Category Archives: Currents

Did Anyone Notice?

We all agree that in order for an ad to be effective, it must first be seen or read. Verso and HarperCollins had a unique opportunity to learn, through the magic of actual consumer research, just what kind of impact a specific print ad had on readers.
On December 9, 2009 HarperCollins ran a full page four color ad for Michael Crichton’s novel Pirate Latitudes in The Wall Street Journal. As luck would have it, the ad was running in an issue that had been designated a “Starch”  issue. Simply put, this meant that our ad would be part of a consumer survey conducted by Starch Research in which Journal readers who agreed to cooperate would be asked about their reactions to each of the ads in the designated issue. It is not often that we are able to participate in this kind of study and so we anxiously looked forward to what might be revealed to us. As it turned out we had to wait a couple of months for the completion of interviews and compilation of the information, but we were delighted with the results.
Out of the 51 ads in that day’s paper, the one for Pirate Latitudes ranked #19 in the category of “remembered the ad on their own and commented on it.” This put us 10% above index (110). Not bad. But as the interviews focused more intently on the content of the ad, Pirate Latitudes pulled ahead of the pack. In the area of “Read Some” (people interviewed who read any part of the ad’s copy) we indexed 121, the fourth highest rank among all the advertisers. And in “Read Most” (people interviewed who read half or more of the written material in the ad) we indexed 121 for a ranking of number 2!
But what made the study even more interesting were the reader comments. When asked “Which ad was your favorite and why?” the Harper ad received accolades! Herewith a sampling:
“It’s a great ad and a great author. The color stands out…the bold print is easy to read.”
“It’s big and colorful. The book must be a good read!”
The lesson seems to be that the best way to get the notice of consumers in print is with compelling graphics and  engaging copy, and that in a world full of products vying for our attention this is how we might have an impact on the decisions of potential purchasers. Book publishers, after all, excel at giving readers a deeply satisfying immersive experience. Their print ads should aim for the deepest level of reader engagement as well.

By Michael Kazan

#f8981d" title="PirateLatitudes" src="http://www.versoadvertising.com/inverso/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/PirateLatitudes.jpg" alt="PirateLatitudes" width="285" height="518" srcset="http://www.versoadvertising.com/inverso/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/PirateLatitudes.jpg 285w, http://www.versoadvertising.com/inverso/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/PirateLatitudes-165x300.jpg 165w" sizes="(max-width: 285px) 100vw, 285px" />We all agree that in order for an ad to be effective, it must first be seen or read. Verso and HarperCollins had a unique opportunity to learn, through the magic of actual consumer research, just what kind of impact a specific print ad had on readers.

On December 9, 2009 HarperCollins ran a full page four color ad for Michael Crichton’s novel Pirate Latitudes in The Wall Street Journal. As luck would have it, the ad was running in an issue that had been designated a “Starch” issue. Simply put, this meant that our ad would be part of a consumer survey conducted by Starch Research in which Journal readers who agreed to cooperate would be asked about their reactions to each of the ads in the designated issue. It is not often that we are able to participate in this kind of study and so we anxiously looked forward to what might be revealed to us. As it turned out, we had to wait a couple of months for the completion of interviews and compilation of the information, but we were delighted with the results.

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E-Book Pricing: A Split Opinion Among E-Reader Owners

Maximum price e-book readers will pay for e-books
Maximum price e-book readers will pay for e-books

Over 27% of e-reader owners are unwilling to pay more than $9.99 for e-books, while an equal number, 28%, are willing to entertain a range of prices up to $20.00. (The typical Amazon price-point for Kindle e-book sales is $9.99.)  Further, over 37% of e-reader owners have yet to form a firm opinion about e-book prices.

The results are based on Verso Digital’s 2009 Survey of Book-Buying Behavior, the full results of which will be presented at the upcoming Digital Book World conference, January 26-27 at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in New York City. Conducted in two waves during November and December, 2009, the survey polled 5,640 book-buying respondents, weighted to mirror the U.S. adult population.  The results are statistically reliable within a 1.6 percentage-point margin of error, at a 95% probability level.

The Survey further reveals that only a very small minority of e-reader owners, 7.5%, is willing to entertain prices typical of new-release hardcover books, $25.00 and above.  “The results suggest a much greater diversity of opinion among consumers regarding the emerging e-book market than the industry pundits allow,” says Jack McKeown, industry consultant and Director of New Business Development for Verso Digital.  “We think the survey results point to a potential ‘sweet spot’ for publishers in the $13.00-$18.00 price bracket, including the prospect of converting a lot of the undecided owners.  The results should offer some encouragement to publishers that have been struggling with issues of e-book pricing, timing and potential cannibalization of print sales.”

Could it be true that current e-book users are willing to entertain more flexibility in e-book price points than it first seemed?

E-Book Piracy a Growing Concern According to New Verso Consumer Survey

Percentage of e-book readers who use unregulated file-sharing services
Percentage of e-book readers who use unregulated file-sharing services

Over 28% of e-reader owners have used unregulated file-sharing services, such as RapidShare, Megaupload and Hot File to download at least one e-book within the last twelve months, and 6% have used such services to download ten or more titles during this interval.

The results are based on Verso Digital’s 2009 Survey of Book-Buying Behavior, the full results of which will be presented at the upcoming Digital Book World conference, January 26-27 at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in New York City. Conducted in two waves during November and December, 2009, the survey polled 5,640 book-buying respondents, weighted to mirror the U.S. adult population.  The results are statistically reliable within a 1.6 percentage-point margin of error, at a 95% probability level.

The Survey further reveals that questionable downloading, while affecting all age and gender brackets, is concentrated disproportionately among younger male readers. Among males aged 18-34, over 45% report engaging in such downloading activity within the past twelve months. Nearly 13% have downloaded ten or more e-books from file-sharing services, more than twice the level of the Survey population as a whole.

Jack McKeown, industry consultant and Director of New Business Development for Verso Digital, acknowledged that “the results are bound to set off ripples of alarm within a publishing industry already distracted by issues of e-book pricing, timing and potential cannibalization of print sales.”

What do you think?

7x20x21 for 2010!

As part of the lead-up to the Digital Book World Conference, Verso Digital is sponsoring the next 7x20x21 event this Wed., January 13 at 7PM. (It’s the same pecha kucha format and feel to the 7x20x21 event Verso helped spark for last year’s BEA). It promises to be a fun evening with some super-smart people — booksellers, marketers, artists, and more — who care deeply about books and have gathered together to give us all reasons to be optimistic about publishing. It will be held at the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery, NYC. For more details and to RSVP, you can go to the Meetup page.

Making Book Ads Work

“As publishers and authors strive to connect with their audiences through more channels than ever, what can the latest trends in book advertising teach us about how readers are engaging with books on the web and beyond?…”  Thanks to Charlotte Abbott, the Follow the Reader blog, and the #followreader community on Twitter for a thought-provoking week of interviews and live chats. Part one of Charlotte’s interview with Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson is here. Part two is here. And the tweetchat summary, “Book ads in the Publishing Ecosystem,” is here.

Verso Reader Channel-Nielsen BookScan Study

Point of sale data collected from Nielsen BookScan shows that Verso Reader Channel campaigns have a strong positive effect on book sales. A Verso Reader Channel study of the first thirty five Reader Channel campaigns shows a statistically significant .588 correlation between weekly sales increases (based on BookScan unit sales data) and number of impressions delivered via Reader Channels campaigns.

BookScanChart1

As the above graph demonstrates, there is a clear inflection point at the 1.5-2.0 million impression level. This means that campaigns that deliver 1.5 million or more impressions ($10,000 spend at the standard $6 CPM) yield dramatically improved results.

This study also shows that total impressions are a more important metric than click-through rates. The individual ads might not result in an immediate purchase or click, but the impressions increase buyer’s awareness. This supports what we found with recent campaigns in which average to below-average CTRs produced outstanding results in terms of site visits, awareness and, most important, sales.

Beyond the Click Through

From the beginning, online advertising has been touted as something altogether different from print, broadcast and outdoor—an advertising medium where you can truly measure results. Unfortunately, the reality is that when there is so much information to be had, it’s hard to know what’s worth focusing on. In fact, the full-on pursuit of ROI can distract not only from significant results but also from pursuing the kind of thinking we need to create truly innovative and effective marketing campaigns.

Most advertisers concentrate on click-through rate (CTR) as the definitive measure of any digital campaign. But several recent studies from comScore suggest that CTR is not the single most important measurement. By studying search, site traffic and consumer spending patterns, comScore has found a significant correlation between ad impact and consumer behavior for up to four weeks following ad exposure.

The Silent Clicke
from "The Silent Click"—(c) 2009 Online Publishers Association and comScore

You can see from this graph that online ads have a powerful “display” function that resonates beyond the campaign itself, and is not measurable by CTR alone. As Forbes reported on a 2008 study, “comScore found readers were 46% more likely to visit an advertiser’s site within four weeks of seeing its ad online than they were if they did not view an ad.” Verso Digital’s own experience with campaigns for book publishers supports these findings.

Our own projects—on the Reader Channels and throughout the digital sphere—indicate that the most relevant campaign metric is often not CTR, but numbers that reveal other user behavior such as site visitation, engagement, and, most important, sales. While generating outstanding site-engagement, some of our most successful campaigns in fact showed only average to below-average CTRs. In one case, a pre-sales ad campaign for Thomas L. Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded promoted free audio downloads. It led to over 99,000 downloads, 13,000 registered email addresses and 160,000+ users available for retargeting. In another case, an ad campaign promoting a key chain giveaway for John Grogan’s Bad Dogs Have More Fun led to over 100,000 people registering to learn more about the book. The publisher saw major traffic continuing for at least four weeks following the conclusion of the Verso Reader Channel ad campaign—with no additional publicity, promotion or advertising to support it.

CTR remains a useful metric, but only when considered in relationship to sales, traffic, search, and total impressions delivered. Campaigns on premium sites with a great book audience, such as the NYTimes.com, often generate CTRs well-above average. But because ads on the site are so expensive, the total number of people reached, and thus the total number of people who click through, is relatively small. For example, a $10,000 spend on a site with a $40 CPM results in 250,000 impressions delivered. When the CPM drops to $5, however, that same $10,000 delivers 2 million impressions. At a standard .1% CTR, $10,000 spent with a $40 CPM delivers 250 clicks. With a relatively below-average .05% CTR, $10,000 spent with a $5 CPM delivers 1,000 clicks. In this scenario, the campaign with the lower CTR actually performed better by delivering more users to the site. For this reason, CTR should always be considered hand-in-hand with total impressions delivered.

The goal of each new marketing campaign—and the measure of its success—must reflect the resources at hand and how you can best reach the community of potential readers. What doesn’t change is the need for flexible ideas and an ability to think through each niche effort in its full context.