‘Perlego Publisher Day’ with Jeni Evans

Mariana KoudelaBy Mariana Koudela2nd March 20209 Minutes

A few weeks ago we hosted the Perlego Publisher Day. I took some time to sit down with Jeni Evans, our Director of Publisher Relations, to talk through the leadup to the event and her thoughts on how it went down on the day. 

Jeni took inspiration for the event from another role in the industry, in which she spotted a unique opportunity to bring together experts in educational publishing in one room to discuss trends and needs. She says that after having started at Perlego, she noticed a similar opportunity to “discuss the disruption of subscription services in the industry”. And so, preparation for the Perlego Publisher Day began.

“Having a room full of industry experts to discuss their experiences on the subject was too good an opportunity to miss!” Jeni Evans

The day was hosted in an intimate venue, an old chapel that held a ‘speakeasy’ in its basement. Jeni said that one of the most frustrating issues in the leadup to the event was finding a suitable venue considering that so many places available to hire were increasingly dull and lacklustre. But walking into this former-chapel felt anything but dull. The speakeasy had a mid-century feel with its amber-coloured furniture and curvatures, the room was decorated head to toe and wall to wall with vintage, orange Penguin paperbacks – an odd, and amusing, contrast to the subject matter being attended to upstairs. 

Another issue Jeni faced, albeit an enviable one, was choosing the right cocktails and cupcakes for the afternoon tea and ‘after-party’. She said she later came to regret that she hadn’t chosen any healthy snacks, as sugar-laden brownies and cupcakes abounded. However, I heard no complaints from the guests on this account!

The day started with a light-hearted introduction to Perlego from Gauthier and how it came to occupy the space in the industry that it does today. One highlight was of hearing how the co-founder and CTO, Matt Davis, had to take several months to consider whether he was going to join Gauthier on this endeavour because his parents were adamant that he find a ‘proper’ job! 

This then led to a discussion from Kate Worlock, a Lead Analyst at Outsell Inc., who examined the models of course material accessible available to students. Which one of these appeals most to students, but also which are most favourable to publishers. 

“it doesn’t have to be all-you-can-eat, it can be a matter of flavour” Kate Worlock on models of course material access

It was then time for Matthew Jones’ talk, Perlego’s VP of Content Acquisition & Strategy, who spoke of the dangers of academic piracy which must be all too familiar for the publishers in the room. Considering that 88% of students don’t associate academic piracy with criminality is eye-opening and highlights just how difficult an issue this is to combat. Perhaps most interesting is why students don’t think badly of academic piracy and that’s because the dominant narrative amongst students is that refusing to pay for textbooks is a form of anti-establishmentarian behaviour. The question this begs is how do you attempt to combat a problem that has a warped sense of justice at its heart. 

We had two more talks from within Perlego, one by Rogan Sage (our VP of Growth) and another by Olivero Muzi-Falconi (our VP of Strategy). Oliviero spoke in great detail of who exactly Perlego’s users are. We initially thought it would only be students but were pleasantly surprised to discover that we appeal to a broad range of people. Oliviero sought to highlight the importance of data and how we can use it to explore our demographic and better our service. 

Rogan spoke of the various channels we use to market to our student audience in particular. What stood out was the necessity of reaching students at the ‘point of intent’. We need to reach them, and ensure Perlego is seen as a viable option, before they start trawling through piracy sites. 

We then moved onto what was perhaps one of the most popular sections of the day, and it was certainly Jeni’s, the Q&A with Gauthier and two university students. The audience was engaged and interested, asking provoking questions and taking clear advantage of this opportunity to ask real students for their honest thoughts on textbooks, publishing, and piracy. 

“The student panel made me nervous as I had purposefully not vetted them, wanted it to be an open and honest exchange as to students’ buying (or not buying) habits” Jeni Evans

So much thought went into every part of the day it all came across as completely effortless – a real achievement. One thing that stood out to me was the realisation of how far Perlego had come, from using the Pret near Paddington as an office (99p coffees were the main pull) to now having a team of almost 50 people.

During the interview, Jeni spoke to me about her previous experience with the publishing event that she had organised around 10 years ago. That what might have been a one-time occurrence transformed into a highly sought-after annual event. I finish the chat wondering whether this might also be the case for the Perlego Publisher Day.