Friday, June 30, 2006

Publishing News: Clinton's Activism, Open Access, Audio Books

The News:

Clinton's Activism
Bill Clinton is to write a book on citizen activism and responsibility for Random House UK. The title will be released by Knopf in the US. According to the press release, Clinton will draw heavily on the time he has spent since leaving office where he has championed UN efforts in Africa, East Asia and more broadly through his Clinton Foundation.

Open Access Again..
While journals publishers were united in their disparaging disregard for the open access movement their arguments suggesting that their value add to the editorial and peer review process couldn't be replicated carried a grain of truth. So far, the open access movement has had only limited success and the large journal publishers continue to maintain and build strong revenue streams. The Royal Society in the UK, which has not supported the open access movement has launched a hybrid author pays/reader pays publishing model for journal articles. The RS has been attempting to get industry players to at least try different models for journal publishing and this is their attempt to lead the way. For the most part the rest of the industry appears indifferent to new methods; for them the old way works just fine.

Audio Books at the Library:
Walk into many large metropolitan library these days and the layout can remind one of a cross between Virgin Music and Blockbuster. Audio titles very much in the mix at your local library and are seeing increases in circulation due to the increasing number of titles available, the ramp-up in acceptance of audio books and an aging population that sees audio titles as a legitimate way to entertain themselves. The LA Times recently published an article which focused on the popularity of audio titles as well as pointing out the booming opportunities for web based access to library collections. With the increasing availablity of content downloadable from your local library, I wonder how long the current business model is going to last between publisher and library. It may be that we will see payments per patron check-out and embargoing enter the mainstream. This may not be a bad thing for libraries if a program were developed that reduced the initial purchase price - perhaps to zero - and paid publishers a fixed fee per check out. Libraries continually face budgeting issues and selection is always an issue when funds are limited; a model like this could enable a library to have access to all electronic and audio titles available thereby providing significant increased value for their patrons. "Selection" and to some extent collection development would become user/patron defined. An interesting model, and I think we will see more discussion of the role of libraries in an electronic and download world.

Former LA Times owner Big Second Thoughts:
The Chandler family cashed out a few years ago and threw their all in with the Tribune company, but after a few depressing years they want the whole thing broken up. Tribune on the other hand are content to buy back shares. Unfortunately, the Chandlers don't have enough support or equity to make more than a public fuss. Regretably, for the readers of the LA Times, Tribune, Newsday and others there don't appear to be too many innovative ideas being presented. Given the interest that the Knight Ridder titles eventually generated, it would seem there are many people who have high hopes and interesting ideas for reputable newspaper publishing companies.

Interview with Jane Friedman while on a fact finding trip to OZ.

Summer Reading from The Seattle Times

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Future of Educational Publishing

Educational publishing is an exciting place to be. I know, you think they have a pr problem with pricing and ripping off the poor student and perhaps the print environment isn’t forward thinking and what about used books, but despite all that they are going to gain not loose business over the next five years. Educational publishing is changing rapidly with the largest publishers investing in their content, the distribution of that content, and establishing social networks to engage the educational community. What is really exciting in the higher educational market is that the publishers are in a position to create a community of interest between the publishers, the educator, the student, and the administration. Additionally, it is even possible to see the parent in this community as well.

A few seismic changes have fractured the industry’s paradigm over the past five years. The migration to electronic educational material, the development of electronic platforms at institutions and a more recent focus on the benefits of social networking which take their form in testing and tutoring tools. What a publisher is now able to do is offer a student a range of content – in addition to the material required by the professor – which they can refer to for their entire student life as part of their “ electronic bookshelf”. (Obviously, this relationship can extend to life long learning thereby in theory extending the revenue per student significantly). As an electronic desktop the student may use one of the enterprise-wide educational platforms installed at many schools such as Blackboard and webCT. These tools aid the institution in tracking usage, feedback on materials, grade and maintain advisor to student links. Other benefits enable course management and content management for the institution. Lastly the more recent phenomenon of social networking is taking form in the expansion of testing and evaluation. Pearson for one, has invested heavily in the past twelve months to acquire testing companies that have established positions in the education market. What Pearson and others will do is to forge a tight bond with the students through evaluative testing, additional problem sets and assignments, feedback and tutoring. While these acquired companies may not operate completely as a of education now, the intent is there to build a networked community of interest around the content the publisher has created.
Certainly not every course taken by a student is one which will retain their interest for life; however, most normal students will take courses in areas where they have some interest and this interest stays with them for life. Publishers have an opportunity to nurture that interest for an extended period of time and will be actively promoting life long learning programs via online courses, webinars, tutoring, offline seminars and travel, as well as the capacity to interact online with a large group of interested students and faculty.

Part two: How will the Publisher price their content and what is the position of the bookstore in all of this? Coming Soon – when I get around to it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Newspapers: The Wave of the Future

For years until six months ago, I spent $9.50 a week on the New York Times. Now I only buy the Sunday edition and I wonder how long even this will last. For me, and many others, the NYT website is excellent and more than a replacement for the paper version. Of course, The New York Times and many other newspapers have a problem because increasing numbers of people like me are migrating to the web for free.

Many have written off the newspaper industry as just another – perhaps more spectacular – victim of the internet age. They were saying that five years ago during the first internet boom but it still hasn’t happened. While subscription revenues and advertising numbers are off, many newspapers continue to operate near monopolies in their local markets and the larger metropolitan newspapers are finally starting to proactively incorporate new content and new delivery mechanisms into their web offerings. The NYT is just one example of the integration of traditional reporting and video, audio and extended coverage that is becoming routine. The one aspect of the web site versus the print is that I actually miss seeing the display ads in the print. In a weird way there is a ‘community’ aspect of the newspaper delivered by the local advertising that I don’t get on the web site.

The NYT doesn’t require a fee for access to their site – other than for some premium content and the archive - no doubt the newspaper companies still have to go through that “valley of death” where revenues migrate from the legacy model to the new internet model but the new world on the other side will offer many more opportunities.

If my survey of one is typical with respect to revenues, why do I think that newspapers have a future? Firstly, the World Association of Newspapers recently reported that global advertising revenues increased 5.7% driven by growth in China, India and SE Asia. Newspapers are still a valued part of the media landscape. In the past several years, the NYT has expanded its presence in Europe with the purchase of the International Herald and a number of UK newspapers have announced they will launch US versions of their papers. The WSJ has long had a successful Asia edition of their newspaper. According to the WAN the global advertising market for newspapers was only marginally lower in 2005 versus 2004. While the UK market fell 3% the revenues in the rest of Europe pulled the overall up over 4% versus 2004. In the US circulation was down over 2% but due mainly to evening newspapers. Another report from the Newspaper Association of America, indicates that online newspaper advertising rose 35% last year; the eighth successive year they did so.

While these numbers are hardly compelling enough to run out and buy a newspaper company the numbers are also not catastrophic as some predict. Many commentators have documented the decline in classified advertising – cars, real estate, etc. – as the harbinger of extinction for newspapers which brings me to my next point. Most local newspapers have both a virtual monopoly and strong brand identity in their markets. They are in most cases high margin low capital operations with high customer loyalty. As is becoming clear, and some newspapers are leading the way, search and discovery is increasingly more local. Newspapers are integrating the types of services – mash-ups even – that are familiar to web search users and classified searches are integrated with mapping, video and social networking like user recommendations and reviews. In many local communities, it was the newspaper that helped define the locality – citizens identified with it and what it stood for. I see this continuing as newspapers rebuild an electronic version of their franchise and also extend their revenue model beyond what the print could offer them.

Not to be overlooked is the filtering function that Newspapers can offer. In providing editorial oversight to classified advertising the newspaper can act as an additional layer of ‘protection’ for their users. This is something which free classified ad sites like are unwilling to do. While ads and the local community will drive revenues this is not to forget that the newspapers can continue to deliver the local audience to national advertisers at a very narrow level.

Many newspaper companies have been experimenting/participating with the web for many years and have had reasonably advanced sites for a while. With the integration of video and the rapid deployment of broadband access these newspaper companies will be in a strong position to challenge local television for media dollars. As mentioned above these companies are not cash poor and have ample resources to continue to invest and build their local presence. A good time to be in the newspaper business.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Publishing News: Ken Thomson, John Cleese, John Steinbeck, WorldCup

The News:

Ken Thomson dies at 82.
Just a week after Thomson head Richard Harrington suggested the company would consider divesting its educational publishing assets, the company patriarch and son of the founder has died. The company under Mr. Thomson was transformed into a content and electronic publishing giant and both culled low growth assets and added new companies with regularity. The comapny also owns the Global and Mail in Toronto. No news on what his passing will mean for Thomson.

Penguin loose one to the Steinbecks.
Who knew Steinbeck's novels were still in play. Today a judge in California has ruled that the rights to Steinbecks novels should revert to the family. Here is the news report from the LATimes. Additionally, here is a review of what this decision means from a legal perspective.

US World Cup Talking Heads are Horrible.
The US broadcasters are spending a lot of money this time around to broadcast every World cup game. Nevertheless, they still haven't got it right. The broadcasters on ESPN and ABC have been horrible and have rightly come under attack from viewers. Apparently, the NYtimes WC blog is the second most visited part of the times site and the post about the announcers received incredible response. Here is the blog That is not withstanding an hilarious Stephen Colbert report on his expectations for the Worldcup.

I am an England fan and my work days for the next four weeks are organized around the games. Last time in 2002 during a business trip, I watched games in Canada, US and Australia but thankfully this time I am not traveling so much. Univision has announced early viewing figures for the Worldcup and they say it is on track to be the biggest ever - possibly double the level last time. Given the appalling US announcers I would rather listen to the German commentary on Setanta than the US commentary on ABC. Apparently, you can hack the UK websites so you can get the blacked out UK commentary. I haven't tried it.

Cleese to Write History of Comedy;
John Cleese has announced he is retiring from performing and will instead work on writing a history of comedy and teaching as a this one myself.

Borders Announces Lay-Offs:
Their results just aren't good enough.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pearson Acquires Chancery, Macmillan Publishing Wins Borsenverin Contract

Pearson Acquires More
On top of last weeks purchase of the PowerSchool product from Apple, the company announced that it has acquired Chancery Software. The two operations will be merged together and will represent a formidable competive entity in this fast growing segment.

Macmillan (MPS)signs up Germans for Digital Archive.
Interestingly, MPS has had little luck in convincing other publishers that their solution can create a much more controlled environment for their intellectual products than the Google and Yahoo options. So far few takers. This will be a great opportunity for MPS since the company has been aggressively selling the "Bookstore Online" product since the latter part of last year. The MPS product is impressinve and moreover they have both significant expertise in technical development and publishing product knowledge having been one of the first major publishers to create an outsourcing operation in India. At there locations in India I believe they have over 6,000 employees and they do work for both the Macmillan (VHPS) companies and other publishers.