Digital Directions: The Marketing Silo
To varying degrees and rates of speed, publishing companies are transforming themselves into digital organizations.
While the vision varies from organization to organization, the essence of the transformation is the adoption of an approach in which content is created and transformed on a common digital platform, and in which the publishing life cycle itself is supported by a data-driven system.
The rationale for such a transformation typically consists of two principal arguments:
1. There are new revenue opportunities to be had through digital distribution of content, and a digital asset management approach can better support these programs.
2. There are significant cost efficiencies to be realized with the use of a common digital production platform.
This is a pretty compelling return on investment.
But there is a third argument as well, that (while perhaps a bit harder to quantify) is no less compelling: A digital platform keeps an organization’s departments synchronized by making content and related data accessible throughout the organization.
Marketing Can’t Promote What It Can’t Access
Perhaps there is no better beneficiary of this than the marketing department. Marketing’s central mission is to tell the wider world about content offerings prior to and at their release. Marketing links the publisher to the wider world. In order to fulfill this mission, marketing departments need access to digital assets—both data and content. Marketers are voracious consumers of data and make great use of it.
Specifically, marketers need access to:
• Accurate and advanced information regarding upcoming product releases. More than just a list of next season’s titles and their publication dates, this needs to include the wealth of data associated with titles in the editorial pipeline. This could include both a richer set of bibliographic information as well as status of the project.
• Sample chapters and excerpts that have been pre-vetted for inclusion in marketing programs.
• Cover image files in a variety of resolutions. Having a set of thumbnails or medium-resolution cover files on a common subdirectory doesn’t cut it. The files must be indexed and available in a variety of resolutions or formats to support the range of marketing communications and review-publications’ requirements.
• Illustration image files for inclusion with publication of reviews, in a variety of resolutions.
• Licensing terms, particularly pertaining to illustrations, to determine their availability for inclusion in promotions.
Timely access to quality data and digital assets has a direct impact on the effectiveness of marketing programs. Yet, all too often, marketing departments have been effectively placed in information silos without easy access to data and content assets that are managed within editorial, contracts and production groups.
Publishing organizations are rife with tales such as these:
• A marketing communications manager wishes to create an advertisement that will contain a number of cover images. While a large number of cover images can be found on common file-servers, there is no index to these files, and the team does not know which file is authoritative. To be certain, the team decides to scan the cover of the printed book in order to get the right image.
• An international publication tells the publisher it wishes to run a featured review of a key upcoming title. The publisher’s elation turns to panic when the reviewer expresses its desire to include illustrations with the review. It is not readily apparent to what degree these illustrations have been appropriately cleared for such promotional purposes. Frenzied searches through paper files and a flurry of phone calls ensue while the deadline for the review approaches.
The Solution: Learn to Share
There is a better way: a common digital asset platform that manages both content elements and their associated data. Marketing departments can gain insight into works-in-progress by accessing real-time information about them. Publicity teams can access digital assets such as illustration files in a plurality of formats. Equally critical is access to permissions regarding digital assets for publicity purposes.
It is worth noting that this is more than a technology issue; it is an organizational issue as well. There often is a need for greater information sharing across the organization. To be sure, some information is of a confidential nature, and must be distributed on a strictly need-to-know basis. However, most information is not confidential, and yet, it is still not shared.
It is human nature: People hoard information as a means to consolidate their own political power. Publishing organizations are no different. Many have historically been distinctly proprietary about their “personal” data, and have given marketing teams access to it on a very limited basis. Those who fear that greater openness will result in a loss of power keep barriers to information sharing in place.
The information walls are a-crumblin’, bit by bit. Senior management in forward-thinking organizations are bringing down these walls by instituting policies, processes and systems that allow for information sharing. More people across publishing organizations are realizing that hoarding information is counter-productive to selling books.
The digital organization is a more transparent organization. Marketing will directly benefit from this transparency. Siloed no more, marketing and publicity teams will be able to execute more effective programs, and will more compellingly express the value of our content to the wider world.
And that’s when we all win.
Andrew Brenneman is founder and president of Finitiv, a California-based provider of digital content solutions. He has been leading digital media initiatives at major media and technology organizations for over 20 years. He holds a master’s degree in Technology and Communications from New York University and has been awarded U.S. patents for digital media innovation. Contact him at Andrew@Finitiv.com.