Prepare your playing field

Arguably, the five most important topics for the publishing industry are audience building, social listening, marketing automation, machine learning and augmented reality. Audience building is the most important topic for all types of publishers, be it a book, specialist, academic or schoolbook publisher. Social listening, marketing automation and machine learning are subordinate to this because they are “only” tools that a publisher needs to build an audience. Augmented reality is therefore somewhat isolated and out of the ordinary. This topic is important because augmented reality will become the new interface between men and machine, i. e. what the touch screen is today.

Audience building is so important for two reasons. Firstly, stating the obvious, publishers need an audience in order to sell their content, and secondly, audience building is a goal in itself. Unlike social listening, for example, which is a necessary evil to achieve this goal. Achievement of objectives can be measured and from these measurements one can keep learning I mention this because many people still think that audience building is just another tool in the box.

However, some publishers have in-built advantages over others in this regard. Publishers with subscription models already have direct contact with customers, have experience in dealing with them and are sitting on a considerable amount of data which only needs to be lifted. Generally speaking, the higher the turnover in direct sales, the easier it is to implement a coherent audience building strategy. But “simpler” here can only be understood as less back breaking.

One often reads that audience building has to be conceived from the respective sales channels, especially in the area of social media. That is wrong, however. The sales channels vary over time and must therefore be continuously adapted. Digital channels in particular can dry out overnight. So, all processes centred on a certain channel, must be completely overhauled then.

A better basis for audience building is the customer or more precisely: everything we know about him. This means above all, a normalization and centralization of the data base in order to bring together as much of the available information as possible from the many different data pools. Audience building consists primarily of behavioral analysis and therefore requires considerable amounts of data. Too much data, however, remains unused in the various databases, applications and Excel spreadsheets or worse: with service providers. Whether one solves this problem by connecting these data pools via interfaces or centralizing one’s IT is primarily a question of business management (and, in the case of service providers, a question of negotiation position).

Once this foundation has been laid, the different sales channels can be connected to this system. Ideally, both behavioral and financial data are fed into the system. In addition to quantitative analyses, qualitative analyses can also be carried out, which helps to make the right decisions. The biggest advantage, however, is that you can integrate new sales channels into such a platform relatively easily. This enables the company to respond more quickly to changing customer behaviour.

If the playing field is ordered, tools on social listening, machine learning and marketing automation can play on the strengths. I will address that in the next article in this series.

Spotted any mistakes, misconceptions or misunderstandings? Please leave me a note in the comments or contact me via Skype (cck.knk), mail ( or mobile (++33 7 86 51 62 37).