I'm a big fan of all types of publishing, from eBooks (obviously!) to print books, magazines and newspapers. Why? Because when it comes digital publishing solutions, we have a lot to learn from each other. Like book publishers, newspapers struggled to adjust to the Internet age (though newspapers arguably struggled more than book publishers). And while neither of us has "this Internet thing" completely figured out, there are some really exciting innovations happening in both camps.
Case in point: The New York Times has a new in-house analytics dashboard, Stela (which stands "story and events analytics"). Stela is a "tool that pulls in data from multiple sources and presents it in one place, with simplified visuals." Its purpose is to help the Times build an understanding of its audience, and to make that data approachable and simple to digest. That sounds a lot like what publishers tell us they want--a way to see all their sales data in one place in a format that's easy to understand and gives a more global picture of their content strengths.
While a lot of the data Stela pulls in around the effect of headline changes, etc. wouldn't be helpful to eBook publishers, a lot would. For example, "Stela breaks down other data points such as the percentage of readers coming to each story from different countries." What we're really talking about here is territories. Stela allows the Times to see clearly and quickly how each story is doing in different territories. Nick Kristof, for example, uses it to see "where readers of his international columns are coming from." Similarly, publishers could use a tool like this to see where readers of set in different countries, or that deal with international topics, are coming from.
Imagine what you could do with this kind of information easily available for your titles. You'd know in exactly which territories specific titles were doing best, which means you'd know exactly where to focus marketing dollars, as well as which retailers to focus on to reach those territories. And once you put those plans into action, you could adjust and optimize on the fly with nearly real-time data.
The Times also uses Stela to develop story ideas. It tracks user interest by aggregating data from the various Twitter feeds a story appears on and highlights them. Editors then use that data "to think about whether they want to do a sidebar or a followup story.”
It's not much of a leap to see how a tool like this could help publishers fill their pipeline. Maybe you have a new debut author and their book has been out a month or two. A tool like this would help you track their growth closely. If the growth is good, you this data could help you decide if want to sign this author for their next book now, before they get too hot. In other words, you can know early on whether or not you want to continue working with that author.
Additionally, a tool like this could help publishers with the types of books they sign. Perhaps, in addition to her amazing writing, the author in the example above has hit on a really hot topic. Having an analytics tool like Stela would help you see the growing interest in that topic quickly. From there, you could use that data to determine if you wanted to go out and sign other authors writing on similar topics. And you'd have this data quickly enough to get ahead of--and benefit from--potential new trends.
All this...it's just the tip of the iceberg. Because when you have data that allows you to understand your audience, and that data is approachable, you can make informed decisions that grow revenue and produce real, measurable results.
Have something to add? We'd love to hear from you.
Justin Marks is a Content Marketing Manager at Vearsa. When he’s not helping publishers run and grow their eBooks business, he’s running his own small publishing company. Oh, and he loves cookies.
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