Penguin Media Suite: High-Tech and Trendy

Penguin CEO David Shanks with M.S. in Publishing students

Podcasts. Audiobooks. Videos. Apps. Digital media has fast become an integral part of book marketing strategies, and it keeps growing in importance. So what’s a leading publisher to do? Last week students in the M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies learned how Penguin Group (USA), Inc. solved the problem: they created their own media suite!

On a visit to Penguin, students were given the opportunity to tour the Media Suite and learn how it operates. CEO David Shanks addressed the students and explained why Penguin made the choice to create this innovative new media space. “Part of it was just an economic decision,” Shanks began. He noted that the company had been spending a lot of money on outside studios for digital media creation and space rental, and determined that it made sense to invest in its own equipment and staff. “But probably the most important reason we did it is that traditional book marketing is changing,” Shanks continued. “Online marketing and reaching out to social networks is becoming the most important way that we can market our books.” That means many more podcasts, videos, and apps. “We’re content creators trying to find the perfect way to deliver that content to as many people as possible,” Shanks added. “Physical books are still 80% of our business, but 20% is already electronic, and that probably will continue to grow.”

Alaina Mauro, Assistant Publishing Manager, (2nd from left) and students outside the Penguin Media Suite

Students had lunch and chatted with Doug Whiteman, Penguin’s Executive Vice President of Business Operations, who also teaches the Capstone (graduate thesis) course in the M.S. in Publishing program, and Alaina Mauro, Assistant Publishing Manager and Media Suite Coordinator. “What I like about the Media Suite is that you can take those campaigns that used to be just a pipe dream and make them happen,” Mauro told students. Penguin uses the Media Suite to create audiobooks, apps, enhanced eBooks, podcasts and videos (such as book trailers and author interviews), to facilitate radio satellite tours, and to live stream author events. Mauro stressed the importance of determining what customers really want and performing inexpensive experiments to see what works and what doesn’t. That’s what makes publishing today so exciting. One of the things Penguin has found is that book trailers can accomplish great things, from small-scale campaigns, such as one for The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (http://youtu.be/t8a9UEKVo8o) to large-scale campaigns for books like That Is All by John Hodgman (http://youtu.be/DNCEcpFTHu4).

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, many of those using the Media Suite at Penguin are marketing or editorial employees with digital skills. Instead of hiring an outside studio, they can now take a portion of their day to use the Media Suite. “This gives people a chance to enhance their skills. It’s a real résumé builder,” Mauro said, “Penguin even offers in-house classes in video to teach interested employees how to use a camera or set up a video/shot as well as effective lighting tips.”

During the tour of the Media Suite itself, the first stop was the state-of-the-art audio recording booth where Patti Pirooz, Executive Producer for Penguin Audio, and Richard Romaniello, Audio Engineer, shared some insights about recording audio for books and apps. Penguin creates about 50 audiobooks in house and 150 in outside studios. The booth is completely soundproof, which Pirooz noted was essential for a good recording. “[The actor’s] voice is king,” she said. Romaniello runs the controls, and a director and producer guide the actor through the process. Students had the opportunity to listen to a just-recorded clip.

Inside the video room: blogger Jaime Bode is 3rd from left

Next, students entered the video room. Inside they found chairs, a small set, lighting and camera equipment, curtains and a greenscreen. This cool room had students feeling like celebrities! They could envision Penguin authors like Simon Pegg and Kathryn Stockett sitting in those chairs. Students then peeked into the radio satellite room where authors such as Deborah Harkness and Patricia Cornwell have recorded interviews. Finally, they checked out the podcasting room—which has Skype capability—and the Mac-filled editing lab.

The Media Suite is a fun place to be, and there’s tons of room for creativity. It will be exciting to see what innovative media comes from Penguin’s inspired minds in the coming years.

by Jaime McNutt Bode

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One thought on “Penguin Media Suite: High-Tech and Trendy

  1. I admit to feeling a little jealous! This must have been an extraordinary outing. From the details in your blog, I’d say this puts Penguin at the vanguard, straddling the traditional and leveraging innovations in the industry on the most effective way possible. It’s remarkable that they are willing to experiment as well. It sounds like a magnificent workplace too!

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