digital

AMAZON, THE UNDEFEATED AUDIOBOOK CHAMPION?

Audiobooks are undoubtedly the fastest growing segment in the publishing industry. The global audiobooks market is valued at $3.5 billion (Kozlowski, 2016) and the format has not seen the dwindling sales that eBooks have over the past couple of years. Rather it can be argued that audiobooks have replaced eBooks on readers’ metaphoric shelves. Carter (2016) reported that the format is outselling print editions too with Richard Thaler at Amazon claiming that “books in every imaginable genre [are selling] better as spoken rather than written word ­– four times as well” to be exact (Olshan, 2016). Unlike what Octavio West (2017) suggests, audiobooks are clearly proving that books do not have to be “printed to fully exist”. As the ‘new face of the publishing industry’, they offer readers the chance to multitask whilst giving them an adequate reading experience (“Are You Still Listening?”, 2015). In an age where time is nothing short of a luxury, audiobooks are the pioneers of literature on the go.

It is no wonder that numerous organisations are battling each other for a piece of this lucrative market. With Amazon declaring that they are the “unmatched… largest producer of digital audiobooks” in the world (“What is Audible?”, 2017). “Largest” most likely but “unmatched” is up for contention. Using quantitative and qualitative evidence, this essay will argue that Amazon is ruling the auditory waves and pioneering the audiobook market. This reign may be curbed however if individual publishers merge their functions, to specialise in techniques that the conglomerate has not tapped into.

 

Amazon’s general presence in the book industry has been met with controversy, hostility and outright disdain. The main accusations being that the company is undercutting traditional publishers and acting as a monopoly both in bookselling and on the functional front. Insert the recent news of the Amazon Buy button here for a small glimpse into the ire of traditional publishers. The launch of the Kindle eReader in 2007 is what catapulted Amazon to “major player” status in the industry and is also what spearheaded doubts that digital formats were on the path to replace print books. What was for the most part ignored in all of this was that Amazon was building an auditory empire too, when it purchased Brilliance Audio in the same year and Audible for US$300 million in 2008. Brilliance Audio was the largest independent audiobook company in the United States, a market with $1.8 billion in audio sales (Kozlowski, 2016) .

By 2013, The Atlantic had reported that

“60 percent of audiobooks were downloaded to digital devices, and nearly all of those came from Audible or through its long-standing license to supply audiobooks to Apple’s iTunes.” An important aspect to note here is the not-so-surprising collaboration with iTunes, one of the world’s most encompassing auditory platforms found on almost every Apple product. This partnership bought Amazon an unparalleled amount of visibility. Gorey (2017) describes it more succinctly: Amazon and Apple “ran the two largest distributors of audiobooks in the world, with no room for any smaller third-party operations to compete”. Their exclusive, monopolistic relationship despite it being deemed illegal in countries such as Germany equipped both and in particular Amazon to dominate the market today.

In 2016, Forbes reported that Amazon and Audible were the most frequently used audiobook online retailers, Audible seeing 20.7% of purchases (compared to 14.2% in 2014) and Amazon seeing 21.0% (compared to 21.5% in 2014). Listed here as two separate companies but functioning under one umbrella, the Amazon Group as of 2016 controls 41.7% of online audiobook sales. The company performed a feat of cross-marketing genius: linking its audiobook service to its Kindle eReader and Amazon Prime Reading whilst advertising Audible on almost every popular podcast in the world (Carter, 2016). Listeners of podcasts are more likely than anyone to jump on to the audiobook wave. Good eReader performed an earlier more qualitative study corroborating my reasoning and proving that Audible is the primary place to shop for Audiobooks:

“The most popular audiobook genres in 2016 were mystery, thriller, romance and fantasy/science fiction. 53 people voted and it looks like Audible is the most popular service, which garnered 16.6% of the vote.” (Kozlowski, 2016)

 

Whilst these figures clearly show that Amazon is leading the retail side, they fail to take into consideration the presence of libraries, free downloads and good old pirating (see below).

 

 

Amazon is manning the commercial front but free/public access is still drawing the largest crowds. If Amazon extends its “free for one month” Netflix-style subscriptions and includes a deal offering numerous free audiobook downloads, then libraries might be in serious trouble. Until then, they can hang on to their lifeboats of government grants and rest assured that they are still the most popular place to acquire audiobooks.

 

On the commercial front, “discoverability is [the utmost] important consideration for audiobook publishers”  (Duffer, 2016). To prove this, I performed a basic experiment and typed “audio book” in Google search on both Safari and Chrome. Amazon’s “Audible” was the first result to show.  Like hoover is to vacuums and Kleenex is to tissue paper, Amazon is making its subsidiary synonymous with the term audiobook. It is therefore not surprising that Audible is mirroring its parent company through its expansion into the world of self-publishing with their Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX)  service.

 

“ACX is a marketplace where authors, literary agents, publishers, and other Rights Holders can connect with narrators, engineers, recording studios, and other Producers capable of producing a finished audiobook. The result: More audiobooks will be made.” (Yau, 2016)

 

Through ACX, Amazon is making itself the primary meeting place for all of those with a stake in the audiobook industry. By facilitating the production process, they are positioning themselves as a necessity; fostering long term relationships with the other players in the industry and listeners alike (Maxwell, 2012) whilst solidifying their position in what Jane McGonigal dubs “the engagement economy”.

 

Where is Canada?

There is a general lack of Canadian content in audio format. BookNet Canada reported that out of 1.1 million active records and 21 650 audiobooks in 2015, only 398 had Canadian contributors (BNC, 2015). Outsourcing content from the United States has become the norm, as expensive as it is, it is aggravated by the fact that there are only a handful of audiobook producers in Canada (Carter, 2016). Audible has set itself the task of changing this. Their ‘mandate’ is to provide Canadian content on their Canadian eStore, Audible.ca, where “approximately 300,000 titles reside, thousands of which are by Canadian authors and publishers” (Carter, 2017). Audible is also making its presence known on the Canadian literary scene by sponsoring the most prestigious prize in the country, the Giller. This is a further attempt by Amazon to make the company a household name. Audible Canada is also the company’s first bi-lingual store, which Audible’s chief content officer calls a “unique and immersive experience for French Canadians” (Carter, 2017). Attempting to bridge the tense language divide in Canada is the smartest business move on Amazon’s part. Furthermore, Amazon is able to jump on whatever wave is currently popular with a quicker turnaround than its competitors. For example they are offering Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale audiobook for free to any first time subscribers. It is needless to say that this book has been the buzz book in the industry this year as a result of its TV adaptation. Strategically offering Canadian content and promoting a nationalist front in an age where Canadians are increasingly responding to audiobooks, is a marketing strategy for the gods.

So what about the competition?

According to Kevin Williams from Talon Books, audiobooks are extremely expensive to make and independent publishers cannot burden the cost on their own. On the contrary companies like Amazon are benefiting from economies of scale as they are large enough to host the infrastructure needed to produce the books. Other multinationals with successful audio arms such as Hachette, HarperCollins and now Penguin Randomhouse, are also benefitting from advantages attributed to size. I believe that independent publishers in Canada will not be able to compete in this market unless they merge their auditory arms. ECW is one of the publishers pioneering these “collaborations”; with help from Coach House Books. Both have spearheaded a project to publish 100 audiobooks using Canadian content and local resources (Yau, 2016). Mergers are the lifeboat in this Amazon world.

Macmillan Audio’s collaboration with hoopla digital is necessary to deter Amazon’s monopolistic advantage in online retail. Whilst the Audiobooks.com partnership with Android Auto to bring 60 000 titles to over 60 million cars within the next five years is a feat Amazon has not tapped into yet (Kristons, 2015). Audiobooks.com allows subscribers to stream their books whilst Audible, Amazon and Apple offer downloading options only. The biggest collaboration that will withstand Amazon is that of Kobo and her sister company Overdrive. Overdrive is “the largest company [powering] 75% of all Canadian and US libraries audiobook and e-book collections” without leaning on a third-party distributor (Carter, “Kobo” 2017). Libraries go beyond the scope of Amazon’s reach by  offering audiobook services for the blind or partially sighted alongside people with other disabilities. The need for libraries will never wane. The only reason Overdrive is at a disadvantage is because multinationals are reluctant to provide them with content. On the commercial side, however,  Kobo entered the audiobook subscription market in September 2017 by pricing its books at $12.99 as opposed to Amazon’s $14.95 a month. Time will tell whether this will have an impact on Amazon’s clientele.

 

Lastly, publishers need to be innovative in this fast-paced environment. Audible has partnered with dog psychologist Cesar Millan to create Audible for Dogs, a guide to help people care for their pets. Unless other publishers match this level of experimentation, they will remain invisible and a step behind. It is my belief however that constant alliances, the larger they are, are the only way to weaken Amazon’s grip on the audiobook market. Until then, may their kingdom continue to reign.

 

Works Cited

 

  • Are You Still Listening. (2015). BookNet Canada. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://www.booknetcanada.ca/are-you-still-listening

 

 

 

  • Carter, S. (2017). Kobo enters the audiobook subscription market | Quill and Quire. Quill and Quire. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://quillandquire.com/omni/kobo-enters-the-audiobook-subscription-market/

 

  • Duffer, E. (2016). Forbes Welcome. com. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellenduffer/2016/12/30/canadian-audiobook-users-favor-amazon-and-audible-over-itunes/#67c4494e55fc

 

  • Gorey, C. (2013). Amazon and Apple will now allow third-party audiobook sales in EU. Silicon Republic. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://www.siliconrepublic.com/companies/audiobooks-amazon-apple-audible

 

 

 

  • Maxwell, J. (2012). Amazon and the Engagement Economy (repost) | Publishing @ SFU. sfu.ca. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://publishing.sfu.ca/2012/11/amazon-and-the-engagement-economy/

 

  • Olshan, J. (2016). Forget e-books, this may be the real future of reading. MarketWatch. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-some-audiobooks-sell-four-times-as-well-as-their-print-versions-2015-12-08?siteid=rss&rss=1

 

 

  • West, Octavio. “The Printed Nature of Books.” PUB800, 3 Oct. 2017, https://tkbr.publishing.sfu.ca/pub800/2017/10/the-printed-nature-of-books/. Accessed 28 Oct. 2017.
  • What is Audible?. (2017). custhelp.com. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from http://audible.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4436/~/what-is-audible%3F

 

  • Yau, K., & Yau, K. (2016). Audiobooks: State of the union. BookNet Canada. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://www.booknetcanada.ca/blog/2016/8/5/audiobooks-state-of-the-union

Works Consulted

  • Beyond Audible: Other Options for Audiobooks. (2017). Costa Connected. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from http://costaconnected.com/beyond-audible-other-options-for-audiobooks/

 

  • Greenberg, S. (2016). Macmillan Audio Joins hoopla digital; Publisher Will Provide Audiobooks on hoopla digital to Public Libraries in Pilot Program. Marketwire. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/macmillan-audio-joins-hoopla-digital-publisher-will-provide-audiobooks-on-hoopla-digital-2017204.htm

 

  • Kozlowski, M., & Kozlowski, M. (2017). Harlequin Audiobooks Now Available for Libraries. Good E-Reader – eBook, Audiobook and Digital Publishing News. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://goodereader.com/blog/audiobooks/harlequin-audiobooks-now-available-for-libraries

 

  • Kozlowski, M. (2017). Penguin Random House Audiobook Sales Increase in 2017. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from http://tps://goodereader.com/blog/business-news/penguin-random-house-audiobook-sales-increase-in-2017

 

  • Staff, Q. (2017). The explosion in ebook lending | Quill and Quire. Quill and Quire. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://quillandquire.com/omni/the-explosion-in-ebook-lending/

 

  • Staff, Q. (2017). Canadian Accessible Library Service to serve print-disabled patrons | Quill and Quire. Quill and Quire. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://quillandquire.com/omni/canadian-accessible-library-service-to-serve-print-disabled-patrons/

 

  • (2017). Libby can give you access to tons of free books and audiobooks on your phone with just your library card. Android Police. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from http://www.androidpolice.com/2017/04/06/libby-can-give-access-tons-free-books-audiobooks-phone-just-library-card/

https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/7/16109228/cesar-millan-audible-for-dogs-psychology

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/633429-is-audible-worth-the-membership/

 

Introduction

In the summer of 2014, The New Yorker did something many had thought unthinkable: it lifted the paywall to its digital archive, granting readers free, unlimited access to over seven years of quality journalism (Ellis 2015). Before that summer, the magazine had boasted “one of the most airtight subscription systems” on the Web, allowing nonsubscribers access to only about 25% of its articles in any given week. But editor Nicholas Thompson was confident it was time to introduce a new digital policy and launched what Ellis (2015) would later call a reader’s “Gold Rush.”

Was the switch to free a sound business decision or a catastrophic mistake? For The New Yorker, at least, the all-you-can-read buffet model worked out in its favour. Five months later, the magazine successfully introduced a metered paywall system in which visitors could read up to 10 free articles a month before having to pay for access. Not only did this strategy result in a 30% jump in unique visitors, it also boosted paid subscriptions by a shocking 85% (Ellis 2015). This strategy thus enabled the magazine to reach new readers, expanding its audience and increasing advertising revenue, while also drawing subscription revenue from its more dedicated readers. In doing so, The New Yorker cleverly transformed a “gold rush” for readers into one for publishers.

Importantly, though, The New Yorker isn’t just a magazine; with over 90 years of material in its archive (“About Us” n.d.) and an audience of 4.7 million (“The New Yorker Media Kit” 2016 ), it’s a veritable cultural institution. In a world where readers have access to virtually unlimited free web content, The New Yorker may be among the few publications capable of monetizing its online presence. Smaller, less-established publications may lack the kind of reach and reputation needed to transform free readers into paying subscribers; indeed, even larger magazines like The Toronto Star have tried and failed to implement working paywalls (Williams and Pickard, 2015). Hence, as alluring as The New Yorker’s success story is, it should be taken as the exception, not the rule, of digital magazine publishing.

Although many believe there is money to be made from online content, others are confident that it’s simply “impossible to compete with free” (Jeff Jarvis 2015). The big question for small magazines, then, isn’t how to monetize digital content, but whether it’s possible at all. In what Jarvis calls “a media ecosystem built on abundance,” the question arises whether digital content has any value at all. When information is free and everywhere, can digital paywalls ever succeed?

Context: An Ecosystem of Abundance

Many periodicals became interested in pay-for-use web business models over the last decade, as the industry started seeing dramatic cuts to advertising revenue. From 2006 to 2014, for example, the newspaper industry witnessed a 30 billion dollar drop in ad sales (Williams and Pickard 2015). “Magazines,” writes Thad McIlroy, “while not as severely challenged as newspapers…are clearly on the Internet hit list” (2015). Over the last decade, consumer magazines have witnessed drops in ad volume as large as 25% (“Consumer Magazines: Ad Pages by Publication” 2013); for many news magazines, that number is closer to 50% (“News Magazines: Ad Pages by Publication” 2013). The drops in ad sales are largely the result of drops in magazine sales, which fell by nearly 10% in the United States in the first half of 2012 alone (Audit Bureau of Circulations, via Roy Greenslade 2012). And while digital editions are on the rise, their growth is marginal compared to these losses: as of 2012, digital editions represented less than 2% of the total magazine market (Roy Greenslade 2012).

These numbers continue to grow, of course, as more and more readers are turning to online content. Almost 40% of US readers report accessing news online or on a mobile phone (Pew Research Center, 2012) and nearly 10% of Canadians report reading digital magazines (“Number of Canadian Digital Magazine Readers Up 57%” 2014). By charging readers a fee to access content, paywalls and digital subscriptions hypothetically transform these readers into revenue. Indeed, publications like The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal seem to have found success with this model. The Gannett Company’s digital subscriptions accounted for more than $100 million of its revenue in 2013, for example; for The Times, that number was $169 million in 2014 (Williams and Pickard 2015).

But even optimistic reports concede that building up a digital subscriber base can be hard work. Magazines Canada’s recent report on the subject, for example, states that “even a well-known brand like Vogue…has seen a slow uptake on digital” (“Magazines in the Digital Age: How to Create and Sell Your Digital Edition” 2014). North Americans may be reading more and more online, but, for the most part, they aren’t doing it through subscriptions. Although a percentage of readers still regularly look to specific publications for content, many prefer a piecemeal approach, reading a scattering of single articles from many different sources. For news websites, for example, these casual readers or “fly-bys” make up a whopping 93% of unique visitors (Williams and Pickard 2015). Charging readers for access to an entire magazine when most of them only want a single article just isn’t practical.

Williams and Pickard (2015) argue that “hard paywalls ma[k]e sense for only ‘the most essential news providers’—places where readers cannot find the same information elsewhere.” This is why magazines like the The Wall Street Journal, which publishes content that directly pertains to readers’ career success, are able to charge flat access fees. For bankers and others working in finance, the content The Wall Street Journal publishes cannot be replaced by a simple Google search; the magazine is the definitive resource for the industry. General consumer magazines and literary journals, on the other hand, may not be seen as essential by their readers. When their are countless free alternatives available online, charging for content “creates a necessary walled garden around it” (John Paul Titlow 2012). While subscription or paywall models may work for the most dedicated readers, for fly-by readers—the main source of advertising revenue—they likely will not.

Hence the thinking behind “soft” or metered paywalls like The New Yorker’s, which only charge readers for access to content once they’ve reached a given monthly quota. These models capture revenue from the most dedicated readers—the readers who visit the site frequently and read multiple articles—while also retaining fly-bys and, by extension, advertising dollars. A number of publications, including Harper’s and The New York Times, have successfully implemented metered paywalls over the last five years. But many others, such as Huffington Post and The Toronto Star have removed them altogether.

While the situation doesn’t look good for general interest publications, some smaller, more specialized magazines such as The Dallas Morning News have managed to draw revenue from online subscribers (Wells 2013). In 2009, the publication decided to increase its prices by 40% to make up for slow advertising sales. Although the company saw a 12% dip in subscribers, it now draws about 32-33 percent of its total revenue from subscribers and is pushing to increase its prices again. Publisher James Moroney thinks one reason The Dallas Morning News’ can compete with free sources because it offers readers in-depth analyses and new perspectives that others do not. Mike Klingensmith of The Star Tribune Media Co. agrees. He believes that paywall models work for smaller papers because they have “unique, local content the the readers want” (Wells 2013). Since introducing a paywall in 2011, for example, The Star Tribune connected with over “27,000 people [it] didn’t have a subscription relationship [with] before” (Klingensmith, via Wells 2013). Like The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News and The Star Tribune have found a way to make their content indispensable—or at least, valuable—to readers by providing something competitors do not. Perhaps, then, paywalls can turn profits, but only for publications that offer information or opinions that no one else is (and that readers actually care about), a difficult feat in today’s increasingly crowded digital world.  

Value in the Digitized World

Klingensmith and Moroney raise key questions about perceived value. Research in economics and marketing, as well as from within the magazine industry itself, suggests that consumers perceive value differently depending on its context. Magazines Canada, for example, asserts that credibility, quality, and interest increase an article’s value (“Digital Magazine Media Fact Book” 2015). Much of this value stems from a magazine’s print reputation; in a 2014 survey as many as 71% of survey respondents agreed that they “trust a magazine or newspaper website as much as the magazine or newspaper itself.” This research suggests one reason why digital offshoots of longstanding print publications like The New Yorker can successfully implement paywalls while digital-only publishers like The Huffington Post cannot. But value judgments are also influenced by a content’s digital format; “Magazine website content,” the Fact Book argues, “rates ahead of sites provided by newspapers, TV, social networks and other media” (2015). The fact that readers still associate online magazines with their “turstworthy” print counterparts may play a role in this finding, however. So although readers may favor magazines over other publications right now, it remains to be seen whether this will hold true in coming years, as more and more publishers opt to go digital-first or digital-only.

Publication frequency and complexity of content can also affect readers’ value judgments in the digital realm. Magazines Canada, for example, argues that “you can charge more for an enhanced product, and attract a different and larger pool of advertisers” (“Magazines in the Digital Age: How to Create and Sell Your Digital Edition” 2014). They encourage publishers to include more multi-media features in their digital editions and websites. Others, on the other hand, believe that customers may perceive “simplicity (amid a roiling sea of digital content) as a value worth paying for” (John Paul Titlow 2012). Related research suggests that audiences value frequently updated content above all else, including quality and quantity of information and reliability of the brand (“Digital Magazine Media Fact Book” 2015). This is reflected The New Yorker‘s switch to what Deputy Editor Pamely McCarthy refers to as the Washington Post model: “get[ting] things mostly right,” without enlisting “an army of fact checkers” (via Ellis 2015). While print editors often take months perfecting a single article, online editors simply don’t have the same luxury—and apparently don’t need it. Online “readers are looking for…a persistent connection to the magazine and their favorite writers” (Ellis 2015)—quantity first, quality second.

Finally, there’s the undeniable problem of free content. One reason the Huffington Post’s iPad edition didn’t sell well, Titlow (2012) argues, was that “readers were already conditioned to expect free content from the HuffPo brand”. Free, it turns out, is a very special price. In a series of experiments, researchers Kristina Shampanier, Nina Mazar and Dan Ariely found that consumers perceive free differently than any other other price (2007). “When people are faced with a choice between two products, one of which is free,” they conclude, “they overreact to the free product as if zero price meant not only a low cost of buying the product, but also its increased valuation.” In other words, free products are often more desirable simply because they are free—regardless of quality, reliability, or any other factor. No matter how inexpensive a magazine’s digital subscription is, when the competition provides the same information for free—even at a loss in quality—the competition will likely win out.

Conclusion

As Craig Mod aptly puts it, “Tablets are eating our paper” (2012). More and more readers are looking online for news and entertainment, consuming it more haphazardly, and paying less and less for it than ever before. To serve these readers, magazines need to go digital, but to go digital, they need to restructure the way they think about revenue. While subscription-based models may work well in the print world (a debate in and of itself), they just don’t cut it online. With endless competitors offering the same content for free, paywalled magazines need to convince readers that they are exceptionally valuable. Even with added multimedia features, frequent updates, unique perspectives, and trusted print counterparts, however, the power of free may still be too strong and the perceived barrier of the paywall too high. No matter how much the industry wishes it weren’t so, charging for digital magazine subscriptions just doesn’t make sense.

Unless you’re a renowned multinational magazine with more than 4 million subscribers and a 90+ year archive, that is. Then you can pretty much do whatever you want.

References

Cooking with video

Now that personalized entertainment is more readily accessible than ever, people are experiencing bursts of entertainment anywhere an internet connection is available. As video consumption has shifted from prime-time to all-the-time–and to address this shift in behavior, there is a need for new marketing models when it comes to video strategy. No longer do people have to share the television, when they can access the web.  Are publishers waiting for them when they log-in?

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capitalist firm that has helped build and accelerate growth at pioneering companies like Amazon, Google, Lending Club, Nest, Twitter, projects that by 2017, 74% of all internet traffic will be video (Meeker, 2015), and with mobile watch time on YouTube already surpassing desktop in 2015, the time for brands to make sense of their online video content marketing strategy is now — like yesterday.

Three hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, so when a consumer turns to their mobile device, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, they can choose from a nearly limitless library of on-demand content. This makes what they choose to watch more personal than ever.

What is a video micro-moment?

When consumers looks for answers, discover new things, or make decisions, (this sounds like a good opportunity for any number of books/magazines), these instances are called “micro-moments,” a term coined by Google. They can happen in search, on a brand’s website, in an app, and, increasingly, they are happening on YouTube.

These moments of intent are redefining consumer behaviour. In order for a company to win at video micro-moments, they have to know how to identify them and how to respond.  

Video micro-moments generally fall into four broad categories:

video-micro-moments-what-do-they-mean-for-your-strategy-chart

In a micro-moments world, intent trumps identity.

Lucas Watson, VP of Global Brand Solutions and Innovations at YouTube, suggests that brands can remain relevant and useful by understanding the intention of their prospective consumers. Though it remains significant to know “who” the consumer is (age, gender, interests, etc.), for the video micro-moment play to work, one must understand “why” and “what/how”. Why is this person searching and what do they hope to do/how do they intend to use the information, once they have it. Is there other related information that could be presented? In a micro-moment world, intent trumps identity.

Publishers have an opportunity, books and magazines, as media for the transfer of information, have built up consumer trust. People are willing to turn to books and magazines to 1. be entertained, 2. be informed, 3. learn “how-to,” 3. purchase (primarily magazines).

Creating video content can be expensive, and there may not be enough time, money, or other resources. The recommendation is to create content gradually and build an engaging library over time. With a traditional production mind-set, this may sound daunting, but to produce at scale requires rethinking that production process, and getting a little help while you’re at it.

create-collaborate-curate

 

 

 

 

That’s where “CCC” comes into play—Create, Collaborate, Curate. The idea is to use this framework to “feed the content monster,” so that content creation—video production, specifically—no longer feels like a barrier to entry into the video marketplace.

Some publishers have already begun using this model, most notably, Harper Collins. They started an online video content division in 2010, focused on Young Adult books, called Epic Reads.

They have gained over 10.5 million views to date and use the CCC model to some degree. They are currently continuing their efforts to aggressively  target collaboration opportunities, and to branch out beyond the obvious “new book release” tagline.

Start up costs may seem prohibitive, but at this juncture the book crowd must flex the brain muscle to figure out how to get his done or face loosing more ground to other media formats. There exists opportunities to create high quality videos on a small budget, e.g. working with up coming videography groups or  film students, even if infrequently, and using  other collaboration opportunities to generate the additional content, perhaps with YouTubers looking for content, as the CCC model suggests.

Here’s some on the CCC model:

Create

The first type of content in the CCC framework is created by the brand. It feels like the brand, captures the brand’s tone, and offers a more traditional creative polish. It tells a story about the brand that’s entertaining, educational, or inspiring. “Create” content might simply be entertaining video that gets people’s attention, or it might deliver on the specific micro-moments we talked about earlier, such as how-to content in an I-want-to-do moment.

Collaborate

This content is the product of the brand’s collaboration with digital influencers. It’s often content that features a YouTube creator and is produced and promoted in partnership with the creator’s channel. Ultimately, the goal of “Collaborate” content is to help brands broaden their relevance and connect with a uniquely engaged fan base while leveraging the expertise of experienced creators.

Curate

Make a story, arrange the videos into distinct groups to be enjoyed by the consumer in a block, at their leisure. An example is a series of videos with interviews or DIY tutorials.

Book publishers are in the game, many medium to large outfits have some online presence, but are they branching out to meet their consumers, or are they predominantly waiting on consumers to be interested in a particular title and then go searching. How can they bring people to the books without screaming “hey, new book!” Here are some recommendations on that front (some already being used by the other side of the business, the magazine gang).

1. Identify the micro-moments where your audience’s goals and your brand’s goals intersect

 

what-brands-stand-for-what-audiences-care-about-venn-diagram-3

People go to YouTube millions of times each day, looking for videos that meet their needs, wants, and interests. Once a publisher has mapped out their consumer’s micro-moments, they can then move to understand their own place on the map: Where does the brand have the right to play?

Beauty brand Sephora, for example, knew that beauty content on YouTube grew by 50% from 2014 to 2015 and that YouTube searches related to “how-to” were up 70% year over year. For Sephora, how-to videos and tutorials were the magical intersection of the brand’s beauty-centric message and its audience’s beauty needs. That how-to and tutorial content now makes up more than 60% of Sephora’s library of video content. (ThinkWithGoogle, 2015)

Closer to home, in magazine world, TeenVogue started a YouTube channel back in 2006, to meet their customers where they live. They were ready and waiting. Their articles, and advertisers offer information and products on health, celebrity gossip, social issues, and much more.

teen vogue

2. Be there when your audience is looking with useful content that answers their needs

With an understanding of the pathways your consumer might take, plan a strategy to intercept them at the most opportune times. The first step is creating relevant, useful YouTube content that adds value in those key micro-moments. The second is making sure your brand shows up when they need you, with organic and paid search, for example, or with shopping ads on YouTube.

3. Help your audience find you, even when they’re not looking, with relevant video ads
Even when people aren’t actively looking for answers, brands can “delight” them by showing up with messaging that’s relevant to their interests. That means going beyond demographic targeting and connecting with viewers based on signals of intent or context.

Here are some scenarios:

  • Create — A person is online searching for fantasy related information e.g. are ghosts real, what are some super human abilities? Perhaps run the video below as an ad, before they watch the content they searched for:

  • Collaborate — A Beauty YouTuber wants to create another beauty vlog, but wants to set it a part in some way from all the others she has done, and all the others that the other Beauty Vloggers have done. A publishing house wants to promote a new book it thinks is hot and the lead character at some point in the story gets all “glammed” up. Here’s an opportunity to cross-pollinate — this YouTuber has 16, 000+ subscribers.

  • Curate — Put all those lovable videos you’ve created or collaborated on into a playlist, you’d be surprised that people will sit and let one video run into the next, after they’ve clicked through from their search for superhuman strengths or their quest to find out the truth about ghosts.

Finally, context is key, beyond sharing video ads before or during video content, you can share your ads when people are in the mood for that messaging. For example, when consumers are already watching a commentary video on feminism, then perhaps an in-video ad on a book about successful women in the workplace or how to be successful as a woman in the workplace would be a good fit.

It is important to be where the customers are, not just in terms of where they are when making purchases i.e. on e-commerce sites, but also where they lounge around, and hang out with friends (real or of the online variety). There are even opportunities to meet consumers in real time via some sites, but that can be discussed at another time. Companies that prove themselves useful and relevant in the most micro-moments—will establish the greatest brand equity in an era of infinite consumer choice. If your brand isn’t there in your audience’s moments of need, another brand will be.

Sources

  • Google Consumer Survey. U.S. online population ages 18-34; n=385. April 2015
  • Google Data, Q1 2014–Q1 2015, U.S.
  • Google Consumer Surveys. U.S. 10 platforms surveyed: YouTube, Hulu, ESPN.com, Facebook, ComedyCentral.com, Tumblr, Instagram, Vimeo, AOL, MTV.com.  March 2014
  • Larson, Kim. Building a YouTube Content Strategy: Lessons From Google BrandLab. www.thinkwithgoogle.com. Google. July 2015
  • Meeker, Mary. “2015 Internet Trends Report.” Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. May 2015
  • Watson, Lucas. “Video micro-moments: What do they mean for your video strategy?.” www.thinkwithgoogle.com. Google. October 2015
  • The Consumer Barometer Survey, Question asked: “Why did you watch online video(s)” n=2,119, Base: internet users (accessing via computer, tablet or smartphone) who have watched online video in the past week, answering based on a recent online video session, 2014/2015.