The Insights of "Big Brother"
Andrew Brenneman, founder of Finitiv.
Digital publishing takes user analytics to the next level. The product is delivered to the customer and used by the customer on a computer of one kind or another: reader, tablet, phone, laptop, etc. User analytics can not only gain insight into the behavior events leading up to the sale, but also after the sale when the customer is reading or interacting with the product or service. The publisher can, in a sense, watch the reader. While this is an admittedly Orwellian notion, it is no less powerful. User analytics generated from the actual reading or usage of the product may indicate something about how the offering is received by the customer, what is of value, enjoyed or found useful. This may drive a wide array of decisions, from product design to acquisition strategy. Big Brother aside, leveraging user analytics from digital delivery is an essential tool toward maximizing success in the digital marketplace.
One exciting area is how educational publishers, such as Maureen McMahon of Kaplan Publishing, see user analytics as a tool to shed light on learning styles and pedagogical efficacy. These insights can lead toward more effective, evidence-based educational offerings.
There are some challenges publishers must overcome in order to get a robust set of analytics data. First, in the current ebook paradigm, reading often takes place offline. Unless the reader is connected to a cloud-based delivery system, they are reading an ebook (or similar format) that they downloaded and are now using offline. This is a bit different from the web site analytics paradigm in which the server records every action in real time. There are workarounds however: The offline reading device can and does collect data in an offline mode. Subsequently however, the data must be uploaded and collected by a server when the device next connects.