This weekend TimesOnline discussed the impact this strategy was having on Reed Elsevier with CEO Sir Crispin Davis:
Davis said that the shift, which has taken place in the past 18 months, was “a natural but important evolution from print to online and then from online to workflow solutions”, Where possible, Reed is linking its own online platforms with a firm’s intranet, joining them at the hip. It is no wonder, then, that contract retention has gone up from 88% to 97% in science and is almost as high in legal. To a certain extent, the shift maps Reuters’ move from selling share quotes and news to more graphical data and research. But Reed has gone even further. For small legal practices, it will more or less run the office, providing administrative software that can track billable hours and keep a diary of court appearances.Integration and the corollary understanding of the clients workflow is only part of the story. Using their content as their spring board, these publishers have radically expanded their potential market. In the article, Davis notes that they could be limited to participating in a $18billion market but in adding applications and services their potential market could exceed $48billion. Interestingly, when we discuss the size of the publishing market in revenue terms the boundaries will start to be much less clear as integrated products take hold.
Elsevier's experience and strategy is no less important for other segments of the publishing community. Education is the next publishing segment to adopt a platform approach to learning and leading this transition is Pearson. As I have commented before, this company has systematically acquired companies that now enable it to supply a broad array of products and services to the education community. The lines between content supplier and solutions provider are blurred as Pearson can provide content, assessment, remediation, school management applications and community solutions to their clients. Admittedly the sales process is likely to be more complicated; however, the market for Pearson's products is now radically larger, seasonality can be mitigated and their products can now be embedded in workflow and infrastructure. Switching costs are raised for the customer as a direct result of 'embedded' solutions which, while an obvious benefit for the publisher, also enables the publisher to maintain a consistent level of customer directed investment.
While Pearson has led this move in education in the last several years, the privatization of Thomson and Houghton/Riverdeep will result in these companies rapidly making up for lost time in the development of similar solutions for education. Providers like Elsevier have already identified a large new market for their products/solutions which will enable them to post annual revenue gains as they deliver radical new productivity gains for their customers.