Monday, October 19, 2020

Quarterly Newsletter: Articles of Interest and Consulting Update

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Our World

Business dislocation, managing remote workers and plant and infrastructure management are the significant issues we've been addressing with our clients over the past six months. Despite the uncertainty of the US election and the worry over COVID, our clients are thinking critically about how they emerge from these challenges during 2021 prepared to operate more efficiently and effectively.  We've helped our clients evaluate and experiment with new business models, technology improvements and employee relations which will enable these companies to emerge better prepared and stronger over the next few years. At Information Media Partners we are always happy to take a call (908 938 4889) or email to discuss your particular challenge.

Check out the following business articles of interest:
Client Review: Apple Daily and Jimmy Lai: Trying to save democracy in Hong Kong
Article: When artists gather together for their advantage
Interview: Textbooks are giving way to Courseware at an increasing rate
Consulting: Profiles of some of our consulting work
Publishing & Industry News Clips
OCLC's Vision for the Next Generation of Metadata

NYU Business School Prof Galloway on the Future of Higher Ed

Pew Research: Experts Predict More Digital Innovation

Beyond the Pandemic, Libraries Look Toward a New Era - NYTimes

A Guide to the Newsletter Economy - NY Magazine

Can Amazon Keep Growing Like a Youthful Startup? - Economist

Why Managing Uncertainty is a Key Management Skill - Strategy+Business

Building a Digital New York Times: Exit Interview with Mark Thompson - McKinsey

See more at Flipboard
Information Media Partners Consulting
Where we have been spending our consulting time recently...
  • A prominent association publisher asked us to help redefine their fulfillment and distribution options
  • A large library association asked us to facilitate a series of meetings with a key retail partner
  • We conducted a finance function re-engineering review and defined options for new software and process improvement
You can review more of our project citations by following this link

The coming year will be challenging and you will need help. Please get in touch to discuss a project and/or your long-term management needs.  (
Information Media Partners
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Thursday, October 08, 2020

NYU Business School Professor Scott Galloway on the Future of HEd

To kick of this week's virtual ASU+GSV Education Summit, they asked NYU Stern business school professor Scott Galloway to set the stage for education in a time of COVID.  And he doesn't disappoint in identifying how warped higher education has become in valuing the wrong key metrics - such as admission rates and failing to address the disparity in administrator compensation and the tuition cost of education.  There is much more in this video:

The video is full of excellent information and scathing opinion:

  • NYU boasts that it turns away 89% of applicants - that's like a shelter saying they turned away 9 of 10 homeless people last night
  • Higher Education is an "agent of caste" in the US (and not in a good way)
  • Stanford is basically run as a hedge fund and should be taxed that way
  • Administrators are on a march to 'reduce accountability and increase compensation'
  • Equates the top US schools to luxury brands which adopt scarcity as a key component of their business model
  • Harvard sells the most expensive content streaming service (at $49,000) the world has ever seen

Well worth a listen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

OCLC's Vision for the Next Generation of Metadata

From the OCLC report summary: 

Transitioning to the Next Generation of Metadata synthesizes six years (2015-2020) of OCLC Research Library Partners Metadata Managers Focus Group discussions and what they may foretell for the “next generation of metadata.”
The firm belief that metadata underlies all discovery regardless of format, now and in the future, permeates all Focus Group discussions. Yet metadata is changing. Innovations in librarianship are exerting pressure on metadata management practices to evolve as librarians are required to provide metadata for far more resources of various types and to collaborate on institutional or multi-institutional projects with fewer staff.
This report considers: Why is metadata changing? How is the creation process changing? How is the metadata itself changing? What impact will these changes have on future staffing requirements, and how can libraries prepare? This report proposes that transitioning to the next generation of metadata is an evolving process, intertwined with changing standards, infrastructures, and tools. Together, Focus Group members came to a common understanding of the challenges, shared possible approaches to address them, and inoculated these ideas into other communities that they interact with. 
Download pdf

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Is GoodReads A Good or Bad Thing For Books?

It's been a very long tome since Amazon bought up all the viable book recommendation sites - GoodReads included - but over in The New Statesman Sara Manavis suggests that Goodreads is not all good for books. Bad actually.

Apparently the one thing which unifies Goodreads users is that they all agree that the user experience sucks. I always believed Amazon buying these book recommendation and social networking sites was  cynical in the first place: Nothing should stop the Amazon juggernaut from dominating your book discovery and reading experience. Amazon were never really interested in the functionality or site 'experience' of these sites, they just wanted the enthusiasts and they were not going to let a potential competitor grow nor allow a real competitor buy up these companies.  In 2008, Amazon purchased Shelfari and in 2013 completed the Goodreads deal.  There was shock demonstrated at the time and commentators and users felt the sellers had sold out to the bad actor. Many felt betrayed.  But, according to the Manavis article there are still more than 90million users which is considerably more than the 16mm members back in 2008.

Since 2008, web design has changed considerably. No surprise there. However, to confirm the thesis that Amazon wasn't really interested in this product per se, the Goodreads website is virtually unchanged since 2008.  Manavis notes the frustration of users,

Goodreads today looks and works much as it did when it was launched. The design is like a teenager’s 2005 Myspace page: cluttered, random and unintuitive. Books fail to appear when searched for, messages fail to send, and users are flooded with updates in their timelines that have nothing to do with the books they want to read or have read. Many now use it purely to track their reading, rather than get recommendations or build a community. “It should be my favourite platform,” one user told me, “but it’s completely useless.”

Minavis suggests that the negative feedback has reached some type of breaking point, and I believe there is room in the market for other online booksellers of scale.

When I became CEO of Ingenta, the company was planning a commercial B2C book retail store. We had conversations with publishers, built some wire frames and developed a product concept. We planned to use existing technology (subsequently proven unstable). I had to squelch this initiative to concentrate on saving the company and delivering to current customers. It was actually a very crazy idea given our circumstances stoked by the high (and bizarre) interest of our board. Ingenta had a closet full of ill-conceived poorly executed projects and this would have been a spectacular example.

Looking around for other book recommendation sites, I still use LibraryThing but even they have some corporate overlords. LibraryThing is majority owned by the founder Tim Spalding but he counts both Amazon and Proquest as partial owners. LibraryThing hasn't changed much over the years either but I don't have anything like the frustration some of the Goodreaders seem to have.  Maybe they should come over.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Apple Daily and Jimmy Lai: Trying to save democracy in Hong Kong

In most countries Jimmy Lai would be considered a business hero. That's definitely the case in Hong Kong where he lives as the CEO of Next Media. As you may also know, Jimmy Lai is also the highest profile defender of democracy in Hong Kong and was recently arrested - together with some of his family members and staff, by Chinese authorities under the new 'anti-terrorism' laws which are designed specifically by the authorities (read Beijing) to enforce communist party rule in Hong Kong.
In 1998, I was engaged on a consulting assignment for Next Media in Hong Kong and spent two months working on a technology strategy for the newspaper business which published Apple Daily.  Lai had just sold his retail clothing business and was focusing all his attention on his new newspaper.  He had established Apple Daily three or four years years before I arrived in Hong Kong and he built the business from the ground up including building his own state of the art printing plant. The newspaper was seeing very rapid growth fueled by sensationalist lead stories including one which lead to a suicide. While I was there, the paper was following the rags to riches story of a local gangster who was on trial for murder with other lurid details the paper threw in every day. Apparently, this gangster spread the money around and was nick named "Big Spender" by Apple Daily and became a bit of a cult hero. Perfect material for a newspaper like Apple Daily. Over a three week period, I learned all about Big Spender from my Chinese colleagues and three days after he was convicted Big Spender was hanged. Justice is swift in China.
My interaction with Lai was infrequent but I definitely had the sense his vision far exceeded the awareness of the executives (and consultants) who worked for him. I've seen this trait in other interactions with executives (such as Jeff Bezos) where coming away from the conversation you are left thinking that they are almost bored with the discussion because they are thinking so far ahead or far more strategically. At Next Media, Lai was thinking not only about how technology could help support his newspaper but also the many new businesses he wanted to experiment with such as online retail, home deliveries and membership programs. In one exchange he described "UberEats" and wanted his team to investigate establishing a van fleet and supporting logistics. This was 1998 and we hadn't even had the first internet bubble yet. We thought he was a little nuts.
Jimmy Lai's Next Media is now the last independent voice in Hong Kong media. Since their start as a sensationalist newspaper, and as other newspapers folded, Apple Daily became a political voice for the democracy movement in Hong Kong. Sadly, the options for Jimmy Lai, his family and employees are stark: either give up criticism of the ruling party or lose everything including their freedom. Leaving Hong Kong would be the only other option. Jimmy Lai doesn't want to do that. Jimmy Lai is a hero. (Listen to The Daily interview with him).
My consulting work at Next Media involved a review of the IT environment and internal workflow procedures in the Apple Daily editorial and production functions. I lead the team which conducted interviews and work groups and developed a thorough understanding of the IT environment, internal processes and procedures. Based on our analysis, six key projects designed to support management’s goals and objectives were identified. The toughest challenge in this work was language since most of the workers did not have a good understanding of English. This was also an issue for technology. 
We found that software typically found in news operations the US and Europe simply wasn't available. Standard editorial solutions from Atex and Unisys Hermes had not been translated due to the complicated nature of the double byte translation problem. We did locate a local vendor that had 'translated' an older version of Atex into Mandarin which was exactly what we were looking for except for the theft issue. Next Media was producing 300,000 copies a day using a cobbled together set of home grown software.
My teams recommendations were fairly rudimentary: The development of a formal IT organizational structure, definition of an IT strategy, stabilization of the network
and a more structured approach to processes, personnel roles and responsibilities. We also provided best practices relative to newspaper publishing and profiled
a number of the major workflow package providers for newspapers.
This was one of my most interesting projects and to spend that much time in Hong Kong was also a bonus. At the time (1998), the transfer of power from the UK to China was still in its early days and there was hope and expectation that 'one country, two systems' was doable. Just over 20 years later and that hope is gone.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Pirated Broadcast Content Worth $1Billion or More - Report

In a new report undertaken by Digital Citizens Alliance suggests that the value of stolen digital content broadcast which is 'resold' as pirated subscriptions to consumers exceeds $1Billion.  This report looks at the infrastructure that supports this 'business' and the revenues and profit margins that can be generated.  Here are some of the primary conclusions:
  • Conservatively, pirate subscription IPTV services generate subscription revenues of $1 billion annually in the U.S. alone, even excluding the sale of pirate streaming devices used to receive the content; 
  • Because the providers of these services pay nothing for the programming that makes up their core product, they operate with estimated profit margins that range from 56 percent (retailers) to 85 percent (wholesalers). 
  • An estimated 9 million fixed broadband subscribers in the U.S. use a pirate subscription IPTV service; 
  • At least 3,500 storefront websites, social media pages, and stores within online marketplaces sell pirate subscription IPTV services to the U.S. market; 
  • An ecosystem has emerged around such services, including wholesalers that provide turnkey technology, and retailers that offer the stolen content to the public; and 
  • The ecosystem also depends upon legitimate players, including hosting services, payment processors, and social media. The extent to which these legitimate players are aware of their role is a subject of debate