Blogging for Books Custom Web Application

Background

Penguin Random House is one of the five largest publishing companies in the world. It has several American divisions, one of which is Crown Publishing Group. Crown Publishing Group has 17 “imprints,” each of which publishes and markets different types of books. One of these imprints is Waterbrook Multnomah, where Chris Sigfrids is Senior Online Marketing Manager.

Waterbrook Multnomah promoted new books by sending emails to bloggers and asking if they would like to review the book in exchange for a free copy. Chris became frustrated with the slow manual process of collecting email addresses of bloggers, sending them emails, collecting addresses, and shipping them books. The time spent by staff was costing the company thousands every year. He decided to build the system into a full-fledged web app that would automate the process and organize the data into useable reports. With that in mind, Chris began searching for a web development company to build his custom web application.

Goals

Through a recommendation from a friend, Chris found Rocket Jones. Early in the process, they identified four main goals for the custom web application.

1. The site needed to serve two audiences: bloggers and other reviewers who could sign up to review books, and the book management staff who needed to enter data about new books and plan book launches and marketing campaigns.

2. Besides sending printed books to bloggers for review, the application also needed to integrate a third-party provider to deliver e-books.

3. The application needed different “rules” for bloggers, librarians, retailers, and media organizations based on reviewers’ roles, backgrounds, and online influence.

4. The system’s database needed to integrate with the Penguin Random House internal database and other third-party tools.

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Stage 1: Explore + Imagine

Chris sat down with the Rocket Jones team and together they established the scope, vision, and requirements for the product. Rocket Jones listened to Chris’s ideas and asked questions until they were solid on what he had in mind. With a clear direction, they could begin more concrete planning.

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Stage 2: Plan + Sketch

Chris would explain his ideas with a rough sketch, and Rocket would then offer suggestions. Based on their conversations, the Rocket Jones team would create wireframes (detailed screen illustrations) to present to Chris. The revision process ensured that every detail was in place before coding begins.

Stage 3: Build + Test

As they developed the front-end web app, the Rocket Jones team also worked on the back-end book management system. This involved collaborating closely with individuals from the Penguin Random House IT department in New York City. They quickly established trust, and the IT department willingly granted access to the necessary servers and databases.

Stage 4: Track + Support

When the web application launched, its rapid growth and success of the project required adjustments to ensure top performance. The Rocket Jones team continues to work with Chris and Waterbrook Multnomah to support their changing needs as the product evolves.

Results

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Expansion

Blogging for Books was so successful that Penguin Random House expanded it to all 17 imprints in the Crown Publishing Group, and Chris Sigfrids was promoted to Senior Manager of Community Operations.

Streamlined Process

The system practically runs itself, handling all transactional emails. It simplifies how thousands of printed and e-books are ordered and delivered, freeing up valuable staff hours.

Stored Information

Almost 50,000 book reviews are stored in the system, which allows the publicists to direct promotions to the bloggers that match the target audience.

Massive Growth

In 5 years, the number of active users quadrupled. The database scaled considerably to accommodate this dramatic increase in bloggers, media organizations, librarians, retailers, publicists, and marketing personnel who use Blogging for Books.

custom web application
custom web application

Imprints Using Blogging for Books

Book Reviews Stored

%

Growth

Years

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