Which online identity?

When publishers build an online presence to target readers, they have to decide which online ‘identity‘ (or identities) they should use.

It’s an issue that confronts publishers more than many other digital marketers as they grapple with the challenges of marketing multiple titles, authors, genres and geographies. The decisions made here can have a far-reaching impact on a publishing business. 

Who’s talking?


A publisher’s online identities (or ‘personas‘) are defined by their choice of website address, Facebook name, etc., and how their individual campaigns or business units fit into this mix. These are complex marketing issues that publishers are running into as they set up direct channels to readers. Their many options will include:

  • Corporate brand — global or by territory
  • Publishing imprints
  • Niches based on genre or subject area
  • Authors, who are usually better known than publishers
  • Books or series
  • A combination of these

When social media is added to the mix, it becomes especially challenging. Social media works best when it closely matches users’ interests and draws them into a community. This makes it easier to attract followers and to keep them.

But creating niches to match reader interests poses challenges for publishers, such as the high cost of building niche audiences and managing multiple online identities.

There isn’t one right answer. It will be an on-going issue as publishers build their own online channels to readers, while finding ways to support their authors and booksellers.

Should publishers move to audience-centric rather than title-centric marketing?

Publishers with broad lists will increasingly find these sorts of marketing issues arising — along with the organizational and investment challenges they raise. Here’s an article by publishing industry commentator Mike Shatzkin who argues that big publishers — those with a broad range of books — should reorganize their marketing around audience segments.

Click the link below to read his argument.

The Shatzkin Files: Rethinking book marketing and its organization in the big houses

Question icon

Thinking of your own business, which are the possible online identities that you could choose? Which one would you use if you could only pick one?


Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.


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