Overall Frankfurter Buchmesse Digital Attendance: 200,000 Users

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The world’s largest trade show registered 4,165 new buyers and sellers on its Frankfurt Rights platform, and 2,388 users signed up to utilize the B2B ‘matchmaking tool’ for communications.

On the ARD Book Fair Stage in Frankfurt Festhalle, the journalist Vivian Perkovic hosts the digital Frankfurter Buchmesse’s opening ceremony. Image: FBM

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

See our special section on Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 here with our latest stories, event highlights, our free digital magazine, and more.

BookFest Draws 1.7 Million Views on Frankfurt Saturday
As you’ll remember, Frankfurter Buchmesse’s organizers in Germany reported on Friday drawing some 148,000 unique users to its digital edition’s trade-visitor days, the fair’s professional programming.

Sunday (October 18), the program added in its wider attendance—including the 28-hour BookFest series of online events—to get to 200,000 as an overall attendance figure for the 72nd edition of the world’s largest book business trade show. That figure is the total measured by Buchmesse’s own core site and doesn’t yet include viewers who were watching on other platforms.

BookFest–normally seen as a series of events in bars, theaters, and other venues around the city of Frankfurt–drew what organizers say is 1.5 million views (not to be confused with viewers) on Facebook. That figure was reached on Saturday (October 17).

Clearly, the digital rendition of the big fair, with a total of at least 260 hours of programming, has been a success in terms of its ability to draw interested participants, including a reported 4,440 exhibitors (that number up from 4,422 earlier).

The Frankfurt Rights platform has reported:

  • 4,165 registered buyers and sellers
  • 31,100 titles uploaded by Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 members
  • 400,000 titles, all told, on the platform

The program’s B2B “matchmaking tool” reports:

  • 2,388 users
  • 9,542 requests
  • 3,135 matches
Boos: ‘Being Present Where Our Target Groups Are’

In a prepared statement, Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos is quoted, saying, “This year we succeeded in offering an international program for publishing professionals and a festival celebrating literary voices.

“We also offered a political platform online, for much-needed discourse to take place.

“Our strategy of cooperating with well-established media partners and of being present where our target groups are—whether on our own platforms or on social media—proved effective.

“At the same time, we all know that nothing can replace meeting in person. We’ve learned a lot for book fairs to come, both in regard to physical and digital events.”

With the advance of the total user number to 200,000, the number of entries on Frankfurt Book Fair’s digital events calendar has grown a bit, as well to 3,644 entries (up from 3,627), and the total of exhibitors to 4,440 (up from 4,422).

Buchmesse’s social channels, organizers say, recorded 1.2 million interactions, post engagements, and views in the seven days of Frankfurt Week.

With Guest of Honor Canada on hand for both the digital fair this year and for the next evocation of the fair in October 2021, the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, was seen in the trade show’s opening ceremony. In his message, he thanked the fair for choosing Canada, saying that books “give us hope, allow us to dream, and provide us with knowledge to learn and grow.”

Trudeau told the audience that more than 200 books by Canadian authors had been translated into German by this month.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, is seen during the Frankfurter Buchmesse opening ceremony. Image: FBM

Protracted Pandemic Pressures

As much conversation in the digital hallways around events would confirm, of course, the world publishing industry is facing an autumn book season probably more crowded with new releases than any in recent memory.

Because many publication dates were delayed during the onslaught of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in the spring, the fall is teeming with launches, triggering, for example, two rather than the usual one big-Thursday release this year in the United Kingdom and many hundreds of new titles for booksellers to contend with in various world markets.

Michele Cobb, executive director of the Audio Publishers Association, agreed with the NPD Group’s Kristen McLean in a Publishing Perspectives Talks appearance, that there now are questions of whether economically challenged households can support continued strong sales growth in the digital space. Although the conditions of the pandemic’s restrictions have provided increased sales in digital channels, prolonged financial strains may become an increasingly pressing factor.

There are similar questions for sales of print formats and their brick-and-mortar bookstores, all facing what may be a challenging holiday shopping season, which is in many world markets the prime sales driver in a given year.

That point was emphasized by James Daunt, the managing director of Waterstones (283 bookstores) in the United Kingdom and Barnes & Noble (627 stores) in the United States. In his conversation with Publishing Perspectives during the Frankfurt Conference’s “Publishing Insights” track, he said that the key to success in holiday retail is going to be in early consumer action and that every opportunity must be seized to communicate this to book buyers.

Tarik Tefsu interviews Zora del Buono as part of the BookFest Studio 1 series of events. The programming on October 17 drew a reported 1.7 million views. Image: FBM

Schmidt-Friderichs: ‘Offering Books a Large Stage’

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs

Speaking for the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels—Germany’s publishers and booksellers association—the organization’s chair, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, who is a publisher, herself, said, “Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 was a special fair in every respect.

“We missed the in-person encounters, but we succeeded over the course of the week in offering books a large stage, both digitally and through the media. The book fair has brought the industry together in new ways and generated enthusiasm for books right in people’s homes.

“Digitally it was also an effective platform for addressing the pressing issues of our time. Together with the exhibitors and the entire industry, we’ll work on new concepts for the future and head into the autumn book season with self-assurance and commitment.”

The Arts+ program—which runs annually as part of the book fair with an emphasis on technology and the creative industries—reported fielding 54 speakers in 11 hours of programming of its own.

Fair organizers continue to report that they will soon have their recordings of the show’s online events posted to the fair’s media archive soon. No date has been offered as yet.

French anthropologist and philosopher Bruno Latour, left, and sociologist Hartmut Rosa in a Weltempfang exchange from Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020. Image: FBM

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is hereMore on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

And from international industry trends to curated guides to the many online events during this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, our digital magazine offers you the information you need to make the most of the fair and the rest of 2020. 

Download your free copy now.

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.com, 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.