Tuesday 17 March 2015

BMJ's acquisition of the British Veterinary Association Journals

Janet O'Flaherty from the BMJ
In a session designed to consider divestment as a strategy, Janet O'Flaherty, Publisher at BMJ, outlined how the British Veterinary Society chose to work with BMJ as their preferred partner and how the journals have fared in the past six years.

The BVA has been publishing in house since 1888. they were very traditional and conservative, had seen spiralling costs with declining revenues and lost contract publishing business over several years. There was a technology deficit and were struggling to keep up to date. They chose the BMJ due to a good natural fit: both are the 'go-to' Associations for their professions.

BMJ inherited a weekly magazine, large backlog of content and lots of historical legacy systems. First of all, they moved the staff across to the BMJ, built a new jobs site, reviewed roles and processes, integrated workflows and upgraded hardware. It was important to reassure the staff that they were investing for the future.

They moved print production to BMJ suppliers and renegotiated supplier contract for hosting. They introduced right-priced subscriptions and tweaked the business model. They didn't have any vets working on the editorial board so they advertised for a Veterinary Editor-in-Chief. They also set up customer focus groups. They refreshed cover and page layout, bearing in mind the conservative nature of the audience.

Other editorial developments included:

  • Appointed veterinary research editor and clinical editor
  • Refreshed international advisory board to improve reach
  • Improved workflows and author services - online first
  • Research published as one page summary in print for practitioners
  • Editorial to accompany original articles
  • OA hybrid option
  • Boosted social media.

There is a successful and ongoing relationship with the BVA which is profitable for both parties. Online usage has increased 60% from 2011 to 2014. They have had positive feedback from readership surveys. They've looked at new revenue streams such as supplements, round tables, webinars. The jobs site has changed and even more successful with revenue growing. Editorial turnaround times now 12 days from receipt to acceptance. They have a stable editorial team and have launched two new journals.

And the lessons learned? These include:

  • Timing to avoid disrupting weekly schedule
  • Poor inherited data especially for subscribers (importance of TRANSFER)
  • Staff getting used to BMJ (letting go of some responsibilities)
  • Transition to new systems and processes
  • Online hosting transfer slow
  • Recruiting first Veterinary Editor-in-Chief
  • Communications are key

Janet O'Flaherty spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

The publisher as technology company

Phill Jones from Digital Science
Phill Jones, Head of Publisher Outreach at Digital Science, asked the audience to consider whether publishers need to become technology companies to succeed in today's market?

Information technology has changed everything. A crucial point in time was when telephones and computers collided.  Another key point is when television and the internet collided (think NetFlix). Marc Andreessen, Co-Founder of Netscape and Andreeson Horowitz, came up with the phrase "software eats the world." This is when software is developed into something that heavily disrupts an industry. That is what is happening to our industry. Publishing is changing because it is colliding with information technology.

Who are the most powerful players in publishing? Google, Amazon, Apple. One is an advertising company, one is an online retailer, one is an device manufacturer. What they all have in common is IT.

With science, what is happening now is a transformation from a cottage industry approach to industrial size. Things are on a much larger scale with a range of researchers tackling one part of the research project each. The technologies of choice in the lab lag behind. Post-It notes still prevail.

Another key driver is the change in policy (e.g. Neelie Kroes in the EU through to the NIH compliance where they moved to remove grants from researchers who didn't comply with OA requirements).

There is an evaluation gap. Traditional measures of impact don't take into account funders; requirements to measure impact including societal impact, public engagement and legislative impact. As publishers, we need to be aware of this.

Where does this leave us? The publisher as technology company? When content and technology collide you basically get Open Science. The different stages of research include: getting the idea, doing the research, documenting findings, output and dissemination, maximising return on researcher investment.

There are opportunities to use technology to help with each one of these stages. That is the space that publishers should inhabit. How do you go about this to add value? Digital Science focuses on investment in young companies that have solutions to problems in the science space. To understand what the problems are, they have a consultancy division who undertake research.

Phill Jones chaired the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

Where does publishing go from here? Tom Clark reflects...

Tom Clark from Emerald
Tom Clark is Chief Officer for Business and Product Innovation at Emerald. In the closing session at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, Development and Divestment, he reflect on the future for publishing.

We are all learning organisations now. In what can be called "The dawn of digital abundance" everyone is a contributor, discovered and data source. Connectivity is at the heart of internet commerce, but how sustainable is content aggregation? Business models are diverse and fluid while usefulness and discoverability are playing a stronger hand.

He believes we are in an internet business and while he isn't interested in articles, he is interested in author problems and needs. The internet is simply too complex to not innovate and orientate to customer needs. What is a publisher? What does that student think of you? What will they be doing in five years? Digital, lean, agile approach allows publishers to develop better products for markets.

We face digital abundance. How do we see change? Who are our competitors these days? What is an author? Does marketing work anymore? Where will revenues come from? (Clark thinks they will come from varied and many new different sources). How do I develop new business models? Does everyone else understand what's going on? Business faculty have conflicting issues on their time (teaching, admin, research). Emerald feel they have a range of products and services that can help.

You need to learn to develop and blink: what happens on the internet in a minute is huge. There are new rules and new competitors. The ability to harness and connect more things is key. It is worth considering joint ventures, especially if you can't afford to buy or invest.

Mobile will be key. It's not only researchers using it, students are too. What problem can you solve with mobile? Are mobile apps dead and the humble browser reborn? The FT famously ditched its hub app in favour of HTML5 because it was cheaper, searchable and more responsive. Hardware and connectivity improvements are delivering great experiences via 'm' websites. There will be less phone 'litter' and more responsive/intuitive layers.

We are all learning organisations, including Emerald. When a researcher submits and publishes a paper they are enriching their understanding and furthering their knowledge and career. Helping them to ensure their research makes an impact is key.

Clark asked how well we know and understand the data we can get from our own websites. Not very well, he suspects. You need to understand that online attention is decreasing. Divesting the legacy approach is expensive. Are you creating packages of content, delivering through micro-sites, listening, designing the experience? That's where publishers need to be.

What matters? innovation, risk, customer data. Investment, connectivity, new markets. Usefulness, discoverability, openness. Existing markets, print versus digital, direct marketing. Organic growth, social media, market share. Librarians, discovery services, open access.

It was a big cultural shift for Emerald to do things quickly. You need a mixed team and make quick decisions: be agile and decisive. Clark closed by observing that no one has all the answers. You have to experiment.

Tom Clark spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

New advertising models in medical publishing - transforming HCP Clinical Content Engagement

Avia Potashnik, Wolters Kluwer Health
Avia Potashnik, Advertising and Sponsorship Manager and Andrew Richardson, Vice President, Business Development at Wolters Kluwer Health, provided a case study of a disruptive model applied to their advertising for HCP Clinical Content.

Andrew Richardson started by observing that three device ownership is the new norm. We all use them and for different things. We have the content for them and we need to ensure we have good content engagement and interaction, but never forget the peer reviewed article needs to be at the heart of it. They have developed and disrupted their advertising model to enhance the core content.

Avia Potashnik explained that in order to transfer their advertising objectives they focused on brand recognition (corporate, product, indications, competitive blocking, frequency, ubiquity). They want to drive customer interaction through product websites, content pages, video pages, conversion page, social media, customer service email. They do this through content engagement with videos, original reporting, details, case studies, geo-targeting, etc. Embedding video raises engagement rate. Educational games help build customer interaction.

A lot of their advertising customers come to them wanting to recreate what they do in print. They know that doesn't work and try to encourage them to build interactive multi-media content to engage. In some cases they have increased engagement rates 450% by including adverts with video. They maximise their content marketing investment by using multi-channel approach to use of clinical journal content. They integrate approved marketing content to increase engagement. They visibly hyperlink to content for increased customer engagement.
Avia Potashnik and Andrew Richardson spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

Integrating user feedback into development of the 'anywhere article'

Marlo Harris from Wiley on The Anywhere Article
Marlo Harris, Director of Project Management at Wiley, focused on the rise - and importance - of end-user research in digital product development.

The focus and value of end-user research has risen significantly in recent years, particularly as we move closer and closer towards online-only delivery of academic research. As a scholarly service community, we all want to meet our users' needs. Unfortunately, it's far too easy to lose focus on the user once we get into the weeds of technical development and managing other stakeholder interests. With the development of The Anywhere Article they showed what can happen when you listen to users all the way from initial research, through development, and as an ongoing activity to add value to online content.

As humans, why don't we listen? We are preoccupied with our own thoughts. We're tired, distracted or lack interest. Often, it's because we are preparing to speak ourselves. We might be in flunked by personal feelings or opinion or there may be too many speakers.

As publishers, why don't we listen to users of our products? We think we already know what they want/need. We don't ask the right questions. User needs aren't well articulated or there are louder voices. Possibly the most common is that we don't have time.

They subscribe to Nielsen's approach - you learn most of the issues by talking to five or six people. With The Anywhere Article, their research came about following a Quora social media Q&A on why researchers prefer PDF to HTML. Most answers said HTML is too cluttered. They used that as a starting point to try and design HTML to provide seamless experience.

The Anywhere Article had a new team approach to development. The UX architect is a member of the development team. Agile and user engagement practices go hand-in-hand. Feature details evolve and are tested along the way. They brought in new UX researchers as they needed it.

This resulted in The Anywhere Article, directly tackling the criticisms and frustrations around traditional HTML research papers.

They are continuing to get feedback and are using that to feed future developments. They get good, bad and grounding feedback, for example, where is the PDF download button? They realised they needed to change the button to red instead of blue.

Challenges and lessons they have learned along the way include the importance of research and listening. It takes a lot of time and money. In terms of development, incorporating user feedback into development against deadlines is a challenge. The wide and varied landscape of browsers and devices has an impact. Hard to accommodate all and they are constantly changing.

Harris wishes they'd undertaken more ad hoc guerrilla usability along the way. That would have helped them to tweak some features more quickly. You also need to bear in mind that when you ask for feedback you get a lot. You have to manage that. And they have learned that researchers still want the PDF.

Why does the The Anywhere Article matter? Users aren't generally paying for the content. Publishers need to add value to the record as they are competing with other versions on the web. Adding value = usage = revenue.

User-driven innovation: learning faster with flash builds

Alex Humphreys, head of JSTOR Labs at ITHAKA, provided an overview of how JSTOR's launch of a new Labs team who have been charged with partnering with the community to seek out new opportunities and refine and validate them through experimentation.

The team has been using Flash Builds - high-intensity, short-burst, user-driven development efforts - in order to prototype new ideas and get to a user saying "Wow" in as little as a week. he described how they've done this using two case studies, JSTOR Snap and Understanding Shakespeare, highlighting the skills, tools and content that help us to learn (and therefore get to innovation) faster.

Based on the methodology, they worked in a coffee shop for one week talking to users, coming up with concepts, designing, tweaking, user testing, through to prototype.


With the Folger Shakespeare Library, they worked with the digital editions of the plays and visited the Library itself. By iterative consultation with users during the week while at the Library itself, they managed to reduce the number of enhancements through the week - not needed as they got constant feedback.

The ingredients for Flash Builds are:
  1. Small diverse team with technical, design and business skills
  2. Ability to show work to users early and often with the whole team present
  3. Space to innovate: flexible technology that allows for componentization and contours deployment - a safe-space to fail with time to focus.
Prior to the Flash Build they conducted interviews with scholars, then created the data and infrastructure. During the Flash Build they had a design jam, paper prototypes, low-fi prototypes and a working site. After the Flash Build, there was a polish and clean up, release and measurement through key KPIs.

Alex Humphreys spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

Disruption, development and divestment: what's the current 'state of the nation'?

Mark Ware: state of nation speech
Mark Ware, consultant to the STM publishing and information sectors, provided an overview of where scholarly publishing is at the Disruption, development and divestment seminar.

The industry is being reshaped by a range of factors: the continuing digital transition and rapidly evolving technology, convergence of content and services, funder policies, growing pressures for openness, the growth of R&D outputs, and the changing attitudes and behaviours of researchers, to name just a few.

Economies of scale are more important than ever, but at the same time lower barriers to entry have increased competition from start-ups and technology companies. And yet examples of disruptive innovations are very hard to find.

Classic examples of disruption to established business include newspapers and music. It's interesting to note how stable STM communications is compared to other sectors. Disruption doesn't mean a whole industry is destroyed. It is easier to find disruption to B2C markets (e.g. Blockbuster hit when NetFlix came along, Blackberry affected by the iPhone). It is hard to find any incumbents in our world that look like Blackberry or Blockbuster.

Ware cites a model developed by Bob Campbell from Wiley on the journal industry. There are four stages: discovery, exploitation, management, reinvention (with the web). The question is what comes next? Is there a second or third wave or are we going off the cliff into disruption? However, he believes that the death of scholarly publishing is often reported, but we're still here.

The four key forces for change in STM publishing are:
  1. Digital transition
  2. funder policies
  3. Momentum for increase openness
  4. changing research behaviours and needs
The key political forces are funder policies as well as government policies and copyright reform. There is a big drive not only to open access, but to more openness.

Political, economic, social and technological forces lead to an evolution, not revolution or disruption. Open access is the norm, but in a mixed economy. OA combined with pressure from funders will increase competition. The economies of scale and logic of that will lead to further consolidation in the market. There are also likely to be other structural changes.

Ware reflected on what this means for publishers. Open access continues, but growth is slowing down. There are differences in disciplines and the bureaucracy around OA funding is a nightmare. There's a clear need for better systems. All the things we're good at: standards, data, compliance, will help, but there's still a way to go.

The move for Open Science (as championed by the Force 11 group and beyond the PDF) situates data alongside collaborative tools and practices, behaviours and social media. Recent research by Nature outlined attitudes, behaviours and tools that scientists use/adopt. They are using social networks such as Research Gate and Google to raise their profile, share and collaborate. Economies of scale on the web become yet more important and are enhanced with social elements of digital.  It's not just about companies, journal platforms benefit from scale.

The changing industry structure results in several new dimensions:
  • New entrants such as PeerJ, Google Scholar and ResearchGate
  • Company diversification e.g. Elsevier, Digital Science, JBJS
  • Product complexity including journal platform inc. mobile, SciVal, Converis
  • Industry concentration as seen with the Springer/Mamcillan merger
  • Geography such as Wolters Kluwer/Medknow, Scielo and Spanish/Chinese output
  • Vertical integration in production, distribution, OMTS, etc
  • Value network complexity e.g. Mendeley etc.
Ware closed by describing the STM scorecard. We are surviving, are not disrupted yet, still profitable, managing the digital transition so far, with wider access, and usage increased. However, user experience and understanding/responding to changing user requirements, plus changing user requirements, workflow, setting the agenda, are not so good. Opportunities and directions include consultation (firms and journals) diversification, efficiencies, open innovation and platforms, and moving from product centric to service centric.  Challenges and threats include managing the transition to open science, more competition leading to lower profits, and new entrants including tech companies and services providers.

Mark Ware spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

Disruption, development and divestment: lessons to learn from the B2C market

Richard Padley, CEO, Semantico
Richard Padley, Chairman and CEO of Semantico kicked off the Disruption, Development and Divestment seminar with a session reflecting on what publishers can learn about providing services to the end-user. How are the 'new' users actually buying and consuming content and services?

There has been a shift for publishers from Intellectual Property landlord to IP traders. (This model is drawn from an MIT study on business models).

Search exerts incredibly powerful forces on all our business. There is a whole industry of search engine optimisation. But we don't seem to spend a lot of time thinking of that. Some businesses have a focus on it, some don't. We don't have nearly enough emphasis or ownership on SEO in the industry.

When Semantico implemented SEO strategy on one product they saw 3000% increase in unique users - new and repeat. But then it flatlined - clearly Google changed the rules. What they essentially had was a freemium model, but Google decided that this could only apply to newspapers. In the end they had to change the strategy for that product to respond. Google have a thing for free content - politically as well as from search point of view.  A couple of years ago they stopped indexing content behind paywalls, except for journal articles. There is a whole range of virtuous properties of doing search right. Search is incredibly powerful and incredibly important because of that.

User experience is the manifestation through products and services of business needs and the expression of customers needs. UX runs entirely through a business. You can liken it to an iceberg: there are the elements above the water you can see (MS submission, etc). But what about those underneath? In some cases, we have incredibly byzantine routes to content (number of clicks for a Shibboleth login). We still force our users to use logins, passwords and other protocols in a way that would never happen in the B2C world.

With mobile there's a bit of 'build it and they will come' mentality. But if you are seeing low levels of usage, that will probably be because your site is not responsive and users can't use it effectively. Responsive design makes your site fluid and flexible so you can retain, branding, user experience and flow of site. Think about the proportion of users that will instantly benefit. On PDFs: are we going to build faster horses? PDFs are incredibly difficult to read on mobile. ePub3 is far superior. Again, build it and they will come.

Richard finished by considering big data asking: how scientific are we being in deterring growth areas for programme development? Exactly who are we turning away? Are we looking at analytics in a way B2C businesses do? Are we considering conversions? It's not just about sales, but also downloads - how well are you converting user journeys from Google through into actual downloads? Some of this is about being proactive rather than reactive. Also about looking at the net effect on consumers.

Richard Padley spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

Monday 2 March 2015

Don’t let disruption scare you, it’s just another word for opportunity

Don't be scared, it's only disruption
Phill Jones is Head of Publisher Outreach at Digital Science. Here, in a guest post, he argues that disruption isn't scary...

"For publishers, societies and other stakeholders in scholarly communication, innovation and its scarier sibling, disruption can be seen either as a threat, a challenge, or as an opportunity. Particularly for smaller players, it can be very tough to look at the innovation landscape with it’s plethora of technologies, start-up companies and initiatives and decide just where to invest valuable time and effort, not to mention development budget.

The problem doesn't begin and end with technology either. Business models are evolving and the nature of sales channels is beginning to change. At the recent Association of Subscription Agents conference in London, Derk Haank, CEO of Springer, pointed out that in the past 4 years, the journal market share for subscription agents has fallen from 54% to 40%. That’s a massive shift in such a short time. Particularly in light of the recent SWETS bankruptcy, it’s important to go beyond thinking about revenue sources and try to figure out what the sales and revenue channels of the future may be.

On the 17th of March, I'm going to be chairing a seminar for ALPSP at SCI in London titled Disruption, Development and Divestment where we’re going to try to get at some of these complex questions. In the mean-time, here are some of my own thoughts about the state of innovation and what’s next. These may or may not reflect the opinions of the other speakers, you’ll have to come along to find out.

There’s more to platform innovation than user experience

Platform innovation can get a bit of a bad name. The traditional view of web design, focusing on stickiness and design layout can often be dismissed as mere bells and whistles. The persistence of the PDF as the dominant container for academic articles supports this view but is this finally beginning to change? Platform innovation that makes a difference adds real value in the form of new functionality and information. Data sharing, altmetrics, and multi-media all represent new but very real needs of today's authors and readers.

If you want to know what authors will need next, follow the money

Academic researchers are pressed for time and like it or not, they’d actually far prefer to be in the lab, the field, or the library doing research than sat at a computer figuring out how to upload a data set or even write an article (at least that’s true for most of them). So why do researchers communicate at all? Because funders insist that they do so. For some reason, they feel that they’re entitled to proof that their money is being spent wisely. Emboldened by the growth of open access publishing, that has in part been driven by mandates, funders are increasingly asking authors and institutions to communicate in new and diverse ways. In short, funder mandates and funding preferences dictate author needs.

Open access won’t be the last new business model to make an impact

With the role of the subscription agent under threat due to falling margins and market share, the question of what the intermediary of the future will look like is becoming pressing. The major players in the space are already pivoting to become more like technology providers and technology providers are creating connections throughout the industry that organically lead to new distribution channels. What will these new revenue sources and channels look like? Well that remains to be seen, but some people have been arguing for some time that publishers can identify sources of revenue outside of selling licensed content.

My three predictions above pose more questions than they answer. Innovation is a complex subject and there are many questions still to be addressed when it comes to open access, open science, data publication, business models and sustainability. On March 17th, myself and a number of wiser speakers than I will try to get to the bottom of some of it. We’ll try to put some of this into perspective and hopefully, there will be some take-home lessons that will help put all this scary talk of disruption into perspective.

See you in London."

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