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For trade and academic publishers, online communities have moved beyond the experimentation phase and now play an important role in their integrated marketing plans. According to new research from Publishing Technology and Bowker Market Research, which was released at the London Book Fair, publishers report having an average of two online communities, but that number is expected to double over the next two years.By 2015, trade and academic publishers are expected to have an average of five online communities, and 25% of publishers surveyed for the Publishing Technology survey expect to have seven or more online communities by 2015.Today, 66% of trade and academic publishers surveyed for the Publishing Technology study already host at least one online community. By 2015, that number is expected to hit 90%.Trade publishers are developing online communities in greater numbers than academic publishers. 86% of trade publishers own an online community today, and 72% of those trade publishers believe that online communities help to increase direct relationships with customers. 45% reported that online communities provide effective marketing support to sales channels. On the other hand, academic publishers are most impressed with the increased knowledge and understanding of customers that online communities offer (40%).Overall, 73% of trade and academic publishers indicated that online communities help them engage better with their audiences, and 64% believe that their investments in online communities are already paying off. Another 24% believe that their investments will pay off in the near future. Given these results, it's not surprising that 84% of publishers plan to increase spending on online communities in the next two years.While only 16% of survey respondents believe that online communities are "viable direct sales channels," two formats have reaped the most rewards from publisher online communities. 40% of survey respondents believe that trade ebooks have benefited greatly from online communities, and 67% believe that online resources for academic publishers have benefited well from them.Publishers have three goals for online communities: to build closer relationships with consumers, communicate directly with the target audience, and better understand the audience's needs. It seems like a natural progression for trade and academic publishers to connect with consumers online by offering useful, authoritative content. Considering that 40% of academic publishers reported in this study that increasing content usage was a priority, the projection that publisher online communities will double in two years might even be conservative.You can view the complete Publishing Technology report in the presentation below.
Image: Svilen Milev