Monday, January 30, 2017

Aaron Perzanowski on The End of Ownership

From Youtube intro:
Recent shifts in technology, intellectual property and contract law, and marketplace behavior threaten to undermine the system of personal property that has structured our relationships with the objects we own for centuries. Ownership entails the rights to use, modify, lend, resell, and repair. But across a range of industries and products, manufacturers and retailers have deployed strategies that erode these basic expectations of ownership. Understanding these various tactics, how they depart from the traditional property paradigm, and why some have been embraced by consumers are all crucial in developing strategies to restore ownership in the digital economy.

Aaron Perzanowski teaches courses in intellectual property, telecommunications and innovation. Previously, he taught at Wayne State University Law School, as a lecturer at the University of California Berkeley School of Information, and as a visitor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. Prior to his teaching career, he served as the Microsoft Research Fellow at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and practiced law at Fenwick & West in Silicon Valley.

His research addresses topics ranging from digital copyright to deceptive advertising to creative norms within the tattoo industry. With Jason Schultz, he is the author of The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy (MIT Press 2016), which argues for retaining consumer property rights in a marketplace that increasingly threatens them. His book with Kate Darling, Creativity Without Law: Challenging the Assumptions of Intellectual Property (NYU Press 2017), explores the ways communities of creators operate outside of formal intellectual property law.

More info on this event here:

Monday, January 23, 2017

NISO Report: Understanding MetaData

From their press release:
The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) continues its Primer Series with the publication of Understanding Metadata. This comprehensive overview of information about an item's creation, name, topic, features, and more updates NISO's 2004 advice on the subject and follows on the Research Data Management Primer published in 2015. An additional such work, Linked Data for Cultural Institutions, is forthcoming, and more guides will be published periodically.

"It's crucial for NISO to build understanding of technical issues at various levels and for various audiences," says NISO Executive Director Todd Carpenter. "Our Primers are therefore written to provide guidance for expert information managers who are already working with metadata as well as for professionals who are less familiar with information exchange issues. NISO values the opportunity to offer this guidance," Carpenter continues, "because in a digital world, information about content can often be more important than the content itself. Without good metadata, information effectively disappears."

The Primer, authored by Jenn Riley, Associate Dean, Digital Initiatives, McGill University Library, demystifies a type of information that is ubiquitous in our lives but that can be challenging to produce, store, and understand. Coverage includes topics such as metadata types, standardization, and use in the cultural heritage sector and in the broader world. The Primer is accompanied by plentiful examples of metadata at work.

Url:  http://

Friday, January 20, 2017

Picking Pineapple. Lanai, Hawaii 1959

Image dated approximately 1959 on Lanai, Hawaii.

The central part of Lanai was the inside of a volcano and is naturally shaped like the inside of a shallow bowl.  Lanai was nicknamed 'the pineapple isle' since virtually all the arable land there was devoted to growing pineapple.  Related, about 90% of the land was owned by the Dole Pineapple company.  In more recent times, this has all changed and there are now no commercial operations on the island and Dole sold off their holdings about 20 years ago.  The island is (for all intents and purposes) now owned by Larry Ellison of Oracle Computer fame.

Copyright Michael Cairns.  Lanai, Hawaii 1959

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Predictions 2017: Subscribe To Me

The end of one year and the beginning of another always represents an opportunity to reflect and think about what the future will bring.  That is, if you've nothing better to do over the two week break for Christmas and New Year’s.   Like many others, I've been doing this for most of my career and, over the past ten years of PND's history, I've been publishing annual prognostications.  As I have said before, it is less about being right about the future than being thoughtful about the future.  Trying to think about what it all means and making sense of what you see is important to planning how your business operates and confronts change.

This year I also looked back to 2016 at some of the big stories of the year and I've decided to use a similar, shorter format for my predictions for 2017.  At the bottom of this post are links to my predictions from prior years.  Read them (and perhaps laugh).

Subscriptions Are All In:

The explosion in podcasting is an indicator for publishing – specifically of the rapid growth of subscription models for content.  According to McKinsey's annual Entertainment and Media Report, consumers are spending less to buy content and more to access it without owning it.  And, as the trend gains in momentum, any doubt or concern about ownership seems to be waning.   Subscription models are offered for everything from jets and cars, to vacation homes and movie services.  Spending to buy content fell by 8% and access to view content grew by 31% in 2015.  Access to content will overtake ownership by 2018, according to McKinsey.

How subscription models will continue to evolve and expand will be a strong theme during 2017.  According to consulting company Activate, subscription revenues represent 50% of the $1.7Tillion content market and will grow by $226B (or 5%) by 2021.  Additionally, consumer pay models (subscription) for the top 100 (by revenue) non-game apps represent 71% of app downloads and 86% of revenue generated in 2016 versus 65% and 82% in 2015.  The strength and growth of content subscription models is real and will expand beyond video and entertainment to all content markets in the coming years.

Personalisation and Opt-in Marketing

More content and technology companies will work out how to tailor content for specific users and they will do this via browser and opt-in newsletter marketing.  Driving usage of content will become a mantra - not at the expense of irrelevance - for engaged users who receive highly relevant content, which will drive high-value subscription revenues.   The NYT has been using technology to "profile" users and deliver relevant content for several years now and the Washington Post (under new management) has aggressively used technology to create opt-in marketing programs oriented around user interests.

For publishers, the effort to market their content more effectively cannot be done without the use of third-party platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  In particular, the adoption of live events (Facebook Live) will help publishers enliven their content and also reach a much wider market - than traditional book tours, for example.   Additionally, publishers will create "news teams" to maintain (constant) activity via these new avenues to readers.  Thus, avenues such as Facebook Live, Opt-In marketing/newsletter programs and similar initiatives will become vibrant channels delivering content to specific interested groups which will, in turn, drive purchasing.  Facebook Live Audio will be particularly applicable to the expanded role audio books will play in publishers planning for 2017.

While platforms are critical and an unavoidable necessity, don't underestimate the power of newsletters and personalized content delivery.  Understanding how your users interact with your content, making sense of that and then acting on it via a variety of efforts will be a focus for publishers in 2017.  Simply counting page hits “vanity stats” is not good enough.  Renewals is where it's at.

Rights Management

For many publishers, rights management and royalty processing is a complex business process.  And things will only get worse as markets become increasingly border-less.  Managing a more complex environment of publishers, authors, companies, territories, business segments, product types, formats and many other criteria will become standard practice with each deal.   All interested parties (not least authors) expect the "Amazon experience" where information is presented in real time and in an easy-to-understand manner.  Most media and publishers are years away from achieving anything like this level of transparency, but movement in this direction will be precipitated by numerous high-profile royalties audits as well as possible financial regulation requirements.

Over the coming years, more publishers will need to replace their royalties software as well as extract more value from the rights they hold.  These two trends are not mutually exclusive.

Some other more quick thoughts:
  • It’s unlikely we'll see much consolidation in publishing this year.  S&S is probably still stuck in the Viacom mess.   If only: Pearson may be sold to private equity.
  • I expect a big shake-out in the K-12 edtech market.  Some consolidation but more failures than you can count.  The market is too saturated for (me-to) edtech products and with uncertainty over the direction of federal policy this will cause many small providers to run out of time.
  • How long can NetFlix owner(s) withstand the ever-increasing values and still not sell?  More to the point, can Apple resist buying its own content business?  If the ATT/TW deal is not approved, then does the value of NetFlix go even higher?  Stay tuned.
  • Publishers will be doing much more with data - particularly in scholarly and academic - and will use tools like Tableau to rapidly experiment with and iterate new products.
  • Will Trump's AG go after Amazon for unfair trading practices because of the Washington Post’s coverage of the Trump administration?  I'd buy that subscription.
Past year predictions:

2017: Predictions 2017: Subscribe To Me
2016: Predictions 2016: Education, China, Platforms and Blockchain.
2013: Predictions 2013: The Death of the Middle Man
2012: Predictions 2012: The Search for Attention

2011: Predictions 2011: The Growth of Intimacy
2010: Predictions 2010: Cloudy With A Chance of Alarm

2009: Predictions 2009: Death and Resurrection:
2008: Predictions 2008

2007: Predictions 2007

2007-2013: My Big Book of Posts & Predictions on Slideshare

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Recap: Some of The Big News Stories from 2016

2016 was a tumultuous year and one we are glad to see the back off.  From the constant stream of celebrity departures to Brexit to Trump, we all deserve a breather; but it won't come and I expect 2017 will be an even more intense year.  Things don't look promising.

Many of the biggest media stories of 2016 revolved around the election but, while there were other big stories in media this year, it was arguably a quiet year for publishing and media.  Here is my list of top media and publishing stories from the past year (in no particular order):
  • Gawker lost a libel case to fake wrestler Hulk Hogan with a judgement against that effectively bankrupted the company.  The escrow amount required for an appeal was so high they couldn't afford it and the company was eventually sold to Univision for $135million.  Most troubling to many was the legal sponsorship provided by Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.  This verdict and the legal sponsorship that enabled it have people concerned about press freedoms in the future. (NYTimes)
  • Thomson Reuters sold their IP and Science business unit for $3.5Bill to a Canadian equity fund with little previous experience in publishing.  The purchased business is now named "Clarivate Analytics".  There's a saying: Never be a buyer when Thomson is a seller.  Not sure where I heard that; however Thomson, in transforming itself over the past 15 years, has shown itself to be very adept at moving out of failing businesses ahead of time - newspapers, educational publishing - and moving on into new markets.  (Reuters)
  • During 2016 we saw a significant increase in social publishing for advocacy - no single news story here but the activities of athletes and celebrities together with advocacy groups such as "black lives matter" using their profiles and notoriety to push social commentary and raise awareness for causes seemed to gain stream during the year.  Whether this "movement" exhausts itself flailing against trolls and fake news remains to be seen during 2017.
  • Small bundles made a comeback in 2016 mostly in video/television content but with the likes of ESPN, Hulu, HBO, SlingMedia and others showing the way the long term viability of the big package offering we've all been used to for 30 years may be fracturing.  Obviously, the web combined with the proliferation of devices is driving this trend as audiences - particularly the younger crowd - look to make their own bundles. (WSJ)
  • That said, the proposed ATT/Time Warner merger is a bet that content and distribution will drive value and also protect each company strategically.   The Comcast/NBC combination has been a success with average annual subscriber revenue well over $1000 - very near the top of the range. ATT/TM will expect to benefit from that level of revenue but they will also hope to project themselves against any adverse effects of the content market fracturing.  With HBO and Warner Studios, ATT would be a stronger business particularly in competing with Comcast and others. (NPR) 
  • After the election, there was a mini renaissance in subscriptions to old line news sources such as The New York Times, Washington Post and magazines.  Will this be sustainable is the question? (NiemanLabs)
  • Follet emerged from a protracted period of management upheaval and strategic review where they contemplated selling the business with the purchase of Baker & Taylor.  The combined company now has revenues over $3.5Billion with strong positions in library and school distribution and educational retailing.  Industry watchers are hopeful that years of under investment in B&T will be reversed and significant operational improvements made to the combined business.  (ChicagoTrib)
  • Wiley acquired the content management platform Atypon both as a strategic asset and a technology provider to their existing business.  Atypon will remain a separate business unit but will also support and supply Wiley with technology to support the re-platforming of their existing product suite.  Assuming Wiley manages the integration well, this stands to be a great deal for both sides.  In related news, Highwire Press acquired Semantico (UK) to further consolidate the content solution market supporting academic and scholarly publishers.  Highwire is owned by Accel/KKR and is generally considered the largest business in this segment. (PND) 
I've probably forgotten something important....

Looking forward to 2017 anyone?

Michael Cairns is interested in discussing c-level executive management and/or board and advisory positions.  He has served as CEO and President of several technology and content-centric business supporting global media publishers, retailers and service providers and can be reached at and he blogs at