M-H Using the Web for Feedback, Sales
Calvin Reid -- 12/20/99

Looking to boost sales, add value to its content and gather market research, McGraw-Hill is leveraging its content on the Internet through targeted online partnerships in addition to an expanded Beta Books program, which posts forthcoming titles on the Web to spur advance orders and solicit consumer feedback.

The publisher is in the second year of a strategic partnership with, an online college portal site that provides content from McGraw-Hill's textbooks for use in an online educational game called the Ultimate Challenge. The game allows students to win gifts and provides an opportunity for to present advertising.

McGraw-Hill provides content from 12 textbooks to, according to Craig Beytien, director of market development at Irwin/McGraw-Hill in Chicago. Beytien told PW that the program provides "a Web-based interactive game as a textbook resource," as well as an opportunity for test marketing ad concepts, while adding value for the student. gets space on the back cover of each of the 12 texts featured in the game, and students use the game as "exam preparation," said Beytien. "Some faculty are interested. It's used as another kind of supplementary material." Professors can even register their classes on the game site and monitor student usage.

Beytien cautioned that the agreement is "experimental" and only one of several alliances with online college firms. "We're in dialogue with a number of sites." The agreement prohibits inappropriate advertising ("We're not about just hawking products"), and Beytien emphasized that the company continuously monitors faculty and student feedback on the game. "We want to know if it helps sell-through, if it adds value for the student. If not, then we won't do it," he explained.

In 1996, Computing McGraw-Hill took a page from software developers and launched its Beta Books program (www. Beta Books allows users to read the full text of forthcoming computer titles online for free. The program solicits feedback on the titles from computer professionals that can be used to enhance the book or a later edition.

Bob Bolick, editor-in-chief and director of product development for Osborne and Computing McGraw-Hill, told PW the program now posts six to 10 new books a month, 60 days prior to publication. The books are not in final form, lack graphics and may need copyediting, but "it's great for technical titles. It's pre-selling and there is publicity value," said Bolick. "When a book g s up as a Beta Book, it increases initial orders from stores and generates some direct online sales." While you can buy online directly from McGraw-Hill, the site also features the Beta Bookstore program, which points users to bricks-and-mortar stores that have the titles. "It's kind of a co-op ad," noted Bolick.

Bolick is not really concerned about giving away content for free. "We have no worries at all. Beta Books drives sales of the print title. We're looking for ways to enhance the purchaser's experience. Web and print publishing drive each other."