Here’s the first part of our two-part interview with Bethiaume and Thompson about how readers are discovering books through ads, and some recent campaigns that reveal smart ways to allocate book advertising dollars.
Look out for the second part of the interview this coming Thursday (December 3, 2009), with a discussion about how to measure an ad’s effectiveness and Verso’s vertical ad network, which reaches roughly 60% of the web and more than 110 million unique users a month.
And on Friday (December 4, 2009), Bethiaume and Thompson will be the guests on our weekly #FollowReader conversation on Twitter, from 4-5pm ET. To follow to our discussion in real time and contribute your own comments, go to TweetChat and type in #followreader.
Q&A with Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson
What important new trends are you seeing in how readers discover books?
Tom: Readers discover books now the way they always have: through friends, family and communities of interest. What’s new is how these groups are communicating and the unprecedented opportunities to reach them at a relevant moment in the conversation.
Denise: We feel the biggest potential for growth right now is with vertically-oriented sites or networks, whether that means an ad network like the Verso Reader Channels, or a site that caters to a particular enthusiast base, like Tor.com is becoming for Sci-Fi readers, or Harlequin’s new publishing venture, Harlequin Horizons.
Tom: Also, Sourcebooks’ brand new PoetrySpeaks.com is likely to become for poetry readers.
Do book ads influence readers as much as in the past? How are they maintaining their relevance in a world where people don’t trust ads and marketing as much as they used to?
Denise: People treat ads with the same amount of healthy skepticism they always have. As advertisers, we have to know our audience and speak to them in a way that respects who they are and what they want.
Tom: Trying to pull one over on your audience or talk down to them in some way is simply insulting, and a waste of everybody’s time and money.
Denise: The major difference in ad placement now versus ten years ago, is that you used to be able to reach booksellers, wholesalers, authors and agents with a single ad in the New York Times. The Times is still the best place to reach a good portion of the book business. But you can’t count on reaching the majority of consumers that way anymore.
Tom: The mechanism [for reaching the book market] has splintered, and the consumer that publishers once simply left to the booksellers to worry about now needs to be every publisher’s focus. That means that the publisher has to reach out to a book’s readers wherever they are: whether it’s military history enthusiasts on military sites, sports fans on sports sites, or parents on parenting sites. The web obviously makes this kind of targeting easier than ever.
Denise: The trick now is to target each book’s audience and yet also reach the kind of scale that we still enjoy on TV, radio, and, yes, print venues like the Times.
Do print, radio, TV or online ads give the most bang for the buck in terms of reach?
Denise: The latest Nielsen stats on media reach offer some perspective: 95% of the adult population is reached via broadcast TV; 77% is reached via broadcast radio; 64% via web; and 62% via print.
If an author or publisher has a limited advertising budget, where is the best place to spend the money?
Tom: Well, it depends how much money we’re talking about! Certainly for the most limited ad budgets — $5-$10,000 — online is the way to go. But in terms of number of people reached for each dollar spent, radio is often the most efficient way for publishers to reach large numbers of people – as long as you have $20k plus. For the biggest budgets, however, TV still provides the most significant mass reach.
Denise: But there’s a good reason the bulk of our business remains in print. Even though print circulations are precipitously declining, newspapers and magazines are still (for now) a great place to reach the older (40+) wealthier segment of the population, the people who buy print books. The New York Times circulation is now under million. But it’s still reaching more than 900,000 readers every day.
How should online advertising fit into an overall advertising strategy for publishers and authors?
Denise: Online advertising is best used in concert with everything else that’s working for a book: publicity, promotion, community outreach, reviews, building bookseller enthusiasm. With nothing else happening—no publicity, no author platform, no news tie-in—an ad isn’t going to go very far working on its own.
Tom: But if an ad offers something of value to a relevant audience, and happens at the same time as word is building in other media, it will make a difference.
What kinds of online book ads are readers most actively responding to now? Is it necessary to have a video ad rather than a flash ad to make an impact?
Denise: Readers respond to any message or offer, however high or low tech, that’s relevant to their interest or need. Generally, rich media (including video) performs better, but that’s often because the immediate value-offer is more apparent. But rich media requires a bigger budget, since third party servers like DoubleClick or Point Roll are crucial for optimum serving and reporting.
How necessary is it to run a contest or give something away in your ad, like an audio download or keychains or other gizmos?
Tom: These days, a free excerpt alone isn’t enough to elicit a click– unless it’s a highly newsworthy person or spectacularly timely piece of information. FSG, for example, ran a highly successful campaign that featured an interesting twist on the free excerpt model for Thomas L. Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded. Over a month before the hardcover’s on sale date, FSG offered free audio downloads of his entire last book as well as an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming title. This ten day pre-pub online ad campaign led to nearly 100,000 downloads (and tens of thousands of email addresses). You can read more about the campaign on our site.
Denise: Another successful campaign was for the Vanguard Press title Bad Dogs Have More Fun. Taking advantage of the author’s previous success with Marley and Me, Vanguard ran a simple promotion offering a free keychain to the first respondents across hundreds of pop culture websites on Verso’s Pop Culture Reader Channel. The book’s website was deluged with over 100,000 people registering to win. (You can see Bad Dog creative at http://www.versoadvertising.com/online/).
Tom: In both cases, the publishers did more than create a promotion that offered the audience something it wanted. They let the potential audience know the promotion existed! The “Build it and they will come” theory of online marketing is pure fantasy.
NOTE: Look out for the second part of the interview this coming Wednesday (December 2, 2009), with a discussion about how to measure an ad’s effectiveness and Verso’s vertical ad network, which reaches roughly 60% of the web and more than 110 million unique users a month.