How do you engage readers? This was one of the interesting questions during the Canon Future Book Forum, one of Europe’s biggest publishing events, in Munich on November 20-21 - where we hosted visitors from around the world. Spoiler alert: it’s all about passion, listening and communities. The two-day forum brings together industry peers from the publishing value chain to talk about future business models, changing consumer needs, the reinvention of content formats, the role of data in improving customer journeys and the need for collaboration and automation for the future success of the publishing ecosystem. Well-known publishers and inspirational brands shared insight on how to create value and fuel innovation through communities, where the printed book becomes one part of a meaningful, extended brand experience. I’d love to share four main takeaways:
Grow your community, reap the rewards
As an industry, our challenge is to rethink how to engage with our readers. Author, business advisor and chair of the event Peter Fisk explains, “Communities should not be built around products, they should be built around passions”. Readers are consumers and their habits are regularly changing. We need to go where they are having conversations about their interests and grow with the communities to understand them. Fostering collaboration with consumers means richer content experiences, which is the glue that holds the network of people together.
Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand
If we know our audience well enough, we’ll know where the growth opportunities lie. Customer insight and data play an important role in better understanding consumer behaviours. For example, where they have conversations, what they talk about, what content they consume and when they are most receptive to receiving content. As Veronica Reyero Meal of human insight specialists Antropologia 2.0 explains, “When you face challenges in your company, try to switch your business questions to human questions. For example, if you’re wondering how to drive sales of books, you need to start asking ‘How are people learning nowadays’ and ‘Where are people looking for information?’”. It’s all about connecting these dots.
Collaboration + Automation = Innovation
It’s important to work with other publishers, authors, book printers and technology providers to better meet consumers’ expectations. “Publishers are good at collaboration, but mainly with each other. We need to expand on that and bring readers in to our world of publishing because every consumer is now a reader and an author,” comments Mark Allin, former CEO of John Wiley & Sons.
The potential of technology is still not used enough in publishing. Deploying agile, automated flexible publishing processes, such as setting up compete end-to-end workflows, can support production planning and fuel innovation. For example, Edubook is one customer using digital print to create educational materials that are completely customised to each learner’s needs. QualiFication, a software company that analyses texts and predicts book successes based on Artificial Intelligence, monitors Inkitt’s reader community to improve the production process and better predict consumers’ future content needs.