Saturday, November 20, 2010
Managing Digital Sales Data
When we gave physical inventory it was easy to count the books out and count them back in, but in the digital world there is only one going out and none coming back in.
As a publisher today just how many aggregators and resellers would you give your digital files to? Once you have given them how do you effectively monitor the sales and reconcile and potentially audit these? If someone goes out of business how do you effectively retrieve your assets and what is the service implication on licences issued? Obviously everyone has the answers and new models such as agency don’t impact these questions, or do they?
Today sales are reported many ways, on many different schedules and consolidation is not always straightforward. Services, such as those provided by RoyaltyShare, manage eBook transactions and complex digital revenue data from dozens of eBook, downloadable audio book, and print-on-demand retailers. Today these systems have to supports feeds from tens of digital e-retailers and distributors worldwide and also support both the agency and wholesale models. We already provide such client services and respect that reconciling sales today is not easy. However what is the number of resellers they will need to support tomorrow? Will the industry choose to stick with a small number of big reseller and aggregators or cut out the middle man and enable anyone to sell their titles?
Long overdue standards are coming which should make the reconciliation of sales data easier for all to handle, but does the data challenges stop there?
Do these new outsourced collection companies such as Royalty Share also become the effective auditors of digital sales? Do they have the licence to consolidate the information across publishers and offer sales charts? Can they be used to offer direct royalty payments to authors? Does sales reconciliation and associated activities ever reach a point were it has to come back inside the organisation?
We are seeing the emergence of new service offers that are geared to join the new digital dots, but each needs to be paid for and each extra outsourced operation can impact the bottom-line. It is somewhat surprising that industry bodies and groups of publishers have not collaborated to specify and provide these essential services and are happy to pay individually to address them. Alternatively, why isn’t the obvious industry data collectors such as Neilson’s and Bowker’s stepping up to address this obvious market need.