IPG conference: 'connectivity' crucial

IPG conference: 'connectivity' crucial

Marketing and selling digital content were the topics on the agenda at the opening day of the Independent Publishers Guild’s Annual Conference on Wednesday (7 March).

The Conference is the 50th annual gathering of IPG members and has drawn a record attendance of nearly 300 delegates to Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire this year. Opening the conference, IPG and Anova Books chairman Robin Wood said the event marked a "wonderful milestone" in the history of the IPG.

First-day speakers included Rob Nichols, marketing and digital director at Constable & Robinson, who outlined the publisher’s digital success with authors including crime novelist James Craig. Keys to success with its e-books included search engine optimisation, competitive pricing and campaigns via Twitter, Facebook and standalone websites, he said. "SEO and social media are at the heart of our marketing strategies now."

Susanna Lob, director of the OnlyConnect agency and consultant on projects including Berg’s award-winning Fashion Library, added that good digital design, connectivity and discoverability were all crucial: "It’s vital in an online world that everything is connected—that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts . . . And there’s no point in making a great site if no-one can find it." She urged publishers to involve their sales and marketing teams in every stage of the development of projects, and to consult readers about what they want from digital content.

Ruth Jones, director of publisher business development at Ingram Content Group, emphasised the importance of getting digital content in the right place at the right time. She said: "When they come looking for your content you’d better be ready."

Sarah Lewin, editor of digital music marketing publication Sandbox, outlined some lessons that publishers could learn from the music industry, including an email and social media campaign that helped to build Ed Sheeran from an unknown to Brit Award-winning superstar in less than a year, on a marketing budget of less than £25,000. She said: "There’s no point spending thousands and thousands on a campaign if you’re not getting the money back." Lewin also cited the example of emerging band Burning Shapes, who gave away tracks via QR codes as a way of building interest in their music. She added: "The PR benefit you gain can be worth sacrificing sales for."

The IPG Conference continues today with a keynote speech from Waterstones managing director James Daunt. Other speakers include Guardian assistant editor Michael White on the economy; LAW agent Julian Alexander and Faber sales and marketing director Will Atkinson on competing with free content; Osprey Group c.e.o. Rebecca Smart on building communities of readers; and Quercus Press’ Christopher MacLehose on building lists.

This evening sees the presentation of the sixth annual IPG Independent Publishing Awards. Anova Books, Constable & Robinson, Faber & Faber and Yale University Press are among the companies in contention, shortlisted for the Bookseller Trade Publisher of the Year category.