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.

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