Publisher–generated online communities, such as HarperCollins’ InkPop, Gollancz’s SF Gateway and Hachette’s Pick a Poppy, are set to almost double over the next two years, according to research by Bowker which was unveiled at yesterday’s “The Campaign Revolution: New Models for Reaching Reader Communities” seminar.
The report, presented by Jane Tappuni [pictured], business development director at Publishing Technology, showed that two-thirds of UK and US publishers already host reader communities, and that figure is set to rise to more than 90% over the next two years.
Trade publishers are currently more engaged in this area than their academic counterparts, with 86% of respondents running an online community in some shape or form. There is a currently an average of 2.1 online communities per publisher; a quarter of respondents said they expect to have seven or more networks up and running by 2015.
Tappuni said: “Online communities provide publishers with a way of striking up a direct rapport with their audiences and, at a time when publishing business models are evolving to become more consumer-focused. It comes as no surprise that publishers are ramping up investment in this area.”
Communities are not yet selling books, however, with only 16% of publishers saying they viewed them as “viable direct sales channels”. However, Tappuni argued that was a good thing. “One of the things I think publishers should avoid at the moment is using these communities as a platform to sell things. This is first and foremost about engagement with your readers, and letting them in a way dictate what is on the sites. Getting the right tone, with the right content is crucial.”