Random House, HarperCollins Execs Talk About Online Book Browsing, Web Widgets
In an effort to reach more potential readers on the Web, two of the world’s largest trade publishers have released their own unique viral marketing tools intended to help disperse searchable samples of their book titles across the Internet.
Several years after cyberspace mainstays Amazon.com and Google began offering searches for visitors to take a look inside the cover of books, Random House and HarperCollins became the first trade publishers to introduce their own transportable search functions for both retailers and consumers. Unlike those previous available search tools, the two new applications, called widgets, allow users to copy and paste content onto Web sites, blogs and social network pages.
Released just days apart from each other, the two companies began offering the services free-of-charge on each of their Web sites. Despite several functionality differences, the overlying use of each of the widgets are similar for both—each promotes syndicatable distribution. The previous searches offered allowed users to do searches on Amazon and Google’s Web sites, without the ability to pass it along for offsite use.
Leslie Hulse, vice president, global marketing and Internet strategy for HarperCollins, says that although the publisher had “Browse Inside” technology since August 2006 on its Web site, the time had come to offer a widget to consumers.
“The technology is available to make this happen now,” she says. “And there’s a demand.”
HarperCollins currently has 2,000 titles available, and 12,000 titles are expected to be available by July 1, according to Hulse.
“The benefit is we’re giving a tool to avid fans, book reviewers, authors, all kinds of people, that they can copy and paste and put on their Web pages or their blogs,” she says. “Then they can share with the people that visit their site this added content without having to come back to HarperCollins.com. We have authors who are using it to promote their books, book reviewers who are reviewing a book and then providing the widget right there so the person that reads the review can browse a little bit of the title right there.”
In its first week, “Marley and Me” was the most consistent title users utilized the widget to pass along the “Browse Inside.”
“Everyday you can see new titles added to viral distribution,” Hulse says. “It’s growing very nicely the amount of titles in viral distribution. I think we’re going to see a lot more activity in this space in the coming months.”
Hulse says a focus of the initial launch was that the widget would work well and easily with blogs, in particular with MySpace. MySpace and HarperCollins are both owned by News Corp.
“Our whole focus here has been on creating something that for marketing purposes can be spread virally, that’s very easy, and that people can use,” Hulse says.
Random House’s ‘Insight’
Matt Shatz, vice president, digital for Random House, says their company’s Insight widget allows users to tap into the fixed sample set of pages for more than 5,000 titles that were available as of launch.
“For the last couple of years, it’s basically been Google and Amazon,” he says. “They spend a bunch of money scanning titles and indexing them, and doing what they do and putting them on the sever and hosting them so consumers can see sample book material or have book material come up in search results. What we’ve come up with is our own version of the service.”
The company had a small number of titles in Amazon’s Search Inside, but it’s been about two years since any new titles were released for the service. Now, Random House will have more control over a search, according to Shatz.
“The pages and files are sitting on our servers in Maryland, which means that all kinds of retailers ... can with a minimal amount of development on the user interface enable that search and browse functionality to their users without having to spend all their time resources and money scanning [and], storing all those pages, etc., because we’re doing it.”