YouTube

The growing BookTube community has become a powerful marketing tool and publishers are beginning to take notice. BookTube is an online community of people who are passionate about books and create YouTube videos about what books they have recently read, purchased, or are looking forward to being released. Some of the biggest names in BookTube have hundreds of thousands of subscribers and are able to promote their favourite books to large audiences of potential readers. There is currently very little statistical research about the content that BookTubers produce and how that influences the publishing industry. For the purposes of this project data was gathered from the ten BookTubers with the largest subscriber counts about the types of videos that have been produced in 2017. Through the analysis of this data and considering the format of BookTube videos as well as the books that are being featured within this community it is evident that while BookTube is a powerful marketing tool it also reproduces many of the existing power dynamics within the industry between large and small publishing companies.

The most popular type of videos within the BookTube community are videos that rapidly discuss many titles. This includes bookstore hauls, monthly updates on what books were read, listing anticipated upcoming releases, or tag videos where BookTubers answer a series of book related questions. These videos not only make up a substantial amount of the type content that BookTubers are creating but also are often the most viewed videos on the channel. These videos that feature many titles but only a brief description of each very much resemble the popular online format of list articles or “listicles”. Listicles are defined by Nordquist (2017) as following a standard two-step format:

First, you need an introductory paragraph that sets up the article by explaining the purpose of the list. Since these articles are straightforward, the introduction should be brief and to the point. Second the list is presented in either a bulleted or a numbered format.

BookTube videos such as hauls, monthly updates, anticipated releases, and tag videos also follow this format. The reason for the list is briefly introduced with a sentence or two, such as “these are the books that I read this month”, and is then followed by a quick discussion of each book. The transition between each title is minimal and typically done with a “jump-cut” where the transition is edited out in post-production. The other key element of these listicle style videos is that brevity is crucial, this is because “contemporary media culture prioritizes the smart take, the sound bite, the takeaway-and the list is the takeaway in its most convenient form” (Nordquist, 2017). Viewers do not click on these listicle style videos and anticipate a detailed review of a book; the expectation for these videos is that each book will be discussed in a minute or less. When examining the type of videos that the top 10 most popular BookTubers have created in 2017 it is immediately apparent that listicle style videos make up the majority of book related content and that some channels such as Katytastic only use the listicle format for book related videos. For the purposes of this study the type of content that BookTubers produce were broken into three categories; reviews-any video that discusses a single title, listicles-any video that discusses numerous titles, and non-book related videos-any video that does not directly discuss the content of any book such as vlogs.

In fact when examining the overall type of videos uploaded by the top 10 BookTubers this year it is clear that listicle videos are the majority of content formatting, followed by non-book related videos, and finally detailed book review videos make up a small overall percentage of content being uploaded.

Listicles and therefore listicle style videos are organized in a pattern that aids memory. Konnikova (2013) explains that the structure of listicles allows for:

both immediate understanding and later recall, as the neuroscientist Walter Kintsch pointed out back in 1968. Because we can process information more easily when it’s in a list than when it’s clustered and undifferentiated, like in standard paragraphs, a list feels more intuitive.

Therefore listicle BookTube videos are more likely to have the viewer remember the information that is being presented and if they are persuaded by the BookTuber’s presentation of the title they are more likely to remember the title the next time they are purchasing books. This is obviously something that publishers would be interested in because it could potentially raise the visibility of their titles in a significant way. This however raises the question of if listicle style videos are able to adequately persuade viewers to purchase a book if it is only discussed briefly amidst many other titles. There is currently very little research about what type of BookTube videos result in viewers purchasing books so a comparison must be drawn with other ways that publishers gain visibility within the book market. If book being featured in listicle style videos are seen as comparable to books being placed face-out on a bookshelf in a bookstore then books that are featured in review videos are comparable to books being placed on a display. The books in the listicle videos are still being given more visibility than other books but not as much as a book that has an entire seven minute video dedicated to it. The listicle nature of BookTube still is a powerful marketing tool but it is limited by its focus on brevity.

One defining feature of BookTube is that there is an expectation of what books should be reviewed and many titles are reviewed by large portions of the community. This therefore reduces the number of unique titles that are being promoted within the BookTube community. When comparing the titles that have a review video created about them by the top 10 BookTubers there is a considerable amount of repetition of titles being reviewed.

Given the minimal amount of reviews produced in the BookTube community this means that  the number of titles being reviewed is even smaller yet. This means that it is very difficult for a publisher to have their books be featured prominently on a BookTube channel through a review. Similarly the type of books that are being promoted on BookTube are predominately produced by major publishing companies. When examining the books that have a dedicated review video produced by one of the top 10 BookTubers in 2017 it is clear that over two thirds of reviewed books are published by one of the Big Five Publishers (Hachette, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster). The titles that are published by other publishers are mostly published by Bloomsbury which is still a larger publishing company.

This leaves very little room for smaller publishing companies to compete to get visibility within the BookTube community in a significant way. The type of books that are most likely to attract a BookTuber’s attention are ones that are highly anticipated through expensive pre-publication marketing promotions or by paying large advances to secure the most popular authors. Due to the repetitive nature of the BookTube community this means that popular titles produced by major publishing companies are promoted multiple times within the community. Philbrick (2016) explains that the type of books that are promoted on BookTube channels follow six pieces of criteria: the books are recent releases, they are hardcover, they are written by a popular or mainstream author, they are published by a major publishing company, they are ordered from a major book distributor such as Amazon, and they have existing hype. Philbrick goes on to say that this sends the message that “used books, library books, mass market books, paperback books, ebooks, indie books, etc. are all somehow inferior”. This results in powerful marketing for major publishing companies that is inaccessible to small houses. Therefore BookTube actively reproduces the existing dynamics within the publishing industry; the major publishing houses continue to turn a sizeable profit due to the sheer scale of their operations and small publishing companies cannot compete. It should be considered that the scope of this research was limited to just the ten most popular BookTubers in 2017 but that other BookTubers are potentially willing to feature smaller publishers’ books that could still reach audiences of thousands of people.

By gaining a better awareness of some of the structures that influence the BookTube community it is evident that while this is a potentially powerful marketing tool for publishers it is still very limited to major publishers. Small publishing companies struggle to have their content featured in a meaningful way by the major BookTubers and most of the community continues to reproduce similar content. BookTube is still a relatively new community and it continues to grow and evolve, so while it is currently dominated by books produced by the Big Five Publishers that is not to say that this will not one day change. Publishers should continue to be aware of the BookTube community and the power that it holds in reaching younger audiences.

 

Works Cited:

Alsherg, S. (n.d.). abookutopia. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/abookutopia
Bissett, A. (n.d.). Ariel Bissett. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/ArielBissett
Burlin, A. (2015, February 13). Book Publishing Comes to YouTube. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/65605-book-publishing-comes-to-youtube.html
Daspin, E. (2016, June 22). From shelfies to BookTube, publishers embrace video. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2016/06/22/shelfies-booktube-publishers-embrace-video-vidcon/86146422/
Feeney, C. (n.d.). Little Book Owl. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/LittleBookOwl
George, J. (n.d.). jessethereader. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/jessethereader
Herdt, Z. (n.d.). readbyzoe. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/readbyzoe
Konnikova, M. (2013, December 3). A list of reasons why our brains love lists. The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/a-list-of-reasons-why-our-brains-love-lists
LeBlanc, H. (n.d.). Hailey in Bookland. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/hailsheartsnyc
Nordquist, R. (2017, May 8). What’s a Listicle? Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms [Educational]. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-listicle-1691130
Okrent, A. (2014, February). The listicle as literary form. The University of Chicago Magazine. Retrieved from https://mag.uchicago.edu/arts-humanities/listicle-literary-form
O’Keeffe, K. (n.d.). Katytastic. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/Katytastic
Perusse, R. (n.d.). PeruseProject. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/PeruseProject
Philbrick, N. (2016, January 13). The 3 Dangers Of #Booktube. Retrieved from https://youwritefiction.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/the-3-dangers-of-booktube/
Poole, S. (2013, November 12). Top nine things you need to know about “listicles.” The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/nov/12/listicles-articles-written-lists-steven-poole
Riccio, C. (n.d.). polandbananasBooks. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/polandbananasBOOKS
Thompson, D. (2013, December 17). 7 reasons lists capture our attention (and confuse our brains). The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/12/7-reasons-lists-capture-our-attention-and-confuse-our-brains/282414/#disqus_thread
Vliegenthart, S. (n.d.). booksandquills. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/booksandquills

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.