Erudition Digital’s Ryan Morison on how to build engagement with readers that lasts
The rise of the ebook, new reading platforms and retail and technology giants like Amazon and Apple has given publishers quick and simple new ways to market. There have been many advantages, but it has also resulted in publishers becoming reliant on a few dominant retailers. By ceding control of the ebook value chain, their ability to take full advantage of the new opportunities has been limited.
Publishers face significant challenges when they attempt to reduce this reliance and seek alternative and more direct routes to market. Building and maintaining a direct sales offering can be prohibitively expensive and time consuming, and there are myriad regulatory requirements to comply with. Many of those who have braved these obstacles have achieved a disappointing return on investment, as they have struggled to create a differentiated offering and a compelling value proposition for readers.
At Erudition, we embarked on a range of experiments to find new approaches to direct sales that can be highly beneficial for a wide range of publishers. One of our most successful projects was the development of a direct sales offering for a small publisher of digital resources for musicians called Informance
, which despite approaching a niche market from scratch was able to build its direct sales—in more than 70 countries—into 95% of its total revenue.
How was it achieved? Here are a few things that worked particularly well for this publisher.
•A simple, one-page guest checkout, making it as easy as possible for customers to make a purchase without onerous registration steps upfront
•Using this checkout as a landing page with discount offers for online marketing campaigns via platforms like Facebook and Google AdWords
•Bundling ebooks to increase the value of each transaction
•Moving towards a value per customer rather than transaction model, using email marketing to upsell
•Leveraging other retail platforms as discovery channels by making some publications available on them
•Offering other pricing and revenue models, including the unbundling of content for online subscriptions and bulk licensing and sales to institutions.
Not all these ideas will be applicable to every publisher, but our overarching take-out was that businesses can’t simply build a direct sales offering and expect customers to flock to it. Publishers need to offer a compelling value proposition that is based on more than just loyalty. This doesn’t need to be a complicated undertaking, and even simple things like offering different product and pricing options can be highly effective.
Our forays into direct ebook sales led us to develop Erudition Direct
—a platform to provide publishers of all shapes and sizes with a simple way to build direct relationships with their readers. It was initially launched to distribute free copies of ebooks for review or inspection, distribute ebooks in bulk, and sell them using white-label landing pages. Building on this, we are now supporting (or building support for) models like ‘download-to-own’ subscriptions and ebook clubs, helping publishers as they experiment with new sources of revenue and develop compelling, differentiated offers.
The success of companies like Informance shows that publishers do not need to cede total control of their ebooks, or face insurmountable barriers to entry. New tools and platforms have brought initiatives that were once only viable for the largest of publishers within the reach of just about any company.
Erudition is providing IPG members with special deals on its services, including free set-up of accounts, white-label pages, title uploads and distribution credits. Go here to access the deals.