Monthly Archives: June 2009

Mobile comes of age

After years of hearing about mobile’s future potential, the market is now fully available to both consumers and advertisers. We have several plans in place to run on relevant apps within the iPhone and Blackberry environments. Because the marketplace for ads has not yet caught up to new consumer habits, it is now possible to gain significant Share Of Voice (SOV) with, for example, the New York Times’ popular iPhone and Blackberry apps. As advertising catches up with these new habits, we expect the costs to rise dramatically to gain this level of SOV. But now is a great time to reach these high income, plugged-in, book-buying audiences for budgets that work for even mid-list titles.

Looking forward, the devices will change, the media will transform, unit size and availability will continue to shift. But whether we’re using Facebook, Twitter, the next mobile device or simply “old-fashioned” flash ads, any marketing strategy must be highly targeted to the most engaged reader pool possible. As the tools evolve, our commitment remains single-pointed: to reach and develop readers, book by book.

Reaching readers through social networks

We know book readers are online, but where can we find them? The first place to look is on the major social networks, particularly Facebook. As reported in the May 18 New York Times, Nielsen confirmed that “Internet use for ‘short-tail’ sites with large audience reach has evolved since 2003. The change is from portal-oriented sites…to social networks.”

Facebook v. MySpace

While social networks were defined for a time by MySpace, American audiences—particularly the audience most likely to purchase a book—have gravitated primarily to Facebook. Despite its recent tailspin, MySpace remains a vibrant network for users interested in music. But for nearly every other category of interest, Facebook is now number one.

In the last six months alone, Facebook has grown from 50 million active U.S. users to 55 million and gains more everyday. Importantly for publishers, the fastest growing demographic is age 35+. It’s now even bigger than the 18-24 age bracket.

Advertising on Facebook, however, can be a challenge. By design, Facebook hampers our ability to deliver premium ad content and determine relevant location, pushing ads off to the side in an unobtrusive column with a small, single, static .jpg for art and limited room for copy. Facebook’s ability to micro-target means that ads do perform reasonably well on the network—in line with most online CTRs of .1-.12%–but certainly not as well as they could given the network’s ideal demo for readers.

Facebook Applications

Verso Digital currently recommends running campaigns on Facebook apps instead of on Facebook itself. Apps keep users within the FB environment and have all the advantages of Facebook—viral connectivity, ease of use, user engagement, and micro-interest ad targeting.  But apps offer several unique advantages, including a pool of highly engaged users (and thus increased potential for viral outreach), greater creative flexibility (including flash and video-enabled rich media), and superior adjacency to relevant content. Recent campaigns have shown not only a significantly higher CTR with Facebook apps than with FB itself, but also an even more potentially powerful viral component. One of the most prominent examples of this viral potential is the “Visual Bookshelf” app: every time a reader puts a book on his or her “Visual Bookshelf” or writes a review, that message goes out to all of his or her Facebook Friends—120 on average. That’s a lot of value for each action taken. And it suggests another kind of answer for publishers and authors to the problem of shrinking book reviews. Neither blogs, GoodReads, or Facebook alone will answer the fill the gap left by disappearing print book review publications. But each represents another strand in the fabric of how readers are making new decisions about what to read next.

New Bowker data on building book audiences through digital media

While book publishing faces its greatest challenges in decades, new Verso Digital initiatives aim to do more than simply gain market share in a declining market. Our goal is to grow readership by reaching out to each book’s interest-group in targeted, measurable ways across multiple digital platforms.

As readers’ attention shifts from print to digital media, the old ways of reaching potential readers no longer work as well as they have in the past. This migration of attention, coupled with declining foot traffic in brick-and-mortar bookstores, makes it imperative that we reach potential book buyers where they are most active and engaged with their subject matter.

The latest data from RR Bowker confirms that this migration has already occurred. For the first time, average hours spent online has recently passed hours spent watching TV. Consumers are increasingly learning about books online.

This shift means that book marketing needs to move from a mass mindset to a niche one. When ads are broadcast across mass channels such as national print newspapers, radio and TV, the ads need to speak as broadly and loudly as possible. But ads can no longer be merely disruptive plays for attention. With micro-targeting now possible across a multitude of devices, advertising should be considered a service rendered to particular, interested readers, not a blanket message aimed at them. That’s why we created Verso Reader Channels–to target a reader pre-disposed toward a particular book’s subject, when and where he or she is interested in learning about it. Doing so not only increases our chances of converting attention to a “buy,” but also increases the chance of the message spreading virally across networks of like-minded readers.

Verso Reader Channels Partner with Book: The Sequel

This year’s BEA was thrilling like a reverse roller coaster ride. Instead of the rush that comes from plunging from a coaster’s heights, this year’s show began in the trenches but quickly launched upwards through exciting conversations started in the aisles, over cocktails (especially at the Verso-sponsored BEATweetup), and among the terrifically diverse and focused information panels—including the inspiring 7x20x21 panel sparked by our own @DBerthiaume and turned into reality by Macmillan’s dynamic online marketing duo of Ryan Chapman and Ami Greko.

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