Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wiley(ie) Beyond Print

Last week at the Frankfurt bookfair sponsored Contec digital conference, John Wiley & Sons CEO Steve Smith made it clear that not only is Wiley moving aggressively into digital content but the company is also moving beyond traditional educational publishing into services and data products. Smith mentioned the recent Wiley acquisition of education services provider Daltek and, in the process, he displayed and discussed a much expanded value chain that describes the current Wiley business.

Following the model of industry leader Pearson, Wiley is in the process of transforming its' business and this change has fundamental implications for the company. As Smith stated, "The old model with students was rather ephemeral and quick: they came in, we sold them a book. Now we are developing ongoing relationships with students that will last four years or more." Not only is this changing Wiley's approach to its' market but their total market opportunity is also growing.  This business strategy is a model we have seen content companies like Pearson and Lexis Nexis follow very successfully over the past ten years. Smith admitted during his speech that the market growth expectations for their new value chain are 'explosive' and far above the financial limitations which their traditional library market imposes on them.

In describing the strategy behind how Wiley is reinventing themselves he admitted that while the company is now digitally based, if they exited this phase of their reinvention as "a 100% digital publishing company, that is still not enough. We need to develop products and services that go beyond digital.”

As he outlined his company's tactics they seemed to fall into three focus areas: process, network and corporate development.

From a process stand point the company will need to,

  • go deeper into the communities served to gain a deep knowledge of workflows
  • invest in new solutions to solve pain points
  • evolve content to include semantic enrichment and other enhancements facilitated by the web and social networking
  • include a broader community of researchers, scientists, teachers, etc. and enable solutions for more job and task functions and purposes
  • a focus on outcomes that can be proven to work as a result of the Wiley products and services
Attributing the benefits of a network and community approach to their community the company will:
  • establish a mechanism for finding researchers, experts, authors and other key participants
  • develop more education solutions for teachers and students
  • leverage strengths and assets - particularly their content strengths - that support collaboration and community
  • expand knowledge and links with communities served and support the development of creativity and innovation in communities
From a corporate development perspective, Smith admitted that the company needed to acquire companies in order to support the value chain proposition he described.  Notably, he spoke about the Daltek acquisition and how that business had filled out his value chain beyond the capabilities of the traditional Wiley business.  Wiley he said, would always be looking for "companies that can accelerate our transformation".

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