Machine Learning and Data Science Enable Banned and Challenged
Works to be Discovered and Purchased
New York, NY (May 11, 2023) – Open Road Integrated Media (ORIM), the book industry’s leader in utilizing data science and machine learning to enable book discovery, announced today the Free Voices initiative, a new marketing service to fight book bans and enable challenged works to be discovered and purchased by readers everywhere.
“We could not believe more strongly in the First Amendment and the right to free expression,” said David Steinberger, CEO of Open Road. “With Free Voices, we are going to fight book bans with the same proven ORIM marketing technology that already drives discovery and sales increases for more than 40,000 titles from over 100 publishers.”
A portion of all proceeds from Free Voices will be donated to The Freedom to Read Foundation, a non-profit organization which protects and defends the First Amendment to the Constitution and supports the right of libraries to collect—and individuals to access—information.
Free Voices is open to all publishers with books targeted by banning efforts at schools, libraries or bookstores. Each title will be featured in marketing vehicles that will reach highly targeted segments of power readers that have been identified by ORIM’s data science and machine learning technology.
The initial response from readers has been extraordinary, with unheard-of open rates above 75% on segmented email sends. Titles already featured include such books as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, “Hello,” I Lied by M.E. Kerr, Always Running: Vida Loca: Gang Days in LA by Luis J. Rodriguez, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.
“Our technology enables a nuanced connnecting of books with readers that is unique, targeted and powerful,” said Open Road’s Chief Marketing Officer, Peter McCarthy. “Our message is that if your book is the target of an attempted book ban and at risk of losing readers, Free Voices can help.”
Publishers welcomed news of the new program. “Open Road’s marketing technology delivers dramatic increases in sales,” said Morgan Entrekin, Publisher of Grove Atlantic. “We welcome the decision to deploy this same marketing technology to fight book bans.”
“Open Road has the technology to find new audiences,” added Milkweed Editions Publisher & CEO Daniel Slager, “and that should make a real difference in getting these banned books discovered, purchased and read.” Attempts to ban books have been accelerating recently, with legislation proposed or passed in a number of states that would restrict schools from teaching books related to certain subjects or would prevent libraries from making certain titles available to readers.
Free Voices is a new offering within Open Road’s Activation marketing service. Open Road launched Activation in 2022 to complement its Ignition full-service marketing program which utilizes machine learning, data science and marketing automation to double the sales levels of eBook backlist (titles published in previous years). Utilizing the same technology, Activation is an a la carte marketing service which drives sales increases for books in print format and audio format as well as eBook format, and markets both newly published as well as previously published titles. Activation has experienced dramatic growth since its launch in mid-2022 and is already serving four of the “Big Five” publishers as well as countless independent publishers and university presses.
“We have been thrilled to see the way publishers are ramping up their use of our Activation service,” said Heidi Sachner, VP of Business Development at Open Road. “We see Free Voices as another important step in the range of services we can provide to publishers.”
Publishers can participate in Free Voices in two ways:
Free Voices Digital
These campaigns focus on the eBook edition of a title, and feature limited time, consumer-friendly eBook pricing accompanied by one week of promotion via targeted email and social media posts reaching hundreds of thousands of the right readers.
Free Voices Print
These campaigns focus on the print edition and audio edition as well as the eBook edition of a title, and consist of 30-day’s worth of promotions that run across Open Road’s web and email properties, offering sustained exposure and awareness for books that may otherwise be invisible within certain communities of readers.
The two options, Free Voices Digital and Free Voices Print, are not mutually exclusive.
The banning of books and the challenging of free expression is ongoing, and Free Voices will be as well. While space is limited, the opportunity for publishers to participate and enroll books in the program begins immediately.
About Open Road Integrated Media
Open Road Integrated Media is the publishing industry’s leader in applying proprietary data science technology to book discovery, enabling authors and publishers to achieve dramatic increases in the sales of their titles. The Open Road Ignition service accelerates discovery and sales of previously published (backlist) eBooks, while Open Road Activation enhances discovery and sales of newly launched (frontlist) titles in all formats. Open Road’s partners include such industry leaders as HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Grove Atlantic, Kensington, Europa Editions, Abrams, Harvard University Press and Yale University Press. Open Road’s proprietary marketing vehicles include Early Bird Books, a daily eBook deals newsletter and website; The Lineup, for fans of true crime, horror and the paranormal; The Portalist, for fans of science fiction and fantasy; Murder & Mayhem, for fans of mystery and thriller; The Archive, for fans of history and non-fiction; and A Love So True, for fans of romance. Open Road also applies its data science technology to enhancing the discovery and sales of books it publishes. Its publishing programs include Bloodhound Books, a UK-based publisher of commercial fiction, and Open Road Media, a global eBook publisher whose catalog includes legendary authors such as Joan Didion, Graham Greene, William Styron, Alice Walker, Pat Conroy, Gloria Steinem, John Jakes, Pearl S. Buck, Walker Percy and Ruth Rendell.
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