Monday, January 23, 2017

NISO Report: Understanding MetaData

From their press release:
The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) continues its Primer Series with the publication of Understanding Metadata. This comprehensive overview of information about an item's creation, name, topic, features, and more updates NISO's 2004 advice on the subject and follows on the Research Data Management Primer published in 2015. An additional such work, Linked Data for Cultural Institutions, is forthcoming, and more guides will be published periodically.

"It's crucial for NISO to build understanding of technical issues at various levels and for various audiences," says NISO Executive Director Todd Carpenter. "Our Primers are therefore written to provide guidance for expert information managers who are already working with metadata as well as for professionals who are less familiar with information exchange issues. NISO values the opportunity to offer this guidance," Carpenter continues, "because in a digital world, information about content can often be more important than the content itself. Without good metadata, information effectively disappears."

The Primer, authored by Jenn Riley, Associate Dean, Digital Initiatives, McGill University Library, demystifies a type of information that is ubiquitous in our lives but that can be challenging to produce, store, and understand. Coverage includes topics such as metadata types, standardization, and use in the cultural heritage sector and in the broader world. The Primer is accompanied by plentiful examples of metadata at work.

Url:  http://

Friday, January 20, 2017

Picking Pineapple. Lanai, Hawaii 1959

Image dated approximately 1959 on Lanai, Hawaii.

The central part of Lanai was the inside of a volcano and is naturally shaped like the inside of a shallow bowl.  Lanai was nicknamed 'the pineapple isle' since virtually all the arable land there was devoted to growing pineapple.  Related, about 90% of the land was owned by the Dole Pineapple company.  In more recent times, this has all changed and there are now no commercial operations on the island and Dole sold off their holdings about 20 years ago.  The island is (for all intents and purposes) now owned by Larry Ellison of Oracle Computer fame.

Copyright Michael Cairns.  Lanai, Hawaii 1959

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Predictions 2017: Subscribe To Me

The end of one year and the beginning of another always represents an opportunity to reflect and think about what the future will bring.  That is, if you've nothing better to do over the two week break for Christmas and New Year’s.   Like many others, I've been doing this for most of my career and, over the past ten years of PND's history, I've been publishing annual prognostications.  As I have said before, it is less about being right about the future than being thoughtful about the future.  Trying to think about what it all means and making sense of what you see is important to planning how your business operates and confronts change.

This year I also looked back to 2016 at some of the big stories of the year and I've decided to use a similar, shorter format for my predictions for 2017.  At the bottom of this post are links to my predictions from prior years.  Read them (and perhaps laugh).

Subscriptions Are All In:

The explosion in podcasting is an indicator for publishing – specifically of the rapid growth of subscription models for content.  According to McKinsey's annual Entertainment and Media Report, consumers are spending less to buy content and more to access it without owning it.  And, as the trend gains in momentum, any doubt or concern about ownership seems to be waning.   Subscription models are offered for everything from jets and cars, to vacation homes and movie services.  Spending to buy content fell by 8% and access to view content grew by 31% in 2015.  Access to content will overtake ownership by 2018, according to McKinsey.

How subscription models will continue to evolve and expand will be a strong theme during 2017.  According to consulting company Activate, subscription revenues represent 50% of the $1.7Tillion content market and will grow by $226B (or 5%) by 2021.  Additionally, consumer pay models (subscription) for the top 100 (by revenue) non-game apps represent 71% of app downloads and 86% of revenue generated in 2016 versus 65% and 82% in 2015.  The strength and growth of content subscription models is real and will expand beyond video and entertainment to all content markets in the coming years.

Personalisation and Opt-in Marketing

More content and technology companies will work out how to tailor content for specific users and they will do this via browser and opt-in newsletter marketing.  Driving usage of content will become a mantra - not at the expense of irrelevance - for engaged users who receive highly relevant content, which will drive high-value subscription revenues.   The NYT has been using technology to "profile" users and deliver relevant content for several years now and the Washington Post (under new management) has aggressively used technology to create opt-in marketing programs oriented around user interests.

For publishers, the effort to market their content more effectively cannot be done without the use of third-party platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  In particular, the adoption of live events (Facebook Live) will help publishers enliven their content and also reach a much wider market - than traditional book tours, for example.   Additionally, publishers will create "news teams" to maintain (constant) activity via these new avenues to readers.  Thus, avenues such as Facebook Live, Opt-In marketing/newsletter programs and similar initiatives will become vibrant channels delivering content to specific interested groups which will, in turn, drive purchasing.  Facebook Live Audio will be particularly applicable to the expanded role audio books will play in publishers planning for 2017.

While platforms are critical and an unavoidable necessity, don't underestimate the power of newsletters and personalized content delivery.  Understanding how your users interact with your content, making sense of that and then acting on it via a variety of efforts will be a focus for publishers in 2017.  Simply counting page hits “vanity stats” is not good enough.  Renewals is where it's at.

Rights Management

For many publishers, rights management and royalty processing is a complex business process.  And things will only get worse as markets become increasingly border-less.  Managing a more complex environment of publishers, authors, companies, territories, business segments, product types, formats and many other criteria will become standard practice with each deal.   All interested parties (not least authors) expect the "Amazon experience" where information is presented in real time and in an easy-to-understand manner.  Most media and publishers are years away from achieving anything like this level of transparency, but movement in this direction will be precipitated by numerous high-profile royalties audits as well as possible financial regulation requirements.

Over the coming years, more publishers will need to replace their royalties software as well as extract more value from the rights they hold.  These two trends are not mutually exclusive.

Some other more quick thoughts:
  • It’s unlikely we'll see much consolidation in publishing this year.  S&S is probably still stuck in the Viacom mess.   If only: Pearson may be sold to private equity.
  • I expect a big shake-out in the K-12 edtech market.  Some consolidation but more failures than you can count.  The market is too saturated for (me-to) edtech products and with uncertainty over the direction of federal policy this will cause many small providers to run out of time.
  • How long can NetFlix owner(s) withstand the ever-increasing values and still not sell?  More to the point, can Apple resist buying its own content business?  If the ATT/TW deal is not approved, then does the value of NetFlix go even higher?  Stay tuned.
  • Publishers will be doing much more with data - particularly in scholarly and academic - and will use tools like Tableau to rapidly experiment with and iterate new products.
  • Will Trump's AG go after Amazon for unfair trading practices because of the Washington Post’s coverage of the Trump administration?  I'd buy that subscription.
Past year predictions:

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

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Recap: Some of The Big News Stories from 2016

2016 was a tumultuous year and one we are glad to see the back off.  From the constant stream of celebrity departures to Brexit to Trump, we all deserve a breather; but it won't come and I expect 2017 will be an even more intense year.  Things don't look promising.

Many of the biggest media stories of 2016 revolved around the election but, while there were other big stories in media this year, it was arguably a quiet year for publishing and media.  Here is my list of top media and publishing stories from the past year (in no particular order):
  • Gawker lost a libel case to fake wrestler Hulk Hogan with a judgement against that effectively bankrupted the company.  The escrow amount required for an appeal was so high they couldn't afford it and the company was eventually sold to Univision for $135million.  Most troubling to many was the legal sponsorship provided by Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.  This verdict and the legal sponsorship that enabled it have people concerned about press freedoms in the future. (NYTimes)
  • Thomson Reuters sold their IP and Science business unit for $3.5Bill to a Canadian equity fund with little previous experience in publishing.  The purchased business is now named "Clarivate Analytics".  There's a saying: Never be a buyer when Thomson is a seller.  Not sure where I heard that; however Thomson, in transforming itself over the past 15 years, has shown itself to be very adept at moving out of failing businesses ahead of time - newspapers, educational publishing - and moving on into new markets.  (Reuters)
  • During 2016 we saw a significant increase in social publishing for advocacy - no single news story here but the activities of athletes and celebrities together with advocacy groups such as "black lives matter" using their profiles and notoriety to push social commentary and raise awareness for causes seemed to gain stream during the year.  Whether this "movement" exhausts itself flailing against trolls and fake news remains to be seen during 2017.
  • Small bundles made a comeback in 2016 mostly in video/television content but with the likes of ESPN, Hulu, HBO, SlingMedia and others showing the way the long term viability of the big package offering we've all been used to for 30 years may be fracturing.  Obviously, the web combined with the proliferation of devices is driving this trend as audiences - particularly the younger crowd - look to make their own bundles. (WSJ)
  • That said, the proposed ATT/Time Warner merger is a bet that content and distribution will drive value and also protect each company strategically.   The Comcast/NBC combination has been a success with average annual subscriber revenue well over $1000 - very near the top of the range. ATT/TM will expect to benefit from that level of revenue but they will also hope to project themselves against any adverse effects of the content market fracturing.  With HBO and Warner Studios, ATT would be a stronger business particularly in competing with Comcast and others. (NPR) 
  • After the election, there was a mini renaissance in subscriptions to old line news sources such as The New York Times, Washington Post and magazines.  Will this be sustainable is the question? (NiemanLabs)
  • Follet emerged from a protracted period of management upheaval and strategic review where they contemplated selling the business with the purchase of Baker & Taylor.  The combined company now has revenues over $3.5Billion with strong positions in library and school distribution and educational retailing.  Industry watchers are hopeful that years of under investment in B&T will be reversed and significant operational improvements made to the combined business.  (ChicagoTrib)
  • Wiley acquired the content management platform Atypon both as a strategic asset and a technology provider to their existing business.  Atypon will remain a separate business unit but will also support and supply Wiley with technology to support the re-platforming of their existing product suite.  Assuming Wiley manages the integration well, this stands to be a great deal for both sides.  In related news, Highwire Press acquired Semantico (UK) to further consolidate the content solution market supporting academic and scholarly publishers.  Highwire is owned by Accel/KKR and is generally considered the largest business in this segment. (PND) 
I've probably forgotten something important....

Looking forward to 2017 anyone?

Michael Cairns is interested in discussing c-level executive management and/or board and advisory positions.  He has served as CEO and President of several technology and content-centric business supporting global media publishers, retailers and service providers and can be reached at and he blogs at

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Digital Book World Relaunches for 2017

For many publishers concerned about digital publishing over the past ten years the annual Digital Book World (DBW) conference has been a must-attend event in New York.

Use this discount code for $100 off the registration fee: MICHAELCAIRNS100

This year it will be a different conference having undergone a needed top-to-bottom revision of content and purpose. I am looking forward to it since I have not attended in several years and, I anticipate a revised interest in new topics and digital constructs which all of us in the industry will be managing through over the next few years.

In an effort to manage the content and subject coverage for DWB this year Ted Hill, the new conference manager, has created the following focus areas which are all being led by 'captains' who have managed the selection of speakers and scope of their respective channels:
  • Editorial Acquisitions + Development: Laura Dail, president of Laura Dail Literary Agency, Inc.
  • Production + Distribution: Bill Kasdorf, vice president and principal consultant of Apex Content Solutions
  • Marketing + Sales: Rick Pascocello, marketing consultant and literary agent with Glass Literary Management
  • Analysis + Reporting: Kempton Mooney, senior director of research and analytics for Nielsen Book
  • DBW Indie Author: Jane Friedman, editor and publisher of TheHotSheet, columnist with PublishersWeekly, a professor with The Great Courses, and an award-winning blogger at; and Porter Anderson, co-founder of The Hot Sheet, editor-in-chief of PublishingPerspectives, and principal of Porter Anderson Media
DBW gives attendees the opportunity to learn new approaches to old and new problems in digital publishing and to learn about new ideas and products. The forum is also exceptional in creating an environment for networking. There is more than ample time during the conference to mix with attendees and, if years past are any indication, there are always a lot of attendees for active mingling.
If you haven't been to DBW in a number of years - or even if you have - the 2017 conference will be a well-timed revision and well worth a look. Let me know if you are there and we can plan to meet.

Use this discount code for $100 off the registration fee: MICHAELCAIRNS100

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is LinkedIn the new Facebook?

My patience is wearing thin.  I saw a stat recently that showed that Linkedin is used by less than 1% of the users of Facebook.  On the surface, not so surprising; however, based on the trends I am seeing on LinkedIn there’s a lot of business people who need to get a Facebook account. And quick.

I’m sick and tired of your word games and number puzzles so difficult they wouldn’t challenge a nine year old.   I don’t want to see your selfie with Trump and I don’t want to hear about or see your cat.   LinkedIn is losing decorum as a place where professionals mingle with their colleagues and network.  It can be an excellent place to learn, to expand your network and to build your career but it’s not Facebook.  Yet more and more users seem to think everyone is interested in their cat.  It has got to stop.

I’ve curated my network.  I’ve worked at making sure I have something – often a lot – in common with the people I am connected to.  I want to learn from them, understand how I can help them and know whether they are looking for something new.   I want to be able to reach out to this group with my own questions and needs – especially now as I am looking for my own new role.   Increasingly, I find myself blocking anyone who is ‘Facebooking’ my Linkedin.  It’s distracting and it’s got to stop.  You wouldn’t place a water cooler in your office.  Leave it in the cafeteria (Facebook) where it belongs.

It may be possible that LinkedIn has become so big we are starting to sense its apotheosis.  The point at which utility is beginning to slow or decline due to the sheer size and inherent conflict within the audience and user base.  How online social networks die is a subject so new there’s few examples (myspace), but there does seem to be some truth to the idea that there’s an natural evolution to social networks that produce, at some point, a gradual and inevitable decline in utility.  I’d wager it is the first movers who reach this conclusion soonest.

Michael Cairns has served as CEO and President of several technology and content-centric business supporting global media publishers, retailers and service providers. He can be reached at and is interested in discussing executive management and/or board and advisory positions. He blogs at

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Traveling this Big Country: 3200 miles in a Honda Element

It is frequently said that the fastest way between two points is a straight line and there's no better argument for that thesis than the route Interstate 40 (i40) takes between Knoxville, Tn and Kingman, Arizona. There's no reason to know this unless, like me, you've driven i40 across the US.

Back in 1988, as I was graduating from Georgetown a fellow student happened to mention that he had no idea how he was going to get his car back to his home in California. On a whim, a friend and I told him we would drive it for him and, long story short, we set of in early May and arrived in Los Angeles about 12 days later. Great trip, good memories but few photos to catalog this adventure. The car - a white Camaro was a disaster but, that aside, I wanted to do the trip again almost immediately.  (You can find images from this trip HERE)

A few years ago, I read about a company which will arrange to move cars from one part of the country to the other. The car can go on a truck - most expensive option - or it can be driven. The company finds a driver to do the grunt work and signing up to do this is actually a lot easier than you might expect. An outfit named autodriveaway (a loose franchise operation) publishes a list of available cars and if you are interested you call the location with the listing. I began checking the list regularly and in late April a pair of cities - pick-up in Alexandria and drop off in San Francisco - looked promising. Once I got in touch with the Alexandria office, I had the whole thing worked out within a few days.

On the morning of Monday May 23rd I took Amtrak to Alexandria, picked up the car and spent the night at my sister-in-laws' place. The next day, I was on the road out of DC by 7am to my first stop in Knoxville. The car was an orange painted Honda Element which I tried to pass off a 'burnt gold' until my sister in law said "that's orange" which settled the matter. I arrived in Knoxville around 5pm which turned out to be a consistent routine for the next week until I arrived in San Francisco six days later.

The country is so vast and so variable that it needs to be experienced to comprehend. Deep green fields and red barns through Virginia, rolling hills through Tennessee, flat farmland in Texas, desert in Arizona and snow capped mountains in California. And i40 is very straight. Often coming over a rise, the road ahead would stretch directly straight to the horizon. It's mesmerizing if you're not used to it as well as being hard to photograph while driving.

Running along side i40 is the old route 66 and I like neon, old store fronts and buildings. There's still a lot of this on route 66. If you are not in a hurry and willing to dart off i40 and (frequently) back-track to something that caught your eye going 80mph this travel can be very distracting. These side trips turned up more than a few curious and interesting sights. In Shamrock, Texas I happened on a car graveyard in a field just off main street. There were more than 30 abandoned, rusted, shot up cars and trucks from the 1930s-60s. I spent a while taking photos and no one bothered me: Things seemed to go slowly in Shamrock. There were Trump yard signs.

I deliberately didn't give myself time to explore the cities where I spent the night: Knoxville, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Kingman, Mammouth Lakes and I know there is much more to see on this route. For next time. I had to keep to a schedule so I could get in business meetings once I arrived in San Francisco.

The entire trip was fantastic but the penultimate travel day from Kingman, bypassing Las Vegas to Death Valley, and then north to Mammoth Lakes was incredible for the change in scenery, landscape and temperature! When I arrived in Death Valley the temperature was 107 degrees at 120feet below sea level and arriving at Mammoth Lakes it was 52 degrees at 7000 feet. The final day drive through Yosemite via the Tioga pass road was like a roller coaster ride up through mountain passes and then down the other side to San Francisco. Up to (almost) 10,000 ft with snow still on the ground compared to yesterday's 107degress was disorienting. Pushing on through the park, I saw the remnants of charred pine trees from those massive fires several years ago and then golden fields of drought stricken grasses on the Western side of the range.

A week after I set out, I dropped the car off with the owner, who I had never met and, in one of those odd coincidences, it turned out we had several common business friends. I spent the rest of the week sightseeing in the city and attending my business meetings and then flew back at the end of the week. During the trip I took over 600 photos - all without crashing the car. (They are all here: ). I traveled about 3200 miles on total.

Drivers don't get paid for these trips, although I did get a $300 gas credit; for me, the trip would not have been worth it - too expensive - unless I had a better way. So the best thing about this whole trip was that I did it all using airline points. All the hotels, the train and the business class flight back cost me nothing. At least that's something I got out of traveling so much over the past three years.

I look forward to doing this again sometime and I wistfully keep looking at the list of available cars. But with a house literally in ruins it's not likely for a long while.

Monday, November 07, 2016

JISC (UK) Embark on a project researching the University as e-Textook publisher

The UK research entity JISC is been looking at the e-Textbook market in the UK with a particular concentration on how universities can use the concept of the University Press to advance lower cost textbook content for students.   Below is a link to their case study about the project.
Jisc is funding four teams to produce eight e-textbooks to test the processes, expertise required and outcomes when universities take on the job of publishing course texts themselves. With five books now published, and two years since the start of the project, some of the differences in the strategies adopted by the teams are starting to emerge. Teams have reflected on what they have learned and might change if they published more titles, and offer some advice for others considering similar projects. 
Over the last two or three years there has also been renewed interest, particularly in the library community, in re-establishing the concept of the university press, with some notable new presses appearing in the last year or so.8 With the introduction in the UK of higher fees for courses, students expect to find their required reading available at no extra cost, so the idea that the university itself should produce their textbooks seems entirely logical. It is therefore an interesting and appropriate moment for Jisc to be providing the funding that enables a few universities to experiment with publishing their own textbooks. In the institution as e-textbook publisher project, the overarching question the project seeks to answer is: Will the institution as e-textbook creator help students by providing a more affordable higher education, and promote a better, more sustainable information environment for libraries, students and faculty?9
Here is the link to the full article.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?

The story of the charming, honest ad campaign DDB created for VW... universally acknowledged to be the greatest and most influential of all time. Directed by Joe Marcantonio - Book available:
"Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?" from Dial M Films on Vimeo.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Photo: Auckland Lottery Seller

From a street in Auckland New Zealand, these two guys look like they are dreaming of lottery wins.  Maybe the guy on the right is promising to share the winnings.  The image is dated 1977.

Auckland Kiwi Jackpot Seller, 1977

EdTech Market Map

An interesting formulation of a market map for ed tech provided by Flybridge Capital Partners. Not sure when this was first published since some of the information is no longer valid. For example, some businesses have folded.

 Here is a more recent static market map from CB insights:

And another view from CB Insights:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What Teachers Say about EdTech in The Classroom - Report

A research report from the Gates foundation delves into the state of technology adoption in K-12 schools across the country and takes the point of view of teachers.  The report was released in November 2015 however results and analysis are updated on the report website.

Here are some of the conclusions from the report:

As part of its ongoing outreach to education technology developers, the foundation’s companion website to this research,, will feature more in-depth data from the research as it becomes available, along with existing resources for developers and interviews with a wide range of teachers who provide real-life examples of their needs and challenges. Through this research and ongoing efforts, the foundation hopes to elevate the voices of educators about what they need and spark conversation among the developer community, teachers, school leaders, and other supporters of public education. The recommendations for product developers, district and school leaders, teachers, funders, and investors made in earlier Teachers Know Best reports continue to offer our best guidance, grounded in the research, for ways the field can make technology more responsive to teachers’ needs and speed its adoption in the classroom. Based on our current findings, we add to that guidance a small number of additional, more specific, recommendations:

Product Developers:
  • Teachers need core resources, a sentiment backed up by their perception of the supplemental nature of many digital tools and the belief that they are less useful for remediation than other classroom purposes. Product developers should continue to work to fill perceived gaps in the market—in part by identifying and addressing specific standard, subject, and grade-level needs cited by teachers.
  • Developers should make their feedback process more transparent. Following the lead of their counterparts in other sectors, support and feedback could be driven by open, online communities in which teachers and developers collaborate to identify and resolve issues and iterate on improvements.
District and School Leaders
  • District leaders must find ways to address the digital divide. Without ensuring equal access to technology in all schools and classrooms, learning gaps are likely to increase as digital tools become a more integral part of classroom instruction. Equity must also be considered in digital instruction plans, as teachers will be less likely to embrace the use of digital tools and more personalized instruction if they feel that they do not equally benefit all students.
  • District leaders should ensure that they better understand how teachers will use the digital tools they are considering for implementation—and create avenues to help teachers become more directly involved in school- and district-level technology decisions.
  • Educators should familiarize themselves with resources like Graphite and EdSurge that provide information not just about digital tools, but also the strategies that align those tools to the most effective instructional purposes. Doing so can help ensure that a digital tool that other educators have found effective is used effectively in their own classrooms as well
  • Educators should provide feedback to developers of the digital tools they use most. Doing so will close the feedback loop and speed ongoing improvements.
Funders and Investors
  • Given the continued prevalence of access-related barriers to technology adoption, funders and investors should identify ways to address school and educator needs. Doing so involves not just supporting the improvement of access to digital tools but also the hardware required for students and teachers to use them, as well as the training and professional development needed for them to be used effectively and for teachers to become more engaged technology consumers in their classrooms.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Amazon's Prime Bizarre: More and More Content

The way Amazon is going with the relentless push to add more and more value to the Amazon Prime membership there won't be any more content that isn't included in the membership fee.   Hyperbolic certainly; however, Amazon has just added more than 1,000 books, comics and magazines which Prime members can access for free via phone, tablet or Kindle device.

From Nieman Labs:
There are currently 42 magazine issues listed in the program, called Prime Reading, including familiar names like Sports Illustrated, Vogue, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Consumer Reports. “Every month we choose a selection of top magazine issues for you to borrow as part of your Prime membership,” Amazon said. Users can download up to 10 titles at once.

Originally, I and probably most people joined up when in the process of buying something big the promise of free shipping prompted a 'why not' shrug to their Prime promotion.  Years later and the free shipping pays for the membership but, most importantly (in my case anyway), it has worked glue-like in the manner of airline miles to encourage loyalty.  The added stuff like book and magazine content and audio books announced earlier this year are increasingly making a tie that won’t ever break.

Several recent news stories put the number of Prime subscribers over the 50mm household mark.  It is also estimated that Prime members, who pay $99 per year for the membership, spend roughly double non-members.  (Twice)  The reports and estimates do tend to feed on themselves because Amazon is very cagey about reporting out actual data.  Other recent reports include BusinessInsider and CNN.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

PND Flip Board Magazine

Here is a current link to my most recent article picks for the PND magazine:

PND Flipboard Magazine

Articles about,

The 'new' telenovella
Amazon's pricing algorithm in conflict with 'customer first'?
How bad data costs all of us
Ferguson's philosphy
Who's black box do you trust.

+ More

Thursday, September 15, 2016

....Well, if it saves money then we sure should teach prisoners.

Article from the Village Voice about efforts to increase and improve the education of prison inmates.  These seem largely due to efforts of enlightened and caring individuals.  (Voice)
The program is one of several created in the 22 years since Congress banned inmates from receiving federal Pell Grants, causing a precipitous drop in the number of prison college programs, from about 350 before the 1994 ban to just 12 by 2005. (The controversy was nodded at on the most recent season of Orange Is the New Black, where the warden's idea to rehabilitate the women under his watch by establishing an education program at his privately run prison is shot down by his corporate bosses.) But while prison education advocates have long mourned the loss of college programs behind bars, legislators have been slower to come around. Last year, the federal Department of Education stepped in to begin expanding prison college programs, after federal policy had for two decades dismissed college courses for inmates as a waste of public funds.

Last year, following President Obama's announcement of sentencing reforms and of his intention to grant early release to 6,000 nonviolent drug offenders (as of June, he has released 348), the federal Department of Education announced the launch of a pilot program that will once again allow some inmates to receive Pell Grants, despite the 1994 law. In June, the DOE announced that 67 partnering universities would enroll about 12,000 incarcerated students in over 100 correctional facilities across the country beginning this fall. Seven of the schools, including John Jay, Hostos, and LaGuardia Community College, are in New York.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

College Textbook Prices Continue to Rise

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released updated data on the price of education in the US and if you think it costs more and more for an education then you are not alone.  The data covers all levels of education and the cost of ancillary materials such as textbooks.  In fact, according to the data, textbooks have led the growth in costs since 2006 which is the first year of this analysis. 
"From January 2006 to July 2016, the Consumer Price Index for college tuition and fees increased 63 percent, compared with an increase of 21 percent for all items. Over that period, consumer prices for college textbooks increased 88 percent and housing at school (excluding board) increased 51 percent."
Looking back even further to 1977, data from BLS suggests that textbook prices have risen over 1000%.

For interest, The College Board published a report on Trends in College Pricing that looks at "prices prices charged by colleges and universities in 2015-16, how prices have changed over time, and how they vary within and across type of institutions, states, and regions".  That report can be found via this link.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Don't give up on Print.

A recent telephone survey undertaken by Pew Research confirmed book reading is still a strong pastime despite the wide variety of distractions and other content options. The study confirmed that 73% of Americans read at least one book during the year with the mean number of books read at a healthy four titles per year. With respect to eBook consumption, the research confirmed other reports (including Pew research) that indicates more readers are replacing dedicated eReader devices for multi-purpose devices such as iPads and smart phones.

Here is a link to the report summary on the Pew Research site.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Is Google Positioned to become the Dominant Education Platform?

Interesting article from The Clayton Christensen Institute reflecting on the transition underway in Education from Apple and Microsoft to the open technologies provided by Google:
And yes, Google’s suite of office tools lacks the raw functionality of Microsoft Office’s suite, but Google has taken advantage of two key dynamics. First, most users are overserved by Microsoft Office. Most don’t take advantage of at least 98 percent of the functionality in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, for example. Google’s office tools get the basic functionality right, enable new features like collaboration—which is custom made for the Web, and keep getting better with more and more functionality. Second, Google’s apps are free for educators, whereas Microsoft makes you pay. Faced with the decision, it’s become increasingly a no brainer for educators to opt for Google. If trends continue, a whole generation of children may never know what PowerPoint is.
What would be great to see is Microsoft move away from just focusing on the content creation marketplace of its traditional Office suite and instead leverage its acquisition of LinkedIn and to do three things: support competency-based learning—through badges, portfolios, and rich profiles for all students; invest in building students’ social capital—a key determinant of life success that education typically ignores—in a deliberate way; and, through both of these efforts, help students discover and cultivate their true passions.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wiley the publisher acquires Atypon the technology provider

If, like me, you are working in the software for publishers space then this acquisition by Wiley of Atypon is a big deal.   Consolidation in the space - which is dominated by Atypon and Highwire - has been on the cards for a number of years; however, I wouldn't necessarily consider this a consolidation of providers.  Wiley certainly will be making use of the Atypon technical expertise to build out their new Wiley content platform but I would also expect Atypon to continue to be a strong and aggressive competitor in the space.  Atypon and Wiley will also want to ensure they protect (and add to) the current Atypon client roster and are probably likely to build a 'chinese wall' between Atypon and Wiley.  They will do this to make sure the Atypon customers remain despite some degree of competition between Wiley and some of the Atypon customers.

Over the coming months it will be interesting to see how the other vendors in the market react to this news.

Here is the press release:

Wiley Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Atypon

John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a global provider of knowledge and knowledge-enabled services that improve outcomes in research, professional practice and education, announced today it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Atypon, a Silicon Valley-based publishing-software company, for $120 million in cash. Atypon ( is a trusted technology partner that enables scholarly societies and publishers to deliver, host, enhance, market and manage their content on the web. The transaction is expected to close October 1, 2016.
Atypon is privately held and headquartered in Santa Clara, CA, with approximately 260 employees in the U.S. and EMEA. The company provides Literatum, an innovative platform that primarily serves the large scientific, technical, medical and scholarly industry. This sophisticated software gives publishers direct control over how their content is displayed, promoted and monetized on the web. The company generated over $31 million in calendar year 2015 revenue.
Atypon’s valued customers include some of the largest and most prestigious names in the industry. Literatum hosts nearly 9,000 journals, 13 million journal articles and more than 1,800 publication web sites for over 1,500 societies and publishers, accounting for a third of the world’s English-language scholarly journal articles.
Atypon will be managed as a separate business unit while benefiting from the financial stability and continuity of Wiley’s 209-year-old organization. The data and plans from each of Atypon’s clients will remain sequestered and behind firewalls. Clients use Atypon as their core journal-delivery platform or as a way to supplement end-user engagement. Wiley will itself become an Atypon customer.
“Wiley is committed to enabling the success of our customers and partners to advance research, discovery and learning,” said Mark Allin, President and CEO of Wiley. “Atypon offers an outstanding set of publishing solutions that can help industry participants like Wiley drive the discovery of research. We will ensure Atypon’s flexible platform continues to fully support the research community and industry partners so they may better serve their own customers.”
Georgios Papadopoulos, Atypon’s founder and CEO, will continue to lead the business and will report to Mr. Allin. He said: “We have worked hard with our partners to build the industry’s premier publishing platform and support the needs of the research community. Atypon is delivering solid growth and marked its most successful year in 2015, nearly doubling its staff in two years. With Wiley’s commitment we are very excited about the many opportunities to accelerate the expansion of Atypon’s service offerings strengthening the fabric of scholarly communications, expanding access, readership, and utilization, lowering operating costs, enabling organizations to create and expand offerings and products on their own, and building value for all stakeholders.”