The role of data management for publishers

Effective data management may mean many advantages for the publishers. The most obvious one is that analysing reader behaviour and preferences, publishers can create personalized marketing campaigns and recommendations. This is something that several big content platforms are focusing on during the last years.

For a small or medium size publishing house, increasing the reader engagement and loyalty was always one component of their strategies, because one of the most important assets for a publisher is a strong label and be perceptible with a certain group of attributes. At the end of the day this knowledge about the customers will drive higher sales.

Data on reader preferences and market trends can be the base for the development of new products, such as spin-offs, series of titles, or special editions. Publishers can tailor their catalogues to meet the evolving demands of their audiences.

Data management is basic for something so important as decision making, since good quality and well-organised data enables publishers to make informed decisions about acquisitions, marketing strategies and distribution channels.

This issue should be integrated with the logistics because accurate data on sales and inventory figures helps publishers optimize print runs, reduce overstock and stockouts, and manage distribution more effectively. This may not only mean cost savings and improved profitability, but also a lower carbon print.


Three different perspectives for data management

Addressing the challenges of data management requires a strategic approach and some degree of investment in technology and human talent to ensure that data management practices support the needs of each publishing house. From this perspective, there was a discussion during the last edition of Readmagine (Madrid, June 2024) ºfocused on the data management opportunities and challenges from the perspectives of Raúl Pérez (Planeta), Michael Then (Weltbild GmbH), and Andrew Rhomberg (Jellybooks). Therefore, the debate involved three different perspectives: publishing, retail and B2B company.

From their three different perspectives, they highlighted the evolving landscape of the publishing industry, marked by declining traditional readership, the rise of the secondary market, and the transformative potential of data, as well as some emphasis on collaboration, transparency, and a deeper understanding of audience behaviour is seen as vital for navigating these changes and leveraging opportunities in a rapidly shifting environment.

Raúl Pérez talked on data as tool emphasizing that “data is relevant but should be viewed as a tool rather than an end in itself. Understanding the environment and the underlying factors behind market trends is crucial for utilizing data effectively”. Pérez also highlighted the importance of understanding and engaging with new audiences through data, as traditional publishing methods may no longer suffice.

Michael Then referred to the transformation of the publishing industry, balancing traditional and modern approaches. This shift is compared to “riding two horses,” which becomes painful when they diverge. Also linked the transformations in the European markets to the decline in “traditional readers”, saying that “the German market has seen a loss of eleven million readers over ten years. There is a distinction between book buyers and readers, with some people buying books but not reading them” and the rise of the secondary market.

Also stressed the importance of collaboration and transparency between publishers, retailers, and authors. Sharing data and working together is essential for success.

Andrew Rhomberg said that publishers have improved in data usage, but many still focus solely on sales numbers rather than reader engagement and advocacy, which are crucial for long-term success. From his perspective, the first step is starting with email newsletters to engage readers and collect data. Offering book samples through newsletters can gauge reader interest and understanding different audience segments (e.g., age groups), which would be essential for effective marketing and engagement.

Rhomberg pointed that implementing feedback loops to understand how readers consume and engage with books can help publishers better meet their needs and create advocates for their titles and sharing information between publishers and retailers is crucial. Retailers often have valuable data on customer behaviour that can inform publishing strategies.

Raúl Pérez compared the different perspective of data in the case of traditional print books and digital platforms; I the first case the revenue is based on unit sales in the later, especially those offering “all-you-can-listen” models, revenue is based on the time spent engaging with content. The data in the case of audio is influenced by the shorter periods of attention as the finishing rates of audiobooks vary significantly, which affects publisher decisions. For instance, Planeta’s best-selling audiobooks have finishing rates ranging from 30% to 70%. Sharing engagement data between platforms and publishers is crucial for making informed decisions about which audiobooks to publish. Similar engagement metrics could be used for eBooks and even print books. Understanding reader engagement can help publishers better tailor their offerings and marketing strategies.

Michael Then underlined that Amazon doesn’t share broad market data, only data related to individual publishers’ books and publishers often invest heavily in marketing on Amazon without detailed insights into overall genre performance. Amazon Marketplace can be effective for selling exclusive materials and backlist titles. Metadata and visibility on Amazon are crucial as many buyers start their search directly on Amazon rather than Google.

There is other type of platform’s strategies like Spotify focused on customer acquisition and retention. For publishers, understanding how content drives these metrics is essential.

Video of the session:




Some of the challenges of data management

Data management could be not only very useful but even essential for the publishing industry, but this could be a whole challenge with some problems to overcome.

As publishers often deal with diverse sources of data (including sales figures, content metadata or subscriber information) is necessary to integrate these incongruent datasets into a unified system has its complexities.

Managing metadata for a large volume of books is crucial for discoverability and search engine optimization, but keeping metadata updated and synchronized across platforms can be a challenge for many independent publishers, as well as ensuring the accuracy, quality and consistency of data.

As a big portion of the creative industry appears to be shifting towards personalised content recommendations and targeted marketing, publishers need reliable data management systems to gather and analyse reader behaviour and preferences while respecting privacy regulations. Because the compliance with that normative means that warranting data security to protect against breaches and unauthorized access should be a persistent concern.