Monday 25 July 2016

Spotlight on Knowledge Unlatched - shortlisted for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

The shortlist for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing, sponsored by MPS Limited, has been announced. In a series of posts leading up to the Awards ceremony at the conference in September, we will focus on each project. Don't forget the shortlist will present in  lightning sessions at the ALPSP Conference. Haven't got your ticket yet? Book here.

First up is Dr Frances Pinter, Founder of Knowledge Unlatched.

Tell us a bit about your company.

Knowledge Unlatched (KU) grew out of a conundrum. How could the decreasing print runs and increase of prices of monographs be good for scholarly communications? The digital sales were simply replacing the print sales to an ever decreasing number of institutions and did little to expand readership. So, what was to be done? We found a way to effectively ‘crowd-source’ the funding of the fixed costs of producing a book (getting to first digital copy costs) from a global network of libraries in exchange for putting the books online free to everyone in the world - Open Access on a Creative Commons license. Publishers continue to sell the books in other formats.

What is the project you submitted for the Awards?

There was no single project submitted for the awards. We focused on the fact that we are now scaling – able to offer hundreds of books per annum rather than just tens of books. We’ve also set up a backlist programme to complement the frontlist offers. Another piece of big news was the introduction of KU Research, a new arm that we established to conduct research into usage and impact of OA books. KU Research is a good place to brainstorm through some of the variations on the basic KU model before we introduce them into the market. We’ve set our own research agenda, already won a competitive award from the EU, are carrying out commissioned research for others and collaborate with other initiatives around the world.

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it.

The core business of KU is to ‘unlatch’ books and soon journals, i.e. make it possible for high quality, peer reviewed, scholarly works to reach everyone with an interest in that particular work. The main model can best be shown by the diagram below. We ask librarians to guide us all the way; they are in control as the funding comes primarily from their budgets.

The team is global. Three continental nationalities are represented out of our Berlin office where operations, sales and marketing occur and two Brits in the UK (though I am originally American). KU Research is run out of Perth, Australia where we also have a Turkish researcher. We now have a small base with a research fellow inside the University of Michigan Library. Representation on a number of boards and committees is also global.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

Publishers have always relied on selling one unit at a time. Whether it is a book or a journal subscription to a library or an individual, or now an APC for an article based service. The concept of crowd-sourcing for a product is new – with the KU model having potentially a profound impact on the cash flow for publishers. KU changes where payments are made in the value chain and does so by having created a unique balance of interests between publishers and librarians. Publishers get money in earlier while the cost of the product to participating libraries is less than an equivalent closed publication.

What are your plans for the future?

In 2018 we will be presenting our first suite of journals for unlatching. The model has to be tweaked slightly in order to ensure sustainability, but it is not dissimilar to the books model. We are also working on projects that will have multiple sources of funding. In 2018 we will launch a book series that will have funding support from three sources - the learned society that originated the project, specialist research institutes that are active in that field and a wider group of libraries. KU’s job will be to coordinate this.

We’ll also be focusing on expanding the work of KU Research.

Dr Frances Pinter is the Founder and Ambassador for Knowledge Unlatched.  She is a serial entrepreneur who has been at the forefront of innovation in the publishing industry for nearly forty years. She is passionate about books, and about the potential of new technology to increase access to knowledge.

The winner of the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing, sponsored by MPS Limited, will be announced at the ALPSP Conference, Park Inn Heathrow London. Book you ticket now.

Thursday 7 July 2016

10 ways to do database marketing badly (and how to avoid them)

There's nothing quite like a summer birthday, is there? ALPSP member DataSalon are celebrating 10 years of helping publishers with the challenges of data quality and customer insight.

We spoke to their Managing Director, Nick Andrews, who shared a little bit of wisdom gleaned from all those years' experience.

"We've learnt a lot over the years about the wonderful world of database marketing, and how things can sometimes go a little wrong if the right tools and processes aren't in place. You'd be amazed at what gets through internal quality checks: some of it embarrassing, some of it downright cringeworthy.

As we reflect on ten years helping publishers avoid making mistakes, here are 10 ways to do database marketing badly (and how to avoid them)...

1. Call your customer "Ms Ass"

Or "Ms Ass Librarian" to be precise. Yes, this really happened. Somehow the job title of "Ass Librarian" ended up in a customer's first/last name fields, leading to a very unfortunate address label. Some basic checking and clean-up could have avoided this particular mistake.

Yes. Really.

2. Get their name (and gender) wrong

Unfortunately, overly vigorous data cleansing can also be a problem in its own right. Our Communications Director Jillian (female) regularly receives post addressed to "Julian" (male), presumably due to a software rule deciding that her real name must be a typo, and unhelpfully "correcting" it. Moral of the story: do clean your data, but try not to make it worse.

3. Try to sell something they've already bought 

With the complex world of package and consortia deals, this probably happens to unfortunate sales staff way more that it should. You send prospects a tempting deal... only to discover they've already bought the product in question. Properly getting to grips with your sales data isn't always easy, but it is the only sure way to avoid this type of embarrassment.

4. Try to sell something they've absolutely no interest in

Another awkward sales scenario: alienating your (potential) customers by trying to sell them products which don't match their interests. The "hey, let's just include everyone!" mailshot is a great way to do this. And the "hey, let's get our data together and do some proper segmentation!" project is a great way to avoid it.

5. Don't respect opt-outs

Ah yes. There is perhaps no greater way to turn a potential customer into an angry ball of rage, than to keep marketing to them after they've opted out. Companies don't do this intentionally of course, but plenty do it by mistake - often when opt-out requests aren't properly consolidated across different customer databases behind the scenes.

6. Don't communicate with opt-INs

Not respecting opt-outs definitely annoys customers, but so does neglecting to communicate with customers who are interested. If John Smith has taken the trouble to tick the box and opt in to your news and offers, you’d better send him some. Asking customers to opt in sets the expectation you'll have something useful and interesting to send their way.

7. Send far too much email

Many people are perfectly happy to receive relevant promotional messages from time to time, but nobody wants to feel bombarded on a daily basis. This can often happen if different departments or divisions are all marketing to the same pool of contacts, without coordinating their efforts to keep it to a reasonable level. A company-wide comms strategy should help solve that.

8. Get your facts wrong

It can make for a really compelling message to merge customer-specific details into your marketing emails, for example: "Your recent high/low usage of product X suggests you're really loving/hating it!!" But of course that's only impressive if the key facts are correct (and it makes a bad impression if they're not). Be sure of the quality and accuracy of your underlying data before trying this type of campaign.

9. Send marketing to the deceased

At its worst this mistake can be very upsetting for relatives of the deceased. There are services like Mortascreen out there to help remove deceased contacts up-front. But even without that level of checking in place, the most important thing is to make absolutely sure that any notice that a contact has died (often sent via email to customer services by a relative) is acted on promptly to ensure no further marketing is sent ever again.

10. Assume everybody has one unique email address

It's easier for databases to assume that one email address equals one person, but in reality many of us will have multiple emails (for home, work, etc.) and some share a single email address ('family_robinson...' etc.) It can be annoying for customers to receive the same message more than once, so it's good practice to get to grips with multiple emails and organize your comms accordingly.

But let's not feel too disheartened - it's true that database marketing can go wrong, but getting it right isn't rocket science. It's just a question of giving proper attention to data quality, establishing some form of single customer view, and ensuring you have a clear company-wide comms strategy. With those pieces in place, database marketing can be hugely effective.

Now, you'll have to excuse me. I have some cake to eat. Happy birthday DataSalon!"

Nick Andrews is MD of DataSalon who celebrate their 10th birthday this summer. Watch this video to find out more about them.

Will Russell asks where could new ideas come from?

Will Russell, Business Relationship Manager for Technology at the Royal Society of Chemistry, writes:

"From problem solving to planning business transformation, the human capability of creativity will become even more valuable in a world of exponential change – but how can we maximise our own creativity?

Have you ever been in a brainstorm and seen the same ideas coming up? 

What if things could be different and using simple techniques you could unlock truly novel ideas with fewer people in less time?  And not just unlock news ideas – inspire individuals to take ownership to take the ideas forward through validation to development.

I believe anyone can be creative and innovative, and there are tools and frameworks to increase your chances for success.  Successful creativity is more than just a great idea. It’s making a great idea successful.

There are several factors that can help you shape your creative thinking and planning.  Ideation can ensure you are solving the real underlying challenge or problem and cut through the clutter of ready-made solutions that are in your mind.  Validation can ensure that what you are producing actually is a fit for the market.  Iteration will enable you to revise your products based on user feedback, this is even more important in a world where we need to be developing challenges to tomorrow’s problems. On top of all of these there are learnings that can be applied from industries that have been disrupted, and those that have disrupted. 

There are many techniques that David Smith and I will talk about on our upcoming ALPSP course. We are keen that delegates feel enabled, with a toolkit to empower future opportunities – one of which is the five day sprint – enabling them to make business decisions in a short timescale.

A challenge we face today is that, with shorter product lifetimes, we need to predict what challenges our customers will face in the future that our products will need to solve.

I first met David Smith co-tutoring on the ALPSP web 2.0 course (taking over from Leigh Dodds). That course, although relevant in the early days of the social web, ran its course until the social web became standard.  As recently highlighted by Emma Watkins in her excellent ALPSP blog on leveraging social media, it's 10 years since the social web really started to change the digital landscape, and it's hard now to imagine a time without it. So what might the next real disruption on that scale be?  Futurist Gerd Leonhard has produced an excellent video on Digital Transformation.

I've had several different roles whilst working at the Royal Society of Chemistry, working in Technology, Publishing and Innovation, and I have recently returned to Technology.  The change in roles has enabled me to build up a varied experience that I am excited to share with David on the course, from ideation through to validation and moving to development."

Will Russell is co-tutor on the new Disruption, Innovation and Creativity training course alongside David Smith from The IET. Further details and booking on the ALPSP website.

Read David's post on Successful organizations and the creative process.

Friday 1 July 2016

In a turbulent world, this is why I love the #alpspawards

Winners of the 2015 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

It's that time of year again. We gather together a panel of experts in a dark room in the bowels of a building, and don't let them out until they have considered, debated, and scored some of the best innovations in the scholarly publishing world.

I love this moment; the point at which we announce the shortlist. While there's disappointment for those who didn't make it (and trust me, it was a close run thing, the standard was high) the excitement and anticipation of who might win ratchets up a level.

For those on the shortlist, the work has only just begun. A face to face presentation with the judges awaits. With 15 minutes each to wow, amaze and convince, they'll be preparing and perfecting their pitches. And then there's the lightning sessions at the Conference. (What do you mean you haven't booked yet? Never mind, here's the link.)

Perhaps the best part is the public debate the shortlist creates. Go on, admit it, you've got your favourite. That's OK. Some whooping and cheering from the sidelines is what the shortlisters need. And there really is something for everyone. The range, scale and quality is quite breathtaking. The full shortlist is below. Take a look. Pick your favourite. Set up an office sweepstake.

The world is a challenging place right now. I personally take great comfort in the dedication and hardwork of colleagues in scholarly communications. They are striving to improve tools for - and access to - research for a global community of researchers and beyond.

And have a care for our poor judges, locked away, deliberating. They won't have an easy decision. It'll be one hell of a ride. We hope you'll join us for it.

Follow #alpspawards and #alpsp16 for updates. The shortlisted entries for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are:

An Adventure in Statistics: The Reality Enigma from SAGE Publishing

Traditional methods of teaching and learning are in flux, partly because attention in the digital age is a scarce resource and engagement is ever harder to create. With the scholarly community demanding more, the nature of the transaction between material and student has changed. Coupled alongside a drive in academia to bridge the UK’s quantitative skills gap, a shakeup both in teaching and focus on research methods has been founded. From this, the concept of the latest Andy Field textbook was born – teaching students statistics through a science fiction love story with graphic illustrations. The project rethinks the way that knowledge can be disseminated – embedding theoretical approaches into a narrative to engage the mind of the reader. In a medium, love-story science fiction, not explored within teaching before, SAGE and Andy have taken a creative approach to better understand the needs of and engage students in teaching and learning.

Cartoon Abstracts from Taylor & Francis

Cartoon Abstracts are a fun new way of visualising academic research. They act as a marketing tool, and are making a big impact on social media as well as having other applications. Each individual cartoon abstract summarises the original authors' work through illustration, harnessing the overwhelming power of images over text. Illustrations can aid the understanding of difficult concepts, or broaden the appeal of niche topics. They can also help transcend language barriers, where that is an issue. Authors enjoy being included as characters, and this encourages them to share their cartoon via their networks – increasing communications reach. The author characters also enhance engagement with the audience.

The Crossref Metadata API

The Crossref Metadata API lets anyone search, filter, facet and sample Crossref metadata related to over 80 million content items with unique Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). It's free to use, the code is publically available and end-users can do whatever they want with the data. In exposing the authoritative cross-publisher metadata to the community in this way, it becomes more accessible, functional and much simpler to integrate with third party systems and services (from the publisher and the end-user side). It provides smoother workflows and increased discoverability using existing publisher processes.

Knowledge Unlatched

Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is a quiet innovation with revolutionary potential for not only changing the way the publishing costs of scholarly output are financed but also radically bringing down costs to those who fund it. The KU model is the only one that takes into account the global nature of scholarship and the globalisation of publishing. Because it mirrors these two worlds that are inextricably interwoven it avoids many issues associated with other programmes that serve national or institutional priorities. The service has found a way of making the publishing of specialist long-form content sustainable in a world where monographs, especially, are under severe pressure.


ORCID's vision is a world in which all who contribute to research, scholarship, and innovation are uniquely identified and connected with their contributions and affiliations across disciplines, borders, and time. We maintain an open Registry where individuals may obtain a unique and persistent identifier (an iD) - a lifelong digital name they control - and services for the community to collect and connect these iDs in research workflows. Individuals may use their iD through their entire career, to ensure that they are reliably connected with their contributions and affiliations, even if they change their name, organization, discipline, or country.

Wiley ChemPlanner

The global pharmaceutical industry continually develops new drugs to cure or improve the treatment of disease. The drug creation process is extremely challenging; it takes an average of 12 years and billions of dollars of investment for one new drug to make it all the way from the lab bench to approval and into the clinic. Wiley ChemPlanner combines state-of-the-art cheminformatics technology with high-quality data to speed up the early stages of the drug creation process, saving  pharmaceutical corporations millions of dollars and getting drugs to patients faster. ChemPlanner lowers the barrier for synthesizing new molecules, thus accelerating the discovery process and allowing the exploration of an expanded region of chemical space. ChemPlanner also enables chemists to optimize synthetic routes, eliminating potentially harmful contaminating side products  and reducing manufacturing costs.

Suzanne Kavanagh is Director of Marketing & Membership Services at ALPSP.