Tag Archives: Verso Reader Channels

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.

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.


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.

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.

Continue reading