Smart Move: Wiley’s Dummies Focused on Content Marketing

In Feature Articles by Edward Nawotka

Publishers are better positioned than anyone to engage in content marketing, says David Palmer of Wiley and the man responsible for the Dummies brand.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

David Palmer, Marketing Director at John Wiley and Sons

David Palmer, Marketing Director at John Wiley and Sons

Content marketing remains a huge opportunity for publishers, says David Palmer, marketing director at John Wiley & Sons, and the man responsible for maintaining the “Dummies” brand.

“We often read about marketers wanting to run content-based campaigns but struggling to generate the right quality and volume to make these campaigns sing. Unlike most marketing operations, we have an in-house content crew ready to go, and we have enormous amounts of content and the expertise to leverage that content in a marketing capacity.”

Wiley’s “Dummies” brand is one of the few the company held onto after jettisoning other consumer verticals in recent years, such as Frommer’s and Betty Crocker. The appeal of Dummies is that it is elastic and can cover virtually any topic, from learning how to play the guitar to weight lifting to social media marketing. In all, there are now some 1,800 Dummies titles in print.

With the advent of digitization and general decline in mass-merchant bookselling, the brand naturally shifted from print to online. “For the first time in the history of the brand, the book has has not been the leading thought. We are now in an environment where people are not walking into a bookstore to solve their ‘how-to’ problems. So we are transitioning the brand from an ‘I know the Dummies book’ brand to an ‘I know Dummies because it come ups in the top three in my Google search’ [brand].”

Today, the website,, which now features some 60,000 “how-to” articles, is “the biggest asset we have,” says Palmer.

“You have to be smart enough to acknowledge you are a dummy.” —David Palmer

That said, says Palmer, there has been a recent attitude shift in how to approach consumers with content marketing, as clients are now gravitating back toward physical products. “We produce millions of [custom published] mini-books each year. And we are even seeing people returning to direct mail marketing.”

When it comes to content marketing, white-label mini-ebooks can be offered as an asset behind a form, a giveaway to generate leads, capture emails, and bring people onto a website. “This is by far the biggest area where we do this,” he says.

“Content marketing is a long way from white papers or training materials,” say Palmer. “It’s an eye-catching way to grab an audience. First that was books, then it became ebooks; increasingly, it has became a bigger and more viable business, one incorporating books, ebooks, animations, info graphics, quizzes — all based on the content we already have.”

He adds, “One thing I have come to realize is that we as publishers — from a systems and logistics point of view — have an advantage creating a well oiled machine for creating content. It’s now an opportunity to unshackle those opportunities from producing books. It forces us to be flexible in meeting customer needs in a way we haven’t done before. The system is to take advantage of the rise of the need.”

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.