Nielsen’s BookInsights and London Book Fair’s Quantum: Collaborative Conferencing

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

In a new conference partnership this year, Nielsen’s BookInsights and London Book Fair’s Quantum come together to emphasize data, consumer comprehension, and actionable insights for publishers.

Author Nick Bostrom speaks at the 2016 London Book Fair Quantum conference. Image: London Book Fair

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Great Offer for the Book Trade’

As is traditional at the major trade shows, London Book Fair is preceded by a conference. In fact, there’s more than one conference at Olympia London on Monday (March 13). There’s an Introduction to Rights conference on Monday afternoon, a workshop-style event now in its 21st year.

On Tuesday (March 14), there’s the What Works? education conference, running from 1 to 5 p.m. On Wednesday (March 15), there’s the Research & Scholarly publishing forum, Even November’s Building Inclusivity conference was a London Book Fair production, as reported by Publishing Perspectives.

But the signature conference is Monday’s full-day Quantum: Consumer Insights and So Much More. Under the progamming direction again of conference manager Orna O’Brien—who stresses that “actionable insights” are at the heart of it this year—the program’s “so much more” has a lot to do with a new collaboration with Nielsen Book.

Steve Bohme

While traditionally, Nielsen personnel have appeared at Quantum with a segement of recent publishing industry data, this new liaison puts Steven Bohme—who has managed Nielsen’s Books and Consumers since 1997—into the keynote spot.

Jo Henry

And Nielsen vice president of insight and analytics Jo Henry leads a session later in the morning on how publishers can utilize data “for insightful publishing.”

Joining her in that session are Lauren Romeo, lead NLP (natural language processing) scientist at Tekstrum Solutions; Nick Wells, the founding publisher of Flame Tree; and Louise Vinter, who directs consumer insights at Penguin Random House UK.

“Here’s some great data,” Jo Henry tells us is the premise of her panel, “and here’s how some in the publishing industry put this type of data to use.”

As it turns out, the decision to join forces on Quantum was partly an effect of London Book Fair’s month-early spot on the calendar this year.

“We felt that one conference combining the strengths of both Nielsen and LBF,” says Henry, “would be a great offer for the book trade.

“And this year of course the LBF is a month earlier so is being held at the same time as Nielsen’s BookInsights—formerly Books & Consumers—conference is normally held. It seemed much better to collaborate than to compete.”

Nielsen’s Jo Henry speaks at London Book Fair’s Quantum Conference in 2016. Image: Porter Anderson

Publishers ‘Pretty Well Attuned to Their Consumers’
“Large-scale trends as well as the key changes in how people discover and consume books— essential background to any strategic planning in how to sell more books to more consumers.”Steven Bohme

Mentioning BookInsights’ former name reminds us that Quantum is the former Digital Minds conference. Over time, of course, the key conferences of the publishing year have adjusted their names, not least in recognition of the fact that—in this case—all publishing minds are digital minds now that the industry is so much farther into its digital transition.

Key points of Bohme’s keynote won’t be known prior to delivery, we’re told, because the 2016 year’s report he’ll be interpreting is still coming together. (“We’re going right to the line on this one,” Henry says.

However, she does give Publishing Perspectives several clues as to what attendees will be hearing, including:

  • “The consumers, discovery methods and influences that drove purchasing of bestselling properties such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Joe Wicks’ Lean in Fifteen and the Ladybird and Enid Blyton parodies;
  • “Buying books as gifts dropped between 2012 to 2015 , but did the success of books like these turn things round for the gift book market in 2016?
  • “In 2015, the beginning of the revival for print books was driven by younger females and older male buyers.  Has this changed in 2016, or are these two consumer groups increasingly important to the market?
  • “And until now, dedicated e-readers have been the most commonly used devices for reading the ebooks.  Has the increase in ownership of tablets and smartphones changed this for 2016?”

Dame Gail Rebuck speaks at the 2016 London Book Fair Quantum Conference. Image: London Book Fair

‘The Whole Market’
“In 2015, the beginning of the revival for print books was driven by younger females and older male buyers. Has this changed in 2016?”Jo Henry

Henry says she’s encouraged to find many publishers quickly ramping up their use of data and understanding of how to capitalize on it.

“I think publishing these days is actually pretty well attuned to the need to listen to and understand their consumers,” Henry says. “Many, as my panel will show, are talking to customers within their own communities, so even though they may not have regular access to the large-scale and nationally representative consumer insight of Nielsen Book, they do their own informal research.”

As promising as that kind of consumer interaction is for publishers, of course, the scale and reach—and data analysis sophistication—that Nielsen brings to the table is, nevertheless, important for the wider context in which any publisher is operating at her or his own level.

“We look at it looks at the whole market,” Steven Bohme tells Publishing Perspectives. “The Books and Consumers survey reveals large-scale trends as well as the key changes in how people discover and consume books, essential background to any strategic planning in how to sell more books to more consumers, and of any type.”

Publishing Perspectives’ Spring Magazine is here, timed with London Book Fair. Free download.

Being opened on Monday morning by London Book Fair director Jacks Thomas, the program for the day has a welcome from James Spackman. And some of its most informative moments, in addition to Nielsen’s work, may be in the “Video Power” session with Pan Macmillan’s Sara Lloyd and consultant Katie Roden; the “Fountain of Youth” session on fandom and YA audiences, featuring Wattpad’s Ashleigh Gardner and Penguin Random House’s Clarissa Pabi; and a potentially smart “Question Time” closer with Spackman welcoming Mr. B’s Nic Bottomley, HarperCollins’ Lisa Sharkey; Norstedts’ Eva Cedin; Kobo’s Tracy Newsdoly; and Amphio’s Louise Rice.

For those in search of some specific input on various topics, there are half-hour practical sessions placed into the program by O’Brien on:

  • Instagram for Publishers;
  • Predictive Analysis;
  • Behavioral Planning in Consumer Insight;
  • Google Analytics; and
  • Analytics and Audience Engagement.

Key sponsors this year for Quantum include Copyright Clearance Center and its Ixxus subsidiary; The Baltic Countries; and, in partnership, the UK’s Publishers Association.

Nielsen also offers its UK Children’s Summit 2017 in Olympia’s Club Room, on Thursday (March 16) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a separately ticketed event.

Image: London Book Fair, UK Children’s Summit 2017

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.