Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
The topic of metadata crops up regularly as an issue publishers should care about, without much guidance as to why.
So let’s ask that question now: Why should a publisher care about their metadata?
The reasons are actually closely related to a publisher’s daily operations and bottom line. To that end, here are four reasons publishers should consider prioritizing an investment in metadata.
Reason 1: Better Metadata Equals More Sales
In 2012, Nielsen published a white paper called The Link Between Metadata and Sales. In 2016, they published an updated version that further reinforced the correlation between consistent metadata and sales.
There are separate U.S. and U.K. versions of the report, but the insights they provide are startlingly similar. They both illustrate that comprehensive use of metadata—whether in the form of basic metadata elements, product descriptors, or keywords—is closely linked to increased sales.
Search engines are reliant on metadata; without it, Google search results would be considerably less useful. As the ability for machines to read and interpret information improves, and as those machines play an increasingly important role in our lives, the data on which their capabilities rely becomes more central.
Seen in this light, it makes sense that the data that gives life to a product for such machines becomes worth the time and resources involved in creating it.
Reason 2: Your Content and Data Both Need to Be Agile
A write-up of the recent BookNet Canada Tech Forum highlighted a session called “Repurposing Content.” From creating audiobooks out of legacy audio files to repackaging old recipes into new ebooks, speakers offered insight on how existing owned content can be given new life as a result of evolving formats. But if you’re repurposing recipes from a print magazine, you’re starting from zero when it comes to the metadata. If you want the target audience to find that asset, it is vital to invest in the skills and tools that help repackaged content reach its potential.
And as content needs to be agile, so does the catalog that houses it. Relying on a canonical ONIX feed to suit every distribution need—be it a publisher website, imprint microsite, or social advertising campaign—is likely to lead to duplicated manual effort that is prone to human error.
Investing in a title manipulation engine gives you more control over how and where your catalog data appears. (Full disclosure: I work for Mint Digital, the company that produces BookEngine, a title manipulation and distribution engine.) Meanwhile, automated ingestion of this data—which some title manipulation engines offer—removes the headache of workflows needed to keep an eye on disparate data differentiations.
Reason 3: Your Competitors Are About to Invest
In March 2017, Ixxus and the Copyright Clearance Center released a report based on research conducted with leading U.S. and U.K. publishers. The report focused on publishers’ feelings about digital transformation in their industry and provided insights on where their priorities lie.
Metadata was the highest priority for publishers, but it also ranked last in the list of current capabilities.
The good news for publishers underperforming in this area is that you’re far from alone. The industry as a whole needs to up its game. The slightly worse news is that prominent reports like the one from the CCC mean your competitors are likely mulling over the steps they need to take to improve.
If organizations in an increasingly competitive market are putting aside budget to improve this area of their operations, keeping pace becomes all the more crucial.
Reason 4: Data Is Only Going to Increase in Importance
Future publishing developments will have a considerable data component, as they will be closely linked to technology. This is, of course, highly relevant to ebooks; whether readers access them via e-readers, smartphones, or augmented reality headsets, the decision to purchase and interact is dependent on the reader’s ability to find and access what they want, when they want it. This is nigh-on impossible without useful metadata.
But it would be shortsighted to assume metadata only benefits readers. Increased use of data across the publishing industry would open up possibilities presented by large-scale data mining; for example, using AI to identify trends and patterns relevant to successful titles could feed into publishers’ strategies when selecting books to publish and authors to work with in the future.