Thursday, July 31, 2008

Archives Are Good to Have

Encyclopedia Britannica announced they are making their visual content archives, including photos, maps, illustrations, natural science drawings, slides and animations, available for distribution and stock licensing.

Details are sparse but I found the notification on abouttheimage.com.

Virtual Picture Desk the third party organization that is managing the licensing is a, Management Services and Consultancy Business providing content management advice, global & international syndication of picture libraries for distribution and the assistance in the mergers & acquisitions of photographic and illustrative collections.

Forrester Buys Jupiter

Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) (http://www.forrester.com/) has acquired JupiterResearch, LLC (http://www.jupiterresearch.com/) and its parent company, JUPR Holdings, Inc., from MCG Capital Corporation (Nasdaq: MCGC) (http://www.mcgcapital.com/) for $23 million in cash plus assumed liabilities, subject to post-closing adjustments. (JEGI reports).

JupiterResearch has 83 employees and 2007 revenues of approximately $14 million. Forrester, with 2007 revenues of $212 million, now has more than 1,000 employees. This strategic purchase complements Forrester’s syndicated business model, as JupiterResearch joins Forrester’s Marketing & Strategy Client Group, which contributed $46.4 million to Forrester’s total revenue in 2007.

“Uniting JupiterResearch and Forrester brings together the two leading research brands used by marketing and strategy executives,” said George F. Colony, Forrester’s Chairman of the Board and CEO.

Reed Shares Up 5% on Buoyant News

From the Reed Elsevier press release:
  • Strong business momentum and financial performance
  • Restructuring programme on track to deliver further margin improvement
  • Sale of Harcourt Education fully completed; net proceeds of £2.0bn/€2.7bn returned to shareholders
  • Divestment of Reed Business Information in progress
  • Agreed £2.1bn/€2.7bn acquisition of ChoicePoint, Inc. expected to close in H2

Reed Elsevier's Chief Executive Officer, Sir Crispin Davis, commented:

"We have seen a strong performance across our businesses in the first half despite a more challenging economic backdrop and we remain on track to deliver on our goals this year of good revenue growth, meaningful margin improvement and accelerated earnings growth. We have made good progress in implementing our plans announced in February to accelerate growth: the planned divestment of Reed Business Information is progressing and we are seeing strong buyer interest in the business; the agreed £2.1bn/€2.7bn acquisition of ChoicePoint, Inc. in the fast growing risk information and analytics markets is moving through US regulatory review and is expected to complete in the second half; our major restructuring programme to deliver £245m/€310m of cost savings over the next four years is on track with the initial targeted £15m/€19m of savings to be delivered this year. Whilst the professional markets we serve are not immune to economic cycle effects, they are more resilient than most. This, together with the changes we are making in the business and the growing demand for our online information and workflow solutions with the customer productivity they provide, gives us confidence in the outlook.”

Further notes from their presentation:

  • Online revenues growing at 10+%
  • Online revenues exceed 50% of total revenues.
  • Aggressive program of infrastructure cost management including outsourcing and real estate
  • RBI: staple financing in place, strong interest, divestiture expected in second half, good operating performance despite difficult environment
  • Choicepoint integration well advanced. Synergies on track
  • Outlook: Strong across the board with Elsevier book program, LN online solutions, Exhibitions cycling all noted as positive drivers for H2
  • RBI H1 Revenues up 3% and Op Income up 7%. Online growth up 20% to 34% of total RBI revenues. 4% print decline.

Meredith Reports Continued Negative Impact from Book Program

Meredith Corporation reported a significant decrease in fourth quarter revenues. Revenues were $385mm versus $428 for the prior period. Earnings per share were $0.41 in 2008 versus $1.05 in the fourth quarter Fiscal 2007. Full year EPS were $2.83 versus $3.31. While the company adjusted these numbers for their 'special charge' associated with business realignment the investment community hit the company hard with their stock price down 6%.

From thier press release:

Meredith recorded an after-tax special charge of $16 million in the fourth fiscal quarter, related primarily to the further repositioning of its book publishing business and selected reductions in force. The special charge included adjusting certain book royalties, art and editorial, and inventory accounts, as well as severance for eliminated positions in book and elsewhere in the Company.

In particular the following line items were noted: Increase in book sales return allowance, a write-down of book inventory and editorial prepaid expenses and severance expense, write-down of book royalty, and bad debt reserve for Home Interiors Group receivable.

Simon & Schuster Reports

CBS released their half year results with top line revenues and operating income up 1%. The company is re-evaluating their assets portfolio given the general economic environment and has announced the sale of 50 mid-sized radio stations. They are also aggressively managing expenses. How all this impacts Simon & Schuster if at all was not mentioned. Here is the relevant section from the press release on S&S:
Publishing (Simon & Schuster) Publishing revenues for the second quarter of 2008 declined 7% to$186.0 million from $200.3 million for the same prior-year period, as best-selling titles in the second quarter of 2008, including The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver and Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger,did not match contributions from prior year titles which included Blaze by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman, and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Publishing OIBDA and operating income decreased 15% to $17.0 million and 19% to $14.6 million, respectively, with lower revenues partially offset by lower royalty expenses. Publishing results included stock-based compensation expense of $1.2 million and $.9 million for the second quarter of 2008 and 2007, respectively.

Wolters Kluwer Reports

Half yearly results at Wolters Kluwer were mixed with organic revenue growth up 1% and revenues at constant currency rates up 4%. Overall reported revenues were down 4%. Operating expenses held constant with the prior period resulting in a slight reduction in operating margin.

Total half year revenues were $1,608mm versus 1,677mm and EBITA was $288mm versus $304mm.

Highlights from the company's press release are as follows:

Double-digit earnings growth, stable profit margin, and solid cash flow performance give confidence for achieving the full-year targets. With its diversified and defensive portfolio, Wolters Kluwer has the foundation in place for sustained profitability and long-term growth.

  • 20% diluted ordinary earnings per share growth in constant currencies
  • 4% revenue growth in constant currencies (1% organic revenue growth)
  • 8% growth in higher margin electronic products in constant currencies
  • Resilient profit margins despite weaker market conditions
  • Solid free cash flow underpins strong balance sheet and liquidity
  • Reiterate progressive dividend policy
Under the hood: The company has to be worried about the results in its Health segment which industry wide has been one of information publishing's more vibrant sectors. For the half year revenues are down 14% (2% CC) and EBITA down 51% (49% CC). On $305mm in revenue the Health segment is almost a breakeven business which must be a concern. The company's Tax and Regulatory business was a highlight and helped mitigate some of the reduction in Health. Overall, the company remains confident of hitting its full-year growth targets between 3-4% despite the retraction in Health and their other slow segment Corportate & Financial Services.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pearson Reports

From their press release:
  • Sales up 14%* to £1.965bn;
  • Adjusted operating profit up 38% to £124m;
  • Adjusted EPS up to 5.6p (from 3.1p in H107);
  • Interim dividend raised 6.3% to 11.8p.
  • Long-term investment strategy paying off
  • Education sales up 17% and first-half profit of £14m with rapid growth in digital learning services and continued international expansion;
  • FT Group sales up 11% and profits up 21%, benefiting from shift towards subscription and digital revenues and focus on global businesses;
  • Penguin sales up 9% and profits up 22%, with strong publishing and innovation in all markets.
  • Healthy outlook: Full-year guidance confirmed; on track for further progress in all businesses.

Marjorie Scardino, chief executive, said: "Our momentum is strong, even in these tough economic conditions. We have leadership positions in good markets and an effective growth strategy based on quality content, digital innovation and international expansion. That strategy makes us confident that 2008 will be another record year, and that we will continue to grow."

For the year:
The company expects Eduction to be up 10% in constant terms for the year. The company is also reorganizing education into three groups: US Domestic, International, and Professional. Margins will be constant despite 'harcourt integration expenses' and will grow by 1pp per year beginning in 2009.

Penguin has made 'an excellent start to the year' and Pearson expects them to achieve double digit operating margins for the year.

FT is showing growth in subscription, circulation and advertising revenues (up 2%) in the first half. Pearson expects to increase profit at FT Publishing even without any growth in advertising revenue. Guardian reports FT added 350,000 new subscribers in six months.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Brand Presence

Most people in our industry recognise the irony inherent in discussing brand management in the publishing industry. Every aspiring author and agent seeks the validation that being published by a major publisher brings, yet most consumers have only a passing awareness of the publishers' brand. There are exceptions--Harlequin, Hungry Minds, O'Reilly- but across the panoply of publishers, brand strength is only partially monetised.

This recognised fact has not stopped publishers from investing heavily in branded web sites that cocoon their authors in an experience that generally is not relevant to the consumers they are attempting to attract. That is not to say that the content and applications available on the websites of most large publishers are inadequate or unsophisticated, but they are misappropriated. I especially like the websites of Harpercollins and Penguin, who have both taken up the challenge of community building, widgets and e-Content. And it is difficult to be critical of these attempts, given the aggressive level of experimentation undertaken.

What seems to be lacking in all publisher websites, though, is a strong sense of engagement. And engagement that is resilient. Just as consumers return to their favorite booksellers, publishers need to believe they can engage their consumer base to such an extent that they return each time they are interested in purchasing a book. And that's any book.

Publishers are best placed to build author-centric and subject/theme-oriented websites--not sites oriented around a "brand" that isn't relevant, but those that focus attention on segments of the business that remain relevant to consumers. Envision the Spiritual segment at a site supported by Harpercollins which has a unique, appropriate and relevant focus far apart from the current 'corporate' approach. All segments are valid candidates for more of a silo approach to marketing publishers' products. And I would go further in recommending that publishers consider marketing within these silos all titles available, rather than just those produced by the publisher. What better way to condense a market segment and become a destination site for Self-Help, Spirituality, Mysteries, Computer and any number of other book-publishing segments. Consumers aren't dumb. Amazon's main attraction is that all the titles in any one segment are available in one place. As long as publishers continue to ignore this fact, they will under-serve the market and under-perform given the investment in their sites.

So, which publisher will be the first to license a "Books in Print" database (as B&N, Google, Borders and many others have already done)? That would be an excellent start; moreover, the publisher is best placed to augment this data with more details, content and community- building applications that will draw in consumers. A quick search for Doris Lessing and George Pelecanos shows that Books.Google.com and Wikipedia are more likely to be the initial reference points for consumers. On their respective publisher's sites, these authors retain a significant presence, but that presence does not appear to be adequately monetized. Many publishers will argue that they are there to support the retail sale and as long as a book gets sold-- based on their effort-- they have done their job. There is something to this argument but the age-old paradigm on which it is based--multiple retail channels, limited retailer power--is long behind us and getting worse for the publisher.

Web presence for many companies (including publishers) remains a fluid engagement. The inherent benefit of the web is that you can try and fail repeatedly, with limited downside, assuming you monitor closely. In the publishers' case, it is important they not attempt use the web to build brand awareness around their trade-marks which continue to be removed from consumers' experience, Internet or not. What their focus should be is building a discernable alternative to the predominant web retailers by segmenting their offerings around logical categories and building their brand around those segments as they use their content knowledge, author relationships and technical expertise to build something powerful for the future.

Pearson Post Strong H1 Results

Pearson reported strong revenue increases (up 14% to £1.965bn) and adjusted operating profit up 38% to £124m versus the same period last year. Additionally, their adjusted EPS is up to 5.6p (from 3.1p in H107) and the company's interim dividend has been raised 6.3% to 11.8p. (Press Release).

According to the company this is evidence that their long-term investment strategy is paying off as evidenced by,
  • Education sales up 17% and first-half profit of £14m with rapid growth in digital learning services and continued international expansion;
  • FT Group sales up 11% and profits up 21%, benefiting from shift towards subscription and digital revenues and focus on global businesses;
  • Penguin sales up 9% and profits up 22%, with strong publishing and innovation in all markets.
Marjorie Scardino, chief executive, said: "Our momentum is strong, even in these tough economic conditions. We have leadership positions in good markets and an effective growth strategy based on quality content, digital innovation and international expansion. That strategy makes us confident that 2008 will be another record year, and that we will continue to grow."

By segment the company notes its full year 2008 prospects:

Pearson Education (63% of 2007 sales and operating profit). Our education business is trading in line with expectations. As previously announced, we have begun a reorganisation of our education company, which we are now managing and reporting as three segments: North America, International and Professional. Our expectations provided at the full-year results under the previous segmental analysis (worldwide School, Higher Education and Professional) are unchanged.

In North American Education, we have a strong market leadership position and demand for our products remains healthy. We expect our North American Education business to increase sales by around 10% at constant exchange rates (or by 2-4% in underlying terms).
In International Education, we are well placed to benefit from the growing demand for materials, assessment, technology and related services at all stages of learning. We expect our International Education business to grow sales by around 10% at constant exchange rates (or in the low single digits in underlying terms). These growth rates include the impact of the completion of the UK key stage testing contract in 2007.

In Professional Education we continue to expect sales to increase in the low single digits at constant exchange rates.

For Education as a whole, we expect 2008 margins to be similar to the 2007 level of approximately 15%, in spite of significant integration costs relating to the Harcourt businesses (which we include in our operating results). In 2009, we expect to increase Education margins by around one percentage point as we begin to realise the financial benefit of the acquisitions. Beyond 2009, we see further opportunities to increase margins in Education as we continue to consolidate our businesses.

Penguin (20% of 2007 sales, 12% of operating profit). Penguin has made an excellent start to the year, with a particularly strong first-half publishing schedule. It is on track to reach its goal of double digit margins for the full year.

Financial Times Group (17% of 2007 sales, 25% of operating profit). The FT Group is on track to achieve continued profit growth this year. FT Publishing has shown sustained growth in subscription, circulation and advertising revenues (up 2%) in the first half. Future advertising revenues remain difficult to predict, but we continue to expect to increase profit at FT Publishing even without any growth in advertising revenue. Interactive Data has raised its guidance and now expects to achieve full-year revenue growth in the 8-10% range and operating profit growth within the 11-13% range (headline growth under US GAAP).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Media Week30

NY Times looks at textbook piracy:
The transition has already begun, even while publishers continue to sell print editions. They are pitching ancillary services that instructors can require students to purchase, just like textbooks, but which are available only online on a subscription basis. Cengage Learning, the publisher of Professor McMurry’s “Organic Chemistry,” packages the new book with a two-semester “access card” to a Cengage site that provides instructors with canned quizzes and students with interactive tutorials.
A lengthy article in The NY Times showing the battle to win over younger readers to books.
Books are not Nadia Konyk’s thing. Her mother, hoping to entice her, brings them home from the library, but Nadia rarely shows an interest.

Reuters suggests that a deal for Informa could be imminent.

The Observer writes about the biggest website you have probably never heard of:
The invisible hand behind many memes, apparently including the googled swastika, is a website called 4chan. From semi-literate cats to the 'ironic' comeback of singer Rick Astley, this online community is building a reputation as a nursery of all that is weird and wacky and likely to be landing in your inbox tomorrow.

NYTimes on the growing instance of product placement in broadcast news.
In recent weeks, anchors on the Fox affiliate in Las Vegas, KVVU, sit with cups of McDonald’s iced coffee on their desks during the news-and-lifestyle portion of their morning show. The anchors rarely touch the cups. Executives at the station, one of 12 owned by Meredith Corporation, say the six-month promotion is meant to shore up advertising revenue and, as they told the news staff, will not influence content.
S&P (Yes,the same folks that missed the credit crisis) have placed the NYTimes on negative credit watch.
The CreditWatch listing reflects an accelerating pace of total revenue decline and a rate of decline in EBITDA in the first half of 2008 that indicates the company may have difficulty achieving our expectations for the current rating.

The Telegraph notes that Thomson Reuters will launch news channel to compete with Bloomberg, Fox and CNBC.
The Daily Telegraph understands that the plan is for the channel to appear on both the internet and some form of cable or digital platform. The launch could be as early as January but may be pushed back as the company is conscious of Reuters' earlier unsuccessful foray into television.

MediaPost has a round-up of a very bad 10days for newspapers and magazines.
While all three mainstays of the traditional media have scrambled to adapt to the digital age with more online features and services, their Internet businesses still contribute just a small fraction of total revenues. Even more ominous, the rate of growth in online revenues is slowing, making it unlikely that they will ever be able to offset losses in the core business.
On the other-hand, MediaPost also reports on the rise of newspaper-distributed magazines.
It's one of the weird paradoxes in current media trends: While newspapers and consumer magazines are both taking it on the chin in 2008, some magazines distributed via newspapers are doing quite well. Among the leaders are American Profile and Relish, from the Publishing Group of America--which have seen year-to-date ad pages increase 12.58% and 19.69%, respectively, according to MIN Online.

The Independent looks at E-books as retail items and assesses whether they are threats or favors.
The long-term danger for publishers is if they don't invest in digital technology for their content. They could also lose out if they just make classics available for e-book readers and not the most recent popular titles. Henry Volans, head of digital publishing at Faber, said: "There is no reason whey people who have e-books should suddenly only be interested in Dickens. They will want the big new titles as well."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Giles Coren on Editing

Spoiler alert: There is some very colorful language in the attached article written by food critic and writer Giles Coren. Giles has taken exception to what might appear to a disinterested party as a fairly minor editorial change to one of his recent restaurant reviews. As Mrs PND notes he is quite elegant in the manner in which he abuses the parties responsible. Giles and Gordon Ramsey are said to be good mates and it is clear after reading this where the common affection resides.

Consider yourself forewarned. There is no way anything like this would ever be published in a major US newspaper.

The Guardian.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

SCHOLASTIC ANNOUNCES FISCAL 2008 RESULTS AND FISCAL 2009 OUTLOOK

From the company's press release:

New York, NY (July 24, 2008) -- Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL), the global children’s publishing, education and media company, today reported its results for the fiscal 2008 fourth quarter and full year and its outlook for fiscal 2009. It also announced that its Board of Directors has declared a quarterly dividend of $0.075 per share to be paid on September 15, 2008 to shareholders of record on August 4, 2008.

“Given our track record of strong free cash flow, generating $188 million in fiscal 2008, and low debt levels, we repurchased $220 million in stock last year while continuing to invest in strategic growth opportunities,” stated Richard Robinson, Chairman, CEO and President. “Initiating a regular dividend allows us to return additional cash to Scholastic shareholders.”

For the fiscal year ended May 31, 2008, the Company had revenue from continuing operations of $2,205.6 million, up 15% from the prior year. Earnings from continuing operations rose to $2.82 per diluted share from $1.70 per diluted share in fiscal 2007. Fiscal 2008 results benefited significantly from the publication of the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter® series.

Revenue from continuing operations in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008 declined 2% to $536.1 million. Earnings from continuing operations were $0.75 per diluted share compared to $1.04 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007, primarily reflecting continued investment in the Company’s growth initiatives.

The Company reported that negotiations for the sale of its direct-to-home continuities business, which it previously announced it would exit, moved forward during the quarter, and that it expected to finalize terms in the first quarter of fiscal 2009. Scholastic also announced that it shut down its school-based continuities business effective May 31, 2008. As a result, both businesses have been classified for accounting purposes as discontinued operations in current and prior periods.

In fiscal 2008 the loss from discontinued operations, net of tax, was $3.39 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $0.29 per diluted share in fiscal 2007. In the fourth quarter the loss from discontinued operations, net of tax, was $1.09 per diluted share compared to a net loss of $0.11 per diluted share in the prior year period. The greater loss in the current year and quarter primarily reflects non-cash asset write-downs, net of tax, of $2.62 and $0.79 per diluted share, respectively, recorded following the decisions to exit these businesses. In the current year and quarter, the net loss associated with direct-to-home continuities was $0.61 and $0.21 per diluted share, respectively, and with school-based continuities the net loss was $0.16 and $0.09 per diluted share, respectively.

Including continuing and discontinued operations, the fiscal 2008 net loss was $0.57 per diluted share compared to net earnings of $1.42 per diluted share in fiscal 2007. In the fiscal 2008 fourth quarter, the net loss was $0.34 per diluted share compared to net earnings of $0.93 per diluted share in the prior year period.

“Scholastic made important investments in fiscal 2008 to achieve ongoing revenue and profit growth and to reach 9 to 10% operating margins in 2010,” Mr. Robinson added. “These initiatives include:
1. Building and testing a second generation, online selling platform for School Book Clubs to launch in fiscal 2009, which improves on our online system that already handles 60% of Club orders;
2. Expanding the use of point-of-sale equipment and online tools in School Book Fairs, to improve merchandising and the book fair experience;
3. Developing new publishing and online properties, like the innovative multi-platform adventure series The 39 Clues™, which combines books, collectible cards, online games and an interactive website;
4. Investing in a stronger sales and service organization for Scholastic Education and in new technology products like System 44™, a prequel to our top-selling reading-intervention program READ 180®;
5. Accelerating investment in China and Southeast Asia to serve the growing market for English-language books and learning, where Scholastic’s business expanded by more than 20% in fiscal 2008.

In fiscal 2009 we also have plans to reduce costs by $25 to $35 million, through reductions in headcount and other spending areas. Based on these elements, this year’s plan delivers profit and margin growth (excluding Harry Potter) and moves us toward our goal of 9 to 10% operating margins in fiscal 2010.”

Fiscal 2009 Outlook

The Company expects total revenue from continuing operations in fiscal 2009 of approximately $2.0 to $2.1 billion, and earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $1.75 to $2.10. This guidance reflects growth in revenue of approximately 3 to 5%, and in earnings per diluted share of approximately 10 to 25%, excluding the benefit of Harry Potter in fiscal 2008. Free cash flow is expected to be approximately $90 to $100 million.

More

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kindle Sex

Sillicon Alley Insider (via Booktwo)notes that Amazon is being characteristically coy about the level of porn on sale via the kindle. They note that Amazon is prepared to offer sales rank for most titles but similar ranks are suspiciously lacking for erotic titles. They don't explain how they came about this research but a review of this series of pages on Amazons web site shows no erotica. And this is what you get if you try one of the sales tracking services linked to Amazon services. What are they afraid of?

I may have mentioned that a "sex books in print" is a noted but under served market segment but this list throws up a few more interesting items. Subscriptions to NYTimes and WSJ are in the top 20 (and probably run at a more sustained level than the other titles). With respect to the NYTimes this and the iPhone must spell the death knell for the Times Reader, that mediocre electronic newspaper reader the Times brought out a few years ago. Also of note, is that the title mix includes both adult and young adult titles.

Readers should be aware that battery life is limited.

Tivo And Amazon

The NYTimes is reporting this morning that Amazon and TiVo has signed an agreement that will allow TiVo users to purchase via an on-screen menu some of the products mentioned in shows like The Daily Show, Letterman and Tonight. From the article:
In the months ahead, TiVo plans to begin offering this feature to advertisers and programmers, so that the chance to buy products and have them delivered will be presented to viewers during commercials and even alongside product placements during live shows. The move highlights TiVo’s attempt to shift from being a creator of set-top boxes, competing with copycat devices, to being an advertising innovator that is trying to develop advertising technologies for the television industry.
I have two TiVo's neither of which I can use in satellite-less PND Towers. And we are not happy about it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

McGraw Hill Plotting to Buy RBI

The Telegraph handicaps some of the interest in the sale of Reed Business information and offers the intreging notion that MGH would purchase the Reed titles. What they don't discuss is what would happen afterwards. As I have speculated, some assets are likely to be sold after a sales of RBI and this article compares the 'overlap' between the RBI titles and those currently owned by MGH.

The McGraw Hill Companies, owner of Standard & Poor's credit rating agency, has titles which overlap with RBI in aviation and construction. McGraw publishes aviation Week and a collection of architectural and engineering titles, while RBI has a large portfolio of construction titles including Construction News and Professional Builder.


And:
The sale of Reed Business Information (RBI), whose titles include film industry bible Variety, Flight International and New Scientist, began last week when information was sent to prospective bidders. If RBI fetches the asking price, it would be the biggest media takeover since the sale of Emap at the end of last year.

Media Week29

Amazon.com speaks to the NYTimes about cloud computing.
Customers of Amazon’s new store will be able to start watching any of 40,000 movies and television programs immediately after ordering them because they stream, just like programs on a cable video-on-demand service. That is different
from most Internet video stores, like Apple iTunes and the original incarnation of Amazon’s video store, which require users to download files to their hard drives
Christian book retailing is either treading water and just surviving or being destroyed depending on who you listen to. Here the Washington Post looks at the business.

Meeting customers where they are has become the mantra of the Christian retail industry as its stores face stiff competition from big-box chains and online retailers. With more stores closing than opening each year, industry layoffs and a key publisher staying away from this week's annual International Christian Retail Show in Orlando, retailers and publishers say innovation is key to thriving.
The Bookseller notes that Lonely Planet got their books into the Apple Store in quick order.

John French announced to staffers through an internal memo that he was stepping down as CEO of Penton Media. Speculation about who will replace him included Mike Marchesano currently at JEGI. Folio.

The AP reports on a new book from Mitch Ablom which is being offered exclusively through Amazon.com. The book is actually an eBook version of a commencement speech the author gave this spring.

More on the civil war between the UK office of Hachette Book Group and Amazon.com over pricing. Times Online.
The online bookseller has imposed extraordinary sanctions against the publisher, ... It is listing Hachette books but preventing the public from purchasing them by removing the “buy new” button from its websites.
James Murdoch seems to be moving closer to Big Boss. MediaGuardian. Notes on other Media bosses.

Sadly, Publishing News in the UK is closing down their magazine operation. PN But before they go they note a HarperCollins implant at Amazon.co.uk.

Conde Nast's Portfolio takes a look at HarperStudio. (Briefly).

John Makinson thinks outsides aren't welcome in the publishing world. The Bookseller.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

All the Pretty Things

Now I am a sucker for a pretty face as much as the next guy and I probably wouldn't have looked at this short article in the NYTimes this morning if it didn't feature the visage of Kelly Wearstler. The short is about her interest in design books and in particular her favorite bookseller in LA:
Her favorite design bookstore in Los Angeles is Potterton Books, tucked inside the Pacific Design Center. (There’s also one in Midtown Manhattan, on Third Avenue near 59th Street.) “I can always find a book that is amazing that I probably haven’t heard of,” she said. Other shops she loves: the Strand in New York and Hennessey and Ingalls Art and Architecture Books in Santa Monica, Calif.
That's the good part - nothing wrong with that.

There is also an 'interactive' link to some selected photos of books. You could be forgiven for thinking that the intimate nature of the book purchase process described by Kelly would be evident in the slide show as well. Not so. In the small catalog of interesting design titles the NYT supplies links to your favorite - far from intimate - on-line bookseller only one of which is Potterton. Huh? Since Kelly mentions other stores why not use them; especially the Strand, which for the record has a huge selection of design and architecture titles.

JibJab: A Time For Some Campaignin'

Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!


Those on RSS or email may need to return to the site to see this video. Click on the headline. Or visit jibjab.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rack Jobbing The EBook

A change, equivalent to the launch of the mass market paperback just took place but did you notice? Months in advance of the expected release of the new iPhone thoughts ran wild on the potential for an Apple iBooks store as much for its potential impact on sales as for its counter point to Amazon.com. With the launch of the 3G iPhone publishers have been found wanting, sadly waiting for the market to be gifted to us rather than proactively setting out to define it. This post from Kassia Krozer sums it up perfectly:
On a weekend when headlines were there for the grabbing and customers were searching for both toys and content, the publishing industry, perhaps practicing summer hours, was curiously silent. Not a single major initiative, announcement, horns-blaring call to check out these great offerings on iTunes.Call me crazy, but I’d expect an industry that salivates over moving 150,000 units to be all over the potential for reaching seven million “mobile is the future” customers. Are you not out there, listening to readers, gauging their interest? They want, you have, and you’re still hiding the goods. I get this isn’t the largest market you have, but is that an excuse to sit on the sidelines?

Publishers are again about to have a market dictated even as they continue to complain about the market power of the online retailers. Now $9.99 may become a defacto RRP for eBooks and as volume increases via the prodigious iPhone apps store publishers won't know whether to laugh or cry. When mass market paper backs gained market acceptance at Woolworths in the 1930s publishers gained access to a market they never would have developed on their own. Books were suddenly available for a dime and as publishers stood on the sidelines it wasn't until years later that they entered the market directly or bought up the main suppliers. Will history repeat itself with publishers buying ebook apps suppliers like Fictionwise or build their own applications? Hopefully, at least one or the other.

Traditionally, we think of distribution and content development as separate disciplines within publishing companies but in the e-Publishing world they co-mingle. Content optimization becomes the normative state where the end-user builds their own product out of a content repository created by the publisher without limitation on how the end product is rendered. The 'distance' between publisher and end-user (where distribution as a function currently sits) is wide but becomes virtually non-existent in the future state.

To bring us back to the iPhone circumstance, as long as publishers continue to think in terms of traditional functional silos and roles and responsibilities they limit themselves in their ability to leverage their assets. In contrast witness Amazon which has never considered any aspect of the publishing value chain to be off limits and more publishers need to think in this manner if they want to redress some of the advantages Amazon and others retain (or new competitors develop) in the marketplace.

Some other views on a similar theme:

Teleread
Adam Hodgkin
Shimenewa
theDigitalist

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Beatles on IPOD?

A report in Rolling Stone says that Bloomingdales (of all people) will be selling a limited edition IPOD with every Beatles tune on it. Many have speculated that the Beatles catalog would be available on the IPOD but who would have thought Bloomies would be the one to bring it to us. RS is saying there will only be 100. If the mock-up is any thing to go by that is one ugly IPOD. I suggested that the front and back of the special Beatles IPOD when and if it came would be suggestive of the center label on all vinyl albums: the green apple on one side and the cut-away inside the apple view on the back.

On another related Beatles note, fellow traveller Joe Esposito has a look back at the Beatles and how their touring lead to popularity and record sales but the model ultimately broke down when the band stopped going on the road.
A peculiar fate befell the Beatles, however, in that they, like a very small number of other musicians, found it impossible to continue the touring to promote their records. Touring became dangerous and, playing in huge stadiums to screaming teenage girls, artistically unrewarding. The Beatles thus left the road, risking their business model, as the essential relationship between live performance and the sale of records was broken. Famously, the Beatles responded by inventing a “live” audience: the first thing we hear on “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is the sound of the invented audience. The imaginary audience did not contribute to the Beatles’ economy, however. That economy continued to be based on the sale of records. It was the Beatles’ good fortune that their fame was such that they no longer had to go on the road to promote the sale of their intellectual property. Perhaps it was just as well: when asked about the relative benefits of a live performance over a recording, John Lennon remarked, “Well, I’m a record man myself.”

He suggests the time of their break-up coincided with the "apotheosis of a particular business model for the media industry, the now-derided practice of creating copyrighted works and selling them, copy by copy, for profit." Read the whole article.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Media Week28

Some headlines from this past weeks publishing and media actitivity.

The Canadian Publishing industry sees a slight decline from the prior year: A report from the government agency released Thursday said operating revenues from the book publishing industry in Canada edged down 1.2% in 2006 to $2.1 billion. NationalPost.

The NZ Herald reports that New Zealand sees an increase in booksales but is the future ominous? Last year, the New Zealand consumer spend on books and similar merchandise topped $1 billion for the first time - capping off a trend of phenomenal growth that seems, for the moment, immune to the speed wobbles hitting other retailers.

Informa Deal News: At a function held by private equity investor Alpinvest Partners in London last week, dealmakers from Permira, KKR, and Blackstone all talked openly about how they could come up with an offer for Informa to rival the 506p-per-share approach submitted by Providence, Carlyle and Hellman & Friedman. Telegraph

TimesOnline reports on a lost Shakespear portfolio that has turned up in suspicious circumstances: The folio, printed in 1623 and valued at up to £3 million, was among a number of valuable books and manuscripts taken from the Durham University Library in December 1998. Last night a middle-aged book dealer was being questioned by police after the discovery of other historic manuscripts at his house in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

There is a curious tie in with this story in the TimesOnline about Hemingways House in Havana. I think there is a connection and I wonder if the gent "helping the police with their enquiries" has even visited Havanna.

PW reports that Susan Driscoll is taking a senior role at Wolters Kluwer.

Wiley has purchased some titles from Cengage as part of Cengage's need to divest titles as part of their deal agreement with JD. The acquisition provides Wiley entry into the Introduction to Business course area, with a market-leading title, Contemporary Business,12th edition (13th edition to publish early in 2009), by Louis E. Boone and David E. Kurtz. These titles serve the first business course and offer Wiley an excellent opportunity to showcase its other business titles. The acquisition also will leverage Wiley Higher Education's language program, which is currently centered on Spanish, transforming Wiley into a more full-service provider to college and university language departments by offering learning materials in Introductory and Intermediate Italian and French, German grammar, and Business French.

Business Week reports on actions to limit the influence of ratings sevices like Moody's and Standard & Poors and also argues why these firms are still needed. With investors' losses topping the hundreds of billions as many once highly rated securities have tumbled, ratings agencies have come under withering criticism for issuing scores that have proven far too optimistic. Already, under rising pressure to rethink their roles, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has announced a deal with the three largest ratings agencies to reform the way they collect fees from debt issuers. Now, the Securities & Exchange Commission is moving to lessen investors' reliance on the scores.

Reuters also report on the ratings services: Many financial companies, including banks and lenders, have been sued following the housing market bust; but the cases against ratings agencies may be among the most closely watched.

As reported on earlier in the week, USAToday looks at textbook pricing but more specifically 'open' online textbooks. Frank [ex-Pearson] and his business partner, Jeff Shelstad, in January plan to launch Flat World Knowledge, the first commercial open textbook publisher. It will offer free online textbooks that can be printed and bound, for about $25 for black and white and $35-$39 for full-color copies. The average price of a traditional textbook varies by subject; many new textbooks cost about $150, Allen [director of the Make Textbooks Affordable campaign by Student Public Interest Research Groups] says. Comments are interesting.

CNN Money looks at the Indian Educational market and estimate it to be worth over $120bill. US publishers are jockying for position in this market. Technopak, a Delhi-based investment consultancy, estimates that the current private-education market is worth $40 billion a year, and that this could roughly triple to $110-120 billion in ten years’ time. The potential is attracting foreign companies such as Pearson Education (PSO), part of the UK-based publishing group, and McGraw-Hill (MHP), as well as private equity firms that include Blackstone (BX), New Vernon, and Deutsche Securities, part of Deutsche Bank (DB).

Reuters reports Bertelsmann has sold its US book club business.

TimesOnline notes that ReedElsevier is starting a search for the successor to Crispin Davis. The will look internally and externally. PDN prediction: it will be a current employee.

Guardian picks up PaidContent parent company (for reported $30mm).

WSJ on textbook pricing. PND

Friday, July 11, 2008

Penguin and The Generational Chasm

I wrote about the Generational Chasm between the current book reader generation and the youth market in a post several weeks ago. (Happily it has proven quite popular). In that article I stressed that the old publishing model is not transferable simply because the content is available in e-book form. I noted that Harpercollins is exploring different ways to build new content and interaction with their younger consumer base and news comes now of a similar effort by Penguin to tap this market in a new way. The following is a report on the Penguin blog site about Spinebreakers:
The site is an online community created by teens, for teens as a platform where they can share their love of reading and other creative mediums. The site showcases some of the most unique stories, poetry, songs and videos, all in an attempt to unite and encourage youths to read more and stand tall in their belief that reading is cool. I personally think such a site is much needed and is a breath of fresh air, especially when England has fast become a place for teen violence and crime, and using one’s imagination in a positive manner has now been replaced with the ease of picking a fight. Spinebreakers is going offline at an up and coming road-show at the Roundhouse Studios in Chalk Farm, on the 25th of July. I have been fortunate enough to work on this event which will be inviting sixty teens to sign up and participate in three brilliant workshops which will include learning to use film equipment and creating a mini film on the day with Anton Saunders.

Also of note on the Spinebreakers site (and there is a lot), you might want to avoid Bath in September when there will be hordes of teenagers descending on the old Roman city to engage in a festival about Books. It could be violent, there could be some agro but old folks better leave town:

At this year’s Bath Festival of Children's Literature, Penguin Books are teaming up with young people in Bath to create a groundbreaking event run for – and by – teenagers. From poster design to the layout of the venue, this is an event where YOU call the shots. Opportunities for you include:
Working with top-name teen authors Meg Rosoff and Marcus Sedgewick
Deciding the format of the event, eg live music, food, DJs
Choosing the venue, eg theatre, coffee shop, out on the street (!)
Deciding how the event is promoted with a real budget to organise the event
Free books
A chance to work with Penguin, the UK’s leading publisher and a real opportunity to have YOUR voice heard
To get involved, you will need to be oozing with enthusiasm, available to attend 2-3 creative meetings in Bath between now and September and be prepared to create the most cutting-edge event at this year’s festival


Well done to the Penguin folk.
(Hat tip to Brantley - again).

Paid Content Snapped Up By Guardian Media

Guardian News & Media has bought ContentNext, the parent company of digital business website PaidContent, as part of its US expansion. The company was founded in April 2002 by business journalist Rafat Ali, a former managing editor of Silicon Alley Insider and reporter on Inside.com. From the press release:
Guardian News & Media today announces a significant expansion of its US presence with the acquisition of ContentNext Media, the leading B2B media company which covers digital media, the entertainment and technology sectors, and publishes the influential paidContent.org. Its founder and editor Rafat Ali, and CEO, Nathan Richardson, will continue to run the company as a stand-alone business.
Here is the full story.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hail Mary

Both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson are being sued by a gay man who claims versions of the bible sold by these publishers refer to homosexuality as a sin and as a result directly violate his constitutional rights and have caused him emotional pain and mental instability. To say nothing of society. One might assume it is difficult to put a price on this pain (and instability)but Mr. Bradley LaShawn Fowler has assessed the damage at $60mm for Zondervan and a measly $10mm for Nelson. (He hasn't even murdered anyone and he is getting the full barrelled name treatment - perhaps because it is so colorful - I mean Bradley LaShawn WTF?)

You know the plot twist in Law & Order when the defendent decides to represent himself? That's when you know the guy is whacked and he's going down. BLF is defending himself. After refusing to appoint an attorney in his case against Nelson the judge said, "The Court has some very genuine concerns about the nature and efficacy of these claims." As part of his "brief", BNF claims, (USAToday)

because Zondervan's text revisions from a 1980s version of the Bible included, and then deleted, a reference to homosexuality in 1 Corinthians without informing the public of the changes.

The intent of the publisher was to design a religious, sacred document to reflect an individual opinion or a group's conclusion to cause "me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence ... including murder,"

He's got a better chance of seeing Jesus than winning this one. Yet another waste of judicial time and resources. I wonder if Mike Hyatt will be twittering about this one.

WSJ Looks At Textbooks

In this mornings WSJ, an article on textbook pricing but with a twist. The article notes the mutual interest that exists between publishers and institutions in maintaining revenues from the sale of texts. They note the uneasy relationship at the University of Alabama where a 'custom version' of a workbook is required reading for English Comp but in reality the workbook is little different than a non-custom version.
The spiral-bound book is nearly identical to the same "A Writer's Reference" that goes for $30 in the used-book market and costs about $54 new. The only difference in the Alabama version: a 32-page section describing the school's writing program -- which is available for free on the university's Web site. This version also has the University of Alabama's name printed across the top of the front cover, and a notice on the back that reads: "This book may not be bought or sold used."
Custom textbooks are the fastest growing segment of the education market but this aspect of publishing is likely to generate more scrutiny as publishers make even more extensive use of custom versions to circumvent the used book market. There are numerous state legislatures attempting (in some cases have done so) to write and pass legislation that will govern textbook pricing and place restrictions on the relationship between academicians and publishers. In NY, even the Attorney General's office is getting in on the action:
The book-royalty arrangements resemble a practice exposed during last year's student-loan scandal, when some universities steered students to particular lending firms and received a secret cut of the loans. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo called those payments "kickbacks" and forced universities, many of which said they used the money to fund scholarships, to halt the practice. Mr. Cuomo recently launched a broad conflict-of-interest investigation of the relationship between colleges and vendors, including book publishers.
Central to the WSJ article is the growth in the provision of 'royalty' payments back to course departments (via the Bookstore) as though this were something new. What is glossed over is the recognition that the bookstore has always made some margin on the sale of both new and used textbooks. In this article we would be forgiven for believing there was never any mutual interest in the sale of textbooks between college and publisher.

As with many things, technology will march on ahead of those that what to govern commercial interests, and while custom textbooks are a focus now, educational companies are already establishing deals where electronic versions of their titles will be paid for like lab-fees. If a student takes a course they are automatically charged a fee for access to the text material online. This subscription model will revolutionize educational publishing as it has legal, tax and financial information and this is not news to anyone in the business. It may be news to legislators. Fellow traveller, Alison Pendergast notes an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
Colorado Community Colleges Online, a consortium of 13 institutions in the Colorado Community College System, has teamed up with Pearson Education to offer digital textbooks at a one-time cost of $49 per student. The deal is the first of its kind between a major publisher and a public college system according to Rhonda M. Epper, co-executive director of learning technology for the Colorado online system. The $49 fee is rolled in with tuition.
In the above case, even though the fee appears low the total dollars paid by all students for access to materials may exceed what Pearson would have received were the books sold as print versions in the bookstore. This is because most students either don't buy a textbook or buy a used version. In the e-book world they may not have that freedom. The Colorado experiment is likely to become preferred by publishers and institutions over time but the market will also become a battle ground for publishers attempting to build delivery platforms for their content. Pearson leads in this development but the two other major publishers are spending fast to catch up. For many other educational publishers they may find themselves having to establish content licencing agreements with the major players so that they can deliver their content to students. Other than the largest publishers most will not have the resources to build a delivery solution and nor will their solution ever be as complete as the offer from Pearson or Cengage. It is dynamic stuff and in five years educational publishing will be unrecognisable versus what we see currently.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Best Travel/Food Show on TV

In case you don't know this already, Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show on the Travel Channel is the best Travel/Food show going. So forget little Rachael and even gorgeous Giada and check out some real life travel and cooking. A new series has just started.

Chark Blog in Book Form

Exact Editions is reporting that Richard Charkin's blog posts, made when he was Chairman of Macmillan UK may be coming out in print. As Adam says,
The Charkin blog was a very good read while it lasted, it will be interesting to see if it can work in volume form.

Strange Mr. Charkin hasn't reestablished a new blog. He seemed to relish the first version so much.

Later on....

Coincidentally, CNet writer Caroline McCarthy notes the trend (not sure it is one) in blog to books:
This blogs-to-books trend seems to keep chugging along, despite the fact that none of their predecessors have been particularly successful. Gawker Media's Guide to Conquering All Media sold dismally, as schadenfreude-happy blogger Jeff Bercovici gleefully pointed out. Options, the book takeoff of the wildly popular Fake Steve Jobs blog, wasn't exactly a chart-topper, either. And now there are books either just out or on the way for blogs Stuff White People Like, I Can Has Cheezburger, Postcards From Yo Momma, Passive-Aggressive Notes, and a heap of others.

Personnally, I can't begrudge any of these people/sites from taking publisher's money to turn their free stuff into book form. If nothing else, the ability to construct a sentence and acheive meaning coupled with the development of a market should make the blog world a ready proving ground for many a book author. I would have thought the limitless talent of many blog writers will have made the agent and editor's life a little easier.

BTW, I'm still waiting....

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ebsco Launches New Interface

Ebsco has made available their new interface to subscribers for several months and is about to launch it officially sometime in July. This is the first revision in over five years and the company seems to have taken a very focused approach to designing the new interface. First impressions are impressive with the simplified Google like search page which can expand to include 'drop-down' advanced search options. The manner in which they have done this is elegant negating the need to click to a separate page.

The full results page renders further options to narrow a search - Source, Author, Subject, etc - as well as by timeframe. Missing is an indication of the number of results that occur within each of these related search terms which can potentially result in proceeding down a dead end. The timeline limiter is executed using a sliding bar: Some users will like this but an equal number will dislike it. To me it looked like an attempt to incorporate some 'trendy technology' when using date ranges with a number indicating the articles falling within that range would have been more useful. As the user makes decisions on the direction of their search, these are recorded in a query chain that runs across the top of the page. As a result the user can jump back several steps at a time to retrace their search steps. The user can also use the same trail of queries to drop terms out of the string as well as start new queries. Users will find this feature highly useful.

The 'narrow/limit' your search boxes which run each side of the results set can be closed or opened and aids navigation especially when the user has narrowed their search closer to their objective. In short, closing these boxes alters the look of the page and improves usability; however, closing them makes the page less cluttered but does not seem to increase the number of items above the fold.

Ebsco has also included images from their image collection which are presented as part of each search result and can be viewed in pop-up form. Images include photos, diagrams, illustrations, graphs, and tables and Ebsco promises to have 3mm+ available by 2009.

While there are many other features included in the product, the preview tool is worth noting. Hovering over the magnifying glass icon brings up a pop-up preview window that enables the user to determine whether the article is worth accessing. From this window the user can save the article citation to a folder for review later. In practice, this means a user can scan through a list of results, rapidly identify the items of relevancy and save them all in one place for detailed review once their first pass research is complete. This is a nice feature and will prove useful to any researcher. (Export to all standard citation tools is also available).

For those more interested in looking at the other features here are some Ebsco documents. Of interest will be the Visual and Advanced search features which in the case of visual search offers an interesting approach to mapping the results set of any search.

(On a side note, I wish they would drop the 2.0 moniker; this is so 2005).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Real Celebrity Bio - UPDATE

It is almost hard to believe that Ingrid Betancourt has been set free and even appears healthy. With all the drivel published about the lives of vapid insignificant people, this would be a story worth telling.

Rodrigo Arangua/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, was one of the hostages rescued.


Update:
According to several sources Ingrid Betancourt is wasting no time meeting with publishers (and who can blame her). Discussions may center around her writing a play about her experiences as a captive in the jungle. This weekend she was interviewed by French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche and suggested as much in the following:

Votre vie désormais ce sera vos enfants, la politique, mais aussi
l'écriture?

Je ne vais pas avoir la prétention d'écrire beaucoup mais je veux laisser un témoignage de ce que j'ai vécu à deux niveaux: l'histoire telle quelle, mais il y a des choses qui ne peuvent pas être dites. C'est très difficile à expliquer. A un moment, lorsque j'étais en captivité, je me suis dit: "Il faut que les gens comprennent, mais je ne peux pas l'écrire tel quel. Alors je ferai une pièce de théâtre. Et là, je montrerai des choses que les gens doivent sentir." Il faudra une mise en scène pour que les gens comprennent ces choses qui tiennent plutôt à la condition humaine, à ce que nous sommes au fond de nous. Nous pouvons être des anges mais nous pouvons aussi être des démons pour l'autre. Ceux qui verront ce que j'ai vécu comprendront qu'il faut faire attention à ne jamais tomber dans cet abîme. Chacun de nous. Pas seulement l'autre: chacun de nous dans notre intérieur peut être extraordinairement bon et extraordinairement méchant. On peut être les deux en même temps. Il faut vraiment prendre conscience de ce que nous sommes et prendre garde: nous pouvons tous tomber dans cette horreur d'être des loups pour l'autre.

Media Week27

Some headlines from the week in media June 30 - July 6.

Penguin Blog: Nick Hornby bemoans both e-books and the lack of interest in reading.

Radar Online: Gawker media keeps lowering their pay scales.

Bloomberg: Reports on the rapidly rising cost of newsprint. As if news wasn't bad enough in newspapers.

Reuters: Security Analysts following the newspaper industry are abondoning ship as well.

Forbes: Axel Springer are on the look out for acquisitions.

SF Gate: Is a Kindle to books as an iPod is to tunes?

Telegraph: Review of a book about 'the grandest name in [British] publishing' John Murray

Open Access News: Latest bruhaha in Journals publishing regarding Open Access Publisher Public Library of Science.

Private Equity Hub: Reed offering sweatener for Reed Business Deal

TimesOnline: Newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror may cut dividend after dropping its share buy-back program

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Neil Young's Living With War Movie

Mrs PND and I saw Neil Young when he was in NYC for a four night stop at the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights. Of the four or five times I have seen him, this was the best show which saw him play a varied set covering much of his 40 year career. He did not play cuts from the Living With War album which he released in 2006, but those songs formed the backbone of CSNY's 2006 tour which is now the subject of a tour documentary. The movie is scheduled to be released later this summer and in advance TimesOnline caught up with Young at his local diner (really).

The film is a documentary about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Freedom of Speech tour, staged during the US midterm elections in 2006. But it is a far cry from Michael Moore-style agitprop. Young/Shakey has gone out of his way to present an impeccably balanced picture of America’s reaction to a tour whose repertoire consisted entirely of antiwar songs, from Buffalo Springfield oldies such as For What It’s Worth and CSNY’s era-defining Ohio to selections from Young’s 2006 album, Living with War. To this effect, their trip is narrated by an award-winning television journalist, Mike Cerre, who has covered both Vietnam and Iraq, where he was an “embedded” reporter.


Set List from the December show:

From Hank to Hendrix
Ambulence Blues
Sad Movies
A Man Needs a Maid
Harvest
Try
Journey Through the Past
Mellow My Mind
Love Art Blues
Cowgirl in the Sand
After the Gold Rush

Mr Soul
Everyone Knows this is Nowhere
Dirty Old Man
Spirit Road
Bad Fog of Loneliness
Winterlong
Oh Lonesome Me
The Believer
No Hidden Path

Cinnamon Girl
Cortz the Killer

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Jordan Edmiston Deal Report

JEGI just published their first half review of M/A in the media business. As most will realize, deal flow is off considerably at the top end of the market; however, JEGI has seen some resiliancy in the middle market.

From their press release:

M&A activity for the first half of 2008 was increasingly cloudy, but with continued bright spots in several areas, especially in the Online Media & Technology and Marketing & Interactive Services sectors, as well as in sub-$1 billion transactions. High-quality, innovative mid-sized companies continued to trade at a brisk pace, as diversified media and marketing groups, major technology companies, and private equity investors continue to participate in the “retooling” of the media and marketing services industries. In spite of economic pressures, ongoing turmoil in the financial markets, and concerns about consumer confidence, the total number of transactions for media, information, marketing services and related technologies increased slightly to 404, versus 397 in the prior year. Deal value, however, was down dramatically to $23.2 billion from $65.8 billion in the same period in 2007.

They also offer some consolidated highlights thus far on the year:

M&A activity in the first half of 2008 showed less than half the number of transactions for business-to-business magazines, compared to the first half of 2007. Deal value decreased 85% in 2008 from 2007 levels, as there was no transaction in this sector to offset VSS’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Advanstar in the first half of 2007.

* Consumer magazines also slowed significantly in the first half of 2008 in number of deals (down 38%) and value (down 82%), compared to the first half of 2007. In the first half of 2008, there were no transactions over $500 million in value, compared to Source Interlink’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Primedia’s Enthusiast Media group last year.

* The number of deals for the database and information services sector was up 29% in the first half of 2008. However, the first half of 2007 included Thomson’s $18+ billion acquisition of Reuters. Without this transaction, deal value for this sector would have nearly tripled in 2008 over 2007 levels.

* Half as many transactions occurred in the educational and professional publishing sector in the first half of 2008 versus the first half of 2007. 2008 includes JEGI’s sale of CQ Press to SAGE. However, total deal value was down considerably mainly due to the $7.75 billion acquisition of Thomson Learning by Apax Partners and Omers Capital Partners in the first half of 2007.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Stealing Education - Update

CHE has managed to interview the student behind the website Textbook Torrents. Mr Anonymous characterises his activities as 'civil disobedience' and he described his web site as
operating in a “legal gray area.” He said he is an undergraduate at a college outside of the United States, though he would not name the institution or country, and that he operates the Web site from there.

More here.

Following is the original post from earlier this week.


The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on illegal text books scanning which strongly suggests the situation is getting worse and may soon be out of control. Publishers will be forced to revise their textbooks far more frequently in order to keep ahead of the scanners. That of course is a strategy that will only work for a limited time.

From the article:

One Web site, called Textbook Torrents, promises more than 5,000 textbooks for download in PDF format, complete with the original textbook layout and full-color illustrations. Users must simply set up a free account and download a free software program that uses a popular peer-to-peer system called BitTorrent.

"In any given two-week period we found from 60,000 files all the way up to 50,000 files," said Edward McCoyd, director of digital policy for the publishing association. Mr. McCoyd, who leads the Online Piracy Working Group, said the group has been performing periodic scans for piracy since 2001, and that it has seen a gradual increase in the number of titles available.

Ewww, There're All Old

I went to a book reading and signing last week. I don't go to these often but this was an author I really like and I took along some older titles for him to sign. The room at the Lincoln Center B&N was full - about 150 people - and I was the one of the youngest people in the room. Now, maybe at 7:30pm other younger people are out on the town or still at work but I think here in a microcosm is the publishers problem. All the readers of books are getting on a bit and there is less and less interest in the product from the younger generation. I don't believe this is news to most of us, what with the steady stream of official reports suggesting that reading books is going the way of the dodo and I wouldn't have thought the above worthy of comment except I saw the following news report from Variety.
According to a study released by Magna Global's Steve Sternberg, the five broadcast nets' average live median age (in other words, not including delayed DVR viewing) was 50 last season. That's the oldest ever since Sternberg started analyzing median age more than a decade ago -- and the first time the nets' median age was outside of the vaunted 18-49 demo. Fueling the graying of the networks: the rapid aging of ABC, NBC and Fox. The three nets continue to grow older, while CBS -- the oldest-skewing network -- has remained fairly steady. "The median ages of the broadcast networks keep rising, as traditional television is no longer necessarily the first screen for the younger set," Sternberg wrote.
I guess the news on CBS proves every cloud has a silver lining. Young people spend money and buy stuff. Why would anyone be trying to reach them via the networks. Are they smoke?

Millennials, Screenagers call them what you will are not bound by tradition or habit or convention. Those characteristics are not necessarily unique to new generations. It is the insertion of the power of personal choice into the mix - the ability to select from a far wider range of activities, options and/or content (with no diminution in quality or access) than was ever the case in years past - which has undercut the appeal of traditional media to the 'youth of today' (...said grandad).

In publishing, as I noted a few weeks ago, I think the traditional method of telling a story in book form is dead. It has no future. Telling stories has a future but the vehicle for that may be more a kin to the holodeck on the Enterprise than print on paper. For example, what if as an introduction to Shakespeare I get to read King Lear with Ian McKellen interactively on stage (and never leave my bedroom). What if I don't know who Ian is and decide Cordelia should be 'played' by Miley Cyrus. What if I decide to set up my own theater program and invite my friends to participate online/in game? All of this is going on now. Some of this content is the same as the stuff we struggled through in book form but not so the milennials. Question is where are the publishers?

Informa Bid Tops $4.3Billion

Informa announced this morning (via Reuters) they are considering a $4.3Bill private equity bid for the company from a consortium led by Providence Equity partners, The Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman. The bid is established at 506 pence per share and the Informa share price rose by 12% its largest gain in two years, however the current price (423 pence) is still far below the offer price. The company stressed that discussions are at an early stage and that there can be no certainty of a bid being accepted.

If this bid is successful it will be the largest PE play since the markets froze earlier this year. Analysts have suggested this deal has more likelihood of being completed because the company can be broken into its constituent parts and sold off relatively easily. This mitigates some of the inherent risk in the deal.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Haights Cross Sells Oakstone Unit

At the turn of the year, Haights Cross placed itself up for sale but as the capital market situation went from bad to worse a successful resolution has seemed increasingly out of reach. However, the company announced today that they have sold their Mediacal Information publisher Oakstone to Boston Ventures and they are also withdrawing from sale the two other Haights Cross business units. For their most recent reported full year, revenues for the Oakstone unit were $34mm. Terms of the sale have not been announced.

From their press release:

Haights Cross also announced today that it has suspended its previously announced plans to offer for sale its test-preparation and intervention business, Triumph Learning; and its audiobook publishing business, Recorded Books.

According to Paul J. Crecca, HCC President and Chief Executive Officer, “Earlier this year, we announced plans to offer for sale each of Haights Cross’ operating businesses. However, conditions in the capital markets, particularly in the leveraged finance market, remain challenging. With these factors, and considering the timeframe in which sale transactions could be completed, the HCC Board of Directors has concluded that the company should suspend the sales efforts for Triumph Learning and Recorded Books. We believe Triumph Learning and Recorded Books have leading positions in their respective market segments and represent attractive growth opportunities.”

Publishing Technology Rumor

From the TimesOnline:
Publishing Technology, which sells software and consultancy services to book publishers, managed to lift its hard-pressed shares last week with a contract win. They were flat at 0.7p yesterday despite talk that it was set to reveal a share consolidation and the imminent launch of its “iTunes for books” software, allowing books to be downloaded as easily as music

Some may know PT as Vista.

And from The Independent:
The tiny company, which has a market capitalisation of less than £6m, has hitherto concentrated on providing an online service for academic publishers...the group is preparing for some innovative online expansion. As you read this, the firm is trialling a product that it reckons will be a cross between Apple's iTunes and a YouTube for books. The chief executive, George Lossius, said the technology will allow publishers to sell parts of books, say a recipe, or the whole thing. Moreover, publishers will be able to market particular authors and genres to particular customers. Mr Lossius admitted that some of the bigger publishers are probably already planning to do it themselves, but Publishing Technology might well be left alone to scrap for some of those lucrative smaller deals.

Riverdeep Syndication Update

The Irish Independent is reporting that the banks supporting Riverdeep in its acquisition of Harcourt may be able to syndicate some of the debt they financed in the deal. The company had been saddled with over $7.0bill in debt but have reduced the debt by selling their college division for $600m. Credit Suisse the lead bank has sold down their senior debt and is now working on the secondary loan. The company also reaffirmed it will achieve operating efficiencies amounting to $320mm per year within three years from the combination of the operations of Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt.

From the article:
Credit Suisse is in the process of selling down EMPG's €1.7bn second-lien loan, which ranks behind a traditional senior credit facility in terms of security. "We expect this tranche to be fully syndicated by the end of the summer," said Barry O'Callaghan, executive chairman of EPMG in a letter to shareholders. "This demonstrates that, notwithstanding the current issues with credit markets globally, investors have sufficient confidence in our business model and prospects to purchase our debt."