Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Ingram Sell VitalSource to Francisco Partners

Big news in education publishing:

From their press release:

Ingram Content Group® (“Ingram”) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to sell VitalSource Technologies LLC to Francisco Partners, a leading global investment firm that specializes in partnering with technology businesses. 

Under Ingram’s leadership, VitalSource was transformed from a small venture serving a niche market to a global leader in digital content distribution. Ingram first acquired VitalSource in 2006 with an eye to grow it into a larger digital learning platform that could serve the higher ed market and more. This was part of a larger effort by Ingram to help the book industry leverage technology to transform the way content is accessed and in turn, the way the book industry works.

"We are very proud of the extraordinary value-add VitalSource offers the academic and professional communities. VitalSource has grown into one of the leading digital curriculum delivery and learning platform providers with proven scalability and reliability at a time where digital content and online learning is very much in demand,” said Ingram Content Group President & CEO Shawn Morin. “Francisco Partners is committed to furthering the VitalSource mission of improving learner outcomes and accelerating our commitment to developing innovative, forward-thinking solutions and platforms that open doors to affordable and impactful learning experiences to students and professionals around the world.”

 More to follow.

Monday, April 05, 2021

PersonaNonData Magazine: Amazon++, Copyright, Shakespeare + Other Articles

More articles of interest from my flipboard magazine:


  • New Statesman: Should Books be Free?
  • Billboard: Bandcamp changes the discussion about payments
  • Vox: Amazon's Union
  • UC/Elsevier Journal deal
  • Dohle - RandomHouse: It's the best time ever
  • WAPO: Want to Borrow that Book?
  • Stratechery: Relentless Jeff Bezos

Plus an archive of many more of interest to media folks


Friday, March 26, 2021

New Price Fixing Suit Goes After Publishers and Amazon for Print Prices

Earlier this year, the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro (Hagens) filed suit alleging the price fixing and collusion among and the five largest trade publishers which, the suit alleges, caused consumers to pay higher prices.

Now the same law firm is alleging a similar crime with respect to print book prices.  In the press release, the law firm states, 

“We believe we have uncovered a classic antitrust price-fixing scheme akin to exactly what Amazon and the Big Five book publishers have been accused of in the past,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney representing the proposed class of booksellers. “The Big Five and Amazon have sought to squeeze every penny they can from online and retail booksellers through a complex and restrictive set of agreements, and we intend to put an end to this anticompetitive behavior.” 

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Mar. 25, 2021, and states that Amazon colluded with the Big Five U.S. book publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster – to restrain competition in the sale of print trade books, or non-academic texts such as fiction and non-fiction material.  

Back in 2011, this law firm also sued Apple accusing them of fixing e-book prices at artificially high levels and in that case Apple agreed to settle for $400 million. Hagens has a colorful history as these links (1, 2, 3) suggest but it also was recognized in 2020 by Law360 as Class Action Practice Team of the year. 

It remains to be seen how these cases will be adjudicated over the next few (likely) years.  As noted in an earlier post, Connecticut is also taking a look at Amazon and eBook pricing according to the NYTimes.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Barnes & Noble Education: 3Q Results Show COVID Impact

Barnes & Noble Education reported their third quarter results on March 9th, showing a predictable decrease in revenues due to Covid.  Third quarter sales ($411MM) were off 18% versus 2020 which contributed to a year to date negative revenue ($1,211MM) variance of 24%.  EBITDA for the period showed a loss of $(48)MM versus $(1.7)MM in 2020. The year to date loss is $(87)MM versus income of $2.1 in 2020.  The company indicated they took a write down of $27MM for store fixtures.

It is worth noting that revenue results for 3Q 2020 were off 8% for the quarter and 6% year to date versus 2019 showing that the COVID impact has been significantly worse in recent periods.  In the 2019 3Q filing, revenues for the quarter were $550mm which indicates revenue has fallen $140mm over two years.  Year to date revenues in 2019 were $1.6B versus $1.2B in 2021.

(See Follett release below).

As this chart shows however, recent investors might be happy with share performance:


Additional details from their press release: 

Operational highlights for the third quarter 2021:
Entered into a long-term strategic omnichannel merchandising partnership with FLC, forging an alliance with the two online and offline leaders in the licensed sports and emblematic merchandise category. Under the terms of the agreement, Fanatics and Lids together made a $15 million strategic equity investment in BNED
BNC First Day® year-over-year revenue increased 107%, benefiting from the accelerated move to digital courseware.
Reached agreements with 31 campus stores to date, which includes new business accounts, to support the BNC First Day® Complete program in Fall Term 2021, representing over 160,000 in total undergraduate enrollment; up from 12 campus stores and 43,000 in total undergraduate enrollment in Fall Term 2020.
Continue to work with a significant number of additional campuses to secure agreements to launch First Day Complete for Fall Term 2021.
Gained over 210,000 gross subscribers for the bartleby® suite of services year to date, with DSS revenue increasing 11.8% for the same period.
Announced agreement with Wolfram|Alpha to develop a math solver as a new feature in the Company’s bartleby suite of solutions. Powered by Wolfram|Alpha’s best-in-class computation engine, the math solver will allow students to access an interactive digital calculator that provides real-time, step-by-step explanations for even the most advanced math problems.
Continued to attract new clients and generate new business growth, signing over $84 million in net new business to date this fiscal year and expanding BNED’s footprint by 54 BNC institutions and 31 K-12 schools.


Related news from Higher Ed retailer Follett:  Web Sales Show Rapid Growth

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

McKinsey Report on Diversity in Film and Television

Interesting set of research from McKinsey into the economic impact of diversity in the film and television industries:

Today, Black Americans make up 13.4 percent of the US population, and that percentage will increase over the next few decades. 2 Just as the racial wealth gap is constraining the US economy, the film and TV industry will continue to leave money on the table if it fails to advance racial equity (see sidebar “The value of achieving racial equity in Hollywood”).


  • By addressing the persistent racial inequities, the industry could reap an additional $10 billion in annual revenues—about 7 percent more than the assessed baseline of $148 billion. 1 Fewer Black-led stories get told, and when they are, these projects have been consistently underfunded and undervalued, despite often earning higher relative returns than other properties.
  • The handful of Black creatives who are in prominent off-screen, “above the line” positions (that is, creator, producer, writer, or director) find themselves primarily responsible for providing opportunities for other Black off-screen talent. Unless at least one senior member of a production is Black, Black talent is largely shut out of those critical roles.
  • Emerging Black actors receive significantly fewer chances early in their careers to make their mark in leading roles, compared with white actors, and they have a lower margin for error.
  • Both film and TV still have very little minority representation among top management and boards; film in particular is less diverse than relatively homogenous sectors such as energy, finance, and transport.
  • A complex, interdependent value chain filled with dozens of hidden barriers and other pain points reinforces the racial status quo in the industry. Based on our research, we catalogued close to 40 specific pain points that Black professionals in film and TV regularly encounter as they attempt to build their careers.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Newsletter: Media News Update


Our World

Our clients are thinking critically about how they will emerge from the challenges of 2020 to operate more efficiently and effectively in the future.  We've helped our clients evaluate and experiment with new business models, technology improvements and employee relations which will enable them to emerge better prepared and stronger over the next few years. At Information Media Partners we are always happy to take a call (908 938 4889) or email to discuss your particular challenge.

Check out the following publishing and media articles of interest:
Publishing & Industry News Clips
Report: Open access models may be unsustainable for publishers (PND)
The report won’t speculate on what options may be considered by publishers when this UKRI policy is adopted; but, this policy may have devastating effects on publishers, particularly smaller, association or membership-based publishing in niche markets. It is also unclear how much researchers, academics and libraries may benefit since in the totality of academic research this policy might immediately impact only a small amount of published content. Libraries will still continue to license large fee-based content to support their constituencies. What the report points out is the potentially disproportionate negative impact on UK based publishers and that some would ‘go out of business’.  Read the full report here
The Management Lessons in David Simon's Homicide (Strategy + Business)
What can we learn from this acute environment? For one, culture matters. The foundation of the work that gets done in the book is a powerful culture built on tradition and values, which the detectives transmit and reinforce in one another. It is a ferociously masculine culture, insular and to a great extent Catholic, expressed in gallows humor, and exalting duty and strength. Being a cop in Baltimore is so dangerous that a tradition has evolved for when someone returns to work after being shot in the line of duty: The officer gets to pick any assignment he’s qualified for. As Simon demonstrates, this culture sustains the detectives in the face of nearly overwhelming challenges. But it can also be a problem. “Police-involved shootings” are investigated with an eye toward making potential problems go away. The culture also means that the advent of women as detectives is unwelcome to the men, even as they occasionally accept one.

Digital subscriptions for content businesses are growing across the board (TheNewStatesman)

In a survey conducted for the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2020, 64 per cent of readers in the UK cited “distinctive journalism” as their primary reason for subscribing to any publication, and 35 per cent of those readers said that they subscribe for particular writers they like. This agrees with what our readers tell us about why they subscribe: for Stephen Bush, Anoosh Chakelian, Jeremy Cliffe, Emily Tamkin, Sarah Manavis and Ailbhe Rea, among many others.   

Our investments in technology and data journalism are paying off, as is our expansion into international coverage, led by Jeremy Cliffe. Our coverage of the US election in particular was widely praised for its insight and accuracy.

Raising Pell: How Industry Support and Federal Grants Improve Prison Education (PND)
The Obama Administration recognized that a coordinated and organized approach from the Department of Education and Bureau of Prisons would improve prison education programs. In the years since, quality education programs – where they exist – remain concentrated and reach less than 10% of incarcerated individuals. Allowing Pell Grants to be used by this population is an important step; however, if educational programs are a hodge-podge of well-intentioned but uncoordinated initiatives, they will only ever be partially successful (if success means delivering an efficacious education program to all who seek it).

Black Kids and White Dominated Literature: A Do It Yourself Model (The Conversation)

Although much of American children’s literature published near the turn of the last century – and even today – filters childhood through the eyes of white children, The Brownies’ Book gave African American children a platform to explore their lives, interests and aspirations. And it reinforced what 20th-century American literature scholar Katharine Capshaw has described as Du Bois’ “faith in the ability of young people to lead the race into the future.”

Most likely inspired by The Brownies’ Book, several Black weekly newspapers went on to create their own children’s sections. While the children’s publishing industry may have shut out Black voices and perspectives, the editors of these periodicals sought to fill the void by celebrating them, giving kids a platform to express themselves, connect with one another and indulge their curiosities.

Why are schools cancelling Shakespeare? (WAPO)

Why should students be forced to read Shakespeare, as some teachers on Twitter are wondering? Why, indeed? God forbid they should try to muddle through a sentence by Vladimir Nabokov, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy or, my high school favorite, William Faulkner. I loved Faulkner not because he was easy to read but because I had an unforgettable teacher whose passion shined light on the beauty and the sound and the fury of words.

Not that I’m a literary snob, mind you. I also read all of Harold Robbins’s trashy novels in junior high, much to the furrowed brow of my mother. One night, while I was reading “The Carpetbaggers” by flashlight under my covers, I overheard her say to my father: “Should we be letting her read those books?”

The Implosion of America Dirt (NYMag).  It didn't stop it being one of the years biggest books.
On the publisher’s side, Miller and Don Weisberg, then the president of Macmillan, did most of the talking. The book’s editor, Amy Einhorn, was mostly silent. The executives expressed interest in the activists’ suggestions, but they also wanted to discuss the tone of the online discourse. Miller comes from a generation that prizes “civility,” one employee noted. “He could be accused of tone policing,” added another. Gurba, who had received a barrage of menacing emails since publishing her essay, was disturbed that Miller seemed to be “equating the criticism Jeanine was receiving with the death threats I was receiving,” she said. As Miller and Gurba began to argue over this, one Macmillan staff member blurted out that Cummins had never received any actual death threats. “Everybody just went dead silent,” Gurba recalled.

 Magazines are turning into Books (CNN)

While many magazines have shrunk or folded in recent years, some publishers see opportunity in bookazines. They are less dependent on advertising — a once reliable source of revenue that continues to be eaten up by tech platforms like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG). The issues are big, sometimes exceeding 100 pages, but publishers can fill pages with stories and photos from their archives, making them less costly to produce. And they can seize on current trends like keto diets or cultural moments such as the passing of beloved celebrities and other public figures.
"To me, [bookazines] represent a really nice pandemic treat," said Aileen Gallagher, associate professor of magazine, news and digital journalism at Syracuse University. "We're all still stuck in our houses and the only place we're really going is the grocery store. It's like, 'Oh, here's this thing that will entertain me for a little while that I will invest $10 in.'"

 More from my Flipboard magazine

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