Corner Office: PRH Consumer Marketing Director Focuses on Discoverability and UX
Back in April Penguin Random House announced the relaunch of its website. The move was made in part to further consolidate Penguin and Random House operations, but it was also a significant strategic shift toward marketing titles directly to readers. “We believe that we can serve our authors even better by building strong relationships with readers across the channels where they spend time,” says Amanda Close, SVP and director of consumer marketing and operations at PRH. Close is one of the executives that spearheaded the site relaunch and she hopes that it will become a channel where readers spend time and discover new books.
The redesign was motivated by three major goals. PRH wanted to create a better browsing experience for readers, optimize the site for mobile visitors, and provide more targeted book recommendations. Close says the new site achieves these goals through original content like its blog The Perch, detailed author pages that share information about tour dates and upcoming works, and a robust catalog broken down into niche subgenres like “Urban Fantasy” and “Noir.” PRH is also enticing readers to return through its newsletter, which shares posts from The Perch or recommends books based on reader interest.
Here Close shares how the new site came into being and why PRH believes that content marketing, both on its proprietary sites and outside channels, is crucial for the greater discoverability and sales of its books.
Can you describe your role as director of consumer marketing and operations?
I am responsible for a corporate team that builds marketing capabilities and programs focused on reaching and engaging with readers directly. Our group supports all marketing and publicity teams across Penguin Random House’s adult and children’s publishing divisions with tools, channel management, analytics, and training to help them serve their authors in the most effective way possible.
What was your role in launching the new site?
My role in the early days was to work with key stakeholders to determine the strategic direction for the site. Then I had to ensure that the team was organized and motivated to successfully execute on a shared vision. I’ve been working with such a talented group of designers, developers, and business thinkers from across the company.
What was the motivation behind the relaunch?
We had several objectives for our site: First and foremost we wanted to build a site that represented the brand of our newly formed company. Second, we aimed to bring the depth and breadth of Penguin Random House books and authors to our readers through our combined catalog and create an optimal browsing experience through improved search and hundreds of category pages. Finally, we wanted to build a mobile-friendly site that was easy-to-use on any device. We know that a massive amount of our readership is extremely busy and always connected -- and we wanted to ensure that we gave them a wonderful book discovery experience.
How has the site fared so far?
I’m hardly objective, but speaking for the home team, we believe the site has turned out really well, based upon the positive initial response we’ve received. We launched the site in April, and continue to add new features and functionality, as well as make updates based on user feedback and site metrics.
Every three weeks we launch new functionality -- our most recent addition is The ReadDown, a series of book list pages in beta, that cover a wide range of topics from 17 Toxic Relationships in Literature to The 17 Books to Get You In The Bastille Day Spirit. The lists are meant to be curated and have highly social components that allow us to be creative and have some fun with our book recommendations. It is gratifying that they have already been so popular.
How is PRH recommending content to users? Are data insights about users informing these recommendations?
Our primary goal is to provide readers with the best book recommendations we can share. We believe that we can accomplish this through a mix of bespoke curated lists and content, automation, and personalization. We take our readers’ privacy extremely seriously and have built all programs with this in mind.
What type of original content is PRH creating for the website?
We create original and engaging content for the site’s blog, The Perch. Content includes interviews, author writing tips, giveaways, reading challenges, book lists, and more. Traditionally, we relied on search engine optimization to drive traffic to the site. With the launch of penguinrandomhouse.com, content marketing -- which helps drive placement of our books and authors in social media -- is playing a larger role. Our broader ecosystem of author sites, divisional and consumer-focused websites, and email programs also contribute original content on relevant title pages.
What are plans for future development?
Next on the roadmap are series pages, which will not only offer readers a wealth of information about each individual series and author, but also offer recommendations on which series to read next. We also have plans to continue optimizing book recommendations throughout the site for individual visitors based on preferences and behavior.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.