Four Digital Publishing Questions for Mary Ann Naples

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

verticalization direct sales publishing RodaleThe Digital Book World Conference + Expo, kicking off on January 13, 2015 is packed with an incredible amount of information and ideas about the digital publishing landscape at a time of remarkable transformations. To help attendees make the most out of those three days, Digital Book World is sitting down with conference speakers to help lay the groundwork for conversations that will take place at the conference and continue for many weeks and months afterward.

This is the fifteenth installment in our “Digital Publishing Questions” blog series, featuring Mary Ann Naples, SVP, Publisher of Rodale Books.

What are you anticipating as the big change we will see in 2015?

2015 will be the year of the customer for publishers. From every corner of the business, we are seeing experiments on how to best connect with customers gathering steam, if not much actual revenue yet.There is a growing sense that publishers need to delight customers–whether by creating a pop-up shop, a hotline or a good old-fashioned community experience on a new social media platform.

At Rodale, we have been in the direct selling business for longer than we have been in trade, and our direct business is substantial–but we, too, see the need to delight customers directly and more strongly. If we don’t do this, there are plenty of other companies waiting to do it for us and gain the customer relationship.

Related: Publishers, Who’s Your Customer?

What is the most important thing publishers need to accomplish in 2015?

At Rodale, we have defined our most important thing as helping customers get even better outcomes from our life-changing books and products. How can we provide an experience around a book and an author that cements the customer’s relationship with that book, author and, by extension, Rodale as the publisher? We are trying many many things in this arena including communities, courses, challenges, value-added messaging and coaching. I could see variations of these kinds of things working beyond our wellness vertical in other areas as well. The Rodale name means “wellness,” and this is the year that customers will know it.

Will Amazon’s ebook market share grow in 2015, or will this be the year that Apple, Kobo, Google and Nook (or someone else) push them back?

So many people are saying that ebook growth has plateaued. We are also seeing this, but I believe there is still growth to come as more and more people gain an even deeper relationship with their devices. I think all retailers will grow, and I hope it is going to be an exciting race to be part of.

Are there any companies (start-up or otherwise) now flying below the radar that you think may break out in 2015?

I think 2015 is the year that we’ll hear more about the companies that have invested in building their verticals to have a direct connection to their customers, like F+W or Hay House. It’s the secret sauce! And in addition, I think the digital subscription model companies are going to be very interesting to watch.

Mary Ann Naples is SVP, Publisher of Rodale Books. She’ll be speaking on a panel at Digital Book World 2015 called “Case Studies: Building a Vertical From the Ground Up,” exploring successful recent experiments in verticalization and consumer-facing strategies in the market today.

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