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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!

My friend Elyse over at Pop Culture Nerd (a far superior blog, I highly suggest visiting regularly!) is asking people to share their motivation for choosing a new book to read.  Interesting right?

What drives you – is it a friends’ recommendation?  A great priceReview in the NYT? Sick of seeing it on Twitter and not contributing to the conversation?  Whatever it may be, I ask that you comment here as I am intrigued and you don’t want to be responsible for keeping me up at night…

And it was Digital.  And Amazing.  And Beautiful.  In a Space-Agey, Totally Green Way.

I’m really not a Monday person, especially when I only have access to one round of coffee.  So I was somewhat a disenchanted with with the concept of sitting in a rather uncomfortable chair (sorry NYU) for eight hours with few breaks when I went to class this morning.  Until my mind was boggled with presentations and a glimpse into the future as seen by:

  • Steve Malley, Senior Deputy Editor, ESPN magazine
  • Robert (Bo) Sacks, Owner, The Precision Media Group
  • Jeanniey Mullen, CMO/EVP, Zinio
Pay-caption found on ESPN Magazine's site

Pay-caption found on ESPN Magazine's site

Malley presented first, and had a hard time containing his evident excitement as he shifted his weight and gestured wildly with his hands behind the podium.  He is the first Editor of the many we’ve heard speak who has put their digital content behind a pay-based wall: Yes, that means the content found on ESPN.com is no longer free (which is too bad, I really wanted to read the story about Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush).  Malley compared the current changed in the media industry right now to when Gutenberg invented movable type – so people, get ready for revolution.

Bo Sacks is impressive, having held what seems like every title available in the publishing industry (Twitter @bosacks).  Some of you may be impressed with his status as the Founding Father of the High Times magazine, but today he spoke from his position as President of the Precision Media Group.

It’s more important to know how to search for a fact than know a fact. -Bo Sacks

Sacks is omnipresent in ways, dividing the media as “BD” or “AD” – Before Digital and After Digital.  He showed mind boggling technology amid humorously photoshopped pictures (there were quite a few laughs of Einstein with an iPod, etc.).  The technology shown is light in weight, small in stature but is without a doubt changing the publishing industry: e-paper.

e-paper

e-paper

This foldable, bendable, light weight piece of space-age technology will in the future be a pocketable book, but for now ables the Kindle and Sony E-reader.  It is expected to have a virtual keyboard – as in it somehow reflects a keyboard onto a surface that somehow tracks your actions (crazy I know, I really can’t explain the concept, it’s akin to magic to me).

Crazy e-paper aside, Sacks says that while he doesn’t believe magazines should not be printed, he does think the physical editions will become more expensive and only account for 25% of the market within ten years.  Without a doubt, he believes competition to be redefined; digital publications to become stronger and more reliable; and the digital publishing realm to continue its advancements.  Senior management beware: put your palpable fear aside, Sacks thinks my generation is the smartest.

Who reading this had “paged through” a digital magazine? I’ve had very little experience with the medium and have always thought of magazines to be much more of an experience – glossy pages, perfume samples, vivid ads… That is, until Jeanniey Mullen of Zinio presented her site.

Jeanniey Mullen

Jeanniey Mullen

As EVP/CMO, Mullen is in the ideal role at Zinio.  In an arena with plenty of room for growth, (unlike the cell phone industry which is almost at full saturation) she is at the forefront of a fast-emerging media – the digital magazine.  With printer and distribution costs on the upswing and weak advertising revenue, many magazines are struggling (some even closing, like Domino and Nickolodean Kids) at this time.

Not only are digital magazines more economically friendly (ie green, so automatically trendy), but they offer more opportunities for interaction both with the content and advertisements.  Mullen pulled up the Zinio-published women’s magazine Viv, and I was astounded at the potential.  Not only is the reader able to actually change the model’s clothes in a photograph, but the advertising content is able to be interacted with as well.  The ads change content within a brand, and even link through to individual websites where the featured product can be purchased.  Dior took the advertising a step further and embedded their TV spot with a corresponding print ad, along with a link to purchase directly.  Unlike traditional advertising, specific metrics are available!!!!!!

What’s shocking is that the digital magazine advertising is still considered in line with print – not a different, more expensive business model.  I see potential to change to a CPM business model as the digital magazine industry continues to grow, with potential for different advertisers to buy identical content that changes once a minimum number of impressions has occurred (does that make sense other than in my head?).   Now Zinio is a company for which advertising sales would prove fascinating.

Another really cool aspect the digital magazine realm offers: the ability to save interesting content!  I am one of those people who tears pages out of things I like – from fashion to recipes to editorial.  But, not being organized I don’t have a filing system other than “storing” the torn out pages in random locations, never findable when needed.  Being able to save content to my computer is totally different, and a concept I will embrace and keep organized!  Also, magazines are searchable, so you can skip directly to the content you want.

I already followed Mullen on Twitter (@empg) and was pleased to see she had tweeted during her time at NYU, which made me an even bigger fan.  I’ve already acted on her advice to try out http://www.goreadgreen.com and signed up a a FREE one-year subscription of Viv!  Go online and choose your subscription today, and take a look at Zinio.com for the latest and greatest digital magazines.  My new plan to fulfill my promise to get Dad an Esquire subscription is to do it through the digital medium; 12 digital issues only $7.99!

Today in class we spent two hours listening to the cutest pregnant woman give a two-hour talk about the launch of a new magazine.  Not just any magazine launch, but a new title that became successful in the midst of this recession, and the incredibly talented pregnant woman was responsible for this miraculous achievement.

Premiere Edition

Premiere Edition

Food Network Magazine is the title, and Maile Carpenter is the EIC who has managed to surpass the original estimate of 400,000 views to an astonishing 900,000 with only three issues having been published!

Coming from the successful launch of the Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, Carpenter managed to find a hole in the already crowded cooking magazine market.  She was able to do this quickly with, what she notes, is Food Network Magazine’s major point of difference: It comes with a built in network of celebrities, from Rachael Ray herself, the Iron Chef, Guy Fieri, Paula Deen and more, along with their popular personalities, brand recognition and established trust and loyalty.

While this magazine is in partnership with The Food Network, it is not biased toward the show and its merchandise.  Carpenter and her small staff go behind the scenes and to write as if the TV station weren’t included in the name, such as the well-received article “Secrets of the Iron Chef” (appreciated by fans as well as the crew).  More than 100 recipes at all levels are in every edition, and while there is content available on foodnetwork.com, the companion magazine site is still under construction.

This “pop culture approach to food” has already been much more popular than original estimates, and after hearing Carpenter speak realize I am going to subscribe to this magazine as well (add it to my list, along with Esquire… Don’t think I can afford all these!), for the recipes as well as support of an admired talent.  To subscribe yourself to what I promise will deliver delicious recipes and mouth-watering food shots (Carpenter promises none of the spray glue tricks I was used to in advertising!), click here.

Additional thanks to the panelists in “Building a Brand: a Wheel with Multiple Spokes”:

  • Bill Stump, VP, Digital, Rodale: Made me excited about his/Rodale’s tactics of allowing inexperienced employees to generate videos for websites such as Men’s Health.  Emphasized to those of us entering the job market to attempt any task you’re given.
  • Gail Horwood, SVP Digital Programming & Strategy, Martha Stewart Omnimedia: I wonder how much personal impact Stewart has on her brand, but they are all quite successful.  Shared the secret that the craft section is most popular.  I believe it, there are directions to make a really cute message board in the June edition of Martha Stewart Living.
  • Frank Lalli, EIC, International and Magazine Development, Reader’s Digest Association; ED, Purpose Driven Communication: Reminds that you are your own brand. Spoke about launching the magazine/360 approach to Pastor Rick Warren’s A Purpose Driven Life.  For Bible Studiers, obviously I’m not in the target.  Did get the chance to ask him why Reader’s Digest changed their cover design years ago from the Table of Contents and made it look just like every other magazine- he said the team thought it needed updating, while I thought it lost its identity and individuality.
  • James Jacovides, VP, Licensing & Syndication, Time Inc.: If you have any questions, ask him I think he thinks he knows everything.  In reality, he is very smart and he works for a very successful company and he knows it and isn’t afraid to share.  He discussed how magazines go international and the different methods Time Inc. uses to ensure an immediate profit.
  • Jaimee Zanzinger, Deputy Editor, Real Simple:  I personally like Real Simple, though it hasn’t helped me de-clutter my life.  Zanzinger spoke about their commitment to helping make an easy reading experience, from short articles to the included book mark and pictures that help tell the story.  Interesting to note, the photos in Real Simple are styled after every article is written, not scrap art.  Must be incredibly expensive for the shoots and talent, but the effort comes through in print.

Off to my first NYC party!!! Some launch for some music reality show from what my friend with the tix told me.  Concept sounds like it may be lacking, but I could use a few free drinks after these long days.  Woohoo.

I love MediaBistro.com.  I follow them on Twitter and visit their site daily, scanning their job boards and drooling all over the “Senior Publicist” and “Managing Editor” positions available in NYC, wishing  I were qualified to apply.

In an effort to further expand my repertoire of skills (though unfortunately still far below CEO level), I have signed up for MediaBistro’s “Copywriting Essentials” class taking place in Chicago on Wednesday, April 29.   With the subtitle “Write marketing and branding copy that sells in a lucrative market”, I hope to learn skills that will make me more capable of branding a book or an author as a product; a commodity consumers need.

Visit MediaBistro.com for details!

Visit MediaBistro.com for details!

Join me in the class! For details/sign up click this link: http://www.mediabistro.com/courses/cache/crs4472.asp

As a special deal, if you sign up by April 23, 2009 I discovered a promo code (APRIL25)  for 25% off, making this $65 class only $49 (affordable even to an unemployed person like myself!  I’m a little nervous to go on my own and would love the company, so please accept my personal invite and register already.

Thoughts, insights, experiences to share?

I’ve researched the Random House Associates Program and am quite interested (as in obsessed) in the opportunity, though I would like to hear more about it first-hand.

Random House in NYC

Random House in NYC

I think it is geared towards graduating college students, whereas I already have about two years of solid agency experience and wonder if it would be a waste of time when I feel as if I have the ability to jump right in to a full-time position? But it’s Random House, and as the largest general trade publisher in the WORLD it might be worth it!?!

A second worry is with the way this economy is going there is even a smaller likelihood that a full-time job would be available at the end of the program in July 2010… I need help!

If you have any experience with the Associates Program, or Random House in general please please contact me – novelwhore@gmail.com.  THANKS!

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