Publisher Reaches Young Readers in Their Natural Habitat

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Nick Clark

LONDON: Publisher Pearson is preparing to launch its own social network to capitalise on the success of a website designed to encourage reading among teenagers.

Pearson, which owns Penguin Books and the Financial Times, set up Spinebreakers as an "online book community for teens" in 2007 and plans an overhaul before the end of the year to allow users to connect to each other.

Anna Rafferty, digital managing director for Pearson, said: "We want to develop peer-to-peer capabilities and have plans for a full social network. I would love to have teenagers tagging their favourite books and sharing them with their friends."

Pearson hopes that the site will become an important part of teenagers' social networking portfolios, allowing "elegant integration with other sites".

"For example, it would be good if tagging a book on Spinebreakers would show up in your Facebook newsfeed," she said.

Penguin launched Spinebreakers after discovering that its books aimed at teenagers had little way to reach their target audience. Teen magazines had either reduced their content or removed their books pages altogether, Rafferty said.

"We talked to heads of content of social networks in the UK. We were hoping to do for books what they had done for games and music. They weren't interested."

So the publisher decided to set up a site where teenagers had a forum to discuss books.

"People said teenagers don't like books. We knew different, and had to find a different way of bringing it to the market."

The site was almost branded "I am not a fish" before teenagers settled on Spinebreakers for the launch of the website, aimed at "any story-surfing, web-exploring, word-loving, day-dreaming, reader, writer, artist or thinker aged 13 to 18".

The site is run by a core editorial team of 10 teenagers, supported by 100 contributors from across Britain. The content includes written, video and audio reviews of new releases, and offers users everything from drawing their own jackets for books to their own blog posts. Recent authors interviewed by the editorial team include Andrew Rawnsley about his book The End Of The Party and Richelle Mead, author of the Vampire Academy series. …