Entitle CEO Bryan Batten Has His Mind on Mobile and Big Data in 2015
Book Business interviewed several leaders in the publishing industry to discover what new trends will disrupt publishing in 2015. We featured those interviews in our December issue. Here we want to share the full interviews, which offer valuable insight on the future of the book business.
Following Bryan Batten, CEO of subscription platform Entitle, shares his insights on the year to come in publishing.
What's the next big trend publishers need to keep an eye on?
The explosion of mobile devices in general is something that publishers will have to deal with. The majority of people have some sort of mobile reading device, essentially a bookstore at their fingertips. I think that going forward publishers and retailers need to find ways to tap into this huge expansive group of people that have a bookstore with them at all times. Publishers need to find a way to get these people interested in buying their books and reading in general. I think that the explosion of mobile is going to continue to play a huge factor in reading and the industry as a whole.
What technology are you most excited about in the publishing industry?
It goes back to mobile. We're all reading on tablets and phones now and this really opens up a much bigger audience for publishers. Every time Apple sells a device that is another potential customer for us. That is the really exciting technology that publisher need to watch.
I'm also really interested in the big data machine learning. What can we learn from people's reading patterns and behaviors? How can we turn that data into better recommendations for them? It's something we spend a lot of time with at Entitle. As publishers become better versed in big data, I think we'll be able to solve more of the discoverability issues.
Do you think big data can also be used to determine the content of future books?
Absolutely. I think there is so much that people can learn in the path after the sale. Before you only knew that someone bought the book. You never knew what happened after that. You didn't really know if someone was tearing through the book or if they were abandoning it. Publishers can take that information now and make more informed decisions about their books.
Our recommendation system actually reads the content of books so you can find lesser-known authors who are writing similar content to say a Lee Child. How can you get that lesser-known author in front of a bigger group of people? Or as a publisher, can you sign that lesser known author early in their career and build them into a Lee Child? I think there are a lot of interesting things that people can do with big data.
Is direct-to-consumer selling a viable revenue strategy for publishers? What concerns might publishers have?
It's certainly feasible that publishers can get into D2C. It's not as simple as building a website or an app and saying, "Now we're a direct to consumer company." I don't think there is a publisher out there who doesn't have a way for readers to buy directly from their site. For them to actually get into direct-to-consumers sales in a significant way, it wouldn't be an easy task. You have to learn a completely new business of getting customers in the door. It's a new skillset they would have to bring on versus what they already have in house.
How have publishers' marketing strategies changed in light of the rise of online book buying?
Publishers and retailers need to think a little outside the box in terms of the audience they are going after. How can you find different groups of people that share the interest of reading? Publishers have turned to Urban Outfitters, which now sells a lot of books. That's not a place where you would think publishers would sell books, but they are looking for alternative channels as more bookstores close and we need to do something similar in the digital world.
What segment of the book industry do you think we'll see the most disruption in the coming years?
I think that textbooks have the biggest opportunity to be disruptive. I also think its one of the hardest opportunities to crack open. So many people have tried but no one has really found a solution yet.
Kids are paying $1,500 a semester for books, and if somebody could find a way to make publishers happy while giving students a more affordable textbook, then they will be very successful. It's a very hard nut to crack because you have the publishers who are making a killing off of the physical world of textbooks and that doesn't really give them much motivation to move to digital. And the adoption rate for digital on the students' side is still low. If someone can figure out how to incentivize both groups toward digital books I think that will be a hugely disruptive to the education industry.
What are the biggest revenue opportunities for publishers in the next few years?
You should look at different ways and avenues to sell books. How do you motivate someone to read? I don't have that answer, I wish I did. I think we have to think outside the box and find ways to get books in front of people who aren't seeing them. How do you get someone to read a book versus watching a TV show or watching a movie? Maybe it's finding a way to cross different media outlets. If you enjoyed this movie, take a look at this book. Most publishers are owned by these huge media conglomerations who own the studios, TV networks, etc. I think it would be really cool if someone could crack that nut and connect the content across platforms.
Are you optimistic about the future of the book industry?
I would need to get a new job if I wasn't. I'm very optimistic. I think as a whole publishers handled the digital disruption of the industry pretty well. For the first time in a while a lot of people are talking about books and reading again. The fact that the Amazon-Hachette dispute makes national news almost weekly is an interesting thing. It's cool to be in that kind of space where there is this much discussion.