Publishing Innovator of the Year: Harlequin
Central to the shape that Harlequin’s innovations take, again, lies its mantra to be wherever women are. “The heart of our strategy is to make sure our content is available to readers at all times on whatever platform they choose,” Lewis explains.
Hence the company’s launch of mobile content in April 2006, with its Harlequin On The Go mobile application that offers a variety of content options to readers, such as daily, serialized novels.
Especially overseas, says Lewis, “Mobile is already playing an important role at Harlequin. We have an exciting agreement in Japan with Softbank Creative, one of Japan’s largest mobile content providers. It has become an important part of our Japanese business, and we regularly dominate the … best-seller list on major sellers such as Yahoo Japan.”
In North America, says Lewis, “We are just beginning to see this emerge with impressive usage on mobile apps such as Stanza [for the iPhone] and now [the Amazon] Kindle.”
Conversing With the Reader
Not surprisingly, Harlequin was also a pioneer in social media. It was among the first publishers to host author readings in virtual world Second Life in 2007, and it created its own online community more than 10 years ago, says Vallik. Harlequin now has a dedicated community manager and several message board hosts, she adds.
“It is really about having a dialogue with … our readers, and often we hear things … that they wish we would publish more of,” Vallik explains.
“We have over 5,000 people who have joined our community with a profile. We have expanded in the last couple of years to really use new media—wherever women are, we are,” she reiterates. “So we are on MySpace, … Facebook, … Twitter; we have blogs and podcasts. It is [about] always trying to make the connection with the reader—show her a little something behind the scenes, hear what she is interested in and really build a relationship. Our readers have always had a relationship with us. They feel very loyal to us, to the authors, to the characters, so digital tools are simply new tools to have better conversations or more frequent conversations.”