Friday 19 May 2017

Not Your Teenager’s Social Network: What Academic Societies Can Learn from Facebook about Making Money—and Making Members Happy

We are delighted to share this blog by Roy Kaufman, Managing Director of New Ventures at the Copyright Clearance Center  which draws some interesting parallels between learned societies and social networks and highlights what we can learn from their example.

image social media networkingSocial networking a la Facebook and Twitter may seem to be a product of the Internet age, but it is actually nothing new. If you think about it, learned societies - which aim to bring together people in a given field or area of professional interest - are actually built on the original idea of a social network, to wit: a network of social interactions and personal relationships, as Webster’s defines it.

Yet today’s academic societies, charged with connecting individuals who share professional interests and providing a forum for communication and collaboration, continuing education, and career opportunities, are facing declines in membership, particularly among people under age 30. Fewer than half (48%) of all millennials belong to a society compared with 83% of baby boomer researchers, according to Wiley’s recent survey of nearly 14,000 research professionals.

Facebook and Twitter (and more researcher-focused sites such as Mendeley) have something to do with that age discrepancy; they are favorites for early-career researchers who want to actively network in both their professional and personal life. With so many online opportunities for making contacts and interacting, societies are tasked with finding new ways to provide meaningful benefits that will attract and retain members, as well as keep their revenues growing.

Perhaps scholarly and professional societies can learn something from Facebook, too. Just as that online social network continues to expand (and gobble up money) by using member data in ever more ingenious ways (linking all those Likes, learning from them, and tailoring content to members accordingly), so societies can use technology to better serve their members and become more relevant and profitable in the process.

From disconnected data to smart data

Fully leveraging data they already have is an often-overlooked way for societies to grow their membership and keep current members engaged enough to renew year after year. Take the example of researchers who submit an article to a society journal. It is a good bet that the article will contain the names and contact information of multiple coauthors. Wouldn’t it make sense if, instead of isolating those names within the editorial system, societies could use them to their advantage, connecting them with other data points throughout the organization?

That process could start at article submission by determining the needs of corresponding authors and co-authors, simply by asking questions like the following:

  • Are the authors already members of the society?
  • If yes, are their memberships up for renewal?
  • If no, will a special offering (such as an APC discount or free author reprints) entice them to join?
  • If they have an .edu address, are they taking advantage of institutional arrangements for payment of open access fees?
  • Are they registered to attend the next society conference?
  • Do they need continuing education credits?
  • Do they even know about these benefits?

Chances are, members and would-be members don’t know all the benefits of membership. In the Wiley survey, 15% of respondents said they’d never been invited to join an academic society; 12% said they didn’t know what offerings were available, and another 12% said that joining had never occurred to them. As the folks at Wiley put it, “This means that 37% of non-members are either waiting to be asked to join, or might be persuaded to join…With so many non-members just waiting to be asked, societies may find they are often pushing at an open door.”

But societies are not yet pushing on that door. One reason is that in many learned societies, different departments, and the data they house, are “siloed,” cut off from one another and not communicating effectively. “When a member interacts with an organization, they’re interacting with education, or a group that does grants,” says Ann Michael, DeltaThink CEO and former president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, who moderated a recent webinar on society membership by the Copyright Clearance Center. Silos, says Michael, make it difficult for members to see the organization as a whole, which makes it hard for organizations to serve members’ needs effectively.

In the same webinar, Alex Taylor, head of communities and events at the Institution for Engineering and Technology, admitted that for a long time, the IET was “lost in a labyrinth of our own making .…We offer so many different things, [there are] so many different teams and departments…that there’s most definitely a [silo] culture, a lack of joined-up collaborative thinking.”

The key, then, is for members and societies to come together, to increase satisfaction and engagement on one side and revenues on the other. That starts with knowing what members and potential members want and need.  For example, in Wiley’s survey findings, 26% of respondents said their strongest reason for joining a society was to take advantage of opportunities for continuing education. But the continuing education platforms seldom, if ever, talk with the editorial ones.

The bottom line: If the membership, continuing education, and conference departments are not connected with each other or linked up with the editorial department, opportunities for generating new members and retaining existing ones will be missed. Think about the benefits to all involved if these systems talked to one another. In that scenario, it would be easy to notify an individual who recently submitted an article on a particular topic about an upcoming workshop on the same subject. Or, having just published that article, to let the author know that his society membership renewal comes with the benefit of 25 free article reprints.

What all of this requires is a smart network of links among databases that enables societies to target their marketing to specific individuals with personalized messages and offerings, at opportune times (when you already have their attention, for example, at article acceptance or other key points in the editorial workflow). That is the difference between blasting members with renewal notices three days after they’ve renewed and instead telling them something they truly want to know (i.e. that they are due for CME credits). Rather than putting off members and would-be members with more junk mail, suddenly, you are providing them with a higher level of service.

One way to make the data connection easy is with an enterprise content management system that does the sorting and linking of member information automatically. An investment in an ECM system is worth it, because it allows societies to provide a higher level of service.  Knowing what members need and offering it to them when they need it will bring in higher revenues in the form of new and renewing members, who can now avail themselves of services they were previously unaware of. Or, to put it another way, societies will be able to maximize revenue sources already at their disposal, and members will understand the value proposition that comes from joining and engaging with a learned society. Talk about pushing an open door.

Adopt some standards

Besides enterprise content management systems, another crucial step toward connecting data and better serving members is to adopt standards such as ORCID IDs, Ringgold names, IP addresses from Publisher Solutions International, and identifiers from FundRef. Once employed, societies can identify institutional affiliations, funding agencies, geographical locations, and membership status, and then launch relevant messaging.  You might, by ORCID ID, identify an author member as hailing from a particular institution and take it from there, reaching out to let a Harvard-based author know that she’s eligible for an institutional discount on open access charges. Combine these standards with the member data derived from your enterprise content management system, and suddenly, you get to the nirvana of data connection, without having to reinvent the wheel, and without having to bother the author.

Create new businesses to keep members happy

To keep growing, societies also need to consider new sources of revenue. It makes sense that the first thing a membership-driven society should consider when it thinks about growing its bottom line is the needs of its members. For example, the Wiley survey asks members what they value.  Some key services mentioned in the Wiley survey are continuing education (64%), keeping up to date with the latest research (50%) and job openings (32%). Once societies have this information in hand, they should ask: Do I have a business around this? If the answer is no, the next question might be: Should I have a business around this? If learning is a key reason members renew, a society may want to look at whether they have adequate continuing education offerings. If career networking is a top priority, a society might send out alerts when jobs open up in members’ areas of interest. That’s known as data driven messaging, whether a society tells a researcher who has just submitted an article on kidney cancer about an opening in the nephrology department of a major research hospital, or reminds her to register for the upcoming American Society of Nephrology Conference.

Attracting and retaining members - even millennials - is not rocket science, and we can learn from the companies who do it well. It is about figuring out why people join, and asking: Have I done enough here? Because sometimes, by asking relatively simple questions, offering opportunities vis-à-vis the needs of members, and doing some obvious things like adopting standards, it is possible to create the building blocks that raise a society to the next level - and make it go viral. 

photo Roy Kaufman
Roy Kaufman is Copyright Clearance Center's Managing Director of New Ventures. Prior to CCC, Roy served as Legal Director, Wiley-Blackwell, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. He is a member of, among other things, the Bar of the State of New York, the Copyright and Legal Affairs Committee of the International Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers. He was the founding corporate Secretary of Crossref, and formerly chaired its legal working group. He has lectured extensively on the subjects of copyright, licensing, open access, text/data mining, new media, artists’ rights, and art law. Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Art Law Handbook: From Antiquities to the Internet, and author of two books on publishing contract law. He is a graduate of Brandeis University and Columbia Law School.

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Wednesday 3 May 2017

Data challenges for publishers – teams, tools and changes in the law

We are delighted to be able to share this blog from Warren Clark at Research Information who attended our popular, recent seminar How to Build a Data- Driven Publishing Organization chaired by Freddie Quek.

Dealing with data is nothing new to scholarly publishers – but it was clear from a recent ALPSP event that it’s an ever-changing battlefield, reports Warren Clark

How to Build a Data Driven Publishing Organization, held on 20 April at the Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and hosted by ALPSP, proved there is much for many still to learn in how to approach the masses of data points generated by companies throughout the publishing cycle.

As John Morton, board chair of Zapaygo, said in his keynote: ‘Most publishers are using less than five per cent of the data they own.’

The event featured many examples of areas in which data could be collected, analysed and presented in a form that would improve profitability for publishers, and provide users with a more personalised experience.

Ove Kähler, director, program management and global distribution at Brill, together with his colleague Lauren Danahy, team leader, applications and data, explored the challenges they faced in developing an in-house data team. Their most significant innovation was to arrange their primary data groups according to where they occurred in the workflow: content validation; product creation; content and data enrichment; content and data distribution; product promotion; and product sales.

The pair explained how they created a team – from existing staff within the company – giving each specific responsibility for one of those data groups, and how that led to improved quality and output of data at each step.

Indeed, the notion that publishers shouldn’t assume that dealing with data means employing new staff was echoed throughout the day, with both David Smith, head of product solutions at IET, and Elisabeth Ling, SVP of analytics at Elsevier, suggesting in the panel discussion that people ‘look at your own team first’, since it was likely that the skills required would already be present.


Choosing tools

As well as who and why, many speakers talked about how they capture, store, analyse and visualise the data they collect. The most extensive of these was IET’s David Smith, who overhauled the IT department’s software tools to evolve a more accurate suite of visualisations that product teams could use independently and without the need to continuous IT support. Smith explained that those looking for a ‘single solution’ from a software package that solved all data challenges for publishers would be disappointed, before reeling off half a dozen or more software tools that his team had integrated to develop a solution that suited their needs.

In a session that brought a perspective from outside the publishing industry, Matt Hutchison, director of business intelligence and analytics at Collinson Group, a company that runs global loyalty programmes on behalf of major brands, supported this notion by showing how they had outsourced some of their function to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Matt Pitchford, solutions architect at AWS, demonstrated that the cloud computing set-up they developed for Collinson Group involved more than 20 different pieces of software.


What data can bring

Another theme was quality of data – as Graeme Doswell, head of global circulation at Sage Publishing put it: ‘You need your data capture processes to be as granular as you want your output to be.’ He showed examples of how Sage was using its data to show librarians their levels of usage, making it easier for the sales teams when it came to renewals. David Leeming, publishing consultant at 67 Bricks, gave a further example, specifically in the area of content enrichment.

For Iain Craig, director strategic market analysis at Wiley, data was used to help business decisions on new journal launches. He explained a major project that involved them collecting internal and external data points such as subject matter, number of submissions, journal usage, funding patterns, and many more. The outcomes have helped improve existing journals, and suggest where future resources should be deployed for emerging markets.

Similarly, Blair Granville, insights analyst at Portland Press, demonstrated how his team tracked submissions, subscriptions, open access, citations, usage, commissions and click-through rates in order to to feed intelligence back to the editorial teams about where their focus should be.


Data and the law

The most enlightening paper of the day came from Sarah Day, data marketing professional and associate consultant at DQM-GRC, who spoke about data regulation and governance. She warned against complacency and ignorance when it comes to data, particularly with regard to the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Already law, but due to become enforceable in May 2018 (allowing time for institutions to ensure compliance), this is an EU-wide revision of privacy laws designed to give individuals more control over their personal data.

‘In spite of Brexit, the UK – and indeed any country outside the EU that offers goods and services to people in the EU – will have to comply,’ said Day. The impact of the new regulations are far and wide as far as publishers are concerned, and among the most important things they can do is ‘be transparent about what you are doing with an individual’s data’.

Although Day successfully rose to the challenge of explaining GDPR in one minute, it served to demonstrate that managing data in a safe, secure, and legal manner is a complex issue that every publisher will have to address head on.

With more than 50 attendees at the event, drawn from publishers large and small, it’s clear that understanding data – and all the issues that come with it – is an issue that will only become more important in the years to come, as the amount of data generated grows exponentially.

For more blogs and publishing news from Warren Clark and the excellent team at Research Information please visit: