What Powell’s City of Books Can Teach Us About Digital Publishing, Part 2

Published by Gina Wentling | Topics: Associations, Content Strategy, Online Publishing

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Bestsellers area in bookstore - many books in the background.

Last week, I recounted my visit to Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, comparing the organization of the bookstore to the faceted search options available on some digital publishing platforms (including Omnipress’, of course). Today I think back on the displays at Powell’s, and how taking a similar tack to digital publishing can help readers find useful information.

Most bookstores will use display tables at the front of the store and in the aisles to draw you to certain books. Sometimes the display highlights new releases, but often the collection is seasonal: Works by Irish authors in mid-March.  Books about gardening in April. Mother’s Day gifts in May. Beach reads in July. Calendars for the new year in December.

These displays help you find a book that you might have otherwise had a hard time finding, or wouldn’t have been looking for in the first place. But sometimes it’s just what you need. Your mom really would love Tiny Fey’s “Bossypants.”

Even in the aisles, there are signs pointing you to other great books. Some books are displayed cover-forward out so they stand out among the sea of spine-out tomes. A short review by a bookstore staffer praises the new release of a local author. “If you love Writer A, you should read Writer B” recommendations are sprinkled throughout the aisles.

Powell’s and other bookstores go out of their way to lead you to more content that you might like. On one hand, this is basic sales and marketing—show people more books they will like, and people will buy more books. On the other, it’s a practice that can work for your online association content.

According to a recent Omnipress survey, 71.7% of association professionals “strongly agree” that their association hoped to use digital publishing to “help members use content more often and thoroughly.” How can you make like a bookstore and lead members to association content they may use often and read voraciously?

Meta tags! If you’ve ever been involved with website design, even on a peripheral level, you have probably heard of this. If you haven’t, then your personal internet use can be used as a starting point.

Open a browser and hover over the tab at the top of your screen. If you do it on this page, you’ll see the text “The Big Ideas Blog | Omnipress.” That’s a meta title. If you google “Omnipress Big Ideas,” you’ll see a short description under the link. That’s a meta description. Pick out a few important terms on the page to set up meta keywords for a website.

All things “meta” help search engines to find that page, and a digital publishing platform can harness this data to create recommendations based similarities between pages. If an association member reads a magazine article about “Tips on Time Management,” for example, a list of related articles (including “Online Tools to Maximize Productivity”) will appear at the bottom of the article.

Once the member reads to the bottom of the second article, another list of recommendations will lead further down the rabbit hole. Suddenly the member is engaged, using association content more often and thoroughly (sound familiar?) than ever before.

My time at Powell’s City of Books was (too) short and (very) sweet. Though I was on vacation, my mind wandered back to work as I walked the aisles. Viewing every life experience as a possible blog topic is apparently my new occupational hazard. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip to the bookstore with me. I’ll be sure to bring a little Omnipress on my next vacation, too, and share it on my return.


About Gina Wentling

During her time as Marketing Communications Coordinator (2013-16), Gina wrote hundreds of blog posts for Omnipress. Her work has also been published in association publications. Read More.

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