Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Predictions 2020: War is Hell

Over the years (of PND), I've generally taken a look in my crystal ball to report on some trends and predictions for publishing as we turn to a new year.   For reference, here are some of my past efforts which always seem to generate a good deal of PND traffic (which is gratifying).

This year, my predictions are not a expansive as in year's past but that doesn't mean I think we don't have some interesting things to consider for the next year or two.  Here we go:

Where’s my Inclusive Access?
The Inclusive Access roll out is slow, painful and exasperating for most higher ed publishers.   There are approximately 5000 colleges and universities in the US but based on research I’ve seen less than 15% of them are ready to deliver inclusive access to students.  Moreover, this roll-out is going incrementally without any real drive or impetus.  This is circumstance will frustrate all publishers attempting to change business models and drive their customers to complete digital delivery of content.   As a bi-product, we may see more activity around ‘student choice’ options which address the delivery of digital content to students but which replicate print textbook purchase process.  For publishers their preference is toward inclusive access, but it may be several years before we reach 50% penetration in the market.

Amazon Texts?
Amazon’s publishing program continues to grow and they now have more than 15 genre imprints.   I expect they will look to enter the textbook market for some experimental products over the next few years.  Similar to the Amazon Basics product lines, the company may conclude that they can carve off some market share in education by delivering basic education materials.  Given the broad scope of their current publishing program (and their willingness to experiment) I see education as a natural progression for their publishing program.   What would really stir things up would be if Amazon purchased Chegg which already has student directed products.  The Chegg products would form an immediate platform on which Amazon could build.

POD Books Anyone?
Everyone knows and sees the phenomenal interest in and growth of POD casting and publishers are trying to jump on the bandwagon.   Malcolm Gladwell has released his newest book Talking to Strangers as a POD book which is an interesting experiment and I expect to see more of these type of experiments combining the long-form book with the episodic POD audio format.  Audio publishing is the current engine of publishing and the combination of these two formats is likely to look very interesting for publishers over the next few years.  By the way, Gladwell’s Podcast Revisionist History is excellent.

Hearing Voices?
Voice activation applications are both controversial and rapidly expanding in usefulness.  Alexa “skills” development is entering the education space with solutions for study support, reference desk type applications and campus based administrative activities for meetings, conference rooms, etc.   Additionally, on-campus information look-up is also being tested by some universities to help students source basic campus information.   Currently, these ‘skills’ may be relatively basic but as voice technology becomes more pervasive and complex we will see more application in the education space.  After all, just ask Alexa.

Infrastructure Week?
Infrastructure is boring and not normally associated with publishing however the implementation of 5G may well provide education publishers with some interesting opportunities.   5G enables speedier delivery of web-based content and will alleviate all of the problematic issues with using online content and technology in the classroom.  As a result, more immersive content with more participants (100s of students) can be possible including augmented reality (AR) type products.   Campus’s across the country are already beginning to work with Infrastructure providers to define benefits and options for 5G on their campuses.   We will see center’s of excellence develop around the possibilities that 5G offers educators.  For example, we should see benefits in how research is conducted, how content is delivered and how educators can cater to a wider set of student needs.   It is possible that students with special needs could see better options simply because 5G enables faster, deeper content at the point of need.  Smart publishers will look to work with universities building these 5G center’s of excellence.   Infrastructure isn’t always boring.

Last Points:
It is going to be an interesting year for Barnes & Noble - both on the trade retail and the college retail side.  Both companies are likely to end 2020 in different form than they entered the year.  Trade retail in under new management and College trade are now considering options for their corporate structure which may mean they are acquired and/or go private.

There is a lot of friction between trade publishers and libraries - evidenced by Macmillan's imposition of a front list embargo.  This friction is growing more raw by the day with the increases in digital content distribution via libraries and the belief by publishers that purchase for lending substitution is becoming a more real issue and is eroding retail sales.  How this friction is managed over the next year will be closely watched by all parties.

As always, looking forward to an interesting and exciting year.


Michael Cairns is a publishing and media executive with over 25 years experience in business strategy, operations and technology implementation.  He has served on several boards and advisory groups including the Association of American Publishers, Book Industry Study Group and the International ISBN organization.   Additionally, he has public and private company board experience.   He can be reached at michael.cairns@infomediapartners.com

Read more articles on my Flipboard magazine:


Are you considering an investment in new technology?  Check out my report on software and services providers.  (PubTech Report)

Enjoy that?  Here are my predictions from past years:

2018: Predictions 2018: Somewhere Else
2017: Predictions 2017: Subscribe To Me
2016: Predictions 2016: Education, China, Platforms and Blockchain.
2013: Predictions 2013: The Death of the Middle Man
2012: Predictions 2012: The Search for Attention
2011: Predictions 2011: The Growth of Intimacy
2010: Predictions 2010: Cloudy With A Chance of Alarm
2009: Predictions 2009: Death and Resurrection:
2008: Predictions 2008
2007: Predictions 2007

2007-2013: My Big Book of Posts & Predictions on Slideshare

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Happy New Year 2020: Review of Popular Posts

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Looking forward to new and exciting challenges for 2020
A selection of articles from this year which generated a lot of traffic. During 2019, I completed business strategy projects for two education publishers, due diligence support for several acquisitions and market research for two associations.  Please reach out to discuss your projects or you have a C-Level search or board role I can help support.  - Michael Cairns
Content owners are fascinated with memberships. Faced with eroding subscription revenue, many legacy publishers plan membership programs in a well-intentioned attempt to turn around their revenue declines, but do no more than confuse their core customers. “Membership” programs - offering more frequent content such as topic-specific newsletters, earlier access to the magazine, database content and a branded mug are nothing more than a tiered subscription offer. But when memberships are differentiated from subscriptions, they offer “members” reciprocity in the purpose and function of the publication and deeper engagement for the mutual benefit of both the member and the publication.
Five Strategic HigherEd Trends
Perhaps the only surprise in the fact that major changes and dislocations are taking place in educational publishing is that they took so long to exhibit themselves.  The more recent change is the aggressive growth of all-access textbook deals sold to students – frequently via the institution – which provide students access to the entire content catalog published by a textbook publisher.  

Cengage put the wind up most educational publishers two years ago when they launched their program, which they now claim has been sold to more than one million students.
Cengage announced this week that they have extended their “all you can eat” digital subscription package to the Amazon.com store.   Since the company launched this subscription model, students have been able to gain digital access to everything the company publishes, all for $119.99 a semester and $179.99 for the full year.
The approach to education in prisons is improving and expanding Pell Grant eligibility will accelerate change but industry groups should do more.  Ask any prison-enlightened pol what metric is most important in determining the success or failure of incarceration and they are most likely to cite recidivism – how many released prisoners return to the system. It’s also the one they would most like to improve. America has one of the largest incarceration rates in the world (IHEP) and also one of the worst recidivism rates. More focused on warehousing inmates than on rehabilitation, the US prison system still takes no collective responsibility for a revolving door system which keeps hosting the same participants like a warped frequent-flyer program.
Last year I pulled together a post discussing how I thought blockchain could (and was) be used within the publishing industry.  (Publishing in the Age of Blockchain).   There is definitely still excitement about blockchain but my impression is less about the hype and more about actually doing stuff that works. I said last year the use of blockchain with the identification and management of intellectual works looks like a very viable business case.   After my post last year, I was approached by several organizations in the news and image management area seeking more discussion about how some of these initiatives could help support their business objectives.
This  report identifies over 100 software and services providers and reviews in detail more than 30 providers serving publishers of all types and sizes. In this report, we list the leading providers of financial & accounting, rights, contracts and royalties, product information, editorial and production management and content management solutions.
Information Media Partners
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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Federally Funded Research to be Set Free?

There are few things the Trump administration has in common with the Obama Administration but trump appears on the cusp of yet another executive order which will make all federally funded (tax payer) research immediately available. Generally, the Obama Administration established a set of  initiatives to open access to government information and one of the related policies underwritten by the Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) was to make tax payer funded research more available.  In 2013, OSTP released a policy memorandum which "directed Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and requiring researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research."  At the time, the year embargo represented a compromise agreed between publishers and the government via a 'deliberative' process.

The current administration (which had initially appeared to discard and abandon many of the open government initiatives implementated under Obama), has circulated an executive order (EO) which will effectively eliminate the one year embargo period.   Naturally, publishers including associations and membership organizations which rely on publishing revenue to support their operations are intensively concerned about this initiative. Oddly, while some reports suggest this EO has been circulating for a while, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) are only formally responding now with their concerns.   If this order is made, it will likely fundamentally change they way many academic and scientific publishing companies operate especially those publishing programs which operate where the preponderance of research money is spent.  Some more forward thinking publishers, having seen the trends in Europe with respect to open access, may be protected but there are many publishers for which this is going to represent a real danger to their financial viability.  Or at the least, they are going to have to withstand a difficult transition period to a new open access model.

The AAP's response has been very direct and represents the views of more than 125 publishers:
“The American publishing industry invests billions of dollars financing, organizing, and executing the world’s leading peer-review process in order to ensure the quality, reliability, and integrity of the scientific record,” said Maria A. Pallante, President & CEO of the Association of American Publishers. “The result is a public-private partnership that advances America’s position as the global leader in research, innovation, and scientific discovery. If the proposed policy goes into effect, not only would it wipe out a significant sector of our economy, it would also cost the federal government billions of dollars, undermine our nation’s scientific research and innovation, and significantly weaken America’s trade position. Nationalizing this essential function—that our private, non-profit scientific societies and commercial publishers do exceedingly well—is a costly, ill-advised path.”
The letter notes that “publishers both support and enable ‘open access’ business models and ‘open data’ as important options within a larger framework that assumes critical publisher investments remain viable. Under a legacy regulation that is still in force today, proprietary journal articles that report on federally funded research must be made available for free within 12 months of publication. This mandate already amounts to a significant government intervention in the private market. Going below the current 12 month ‘embargo’ would make it very difficult for most American publishers to invest in publishing these articles. As a consequence, it would place increased financial responsibility on the government through diverted federal research grant funds or additional monies to underwrite the important value added by publishing. In the coming years, this cost shift would place billions of dollars of new and additional burden on taxpayers.”
As with many initiatives with this administration, motivations may not be as pure as to provide more access to science and information; rather some have suggested that this action is a massive favor to private industry.   It is difficult to believe that Trump has any knowledge or awareness of the nuances of research publishing, business models or purpose.  It would be illuminating to know who is influencing this significant policy change.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Cyber Monday Sale: Comprehensive Publishing Technology Report 40% Discount

Use discount code (CyberMonday) to pay only $850 versus the full $1500 price.

My company, Information Media Partners recently published an updated version of our Publishing Technology Report which identifies over 100 software and services companies supporting global publishers and content owners. We asked some of the recent buyers of this report for some feedback:
 “…the report helped us avoid what may have become a very expensive mistake when we were looking to replace an important set of back office applications which run our business.” – Mike S. IT Director (Scholarly Publisher)
This report sets out some parameters for evaluating which providers you will want to look at as you make your decision to invest in new technology. Technology investment is a significant undertaking for any company regardless of your size or sophistication and our report provides a framework for identifying the best options for your business. We have conducted more than 30 in-depth interviews with the leading providers to help you understand each company's product offering and capabilities.
“Michael’s report helped us save a considerable amount of time in the selection of applicable vendors for our technology project and his concurrent consulting advice helped guide our process. We enjoyed working with him on this project.” Shelly B. Operations Director (Education Publisher)
With resources tight and frequently, expertise in short supply, this report and our consulting knowledge can help you ask the right questions and shorten your evaluation process. Time is money and no one wants to waste time and effort evaluating vendors which are not right for your business.
“In our view the most comprehensive report for software vendors supporting publishing and information companies” – Partner, Private Equity
This software and services market place is under researched and our market map is unique in the way it identifies the primary providers to publishers and content owners. Several private equity firms have purchased this report to support their knowledge and understanding of this vibrant market place.

This year we ranked Fadel (rights/royalties), Klopotek (Title, Editorial, Production) and Silverchair (Content Management) as the best positioned vendors in their segment having conducted over 30 interviews.

The 2019 report is 90 pages and includes a market overview, functional and technical descriptions of the primary software applications and vendors for enterprise resource planning (ERP), title, editorial and production (TEP), contracts, rights and royalties (CRR) and content management (CMS).

We advise that you should purchase this report if you are considering any investment in technology in the coming year and/or if you want to understand the competitive environment for these products.

As an added bonus, if you engage my company (Information Media Partners) for a consulting project in the coming year (not necessarily connected to this report) I will credit back the cost of this report.

Use this link to purchase the report:  PURCHASE 2019 Report  And see a full list of profiled companies and add the discount code.

Included in the report:

Market map of ERP, Title management, editorial and production and contract rights and royalties software companies.  Companies profiled in this report included: AdvantageCS, Klopotek, Virtusales, FADEL, Filmtrack and many others.

Market map of digital asset management, digital asset distribution, content analytics, copyright and IP management software and services companies.

About Information Media Partners:  For more than 20 years, our company has provided strategy and operational improvement advice for professional, academic and educational publishing companies operating globally.  Our clients include established businesses, start-ups and investment companies.  We conduct consulting engagements, fulfill interim executive roles and provide board advisory services at the C-level.  For more information, please visit our website: Information Media Partners

Michael Cairns
Chief Executive Officer
Report Analyst & Industry Subject Matter Expert
Ex-CEO of Ingenta, RR Bowker & Berlitz
C-level consultant with PWC, Cengage, John Wiley,
Reed Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, OCLC and others.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Flipboard Magazine: America's Test Kitchen, NYPL & Instagram, Textbooks, Blockchain in Publishing

Check out more interesting articles from my flipboard magazine for publishing and media.

Here is an excerpt from one of the articles I've clipped about America's Test Kitchen (Digiday):
“America’s Test Kitchen made a strategic decision 20 years ago, and I think that that was atypical at the time but prescient because they built a stable business, not one that is dependent on episodic ad revenue,” said Peter Doucette, a managing director in the Telecom, Media & Technology practice at FTI Consulting.
America’s Test Kitchen’s subscriptions business, which currently has 1.3 million paid print subscribers between its Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines and 420,000 paid digital subscribers, makes up 60% of the company’s overall revenue, and CEO David Nussbaum said this area is experiencing double-digit growth year over year. That’s why on Jan. 2, Nussbaum said the company has a pretty good idea what the revenue will be that year, based on how many subscriptions they have. Recurring revenue is a helluva drug.
See more at Personanondata - The Magazine