Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Future for Smaller Publishers: Louise Russell's Practical Guide to Online Hosting

Louise Russell: online hosting for smaller publishers
What is online hosting and how can smaller publishers manage it effectively? Louise Russell, Director at Tutton Russell Consulting, General Manager at start-up Kudos and former COO at Publishing Technology, shared her experience with delegates at The Future for Smaller Publishers seminar.

Aggregation services (e.g. Ingenta Connect, Metapress, HighWire) have a number of advantages:

  • visibility - power of the collective
  • one-stop shop for librarians (access, COUNTER compliant reports, easier for library technology integration)
  • consistent interface for readers
  • search engine optimisation
  • economies of scale - large sites providing industry standards, up-to-date services.

There are a number of considerations that may be an opportunity or a threat, depending on your circumstances. These include:

  • file specifications - that can be quite prescriptive
  • level of branding
  • ability to customise functionality
  • product roadmap - is it a good fit for your strategy?
  • level of service and support.

Platform providers are online systems that can be customised to your requirements. Companies include Atypon, pub2web, HighWire, Silverchair and Semantico. Advantages include increased control and the ability to brand. You can expect a better user interface, a wider range of functionality and tool kits, integration with back office systems and customisation. Considerations include the price point which can be higher compared to off the shelf versus more custom options. You need to bear in mind the staff and resource impact internally. A product roadmap is required and think about the ownership of code.

Other alternatives include Open Source solutions such as the Open Journals System or self-hosting. These can provide a range of approaches such as building blocks, involve a roadmap driven solely by you, can provide competitive edge, but require in-house expertise and lack the power of a collective.

When you think about online hosting you need to define the core functionality that is required. Elements include content delivery, access control and e-commerce, adherence to industry standards, integration with library technology, SEO, distribution, usage statistics and reporting. Other optional additional services can include branding and end-user support. If the vendor does not offer the latter, you will need to, but be warned, this can be time consuming.

Increasingly, it is more than journals (books and journal articles). There are emerging business models and you need to consider mobile delivery, semantic enrichment and international visibility. Tailored user experience could include localised services, supporting specific workflows. Online hosting can provide more sophisticated reporting and interoperable services.

When choosing a supplier your selection criteria should include:

  • Price point functionality
  • Compliance with industry standards
  • Digital strategy / roadmap goals
  • Age of product
  • Service level agreements
  • Culture/compatibility.

During the selection process you should aim to crystallise immediate and medium term objectives, define requirements through market research and stakeholder feedback. You need to consider the design and user interface and put in place due diligence such as request for proposal (RFP) and through demonstrations for a robust decision making process.

Managing a transition is critical. Think about the timing of the project and when it falls in the business year so you don't clash with key activity dates. Think about URL redirects, library technology, SEO and customisations. Undertake a content audit and inventory. Think about internal and external communication. You will need to create a project team to manage the process, include stakeholder testing and manage risk through contingency planning.

As a smaller publisher, you don't necessarily have to lag behind the technology adoption curve. Geoffrey A Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm (1991, revised 1999) outlined different groups. Size does not preclude you from being an early adopter or innovator.

  • Innovators 2.5%
  • Early adopters 13.5%
  • Early majority 34%
  • Late majority 34%
  • Laggards 16%

When creating a digital strategy consider the wider business goals, define your success metrics, do market research and put in place building blocks for agile, flexible solutions. Make sure you have analytics (to measure, monitor and adapt) and a release strategy for launch. Work to industry standards (e.g. COUNTER 4FundRefCrossMarkORCIDNLM DTD - JATSKBART 1.0). Look at wider industry initiatives such as CHORUSKudos, Projects and sipx.

Russell closed with her blueprint for undertaking online hosting: define your digital strategy, identify success metrics, measure, monitor and refine and look at operational structure. The selection of host should reflect these core principles.

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