I participated in a panel on "Rights, Metadata and Marketing" at the recent BISG 2017 Annual Meeting, held at the Harvard Club in New York City. Here are my responses to the questions I was asked:
What is currently working for Kadaxis?
Our approach combines machine learning techniques with a deep knowledge of Amazon search. We take a digital marketing approach to keyword creation by understanding how readers search for books. As a result, our publisher clients are experiencing success by using our keywords, and have seen how the right keywords can directly lead to an increase in search visibility.
Creating keywords by hand isn't hard, creating keywords using algorithms also isn't particularly difficult, but creating keywords with an understanding of how a specific search engine (Amazon in our case) uses them can be challenging. This difference in platform optimization is key in creating keywords that have an impact.
What trends do you see in rights, metadata, and marketing?
A strong trend in moving away from the traditional gut instinct approach to around metadata content curation and marketing, to decisions backed by hard data. The most effective data engineering we've seen by publishers, are from those who iterate over metadata changes quickly, then use tools to measure the impact. As a result, their internal expertise and specialisation increases, leading to significant improvements to online visibility and sales.
What's not working as well, or where would you like help? What are the persistent problems you think the industry needs to solve?
Keywords have seen a significant increase in visibility for publishers this year, which has meant a significant increase in queries and interest in our service. But as with any new solution or technique, it's human nature to look for a silver bullet to solve a problem (in this case to boost search visibility and sales). Part of our engagement process for new clients is to set expectations that creating impactful keywords requires time and focus. While we can scale retail SEO expertise to work with tens of thousands of books at once, not every book will be boosted equally. Metadata optimization works best when using tools such as audience driven keyword analysis, but it can take iterating over the process to find what works best. A single metadata change is almost never the single piece of the puzzle for a meaningful increase in sales.
Platform optimization is key here also - many companies in the space have come and gone, making the same mistakes of extracting keywords from the content of the book, ignoring the audience and not optimizing for a platform - for us we focus on Amazon search. Creating keywords from a body of text isn't technically challenging, but creating keywords that have a high probability of working on a specific platform is our goal, which can be at odds with a gut instinct approach to keyword optimization.
We've also worked hard on helping to educate publishers on the importance of measuring keyword success - many publishers take the "set, forget and hope" approach to metadata optimization. Without a methodology in place to measure and understand how changes impact a book's performance, it's impossible to know if the changes made a difference or not, and how the process can be improve upon.
How can BISG help in these areas? What should we be thinking about for 2018 and beyond?
Publishers strengths have always been in identifying the content and creating a product that resonates with an audience. This is the traditional art, the skill that hasn't changed and I don't think it will or needs to. What has changed is how people find books - search and recommendation engines, social media, deals, and so forth. Audiences are reached using these newer systems through data and are the perfect target to apply data analysis techniques.
The better data a publisher has about an audience - the better it can target them.
Think about how other types of data might be shared and accessed and eventually monetized - beyond book metadata. The more you understand an audience, the more likely you are to reach them. Consider all the rich data about reader interests and behaviour that exists online - think book bloggers, email list owners, retailers, and so forth. If this data was captured and available to publishers in a standard format - data owners could monetize their data while publishers and other service providers could access powerful insight into audiences in a standard (potentially real-time) method at a low cost.
Creating a standard around how this data might be shared would be powerful and create significant value for audience data owners and consumers.
Ideally if such data were decentralized and made available on a blockchain, it could facilitate the next generation of market intelligence and discovery services in publishing.
If you could ask the companies represented by the people assembled here today for help in one area, what might that be?
Share with us how you're experimenting with data to understand who a readership is so we can understand and learn with you. Publishers often aren't given enough credit for being innovative. During my time in the industry, I've learnt an incredible amount from many smart publishers and always welcome the opportunity to understand how publishers are redefining marketing.