Show me the money: new commercial opportunities for publishers

Show me the money: new commercial opportunities for publishers

Like many people in our industry, I’ve been really impressed by BookBub. As with all great successes, the simplest ideas work best.

BookBub’s idea - an offers email. You sign up for it, select favourite genres, receive daily emails with tailored offers, and you buy books.

BookBub’s success can be put down to aggressively pursuing an audience, spending money on building it (mostly Facebook advertising) and effective SEO. The model then relies on publishers and authors paying for their books to be in a targeted email and the affiliate kick-back from each sale. BookBub have also recently added a self-serve paid-for slot in their emails to provide another revenue stream.

The main slots for each BookBub email are hugely over-subscribed, and some estimates suggest ten to one. i.e. for every ten books that try to pay to be in a targeted email, only one gets a place.

HarperCollins has embraced a very successful email strategy, and kudos to my US colleague Jim Hanas for being the driving force behind BookPerk. Across HarperCollins globally there are several multi-million email lists that sell books in significant numbers. A few of these emails also take advertising revenue, which is growing rapidly.

This points at some wider commercial opportunities available to publishers, way beyond the humble email. The opportunities available to build new revenue streams, develop new models and leverage existing content and assets. And I’m very excited to be chairing a session on exactly this at the FutureBook Conference this year - Venture capital: commercial opportunities outside of books.

I’m delighted to be joined by Oli Christie, founder and c.e.o. of Neon Play, a mobile games studio recently bought by Hachette; Jo Edwards, who heads up PRH Enterprises, and Paul Lomax, chief technology officer and digital product development at magazine publisher Dennis. My aim is to explore the different approaches to innovation and building commercially successful products.

I’ll be talking about BookGig, the new author event website HarperCollins launched last week.  A publisher-agnostic platform to support bookshops, libraries and literary festivals, BookGig encourages more people to attend events, meet new authors and buy books.  

Oli will be talking about the opportunities Neon Play sees in the book space based on its experience building game apps for mobile devices.

Jo will be talking about Penguin Random House’s growing events business, which encompasses everything from Caitlin Moran authors tours to niche events coming out of its sports imprint Yellow Jersey.

And finally, Paul Lomax will focus his talk on CarBuyer and Alphr and the lessons he has learned. These are new businesses built off the back of magazine content from AutoExpress and PC Pro. Dennis publishing has consistently innovated within the magazine industry, finding ways to make money from competitors as well as leveraging their significant audiences.

There are many of the same challenges to launching new initiatives, products and businesses from within magazine and book publishers.

  • What’s the big vision?
  • How do we get buy in internally?
  • How do we decide what level of commitment is needed, in terms of time, money and people?
  • Which of the skills should we outsource and which should we keep in-house?
  • Are we answering a need?
  • Who are our potential partners?
  • What does success look like?

And in Tom Cruise’s words, we’ll look at a plan to Show Me The Money. What are the revenue opportunities? Subscriptions, ebooks, event tickets, affiliate revenue, sponsorship, advertising or in-app purchases?  If BookBub has shown us anything it’s that very simple ideas can reap huge rewards, but we know we can go way beyond this and build brilliant new businesses with the wonderful and diverse books we publish.  The opportunities to excite and entertain readers in new ways are limitless, and I genuinely believe there are many new revenue streams waiting to be explored.

My aim with this session at FutureBook is for you to imagine new ways of working with your fabulous books, authors and communities. Please join us.