Convergence is a term usually employed to describe the confluence of different media in a kind of digital mashup. But there are other interesting convergences taking place, that could, in time, profoundly affect book marketing. This is being propelled by the development of several technologies and the types of data they generate:
- Mapping software (such as Google Earth)
- Simulated worlds (e.g. Second Life)
- Social networking tools (e.g. MySpace and Facebook)
- Copious, objective books sales data (e.g. from BookScan)
Imagine overlaying several sets of book related data onto a Google map. The first layer might the “media layer” – showing reviews, radio and TV interviews, advertising, book signings in their geographical context. The second layer might be the “buzz layer” – opinions and comments contributed by fans, blog postings, Diggs, all aggregated and pinned to their locations. The top layer would be the “data layer” – book sales by geography.
The book marketer could see how each component of their marketing mix affected book sales in specific geographies. It would be the ultimate marketer’s dashboard. A time dimension could be added so the whole thing could be animated – like a weather loop – so the trends could be clearly visualized and studied. For example, given the global reach of social networks, you could see a type of butterfly effect – disproportionately large non-local reactions (big sales spike) from small remote actions (a favorable mention on an influential blog).
How far down the road? All of these components exist today, but their integration is still in the experimental stage. In an article in the July / August 2007 issue of Technology Review entitled “Second Earth,” Wade Roush chronicled some of the developments taking place in the fields of mirror worlds (a term coined by David Gelernter is his book by the same name). and the 3-D Web. The biggest hurdles are more likely to be code and data sharing between the companies that created these technologies. The process of opening up thses technologies to outside programmers has been tentative at best.
But giving marketers the ability to explore data in a visual and visceral manner and draw insights based on its “neurogeography” is too compelling to be forestalled for long. Just as BookScan’s sales data exposed the sometimes dark underside of bestseller lists, so these mirror marketing worlds may yield insights about how consumers are really influenced to buy books.