The SYP Conference 2014: Digital & Consumer Insight

The next instalment of our coverage of Saturday’s SYP conference focuses on the digital and the power of the consumer within the publishing industry.

The first seminar was centred around ‘The Physical Bookshop in a Digital World’ and ‘The Ideal Bookshop’ and how, in this ever changing industry encompassed by digitalisation, do bricks-and-mortar bookshops strive to keep their place.

Harriet Horobin-Worley, part of the Consumer and Digital Development team at Penguin Random House kicked off the talk with the digital, by introducing us to a new social media platform called ‘My Independent Bookshop’. The platform’s aim is to revive the serendipity of book sharing between readers and provides users with a space in which they can showcase up to 12 books of their choice, in a sense creating your own boutique shop. Users are able to browse through ‘boutiques’ of others, which already include many authors and celebrities,  follow their favourites and even buy the physical copy of the book through the ecommerce platform owned by Gardners, Hive. Horobin-Worley emphasised the intentional merging of the physical with the digital as a way to encourage conversations about books in our digital society. 



The talk then turned to the physical, with a conversation with two leading independent bookshops Daunt Books and Dulwich Books. Laura Macaulay, Publisher at Daunt Books explained their unusual hybrid business model of a bookshop that is also a publisher. She questioned why content creation and the process of selling has become so divided when in fact they are intrinsically linked. Macaulay mused that this is perhaps why Daunt works so well, but also noted the conflicts that can arise as what is best for a publisher isn’t necessarily always best for a bookshop. Sheila O’Reilly owner of Dulwich Books then took on the challenge of describing ‘The Ideal Bookshop’. She immediately commented that it doesn’t exist, otherwise everyone would have one, but identified key credentials of what a perfect bookshop should be:

-          A Haven: A place readers and book lovers can go and enjoy, find sanctuary and friendliness.

-          Profitable: It needs to make a profit or else it would not stay afloat.

-          Partner for Publishers: The bookshop needs to be able to work collaboratively with publishers not independently of them.

-          Event Space: It needs to be multi-functional, the need for events spaces in publishing is ever increasing – so what a better location to fill with bookish types.

She also emphasised the key to a successful bookshop was having a solid team made up of creative and passionate booksellers that are willing to break the mould. 



The second seminar was entitled ‘What is Consumer Insight and What do we do with it?’ and consisted of a fantastic panel of Jo Henry – Consumer Insight at Nielsen Book, Kate Jervis - Insight Analyst at Penguin Random House and Damian Horner from Hachette. Jo Henry began the seminar by introducing Nielsen Book, the largest provider of consumer insight in the publishing industry who collects key demographics to identify who is buying what and through what channels and feeds back this information to publishers. Kate Jervis then enlightened the room by providing the definition of consumer insight as ‘the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of our consumer’. She highlighted how it is so important now, more than ever, to utilise consumer insight due to there being more data available as more people are connected digitally. Damian Horner then took a more off-piste approach and told us what he believes good consumer insight is. Firstly, he revealed that it isn’t about asking questions, as people don’t always know what they want, it is about problem solving. Secondly, he stressed that you must always put the end user, the consumer, first and the product second, as there is no point having a manuscript that you think is great that no one wants to buy. Very simple points made and yet often overlooked in the flurry of the publishing process.

Overall, a very insightful set of seminars with lots of thought provoking tips to take away at the end of the day.