Why digital book publishers are starting to embrace data

With more than 20 percent of Americans over the age of 16 having read an ebook in the past year, and publishers seeing more than 20 percent of revenues come from ebook sales, there’s no question the future of ebooks is bright, and the industry has a lot of potential customers.

But how exactly ebook publishers reach that audience and how the industry tracks who’s interested in reading what is less clear. A series of ebook publishers who spoke at our PaidContent Live conference in New York on Wednesday talked about the critical importance of gathering data on readership and consumption, and using it to transform the industry:

“The old eveolution of the book publishers used to be very allergic to data. And what you just heard is a very different approach from that. For us it’s about metadata and surfacing. And then rinse and repeat,” said Dominique Raccah, the publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks. “Metadata is a new term in our industry, but it really is the key.”

Raccah pointed out that unless publishers know who is reading the content, it’s hard to craft specific marketing messages or know what people respond to:

“It’s really important to know that book publishers know a lot about what touches readers,” she said. “So it’s important to help craft those messages in interesting ways.”

Rachel Chou, the CMO for Open Road Integrated Media, said they’ve seen a lot of success working with Twitter, as well as sponsored stories in Facebook, to drive traffic and understand where customers are coming from.

“Then after a while, you start understanding what the best partners are,” she said.

Evan Ratliff, founder and CEO of Atavist, said they have a small team but because they’re especially focused on finding customers by building up the Atavist brand, understanding data on the company’s products is important.

“We’re also on a very small level, we’re experiment with different ways of reaching people and social media,” he said.

Check out the rest of our paidContent Live 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page