At this time last year, Google had formulated its plan to launch Google Print — an end of the year event that prompted us to proclaim 2004 the year of the technology comeback. 2005 saw the aftereffects of this techno renaissance, with publishers both embracing technology as it moved into the mainstream (think viral marketing), and fighting against it (think AAP lawsuits; an interesting addendum is the recent Hitwise stat that 10.8% of visitors find e-tailers through Google).
Despite lingering trepidation, publishers are more seamlessly integrating the internet into their publishing programs. However, some are still suffering from a case of traditional tunnel vision—recording successes based on old criteria, rather than acclimating themselves to more non-traditional methods of reaching the reader.
The commodification of books and fragmentation of the retail landscape has continued this year as non-books and non-bookstore sales proliferate, forcing publishers to acknowledge the increasing importance of non-traditional markets and venues, from grocery stores to sporting goods outlets.
Digital opportunities abound: an uptick in audiobook sales, as downloads become real; online promotion and retailing by publishers; digitizing—and therefore making permanently accessible—backlist titles; traditional book clubs emulating Netflix in hopes of reviving weary readers (PT March ’05). The more we look back on the successes we’ve recorded, the more panglossian we feel. Here’s to 2006.
Gift Cards, Bob’s Feed Barn, and Marketing on MySpace
In one of our most talked about articles of the year Talking Grapefruits Thinking Grisham (April ’05), we investigated what is fast becoming the consumer currency of choice: gift cards. By the end of 2004, 80% of all American adults had received at least one gift card, with 90% classifying their gift card experience as “very positive.” The effect on books? Surveys show that consumers are spending more while shopping at fewer stores, and with shoppers seeking out gift cards as first-choice gifts rather than as last minute fillers, prescient patrons are now going to CVS with the express purpose of buying gift cards to Barnes & Noble.
Sainsbury’s in the UK became the first supermarket to sell National Book Tokens, essentially acting as an agent receiving commission for driving traffic and sales into book stores. Similarly in the US, supermarkets and drug stores sell gift cards—the Barnes & Noble-Safeway deal brings a B&N presence to the A&P, Stop & Shop, Lowe’s, and the like. Studies show that when card holders come to redeem their cards, they often take two store visits, and overspend the card’s face value by 40%.
Cross-marketing and cross-promotion have been much talked about across the industry this year. In Marketing Makeover (Oct. ’05) we examined the ways in which publishers are trying to define and reach a new generation of readers as well as reassess their older demos. Sue Fleming, VP Marketing Director Simon & Schuster said, “Before, most publishers felt that marketing focused on retailers—on book placement, book promotion in stores. In my experience, it’s turned into something else entirely. There are many more mediums within which to work, to use as tools, and the lines between each are grayer than they used to be.”
These “tools” have come to include everything from video book trailers to MySpace profiles and websites for fictional characters, all with the end goal of creating word of mouth by turning prospective readers into consumers, and getting them to do the marketing.
On the distribution front, 2005 witnessed the re-entry of publishers offering warehousing and fulfillment services. Distributors, in turn, found themselves stepping up by expanding their scope (E.g. distributing internationally, or into non-traditional markets).
The proliferation of distributors peddling the latter option, brought us to an examination of specialty distributors (July ’05) that sell books into everywhere from JoAnn’s to Bob’s Feed Barn.
Aural Fixation, Christians, and Some Overly-Smitten Scrapbookers
In addition to retail crossover, 2005 witnessed increased crossover between publishing categories. In Aural Fixation (Sept. ’05) we devoted an entire issue to audiobooks. Audible saw competition on the horizon for the first time with Amazon’s announcement that they will begin offering digital downloads from their site next year, and with MediaBay and Overdrive (aggregators of digital content) forming an increased number of partnerships with publishers.
Lines between Christian and Trade markets continued to blur with growth on all fronts. In Crossing Over (May, ’05), we recounted that religious book spending recorded a double digit gain for the second consecutive year increasing 10.7% to $2.9 billion. Although much of the growth can be attributed to the American public’s growing religious fervor, the most successful religious titles are embedding themselves into other genres—think Christian chick-lit (West Bow’s Savannah in Savannah), crossover inspirational (Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life), and Mystery/Thriller (The Left Behind Series). Many books put out by Christian imprints are not easily recognizable as such, abandoning the dogmatic for messages hidden within the seemingly secular.
Finally, multi-platform publishers are taking advantage of the diversification—finding common footing and drive behind purchases in subject matter and particular niche markets (e.g. scrapbooking) rather than through a specific publishing platform, be it strictly books, magazines, etc. These tightly integrated synergistic powerhouses have been steadily streamlining and gaining momentum, consolidating, acquiring, and expanding to be able to dominate categories, and capitalize on crossover.
All of the aforementioned articles are available on our website, www.publishingtrends.com, or subscribers may contact us for copies of any story missing from their own archives.