Monday 10 June 2024

Institutional Market Blues (and Grays)

ALPSP Blog by Course Tutor, Michael Zeoli, Director, Publisher Partner Program, De Gruyter Publishing.

“If you drop a book into the toilet, you can fish it out, dry it off and read that book.  But if you drop your Kindle in the toilet, you’re pretty well done.”  Stephen King

To say that the advent of the internet and personal computers have disrupted the worlds of content distribution is a dull commonplace. Disruption has, in fact, become the only constant. A simplified timeline of the appearance of a few well-known disruptors looks something like this:

Three decades on, we are still just at the beginning. Is it possible to find a ‘North Star’ to help guide our distribution decisions in a turbulent institutional market? We’d like to share a few high-level observations – for context – and then offer some specific considerations for publishers.

The diagram below is a highly simplified image of the evolution of a significant portion of the institutional market distribution eco-system. More recently, Open Access and AI large language models have presented further disruption in a rapidly changing landscape.

Even as late as 2008 or 2009, when print distributors to libraries began to integrate the digital newcomers, e.g., Netlibrary, ebrary, EBL, MyiLibrary, the vision persisted that libraries would just replace the print artifact with a digital facsimile in a one-to-one transfer of both the content and the budget allocation. How na├»ve!  Technology that powered Amazon and eBay and Napster would eventually overtake the quaint way in which academic libraries acquired books and their patrons consumed them!  Currently, for any given new university press title, there are often 14 access options available to libraries on a single vendor platform to select from (hardcover, paperback, 1-User, 3-User, Non-Linear Lending, Unlimited-User, etc.), and each under a variety of purchase options (auto-ship approval, slip notification/library order, Demand/Patron-Driven Acquisitions-DDA/PDA, Evidence-Based Acquisitions-EBA, etc.). Multiply that by multiple vendors and by 70,000 or more English-language scholarly books published annually, and the enormous challenge of discovery in libraries is frighteningly clear.

Technology-driven content access models and purchase models have upended not just traditional book distribution, but also fundamentally forced libraries, vendors, and publishers to dramatically re-imagine book distribution, accessibility, and the methods and meaning of library collection strategies. It is also revelatory that the epithet collection development is now commonly collection strategy.

With this thumbnail sketch of the challenges in the institutional marketplace, what are some of the key questions we should be asking our vendors – the middlemen with libraries – and what are key points for the publisher in terms of understanding commercial options and deciding how to manage them?

First, what to do with vendor reports and what questions are worth seeking responses to at annual meetings?
  • What are the current market trends?
  • How is the competitive landscape changing?  
  • Which models are effective or damaging and how can we improve our participation?  
  • How is pricing helping or hurting sales?  
  • What are successful peer presses doing differently?
  • How does the nature of your publishing impact on the effectiveness of access and purchase models?
And lastly, caveat emptor!  The way in which vendors present their numbers and couch discussions is also part of their competitive strategy in a fraught environment.  Some numbers may be hidden within a larger number or be presented in skewed ways or may not be presented at all.

Two points to bear in mind: 
  1. The market is a closed system, that is library budgets are fixed, so an increase in sales in one channel will likely reflect a loss in another channel.  This does not mean that loss in one will equal growth in another – one system will likely produce better results than another, but what is important to understand is that your partners are competing for the same customers, often using similar tools.

  2. Vendor access models and purchase models must be understood and managed attentively.  ‘Letting 1000 flowers bloom’ or supporting a ‘level playing field’ are not strategies and not successful means of managing commercial success in today’s market.
What data should you have to use vendor reports for analysis?

There are five essential datapoints needed from a vendor in a sales analysis for academic library book sales:
  1. Number of *new titles* the vendor received from the publisher in each time period (a 15% increase in sales is wonderful, but was it caused simply by a 15% increase in new titles or was there something else at play?)

  2. Rate of simultaneous ebook availability for the new print titles handled. Were print or ebooks sales impacted simply by availability? Was there a glitch in getting eContent delivered and loaded – or perhaps a significant portion of titles were deliberately unavailable in digital format? Did this play a role in an increase or decline of ebook sales?  Did print make up for a decline (never does!).

  3. Aggregator sales in *units* as well as by and revenue *by purchase model*, i.e. DDA, EBA, etc.

  4. Average sales price-per-title for print, ebooks, and by aggregator

  5. Five-year trend for all data points (comparison over a long period provides indispensable context – comparing just one year over another does not give you a very good idea of how a publisher is trending).

  6. Usage data is increasingly important.  Vendors vary in how much they will share with publishers.

To make decisions regarding pricing for the various ebook access models, a table such as the one below helps organize your options and decisions across multiple vendors. Bear in mind too, that since vendors use different models – or prioritize different models – and that sometimes models with the same name work differently on different vendor platforms, the idea of a ‘level playing field’ may not actually be the right strategy. Kim Williams at Princeton University Press calls her alternative strategy ‘curated partnerships’.  How does your ‘current pricing’ looks across your primary vendors?  Filling in that information in a table like this one will provide clarity that everything is as it should be – or not.

In similar fashion, to make decisions regarding various ebook access models, a table such as the one below may be helpful in organizing decisions across multiple vendors.

We hope you’ll consider joining Kim Williams and I later this month in our two-part ALPSP virtual training course. The focus of this will be building institutional sales strategies in connection with publisher aspirations and specializations, and Open Access will not be a focus. The ideas suggested in this brief piece will be explored in more depth with the goal of helping you to identify tools and methods to analyze and develop your commercial strategies in the institutional market(s). 

The ALPSP training course: 'Building Strategies for Managing Partnerships and Institutional eBook Sales' takes place on 24 and 25 June 2024. ALPSP is currently offering a summer discount of 20% off this course. Find out more.

About the author

Michael Zeoli, Director, Publisher Partner Program, De Gruyter Publishing

Michael has worked in scholarly publishing and academic libraries for more than two decades. He began his career with academic libraries as a supervisor in the Acquisitions Department at the University of Chicago Regenstein Library. He occupied many roles at YBP Library Services (now GOBI Library Solutions) where, as Vice President of Publisher Relations, he was responsible for consulting with publishers on academic library digital and print book sales and the purchase models offered by vendors and aggregators. Michael is currently Director, Publisher Partner Program at De Gruyter and has provided consulting to many scholarly publishers. 

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Exploring AI Copyright Policy in the UK

By Will Crook, Head of Policy and Communications, Publishers' Licensing Services – Platinum Sponsor of the University Press Redux Conference 2024.

On 24 July 2019, on his first day at 10 Downing Street, Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s Chief Advisor, was pictured wearing an Open AI t-shirt. Although perhaps overlooked at the time, Dominic Cummings’ wardrobe choice reflected the UK government’s belief that AI was going to be the solution to a lot of the UK’s economic problems, such as low growth and poor productivity. With the aim of establishing the UK as an ‘AI superpower’ and an international home to AI innovation, the government published its AI strategy in 2021 and outlined what it would do to facilitate AI innovation. One area it turned to was copyright.

Copyright has always been a target when new technology is adopted that challenges its basic principles, or when those developing that technology complain it limits innovation. The problems caused by the adoption and use of the photocopier led to the creation, by publishers, of Publishers’ Licensing Services (or as it was then, the Publishers Licensing Society) in 1981 as a voluntary solution to put pressure on copyright. More recently, the 2011 Hargreaves Review into IP and innovation led to the introduction of the current copyright exception for non-commercial text and data mining (TDM). As it has done before, with AI looked upon as a crucial technology for future growth, the government looked at the copyright framework and how it could be changed to help AI developers, who complained that licensing copyright protected content was expensive, inconvenient and prohibitive to growth.

In 2022, after consulting on a range of potential options, the government announced it was to introduce a new copyright exception for TDM for any purpose with no ability for a rightsholder to opt out. The new exception would have drastically widened the current exception for TDM and would have weakened the UK’s copyright framework meaning that rightsholders would have no ability to consent to the use of their works in generative AI training or receive any renumeration. The response from the creative industries to the government’s decision was unanimous, with strong opposition across the whole sector from publishers, authors, visual artists and musicians. At the time, a creative industry colleague dryly commented that the government’s decision had done something almost unprecedented and had united the whole sector in agreement around one issue. Thankfully, the government heard that opposition and relented, scrapping the intention to introduce a new copyright exception in February 2023.

With the criticism of its previous approach in mind, the government decided to continue to look at the relationship between copyright and AI in a more balanced way. Towards the summer of 2023 the Intellectual Property Office arranged a working group comprised of rightsholder representatives and AI developers to meet for a series of roundtables to discuss the drafting of a voluntary code of practice for the use of copyright protected works in AI. However, talks were difficult with the government showing little direction on copyright and preferring to be an ‘honest broker’, and with trust damaged amongst the participants after the failed exception proposal coupled with the refusal of some AI participants to acknowledge the need to obtain a licence. These elements with the increasing amount of litigation in the US and UK by rightsholders against AI developers meant that the talks ultimately proved fruitless and work to develop the code of practice was brought to a halt by government in early 2024.

With an abandoned new copyright exception and a collapsed code of practice process, where will the government turn next? 

In February 2024, the government announced that it would pursue a ministerial-led process and that details of further engagement were to be announced in due course, which so far has failed to materialise. Meanwhile, away from the executive, MPs and committees in both houses of parliament have been strongly supportive of rightsholders and copyright, and highly critical of the government. Baroness Stowell, Chair of the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee recently wrote to the secretary of state complaining that the government’s lack of decisiveness and action to protect copyright had led to the deterioration of the framework and that time to act was running out before AI business models became ‘entrenched and normalised’. The government’s inaction is sharply reflected by progress being made in other jurisdictions on AI, such as the European Union that recently adopted its own AI Act that included provisions on transparency and adherence to copyright. Perhaps indicative of where the government find themselves on copyright and AI, in the House of Lords last week, the Minister for AI and IP, Viscount Camrose predicted that copyright would need to be modified through legislation to reach a solution but gave no details of what changes would be made. One thing, however, above all other matters, will likely intervene before anything is decided by the current administration: the next general election.

It is highly likely that the Labour Party will form the next government. Whilst it may be comforting to think that Labour may decide to take a stronger pro-creative industries copyright stance, the reality is that whoever the next IP minister is they will face the same scenario with some AI developers continuing to use content without permission and ignoring copyright. The new minister will be asked by officials to decide on a solution whilst under the same economic pressures of the current government. As focus turns to future policy, Labour has so far not given much away as to what it may choose to do. Labour’s recently published Creative Industries Sector Plan is positive about copyright but does not include detail as to how the UK’s framework would be protected or indeed strengthened in the face of pressure from AI developers. 

All the while, as the above has been playing out in Westminster, publishers have used the time to strike licensing deals with AI developers. What was a nascent market is now developing, as publishers better understand the needs of AI developers and how their content is being copied and used in large language models and generative AI. Where medium and small publishers may be commercially disadvantaged in negotiations, collective licensing solutions are also being developed that offer publishers control and the ability to earn for the use of their content. These welcome developments weaken the government’s view of copyright’s relationship with AI ingestion as difficult and complex. If anything, it shows that clear opportunities to license exist for publishers and that AI developers are willing to obtain them to use the valuable, curated content they need for their models. If AI is to continue to innovate and become a trusted everyday tool at home and work, the government would be wise to remember that it also needs an economically sustainable publishing industry to continue to provide high quality, curated content in appropriate formats to fuel that innovation, with copyright again crucially providing the balance needed for that partnership to blossom. 

About the author

Will Crook, Head of Policy and Communications, Publishers' Licensing Services Ltd.

Will joined PLS in December 2021 after working in Westminster for six years as a researcher for Andrew Bingham MP and for former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP. His main responsibilities are to engage with members of both houses in parliament on issues affecting copyright and licensing, to respond to relevant government consultations on behalf of PLS and ensure that PLS and mandating PLS publishers are updated on policy issues.

About Publishers’ Licensing Services

Publishers’ Licensing Services (PLS) has provided rights and licensing services to the publishing industry since 1981. A non-profit, owned and directed by the four main UK publishing trade associations, our primary role is to maximise the value of published content, enable its legitimate re-use, and protect copyright through effective secondary licensing, permissions, and rights management services. In 2023-2024 PLS collected and distributed more than £43 million to over 4,500 publishers.

Friday 10 May 2024

Sustainability – The Challenges for the year ahead, and where to look for help

By Jonathan HuddartHead of Sales, CPI (UK) – Silver Sponsor of the University Press Redux Conference 2024.

Over the past two years Sustainability and the Environmental impact of the printed book or journal has been a topic of discussion that every publisher wants to engage with; but also, where businesses seem the least well informed and are searching for good and trusted sources of information. 

The subject area is vast, whether it is preparing your business for your Scope 1, 2 and 3 reporting, researching the upcoming legislation on Deforestation (EUDR) or responsibilities within the supply chain to reduce waste, carbon footprint and make active supplier decisions.

At CPI we have chosen to engage with the following accreditation bodies, The Bookchain Project, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Ecovardis, all of these organisations audit the supply chain on behalf of our customers and help to provide a standardised platform for our reporting. 

In addition, CPI has signed up to ClimateCalc, a measuring tool which will enable the whole group to provide accurate scope 1, 2 & 3 reporting for both our business needs and those of our customers. 

Reporting of this data remains the biggest challenge as we see it. CPI has over 500 active customers, each of which currently may have a different reporting requirement and request different information from us, depending on where they are on their Environment & Sustainability journey. During the last two years we have created dedicated roles in the business to support this requirement, which adds cost to the supply chain and new demands on the business. As we continue this critical journey, we will all need to work closely with each other to help mitigate and address these growing costs.

Moving into 2025, there are several legislative changes which impact print and production. Most noticeably the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). EUDR is legislation that has been designed to minimise consumption of products coming from supply chains associated with deforestation or forest degradation. EUDR entered into force on 29 June 2023. From 30 December 2024 EUDR is to be applied for all commodities entering into or leaving the EU market. It covers a number of product, Cocoa, Coffee, Palm Oil and Wood (where the paper comes in) to name a few. CPI has produced a guide for this to help educate our sector.

The EPR legislation is UK law, reporting has started for the annual year 2023. From June 2025, the costs for management of packaging waste will increase significantly as household collection costs are to be covered by this new legislation. EPR is a replacement for the existing Waste packaging scheme although they run alongside each other for 18 months.  Fines will apply to non-confirming companies, there have been criminal convictions for non-compliance in the last year of the Waste Packaging scheme as companies and regulatory bodies start to focus on compliance. 

For the last few years, I think that businesses have been encouraged to engage in the Sustainability discussion, as we move into 2025 everyone is going to need to ensure that their vendors are complying with their obligations and are truly focused on their legal and ethical responsibilities. This is no doubt a challenge for printer, publishers and distributors across the supply chain, but something that we need to work together to ensure we represent our sector in the best possible way and giving all our customers the information and comfort that they need that we are all working responsibly to the same goals. 

About CPI

CPI stands at the forefront of the UK's book printing industry, offering unparalleled expertise and a global print network to publishers and self-publishers alike. With over a decade of commitment to excellence, CPI provides tailored service models to meet diverse business needs, from Zero Inventory solutions to Global Print Solutions. Leveraging cutting-edge inkjet digital printing technology and integrated supply chain solutions, CPI UK produces a staggering 160 million books annually across seven specialised sites. 

About the author

Jonathan Huddart, Head of Sales, CPI, UK.

Jonathan has previously held several sales and customer roles across the business. As Head of Sales for CPI, he works closely with customers to ensure that they are making the best use of all the supply chain solutions that are available. 

More information:

X: @CPIGroup_
Linkedin: @CPI Books UK
TikTok: @cpibooksuk

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Harnessing Tech for Scholarly Impact: Five Ways Systems Empower Academic & Scholarly Publishers

By Mark Collins, Virtusales Publishing Solutions – Silver Sponsor of the University Press Redux Conference 2024.

At the London Book Fair this year, Virtusales Publishing Solutions hosted a panel at the Research & Scholarly Publishing Forum, exploring the evolving landscape of academic and scholarly publishing. The session offered a platform for sharing insights and strategies, shedding light on the latest trends and challenges shaping academic publishing today. Among the mission-critical themes discussed, technological advancement emerged as a key driver of transformation in the publishing industry. As Jim Ramage, Elsevier’s Senior Director, Software Engineering, commented during the panel, technology has the capacity to benefit stakeholders across the supply chain, including authors and readers: 

“All aspects of the publishing cycle — end-to-end — can be speeded up, enhanced, automated, and can take out costs. That benefits all stakeholders in the industry, absolutely everyone, and that's a positive thing.”  Jim Ramage, Senior Director, Software Engineering, Elsevier.

In this rapidly changing environment, more and more publishers are moving from incumbent suppliers and systems to advanced, publishing-specific software designed to drive efficiency and innovation; ultimately enabling them to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to industry demands as they emerge. But with so many systems ‘out there’, how can you tell the progressive apart from the disruptive? And what does progressive technology look like today?

Here are some pointers to consider:

1. Unification: Streamlining Workflows for Enhanced Efficiency

One of the primary advantages of advanced systems is their ability to unify workflows, providing a comprehensive solution for managing all types of products. By consolidating all their publishing processes into a single platform, publishers can streamline operations, increase visibility of data and assets, and make informed decisions across the publishing lifecycle. Unification not only enhances efficiency but fosters collaboration and innovation company wide.

2. Digital Asset Workflows: Facilitating Collaboration and Task Management

Advanced systems offer robust Digital Asset Management (DAM) capabilities, enabling publishers to effectively store, manage, transform, and share assets across departments. By combining and centralising data and assets within a single system, publishers can streamline processes, improve scheduling and task management, and ensure the secure storage and accessibility of vital resources. This integrated approach enhances productivity and accelerates the publishing process, driving better outcomes for publishers and business partners alike.

3. Full Integration: Maximising Sales Opportunities through Seamless Data Exchange

Seamless integration with various systems is another key feature of advanced publishing solutions. By facilitating the sharing, tracking, and reporting of critical information, advanced systems optimise data exchange to maximise sales opportunities. From product metadata to peer reviews and subsidiary rights, advanced systems enable publishers to share data seamlessly, and create tailored content (including AI sheets, ONIX feeds, reports and more) to meet third party requirements, strengthening relationships and ultimately driving revenue growth and market expansion. Flexible reports engines that can output a variety of industry standard formats and APIs also aid integration across your systems landscape, accelerating communication and saving time and resources.

4. Artificial Intelligence: Accelerating Operations and Enhancing Productivity

Advanced systems leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accelerate operations and enhance productivity across the publishing lifecycle. From generating keywords to suggesting and editing copy text (from summarising descriptions to specific word counts and improving grammar, to facilitating translations, tagging images, and reworking copy for different markets and regions), AI acts as an assistive tool that can automate repetitive tasks, reduce manual effort, and unlock new possibilities for content dissemination. By adopting software that embraces responsible AI, publishers can ensure the security of their data and IP, save time and reduce costs, positioning themselves for success in a competitive market.

5. Continual Development: Future-Proofing Publishing Operations

Continual development is a hallmark of advanced systems, ensuring that publishers have access to the latest technology and tools. Some systems vendors offer inclusive upgrades as well as ongoing support, minimising disruption associated with the implementation of new technology, drastically reducing the need for training, and helping publishers to adapt to evolving industry trends seamlessly. This commitment to innovation empowers publishers to stay ahead of the curve, embrace the latest cutting-edge technology at the earliest opportunity, and future-proof their operations for long-term success.


Advanced systems play a pivotal role in empowering academic and scholarly publishing, enabling publishers to navigate industry challenges with confidence and agility, and embrace new opportunities as they emerge. By unifying workflows, centralising data and assets, ensuring full integration with internal systems, leveraging AI, and embracing continual development, publishers can transform their businesses, driving efficiency, innovation and growth in an ever-changing landscape.

About BiblioSuite

BiblioSuite is the system of choice among leading academic and scholarly publishers including Elsevier, Bloomsbury Academic, Mohr Siebeck and Sage Publishing, along with esteemed university presses such as Oxford, Harvard, Princeton, The MIT Press, and Edinburgh. If you're interested in learning more about how BiblioSuite can support your publishing endeavours, visit the Virtusales website

Read more about our LBF Research & Scholarly Forum panel plus customer success stories via the following the following links:

Innovating Responsibly: AI Prototypes in Publishing

Opportunities and Inconvenient Truths: Academic Insights from LBF’s Research & Scholarly Forum 2024 

Revolutionise your publishing experience with BiblioSuite for Scholarly and Academic Publishers 

The MIT Press consolidates six systems into BiblioSuite to optimise operational performance 

Ohio State selects BiblioSuite to unify its book and journal workflows 

Wilfrid Laurier University Press  selects BiblioSuite for enhanced funding management and reporting 

University of Illinois Press adopts BiblioSuite to unify its publishing workflows

Agent of Change: The Role of Technology in Publishing 

About the Author

Mark Collins, Director of Academic, Virtusales Publishing Solutions

Mark Collins has worked in the publishing industry for over 20 years with a number of global publishers, respected independents and academic and scholarly publishers implementing Virtusales' BiblioSuite publishing software. Prior to that, Mark worked at other publishers in a range of roles, including Wiley where he worked on implementing and delivering global technology solutions to the business.

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About University Press Redux 2024

The 5th ALPSP University Press Redux returns as an in-person event on 15 & 16 May 2024, in partnership with Edinburgh University Press. This is part of EUP’s 75th anniversary celebrations and will be held at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. Book your place.

Wednesday 13 March 2024

What is the future of social media in scholarly publishing?

The ALPSP Marketing Maestros Special Interest Group brings together senior marketing professionals to explore and discuss the changing landscape for scholarly publishing. On 28 February, a group of approximately 30 members gathered to discuss the future of social media.

What publishers say – results from a survey

To set the stage, group co-chair, Kin Maclachlan, presented insights from a recent SSP survey asking publishers about their use of social media. Conducted in November 2023, the survey included approximately half non-profit publishers, 12% commercial publishers, and around a fifth from industry service providers.

The changing profile of X

The survey revealed a notable disparity between organisations’ use of X, compared to individuals. Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen, one of the SIG members and report authors, shared her insights, suggesting that individuals can make decisions much faster, whereas organisations can take longer to adjust. Most meeting attendees agreed that X remains a popular channel for researchers, making it a key channel for publishers.

The expanding social landscape

The survey found increasing use of new social media channels, including BlueSky and Threads, as well as lesser-known channels like Mastadon. LinkedIn and YouTube usage also increased, while Facebook had decreased in popularity. Community-specific channels were also seen as important for marketers, for example WeChat for the Chinese market with 1.3 billion users, and ResearchGate as a way to interact with researchers globally.

Member discussion – break out conversations

Attendees then engaged in smaller group discussions. There were similar points raised in all groups, including a continued focus on established channels like X, Facebook and LinkedIn. In multiple groups, attendees commented that internal editors were pressuring marketing to move away from X. Although teams were experimenting with LinkedIn, there was a consensus it didn’t offer the same level of engagement as X. As one group aptly described it, “X is the devil that no one wants but everyone needs.” It’s important to engage with researchers where they are active. However some who remain on X were refusing to put advertising money on the platform, as it didn’t align with their values.

The proliferation of new channels was seen as a challenge, particularly in terms of resource allocation and segmentation. Many were evaluating, rather than actively developing new channels. The consensus was that existing platforms are continuing to decline, and new channels have not yet offered a viable alternative. It therefore remains uncertain where marketers will shift their efforts to fill this gap.

To make social work effectively, the group discussed the need for authenticity and passion, and ensuring a channel-specific strategy for content. Setting clear, measurable objectives and evaluating effectiveness on individual channels is key, particularly noting that channels will continue to change their algorithms.

Break out discussion summaries

1. What works and what doesn’t work on social media?

The breakout group identified several key factors as crucial for successful social media engagement.

  • Authentic Voice: Posts with a human touch, such as those with humour, tend to get better engagement. The group agreed that while tone needs to be appropriate, academics are humans too, and content should reflect this. It’s important to find a sweet spot between professionalism and authenticity.
  • Video needs to be authentic and not overly corporate to engage viewers. People connect more with stories than with facts and figures.
  • Passion: The group noticed that marketing often posts content about topics they aren't passionate about, which can be evident. The suggestion was made to consider hiring PhD students who have a real passion for the subject, although limited resources and bandwidth were identified as potential roadblocks.
  • Channel mix: Many found LinkedIn to be a better channel for lead nurturing. WhatsApp Groups were also identified as a potential new channel to try, though investment in this area has yet to be made. WeChat has significant usage in China, covering everything from parenting to academia. However, the vast amount of content on the platform makes it challenging to stand out. As for new channels, most have tried to use Bluesky and Mastodon, but haven't seen significant engagement to justify a major shift away from existing channels.
  • Avoiding jargon is essential: Messages should be written in plain language, kept short, simple, and easy to understand.
  • Targeting segments has been difficult: it goes against all marketing principles to customise content for specific customer segments.

2. What are the objectives/KPIs for social media – paid versus organic?

Objectives for organic and paid social:

  • Visibility and awareness were the top objectives for the group. Many agreed that organic social is particularly effective in supporting visibility at the top of the marketing funnel, with common objectives including promoting readership, or recruiting researchers for journal issues and articles.
  • Brand: social media was also seen as an essential part of brand building for publishers and journals with their target communities. Sentiment was identified as one potential measure for brand effectiveness, although this requires investment in tools, which can be a potential blocker.
  • Paid supports conversion: The group felt that return on investment (ROI) for conversion and decision-making is low for organic social media, but conversely paid social media, particularly for journal launches, was effective at supporting conversion. Retargeting was one notable option discussed.

KPIs and measurement:

Concerns were again raised about audiences, and the level of confidence marketers had that campaigns are reaching the right people. Here, appropriate use of metrics for evaluation is key:

  • The importance of a measurable call-to-action (CTA): It’s important to have a clear CTA from campaigns, such as engagement with a submission page.
  • Strategies for different channels: Each channel requires its own evaluation, considering costs and reach. For example, while LinkedIn was mentioned as more expensive, it was seen as valuable for institutional targeting. Facebook was identified as having relevance for specific countries.
  • Set budget goals by campaign across platforms, with an emphasis on optimising spend.
  • Be mindful of regions targeted: to ensure that ads reach the right audience, it’s important to set budgets for priority regions. Cost-per-click (CPC) was identified as a valued performance indicator.

Ultimately, the group recognised that outcomes differ from organisation to organisation, highlighting the need for a customised approach.

3. How is social media use changing in light of new channels?

Publishers tend to rely on the same trusted platforms:

  • As noted elsewhere, LinkedIn, Facebook, X and Instagram remain the most popular.
  • Instagram was felt to be for a younger audience. However, with Facebook declining, and since Meta owns both platforms, there is still potential to reach communities moving from Facebook to Instagram.
  • LinkedIn is emerging: Many are using LinkedIn more intensively than before. One member explained how LinkedIn newsletters are helping to gain a new subscriber base and more followers.
  • Closed groups and their use: these were very popular during the pandemic but are less so now. However, some of these groups are still active and engagement tends to be high. There was a consensus that maintaining these or contributing to them is a lot of work and highly resource-intensive.

New platforms:

  • Some have experimented with Bluesky, but the lack of resources and lack of critical mass on some of these newer platforms is preventing publishers from going full throttle.
  • No one in the group reported using Mastodon or Threads. Publishers are in an observation mode to see what happens next.
  • None of the representatives in the group used Tik-Tok. But all agreed that this is probably not the first place to go for academics. The conclusion was that publishers go where their audience is, based on their topics and publication format.

One challenge noted was that Algorithms are constantly changing: the changes that platforms are constantly making are not necessarily to the advantage of publishers.

4. Differences in social media usage for different demographics

There is limited segmentation: across the board, there was consensus that small teams can only afford to do so much. There is only one handle per platform. There is some specific targeting for these channels specifically, for example one member is using BlueSky to target a German-speaking audience.

Different platforms work for different kinds of content. For example, LinkedIn was valued for press releases and thought leadership. Instagram for motivational posts. In other words, it is possible to pursue different personas across channels.

Similar to other groups, existing channels continue to be important, and newer channels were mostly being used for experimentation at this stage:

  • X is where scientists continue to engage. The group acknowledged we need to be where our audience is and engage where they are.
  • Facebook engagement was seen as mostly non-existent, however the group discussed some evaluation was needed on the quality of the traffic.
  • There was interest in WeChat and Weibo, but a crunch in available resources. Some were working with vendor partners such as Charlesworth to put out translated content.
  • Mastodon had no engagement, although some were trying it out.
  • Reddit was mentioned as a venue to put out “real science” as opposed to “junk science” on most platforms.

About the ALPSP Special Interest Group

Co-chairs: Zita Jeukendrup, De GruyterKin Maclachlan, CUP, Mithu Lucraft, TBI CommunicationsAnnabel Daly, OUPHarini Calamur, Cactus Communications 

The ALPSP Marketing Maestros SIG provides a unique platform for senior leaders to connect, collaborate, and address pressing issues outside of industry events where marketing topics are often overlooked. It exists to bridge that gap and have a forum for leading marketers who have a significant influence on marketing strategies and business decisions at either a CTO, VP, director, or senior manager/head of department level. Find out more about all the ALPSP Special Interest Groups.

About the author

Mithu Lucraft is a Senior Consultant for TBI Communications based in the UK. A strategic content marketing expert with a passion for business storytelling, Mithu started her marketing career in 2004 at Oxford University Press, before setting up and leading the first PR team at SAGE. At Springer Nature she was responsible for the development and implementation of global marketing strategies for eight years, with a significant focus on open research and open access. At TBI, she provides marketing and communications support for clients across the scholarly communications industry including societies; publishers; researcher services; and technology platforms. She is a co-chair of the ALPSP Marketing Maestros Special Interest Group.

Thursday 29 February 2024

University Press Collaborations Connect People and Ideas

By Annette Windhorn, Association of University Presses – Drinks Reception Sponsor for University Press Redux 2024.

The Association of University Presses (AUPresses) embraces this year’s University Press Redux theme of connecting people and ideas. As a global community of 160 mission-driven scholarly publishers, we celebrate and support our member presses’ essential work of connecting readers with authors’ ideas as well as their connecting with each other to collaborate and advance ideas of best publishing practice. 

We asked representatives of our UK and European member presses to reflect on the question, “How does AUPresses help your press connect people and ideas?” This is what they had to say: 

AUPresses President-elect, Anthony Cond, Liverpool University Press (AUPresses member since 2013)

“The University Press Redux conference was founded originally by Liverpool University Press to connect the people and ideas involved in university press publishing in the UK and Europe. Since that time, the Association of University Presses has expanded to become a genuinely international organisation, offering that same audience a point of global connection. Liverpool University Press has benefitted from AUPresses membership in budgetary terms—particularly through participating in shared stands at book fairs and conferences—and through knowledge-sharing that has ranged from accessibility guidelines to best practice in peer review. Above all, though, it is AUPresses’ collegiality that we value: presses thousands of miles apart are willing to share with and learn from each other. No two university presses are the same but most prevalent among their common threads is generosity.”

Charlotte Mason, Edinburgh University Press 
(AUPresses member 2004-2007, 2021-present)

“At the 2023 Charleston Conference, we participated in a successful, shared AUPresses stand. Not only did AUPresses reduce the cost and stress of organising and setting up the stand, they also helped facilitate the co-ordination of joint branding initiatives for the participating presses. Librarians appreciated having a central place to meet multiple publishers and our presses collectively had a visibly larger presence, and it was also a wonderful networking and collaboration opportunity to meet and talk to colleagues from other presses, libraries, and vendors. We greatly appreciate this and all support AUPresses offers us in delivering our vision of connecting people and ideas.”

Annemie Vandezande, Leuven University Press
(AUPresses member since 2005)

“As a European publisher, we are happy to take advantage of the rich range of AUPresses resources. 

“We participate in the University Press Week blog tour and gallery and reading list, using the week’s chosen theme as an opportunity to connect with our readers as well as our authors. 

“We submit books when appropriate to the AUPresses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show to underline the importance of book design. Academic work, we believe, also deserves a beautifully published book. It is a wonderful reward for both our authors and designers to see their creations selected.

“We advertise with AUPresses in the Academic Presses issues of the London Review of Books. Witnessing our titles alongside other notable publications from fellow university presses fills us with pride and strengthens the interconnectedness of our shared endeavors.

“In addition, AUPresses discussion listservs and its virtual and in-person Annual Meetings are invaluable for forging connections within the industry. These platforms provide a forum where we not only meet other professionals but also discover shared challenges and trends. While each press has its unique characteristics, the common ground fosters an environment for mutual learning and collaboration.”

Valarie Guagnini, Cambridge University Press 
(AUPresses member since 1950)

“Working with passionate people from various universities and colleges globally over the past few years—as a member of what was initially the AUPresses Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Committee and then as a co-chair of the Equity, Justice, Inclusion and Belonging Committee in 2022-2023—has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career. The ability not only to contribute my own ideas and experiences but also to hear and learn from my (now) friends and colleagues is very gratifying. I feel excited about the growth of AUPresses within the global community and am exhilarated by the future of what it represents in the university press sector.”

Jo Greig, Bristol University Press (AUPresses member since 2020)

“One of the challenges for UK-based university presses is building a brand reputation in the United States, so coming together as an AUPresses collective at the 2023 Charleston Conference was a win-win. The event provided a valuable introduction to industry experts and library consortia that will help shape our ongoing business strategies; it also gave us excellent networking opportunities through the generous AUPresses community, who are always willing to share advice.  

“University Press Week also offers us an incredibly valuable opportunity to showcase our press’s impact in the scholarly ecosystem. We enjoyed planning and contributing to the event whilst using it as the perfect time to profile our press through our own university communication channels as well.  

“We regularly consult AUPresses member resources when we need a non-UK point of view on sales and marketing approaches. Very often, serendipitous conversations pop up in a listserv or UP Commons channel that will spark an idea in the team, which is invaluable.”

Simon Ross, Manchester University Press 
(AUPresses member since 2013)

“We’ve participated in a few AUPresses collaborations like the TOME open-access monograph pilot, but I see the value of AUPresses in soft benefits like being able to meet with marketing, editorial, directorial, or other peers to share ideas and thoughts on industry issues, or how different university presses work with their home institutions, or how we as a group can function more efficiently and effectively to promote the distinctive value and relevance of university presses in a crowded, competitive market. It’s through addressing these wider issues in a collegiate and supportive community that we can fully serve our authors in connecting people and ideas.”

About the authors

About University Press Redux 2024

The 5th ALPSP University Press Redux returns as an in-person event on 15 & 16 May 2024, in partnership with Edinburgh University Press. This is part of EUP’s 75th anniversary celebrations and will be held at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. Book your place.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

It’s not about the AI

By Simon Linacre, Digital Science – Silver sponsor of University Press Redux 2024.

With the hype about artificial intelligence reaching fever pitch, it is easy to forget that the importance of this technology is what it can do for you. To understand more about how publishers can benefit from recent advances, Simon Linacre spoke to Digital Science company Writefull about their AI-based academic language service

In late 2023, Digital Science announced it had fully acquired Writefull, which aims to support users worldwide with all aspects of scholarly writing. Writefull had been part of the Digital Science stable for a while after it won Digital Science’s Catalyst Grant award in 2016, being part-owned by the parent company since 2018. As such, the startup represented Digital Science’s first major investment in AI language models, and shows just how long AI technology has actually been around before its Generative AI entered people’s consciousness in late 2022.

Big numbers

Writefull’s AI language models are trained on billions of sentences taken from millions of journal articles. This scale of training has to be matched with a strong commitment to data privacy, which means its models offer the best possible assistance to its users in activities such as academic writing, copy editing and making revisions.

In its first few years, Writefull has expanded its language services to students and researchers at more than 1,500 institutions. Having such support available helps academic publishers down the line, of course, as they see improved standards of article writing eventually being submitted to them. However, Writefull also works directly with publishers and their copy editors through integrated workflows, including the American Chemical Society (ACS), Hindawi, the British Ecological Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). In addition, Writefull’s APIs are also integrated with Digital Science’s collaborative LaTeX editor Overleaf.

Multiple benefits

As part of an interview to learn more about where the idea of Writefull came from and how technology can help shape improvements in scholarly communications, CEO and co-founder Juan Castro says the idea for the company came - like many Digital Science founders - when he was studying for his PhD in artificial intelligence.

“I have always been interested in linguistics, and the interface between artificial intelligence and how language is generated, understood, and how it can be analyzed,” says Juan.

“The idea of Writefull came all the way back to when Hilde [Writefull’s Applied Linguist Hilde van Zeeland] and I were doing our PhDs. Hilde was doing her PhD in applied linguistics, and there was always this question of: Couldn’t we use artificial intelligence to help authors with their academic language? And so it all started from there.”

Juan says the first versions of Writefull were based around how people have used different ‘chunks’ of language in the academic setting. This version enabled users to search for phrases and see how often they would appear in published papers, or what synonyms were used frequently instead of certain words.

Publisher applications

It was the development and application of deep learning techniques that opened up the first possibilities for Writefull to work with publishers. As Juan says, “The first use case we identified for publishers was to improve the language of author’s manuscripts at submission. Hindawi was the first publisher to integrate Writefull this way. Later on, we realised that we could also use Writefull’s language models to evaluate the language quality of manuscripts, either at submission or later in the pipeline.”

“That really took us all the way to where we are now, where we've developed language models in-house that are very tailored to academic writing, and are applicable across a publishers’ portfolios. It helps them cut costs and increase efficiency, especially around timeliness.”

Now that Writefull is fully part of Digital Science, Juan and the team are looking forward to more conversations with publishers to understand their problems and see if Writefull can help them with their AI-based solutions. Juan believes that a lot of publishers have problems around language that could be tackled using Writefull’s AI. For example, the categorization of manuscripts by language quality is one area where he believes that Writefull could help. It can help to evaluate the editing needs of submitted manuscripts, to evaluate the copy editing work done, and more: “By using Writefull’s categorization service, you can better budget for copy editing needs and time, and you're also reducing the time to publish.”

“Through our conversations with publishers, we have seen that many do not categorise manuscripts by editing needs, or they do it manually. Manual categorisation is very time-consuming and therefore hardly scalable, and may also lead to inconsistencies.”

Future perfect

Another benefit of paying more attention to the varying quality of manuscripts at the point of submission is that it levels the playing field earlier on for papers that may represent excellent research but poor quality English, which can disproportionately impact authors from Global South countries. As we see AI and related technologies develop quickly around us, Juan sees more benefits feeding through to publishers in the future.

Juan thinks that, overall, we will see an improvement in quality. “Another use case we have is with one major chemistry publisher where they're using our Metadata API. The publisher has checks in place to ensure that the XML of the copyedited manuscript corresponds to the original docx or PDF. Before, a human would check all required fields manually: check the authors’ names and surnames, their affiliations, their address details, etc. One of the things the publisher wanted to do was to improve the quality of this process. They now use Writefull’s Metadata API to extract all the metadata to compare the original with the XML, and if there are any differences it will pop it up for a human to manually review.”

“I think in general this and other processes will be more automated in the future, and that as a result, less manual checking and editing will be needed. As more and more material is submitted for publication, such automated services will become even more valuable in the future.”

It is clear, then, that the AI hype in scholarly communications that we have witnessed in the last year or so has actually been a quiet revolution for many years, with startups like Writefull in the vanguard. However, it also appears that this is just the beginning, and the impact AI will have for academic publishers will be far-reaching in 2024 and beyond. 

About the author

Simon Linacre, Head of Content, Brand & Press, Digital Science 

Simon Linacre has 20 years’ experience in scholarly communications, has lectured and published on the topics of bibliometrics, publication ethics and research impact, and has recently authored a book on predatory publishing. Simon is an ALPSP tutor and former COPE Trustee, and holds Masters degrees in Philosophy and International Business.

About Digital Science

Digital Science started in 2010 by looking for ways to solve challenges they were facing as researchers themselves. Today, their innovative technologies empower organizations with insights, analytics and tools that advance the research lifecycle. Their six different product solutions - Dimensions, Altmetric, Writefull, Figshare, ReadCube, and Overleaf - help scholarly publishers to analyze data more effectively, track research outcomes, enhance author services, streamline workflows, and make collaboration more seamless.

About UP Redux 2024

The 5th ALPSP University Press Redux returns as an in-person event on 15 & 16 May 2024, in partnership with Edinburgh University Press. This is part of EUP’s 75th anniversary celebrations and will be held at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. Find out more.