Paul Carolan, Commercial Director at JCDecaux, an outdoor media company, talks about @RailBookClub, their recently formed commuter-led book club, @RailBookClub, that utilizes train station digital screens and Twitter to bring book recommendations to passengers.
Hi Paul! Thank you for joining us. Can you tell us about @RailBookClub? It is not a conventional book club in more than one way, correct?
@RailBookClub is JCDecaux’s content–led commuter book club. It aims to connect commuters across the UK by inviting passengers to tweet their recommendations for books, which are then run across JCDecaux’s national network of digital screens in stations.
Let's back up for just a second. What is JCDecaux?
JCDecaux Group is a multi-national corporation based in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France, known for its bus-stop advertising systems, billboards, public bicycle rental systems, and street furniture.
Why did JCDecaux decide to create this book discussion group?
Creating a new book club community was part of our strategy to bring content to our screens that enhances the passenger journey and builds communities though people’s passion for books.
Providing a daily source of inspiration for the rail audience, @RailBookClub is very informal, friendly and is a medium for people with a passion for reading and who love to create discussions and debates among like-minded people on-the-move.
What makes @RailBookClub special?
We like to think we are the go-to book club for commuters and, from what I know, no one in the world has created something like this – it is unique!
I think you're right! It's a great concept and so will be interesting to watch it grow over time.
As an online book club, @RailBookClub caters to people - primarily commuters - who are possibly too time-poor to join a physical book club.
And it is kind of a great equalizer, too, isn't it?
Yes, since it’s an online book club, it is open to anyone, and having the content deployed on our national screens in stations makes the potential audience reach into the millions.
Furthermore, due to our recent partnership with Hachette, we have access to authors and can create fantastic opportunities for the public to win competitions and receive great giveaways.
How did the @RailBookClub get started?
In July 2013, when thinking about how to further enhance the passenger journey, a group of JCDecaux book-clubbers created the concept for @RailBookClub. Using our Connected Commuter research we found that passengers love books, with the vast majority reading during their commute. The results revealed that 81% of train commuters read on their journeys every month, with 38% of these using an e-reader. Therefore, launching @RailBookClub and linking it to our digital screens in stations was a natural step.
We usually ask book clubs to tell us about their meetings, but you're more of a books discussion group, not a traditional club. How is @RailBookClub organized?
Commuters post recommendations of books they are reading and they, in turn, inspire other readers to engage in the conversation.
To keep the book club exciting and different, each month we select moments to offer simple giveaways and competitions for signed books to our @RailBookClub community. Whether they are sport-related or linked to specific holidays or events, we ensure to keep the book club relevant, accessible and engaging for the community.
Our friends at Hachette provide wonderful prizes. For example, we gave away Jill Mansell signed novels on Valentine’s Day this year.
You mentioned Jill Mansell and her novels. Can you tell us about the sorts of books you discuss?
We don’t pick books for people to read. However, certain books have definitely created trends on our Twitter page, such as: Gone Girl, The Rosie Project and Instructions for a Heat Wave.
Comparing films to books is always very popular. The Book Thief was a prime example of a book that created a great debate among the community, and we’re looking forward to see the discussions unfold when the Gone Girl film comes out at the end of the year.
What is great about @RailBookClub is the strong opinions that are roused, exciting debates about best sellers and overall discussions that can even uncover some fantastic hidden gems!
Do you have advice for any other book groups?
I would advise a Twitter book club moderator to keep conversations going. People like to be prompted to chat at certain times Once we hit 1000 followers, the greatest moment was watching them start talking among themselves – and this can be achieved with the right amount of passion and encouragement from the onset. Oh and if all else fails, get people talking about Gone Girl!
Thank you for joining us here, Paul!
Image of @RailBookClub's How To Train Your Dragon Giveaway depicts an example of the prize campaigns offered: in this case, 11 signed and illustrated editions from Cressida Cowell's famous series.
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