Publishers talking about “big data is a little bit like teenagers talking about how many girlfriends they have,” Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins, joked on a panel this morning on data-driven publishing at Digital Book World 2014 in New York. It’s a popular buzzword among publishers but not yet a fully integrated part of their businesses.
Restivo-Alessi joined Ken Brooks, McGraw-Hill senior vice president of global supply management, Chad Phelps, chief digital officer of F+W Media, which owns and operates Digital Book World, and Ken Michaels, Macmillan Science and Education global chief operating officer, for a discussion of the ways data can drive publishers’ decision-making.
Here are a few of their recommendations:
1. Only gather data that informs process. According to Brooks, “it’s not so much about the data” as what you intend to do with it. Think specifically about the questions you want to answer.
2. Share the data you collect. “You don’t want to centralize the control” of that information, Restivo-Alessi said. Distribute data across the entire organization, translating where necessary to make it useful to decision-makers on a day-to-day basis.
3.Then do something with it. Data is meaningless on its own. The trick, according to Restivo-Alessi, is “moving from data to insights to actions.”
4.Track smaller patterns and gradually build out. Phelps suggested starting with the tools closest at hand. Watch strategic indicators on Google analytics to identify trends. Then test certain products with key audiences, observe consumer behavior and adapt editorial strategy accordingly. Entire verticals can be built that way.
5. Look beyond the consumer/editorial side. Brooks pointed out that publishers have substantial fixed investments in print assets, and declining sales of physical units can hurt bottom lines. Keep track of transactional and inventory data to better manage those shifts.
Related: Join Chantal Restivo-Alessi and Randy Petway, chief operating officer of Publishing Technology, for an immersive look at techniques for reaching readers through direct-to-consumer sales and marketing on January 30 at 12:00PM EST. Register today!