The Importance of Understanding Your Audience

This is the first in a series of blog posts based on our recent webcast, "10 Factors to Consider when Developing your Digital Publishing Strategy." If you weren't able to attend, you can still watch it in its entirety, including the interactive question and answer session here.

View the Webcast

We start with the very core of your publishing business — audience.

Audience drives both sides of your publishing business.  On the product side, it should be the touchstone that guides your editorial and content development efforts.  Book publishers need to make sure their organizations are structured so that the voice of the audience is heard clearly and with authority.  Traditionally in magazine publishing, this role has been served by the editor-in-chief.  Most book publishers don't have comparable structures, and creating them is one of the great challenges of successful online brand building.

Your audience impacts where you promote and sell your content — big box retailers, independent book stores, online e-book stores, or direct-to-consumers from your own web portals. It also impacts how you deliver this content.  Does your audience skew toward e-books? If so, what format(s) do you need to support? Are they reading in a linear way, as is typical with fiction or other narratives, or in a more extractive way, seeking to address to particular questions or learning objectives via searching, browsing and bookmarking. In what kinds of environments do they read your books— office, school, or at home? And are they partial to particular types of reading devices, whether tablets, laptops, smartphones or dedicated e-readers?

Any publisher that lacks a deep understanding of its audience will falter.  Nathan Hull, digital development director of British media group Pearson's Penguin business said, "Big retailers know our customers better than we do." That is a problem, but what can publishers do about it?

In today's market, where margins are squeezed and competition exists from a variety of delivery mechanisms (rental, subscription, e-book, hard copy, etc.), it is becoming more important to establish a direct relationship with your audience, not only because it allows you to retain your profits, but also because it enables you to gather data on user preferences, habits and behavior patterns.  Without this knowledge, publishers are at greater risk of being disintermediated by online retail powerhouses. Readers are increasingly buying online, writing reviews online and getting ideas on what to read from online sources including social media, and publishers need to be tapped in to these processes.

At a minimum, publishers need to build a relationship with audiences through direct marketing, whether via social media, e-mail or other channels.  At the same time, any publisher who is not already selling direct should be considering the options. After all, 11 percent of people surveyed by O'Reilly said they have purchased direct from a publisher.

When you are beginning to develop your direct digital publishing strategy, some questions to ask throughout your organization include:
  1. What are the demographics and psychographics of your readers?
  2. What types of content do they prefer?
  3. Do they want interactive content that goes beyond text?
  4. What devices are they using to read content including laptops, tablets, e-readers and smartphones?
  5. How do they move between these devices?
  6. Who do they buy from?
  7. Where do they find out about new books?
  8. Where to they share reviews and recommendations?
  9. How can you build a better relationship with your readers?
While it all boils down to audience, there are many other things to consider when you are planning your digital publishing strategy.  Stay tuned for more insights, or you can jump ahead and download the complete white paper today.

 Download the White Paper

New Tizra APIs Support Automated, High-Volume Content Loading and More Flexible Web Design

For years Tizra has focused on giving publishers the power of custom software, without the expense of building it themselves. We're tremendously proud of how this approach has empowered many small- to medium-sized publishers to take control of their futures and build digital publishing programs in ways that would otherwise have been beyond their reach.  

But what about larger organizations who may already have strong development teams in-house, or who have already built or bought their own software? We hear you, too, and have now rolled out a series of APIs that will enable you to take advantage of the power of Tizra in ways that extend, and integrate with, what you already have.

HighWire Press is taking advantage of Tizra's new APIs to generate complex pages for Duke University Press, combining data from multiple sources and platforms.
Choosing Open Web Standards
Obviously, we're software developers ourselves, so it was important to us to take with an approach that would not only get the job done, but would make sense and be easy for other developers to work with. We know firsthand the frustration of working with needlessly obscure and proprietary APIs.
With this in mind, we chose some of the most popular and accessible open standards on the web: JSON data formats, used according to fairly strict REST principles.  Our experience through many deployments convinced us that the simplicity of programming and the benefits of inherent browser integration we gained more than made up for the loss of some XML tooling. It doesn't hurt if developers actually like working with our software!
What the APIs are Good For
The new APIs give developers a huge range of options, but they boil down to two basic kinds of tasks: Getting data out of Tizra, and putting data in.
Getting data out
Say you've already got a sophisticated website running on a web content management system like Drupal, or WordPress. You may not want to start over with a new CMS, but you may very well want to take advantage of Tizra's ability to promote, sell and deliver digital publications. The usual way of dealing with this is to use Tizra's web design tools to match the look and feel of your existing site, then knit the sites together with links. This can be very effective, resulting in an online experience that felt to end users like a single, seamlessly integrated website.

With the new APIs, however, there's an additional option: Using queries to pull data out of Tizra so it can be displayed in pages managed on the existing CMS. That means you can manage the interfaces you present to your users entirely in one system, which makes things simpler, and enables you to continue to leverage your existing investment in developers and tools. This is exactly what HighWire Press is doing as it integrates Tizra functionality into its existing platform, which make extensive use of Drupal.
Even for publishers who are building sites entirely on Tizra, the APIs offer advantages in that they allow more control over interactions and allowing for automated page generation. For example, Goodheart-Willcox used them to create its own, customized user registration flow with jQery, as shown below.
And in another example, LAB-AIDs used them to automate the generation of portals linking to hundreds of individual activity files that would otherwise have required many days of laborious hand coding.
Getting Data In
Of course, the flip side of flexibility in getting data out of Tizra is flexibility in getting data in. If you've already got well established production and publication management workflows, including title management, digital asset management or similar software, you probably will want to automate the loading and updating of content into Tizra's online publishing platform. Our goal with this part of the API was to make it possible to automate ALL of the sophisticated publication management features it's currently possible to perform manually through our Admin control panel, including unbundling of content into chapters or other subsections, pricing, and complex business and access rules.
As a result, it's now possible to automate the digital publication of large catalogs of content. Right now, HighWire Press is doing this with over 1500 ebooks for Duke University Press, and work is under way to publish tens of thousands of ebooks with Project MUSE.
So now, Tizra not only empowers smaller publishers by letting them build sophisticated, direct digital publishing programs just like the big guys, it also gives the big guys the ability to take better advantage of what they already have, and to get to market with new products more efficiently, flexibly and cost effectively.

Drop us a note if you'd like to learn more!