What's in this podcast?

In this episode, Jason talks to Marco Lau who is the Head of Data Strategy at Penguin Random House, the international publishing business. In this episode they discuss the evolving landscape of media publishing and how data science is an important tool in helping publishers make informed decisions around business and what content they are publishing. 

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For more on data, take a look at the webinars and events that we have lined up for you.


One big message

Book publishing is a centuries old craft, it is important to remember that despite advancements in data it is still no substitute for the knowledge and experience accumulated by editors and authors. This industry is a prime example of how data is there to inform and assist, rather than replace current knowledge. 

00:40 Marco’s background in marketing and data science

04:15 Penguin Random House and it’s value chain

08:06 How data helps publishers to identify what people want to read

11:20 How authors and editors work with publishing companies to produce bestsellers

13:40 The impact of changing consumer habits like epublishing and audiobooks have on traditional publishers

17:10 The role of data science in different facets of publishing

24:32 How data teams can empathise with authors and editors to supply information whilst still respecting the creative process

28:27 Using data science in business to drive business growth


Using data to predict market trends in the market and in content

Using data to predict market trends is a useful strategy for making informed business decisions in the book publishing industry particularly when it comes to navigating the commercial parts of the business. There are several types of data that can be used to predict market trends, including sales data, consumer data, and industry data. By analysing past sales data, it is possible to identify trends in terms of which genres, authors, or formats are performing well in the market. This can help inform decisions about which types of books to publish or promote. By collecting data on consumer behaviour and preferences, insight can be gained into what types of books are in demand and what factors are driving those trends. This can include data on the types of devices consumers are using to read books, their reading habits, average amount of money spent on certain genres and their preferences for physical or digital books.

Data can also play a huge role in the content side of a publishing house. It can help to assess what kind of plots people enjoy, characters and all kinds of popular plot themes. 


Respecting a centuries old tradition

Data is new and exciting, and sometimes it is easy to get carried away and take your analysis as the only right way to do something. Book publishing is centuries old, with many tips and tricks of the trade, so it is still important to lean on traditional publishing practices and the experiences of authors and editors. 

One way to do this is by using data as a supplement to traditional methods, rather than replacing them. For example, data can be used to identify trends in the market and help guide decisions about which books to publish, but traditional methods such as editorial judgement and author feedback should still be used to assess the quality and potential success of a book. 

Authors and editors should be empowered to participate in the decision-making process, acting as a trusted source of feedback when leveraging data. As part of this dialogue it is essential that publishers remain mindful about potential biases or limitations in their data gathering approach; striving for ethical transparency and fairness so everyone involved can trust the decisions being made.


Why long-form content has survived changing trends

As most people know, long-form content, such as books, articles, and essays, allow for a deeper exploration and analysis of a topic than shorter forms of media. It allows the reader to delve into a subject in greater depth and to gain a more comprehensive understanding of it. This can be particularly appealing to readers who are looking for in-depth knowledge or who want to learn about a subject in a more structured way. But there has always been a fear that ‘new’ content such as social media would overtake traditional publishing. 

In fact, these other forms of content have made long-form content more relevant than ever. Long-form content is more authoritative than shorter forms of media due to the research, analysis, and writing that goes into creating it. Additionally, traditional publishing, which often involves a rigorous editing process, helps to ensure that the content is high quality and reliable. Despite the rise of audio books and other forms of media, long-form content has survived and even thrived due to its depth, authority, and the enduring appeal of traditional publishing. The competition of other publication methods has helped to delineate between different users and carve out their own niches within media according to their preferences.



Predicting market trends in the book publishing industry can be a challenging task, as it is influenced by a variety of factors such as changes in consumer preferences, technological advances, and economic conditions. However, by collecting and analysing data on these and other factors, it may be possible to gain insights into potential market trends and make informed predictions about the future direction of the industry.


If you want to know more about Penguin Random House’s recent data journey, check out their Customer Success Story.


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