Category Archives: Currents

Data-Driven Marketing at BEA

We had a lot of fun at the Data-Driven Marketing panel at this year’s Book Expo America. Thanks especially to Fauzia Burke of FSB Associates, who put the panel together and was our presiding genius. It was great to get insight from Kate Rados on Crown’s community development efforts and Elizabeth Dimarco on the BooksILove app. To view our part of the presentation click on the PDF attached here and scroll through.

Data-Driven Marketing at BEA

New Adventures in Contextual Marketing (and the Death of the Dancing Cowboy)

The financial collapse of 2008 did this one good deed: it killed the dancing cowboy mortgage ads. The dancing cowboys and their variations seemed to rule the internet in the years before 2008. Their endless loops of rotating .gifs were infuriatingly impossible to avoid, running mercilessly, irrelevantly adjacent to whatever you were trying to read, watch or look at. The makers of the ads couldn’t care less whether they ran on a site devoted to politics, motherhood, or game development. After all, who didn’t need an enormous time-bomb of an adjustable rate mortgage on a house they couldn’t otherwise afford?

There are certainly brands that use blind mass reach effectively. High-volume low-cost reach makes sense for a company like Coca Cola, for example, that not only truly appeals across all demographics and interest levels but also has the budget to market accordingly. Book advertising, however, is a radically different kind of product with a radically different budget. Whether a reader is a fan of Daniel Silva’s thrillers or Suze Orman’s guides to personal finance and empowerment, the decision to buy a book is highly personal and nuanced. Often the greatest indicator of what you want to read next is what you have just read. And that is why we believe in context first marketing.

Context first means serving an ad for a book next to the most relevant news, blog or entertainment content. It means creating an ad for a parenting book within the Parenting magazine iPad app that provides the user with new insights into parenting. Dancing cowboys might get your visual attention, but they work to distract you from what you came to the site looking for in the first place. Context first advertising gives you information relevant to the site you’re on and provides an opportunity to go farther.  Our job is not to stop readers from finding what they want, it’s to help them find more of what they want.

This is not a new philosophy for Verso Advertising. It has governed our media planning and creative development from the day we opened our doors. What’s a book ad in the NYTBR, after all, other than a contextually relevant ad? But while the philosophy isn’t new, the toolkit is. Digitals products are creating proliferating opportunities for contextual marketing—from Verso’s own Reader Channels to integrated sponsored content on mobile apps to rich media opportunities on every device.

One of these new opportunities is a venture that connects social media, engagement advertising, and contextual relevance in interesting and affordable ways: Say Media. Rich media used to be beyond the budgets of many of our publishing clients. Between ad construction and serving, it simply cost too much—even though the content offering and engagement benefits were clear. Say Media, however, builds rich media creative development, social linkage, and premium ad serving into every campaign budget—making campaigns affordable for medium- to high-profile book publishing projects. While some rich media such as full-page takeovers can be intrusive and disruptive to user experience, Say Media ads respect users first: an in-ad countdown banner indicates that the cursor is hovering and about to expand the ad window, and helps users avoid accidental clicks. They sell on a CPE (cost per engagement) model, so they have a material interest in serving the ad only to the most interested audience. If your project has interesting peripheral content available—a quiz, a game, a video, a slideshow of photos—an ad with Say Media can show interested readers the way to your book.

Beyond the click through — updated

Two years ago I posted that advertisers need to move beyond the click through.

Things haven’t changed much it seems. MediaPost reported yesterday on new research by ad network and technology provider Collective that suggests that click through behavior does not closely track buyer behavior. Some highlights:

> Online gamers clicked 43% more often than non-gamers. But did they buy more?

> Users on mobile devices click 123% more often than users on laptops and desktops. But happens after the click?

> Here’s where you see the break between CTR and sales: “the highest-performing CTR campaigns examined (top 20%) had a 150% higher CTR but an 8% lower post-impression action rate.”

Of course CTR still matters. But it has to be looked at in conjunction with context, creative, impressions delivered, and sales.

 

Will Independent Bookstores Seize the Day?

By Jack McKeown and Don Linn

“Borders ended up caught between the variety of the Internet and the intimacy of the independents. Its outlets could never stock as many books as Amazon. Nor could they duplicate the native flavor of the corner bookstores…As paper books become a niche product, niche retailers will be the best place to buy and sell them.” —Edward McClelland, “How Borders Lost its Soul,” Salon.com, February 19, 2011

Southbury is a town located in western Connecticut, part of a region known as the Central Naugatuck Valley. It is a town with both rural and suburban neighborhoods, and a charming historic district. With its four-largest neighboring towns, it comprises a book market of approximately 175,000 souls whose demographics skew to relatively affluent, highly educated and older, propelled by an influx of Baby Boomer empty-nesters and retirees over the last ten years. Two weeks ago, Southbury lost it sole surviving bookstore—a 22,000 square-foot Borders in Southbury Plaza, one of the two hundred superstores closed throughout the country as a part of the chain’s bankruptcy. The nearest Barnes & Noble is in Danbury, 22 miles away. The nearest independents are in Ridgefield and Washington, 20-to-25 miles distant—too far for a casual shopping trip. Without an enterprising independent stepping in to fill this vacuum, who could blame Southbury’s population for falling into the waiting arms of Amazon as the only viable alternative?

Towns like Southbury represent, in a nutshell, the challenge and opportunity confronting the independent bookselling community in the wake of Borders’ bankruptcy.Towns like Southbury represent, in a nutshell, the challenge and opportunity confronting the independent bookselling community in the wake of Borders’ bankruptcy. Suddenly there will be hundreds of sustainable, niche markets with no bookstore presence—a dramatic “supply gap” of physical bookstores of a scale that has not existed for forty years. A tectonic shift of the bricks-and-mortar retail landscape is upon us, whether we are ready for it or not. Not since the explosion of the mall stores in the 1970s, the chain superstores and big-box retail in the late 1980s, and the disruptive emergence of Amazon in the late 1990s, have we seen change of this magnitude and speed. Independent bookstores are about to face a critical test in the next couple of years, and how they respond to this emerging supply gap will determine not only their long-term future, but possibly the fate of the printed book as well.

The digi-catastrophists predict, now that we have reached 8-10% e-book penetration, that chain bookstores and independents alike are condemned to the same oblivion. That argument ignores a central truth: the chains and independents have evolved to present nearly antithetical shopping experiences. As Edward McClelland notes above, where do you locate the competitive advantage in a 150,000-volume superstore relative to the endless storefront of the internet? Independent bookstores, on the other hand, with their focus on finely curated inventory, hand-selling, and a robust program of local events and community outreach, offer a shopping experience that dramatically differentiates them from their chain competition. The independents could be well positioned to move into niche markets abandoned by the chains, while simultaneously upping their game on the Internet with programs such as Google eBooks and the American Bookseller Association’s IndieCommerce web-hosting engine.

What will it take for independent bookstores to seize the opportunity? Continue reading

Neighborhood Bookstore Development Bank

Back in November 2009, Jack McKeown published an idea in Shelf Awareness that he thought could make a big difference in making independent bookstores a viable business and a vital part of communities around the country.

In the wake of Borders’ bankruptcy, the idea takes on new life. Now, Don Linn and Jack McKeown expand on the opportunities for indie booksellers in an article in the March 7, 2011 Publishers Lunch (registration required).

Here is the sketch of the original proposal:

 

The Neighborhood Bookstore Development Bank (NBDB)

  • Inspired by the Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), a successful seven-year-old program to help finance new independent, neighborhood groceries in five states, and the National Infrastructure Bank proposed by Felix Rohatyn and Everett Ehrlich in 2008.
  • Structured as private bank to assemble a portfolio of bookstore investments.
  • NBDB Commission of experts operates at arm’s-length to evaluate business plans and approve loans.
  • American Booksellers Association (ABA) contributes mission charter and board memberships, assists in preparation of business plans through education programs.
  • Core mission:
  1. capital improvements and expansion of existing stores
  2. conversion from rental to ownership of storefronts
  3. create new bookstores in under-served markets
  4. convert historic buildings to adaptive reuse as bookstores
  5. upgrade systems, websites and e-commerce initiatives
  6. finance print-on-demand centers (e.g. Espresso Book)
  7. 60/40 balance between new / existing store development

 

  • Capitalized through initial round of paid-in equity and leveraged at conservative 3:1 ratio–$2.5 million in equity yields $10 million in loan-able funds.
  • Pool of investors could include ABA, national wholesalers (Ingram, B&T) and investment arms of publishing conglomerates.
  • Investor objectives are annual dividends and long-term appreciation, while supporting growth of key customer segment.
  • Capital would be callable beyond seed round with aim of $10 million: $40 million by year three.
  • Government (including Small Business Administration) involvement though grants or guarantees.

What Do Readers Really Think?

Learn about the results of the Verso Survey of Book-Buying Behavior

At the 2010 Digital Book World Conference, Verso presented the results of our first “Survey of Book-Buying Behavior” — creating a stir there that resonated with publishers, booksellers and readers as far away as England and Australia. Powered by the expertise of Burst Media, the Survey was conducted across the full breadth of the Reader Channel network in two waves during November and December, 2009. The Survey polled 5,640 book-buying respondents, weighted to mirror the U.S. adult population. Adhering to the highest standards of online survey data collection, the results are statistically reliable within a 1.6 percentage-point margin of error, at a 95% probability level.
Early reports from Publishers Lunch followed up on the Survey’s implications for two of the hottest topics in publishing—e-book piracy and e-book pricing—and generated immediate interest in book industry circles. The American Booksellers Association immediately saw how the Survey’s provides actionable data for their members, and invited Verso’s director of business development, Jack McKeown, to Winter Institute (Wi5) to give a keynote address on what the Survey results mean for independent booksellers.

VersoSurvey_chart11At the 2010 Digital Book World Conference, Verso presented the results of our first “Survey of Book-Buying Behavior” — creating a stir there that resonated with publishers, booksellers and readers as far away as England and Australia. Powered by the expertise of Burst Media, the Survey was conducted across the full breadth of the Reader Channel network in two waves during November and December, 2009. The Survey polled 5,640 book-buying respondents, weighted to mirror the U.S. adult population. Adhering to the highest standards of online survey data collection, the results are statistically reliable within a 1.6 percentage-point margin of error, at a 95% probability level.

Early reports from Publishers Lunch followed up on the Survey’s implications for two of the hottest topics in publishing—e-book piracy and e-book pricing—and generated immediate interest in book industry circles. The American Booksellers Association immediately saw how the Survey provides actionable data for their members, and invited Verso’s director of business development, Jack McKeown, to Winter Institute (Wi5) to give a keynote address on what the results mean for independent booksellers.

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Great Media Ideas You Should Consider

By Verso’s Media Department

Places We Love to Advertise Books:
.com — Home Page Advantage Pop-Up Menu — over 30,000,000 impressions for a very low $1 CPM. A great place to advertise well-known brands — our clients who publish a popular diet book loved it so much that they doubled the length of their campaign after first-wave results came in.
– Consistently a great place for books. It can nicely complement a television campaign and is extremely targeted. We have run many campaigns for everything from vampire books to children’s books, with great success.
— A good place to reach a broad audience for a relatively inexpensive CPM. News sites do a great job of increasing awareness about books in many bestselling genres, from business to fiction.
Phone Kiosks / Billboards — Phone kiosks continue to be an affordable way to advertise books. We can target by city and even by neighborhood, and kiosks start for as little as $250 each. We’ve recently secured some great deals on billboards in NY and LA—on Sunset Blvd in LA, and Times Square for as little as $40,000 for 4 weeks.
Media We Think You Should Consider:
Rolling Stone – For the first time in their history, Rolling Stone has dropped their print rates for us. We can now run a color ad for as little as $20,000 that will reach the magazine’s full 1.5 million readership. It may be known as a music magazine, but it has strong political and cultural reportage, and reader studies show that people who read Rolling Stone also read books. Haven’t seen the magazine in a while? Let your AE know and we’ll get you on comp.
The Week – A fabulous place for books. They dedicate about 10% of their edit to books, feature a different author’s favorite books each week, and reach an affluent, educated audience. We have great negotiated rates and can run an ad for as little as $8,000.
The Book – We think it’s very important to support publications and websites that review and promote books. If you aren’t aware of the New Republic’s new book offering, check it out at http://www.tnr.com/book
New Yorker  —  It’s always worth remembering that the New Yorker offers a full page 4/c ad for less than $45,000. The critics rate for a 1/3 page is about $11,000. And did you know that we can buy the New Yorker by region?
BBC.com – Another great place to reach a literary, affluent audience. We can behaviorally target to literary and entertainment enthusiasts. 74% of their users have purchased a book in the last 6 months.
Arthouse Movie Network – We feel that there’s a strong correlation between people who see movies (especially the kind of movies in the Arthouse network) and people who purchase books. And you don’t even need a produced spot to run in theaters. We can run :15 second flash ads – significantly cheaper to produce than standard broadcast quality ads – and you can run them in over 70 theaters on over 400 screens, for less than $25,000.

Places We Love to Advertise Books:

NYT_logo.com — Do you know about the “Home Page Advantage Pop-Up Menu”? It delivers over 30,000,000 impressions for a very low $1 CPM, and it’s a great place to advertise well-known brands. Our clients who publish a popular diet book loved it so much that they doubled the length of their campaign after first-wave results came in.

hulu_logo – Consistently a great place for books. It can nicely complement a television campaign and is extremely targeted. We have run many campaigns for everything from vampire books to children’s books, with great success.

cnn_fox_cbs_logos — These general news sites are not only a good place to reach a broad audience for a relatively inexpensive CPM, but they also do a great job of increasing awareness about books in many bestselling genres, from business to fiction.

Phone Kiosks / Billboards — Phone kiosks continue to be an affordable way to advertise books. We can target by city and even by neighborhood, and kiosks start for as little as $250 each. We’ve recently secured some great deals on billboards in NY and LA—on Sunset Blvd in LA, and Times Square for as little as $40,000 for 4 weeks.

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Design Notes: Simplicity Rules

By Verso’s Creative Team

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In the age of complexity, we respond to simplicity. This is as true for good ad design as it is for services like Google search and products like Apple’s iPhone. But two forces, one a legacy of print and the other from the bleeding edge of technology, are leading to more and more complex ads, and this is not necessarily a good thing. In a recent article in Ad Age, ad-effectiveness researcher Philip Sawyer observes that declining click-through rates in display ads may be stemming from increasingly complex ads.
Part of the problem is that technology allows creative departments to do so much more now than we ever could before. From expanding boxes to in-banner video to data-intensive flash tricks, it’s suddenly affordable—both in ad cost and memory cost—to produce exceedingly fancy digital ads. There’s a natural temptation to use all the tools at your disposal for every ad—as if a banner that uses 100k memory is somehow necessarily better than one that only uses 20k.  But complexity is often the enemy of communication.
But the other reason for the complexity is specific to book publishing’s history of print ads. Everybody in publishing knows that the right review in the right place can sell books. So it’s only natural that most print ads are driven by review copy—often trying to pack as many glowing reviews into a space as possible. This can be a highly successful tactic that takes full advantage of the print medium’s relatively large space and its audience’s long attention span. But that strategy must shift in the digital sphere, where ads run in a busy, ever-changing context, and where viewer attention-spans are wickedly brief.
In 2005, Sawyer was the lead analyst for a series of online-advertising-effectiveness studies that revealed that most advertisers made similar mistakes in creating online ads, almost all of which boil down to one bit of advice: “Keep It Simple.” Revisiting the survey, Sawyer found advertisers making the same mistakes in 2010 that they made in 2005. Here are Sawyer’s 7 deadly sins of digital ads:
1. They are too complex. 2. They take too long to get to the point. 3. They are ambiguous. 4. They are visually bland — or, worse, ugly. 5. They use Flash for the sake of Flash — not for a clear purpose. 6. They are often difficult, if not impossible, to read. 7. They are bereft of benefit statements.
This may explain why we occasionally see quick-and-dirty static .gifs perform better than labor-intensive flash masterpieces. When there is only one panel to work with, it imposes a discipline that fosters simplicity of approach and directness of message. And this is why some of our best performing ads did not feature quotes, but a simple free offer.
The best digital ads get right to the point, whether it’s an offer, a deal, or even if the point is simply “Critics Rave.”  Leave the details for the click through — no matter how great the adjectives nor (especially!) the lengths the reviewer goes to shower praise.

In the age of complexity, we respond to simplicity. This is as true for good ad design as it is for services like Google search and products like Apple’s iPhone. But two forces, one a legacy of print and the other from the bleeding edge of technology, are leading to more and more complex ads, and this is not necessarily a good thing. In a recent article in Ad Age, ad-effectiveness researcher Philip Sawyer observes that declining click-through rates in display ads may be stemming from increasingly complex ads.

Part of the problem is that technology allows creative departments to do so much more now than we ever could before. From expanding boxes to in-banner video to data-intensive Flash tricks, it’s suddenly affordable—both in ad cost and memory cost—to produce exceedingly fancy digital ads. There’s a natural temptation to use all the tools at your disposal for every ad—as if a banner that uses 100k memory is somehow necessarily better than one that only uses 20k. But complexity is often the enemy of communication.

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As Seen on TV: A New Approach to Advertising on Television

In spite of all the energy marketers are dedicating to harnessing the power and promise of new media, America remains a nation firmly entrenched in front of its television set.  There remains no better way to reach a large, mass audience than by advertising on this time-honored medium.  But while the incredible reach of TV advertising is alluring, the cost is often prohibitive to book publishers.  Cable channels can provide a cheaper, more targeted alternative to network buys, but even this requires a significant investment that is not always possible for publishers with large lists and limited marketing budgets.
In our ongoing search for new and more effective ways to advertise books, Verso is working with a new media partner that specializes in promotional television sponsorships. Extremely cost efficient and providing tremendous reach and frequency for a relatively small out of pocket, these “sponsorships” are essentially remnant ad space offered on a specific cable provider on a per market basis.  For example, a recent Verso campaign purchased both Verizon Fios and RCN in NYC and a different campaign purchased Comcast in San Francisco and Cox in Washington DC.  Unlike true remnant inventory the spots provided will always air between 6am to midnight.  Furthermore, our most recent campaign (targeting adults 50+) saw our spots running on highly rated and commercial programming such as Anderson Cooper 360, Larry King Live, Glenn Beck, The Dog Whisperer, Man vs. Wild, Desperate Housewives (Lifetime) and Grey’s Anatomy (Lifetime).
The chart below highlights the exceptional efficiency of these promotional buys:
Our campaigns have paid high dividends with strong returns on investment.  A December ‘09 campaign saw a $21k spend across five major markets yield $238k-worth of inventory and almost 14 million impressions.  A smaller campaign in January ’10 saw a $7k spend in a single market yield $170k worth of inventory and almost 7.8 million impressions.
The nature of the promotional model does not permit for precise demographic or program specific targeting.  However, by relinquishing this bit of control from a TV campaign we are able to dramatically expand the reach and frequency of our message.  Whether as a vehicle for expanding an existing TV campaign’s audience or as a means of getting a book with a small budget in front of an otherwise impossible number of eyeballs, promotional TV offers a unique solution for publishers.

By Dan Sharkey

In spite of all the energy marketers are dedicating to harnessing the power and promise of new media, America remains a nation firmly entrenched in front of its television set. There remains no better way to reach a large, mass audience than by advertising on this time-honored medium. But while the incredible reach of TV advertising is alluring, the cost is often prohibitive to book publishers. Cable channels can provide a cheaper, more targeted alternative to network buys, but even this requires a significant investment that is not always possible for publishers with large lists and limited marketing budgets.

In our ongoing search for new and more effective ways to advertise books, Verso is working with a new media partner that specializes in promotional television sponsorships. Extremely cost efficient and providing tremendous reach and frequency for a relatively small out of pocket, these “sponsorships” are essentially remnant ad space offered on a specific cable provider on a per market basis. For example, for one recent campaign, we purchased both Verizon Fios and RCN in NYC; for another campaign, we purchased Comcast in San Francisco and Cox in Washington DC. Unlike true remnant inventory the spots provided will always air in the strongest dayparts, between 6AM and midnight. Furthermore, our most recent campaign (targeting adults 50+) saw our spots running on highly rated and commercial programming such as Anderson Cooper 360, Larry King Live, Glenn Beck, The Dog Whisperer, Man vs. Wild, Desperate Housewives (Lifetime) and Grey’s Anatomy (Lifetime).

The chart below highlights the exceptional efficiency of these promotional buys:

CableTV_chart

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Foursquare and Beyond

Location-based marketing comes into its own
By Tom Thompson

Foursquare_logoOne of the most promising new ways to let people know about books is location-based marketing. Of course location-based marketing has been around as long as there’ve been street teams, billboards and bar coasters, but the field is opening up in exciting new directions thanks to recent innovations.

We share in the excitement for services like Foursquare that we heard from the slew of publishing industry pros who attended the recent SXSWi  conference. We think there’s a lot to explore there, from building plot-based treasure hunts on Gowalla to unlocking book-related badges on Foursquare.

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