Sunday, March 22, 2009

Media Week 11: Voyager Learning, ReedElsevier, CBS Radio, Libraries

Near Norwich, Bertrams were sold for £8.6mm and all 600 staff were kept on. A remarkable event given the state of UK bookselling. Smiths News is the purchaser.

Reed is paying Pat Tierney a £2.4m bonus and The Times suggests shareholders will be pissed. Tierney ran the educational unit (Harcourt) which Reed sold for a large premium over what they purchased it for. In addition, Tierney deferred retirement to take care of the sale process.

A good backgrounder on how legal publishing works from a taxonomy and text mining perspective. (Legal Technology).

ReedElsevier's earning call transcript (SeekingAlpha).

As far as the 2008 financial performance, 15% earnings growth and that is our highest for many years, and I think in this market, it is an excellent performance. Good above-market revenue growth we’ve seen for Elsevier, LexisNexis, and Reed Exhibitions, our core businesses. All three of those businesses, I think, did very well in terms of organic revenue growth.

Our focus in the last two or three years on accelerating margin improvement is paying off with 110% basis point margin improvement. We had a record year in terms of cash conversion, 102% of operating profit into free cash flow, that’s just £1 billion, which is an extraordinary number of free cash flow. Return on capital employed rose for the fifth year in a row. It is now about 12% and obviously significantly ahead of our cost for capital, and I think after the 1.5 billion corporate bond issue in January and the renegotiation of the revolving credit facility, we are now financially in a good position and with well-spaced debt maturities going forward. - Sir Crispin Davis

A shareholder suit against the remaining parts of what was Proquest and is now Voyager Learning is going ahead. (Law360). Voyager also announced their full year 2008 results (Press Release):
  • Net sales for 2008 were $98.5 million, a decrease of 10 percent from net sales for 2007 of $109.6 million.
  • Gross profit decreased $10.8 million in fiscal 2008 to $62.6 million compared to $73.4 million in fiscal 2007. The gross profit margin also decreased to 63.5 percent in 2008 compared to 67.0 percent in fiscal 2007.
  • Loss from continuing operations before interest, other income (expense) and income taxes was $83.3 million in fiscal 2008 compared to $104.4 million in fiscal 2007. The Company had adjusted EBITDA, reflecting ongoing business operations, of $15.8 million in 2008 compared to $28.7 million in 2007, where adjusted EBITDA excludes depreciation and amortization expense, goodwill impairment charges, costs to terminate leases in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and corporate overhead costs which were predominantly for restatement related activities in 2007 and 2008.
The good news is the company is 'all caught up' in their long running financial reporting saga. (PND) The company is still looking to be acquired.

The Chronicle reports on belt tightening in the library world (this year and next will be tough for vendors).

Greg Doyle, electronic resources program manager of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, in Portland, Ore., describes his group as "a buying club" that represents 36 academic libraries at public and private institutions in Oregon and Washington. I buttonholed him after he made lengthy stops at the Oxford and Ebsco exhibits.

Mr. Doyle is not afraid to use the word "dire" to describe the economic situation that faces his alliance's members. "Right now everybody's budget is terrible," he said. Many don't yet know just how bad the cuts will be. To prepare for the worst, though, they "are actively identifying databases to cut."

HyperLinked data from Tim Berners-Lee (TED Video). There is also a related video from 2006 meeting about using data sets in new ways which is very interesting. (TED Video)

The library of the future being built in Palo Alto? Not really but this is an interesting article on how (public) libraries will evolve from an unusual source. I liked this bit:
Loertscher teaches his library-science students to use the "learning common" tool, in which an information professional sits in on an online conversation, helping teachers and students who have created assignments and projects on iGoogle pages.

The librarian in coming decades "will burrow right into the center of where the clients are now," commenting on assignments and offering reference and research materials that support projects, Loertscher predicted. In his model of the future, the librarian goes into the student's space, rather than the student coming to the building, he said.

"It's very proactive and moving into the space where kids (are comfortable). You have to take their social-networking skills and bend them over into their learning skills," he said.
Some lessons to be learned in the way CBS is managing their radio stations and the seemingly misguided understanding of their key market. (CrunchGear).
We now turn to Mr. Bouloukos’ comment, that young people—most of you guys are young people, I would guess!—are “using the radio to discover today’s most popular music.” First off, that wording is just wrong. If a song is already popular—remember, 92.3 Now will only only play “hit music”—then the odds are that people have already heard it before; in other words, hit music is already popular! A song becomes popular when a lot of people know it, and enjoy it. If a song is popular, then people aren’t, by definition, “discovering” it! (Amateur Hour at CBS Radio, apparently.) Even giving Mr. Bouloukos the benefit of the doubt, that what he meant to say is that people are using radio to discover new music… well, good luck bro. I’d like to find the last 17-year-old in America who is using commercial radio as his primary source of new music. I mean, it’s not like these kids are using THE INTERNET to find new music, right? MySpace Music, music blogs like Hype Machine, sites like Imeem and YouTube, etc. (Then these kids turn around and buy said music either directly from the band’s Web site, or use iTunes or, yes, download it “from BitTorrent.” (BitTorrent is an Internet protocol; you don’t download things “from it.”)

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