Part 2 of 3 of my Trends in Publishing post, which covers subscription websites and gamification trends.
From the original post: “While researching my thesis project for my M.S. in publishing at NYU, I came across several interesting trends that I think will affect publishing. In fact, I’ve already seen some of these at work in the three months since I wrote the report, and I plan on using this information for my own startup, Write or Read.”
Paige Mazzoni, vice president of marketing at the subscription site Safari Books Online, told Digital Book World, “As e-books have risen, it’s also given rise to the subscription marketplace.” The more people “have become socialized to the idea of e-books,” the more likely they are to “adopt new and creative ways of buying them.” Subscription websites for book content are more popular, partly because being browser-based allows publishers to control the content and be device and format agnostic. Instead of paying large sums of money to develop the same book for multiple devices and formats—EPUB, MOBI, KF8, and PDF—publishers only have to create one version of the e-book.
Socialization has also contributed to the rise of subscription websites. Corey Eridon wrote on Hubspot about “The Sharing Revolution,” or collaborative consumption. Ownership economy has given way “to one in which people are happy to rent items from a larger group of people with whom they simply share access to those things.” One of the most successful examples of a collaborative consumption business is Netflix. According to Eridon, Generation X likes collaborative consumption more than Generation Y, but Gen Yers will eventually embrace it as they grow up and become more cautious with the money they spend. Gen Y is also used to “the online group mentality,” which means they research online and “seek advice from their networks before making major life decisions.” In fact, user-generated reviews have more power in influencing Gen Y purchasing decisions than recommendations from friends or family members. Everyone has a mobile device, which means they are also connected to the network, and that “has laid the perfect groundwork for the sharing revolution to grow and thrive.” This means that having user reviews on a subscription website will be key in attracting the Gen Y demographic.
However, for other generations, the Pew study found that recommendations from friends and family members are still very important.
Amazon also recently said that subscription sites lead to sales, citing 50 percent of “customers who borrowed one of [independent author] Debora Geary’s books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library purchased her titles.”
Three age groups who would be interested in a subscription websites are Gen X, Gen Y, and baby boomers. According to Marketing Pilgrim, Gen Xers are interested in sharing, since they have families and budgets. HubSpot says that Gen Y cares about recommendations made by strangers, making sites with reviews appealing to them. By 2017 Gen Y will be the largest consumer group in the history of the U.S., with spending power of over $200 billion. Lastly, baby boomers spend more time and money online than any other demographic, according to eMarketer. There are 60 million baby boomers in the U.S. that are online, averaging 37 hours per month.
Other factors to consider are that consumers in the Northeast spend the most on reading materials, women spend more time online once they are mothers, and women buy 68 percent of all books sold. Additionally, there are 58.5 million affluent adults in the U.S., meaning they earn at least $100k per year. Of those 58.5 million, 66 percent have at least one Apple device and 98 percent use the Internet 26 hours per week. Affluents do not consider themselves wealthy and they make a conscious effort to spend less money or only spend money for products they feel have value; however, they still spend twice as much as the average U.S. household.
One e-book reader, Wendy R., said, “There are some books you would read and may never read again, which is perfect for the subscription service. I do re-read books over from time to time, and for those books, I would want to purchase them.”
E-books can also take a page from what’s happening in the software world. According to App Cubby, “The age of selling software to users at a fixed, one-time price is coming to an end. It’s just not sustainable at the absurdly low price users have come to expect.”
Technology research firm Gartner predicted that in the near future, “a gamified service for consumer-good marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon.” Zynga, the company that created the game FarmVille on Facebook, is incredibly profitable with its “free” games that “constantly nudge its players toward spending money and recruiting their friends.”
Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality is Broken” thinks that playing games is “an optimal form of engaging [reality]” that can help people solve real-world problems. One example is Weight Watchers, which uses points to motivate people to lose weight. Sam Anderson, a critic at New York Times Magazine, said he thinks games are a form of wall-building that helps people compartmentalize their time and attention, and that games force people “to make interesting choices about what matters, moment to moment, in our lives.” Although eMarketer claims that more women play casual and social games, such as FarmVille, gamifying a website can increase engagement for both men and women and may help keep customers loyal to a brand.