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Why publishers should build direct sales channels

Allen Noren on ebook sales success and competing in a global market.

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we’ll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


Building a direct sales channel is still one of the most significant opportunities many publishers still have in front of them. Some have resisted up to now, fearful of rocking the boat with their retailer partners. O’Reilly has done a terrific job building a direct channel. In this TOC video podcast, we hear from the head of O’Reilly’s online and marketing groups, Allen Noren (@allennoren). He shares his opinions on deep discount campaigns, membership programs and how to compete globally, especially in fixed-pricing countries like Germany.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • What drives direct ebook sales success? — In addition to having a great brand and knowing your audience, the ecosystem you build and your relationship with your customers are both critical. [Discussed at the 0:48 mark.]
  • Don’t just think that if you build it, they’ll come — Why would a customer buy from you rather than, say, from Amazon? You have to offer much, much more than just a set of catalog pages. [Discussed at 3:15.]
  • The reality is, “we live in a Walmart world” — We can wish deep discount models would go away but it’s even more important to embrace those models and see what can be learned from them. [Discussed at 4:16.]
  • Are we training our customers to expect these deep discounts? — Deep discount deals need to go one-off purchases. It’s just another mechanism to bring customers in and the expectation is they’ll discover other products as well. [Discussed at 7:15.]
  • Converting a one-off sale into something more — Allen talks about how “verticals” are the key. [Discussed at 10:08.]
  • What can we learn from the fixed-price territories? — Plenty! You’re forced to come up with other ways of getting the sale when price is no longer an advantage. [Discussed at 13:45.]
  • Membership has more value than one-off, deep discounts — Allen talks about the different types of membership programs. Which one is best for your company? [Discussed at 17:10.]
  • What’s the solution to the discoverability problem? — Learning paths are one solution, particularly when your customers see the value they offer for their personal growth and careers. [Discussed at 20:06.]
  • Where does Allen look for insight and innovation? — One of the keys here, he says, is to focus outside our industry. [Discussed at 26:34.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

TOC NY 2012 — O’Reilly’s TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they’ve learned and join together to navigate publishing’s ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012

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