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Voice of the Reader Survey Finds Rising Book Prices Are Driving Buyers to Delay Purchases, Buy Used Books, or Use Subscription Services

Targoz Strategic Marketing Announces Availability of
Reading Pulse Survey™

Big news from the Targoz team!  We have announced the immediate availability of the Reading Pulse Survey™. Based on six years of survey research, the syndicated study provides book publishers, agents, and sellers with an accurate picture of readers, and delivers actionable data on what readers want and how to influence them to buy.

 “At its heart, Reading Pulse is a voice of the reader survey,” said Randy Ellison, President of Targoz Strategic Marketing. “While everyone in the industry has focused on transactional sales data and analytics, we wanted to concentrate on the most important part of the industry: readers.”

Surprising Results

The survey asked readers about the genres they read, how much they’re willing to pay for a book, and where they buy their books. The study also includes Author Ranking Brand Scores™, which measure and rank the brand strength of bestselling fiction authors by genres, as well as extensive reader segmentation and demographic data.

“While the number of adults reading books has grown over the past five years and readers tell us they are finding more time to read, we are seeing declines in the number of books purchased by readers,” said Ellison. “Rising prices for print and e-book titles are driving book buyers to look for value. High prices are causing readers to delay purchases or to find lower price titles by buying used books, downloading free and discounted e-books from BookBub and other discount newsletters, or by using subscription services. Readers read, and those who consume the most books are looking for value to feed their reading habit. Amazon understands pricing, and our study proves they understand it far better than most publishers.”  

Reading Pulse Survey™ Availability

The Reading Pulse Survey™ report can be purchased at www.readingpulse.com for immediate download. The annual study is a broad-based consumer tracking study which compares readers’ attitudes, habits, and purchase patterns against the general population. This provides buyers with the most accurate and broad-based assessment of the U.S. market.

No Research Is Better Than Bad Market Research

For the past few days, news gossip site FTV Live has chronicled survey research being conducted by Cox owned WFTV in Orlando. From the screenshots posted in the stories, it appears WFTV is testing potential anchor changes with area viewers using an online survey with embedded video.

Potential leaks are always a possibility with online survey work since respondents can take screenshots of the questions or take a picture of the screen with a smart phone or tablet. That’s why you should test multiple topics or try to balance the questions to mask the sponsor or goals of the research.

Not only does it help protect your business strategies, it also improves the quality of the research.

For example, if I’m a loyal viewer of a competing station’s news programming and it is rather apparent that the sponsor of the research is WFTV, knowing the likely sponsor could impact how respond to the questions being posed in the survey.

FTV remarks that “Cox won't change the paint color in the men's room at the station without fully researching it first and having a focus group weigh in.”

First, let me say that Cox is a good and well respected operator among the current media companies left standing.

However, if the screenshots are any indication of the research being conducted, they should just save the time, money, and effort.

Without going into all of the issues I see in these questions, let me just say that trusting your gut and your experience is far better than basing a decision on bad research.

Not so long ago, I spent a few years working for another media company that is often accused of relying a little too heavily on research. I’ve seen work whose sole purpose is to offer cover, support, or opposition for a predetermined business decision that had already been put in place. If the decision (i.e. a new anchor pairing) flops, managers can then use the “it tested well” argument to deflect any criticism they may face down the road.

This creates the corporate researcher’s paradox. Do it right and have the results potentially conflict with management wishes, or go along to get along and live to see another day.

The latter course of action is better for career advancement, and the former is better for our profession. 

I know it’s difficult and counterintuitive, but if you are good researcher and the wrong tools or questions are going to end up being used, recommend against the research. Cite budget issues or the opportunity to deploy the funds elsewhere for things like promotion.

Do what you can to avoid taking the hit down the road if the project goals go south.

Corporate researchers in rapidly changing industries like broadcast media have one of the most difficult jobs imaginable battling more demands amid shrinking resources.

I feel your pain.

So please do what you can to stop a bad research project or call a consultant in to fight the battle for you if you can’t stop it on your own.

Our industry is facing enough issues right now. So please be honest with the limitations of what can or can’t be done using market research.

Your future career and our industry may depend on it.

How Newspapers and Publishers Should Reinvent Themselves

The Audit Bureau of Circulations released the semiannual newspaper FAS-FAX report which includes top-line circulation data for all newspaper members for the six months ending Sept. 30.

This is the second reporting period in which ABC is counting circulation differently, so you can’t really compare current figures to previous periods and it doesn’t appear that anyone is really trying (or cares enough) to figure out a way to do it.

Circulation of the top two newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, was down slightly compared to the previous six months.  The New York Times' circulation was up 25 percent due to its paid online subscribers. The digital paywall The New York Times erected in March appears to have also spurred an unexpected increase in print circulation.

Most analysts, me included, believe that publishers will not be able to collect enough from digital revenue to offset the declines in print revenue. The economics of the industry and digital media simply will not make up the difference.

Most newspapers offer undifferentiated content which drives down the price of their products to their marginal cost (i.e. the cost of producing one more unit of a good). The problem for most of these companies… as Mary Meeker likes to point out… is the marginal cost for digital content is $0. Content creation is cheap. Very cheap.

The only way these companies will be successful is to differentiate their content and demonstrate that they have something to offer or that they “know something” that you cannot get anywhere else.

This type of content is not cheap. Experts are expensive.

Consumers are not going to buy wire stories and poorly written local stories by overworked writers trying to feed the daily beast. I don’t want coverage, I want knowledge.

Less is more. Think niches.

Insider knowledge that clues the reader into inside information and insight that they cannot get anywhere else is the key. There has to be a reason I will pay for content. Create niches with content from someone knowledgeable about the topic. Don’t man it with a writer who just sources information; find someone who is or could be the source.

I’m not concerned that the writer is skilled at writing or reporting. I will pay for believable knowledge about something I care about, not necessarily about the writer’s ability to turn a phrase. Writing ability is a bonus, but not my primary motivation to buy.

Create personalities or content creators who offer inside information and a demonstrated amount of knowledge about a topic I care about and I will pay for it. It might be news and insight on my favorite sports team (i.e. Nashville Predators) or details on why the stock market dropped today or scoop on what the movers and shakers are doing in the local business community and who is profiting from it.

Prove to me that you know stuff I want to know and I might buy it. Don’t try to right the world’s wrongs. I want to learn something from a source that I trust. 

Want proof?

I subscribe to Stratfor Global Intelligence to stay abreast of political, economic, and military events and their significance. Stratfor sells what they call “human intelligence” on subjects that is not readily available. They provide content and context I can’t get anywhere else.

And guess what… I’m buying it.

Moving Books Online

A recent survey by The NPD Group reveals that 1 out of 3 consumers (37%) said they were "somewhat interested" or "very interested" in buying an electronic reader such as Amazon's Kindle or the Sony Reader.

Of the 40% who were not interested in owning an e-reader, 70% said they still prefer the look and feel of actual books.

Of the 37% who said they were interested in owning a device, the biggest appeal was the ability to buy and store multiple books (as well as some magazines and newspapers).

Consumers also said they liked the ability to download books from the Web instantaneously, and that e-readers are easier to carry than books.

Since it appears that Apple's mythical tablet Mac is headed to market, you have to wonder if Apple is about to wipe out the Kindle and the Sony Reader by providing a tool for reading books and accessing other multimedia.

Even more intriguing, rumors of another cool-looking tablet have surfaced and this one is powered by Google's Android. Google Books for mobile is already available for Android and iPhone users and they already have the publishing agreements in place to provide a mountain of content.

Migrating up to a third of books sales to online will be a huge story in the next couple of years and as these devices come online, book publishers will face many of the challenges that have beset the music industry for the past couple of decades.