Thursday, May 31, 2007
Gomez (Print is Dead): "there will be no e-book revolution until we come up with another name for it" which reflects the interactive nature of the product. And there will be "integration not another IPod". We need to "thinkof the children" who are and will be consumers of our content.
Hyatt - Social Networking for Publishers - It is important "to be authentic" in communications because users will see through what you are doing. Resist the temptation to have someone "ghost write your blog" because you will be found out.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The broker argued that Reed shares could be worth up to 780p to a financial buyer. Sums involved in the Thomson Learning deal also suggested that Reed’s sale of its education business could raise £2.2 billion, up from its previous forecast of £1.8 billion, it said. Reed finished up 16p at 675½p.
Certainly the rules have changed somewhat but applying the multiple paid for Thomson Learning to all of Reed is not quite appropriate. Other analysts have suggested that Reed will escape their education foray successfully and the share price for the balance of Reed will escalate because it is currently weighted down by the educational unit. Reed will certainly benefit from the Thomson Learning sale but if you look at the multiple paid for Reuters (an information business) by Thomson the picture is not as glaringly bright if you are concerned with relative price multiples. Either that or Thomson got a real bargain.
DB may have a vested interest here because Pearson has been consistently touted as the most likely PE target. No doubt there is more action to come in this arena.
I kept all of these emails and decided to add them to this blog as supplementary information for some of my readers who from time to time may need background information on certain publishing companies. Regrettably, when I joined Bowker I didn't have the time to keep this up and there is a rather large gap between the end of Publishing News and the start of this blog. It is what it is.
Publishing News 1997-8
Publishing News 1999
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
There was little news on the new strategy other than to say the company is proceeding with the sale of the international stores where revenues were slightly better than the same period last year.
Readers may recall the aborted debt refinancing the company attempted earlier this year and in the press release the company noted that they expect to seek between $150 - $200million in term loan financing sometime during the second quarter. Perhaps the second time they will explain how this refinancing will benefit shareholders.
Monday, May 28, 2007
If you can’t beat them join them: Developing a social media strategy that encompasses blogging should be a foundation of all publishing house marketing and promotion plans. I have mentioned before (in relationship to book reviews) that I am less convinced of the value of typical marketing programs supporting book promotion. My macro view above can only be mitigated by joining the new media fray and developing networks of interested parties that can nurture, support and perhaps develop content that you produce as a publishing house. As market segments evolve, I think they will become narrower and more defined and publishers that support communities (via social) must be able to participate in these communities in a meaningful way in order to be successful. This is already the case on computer book publishing.
When I started this blog, like everyone else I sought links to place on my blog. I found many but few from established publishers. Over the past year, I have seen more publishers enter the blog world but the numbers still seem small for an industry dependent on words and information. Authors and publishers should develop a blog strategy and blogging should be a natural extension of any publishing house. This idea was the genesis for the panel presentation I am hosting at BookExpo this week.
- As I thought about the theme of the panel meeting, my thought process mirrored the approach I took and the benefits I saw in establishing a blog.
- Blogging gave me an opportunity to experiment with new technology
- I became a publisher/content producer and, as traffic increases, one with responsibility to an audience
- Develop a personality beyond a ‘resume’ or existing professional reputation
- As popularity increases, the blog becomes a center of a growing network of interest
- Expands a professional network: who knew there were as many people with shared views and perspectives?
As a publisher, or one who works in a publishing organization, it seems redundant to explain the mechanics of getting started as a blogger: You really should know this stuff because it is what your audience (and some competitors) has been doing for a few years now.
- Choose from any number of hosted tools: Blogger, WordPress, Icerocket, Moveable Type and many, many others. I use Blogger but if I were to do it over, I would pick one of the other popular tools. Blogger has only recently added basic functionality that others have offered for a considerable time.
- Pick a name: Perhaps not as easy as it would seem and I would err on the side of professionalism rather than something like ‘monkeyboy’. (Unless you are a publisher at National Geographic in which case it may be appropriate). Using your name is perfectly acceptable - as many do. I would not recommend tying the blog name to the name of your publishing house (they may not allow it anyway) because the blog wouldn’t be portable.
- Plan out your first few weeks of blog posts and use your experience as material. If you are an editor your titles and authors should be the focus of your interests and don’t expect that you will ‘hit your comfort zone’ in terms of content immediately. It took me several months before I started to deliver content in a thematic way.
- Learn from what the other publisher bloggers are doing and link to as many sites as possible. The more links you establish the more you will be noticed. Establish a del.icio.us account and ‘clip’ the articles and blog posts you find interesting. Not only is this a valuable resource for your own research but you can use these links as material for your blog posts. Once a week, I capture my ‘clips’ in a blog post.
- The marketing and promotional aspects of blogging are still evolving but establishing a social network that links consumers, authors, publishing executives, agents, etc. will be a powerful tool to support the house’s publishing product. The social community can be useful in developing markets, expanding reach and gauging interests and/or trends. All important aspects of marketing and content acquisition functions.
A few months ago, I heard Joe Wikert (of Wiley) speak about publisher’s blogging activities and why they can’t afford not to. I asked him about the branding issue: Was he the brand or is it John Wiley. He pointed out that while he promotes Wiley incessantly there are no Wiley logos on his site. The site is supported by Wiley in the sense that they do not edit or ask him to manipulate any content. Wikert suggested that the company did take a considered look at employee blogging activity and decided on a ‘common-sense’ approach which meant self governance by the bloggers. Wikert said his blog is really not a Wiley product but he believes his blog is valuable to Wiley because it proves to an important community (the IT world and technical book authors) that Wiley understands the community and environment. The separation from Wiley does allow Wikert to express his own opinions which as a purely corporate blogger he might find difficult.
Establishing a personality as a blogger should be a professional requirement of all of us in the publishing community. Don’t forget to let your employer know and understand what you are doing and what you want to achieve since full disclosure may eliminate problems later on. Don’t be afraid to use your contacts and network of professional relationships to get the word out and if you are really lucky the company may link to your blog from their web home page which should drive more traffic to you. Lastly, use web analytics tools available from Feedburner or Google Analytics (and others) to track your traffic and let you understand what works and what doesn’t.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
David Levin: UBM CEO, On Deal Money Chasing Smaller Deals: Reuters
Gilbane (Paxhia) on Thomson Learning: Gilbane
EMAP on the Block? Guardian
LA Times on Book Reviews: LA Times
Paid Content or Ad Supported Content That is the Question: Reuters
Google Book Search Becomes More: Blog
Let's hear it for copyright reform: IF:BOOK
Alibris Extends Book Selling Platform to all Casual Sellers: PRNews
Public Library Tries LibraryThing.com as Network Appl: LJ
B&N Financial Conference Call Transcript: Seeking Alpha
BIBME Auto populate a Bibliography: PR
Bilking the Elderly via InfoUSA: NYTimes
Death by Powerpoint: Open
Bad data - OUP in Trouble over Place names: The Times of India
Google Fights Plagarism: Guardian
Does Steinbrenner know about this? O'Reilly
Friday, May 25, 2007
HP presented its ‘e-book reader’ during 2007 HP Mobility Summit in Shanghai, China, which is a concept of next generation e-book featuring intuitive interface. You can flip pages of book content in the reader as if you turn pages of real book and by utilizing HP’s online photo website ‘Snapfish’, you can enjoy photo book function as well. It is still a prototype, so it will take time to launch as a real product to research more, develop dedicated software, and receive feedbacks from customers, a company official mentioned.
On a topical note, the Times has also indicated (via Gawker) that it needs to release itself from the shackles of a print based orientation and become far more flexible both in the manner in which it develops content and who develops the content. According to Managing Editor Bill Keller,
He also spoke about the "gradual reallocation of resources from print towards digital" and copy editors being moved to the day side, so that there could be a "greater flow of fresh quality edit material."
So, journos won't be working all day on one story - or perhaps they will but the content/story will be updated more frequently and potentially by others if the story continues to develop past bed-time. Additionally, he went on to challenge the idea that The Times needs to focus on editorial control, standards and spelling and personnally that worries me. The Times has had its difficulties with some of that in recent years; nevertheless, surely one of the main attractions of the product is the measure of control (and readability) that the editors exert over journos. And while Keller (and lets face it he is more an expert than I) admits the web is different and has different standards, why can't The Times deliver a superior product leveraging the webs benefits while still maintaining The Times' credibility? In my reading of these comments it seems that Keller all too readily 'gives up' in the face of badly edited, unspell-checked, off point crap (that may contain a nugget of useful information).
"We can't let our reverence for quality become a straitjacket in new media," he warned. "The web environment is different... We can offer guidance but we cannot insist on the same control we exercise over print."
(It is more than possible that this blog is a case in point).
Over the past several years, The Times has monkeyed with its print format and Keller announced a material change in trim size. Other newspapers in Europe have gone from broad sheet to tabloid but this change appears to more in keeping with the recent WSJ change.
Echoing Fine rather than Wolf, Keller joked that "There have also been reports of a rat sighting," at the new building which if true would seem to indicate that the rats are still quite comfortable on the big grey ship.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Best Practices in Digital Marketing: The Publisher’s Perspective
Most trade publishers know that they can no longer rely on traditional marketing alone to connect with readers, but they are uncertain where they should invest scarce dollars in the many new opportunities presented by the net. Separate the buzzwords from the best working practices as you negotiate the shift from print to digital marketing. Topics include product marketing, working with online merchants, the company website, author-driven marketing, and how to build value over time.
Date: Thursday, May 31, 2007
Time: 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
Place: Room 1E03
If you’re interested in the above, my frequent collaborators, Mike Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Company and Brian O’Leary of Magellan Media will also be speaking on topics on the same day that you may find valuable.
And as he mentions, Mike Shatzkin (fellow traveller and friend of the blog) also has a seminar and the details are as follows:
The End of General Trade Publishing Houses: Death or Rebirth in a Niche-by-Niche World describes how digital change is eliminating the ecosystem that sustains general trade publishing houses. But the good news is that the ecosystem we see replacing it is one general trade houses can actually migrate to, if they recognize the challenge, accept some painful realities, and start now. I know the speech will be provocative; I think it will also be entertaining and I hope it will put a lot of things most of us already know into a comprehensible framework.
Thursday, May 31, at 10 am, room 1E04
That same afternoon, May 31, at 2:30, in Room 1E11, I am moderating a session called Digital Search Intermediaries: New Roles and Channels for Publishers. This is about Digital Asset Distribution, a subject on which I am currently co-authoring a White Paper and co-hosting conferences dedicated to, in New York on June 21 and in London on July 12.
The speech I gave on DADs at BISG's Making Information Pay is now posted on our web site. You'll find it at http://www.idealog.com/speeches/mipdads.htm
The second seminar above conflicts with the session I am hosting unfortunately....
See you all there.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
For their part, the Pearson board and top executives have said that they are unwilling to sell or to split up the company. In spite of this consistent message, with the sale of the Thomson Learning business for almost $1.5billion more than Thomson and analysts expected one must wonder when the views of the board begin to diverge from the interests of the shareholders if valuations like this are on offer via PE money.
According to a number of sources, the hold out Bancroft family is set to meet today to discuss the News Corp offer. Murdoch has proven to be fairly patient in his effort to acquire Dow Jones but he has promised a financial network to compete with CNBC and needs content and branding to support that effort. The synergy that will exist between the US based Dow Jones and News Corp and the brand recognition and reach of The Wall Street Journal will trump the larger international presence and brand of The Financial Times. I suspect Murdoch will continue with his full court press on the Bancrofts for the short term - he is unlikely to up his offer - and he is probably willing to gamble on an auction should the Bancroft shareholders decide to seek other offers. While there is a lot of PE money going around, the Murdoch price is a fair one given the trading level prior to the bid. Some have also suggested that the share price will tumble below this original level if Murdoch is rebuffed.
With respect to Pearson there exists a possibility that they could be 'blackmailed' into parting with The Financial Times if someone started to buy up shares of the company; however, this seems unlikely since the moment any group launches any type of offer there will be several additional offers presented almost immediately. I suppose Pearson could defend itself by making a big acquisition and loading up on debt but who would they buy....Dow Jones?
Friday, May 18, 2007
But with the advent of technologies like print-on-demand, publishers have been able to reduce the number of back copies that they keep in warehouses. Simon & Schuster, which until now has required that a book sell a minimum number of copies through print-on-demand technology to be deemed in print, has removed that lower limit in its new contract. In effect, that means that as long as a consumer can order a book through a print-on-demand vendor, that book is still deemed in print, no matter how few copies it sells.
The unfortunate thing may be that the authors that sell less than an initial 1000 units may still be tied to a publisher for a very long time dispite the changes made to author contracts. Some of these authors would be better served by self-publishing their titles - perhaps a story for another day. As far as 'established' authors that regain their rights, companies such as iUniverse.com have offered 'back in print' programs with the Authors Guild for over 8 years now.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I don’t think any of us realized how much energy and money we were spending to maintain an organizational and branding infrastructure that added zero value to our customers. It’s one of those chronic situations that develop in organizations where you stop feeling the pain and just learn to cope. Then, when it’s gone, you suddenly notice how much better you feel. In my opinion, imprints add very little value and lots of complexity.Mike has been kind enough to join me in a panel discussion at Bookexpo and while our subject will not be on this topic he has his own presentation where he is planning to review this activity.
The two seminars are:
Thursday May 31, 1:00 - 2:00
Customer Focused Publishing: How TN moved Away from Imprints - Room 1E02
Thursday May 31, 2:30 - 3:30
Corporate Social Media Platforms: A Case for Publisher Participation - Room 1E04
See you there.
Jackie Reses, Partner at Apax Partners, said: "The Thomson Learning propertiesBoth executives will have their work cut out for them, since as I have commented before the Thomson Learning company while possessing significant assets has been left in the dust by Pearson. Pearson has led in growth rate, operating performance and strategic acquisitions over the past three years. Coupled with the importance in migrating content to the web which Pearson has also started to do well with and there will be challenges a plenty. Each of these executives know this business and industry well so they should not be short of ideas or action plans to make the necessary changes.
are unique, global media franchises that hold strong positions in their respective markets and have delivered stable and predictable growth. We look forward to working in close partnership with Ron Dunn and Dave Shaffer, two proven media executives who are intimately familiar with the Thomson Learning businesses. Ron and Dave are extremely well suited to lead the newly independent Thomson Learning organization as it builds on its positions within its individual market segments, continues to expand internationally, and captures the enormous potential we believe exists in the evolution to digital content distribution in
It should be said also that this will be somewhat a vindication for Ron Dunn in returning to Thomson. I understand that Shaffer was none too pleased with Harringtons decision to part ways with Dunn in 2006.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
At Entertainment Rights, Dugan will have overall responsibility for the day-to-day running of the U.S. operations (including Canada), which encompasses Entertainment Rights U.S., Classic Media and Big Idea. Dugan's main role will focus on further building and maximizing the revenue streams for the group's entire brand portfolio across TV, licensing & merchandising, DVD/video and digital & music. Dugan will also work closely with the group's executive management team based in London to formulate the strategic direction of the business as well as exploiting new business development opportunities ensuring the company maintains its leading position.In a related story, the Disney unit Dugan ran announced today it is moving to Westchester.
“Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO. “We’re excited to have EMI joining us in this effort and look forward to offering our customers MP3s from amazing artists like Coldplay, Norah Jones and Joss Stone.”Some pundits have started to suggest this is an Apple I-Tunes killer but what is more likely is for Apple to renegotiate their music deals (where applicable) and come out with a similar service before Amazon.com launches their site. Since Apple are very much the incumbent music download and hardware vendor they have a distinct advantage. (Not to mention the potential impact of the Apple I-Phone). It should be pointed out that sales at the Apple store have never been huge but a change in the DRM rules could be the catalyst that Apple and Steve Jobs have been looking for.
No word on pricing or specific launch dates from Amazon.com
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Global & Mail
Later in the day we heard from content providers, content distributors and content users all of which supported the BISG meeting the following day. Perhaps the most troubling news came at days end when the Associated Press reported that no one under 50 saw print newspapers as their primary source of news and that the average user spent less that one minute per day with online newspapers (including nytimes.com). It was noted that CNN did a far better job than other news sources because their content was more open, included more video and limited dead end pages which further encouraged interaction with content.
Sitting in the bleachers it is easy to toss stones at what we heard publishers are doing in an online world. The most troubling thing seems to be that we still don't really know what we should, could or will offer our customers in the online world. One e-content presenter proudly noted 'price' as the key driver of purchase behavior by their customers. Customers driven by price are flirtatious and flighty and will always be on the look out for a better deal. This statistic seems to indicate no engagement in the content at all by the customer, which is troubling given all the opportunity for interaction that e-content and e-delivery can afford.
The early morning presentation from Hachette on the state of e-publishing and the reasons for getting stuck in was devoid of relevancy. The same presentation could have been delivered three years ago when it would have been viewed with interest. Universally missing is the vision of what published content will look like (and represent) in 5 or 10 years time. We are all guilty of using the e-book term and I have to believe we are in an evolutionary phase that will lead to some new species that we can't quite as yet see. Not 'e' nor 'book' perhaps? Aside from Google, the best e-publishing initiatives underway are promotion and marketing driven. This is not a criticsm because what Random House and Harpercollins are doing to use the internet, their data warehouses of content, widgets and other things are important steps towards closer interaction between the content producer and the customers. At the moment these are not so much content plays as marketing and promotion activities.
In retrospect, the panel discussions could have benefited from some of the work that the Future of the Book has done to show publishers their experimentation with content creation and display/interaction. This work is hugely interesting but possibly unknown to the majority of publishers. Admittedly the BISG focus was on Making Information Pay but the speakers tended to exceed the bounds of this title. Some extrapolation regarding where they thought publishing may go and some of the experiments underway would have been interesting.
In a way it was almost predictable that industry badboy O'Reilly Media made an indelible mark as the capstone on the meeting. Tim O'Reilly is hosting a Tools of Change conference on the future of publishing in San Jose next month and has stated that while most publishers are in New York all the e-publishing action is in California so that's why the conference is out there.
Granted, he may be less politic but in a basically canned presentation, Allan Noren from O'Reilly was able to forcefully emphasize the distance O'Reilly have traveled down the e-publishing road. Even a simple statistic drew instant reaction from the audience regarding the increase in international sales as a result of placing a pdf download button on the purchase page. The other presentations drew interest but not an immediate reaction like this one. O'Reilly has also led in the atomization of their content and seems to take pride in how they continue to push the envelope. The company recently added pdf downloads, read on-line, chapters and a permissions link. All represent evolutionary changes, but Noren coached the audience to digitize, make content ubiquitous and reduce the barriers to purchase.
Noren's parting comment was to approach e-content and e-retailing like a beginner because as such we have no preconceived notions of how things should be. We can innovate, adapt, change and innovate again without jealousy. This thought seems to support the notion that we must eradicate the conjunctive 'e-book' - but with what? - and create some new species of 'book'.
As I mulled over the content of the conferences last week, the thought that Ulysses (Joyce) was in many ways the first multimedia book. Sure it is printed on paper, but think about how the mind of Bloom represents an integration of audio, video, and text making Dublin come alive for the reader. What a fascinating project it would be to lend real life to the Newspaper headlines, the trolley cars and even the sounds of Dedalus peeing on the beach. Joyce approached authorship like a beginner; hopefully the next person to do so won't get banned.
BISG Conference Presentations
Monday, May 14, 2007
The analyst Simon Wallis believes valuing Reed's total discounted cash flow
on a multiple of 6 times pre-tax earnings, a typical private equity buyout
valuation, gives the shares a potential value of 930p. The Swiss bank UBS also
believes there is more upside in Reed, giving the stock a more modest 740p price
target. Shares in Reed firmed 3p at 666p while the rivalPearson rallied 17.5p to
908p on news that it has acquired the online learning group eCollege for
Reed has already sold some of the Harcourt assets to Pearson but the rump educational business remains and likely will exceed earlier expectations on price.
According to Informa, the purchase represents an "attractive opportunity" that fits with its strategy of supplying specialist content to a business audience. David Gilbertson, managing director of Informa, said: "Datamonitor is a model example of a company that slots neatly into the Informa group. Both companies provide business customers with data and analysis that is essential and unique - information they cannot do without."
Founded in 1996, eCollege provides a range of on-demand software services including course management, virtual campuses, and assessment, reporting and retention monitoring tools. The company, which supports around 180 institutions, with student enrollments of 1.2 million in 2006, generated sales of $52 million and operating profit of $22 million last year.
Shares of the stock went up 6% on news of the deal.
But it is not enough (for me), and I would like to encourage all my readers to tell people about the site and hopefully build some discussion around some of the themes I talk about. (I have exhausted my contacts and don't wish to bother them too frequently).
I am also interesting in publishing material from other people in the industry with a point of view. Over the past three months I have published articles by Andrew Grabois, John Dupuis, Michael Healy and Michael Holdsworth. All have been well read on the site and I hope they will all return at some point but I would also like to include more perspectives. Along those lines if anyone is interested in blogging about sessions at BookExpo in a few weeks please let me know.
Thanks for the support.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Silliness Regarding B&N/Borders Combo: Forbes
Thomson Transformation: Global&Mail
Spring Deals Rekindle M/A Market: Financial Week
Murdoch and Dow Jones: NYTimes
How Publishing Works: NYTimes
Holt on Reviews
News Corp 3Q Results (Harpercollins): Yahoo
Perseus Reorganization: PW
Wolters Kluwer 1Q Results: Webwire
EBrary Expands Publisher List Including ABC-Clio: Businesswire
Bloomsbury and Libre Digital: OhMyNews
Publishing Books On Line: The Times
LOL Borders News: Businessweek
Launch of Amazon Author PodCasts: Businesswire
FT Reports Content Piracy Far Lower Than Estimated: FT LawGeek
Too Many Books? Design Observer Blog
Does Chaney Own an I-Pod? M&C
McCartney Goes Digital and The Beatles to Follow: Billboard
Review of IRex Illiad e-Reader: Guardian
Reflections On The Relationship Between Libraries and Publishers: Brantley
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Firstly, newspapers are simply not the best method of promoting books. It maybe they were never that great but for a long period of time they (and magazines) were the best outlet available. Word of mouth, which derives from publicity, not advertising which is message and awareness based has always been the most effective method of influencing sales. Witness the amazon 'reviews' sections and the ranks ascribed to reviews which 'helped' in confirming the book choice. In contrast, the web supports book reviewing and book promotion in ways print based newspapers and magazines can never achieve. As I commented in my original post, the ability to interlace supporting content around a central essay linking directly to sections of the book discussed, enabling direct author involvement and allowing readers, fans and critics to add content results in a valuable package or 'body of work' about the book. Here is the opportunity to make exploring reading more interesting but it is not an argument seen in any of the discussions over the past few weeks. For the most part the conversation has been one long lament.
Last December, Genevieve Tucker in The Australian newspaper anticipated some of the discussion around the reviews issue and eloquently discussed the issues and opportunities that the web offers book lovers. The following is representative of her article and is her conclusion.
Indyk may not consider his republic of letters has come to stay just yet, but many book bloggers would heartily endorse the words at the end of his 1997 essay and see them as a warning to those who would encroach upon their independence in he name of the marketplace: "It is in the conversation about literature, the recommendation and the debate, that the literary community really exists. It is here that reputations take root, and word of mouth, that mysterious and voluntary power that can sell more books than a fortune spent in advertising, has its source. To insulate authors from this realm, as has been the practice, is to guard them from the kind of challenge that is a spur to creativity. If you try to tamper with the conversation of criticism, if you restrict it in order to take all the space you can for hype, if in the end you silence it altogether, not only do you drive away readers, but you place a fatal limitation on authors as well.'Secondly, there is a cultural snobbery that pervades best summed up in this comment by the author Richard Ford in the New York Times:
“Newspapers, by having institutional backing, have a responsible relationship not only to their publisher but to their readership,” Mr. Ford said, “in a way that some guy sitting in his basement in Terre Haute maybe doesn’t.”Times they are a changing, and it is no longer the case that iconic media properties like the NY Times, LA Times and Atlanta Journal Constitution are the only outlets for legitimate cultural criticism. There are scores of highly regarded book reviewers with loads of web traffic producing critical analysis and support for the book industry. The publishing industry should be supporting these bloggers and website owners rather than waste time supporting a medium that hasn't adapted. Efforts by Random House and Harpercollins (others will follow) to make it easier to incorporate their content onto blog and web sites will only exaggerate the gap between the print based media reviewers and the guys (and girls) sitting in their Terre Haute basements. As they close down or reduce their expenses devoted to book reviews sections, the newspaper companies should be looking at acquiring some of these web sites and bloggers and build on the communities that these people have successfully established. That is if they are really committed to books.
I will try not to address this subject again but here is Salman Rushdie and Stephen Colbert on book reviews. I disagree entirely with Mr Rushdie:
PS: If you didn't catch the piece with Jane Fonda on the same show later that night, it is very funny.
More on Reviews:
Friday, May 11, 2007
It was approximately 1o months ago that Richard Harrington causually mentioned to the FT that they would consider selling the Learning unit. By October the divesture was confirmed and the sale process started once the final year end numbers were finalized. Any observer of the manner in which Thomson spoke and presented its business would have seen strong indications that Learning did not feature in their plans. The detail and excitment given over to Thomson Financial during the analysts calls was indication enough. Speculation suggested that a price between $5.5 and $6.0billion would be good news for Thomson. As it turns out, Thomson management has kept one step ahead of everyone with some suggesting that the recently announced merger with Reuters has been in the works for two years and their post merger plans indicate that the merger with Reuters has indeed been long in the planning. The extra billion they are getting for Learning will really help out the Reuters deal which looks increasingly cheap.
The consortium includes Apax partners and a Canadian Pension fund name the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Service. Apax has invested in other educational properties before but not to this extent. Thomson CEO Harrington has suggested that financially the Learning business was sound - although performance did not match that of Pearson - but they were frustrated at the slow pace of migration to on-line products. This deal could be viewed as an endorsement of the Thomson Learning management and I wouldn't expect significant changes at the higher levels. If anything, management will be given a freer reign to excellerate their online and electronic product offerings.
The transition to the close of the deal is expected to take 60 days and the company is understood to have plans in place to speed this process. The company also expects to re-name/brand itself by the end of the year.
It will be very interesting to see how this sale multiple impacts the other crop of publishing assets that are for sale.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
With their nascent book program, Microsoft – the big bully of yore - is defined relative to the incumbent but doesn’t court that comparison to their advantage. Microsoft has attempted a stealth approach in gaining publishers’ attention and cooperation via direct communication and visits and presentations rather than a more aggressive marketing and public relations program. At least that’s my explanation for their rather meek entrée into the digital book space. It will be interesting to see the level of interest in their presentations at BookExpo later this month. If the meeting I attended at London Bookfair is any indication where there were less than 30 people in attendance this could be another missed opportunity for Microsoft.
Microsoft need to court some controversy in order to draw attention to themselves. They also need to exhibit deeper knowledge and understanding of the publishing industry: Both the simple mechanics of the industry and the quixotic issues such as the inter-house struggles over international rights which are particularly relevant with respect to electronic content.
The Microsoft personnel involved in the Live Academic program all need to understand this material rather than just the front man. Google also took a long time to learn this lesson believing that their people were so smart they could fake it but this attitude was taken for arrogance and things got off to a bad start. The improvement was evident at London where the 60 min overview presentation of Google Book placed the program in the context of the industry and with the issues the industry faces. A second panel discussion leaned heavily on publisher experiences and Google barely needed to speak to get the positive point across. In contrast, the Microsoft presentation seemed to run out of gas after 15mins or so. The features are impressive but the delivery isn’t emphatic. In answer to a question about upcoming features, Microsoft diverged into a 10min presentation of the NYT e-reader product – interesting - but not on point.
Microsoft Live Search has over 30,000 titles available (once it officially launches) and the titles are displayed in a two pane system. The page layout is functionally more appealing than GBS. Moreover the user is easily able to export segments of highlighted text, link to abstracting and index products and citation services such as bibtext.
Microsoft is also emphasizing that the program is conducted with the full cooperation with publishers: Meaning they are not scanning books where the copyright is ‘in transition’ (in the words of Google). To support this emphasis on the publisher, the company designed what amounts to a publisher platform to manage the content in the Live product. Via this ‘platform’ publishers can set the level of preview rights in three ways: 1) percent viewable, 2) pages forward and back, or 3) contextual snippets. The publisher can also set territorial rights as well – geographic locations – all of which are assignable on a per-book basis. Not foregoing my earlier comment about understanding the industry, Microsoft seems to have recognized that the book is a unit of component parts and have made the permissions process so flexible that the publisher can even set rights for an image or table in a specific book.
The publisher also gets marketing and promotional options that enable branding (logos), promotional programs (links, coupons), commerce applications for ‘buy the book’ activities and links to online retailers. An appreciation of the importance of metadata to discovery also percolates and the company decided to license bibliographic data from a leading source and also capture the book text in multiple ways to ensure the rendition of the book was accurate and that the text was indexed appropriately. Scans are held in hi and low res images and the text is fully indexed and sits ‘behind’ the image. Current OCR technology is not sophisticated enough to replicate complicated page layouts that incorporate call outs, high lighted text, block quotes and the like. All of this gets scrambled via OCR. (The text of the title is captured in reflowable xml).
Microsoft suggest they want consumers to find books in places they wouldn’t ordinarily find them which is in search results and have made the point to publishers that the Microsoft program is another outlet for promotion and perhaps sale of their content. Regardless of the sound of this pleasant and appealing message it is far too quiet and what Microsoft should do is raise the volume. Google is bound to release a version 2.0(beta) of GBS shortly and would look to incorporate some of the best features of Live Academic. What will the message from Microsoft be then? My suggestion is to open up the content and allow web service and api access to the book content (with publisher approval of course). After all, who really wants a second closed content platform comprising similar if not duplicative stuff? Courting ‘controversy’ may be another way of gaining attention but I think that’s what Microsoft Live needs.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, Reuters CEO Tom Glocer would become chief executive of a dual-listed group to be called Thomson-Reuters, the companies said in a joint statement.Thomson will have a slightly higher market share as a result of this deal; however, the developing market is international and the 'pie' is growing larger by the day. Reuters is a far stronger name internationally than 'Thomson financial' or Bloomberg' and from this stand point Thomson will be in a strong position to further leverage the brand internationally as internationally markets grow and develop and thereby need more sophisticated information and workflow products.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
When Opportunity Knocks Pearson Goes Shopping: Harcourt Assessment. Independent Forbes
£8.0 Billion Thomson bid for Reuters: Independent
Discussion of possible Thomson bid for Reuters: Toronto Star The National Post
Private Equity Threeway for EMI: Reuters
Douglas and McIntyre Publishing (Canada) Acquired by PE: PR Web
Riverdeep Refinances: RTE
Lonely Planet Unsure: Seek Investor(s): The Age
Torstar (Harlequin) report improved Results: Global & Mail
PR Newswire to offer Blog Measurement Tool: PRNewswire
Simon & Schuster Doing Well: The Bookstandard
Application of FAST search Technology to Newspapers: Reuters
Shareholder Opposition to Murdoch Dow Deal: Reuters
Clemens Back with the Yankees. NYTimes.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Reuters has confirmed that they have been approached by an unnamed third party about a bid for the company which they say may or may not lead to a bid. The most likely 'third-party' is Thomson which would like to add the news and information provider to their existing information (Legal & Regulatory, Financial) platforms. Given the sale of the Learning division - and some announcement about finalists should be imminent - Thomson is itching to spend the money and have been more than forthright about investing in expanding businesses that fit with their long term goals. Reuters does that and more importantly after a troubling effort early in the decade to harness the web and migrate their products to a new platform, Reuters appears to be in an upswing. This must be good news to Thomson.
Reuters shares were up sharply this morning placing a market valuation of over $15bill. While Thomson is expected to get $5.5bill for the Learning division their balance sheet is more than strong enough to complete this acqusisition with relative ease. It is a good job that Reuters CEO Tom Glocer was able to spend some time at Singita recently since he is going to be busy for the next six months.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
I attended two of the very well attended Google sessions at London Bookfair last week and in the second of these Jason Hanley from Google gave a full overview of the Google book program. He also gave a very short overview of some of the new initiatives that Google is working on and one of these caught my attention.
Google propose to roll out a book 'rental' and 'retail' program sometime before the end of the year. The program will enable customers to either have lifetime access to a title if purchased or to rent a title in weekly increments. Details of the financial arrangements are being discussed with the content owners at the moment but there is no reason to believe that both of these programs will not be launched by the end of the year. The program will be optional for publishers but represents just another of the expansion of options that publishers will have to distribute, market and/or sell their content.
Details at the presentation were sketchy so I emailed Jason the following:
I attended your session at LBF last week and I was interested to learn a little more about the Book “Lending” program you touched on in New Initiatives. I would like to write something about it for my blog which is read by a fair number of librarians who would be interested in knowing more about this initiative.
Here are the brief notes I took:
- Borrowers will have the ability to ‘rent’ or ‘borrow’ a book for a week. · Full content of the book will be available
- This is not an ‘e-book’ program
- It will be launched by the end of the year (together with a purchase option which you also discussed)
- Final details are being discussed with content owners
Could you elaborate on the above by answering the following questions:
- Is this a lending program or a rental program?
- What do you mean when you describe this as not an e-book program?
- What will the financial model look like for publishers?
- Do you think the financial arrangements you arrange with publishers cascade into the current financial relationship between Libraries and Publishers? Typically publishers sell titles to libraries at a ‘short’ discount and do not receive additional payments no matter how frequently the title circulates. Presumably, in your arrangements with Publishers there will be some remittance to publishers each time a book is ‘lent’
- Is this an ‘add-on’ benefit to publishers of the Google Book program and as such voluntary?
- Is there any anticipated connection with libraries: could libraries act as intermediaries between their patrons and the Google “Lending” program or is there no practical need for this?
- Any other information my readers may find interesting.
Thanks and if you don’t want to say anything about the above please let me know so that I can go ahead and make it all up in my blog article.
OK so the last bit is slightly irreverant but I hope it didn't cause him not to respond because so far no response. (He did open my email).
This will be interesting to watch and I think perhaps one of the more revolutionary changes that may evolve from a program like this could be a significant change in the financial relationship between libraries and publishers. In my view the current one time fee paid to publishers by libraries has to (and will) change to a per use fee. Libraries will pay fees based on circulation of the titles - both print and e-book versions. There are a few ways this may happen and none are mutually exclusive particularly as publishers and libraries experiment. For example,
- Calculate a unit fee per title and remit to publishers each time a title is circulated
- Each title is 'sold' in circulation increments - perhaps they expire - so a title is sold with 10 circulation 'units' and the library pays each time the book is circulated 10 times. (Perhaps the base level - in this case 10 - values the book at the retail price)
- Publisher agrees a site license for their titles at an institution which would be an annual fee covering all circulation for e-books and print titles. Each year the fee would be negotiated. Clearly in this case e-books are easily managed and this is a model already in place for database products but for print titles the solution would be trickier but not impossible.
In truth, evolution is coming to the relationship between publishers and libraries driven by Google and e-books and ultimately these changes will result in libraries becoming more relevant to publishers not less. As libraries are networked and catalogs indexed their collections are more accessible which means that publishers may want a bigger slice of revenue but it may also mean that they want to ensure that this avenue to consumers that libraries represent presents all their products in the best possible manner. That will mean that libraries get more attention and possibly are able to lend more content. Change is good.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Others may jump at the opportunity to own a prime name in financial reporting but so far Bloomberg for one has issued a denial. It would be a stretch to see Thomson Financial anti-up for the property because their entire focus is on electronic delivery. Thomson sold the bulk of its newspapers years ago. Private equity could be an option as well. Cramer also frequently mentioned his audience with the Digger back in 1996 when Murdoch was willing to offer $73/share for the company but was rebuffed. What discouraged Murdoch the last time was the suggestion that the Bancrofts would not approve the deal but this time that doesn't seem to be the case.
Reuters: Pearson shares up 5%
Predictions 2007: Noted at the bottom of the page.
In my old home town newspaper this morning, The Age confirms that private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners is actively interested in purchasing the Borders stores and naming rights in the Australia/New Zealand market. The book retail market in Australia is dominated by two retailers. Angus & Robertson, which is now owned by PEP, was owned by WH Smith and numbers about 180 outlets. A&R stores are predominately corporate owned. Dymocks is the other chain retailer and most of their stores are franchised. Leading Edge is a ‘consortium’ of independent retailers that have joined together to aid in business negotiations and enable technology development.
(On a related note, Readings a Melbourne independent retailer and customer of Global Books In Print for many years, won chain bookseller of the year in 2006 even though they only have about five stores. Mark Rubbo the owner has consistently won independent bookseller of the year for many years and successfully battled against a Borders superstore that opened across the street from his main store).
PEP is interested in expanding Borders across the market and will do so without merging the brand with A&R. A&R also own Whitcoulls in New Zealand and PEP appear to recognize that there is room in that market for both brands as well. The Age article also notes that Borders management are also trying to interest private equity in fronting a bid. It would seem likely that some accommodation will be made since the management will be vital to the continued performance and development of Borders in Australia.
What Borders Could Have Said
Borders Reports Their Strategic Plan
(Thanks to my Aussie stringer for the article).