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Associate/Digital Editor

The Learning Curve

By Ellen Harvey

About Ellen

Hired in August of 2013, Ellen Harvey is the one of the newest members of the Publishing Group. She provides original content and editing for Publishing Executive, Book Business, and the daily newsletter Publishing Business Today and is eager to track the latest trends of the transformed publishing industry.

Ellen previously worked as a web content writer and social media manager for a lead generation company based outside of Philadelphia, PA. She has a B.A. in English with a focus in creative writing and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2012.


The Futurists

Publishing Pioneers
Is There a Future for Enhanced Ebooks? Booktrack Founder Says Yes.
Oct 30, 2014

Enhanced ebooks remain a hotly debated topic in the industry. Although many publishers, especially those serving the children's and education...

Joe Wikert's Digital Content Strategies

Joe Wikert
Content Reuse: 5 Key Questions to Consider
Oct 27, 2014

In the print-only days, once content was published it was rarely considered for reuse. Sure, there were the occasional "greatest...

Brian Jud's Beyond the Bookstore

Brian Jud
11 Ways to Maximize Your ROI – Return On Ideas
Oct 17, 2014

There are two kinds of innovation. One is in value creation and the other is in value capture. Many businesses...

Hot Topic

Thinkers on the Leading Edge
Publishers Can Boost Discoverability with Newly Released Web Domains
Sep 12, 2014

A slew of new web domains are dramatically changing the face of the Internet by providing more tailored domains beyond...

Leading Thoughts

Forward-Thinking Industry Professionals
Why Book Publishers Should Pay Attention to the Developing World
Jul 30, 2014

Book sales in the U.S. and Europe have been stagnant for years. While publishers design creative campaigns to turn Twitter...

Literally Speaking

The Stories Behind the Stories We Publish

Lynn Rosen
A Vending Machine That Delivers Literature
Dec 26, 2013

In a trendy coffee shop called Elixr, on a side street off of Philadelphia’s toney Rittenhouse Square, there is funky...

Publishers Must Embrace Data-First Thinking


I've always viewed direct-to-consumer strategies through the lens of revenue. Direct selling is a moneymaking strategy meant to bypass revenue-draining middlemen like Baker & Talyer and Amazon.

It hadn't occurred to me, though, that with any direct-to-consumer sale or online interaction, publishers gain something equally as valuable as revenue—consumer data.

Much of the publishing industry is not in a data-first mindset asserts Tom Davenport in a recent article dubbed "Book Publishing's Big Data Future".  Although Davenport criticizes the publishing industry as a big data underachiever, he admits that's in part because publishers have traditionally worked through intermediaries to reach consumers. But that dynamic is changing.

The intermediaries, like Amazon and Scribd, are becoming the content creators with their own publishing platforms and even, in Amazon's case, original series. These companies can do this because they began as retail channels, tracking data that built a base for future business development. It's time that publishers create their own channels and do the same.

Though slow to adapt, there are signs of change among Big Five publishers. Simon & Schuster recently announced the launch of its book recommendation platform, Off the Shelf. The site recommends previously published works (from all publishers) and allows users to build a "Shelf" of must-reads. Users can then buy the work through the online retail channel of their choosing. Not only can Simon & Schuster pocket a portion of those sales, but the publisher can also track what books and book lists are most popular among readers.

HarperCollins has also dabbled in creating channels for consumers with its launch of and in 2013, both of which sell direct the works of C.S. Lewis. Though still very much an experiment, the sites provide an opportunity for HarperCollins to track reader consumption through a partnership with Bluefire, and gather data that may influence the creation of future direct sale sites.

In the education sector, variations of the direct-to-consumer approach have proliferated much more rapidly than in the trade sector. Higher education publishers like John Wiley & Sons have launched their own e-learning platforms, such as WileyPlus, to distribute their content directly to students and professors. Just yesterday, News Corp announced the launch of Amplify, an all-digital English curriculum for middle schools. Not far behind, McGraw Hill recently partnered with StudySync to provide its own middle school curriculum. These companies are embracing new startups and technology to create their own channels and work directly with consumers.

Although these experiments are encouraging, publishers still have a long way to go in harnessing big data. Like tech giants Google, Facebook, and yes, Amazon, publishers need to create workflows in which big data informs product development. No longer should books be created on hunches or on memories of what has sold before. Big data is a crucial foundation for development and imperative for building meaningful consumer relationships. Information is key for publishers, and right now retailers have a monopoly.



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