content for your audience.

3) Discovery

This remains one of the hot topics, always on the minds of book publishers. If you’re focused on discovery think about this question: How well do each of your products enable discovery of your other, related products? Some publishers still rely on back-of-book ads, even in ebooks. How about automatically delivering other, related content to your audience? A good example is how NPR promotes new podcasts. Yes, they advertise by plugging new ones in old, established podcasts. But recently I noticed they took the bold step of automatically downloading the first segment of a new podcast onto my device. I don’t recall opting in to that and it might irritate anyone keeping a close eye on their data plans but it’s a novel concept. I wasn’t going to seek that new podcast out and now all I have to do is click “play” to try it out, yet another example of one-click access and engagement.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the podcast marketplace it’s time to take a closer look. Subscribe to two or three that look interesting and see what other lessons can be learned.

Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

 

audio

Videl Bar Kar (Penguin Random House, UK Audio), Claire Powell (audioBoom) and Adam Martin (Acast) formed the panel on Audio Publishing at the Quantum conference today. Here are the top 10 things we learned.

The Market

1) People are listening to podcasts and audiobooks on their runs, commute, in the car and when going to sleep.

2) Men listen more regularly than women and audiobooks reach a more diverse audience in comparison to print.

3) Podcasts are proving to be a highly engaging and intimate means of storytelling. Once people start to listen to them, they tend to carry on.

4) Podcast production is dominated by white middle class men. It’s not making the market any bigger and this needs to change in order to reflect the audience and content available. A broader, mass, millennial appeal needed.

Monetising Podcasts

5) Only when a podcast is downloaded is data available on how much it’s listened to, at which points users stop listening, and how they are shared. It’s hard to monetise without this.

6) Producers are beginning to incorporate data for streaming too, so that they can inform creators of what’s working and what’s not.

7) Data shows that an endorsement by the host is most effective form of advertising and that the commercial message better received. Creators are changing the model: it’s not the advertising agencies coming up with ideas, but the podcaster telling the brand’s story in their own way. If the creator gets it right, the users wants to stop and listen, not skip ahead.

Discoverability

8) The current challenge is reaching potential new users. Go direct to your audiences with links to, and snippets of, your content, e.g. Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. Users will often find the gateway show that pulls them in.

9) Listeners are discovering new podcasts by reading recommendations on podcasts themselves.

10) Curated podcast playlists are also becoming increasingly popular.

 

Are you familiar with the ‘smiling curve’ phenomenon? The details are provided here, but the short explanation is that a smiling curve depicts the value-add potential for each stage of an industry. For example, in the publishing space, you have three stages of content: creation, delivery and discovery. Those three stages are illustrated with a smiling curve here as part of a terrific article from Ben Thompson of Stratechery.

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