New Business Model? Advertising in Books

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As we all prob­a­bly already fig­ured out, the pub­lish­ing busi­ness model is in trou­ble.  With the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of eBooks as eRead­ers drop in price what profit is there in retail book selling?
Learn­ing their les­son well from the faux pas of the music indus­try, the pub­lish­ing world does not want to force con­sumers to buy the prod­ucts they want to sell.  Rather they would like to sup­ply the prod­ucts con­sumers want to buy.  By no means will printed books go away any­time soon, but the indus­try has to look into the future and, frankly, face the inevitable.
 
Book sales have steadily decreased for about a decade while pro­duc­tion costs have risen steadily, since for many books both a phys­i­cal and a dig­i­tal edi­tion must be pro­duced (even though I don’t under­stand why, at this age every book is dig­i­tal first).  As the music indus­try found out that at $0.99 song is less prof­itable than forc­ing you to buy a $20 CD, book pub­lish­ers are also learn­ing that a $9.99 eBook is less prof­itable than their $25 hard­cover sib­ling.
 
Per­son­ally, I have no issue with them mak­ing less, no-one is enti­tled to my money.
 
Yes, Vir­ginia – adver­tise­ments in books are here.  Whether the ads will be the annoy­ing leaflets falling out of mag­a­zines, or an ad pop­ping up on your favorite eReader before, after, or while read­ing your favorite book.
 
One won­ders why books haven’t had ads before.  Mag­a­zines have adver­tised along­side seri­ous non-fiction arti­cles, so I’m sure our argu­ment of “sanc­tity of the book” is quite friv­o­lous when it comes to the death toll in Iraq being reported next to the lat­est sale at the local car dealership.  
But we know why, don't we?
 
Books are lousy medium for ads.  Adver­tis­ers want to be in-front of a tar­geted audi­ence, not just any­body.  When they buy space in the Wall Street Jour­nal they know who reads the paper, but they don’t know who is read­ing the hard­cover copy of “Mock­ing­jay” – whether it’s a 15 year old boy or a 35 year old mother of three.
That mat­ters!
 
If you know any­thing about the movie / TV busi­ness, you know about an indus­try within the indus­try called “prod­uct place­ment”.  What that means is sim­ple, com­pa­nies pay large amounts so fic­tional char­ac­ters in movies and TV will use their real life products.
Want to adver­tise your new car?
Who’s bet­ter to drive it than James Bond.
There are no coin­ci­dences, which is why, unless a com­pany pays, you will see only made up brands, but if they shell out some bucks – you would have to pay close atten­tion to when the show ends and a com­mer­cial begins.
 
Can this hap­pen in books?
You prob­a­bly didn’t even notice, did you?
Granted, Lars­son most likely didn’t write it on pur­pose but…there it is!
 
Phys­i­cal books can­not pos­si­bly com­pete with the rest of print media for adver­tis­ing dol­lars – but eBooks can. Google Books is already putting ads next to their search results. Barnes & Noble is run­ning a bril­liant adver­tis­ing pro­mo­tion where they give the first book of a series as their weekly “free­bie”.  Ama­zon has patented adver­tise­ments on the Kin­dle and Apple already has an iAd plat­form for mobile devices.
Not that iCan afford their any of their iProd­ucts.
 
Tar­get audi­ence can also be reached by giv­ing away free chap­ters, which are avail­able on many eBooks.  After all, I will not bother read­ing a sam­ple chap­ter of a book I’m not inter­ested in, but if it was a book I was on the fence about buy­ing, read­ing a sam­ple chap­ter will most likely drive me to pur­chase the book.
The logis­tics of adver­tise­ments in books are astound­ing and might rede­fine how we mea­sure the suc­cess of a book.  As oppose to units sold, with eBooks you can now mea­sure units read vs. units fin­ished vs. units down­loaded.  As an adver­tiser, the num­bers of units read means that my prod­uct was pro­moted and could even be taken a step fur­ther, when you clicked on a link in the ad, and your favorite eReader opened up its browser and took you to my web­site.
 
I think this might be a pos­i­tive aspect of the issue.  After all, a book down­loaded a mil­lion times buy only read 100,000 times will have less value than a book down­loaded 500,000 but read 200,000 from begin­ning to end. Books which are left unread, because of qual­ity or sim­ply bad mar­ket­ing, will be less prof­itable to the pub­lish­ers.
 
How­ever, what kind of adver­tise­ments would be accepted?
Will Pres­i­dent Bush have to worry about the moveon.org plac­ing an ad in his memoir?
Will health food gurus have to worry about a fast food chain adver­tis­ing their “healthy” choices in their new book (health being a rel­a­tive term when it comes to fast food)?
Adver­tis­ing in books will most likely rede­fine the rela­tion­ship between authors, pub­lish­ers, agents, ad agen­cies and even tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies.  And you thought that the stunt Wiley pulled a few weeks ago will rede­fine the indus­try?
 
Just my thoughts.  What are yours?
Do you have any reser­va­tions about adver­tis­ing in books? eBooks?
Do you see this as an indus­try changer?
Will we start see­ing eBooks offered for a pre­mium price in order to read with­out ads?
 

Zohar — Man of La Book
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