When Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) CEO William Lynch introduced the Simple Touch Reader this past May, he described it as an e-reader easy enough for your grandmother to use. She may not be the intended audience for the new Nook Tablet–but who, exactly, is? It was hard to tell in Barnes & Noble’s press event this morning, but there were still hints of how the company plans to market this device.
Barnes & Noble has marketed the Nook Color and Nook Simple Touch heavily toward women, who make up the majority of e-reader owners. And following this morning’s press event, Lynch told All Things Digital senior editor Peter Kafka that Nook’s target audience is “a woman with 2.3 kids.” Lynch didn’t explicitly mention that mom during his presentation, but I’d argue she–and the other folks below–are still heavy on Barnes & Noble’s mind:
Families and kids: I speculated last week that Barnes & Noble could differentiate itself from Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) by focusing on families, something Amazon has not done much of in the marketing of the Kindle Fire. Early in today’s presentation, Lynch mentioned “Read and Record,” a Nook Tablet feature that lets users record themselves reading Nook Kids picture books. “Barnes & Noble has always had a special relationship with families,” Lynch said. “It’s really fun for kids to hear a parent or grandparent read their favorite story even if they can’t be there in person.”
The press release also mentions apps for kids and an expanded collection of comic books, graphic novels and kids’ comic books. Nook will offer “the largest digital collection of Marvel (NYSE: DIS) graphic novels available through any third party,” Lynch said–clearly a jab at Amazon, which recently announced a four-month Kindle exclusive on DC Comics. (Barnes & Noble responded by pulling those titles from its shelves.)
Women and avid readers: Barnes & Noble is running a marketing campaign featuring bestselling authors. We saw one spot starring Glee star Jane Lynch (no relation to William, I think?), who recently published her memoir Happy Accidents. Other ads will feature James Patterson, Danielle Steel and Stephen King. It’s tough to imagine Amazon pairing up with any of those traditionally published authors for an ad campaign; instead, Kindle ads generally focus on “regular” users.
And Barnes & Noble is pushing hard on the fact that the Nook Simple Touch, its price newly reduced to $99, doesn’t include any “annoying ads” for “teeth whitening, manicures, Buicks and pleas to ‘rent this space,'” said Jamie Iannone, B&N president of digital products. That’s “most important for people who love to read.” Nook Simple Touch readers will now be able to choose their screensaver; Iannone’s showed a picture of himself with his young daughter. (Whether Kindle users actually mind the ads is another question; they can pay to turn them off if they do. But they can’t display pictures of their own adorable children.)
Ladies, take note that the Nook Tablet can “fit easily in a pocket or purse.” It was one of the first things William Lynch said.
Technophobes: A presentation heavy on tech specs was even heavier on mentions of Barnes & Noble’s “always free in-store customer support” (a phrase that now even has its own little green logo). It was something of an odd contrast, since users who care a lot about one probably need the other less. I’d argue Lynch’s explanations of “sideloading” and mockery of the Kindle Fire for looking too much like a BlackBerry PlayBook were primarily for the benefit of an audience filled with reporters from tech blogs (said reporters were then unimpressed by the sideloading). The company’s actual focus here is likely reflected in its rearrangements of store space to include larger Nook Boutiques and customer service.
This morning, Barnes & Noble wanted to show that the Nook Tablet can best the Kindle Fire in terms of content and performance, but it’s too early to know how this will play out in terms of actual device sales (not that either company is going to be forthcoming on those any time soon). Tech specs aside, the fact is that B&N is likely entering the tablet market as the #3 player, after Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Amazon–and the company would be foolish to abandon its core customers now.
P.S. Pay no attention to the young dudes in the B&N-supplied photo accompanying this post, as they are clearly some Barnes & Noble employees pulled over after hours to pretend to use Nook Tablets.