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At the 2013 IfBookThen Conference in Milan I gave a presentation about ‚bookish data‘, and I will try to convert my ideas into this blog post. In order to provoke a debate about open and shared data in publishing and the importance of data analysis and data driven retail marketing and distribution, I introduced what I would like to call the ‚Trade Impact Factor‘. It represents one of the key concepts of my new venture and its first product called ‚Monitor‘, a tool for sales and marketing data analysis designed for publishers and authors.
The operative business of the publishing industry is undergoing a fundamental shift. Digital distribution and social media marketing are mere keywords of a massively changing environment. New ways of marketing content and approaching the reader are major challenges. Experiments can be useful, if publishers take the effort to learn from the results of their experiments. Important decisions need to be based on data analysis rather than on intuition. (Speaking of) Amazon, for example, can be considered the prototype of a successful, data-driven retailer in publishing exactly because of their radical focus on data analysis – and the actions that consequently follow it. Publishers can learn a lot from Amazon, although it might require a change in attitude, mentality and self-understanding, which is not always easy to achieve. Perhaps publishers will eventually become professionals in data analysis, if they aren’t already. Don’t underestimate publishers! The industry, the industry has recognized and acknowledged the crucial role of data analysis – and my new venture will offer the necessary tools.
Publishers have access to a lot of data, already. Much more additional information and data can be found on the web or will be available in the future – via API’s, which will obviously be offered by various companies, retailers, platforms, services, that will make a business out of it. Combined and analysed properly, these data can improve marketing and sales of books and ebooks or help to drive product innovation.
Let me present to you a short and non-complete list of different data which could be used for a smart analysis:
Monthly Sales Reports
Printbook orders as well as actual book sales are properly reported back to publishers on a daily basis for some time now. The analytic tools, which are offered by major distributors and market research companies, are quite impressive. When it comes to ebooks (which is the focus, here), publishers receive title related sales reports from the retailers only on a monthly basis. This seems sufficient to me, as the sales reports are mainly used for accounting purposes and royalty settlement with the authors. But for marketing and distribution purposes, the frequency of monthly sales reports clearly is not sufficient.
Daily Sales Trends
More and more retailers or distributors (at least in Germany) have improved their reporting and will be delivering sales trends back to publishers on a daily basis or even, yes, in ‚real time‘. Apple has introduced this positive development to ebook publishing, a knowledge transfer from the audio distribution business, which is appreciated very much. With a derivative of EDItX, the German ebook market has agreed on a standard for the exchange of monthly sales reports as well as daily sales trends. Well done.
But not only sales data should be taken into account for analytics of the ebook market. In fact, sales figures can be pretty reluctant, refusing to tell publishers the story of their genesis. To assess the relevance and dynamics of a title correctly, publishers better have a look at the trend indicators and context parameters that accompany their sales data as well.
Reviews on news and magazine websites or professional and even non-professional blogs can be quite important for book and ebook publishers alike. They need to be tracked by publishers, because – depending on the relevance of the author, blog or magazine – the opinion represented in a review can have a crucial influence on future sales – and on further reviews, just like customer reviews.
Customer reviews in shops, on review sites like Goodreads, Lovelybooks or social reading platforms like Readmill, provide a very detailed user feedback. They are a great way for authors and publishers to receive a proper feedback to their work. In most cases the contents of the reviews are accompanied, ‚summarized‘, by a more or less standardized (five star) rating, which helps to aggregate this kind of feedback automatically.
Imagine libraries and library aggregators providing the numbers of digital library lendings. Despite current friction between publishers and libraries, the transfer of lending data is just a matter of time. Especially as subscriptions services for ebooks (the natural competitors of libraries) will be making a virtue and business out of user analysis.
Sales Ranks And Topseller Lists
Authors and publishers staring at sales ranks and topseller lists.
Data from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ can be far more than just an alerting service for publishers! Of course it is interesting to keep track of the number of interactions, likes and shares across the various profiles. In the future, mentions and comments will be analysed in more detail by what is called: Sentiment analysis.
Ebook shops are in an advantageous position compared to publishers, as they control the customer and might not always be willing or legally allowed to share the data they have. But publishers do invest in their own stores and retail non the least in order to learn more about their customer. Very soon, ‚cooperation in data exchange‘ might even be an asset for retailers and platforms to compete in the market.
However, it will be interesting to have a look at the information: How customers were directed to the shops and titles, whether reading samples provoke up-selling, what customers buy the content, and what other products they might be interested in.
Authors And Publishers
Does anyone have an idea about the relevance of the number of Twitter followers, Facebook friends or subscribers of authors and publishers? What do peaks in traffic of their websites, social media accounts and fan pages mean?
It would be even more interesting to track marketing-, social-media campaigns or promotions. There seems to be a whole industry grounded on the fact that the feedback to these kind of activities can not be followed properly and marketing success can hardly be analysed.
Trade Impact Factor
The real challenge when dealing with loads of data (apart from getting ahold of them) is to make sure to deal with them in the right way. It certainly does not make any sense to merely present in a user interface all data that possibly can be collected. With Monitor, we would like to encourage publishers to ask the right questions first, so that the reporting can match the actual needs, and provide the right answers.
In addition to the creation of a useful reporting tool, one of our most challenging aims will be to conceive a measure for trending titles and their social impact! What is happening around the titles? Did marketing efforts succeed? We are convinced that it is important not only to keep track of daily sales figures. What if you had 50.000 downloads of an ebook as a result of a promotion, but no one reading the book? What if you had more social buzz than actual sales?
With Monitor, publishers can use the actual sales data and connect them with relevant context information to find out more about the background story of the numbers. For this we would like to create a measure called: The Trade Impact Factor.
The Trade Impact Factor will be able to reflect all the mentions, reviews, posts, citations, likes, shares, lendings, streams, subscriptions, downloads and sales. And certainly, the Trade Impact Factor must be considered a proposal for a debate on data analysis, which hopefully will create some feedback. Be assured that it will be a quite interesting proposal.
Mutual Exchange Of Data
Interestingly, many questions that have been raised above are not only posed by publishers but also by retailers. When it comes to marketing, publishers and retailers depend on each other. Retailers know their own customers via the platforms and accounts they control. But are they able to keep track of the relevant impact factors that provoke sales? Publishers start to learn more about their readers via blogs, fan pages, social media accounts, too – plus they coordinate marketing efforts, schedules and budgets.
With Monitor, not only publishers will get access to a lot of data, but also retailers. It is one of our company’s major goals to create an infrastructure for the mutual exchange of data between publishers and retailers in order to optimize data driven retail marketing and distribution.
In this network of publishing data, shops will provide sales trends and other data back to publishers. Publishers will provide data on the ,trade impact’ of their titles to shops, so that retailers will be able to compare title sales on their own platform with the attention for certain titles in the market.
There is a strong interrelation between marketing and promotion by the publishers and front page placements, newsletters, recommendation lists of the retailers. When both go hand in hand, supported by a timely exchange of data between both, this will benefit sales for publishers and retailers alike.
tl | dr
There is new ebook start-up company based in Berlin, who is offering big data monitoring and analysis for publishers and retailers, and will be creating a measure for trending titles called the ‚Trade Impact Factor’.