Constable & Robinson – Digital Strategy
By Rob Nichols, Digital & Communications Director
We don’t have a Digital Strategy – we never have. We have a Publishing Strategy and operational plans that include digital, which support and deliver those strategies.
Digital is just another medium through which we can publish, or work, or connect authors with their audiences, in which readers read stories or consume information. And, of course, its media not medium – eBooks, Apps, online, mobile etc. – with an array of new consumption models.
So, that publishing strategy:
To publish quality writing and content to the widest possible audience in whatever form is preferred by the reader.
We have developed quickly and profitably a robust eBook business: all titles available simultaneously; complete backlist conversion; new eBook products created; digital first/only; market focused and responsive; and through Faber Factory our authors’ titles now have a global reach beyond our traditional export territories.
Our current and future focus is on further developing the success we’ve had to date in eBooks and online publishing, whilst looking for new opportunities for connecting our authors’ works with readers and consumers. Underpinning this is the need to bring digital in its broadest sense into everything we do and to acquire new skills in using digital tools and exploiting opportunities.
Key to building on our eBook success is the development of pricing analytic tools and on from them, tools that allow publishers to dynamically change prices. Last year we started a project to analyse price elasticity for key categories and genres, built a data store and analysis tool, not dissimilar to the one currently on the Faber Factory Constellation Dashboard. Pricing, and ever present metadata, are our ‘painting the Forth Bridge.’
In addition to more traditionally campaign led titles, we now organise our publishing around communities and brands – these could be particular genres, sub-genres or authors, but also clusters of interest in different categories. The communities we target are largely those of readers, reviewers and opinion formers in those communities, using PR databases, research and tools like Crimson Hexagon, which we have access to through Faber Factory. Like many smaller publishers we don’t publish mass market brand authors, but we do have leading authors in some genres or a publishing series like Overcoming, our CBT list, that is seen as a leader in its area.
As we target more communities, we build more websites as content hubs. We’ve also acquired a couple of businesses in recent years and we reached a point earlier this year where we had to audit and review this whole area. We are now in the process of migrating and building all planned sites on a single platform, with a unified set of data collection and analytic tools, content management system and scalable templates. All at far less cost and will less complexity than our previous sites were costing to develop, host and manage.
Like many smaller publishers we’ve had to turn to consultants and training to help us understand the importance of good metadata, SEO and analytics. We have now employed specialist resource in this area to drive value. We’ve only recently started using the Crimson Hexagon system, but in two areas, Books on Prescription and research on a taxidermy book that we’re publishing this month, it has helped us research and identify key sites, authors and opinion formers for each that we might not otherwise have found without lengthy and fairly rudimentary searching. Soon, we plan to start using the tool to help track our social media engagement activity and to refine metadata and keywords for key titles and categories.
Pulling all of this information and data together so that it adds value to the business as a whole, our authors and publishers is a real challenge; we need to interpret the data, identify that which is most important and is actionable, and then ensure that the whole is communicated succinctly and transparently. Social Enterprise tools, such as Podio and Jive, could help us do this – these systems provide tools for businesses to help them organise and manage their activity and provide greater transparency as to who is doing what and with what in any given process or task.
It is our plan that this digital infrastructure work will re-shape the business and processes we employ to make us better publishers across the number of different channels and formats our publishing strategy calls for and our ever-changing markets demand.
©Rob Nichols, September 2013