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Thanks to Twitter for the endlessly engaging string of content and link sharing, I’ve come across what has quickly become my favorite column in Huffington Post.  Not only is the woman funny, humble and smart, but she’s also an author here at Penguin.

Since obviously I’m terrible at posting my own content (writing, for me, is one of those things so easily pushed around or shifted to make time for other endeavors, ugh) I’m going to re-post (call me an aggregator of content) my all time favorite Joanne Rendell column!  Additionally, after you enjoy this witty and insightful column on making reading the “healthy and attractive ” lifestyle choice (come on people, cheaper than the prescription drugs the pharma companies sell us!) and take a gander at Joanne’s latest title, CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE. Oh, and don’t forget to enter my first giveaway! It’s for an author and book, both of which I’m very fond…

Time to Sell Reading: What the “Good” Publishing Industry Needs to Learn from the Big “Bad” Drug Industry

Author Joanne Rendell

Author Joanne Rendell

I’m going to preface this post by saying I know absolutely nothing about marketing. I have a PhD in literature, not an MBA. I’m married to an NYU professor, but I’ve never been near the business or marketing schools. Furthermore, even though I’m a published author, I don’t know much about the machinations of the publishing industry either. Yet in spite of my lack of knowledge in these areas, I want to make the bold step of offering the publishing industry some marketing advice.

Here goes: “Publishing industry, listen up, it’s time to sell reading.”

The book industry needs to make the act of reading sexy and hip, enviable and sought-after. Instead of putting all their rapidly declining marketing dollars behind single authors and their new releases (think of those rather dull ads on the subway or in magazines which feature an author’s grinning face, a book cover, and a few generic “thumbs up” quotes), why don’t publishing companies run campaigns which would make reading itself a desirable lifestyle choice? Why not help craft a new, exciting, and sexy “reading” identity for people to aspire to? In short, why not take a leaf out of the drug industry’s marketing book?

Now, I concede, the publishing world is a very gentlemanly place. Even though sales are declining, digital media is encroaching, and bookstores are closing every day, the people in the book industry still pride themselves on being good, moral, and thoughtful people. Rejection letters are kind, verbal contracts are held firm, booksellers aren’t too pushy, and lunch at the Algonquin Hotel between editors is an amiable, bookish, and cerebral affair.

The idea that this “good” publishing world might emulate the big “bad” drug industry would probably send the Algonquin’s fine silverware trembling and independent booksellers weeping onto their carefully selected front tables. But the pharmaceutical companies know what they’re doing and they’re doing it well (along with banks, they are now the most successful businesses in the world). If the publishing industry wants to survive, it might have to suck it up and start studying all the tactics employed by the drug industry which sell us a happier, healthier, smiling, sexier life — all thanks to drugs.

“Educating consumers to the virtues of a product sometimes entails altering the cultural environment surrounding the consumption of that product,” says Kalman Applbaum in his book The Marketing Era: From Professional Practice to Global Provisioning. For a successful example of this, Applbaum shows how drug companies managed to change the “cultural environment” surrounding depression in Japan and thus open up a whole new market for their products: SSRI antidepressants.

In the past, there was “considerable stigma” attached to mental illness in Japan, according to Applbaum. But working “synergistically,” four big drug companies waged a multi-faceted campaign to “increase awareness of depression.” They used ads, newspaper articles, and glossy waiting room brochures. They sponsored the translation of best-selling books from the US which acclaimed SSRIs. Throughout the campaign, the motive was the same: to awaken “public consciousness to the symptoms and treatability” of depression.

Running ads with smiling and sexy people reading books will only be a start. As the Japanese example shows, a campaign to change a “cultural environment” must be advanced on all fronts. It will require competing publishing houses and competing book sellers to work together to shake off old stereotypes about reading and readers (“lonely women with cats,” “geeky professors,” “bespectacled librarians’). It must help forge a new and brighter image of the 21st Century reader — a reader who will not only be hip and sexy, but who will also buy books.

I have no idea exactly how this will be done (I refer you back to my first paragraph). But I have some thoughts for anyone who cares to listen. New spaces need to emerge where people will meet and discuss books and, importantly, be seen and respected for discussing books. TV and movies need to show sexy readers, much like they showed sexy smokers back in the day. Celebrities need to be caught reading books — or Kindles — on the beaches of the Caribbean. Book groups should not be left to form themselves; they need to be propagated and supported by the book industry. Expert voices should be everywhere, in newspapers and on Oprah, talking about the intellectual, personal, health, and even sexual benefits of reading!

Books can offer us so much. They can offer deep insights, escapism, healing, empathy, knowledge, and revival. They can illuminate who we are, our dreams, our deepest fears and our sufferings. Books can change us in profound ways. They can make us laugh and cry, desire and yearn. Surely, there is way to market these incredible offerings and help people want to be readers.
Joanne Rendell is the author of the newly released Crossing Washington Square (Penguin), a novel about two women who are hip and smart and beautiful – and very passionate about books!

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So I used to have quite the girl crush on Chelsea Handler (hilarious, clever and oh-so inappropriate), but now my tastes have matured and moved to these two emulating-worthy women: MaryAnn Bekkedahl, EVP/Group Publisher, Rodale and Jill Seelig, VP/Publisher, O, The Oprah Magazine.

Coming from a background in the creative/content-generating side of advertising, I admit to having had a somewhat snooty view on advertising sales.  After listening to these two women present, my views may have shifted to more of a “wow, I would love to be her in 10-15 years”.

Maryann BekkedahlMaryAnn Bekkedahl first got my attention when discussing the seven “media franchises” she’s in charge of, aka magazines (Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention…).  But, in this age, they are much more than just magazines and have evolved into brand empires.  I have understanding and respect for brands more so than sales (sales people always have an agenda), but seeing how they’re so intricately connected had me at the edge of my seat.

“The Role of the Publisher” as Bekkedahl depicted really has control and responsibility for the brand/magazine.  The Publishing team is composed of the Publisher, with the Research, Marketing, Sales, Business Management/Production and PR teams reporting up.  I could do that- I want to do that; be the business side of publishing.

In fact, the Sales force is what really appealed to me among those divisions.  Dad always told me I should be in sales since I can convince people to buy things (he’s the perfect example, you should have seen my white convertible!), but I held such a negative stereotype I couldn’t move past.  Bekkedahl shot that stereotype out of the water as I found myself drawn to her earnestness and humor, thinking maybe I could do advertising sales after all…

Jill SeeligJill Seelig was the last speaker at the end of yet another long digital day, and I was seeing all sorts of pleasant images in my head instead of the screen (manicure, massage, wine… you get the picture).  She really got my attention (and adoration) by opening up her “Multi-platform Marketing to the Advertiser- the 360 Strategy” with the line:

Print is not dead; it is here to stay.

Seelig went on to support this statement with stats stating that magazines are the #1 medium of engagement, and there is an interdependency between print and digital.  Magazines contribute to the effectiveness of advertising when added to the media mix; and she should know, since she launched “O” as part of the Oprah Winfrey media empire.

Moving up through the ranks of ad sales in Self and Vanity Fair, Seelig helped instigate “O”‘s immediate success in 2000.  She presented a case study of Intel’s partnership with “O” and showed the magazine’s ability to make a (boring) technical brand be more human and emotional to her female readers.  She seems to be living the “O” tagline: “Live Your Best Life.”

Also, as a side-note, all the high profile people we’ve heard from have been very attractive and in good shape – is the magazine industry shallow; do they not have time to eat, hence the toned-ness; or do these people just happen to age well?!  None look old enough to hold their titles and have the experience they share!

All Webbed-Out: Summary of eight hours of digital content

I have had the most ridiculously filled day of digital content.  Of course it’s all new, all interesting, and all slightly overwhelming.  From discussing new business models, to Twitter blurring the line between social media and all media, along with insider tips on SEO strategies, I feel as if all my new knowledge makes me quite the digital princess.

During class my digitality (made-up word) began when Hearst Digital Media (yes, Hearst of the Media empire) was generous enough to share with the NYU SPI class three of their top officials to discuss “Websites Gone Wild” and “Get the Work Out, Get the Traffic”:

  • Chris Johnson, VP Content and Business Development, Hearst Digital Media
  • Beth Ellard, Content Director, Hearst Digital Media
  • Dan Roberts, Senior SEO Strategist & Analyst, Hearst Digital Media

The session with Johnson and Ellard focused on the different ways Hearts utilizes the web to drive traffic to their 12 magazine branded sites and 8 digital-only entities.  These 20 Hearst owned sites reach 10% of the total internet audience monthly.  This massive digital reach translates to about 1/3 of all their magazine subscriptions coming from the web80% of the traffic on their magazine sites looks at pure digital content; not the re-postings of print editoral.

Roberts is a self proclaimed “Data Geek” who has knows how to match Hearst’s content with what people search for, aka Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Hate to say it to you naive websurfers out there, but the first hits that come up on Google don’t appear by chance, but a well-orchestrated plan.  Roberts is a fan of NOW Media: More than the “new media” we’re used to hearing about, as that’s already dated, this is the current digital landscape that’s constantly changing.

Advantages of NOW Media:

  • Distribution has never been easier
  • We (my generation) are experts
  • We know what works

NOW Media reality/challenges:

  • Rules are constantly changing, techonology always evolving
  • There is micro-attention (aka Twitter) and mega-noise (digital clutter)
  • You can’t always control the message – your brand can be discussed in user generated content that is beyond your regulation

The digital-ness of my Wednesday was made complete (after getting lost on the Subway for an hour- DO NOT use Google maps for the NYC transportation system, it lies!) by attending Mashable NextUp NYC: Social Media Marketing 101 (thanks to @TheUndomestic!).  The two keynote speakers were obviously incredibly smart and web-savvy:  Steve Rubel (SVP, Director of Insights for Edelman Digital) and Mashable’s Founder and President, Pete Cashmore.

Rubel spoke first on the five digital trends to watch (bear with me, my notes are quite scribbly after one very strong vodka soda):

  1. Satisfaction Guaranteed = Customer Service + PR: brands must audit online experiences
  2. Media Reforestation: Paper is going digital.
  3. Less is the new more: People are no longer gorging on media and often choosing selective ignorance.  More impotant than ever to shape search shelf.
  4. Corporate All-Stars: People within your company standing by your brand in the digital space.  Ex: @ScottMonty, as Ford on Twitter
  5. Power of the Pull: Write for searches, not for readers.

Then Pete Cashmore got on stage with his nice accent and talked to a panel of other professionals about their web opinions.  Wow they’ve done a lot for charity – check out and contribute to Charity Water; they’re doing incredible things.

Whew now time for bed, hopefully I’ll get to write up the other amazing speakers from Rodale, Seventeen magazine, Time Out, and People Style Watch tomorrow.

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