Wiley Merges Old and New
Having recently celebrated its 200th year, John Wiley & Sons Inc. is among the oldest independent publishers in the world. You don’t survive two centuries without an ability to change with the times. That, says Christine Dunn—the focus of this month’s Marketing Interview—is a core strength of Wiley’s.
“Wiley hasn’t been around 200 years by not trying new things every now and then,” says Dunn, director of marketing for Wiley’s professional and trade division, home to such popular brands as “For Dummies,” “Frommers,” “CliffsNotes” and “Betty Crocker.” “… When you have the luxury of [working for] an organization that runs smoothly doing things it [has] always done and doing them well, it’s much easier to go out and experiment a bit, because you feel like you have a solid base from which to jump.”
Dunn’s career began in nonprofit publishing with MIT Press in Cambridge. From there, she spent time as a sales and marketing director for Washington, D.C.-based Island Press. Today, she is nearing the completion of her third year leading Wiley’s marketing efforts in the United Kingdom, and throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. These efforts, she says, are centered around experimentation—finding new, innovative and, whenever possible, cheap ways to leverage emerging and new media in marketing Wiley’s books.
What are your current responsibilities at Wiley?
Christine Dunn: … I’m responsible for [Wiley’s professional and trade] content in … Europe, the Middle East and Asia. …
Wiley is kind of a big basket of brands. We have everything from “Dummies” to “Frommers” to “Sybex.” But we also have some of our own indigenous brands here in the U.K., one of which is Capstone, which has been a fantastic place for us to do online marketing. We have an author base there that loves to be online and loves to use all mediums available. We also have Wiley Nautical. We’ve set up a community page there—we call them Collective Knowledge Portals. This [one] is for the sailing community, and was a way to launch the Wiley Nautical brand and also really focus on sort of a niche market.
How has the emergence of the online space and all of its potential affected the 200-year-old company?
Dunn: … The way we’re organized here, I’ve really tried to empower the teams to be entrepreneurial in how they look at the lists, how they market and promote, and really think more about having conversations with customers rather than just marketing to them in the traditional sense. And everyone interprets that in different ways, but the size of Wiley makes it a place where there are lots of resources available, if you know where to look, … and you get a lot of support to try new things as well.
At the end of the day, we’re all just trying new things in the online environment. Every time you publish a book, you’re going to discover a new community, a new list, a new place to put an ad … and when you go online, that just flows exponentially in a number of different directions.
So over the last year, we’ve really allowed that kind of experimentation, and are building our confidence and trying out new tools so that we can make better decisions down the road. As we [move forward], it’s going to be more about measuring what those experiments have done and then adapting them.
But, at the same time, when you’re a 200-year-old company, you don’t forget what works. So we’ve tried to use new media to enhance our traditional marketing efforts so that you’re really looking at a multimedia, multidimensional campaign.
How are you leveraging new online strategies like video and audio?
Dunn: We lucked out quite early and found some really nice outside partners who enabled us to explore a lot with video. You can’t go on any Web site these days without seeing some video. And what we’ve found is that if we wanted to ask another site to place a banner ad for us, chances are we’d have to pay for that. But if we say, “Hey, we have this video of one of our authors talking about entrepreneurialism. It’s two minutes long. Give it a look,” they’ll usually post that for free, because they see it as a value-ad. … And if you can keep someone’s attention online for 30 seconds or more, then you’ve made a lot more progress than by hoping you get one of those fleeting [online ad] impressions we’re all still not sure how to measure.
We’ve probably done more than 100 videos, and one of our more recent [videos] had more than 26,000 views on YouTube, so we’re excited about that. When you think about the impact of that versus a flyer or postcard or something, the costs are relatively the same, if not cheaper, so we’ve seen this as a good business decision as well—to migrate more ads online.
We’ve also done a few dozen podcasts. Throughout our experimentation, what we try to do is figure out how to multipurpose any activity we undertake. So if we do a video, we can upload the audio to iTunes or any number of places. Or, we can position it as a video podcast … or [use it as a] banner ad.
You mentioned there will be more of a focus on measurement. What other challenges do you face as a book marketer in today’s environment?
Dunn: Return on investment is important, and there are lots of different companies out there who say they can give you measurements, analytics and that sort of thing. But as we’ve grown in this new media environment, we’ve learned how to set up our campaigns in ways that measurement becomes a bit easier, so that we’re doing some of the prep work ahead of time knowing that we’ll be able to see results in a better way.
… Another [challenge] is just keeping pace with the vast numbers of ways people filter and absorb messages. It’s not just about reading something online anymore. There’s video embedded [and] audio embedded, there’s Flash animation, all those things. So it’s really all about understanding what people want to see in the context of content and the context of a book. Because a book still is a very intimate engagement with someone. And I would like to think that the online environment would encourage more people to want to get away from their screens, find a book, go sit in a quiet place, and just be a regular, offline person.
Do you find it difficult to obtain buy-in from authors to help market their titles through new media channels?
Dunn: Quite often, we take our leads from the authors. We’ll show them what we can do, and they can tell us what they want to do. Because, at the end of the day, if you don’t have their engagement—just like a customer—you’re not going to go very far with this. …
And it’s up to us, if we feel strongly that this is the best way to promote their book, to make the case for it, because it’s their time they’re giving up.