Past Program / 2020 Program / Gao Shan
|Publishers||illuSalon CO., Ltd|
|Established in 2016, it operates the Global Illustration Award with Frankfurt Book Fair, and provides illustration solutions for 43 Chinese publishing houses. Every year more than 100 titles of books with our illustrations created by international artists are published. Some won award once published, such as “Who is the Tallest”, “The Beast Island of Big Uncle”, “A Collection of 70 Classic Works of Children’s Literature for the 70th Anniversary of Founding of PRC”,etc.|
Publishing Business Implications from COVID-19, Now and Next
The coronavirus pandemic is like a sudden brake in the fast-developing industry. According to the analysis on the Chinese book retail market in the first half year of 2020 released by Open Book, retail sales decreased by 9.29%, in contrast, it had maintained a 10+% growth rate for many years.
Big crashes are to the physical bookstores, with the sales dropping by 47.36%. In February and early March, almost all physical bookstores in China were closed. A survey about 1,000 bookstores nationwide by the physical bookstore alliance showed that more than 77.62% are facing the risk of shutting down as a result of the pandemic. Readers shifted to online stores, thanks to China`s highly-developed online shopping. Delivery was almost as fast as before the COVID-19, and never suspended. The packages could be delivered to designated spots near residential areas for pick-up in the lock-down days. The sales online rose in March for retaliatory consumption, then fell in April, and rose further due to the online grand promoting day 18th June. In the first half year, the book retail sales in online channel increased by 6.74%.
People were forced to stay at home for months and some filled the gaps in their lives by reading. Online reading activities organized by various publishing houses have attracted a large number of readers, and reading apps obtained more users and longer duration in using. The number of users of Jing Dong’s reading App has doubled, and the users’ average reading time increased 64 minutes in the first quarter. Users of WeChat Book spent 99.61 minutes on average in reading in February, increasing by 16% from a year earlier. At the same time, as school classes had to shift online, “cloud” classes and e-teaching have become new learning tools favored by primary and secondary school students. To some extent, COVID-19 has changed people’s reading and learning habits. As the new market trend, it points to a new direction for the development of the publishing industry.
The writer Li Er said, “The pandemic we are facing now is the cruel reality. In an era of globalization, it has engulfed all people in the whole world, from the land to the sky and to the deep sea. It’s infinitely more complex and serious than the stories by Albert Camus and José Saramago.” Authors are recording the historical change and have more time for writing. It is expected that a large amount of new works will be published next year. Some authors together with publisher started the trial to move the book launching, reader meetings and book signing activities online.
Affected by the epidemic, the goal of most publishing houses has changed from rapid growth at the beginning of the year to being sustainable. The direct impact is on the revenues and profit in a short term, while for a long run, the pandemic broke thoroughly the balance of distribution channels, in which publishing houses have to face more intense online competition and profit margin squeezing. Publishers react positively from products, marketing and channel, such as tailor-making products for certain channels, raising cover price by adding more content or services, sales promotions and new SNS channel exploring, etc. Meanwhile, some big publishers keep supporting society during the hard time. Over 100 books and articles on how to prevent and control COVID-19 in printed and digital formats have been published. And some have licensed or co-published over 40 titles on COVID-19 prevention and control to more than 29 countries and regions in 27 languages, communicating about China’s anti-pandemic programs and experience, methods and measures. A few of traditional and digital publishing enterprises opened their digital resources to the public. According to statistics, hundreds of thousands of e-books and audio books were provided for free. “Go Listening”, the app of China Publishing Group opened all resources only with registering, including Chinese and foreign masterpieces, children`s books, etc. People’s Literature Publishing House provided readers a free voucher which could exchange for all audio books for a month. China Literature Group, iReader and other digital publishers also launched numerous free reading programs. As far as I know, readers from other countries also benefited from these free materials too.
Shanghai Book Fair was held in the mid-August as scheduled which gave publishers confidence. The 27th Beijing international book fair (BIBF) has been confirmed to be held on September 26th to 30th with “internet+ cloud platform”. By three major functional modules (exhibiting, communication and trade), BIBF will continue to provide supports in copyright exchange, import and export trade and culture exchange as before.
Now the pandemic has been well controlled in China. We are back to normal life, dinning with friends, watching film in cinema, traveling domestic, kids back to school. Physical bookstores are filled with readers again. You may hardly find a seat in bookstores’ coffee area in a weekend afternoon. The head of the WHO (World Health Organization) says it is hoped that coronavirus pandemic will be over in under two years. To the industry, time may not be the only therapy, because of the changes COVID-19 brings.
New thinking and cooperation with other industries are necessary to re-invigorate publishing. The bright side is, the Chinese government attaches great importance to the development of the publishing industry, with tax breaks for publishers, rents subsidies, etc. Enterprises have also initiated self-help efforts to recover from the pandemic as soon as possible. Besides, as the pandemic have compelled people to spend more time at home, they are likely to develop different reading attitudes and habits. Digital publishing may embrace rapid growth due to its distinguishing features, such as the instant dissemination of digital content, and convenient and efficient acquisition of digital content, etc. The challenges and damages caused by COVID-19 cannot be ignored, but it has also brought about an opportunity to reacquaint and enhance our industry. Therefore, I envision the publishing industry after covid-19 in a more media-fusion situation. Though it’s not a new concept, it is updated with new notes and understandings.
First, media-fusion in content. Big Chinese publishing companies have already produced content in different media, for example, CITIC Publishing Group published 1,427 titles of physical books, 628 titles of audio books, 4,328 titles of e-books and 195 courses in 2019. The Report of China Network Literature in 2018 released by China Audio-video and Digital Publishing Association shows, there are 17.55 million registered authors with 24.42 million pieces of works in 2018. Popular works such as Nirvana in the Fire, The Untamed, Best Days are presented by e-publishing, films, physical books, radio plays. While the COVID-19 accelerates the pace that contents could be created by more different forms, gathered in more different platforms and presented in different media. The rapid developing of technology provides great convenience for recording thoughts and stories. Kuaikan and Tencent Comics, the top 2 of Chinese comic apps achieved a smash hit in the lock-down days with producing various comic works. Game industry increased by 37%, with revenue reaching 44billion RMB in 2020 as estimated. Famous games Honor of Kings published historical story behind the characters in the game. Self-media for its convenience of running and customer reaching gathers authors and users fast. WeChat and Tik Tok are the top 2 Chinese SNS platforms, besides of entertainment and social contacts, they also support platforms for producing contents conveniently and cashing in quickly. It is called “an ecology” as a closed loop, which boosts the content creating with data and matured business modes. WeChat Public Platform originated in 2013 now possesses more than 800 million users, among whom there are short-video content providers, fiction writers, animation makers, scientific content providers, and almost all kinds of content providers. Content is fused in different media by people from all walk of life. The rapid developing of 5G and AI will definitely accelerate the media-fusion in content further. Publishers are always with good taste and sharp eyes in good stories and content. To access to the media-fused content and keep an open mind are also absolutely necessary.
Second, media-fusion in distributing. For book distributing, before the year of 2000, the physical bookstores took nearly 100% of book retail market in China. In 2010, it still took the majority at the percentage of 60%. In 2019, it reduced to the minority of 40%. The outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 crashed the channel of physical bookstores heavily and even prompted a few small-sized publishing houses getting rid of distributing in physical bookstores thoroughly. Paradoxically, even physical bookstores sell most books in their own online shops. In recent China, both books and other format of content could be sold in traditional e-commerce platforms (Taobao, Jingdong, Dangdang, etc.), various app stores and countless emerging online shops in SNS ecology. The media-fused distributing provides more fierce competition and also new chance. Most Chinese publishers have realized the importance of building own data traffic by SNS official accounts and self-run shops in order to have initiative in distributing. Some strong and ambitious publishing houses have tried to build own knowledge-based Multi-Channel Network platform to realize accurate distributing, and data retrieving. An online 5G new reading experience center is now under-construction by a publishing Group with IT companies, including Huawei and China Unicom. It may realize a more media-fused distributing.
Third, media-fusion in marketing. Due to the pandemic, some offline promoting activities had to be shifted online, while some might stay online for the effectiveness, including huge number of viewers, direct interactions and immediate online purchase. A live broadcast by a famous author talking about the books and having immediate communication with readers could attract more than 100,000 viewers, which can be hardly realized offline. The animal fiction author, Mr. Shen Shixi made a webcast on April 19th with more than 140,000 views. And in the single day, his work “Wolf King’s Dream” sold more than 10,000 copies, with revenue of 300 thousand RMB. Besides of live-broadcasting, various online marketing methods with data supporting and analyzing could be made good use of. Professional MCN companies emerge and could provide online marketing services on demands. KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) and KOC (Key Opinion Customers) are active in their own vertical fields. To cooperate with KOLs has become a must in online marketing. With the fast developing of KOL’s business mode, KOLs are generally seperated by influence into 3 levels: “head” class, “twist” class and “tail” class. “Head” KOLs are those with more than 1million followers, and more than 100 thousand PV (page view) of each headline articles, then the “twist” with about 500 thousand followers, with around 50 thousand PV, and “tail” ones with less influence. Each class has a price range for cooperating and sale split rate. They are good at customer reaching and promoting info spreading, which are non-ignorable resources in online marketing. Some apps are for influencing users to long for a particular product, such as Xiaohongshu. Early birds of publishers have already registered and started the running.
As the new trials always take cost in both time and money, the winners after COVID-19 would be the big-sized and fast-acting publishing houses who can integrate different media and multiple business modes, and small and middle-sized ones focusing on vertical content or channel or marketing with sustainable ability of creating.
BOOK INTRODUCTION VIDEO
|A Great River|
China Children’s Press&Publication Group
|Mixiaoquan’s Diary in School:Grade 1|
Sichuan Children Publishing House
|Open the Forbidden City|
Publishing House of Electronic Industry