Industry Notes: Open Road Maps Big Newsletter Numbers, New Marketing for Publishers

In News by Porter Anderson

Riding high on the success of its niche-interest sites, Open Road announces a doubling of those sites and new marketing services for publishers with big backlists.

From artwork at The Lineup, one of three sites–soon to be six sites–generating what the company says is strong newsletter subscribers

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

Three New Specialty Sites Coming
Two developments have been announced at the end of the week by Open Road Integrated Media (OR/M), the US-based digital treasure trove of backlist created by publishing icon Jane Friedman. Mike DiPiano now is chairman.

The company says that its newsletter business has reached the 1-million-subscribers mark.

In materials supplied to the news media, the company’s announcement reads, “Led by [the Open Road newsletter named] Early Bird Books, for fans of discount deals, The Lineup for fans of true-crime and horror fans, and The Portalist for fans of science fiction and fantasy, the newsletters have delivered a 253-percent increase in ebook revenue for OR/M in 2017 over the same period in 2016. Subscribers have responded well to the newsletters with a 30-percent open rate and a 28-percent rate of conversion to sale.”

With this news of three specialist sites’ newsletters’ success–and word that the number of such niche-interest sites is about to double–Open Road seems to be crossing over to platform status, increasingly functioning as a staging system for extensively parsed consumer interest.

More numbers on Open Road’s operation include these, offered on the company’s site:

  • More than 10 million impressions per month;
  • More than 3 million page views per month;
  • More than 1.4 million unique visitors per month; and
  • A catalog of more than 10,000 titles representing the work of more than 2,000 authors.
Niche Sites: Divide and Conquer
“Our ability to give our consumers the books and products they love has driven significant sales increases for us.”Paul Slavin

A part of Open Road’s approach in recent years is the creation of those specific-niche areas mentioned, to draw genre fans. The company’s three such sub-sites’ names match their corresponding newsletters: EarlyBirdBooks.comThe-Line-Up.com, and ThePortalist.com.

Open Road’s press materials say that the three new such sites coming this month are:

  • “Love So True” for romance readers, of course;
  • “Murder & Mayhem” for mystery and thriller readers; and
  • “The Archive” for history and nonfiction consumers.

And as a way to build on its success in marketing backlist–the company cites 40-percent annual revenue growth on its own catalog since the end of 2015–Open Road has also announced the advent of a marketing program for other publishers’ backlist catalogs.

According to the announcement, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has signed on as an early partner in the marketing program.

Ellen Archer

HMH’s president of trade publishing, Ellen Archer, is quoted in a prepared statement, saying, “We’re aware of the success Open Road has had marketing its own list.

“As another publisher with a robust list of iconic backlist titles, we’re interested to see how the focus and sophistication they bring to backlist marketing will benefit our list.

“We’re always looking to find more ways to reach as many readers as possible, and we’re excited to work together with Open Road on this initiative.”

Publishers already participating in Open Road’s newsletters, the company reports, include: Hachette Books Group, Crown Publishing Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Skyhorse, Wild Blue Press, Kensington Books, Dunemere, and, of course, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Paul Slavin

Speaking for Open Road, Paul Slavin, the company’s chief executive, is quoted, saying, “The key to the whole engine is our increasing sophistication around audience engagement.

“Our ability to give our consumers the books and products they love has driven significant sales increases for us.

“Based on that success we’re growing our network of external partners, which allows us to provide our readers with an even broader selection of bestselling books.”

Curiously, at this writing, Open Road’s Web site home page reports 500,000 newsletter subscribers, which clearly is not an updated figure, in light of the 1-million landmark.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.