Great news for creative folks everywhere: Cape Town has been chosen as the World Design Capital for 2014. Arguably even better than this news is that Paperight has been chosen as an official WDCCT project. Along with this honour, we’ve been featured in their promotional output for this momentous year and we’ve been given access to various media channels through the project for pertinent news from our camp.
In the spirit of the project, Tarryn had the brilliant idea to launch a cover art design competition. We selected a shortlist of thirty-three classic literature novels, available through Paperight, for creative types to play around with. These covers have been done hundreds of times already and we thought the challenge to come up with something new would be particularly appealing.
The competition is still open for entries until the 25th of April 2014. Once we’ve received everything, we’ll select our favourite designs – hopefully one for each book title requested. The successful entrants will then be honoured by having their names appear on the imprint page, as the cover design artist of that book. Our top three favourite designers will be awarded a Paperight edition of the book featuring their design, in addition to having their name featured in all copies of the book. We wish we could give more, but as a small start up, we simply don’t have the resources.
The competition has been open to all South Africans, but we’ve chosen to promote it mainly in Cape Town and specifically to design colleges and universities across the mother city to give young artists an opportunity to test their mettle. This competition has also served as another opportunity to reach students about what Paperight does and particularly, as an opening to discover the #textbookrevolution by association.
We put posters up on UCT and Stellenbosch University campuses, and emailed digital copies to fifteen art/design/advertising colleges and university departments around Cape Town. Our most impressive response has been that both Red and Yellow School of Magic and the Visual Arts department at Stellenbosch University chose to include the competition in their curriculum for the first semester.
The competition posters were designed by Nick and we made six variations to highlight different Cape Town based Paperight registered copy shops. We chose not to agonise over the competition Terms and Conditions simply because we didn’t want to end up confusing anyone. Complicated Ts&Cs can put people off from entering altogether – what’s the point of that?
Once we’ve deliberated on the entries and chosen winners, I will write an updated post about the results. We’ve already received some wonderful stuff and it may be difficult to choose in the end.
The #textbookrevolution has been our most ambitious campaign thus far, mostly in terms of scale and coordination. It was formulated as a means to get Paperight onto university campuses and to ultimately increase Paperight’s available catalogue to suit students’ needs. By invoking the call for a revolution, we hoped to get students involved in applying pressure to publishers to work with Paperight, or to at least get publishers to commit to making arrangements for students to get their essential textbooks timeously and at an affordable cost.
The #textbookrevolution campaign involved the following elements:
a #textbookrevolution petition in physical petition forms, as well as online on Change.org
placing #textbookrevolution drinks coasters in bars around Stellenbosch University and at popular bars to UCT students
campus presence at Stellenbosch University and UCT orchestrated by Paperight team members (handing out #textbookrevolution drinks coasters, handing out #textbookrevolution t-shirts, putting up posters and getting #textbookrevolution petition signatures)
arranging Paperight outlet advertising in store and on campus for 8 further universities, namely:
NWU Potchefstroom (Jetline Potchefstroom and Ivyline Technologies)
Vaal University of Technology (Minuteman Press Vanderbijlpark)
WITS (Jetline WITS)
UJ (Postnet UJ)
University of the Free State (Easy Copy)
Rhodes University (Aloe X and ABM Office National)
launching a Cover Art Competition, as part of World design Capital Cape Town 2014 of which Paperight is a featured project (#WDC227)
reaching out via email to university lecturers, VCs, SRCs and a variety of student unions detailing ways for them to get involved with the campaign
hosting two Twitter debates to engage with interested parties on the issues around buying university textbooks
a Facebook conversation plan
paid advertisements in student magazines with the help of Jetline Stellenbosch (Akkerjol 2014) and Top Copy (UCT Rag 2014)
contacting university media outlets to encourage them to run pieces about or host discussions on the campaign
launching a #textbookrevolution website with a video manifesto and all requisite campaign details
creating a #textbookrevolution campus campaign video featuring the reactions of the students to the campaign
In all of our communications, there were two important messages to spread among students:
1) Textbooks are cheaper through Paperight outlets.
This was our less important sales message that was aimed at specific departments that we had prescribed or related books for.
2) Hate overpriced textbooks? Speak up to join the #textbookrevolution.
This required students to speak out about using a service like Paperight to increase access to affordable textbooks. This was meant to put pressure on publishers to make more of their core textbooks available on Paperight.
Overall, this has been the most successful sustained marketing effort in the history of Paperight. We demonstrated our rebellious and youthful brand image and we have been overwhelmed by the reactions it brought back. We can safely say that we are known by scores more South African varsity students, lecturers and administrative staff than we were before and we have planted the significant seed of change. We now have a comprehensive contact list for individuals to approach to take this campaign further and meetings will be made easier by the increased knowledge of what we’re about.
We did not intend for sales of current titles to be our main message simply because of our limited catalogue for varsity students. That being said, our paid adverts in student magazines highlighted products that students might need, as well as products that would be of interest to the broader community to whom the magazines are sold.
We were only able to offer books prescribed to English Literature and Nursing students. We also advertised our teaching guides and O’Reilly IT manuals to the relevant departments. Of the books that were advertised, we did not make a noticeable increase in sales for those titles specifically. However, we have seen a rise in sales of other books which can attributed to a combination of:
a) increased engagement from outlets to push sales (with the use of Paperight marketing materials, i.e. campaign and product posters, catalogues, etc.)
b) increased Paperight visibility in the media/on Facebook/on Twitter, and
c) the return of customers from the previous year (as well as their referrals to friends).
We had three positive responses from student media outlets. Both Rhodes Music Radio and UJfm scheduled interviews with Arthur to discuss the campaign. Then Perdeby, the Tuks student newspaper, promoted the #textbookrevolution and our second live Twitter debate through their Twitter account which led to a lively, healthy discussion. Recently, we have also been featured by the Varsity newspaper (UCT) in an opinion piece. Despite being a lazy, inaccurate description of the campaign, it has raised the visibility of the campaign on campus even further and we will be sending out a response to the article to set the record straight. Sometimes, even bad press is good press.
One of our most successful partnerships has been with UCT’s student run organisation, SHAWCO. Julia Norrish, their President, has become a Paperight fan and has championed our cause on campus. In addition to allowing us to include SHAWCO’s logo on our campaign website in the supporters’ bar, Julia also consented to place a splash page on Vula, the UCT online student portal, that would explicitly show SHAWCO’s support for the campaign. The splash page went up for 6 weeks from mid-February 2014. Julia also showed her support by calling out the recent inaccuracies in the Varsity newspaper article.
Our Vula splash page and campaign t-shirt design both featured the ubiquitous face of Che Guevara. Far from invoking his politics or attitudes, we simply settled on an image that is easily recognisable to carry the sentiment of revolution. In the office, this was hotly debated and I will admit that we settled on Che mostly due to lack of a better alternative. However, Stellenbosch University students reacted strongly positively to the image and we had many requests for free t-shirts from the students we encountered.
Overall, Rhodes has been the most receptive university to the need for a #textbookrevolution in terms of their responses and engagement with the campaign. Their Dean of Students has Tweeted about the campaign, their registrar passed on a message to lecturers informing them of the #textbookrevolution, their SRC hooked up with ABM Office National (a brand new Paperight registered outlet) to advertise on campus, and Arthur was interviewed on RMR. I believe this may be because Rhodes is more keenly aware of the difficulties students suffer due to their location in the Eastern Cape and a chronic lack of resources.
Shaun Swingler joined us once again on our visits to local Western Cape varsities in order to pull together a campaign video. The resultant video is very indicative of the reactions we’ve had so far.
We took the #textbookrevolution petition to UCT and Stellenbosch University to give students a tangible way of showing their support. They were asked to provide their email addresses along with details of books they have struggled to afford or find. This will help us to prioritise our discussions with textbook publishers and enable us to contact the students in future when we have their books on Paperight. We gathered more support in physical form (over 1000 signatures) than we have online (81 signatures). I believe this is due to the effect that the face-to-face promotion had on students. It is difficult to fire up enthusiasm over yet another online petition.
The reactions to our Paperight drinks coasters have been very positive, especially when handed directly to students on our campus days. Our tagline “Cheaper Textbooks. More Beer” caught their attention and made for great conversation starters. Their effect in local bars is far more difficult to gauge. Most bar managers and bartenders have been helpful so far as placing the coasters around the bar and replacing damaged/missing coasters. However, bars are very busy places and ultimately, our coasters are not their biggest priority so it is difficult to gather feedback about how they were received by students. Regardless, when they were originally placed, we saw students pocketing them to take home which is exactly what we wanted. If we do this again in future, I would suggest printing less and limiting their use to direct handouts to students.
An unexpected, yet welcome effect of the #textbookrevolution campaign has been that the team has grown closer and our mission to increase access to all kinds of books has gathered further focus. Refer to Philippa’s article about the Blaze of Glory for context about where this campaign fits into the grand scheme of things.
I would say that the future of the #textbookrevolution is positive. Although currently in hibernation, the groundwork has been set for future, interdisciplinary collaborations between publishers, universities and copy shops. This is not the end of the #textbookrevolution.
In March 2014, we were approached by Kelsey Wiens of DevelopOA, and Eve Gray of the Centre for Educational Technology at UCT, about setting up a live Twitter debate to discuss issues around open access, limited textbook availability and high book prices. What we’ve referred to as a Twitter debate is also known as a ‘Twitter Town Hall‘.
Having never been involved in something like this before, naturally we were curious and the timing was perfect for the #textbookrevolution campaign. We all agreed to use the hashtag #textbookrevolution to keep the comments and participants together. We then arranged a rough starting point, although the intention was that those who participated would be able to take the conversation in any direction they chose.
In preparation, each of the hosts reached out to contacts that might be interested in taking part. We scheduled the debate for 1–2pm, hoping that this time would be easiest to work around. I focused mainly on contacting SRCs, student media contacts and university vice chancellors, and the responses we had were all positive. Our preparation paid off and our first debate led to a second, even more successful debate that resulted in our hashtag trending in South Africa. It appears we have a knack for this kind of thing!
To read more about how each debate went, take a look at our blog post about them.
Here are a few highlights taken from the debates. For more, click on the hashtag #textbookrevolution in the tweets below.
For the end of the year, we focused on pushing sales of matric exam material as a priority and other supplementary school material too. This was to be our most profitable season based on the success of the previous season. Our marketing efforts consisted of the following:
press releases to media contacts on our work with Pelikan Park (PP) High School and Silverstream Secondary (SS) School (see ‘Turning school sponsorships into great PR’ article for more details)
newsletter pieces and blog posts encouraging outlets to commit to in store promotion
Gumtree and OLX adverts offering a door-to-door delivery service for past matric exam papers
an smsweb email to school principals introducing what Paperight can do to help their schools access study material
a Facebook conversation plan and paid Facebook advertising
three adverts in The Good Times school newspaper (Hout Bay/Llandudno, Atlantic Seaboard and Constantia).
We intended to also place an advert in Free4All (the free school newspaper that is distributed nationally) with the help of a copy shop partner, but this did not come together in time.
Our Facebook strategy was to fill our page with advice to matric students for their exams and links to relevant products, while targeting parents of matric students through paid advertising. This helped us to increase our page likes, yet did not lead directly to many sales, as far as we could track.
Our door-to-door delivery campaign completely failed with not even a single request for the service.
Our door-to-door delivery campaign completely failed with not even a single request for the service. We offered to print and bind matric past papers and drive them to customers’ homes and offices, and we advertised the papers at very affordable rates. Despite posting adverts on Gumtree and OLX, as well as posting our offer on Facebook and scheduling a paid Facebook advert targeting parents, it did not have the desired effect. The only conclusion we can come to is that the offer may have been arranged too late for most parents to take advantage of. Similarly, the offer only applied to the Western Cape (within driving distance of Claremont) and perhaps the need for the service may have been more pressing in other provinces that we couldn’t get to simply due to a lack of resources.
The press release I sent out about our work with PP and SS was picked up in numerous regional newspapers and again showed our extraordinary ability to generate free press.
we were faced with feedback from unsatisfied customers, explaining that they were turned away by front of house employees who did not know about Paperight or did not know enough about the service
Many outlets committed to instore advertising to drive sales of study material. However, as with most work with copy shops, we were faced with feedback from unsatisfied customers, explaining that they were turned away by front of house employees who did not know about Paperight or did not know enough about the service to a) recognise the query as a request for a Paperight book or b) assist the customer immediately. Yet more evidence that trusting Paperight sales to another business that has control over point-of-sale is a major hurdle that needs to be addressed. Regardless, we made many successful sales too.
The Good Times newspaper is a great publication to advertise with to reach parents directly. Made up entirely of news items about schools in different areas across the Western Cape, parents dip into the newsaper to find photos of, stories of and work produced by their offspring. However, the publication went to print far too late in the year (2nd December 2013) and therefore had no impact on sales. However, our paid advert was featured alongside a full page article about the work that Paperight does and I am sure that it will stick in parents’ minds during future buying cycles.
Overall, this buying cycle was more lucrative than 2012, even though the number of study aids (past papers and study guides) was significantly less. This is perhaps because in 2012 past exam papers had no license fee. From 2013, Paperight began charging $1 (or 1 credit) per document to help inch our way towards sustainability.
These titles are our most valuable content and have been essential to defining ourselves to the public. Any and all future marketing strategies that Paperight implements must build on the strong base already in place.
The aim of this campaign was to initiate an ongoing, online conversation for book authors to join, debating the need for open content and increased access to book content of all kinds. This campaign was spearheaded by Tarryn as a mechanism for gathering support to assist in negotiations with publishers for book content.
I drew up a Twitter conversation plan comprised of engaging quotes and statistics, as well as a list of useful, outspoken contacts to approach for input, such as Neil Gaiman, Margaret Attwood, Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow and Chuck Wendig – as suggested by Tarryn.
Unfortunately, this campaign was shelved due to a change in tack at Paperight HQ to focus solely on the varsity campaign, which became known as the #textbookrevolution campaign, during the crucial buying cycle at the beginning of 2014 (roughly end of January to the beginning of March).
This plan may be resurrected in the months to come.
Before I arrived at Paperight, there had been an attempt to make book reviews a regular thing to post on the blog. When I stepped into the ring, I fully intended to bring them back from obscurity.
Having worked in a bookstore, I know that book recommendations are incredibly valuable when it comes to making the decision to buy a book. Customers rely on experienced ‘readers’ giving them advice on what they already believe should be good reads, and that opinion is already made on what they have heard from friends and read in newspapers or magazines. There are so many titles out there that most readers rely heavily on instruction.
I started with a review of the GetSmarter Digital Photography course manual due to my personal interest in photography. At the time I happened to be taking a part time, manual photography course and I needed some further instruction when it came to capturing the perfect image. The fact that the title tied into a personal interest made the review so much easier.
My second review was for the Manga Shakespeare series from Self Made Hero. Inbetween campaign prep tasks for the #textbookrevolution, I made my way through Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With beautiful drawings and a distilled version of the story, they were enjoyable to read and I made sure to emphasise that in my review.
Both reviews have been published on the Paperight blog. However, I envisioned that one day, these reviews would be seen on the Paperight.com home site, along with the opportunity for customers to review titles they have bought, too.
Apart from this, I also attempted to review a GetSmarter Marketing course manual, but I couldn’t strike the right tone in the piece so it was never released. This review highlighted the biggest problems with the reviewing process:
There often isn’t enough time to focus on reading a new book and reviewing it too.
It is much easier to review a title that you enjoy.
I would definitely advise having more than one person reviewing titles because one person’s chore is another person’s choice read. This also spreads the task around and makes it less difficult to produce many reviews over the same amount of time. If I had a perfect system, I would make sure that Paperight publishes at least 4 reviews a month, totalling 48 reviews a year. This may be a small number, but with a small team, this number is achievable and will grow exponentially as the team grows and the catologue of books grows. Just a thought! As much as Paperight has tried to distance themselves from ordinary bookselling practices, I think that this practice is absolutely essential to building regular customers.
In November of 2013, we launched our beautiful streamlined Paperight product catalogue (PDF). Having worked with the previous catalogue as an intern which is a long, impenetrable list, I was adamant that we should upgrade it as soon as humanly possible.
The upgraded catalogue required fewer products and lots of colours and images to hook potential customers. One of the experiences that book buyers particularly enjoy is the sensation of browsing and this was meant to be a way of giving Paperight customers that experience.
Oscar and I worked on the list of content that would fit into the following broad, browsing categories:
matric exam packs
young adult reading
religion & spirituality
self-help & reference
Nick and I worked together on the concept for the catalogue and the necessary design feature-y type things that would make the finished product really easy and enjoyable to dip into. In the end, Nick took everything we discussed and created an absolute masterpiece. Slick and eye-catching, there is no way that anyone wouldn’t be impressed by Paperight and the featured titles.
The catalogue was launched through the weekly newsletter and on the Paperight blog. Outlets were encouraged to contact us for personalised copies featuring their own logos, business addresses and contact details. We have continued to receive a regular number of requests from business owners for personalised copies and Nick has been able to keep up with the edits due to the simplicity of the catalogue’s design. In other words, his no frills design approach has made the final document simple and quick to edit.
The catalogue was designed to be relevant from November 2013 to April 2014 to ensure we would not have to design a new catalogue anytime soon. Based on the marketing plan, we knew that we would have very busy months ahead that would leave no time for a full catalogue overhaul. Any newer updates to content have been featured through the weekly newsletter and through the Paperight Facebook page.
The South African Principals’ Association (SAPA) hosted their National Conference at Emperor’s Palace in Gauteng between the 7th and 9th of October 2013. The overall goal of the conference was to bring together figures in the education sector to tackle the year’s theme of Education on Track. I attended the conference to represent Paperight, make contact with fellow exhibitors and sell the Paperight service to school principals. We partnered with Realm Digital/Snapplify to take a stand.
My initial feeling after the conference was positive that sales and useful contacts would come from my attendance. However, in hindsight, I don’t believe that this event had the rewards that I anticipated. We have not tracked any sales to come directly from the conference and no schools have signed up in the period following the event. Despite handing out many flyers, as well as my business card, no attendees acted on these takeaway reminders of what Paperight offers.
I believe the reasons for this failure are a combination of the following:
an over-complicated brand introduction*
an unwillingness on the part of the principals to consider using a paper option for the students in light of all of the pro-digital sentiment that has been bandied about, particularly at the conference
despite their best intentions, a lot of the principals are not technologically clued up enough (or simply doubt their own ability) to use the Paperight site
a snobbishness on the part of some of the principals who seemed to be very interested in getting free stuff in order to secure their attention
my failure to push for principals to leave their contact details
the delegates may have been overwhelmed by the enormous volume of new information over the course of the event
Paperight does not offer enough material for primary school children
*By an over-complicated brand introduction, I mean to say that when consumers see the Paperight brand for the first time, there are so many options to use the service that some may be driven to inaction. For example, schools can sign up themselves OR head to their local copy shop OR lease a RISO machine that comes with a Paperight.com account.
Knowing what I know now, I would not advise visiting the SAPA conference again unless we have the resources to bring in memorable gimmicks or free samples to help us sell the idea of Paperight and leave a better lasting impression. Unfortunately, this is not an accommodating environment for small, cash strapped start ups.
On the 27th of June 2013, Yazeed, Nick, Arthur and I headed to Woodstock for an insightful marketing and communications workshop with members of the Zoom Advertising team. I should point out that I hadn’t been promoted at this point. That was still to come, after a week long holiday to the extraordinary Grahamstown Festival.
After seeing a Paperight-related tweet, Zoom had contacted Arthur to offer a free 3–4 hour session to discuss Paperight’s brand image, target markets, past marketing endeavours and to suggest future marketing strategies. This all based purely on their interest and delight in the Paperight project. The discussion was spearheaded by Rebecca Warne and attended by other senior staff, including Managing Director, Steve Massey.
As the biscuits were eaten and the tea/coffee making facilities kept well oiled, we shared our ideas about how to make the best of Paperight’s established reputation.
A lot of what was suggested was way beyond our meagre means for the foreseeable future, however they were useful points to bring up as long term aims. If we want to be able to reach a certain level of sophistication and complexity in marketing strategies, we have to preemptively build up provisions while also testing various strategies on micro levels.
After the workshop, we came back to Paperight HQ with lots of great ideas buzzing around and enormous enthusiasm. Rebecca then sent us a Powerpoint presentation with the distilled discussion points for us to refer to. This certainly informed my decisions when writing up the official Paperight 2013–2014 marketing plan. A lot of what became known as the #textbookrevolution was inspired by this great session.
Around the same time, Rachelle van der Merwe of the 2014 MBA program at Stellenbosch University contacted Arthur requesting to use Paperight as the sample company for the students’ end of year project. The team of students would have to produce a marketing plan for Paperight, based on interviews with Paperight team members, document analysis, sales analysis and independent market research.
Over the course of two to three months, we met with Rachelle numerous times and corresponded with the rest of the team by email to accommodate their requests for advice and further information about current systems in place. We were happy to oblige and for the most part did not feel that their investigation got in our way. We obviously had control over what we would share with them, but as a company with an open policy, they had access to everything they needed – all they had to do was ask for it.
The finished product, given to us in mid October 2013, ended up being far different to what I had been working on as the official marketing plan.
My plan was based on what actions, formed into sustained campaigns, would form the base of our efforts. These actions were swayed by marketing actions attempted before I joined the team, established target markets and available finances.
Their marketing plan … offered a very nuanced and brutally honest view of Paperight … the current textbook distribution channels and major players, as well as a razor sharp analysis of the Paperight business model
Their marketing plan had no such thing, but instead offered a very nuanced and brutally honest view of Paperight as it stands. A detailed analysis of the current textbook distribution channels and major players, as well as a razor sharp analysis of the Paperight business model, led into a projection of where our future sales need to come from in order to achieve sustainability. Their project brought together all that we thought we knew into one document and certainly bolstered our conviction that Paperight is the best solution to tackle educational resource shortages. At least, the best so far.
Both these influences were particularly well timed (thank you, universe) and helped us all to align our strategies around marketing. The base concern at this point became about turning exposure into sales. The Shuttleworth Foundation will not be funding the project forever, after all.
This shift continues to inform all of our decisions.
Between May and August 2013, we offered a monthly reward of R1000 to the best sales person throughout the Paperight network of registered copy shops.
The challenge was announced through the weekly newsletter and on the Paperight blog. Our intentions were to drive sales of Paperight books, encourage copy shop employees to familiarise themselves with paperight.com, and to drive home the need for all employees to have their own individual Paperight accounts, albeit subsidiary ones to their main business account.
Individual staff accountability within copy shops has been an uphill battle and a necessary struggle to secure the safety of the book titles already available through the Paperight network. In order to negotiate with publishers, it is essential that we put all the measures that we can in place to protect their copyright and offer complete reassurance of our efforts to combat book piracy. Knowing who specifically has accessed certain titles can assist Paperight and the copy shops themselves to identify any potential pirates.
Similarly, there has been an unusual trend through copy shop owners to not inform their staff that they are officially offering a new service, namely Paperight. The number of customers that have been turned away simply due to ignorance on the part of the copy shop employee cannot be measured, however we have had feedback from customers to let us know that it has happened to them. We hoped to also remedy this issue with this competition.
The winner was announced for each month in the first week of the following month, once we had double checked everyone’s sales figures.
Our very few ‘fine print’ rules were:
Free documents do not count towards sales (e.g. Quirk Emarketing and College Campus guides) – that would make it too easy to cheat!
The customer’s first and last names MUST BE INCLUDED on every purchase.
The competition is only for South African shops.
The winners were:
May 2013: Dean Mostert of Minuteman Press
June 2013: Aletta de Witt of Aloe X
July 2013: Unice Davies of Revprint Claremont
August 2013: Hennie van der Merwe of Minuteman Press Vanderbijlpark
The competition was supposed to run from May to December 2013. However, by August 2013, we came to realise that copy shop managers were not sharing Paperight information and news (shared through the newsletter) with their staff so the competition became effectively meaningless.
More often than not, copy shop managers expressed an unwillingness to share the Paperight account details with all of their staff in order to prevent abuse of the system. This was an unexpected insight as it showed us just how serious these managers are about avoiding copyright infringement in store- which is great reassurance in our negotiations with publishers about distributing their content through Paperight.
The inside story of our experiment in distributed print-on-demand