Sunday, December 21, 2008

Media Week 50

Man the barricades. An appeal to the French court has resulted in defeat for the family of Victor Hugo who wished to prevent an Alexandra Ripley-like sequel to Les Miserables. (BBC)

But the court ruled on Friday that Hugo's novel was in the public domain, meaning Ceresa was therefore free to invent a sequel. "Francois Ceresa, who does not pretend to have Victor Hugo's talent, is free to pursue his own personal expression, which does not necessarily act on all the levels that Victor Hugo was able to access," the judges ruled. "We can't criticise the author of this sequel... not to have respected the learned construction of the primary work, which functions on many levels through philosophical and historical asides," they added.

The aborted sale of Reed Business Information has garnered recent headlines, but earlier in the year an Informa auction failed to generate sufficient excitement either. The Informa board is directing their management to cut their debt which should mean asset sales in the New Year. (Independent).

A source close to Informa said: "Institutions and the market have – incorrectly, in the company's view – marked Informa down as overgeared at three times Ebitda [a calculation of profit], and so the board has accepted that it will have to get below £1bn of debt. Divestments are one of the ways of solving that problem."

At its half-year results in July, net debt was £1.22bn, and, the source added, "a natural conclusion" was that the performance improvement division, which provides training, mainly in the US, could be sold. The division has an estimated enterprise value of up to $300m (£200m).

In the US Bonnier is pegged as a possible winner next year as they look to add in a significant way to their roster of magazine titles. Ad Age reports on a minor addition.
The deal isn't a blockbuster, but any investment by a media company has to be encouraging as layoffs and budget cuts dominate the scene. It's actually the second recent deal for Bonnier, which bought Working Mother in September. Terms weren't disclosed, but Bonnier CEO Terry Snow said the horrible economy and chilly credit markets helped him negotiate a favorable price.
Follett perhaps a stealth player in the delivery of electronic books and products. As a significant book retailer in the College market, strategically becoming an e-Book distributor of content is vital to them in retaining their position in this market. (Press Release).
Follett Digital Resources' distribution agreements with eBook publishers have surpassed the 200 mark. According to Beau Clark, Vice President of Product Management, each enables schools and libraries to meet the needs of more students who can easily access eBooks at any hour using a computer and Internet connection.
"Students can get homework help at any time, can locate a book they'll need to review during school tomorrow, read for pleasure on their own time and connect with eBooks during summertime or a holiday break period," Clark said. "It's a plus for schools, libraries and students to have access to new eBook titles from these four publishers coming on-stream and available through Follett's K-12 and public library channels."
Cengage Gale acquired HighBeam Research (Press Release).
Founded in 2001 by Patrick Spain, the co-founder of Hoover's, HighBeam is a widely-used online subscription-based research and reference service accessed via the web sites and "Gale's financial strength, vast content repositories and market presence will allow HighBeam to expand more rapidly and broadly," said Mr. Spain.

John Barnes, Executive Vice President of Gale, said, "A central element of Gale's market strategy is to connect more closely with end-users of information, whether they are in a library, classroom or on the Web. HighBeam provides us with proven expertise in reaching users on the Web and we look forward to the opportunities that the combined business will have to develop innovative new products."
Several articles on the digitization of Magazines. Here on the Google effort: (InfoToday)

With the current magazine initiative, users will be able to see articles in full color, browse/page through an issue, or even "Browse all issues" of a magazine. Go to the Advanced Search page (, enter your search terms, click the "Magazines" option for limiting "Content," and your search results will all come with the word "Magazine" preceding the bibliographic citation. If you know the ISSN, you can limit results to that magazine alone.

Periodicals are not completely new to Google Book Search. As the Google digitizing teams rolled through university library shelves, they picked up a lot of bound periodicals interfiled with books in the stacks. There was no distinction made for these "bookish" journals. While full-text searching is available, you do not get the article citation retrieval. If you encounter a journal old enough (pre-1923) to receive full-image display and want a specific article bibliographic citation, you have to search and browse to assemble it.
More interesting for the comments this article on NY Observer that discusses the retraction by many large magazine publishers from the web. It appears to be bizarre and short-sighted. (Observer)

By all accounts, Mr. Serwer’s comments at that meeting were thoroughly genuine when made. But with cuts going down all over the industry, it appears a portion of the magazine world, which was never a quick adapter to the Web anyway, is responding by shoving their Web people right off the boat first. “You’re never going to get the traffic that really matters,” said one publisher at Condé Nast. “So it’s a traffic thing, but also, how do you monetize the traffic that you have? It’s impossible.”

The operating policy now, particularly at Condé Nast, basically reads: Revenue first! Future later. And the printed page, the luxury object, is still where you find the money these days.

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