Authors have long worked with publishers and booksellers to promote their works, but now two major companies are trying to give consumers a more direct line to writers and other artists.
This week, Amazon.com has begun using podcasts to help promote its media property offerings, including books, music and movies, by providing free interviews with the authors and artists themselves. On the publishing of the business, Simon & Schuster is turning to online video spotlights of its authors to help promote new works and keep the buzz about already released books alive.
Both companies are using these cheap, multimedia formats for essentially the same reason: to engage potential consumers and give them more information on the things they may want to buy.
"It's an additional reason for customers to come to Amazon instead of simply to have a transactional experience. The greatest thing we've learned is that our customers can't get enough information. Whether they are coming because they want to buy something or coming because they want to find out more about something, you can't give them too much information," said Sean Sundall, an Amazon.com spokesperson. "The podcast, it takes that to a new level. Now we're bringing content that customers would otherwise not have access too."
Amazon.com is creating four kinds of podcasts, including Amazon Book Clips with previews of audiobooks; Music You Should Hear, which offers music samples; Significant Seven, a list of recommended books courtesy of Amazon's seven staff editors; and Amazon Wire, consisting of interviews with authors, artists and celebrities. Amazon will initially use previously recorded content from personalities such as authors Michael Crichton and Khaled Hosseini, recording artist Sting, and former president Jimmy Carter. In addition to providing them on its own Web site, the Amazon podcasts will be available on iTunes and TiVo.
Simon & Schuster is taking its promotional efforts a step further by partnering with Web video studio TurnHere to create a book-centric video channel called Bookvideos.tv to promote its authors.
Sue Fleming, vice president online and consumer marketing for Simon and Schuster's adult publishing division, is hoping to break away from traditional promotional efforts and generate more word of mouth by giving book club members and other consumers new ways to be introduced to an author or work.
"Publishing in particular has been thought of as a very old media industry, and we have a tendency to only think one-dimensionally. I think all of us who are working in [online media] have a challenge to think multi-dimensionally," said Fleming. "Books have always been promoted on television, and through a visual experience. You see an ad, or hear an ad, or you see an interview on the news... Video for us seems a logical extension."
Initially, Simon & Schuster has picked 40 of its authors from a mix of genres to talk not just about their books, but about their own lives and how they came to write about the topics they're interested in. Some of the authors picked include Sandra Brown, Mary Higgins Clark, Vince Flynn, Philippa Gregory, Ursula Hegi, and next week TurnHere will shoot a piece with former President Jimmy Carter as well. After the site goes live next month, the videos will also be distributed on YouTube through relationships both TurnHere and Simon & Schuster's parent company CBS have with video sharing site.
Although Amazon.com is sticking with audio broadcasts to promote its creative wares, Sundall says video may very well be in that company's future as well.
"Certainly audio is easier, and if you go about attacking these things you go for the lowest hanging fruit first," Sundall said. "But certainly exploring video options that we have is down the road."
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