Audiobooks Capture the Market and the Imagination

Audiobooks are a Growing Market

Audiobooks are a Growing Market

Some of the most dramatic growth in the publishing industry has stemmed from audiobooks. From 2013 to 2014, audiobook sales’ profits grew by more than 13 percent. Some authors have even reported stronger sales from their audiobooks than from their print or ebooks.

Radio shows long ago faded from the headlines as television’s prominence grew. The smartphones and tablets that populate our world emphasize seeing, not hearing. So what is drawing people back to listening mode?

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Google Analytics for Ebooks

Who's Reading This Book? Ebook Analytics Reveal Reader Demographics

Who’s Reading This Book? Ebook Analytics Reveal Reader Demographics

Measuring engagement is nothing new for marketers, but the concept remains virtually untouched by the publishing industry. It often seems that publishers are more concerned about selling books than about pinpointing their readership demographics.

Knowing what types of readers their books attract would help publishers immeasurably. Understanding the makeup of their readership would allow publishers to direct advertisements and book recommendations toward their target audiences, ultimately improving their sales.

Currently, the e-reader platforms collect extensive information about their readers. They know who is buying, when they are buying certain types of books, and how much of their purchased books they have actually read. After Google, Apple, and Amazon have gathered reader data, they generally withhold that information from publishers. That leaves publishers with minimal information about their readers.

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Future Seems Better than Expected for Barnes & Noble

Barnes and Noble has risen in the face of Amazon

Barnes and Noble has risen in the face of Amazon

Scores of experts have predicted a premature end to Barnes & Noble. Amazon has made buying print and ebooks so easy and cheap, it is hard to imagine why anyone would venture out to a real bookstore. Cozy chairs and aromatic coffee notwithstanding, the appeal of a chain bookstore like Barnes & Noble has seemed to diminish over the past few years.

Surprisingly, B & N has taken a turn for the better. Its same-stores profit rose by 1.3 percent in the third quarter of 2015, and it plans to close fewer stores than previously projected. The book retailer is set to close only eight stores in 2016, representing its smallest number of store closures in the past fifteen years!

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Digital Magazines Breathing New Life into Industry

Digital editions of magazines are a game changer

Digital editions of magazines are a game changer

Magazine circulation has dropped steeply in the face of free websites. Scores of magazines have closed their doors forever, having been sidelined by online content, and magazine apps have failed to capture a significant audience.

All is not lost for magazine publishers, though. Sales figures of digital editions, also known as replica editions, have been steadily climbing since 2011, and they show no signs of slipping. In 2015, subscriptions to digital editions reached more than seventeen million, compared to two million in 2011. Incidentally, digital editions started to gain traction after 2011, which was the year that Apple launched the iPad; mobile platforms and magazine content are natural partners.

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Ebooks Adapt to Mobile in Small Chunks

Recent studies show that people prefer reading on a dedicated e-reader to reading on a tablet or smartphone; they appreciate the larger format and readable layout that e-readers offer. Nonetheless, by creatively modifying books, publishers can make them appealing to mobile users.

Adapting ebooks to mobile encourages reading on the go

Adapting ebooks to mobile encourages reading on the go

Some publishers have started to break down books’ content into smaller components to make them more mobile-friendly. The Apple App Store features two new e-reading apps that deliver books’ content in small snippets rather than all at once. Serial Reader and PigeonHole appeal to readers who want to digest only bits of books at a time, usually due to time constraints. Simon and Schuster also markets an iPhone App, Crave, that sends readers bite-sized pieces of new romance novels once a day.

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Enriching Ebooks Creatively

Enriched ebooks hold readers' interest

Enriched ebooks are interesting to read

While it’s true that officially recorded ebook sales have plateaued, some experts believe that ebook development is in its infancy. Ebooks are still in style, even though currently most are simply copies of print books in digital form. Enriched ebooks, which bring print books to life, are likely to boost ebooks’ popularity even further.

Some alternative versions of ebooks already exist, in the form of apps that allow readers to navigate the story. A different vision of an unconventional ebook would allow readers to click on a word to infinitely expand knowledge of that term. In this imagined form of enriched ebook, certain terms would be highlighted. Names, places, and key terms would most likely lend themselves to these types of links. When readers would click on those words, they would be brought to web pages that describe the term, videos related to the word, and/or maps that locate the term.

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News Publishers Find Friend in Facebook

Publishers can post complete news articles on Facebook

Publishers can post entire news articles on Facebook

News publishers have been confronting the problem of monetizing content for several years, but their efforts have achieved minimal success. Despite the shift to digital, most newspaper readership continues to be in print format, but newspaper circulation has fallen year after year. As a result, print newspaper ad revenue plummeted from sixty-five billion dollars in 2000 to less than twenty billion in 2015. Increases in digital ad revenue have not been beefy enough to compensate for drops in print revenue.

When readers do approach the online formats of news articles, they tend to read them on mobile devices instead of desktop computers. On average, they remain on those news sites for only three minutes per visit.

In response, many news publishers have toyed with various versions of paywalls, offering readers different levels of access based on payment. Charging for content has generally worked best for the largest publishers who have long-standing reputations for quality, while newer upstarts have had difficulty gaining paid subscribers.

Studies have shown that even when readers are willing to pay for content, the platforms are not user friendly enough to persuade customers to complete their transactions. Many publishers do not provide an easy and accessible content-buying experience or quick, secure payment methods.

Instant Articles Adjusts to Publishers’ Needs

When Facebook rolled out its Instant Articles program, it seemed to offer a solution to publishers’ woes. Publishers who paid to partner with Facebook would be permitted to post entire articles on readers’ FB feeds, instead of only posting links to articles that readers would have to click through to access.

The earning potential from FB ads is enormous. FB allows publishers to keep 100 percent of ad income if the publishers sell the ads themselves, or 70 percent of the revenue when FB sells the ad space. Facebook collects reams of information about its users, which allows it to customize ads and target readers effectively.

Initially, publishers complained that FB’s restrictive ad policy did not allow them to earn enough revenue to justify posting on FB instead of on their own sites. Fortunately, FB heard their cries and in December 2015, responded to their concerns by adjusting its ad policy. Now, there are more ads accompanying each post on Instant Articles, and publishers have seen an uptick in their profits. Monetization has improved, and publishers are more inclined to post a greater percentage of their content directly to FB.

Facebook is the dominant social network provider, boasting 1,100,000,000 estimated unique monthly visitors. Posting on Instant Articles instantly exposes publishers’ content to a vast number of readers, making it a wholly viable solution to the problem of monetizing news content.