The ongoing challenges publishers are experiencing in getting both frontlist and backlist titles discovered has proven to be a boon for Open Road Integrated Media. In a letter to employees, CEO David Steinberger called 2023 "a transformational year," one that saw the company post record revenue as it added more titles, publishers, and services to its list of offerings.
The company's signature program, Ignition, which markets backlist e-books for publishers, saw the number of titles under contract jump from 30,000 in 2022 to 43,000 last year, helped by the additions of such publishers as Harvard University Press and Tokyopop to its roster. Steinberger said that the increase in publisher participation was fueled by Ignition's ability to double sales—within a six to eight–week period—of titles in the program.
The biggest boost to revenue, however, came from Open Road's Activation program, which the company rolled out to all publishers last July to market titles in all formats and at every stage of publication, including pre-pub and frontlist books as well as backlist. According to Steinberger, Open Road helped to promote titles by bestselling and debut authors across the adult, YA, and children’s categories. As part of Activation, Open Road created its Free Voices program last year, aimed at enabling readers to find and buy books that had been targeted by book banning efforts.
Also in 2023, Open Road launched Rediscovery-Lit, a program for republishing titles that are out of print, and for which rights have been returned to the author. Steinberger reported that under the program, Open Road republished "hundreds of such titles in 2023," including books by bestselling authors, while also partnering with Alloy and Marvel to promote some of their children’s titles.
Underlying the company's success was the 2023 release of what the company calls its Similarity Engine, its proprietary marketing technology platform. Steinberger said that the platform "builds on more than a decade of proprietary data and tech development, utilizing machine learning to transform the way we vet titles for our marketing programs, optimize title metadata, and segment and personalize our marketing campaigns."
The capabilities of its upgraded platform, Steinberger said, has fueled "an unprecedented surge in demand for our services." He noted that Open Road is "now working extensively with four of the Big Five publishers, 19 university presses, and more than 100 publishers overall," while marketing more than 53,000 titles across all of its services. "Our burgeoning pipeline of new business," Steinberger continued, "will require an intensive capacity planning exercise that is now underway, as well as continued investment, as 2024 will be a year of astounding growth. "