Dow: Children's publishers must think 'beyond the book'

Dow: Children's publishers must think 'beyond the book'

"Publishers need to think beyond the book" to other media such as YouTube and Snapchat, and ensure everything they do has "the consumer at its heart”, m.d. of Penguin Random House Children’s Francesca Dow has said.

Speaking at the Bookseller’s Children’s Conference taking place at Milton Court in London yesterday (27th September), Dow said that publishers needed to consider the “complete story” of their publishing.

"Our audience is young consumers," she said. "This generation is thinking far beyond the book to things like Youtube and Snapchat. We have to join them. Today’s young readers are tomorrow’s leaders.”

Dow also spoke about the need for diversification and exploring other mediums in children's publishing. “Everything we do [at PRH] has the consumer at its heart", Dow said. "We have to get to know them and give them what they want. If we don’t, then Disney, Youtube or Snapchat will - they’re our competition. We can never stay still because our consumers don’t just love books, they love Youtube, film, and so on… they’re not just readers, they’re consumers.”

Dow added: “We want to get it right for them, because as children’s publishers we have a really unique part to play. Our young readers today are the adult readers of tomorrow. The future of publishing lies with them.”

On the subject of innovation and thinking globally, Dow advised publishers to “always ask what could be the biggest most imaginative PR campaign for your book”. She discussed PRH’s campaign to get astronaut Major Tim Peake to read his book Goodnight Spaceman from space, which was broadcast on the BBC's CBeebies. Dow said: “How amazing it was that Peake saw the value of book." She continued: "Whatever the size of your business - don’t be afraid to think big. There’s a kind of magic in thinking globally.”

Dow also said Peppa Pig was one of PRH’s “biggest brands” alongside big stars like chef Jamie Oliver and author James Patterson. Young fans around the world are discovering books in different ways, for example many children in India are discovering Peppa Pig via Youtube, so publishers needed to think “beyond the UK,” Dow advised.

The PRH Children's chief also discussed the team at Penguin Ventures, which is dedicated to exploiting IP and getting the most out of its brands. She said that the 150th year of Beatrix Potter was the biggest ever year for the brand, and the Ventures team created a year-long PR campaign. "Brands mean partnerships" Dow said, and added that "children are growing up in an increasingly branded world".

Discussing new techology, Dow said that young people create more snaps on Snapchat in one hour than could be viewed in 10 years. She said: "Technology has made them a generation of creativies. They're visual and see life in pictures and video." She went on to say this is important to how publishers should consider design. "As publishers we know there’s definitely magic in design. Great design can make or break a book," she said.

Dow also spoke about social media and YouTubers, in particular Zoella. "YouTubers have had a fundamental impact on publishing and it is here to stay," she said. "It's a valuable source of author talent. Even YouYubers want to be authors, it shows that in the digital age that books still have such cultural weight."

Dow concluded: "Whatever the size of your business and budget, your goal is to reach new audiences, think big, globally, of partnerships, but also to focus. Be clear on where you want to focus your energies and go for it. As publishers we help inspire, shape and entertain each new generation".