Are Publishers to Become Printers Again?

Look into almost any publisher’s history, and if it has a good number of decades behind it, chances are very good that you’ll see that the publisher was its own printer. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is but one example: it’s origin stems from the merger of publisher Ticknor & Fields and Riverside Press, an old Cambridge-based printer founded by Henry Oscar Houghton.

Today, of course, a lot of publishers typically use big printers such as Quebecor, RR Donnelley, or others. With the digital content streams getting under control among publishers of many stripes, together with the growing capability of production printing hardware and software, print on demand (POD) is already mainstream option. Witness Lightening Source.

A recently received press releaseannounced the planned acquisition of Océ, which provides high volume production printing platforms, by Canon, known for its consumer items like cameras and ink jet printers, but also for office equipment such as copiers and printers.

It turns out the Océ’s production printers are behind a good portion of the big POD services, and these machines are able to provide cost-effect alternatives to regular printing in many cases. As publishers seek to extract value out of backlists and custom books by digitizing the content and managing workflow, POD can enable them to produce runs too small for regular printing. But right-sized and right-cost POD can offer attractive margins when the digital content has been managed right.

It makes me wonder if publishers will take the POD in-house, given the relatively modest POD platform expenses, so that the publisher can capture a greater part of the margin on small press runs. Who knows? Maybe the separation of publishing and printing will turn out to have been a temporary anomaly.

With Kindle et al., it can be easy to get stuck on eBooks as the output, but with the right technologies addressed by the digital stream, what shouldn’t be overlooked is POD. PDQ, QED.

Once Upon a Time…

… there was SVG. People were excited about it. Adobe and others supported it. Pundits saw a whole new graphical web that would leverage SVG heavily. Heck, I even wrote a book about it. 

Then things got quiet for a long time…

However, there are some signs that SVG might be experiencing a bit of a renaissance, if the quality of presentations at a recent conference is a strong indication. It’s notable that Google hosted the conference and even more notable that Google is trying to bigfoot Microsoft into supporting SVG in IE, a move that would substantially boost SVG as an option for Web developers.

So a question for those out there interested in SVG. Where are some big projects out there? Are there organizations creating large bases of illustrations and other graphical content with SVG? I would love to talk to you and learn about your projects. You can email me or comment below.

UPDATE: Brad Neuberg of Google, who is quoted in the InfoWorld article linked above, sent along a link to a project at Google, SVG Web, a JavaScript library that supports SVG on many browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. According to the tool’s website, using the library plus native SVG support, you can instantly target ~95% of the existing installed web base.

UPDATE: Ruud Steltenpool, the organizer for SVG Open 2009, sent a link to an incredibly useful compendium of links to SVG projects, tools, and other resources though he warns it is a little outdated.

Using Technology to Improve the Quality of Source and Multilingual Content: An Interview with acrolinx

Sixth in a series of interviews with sponsors of Gilbane’s 2009 study on Multilingual Product Content: Transforming Traditional Practices into Global Content Value Chains.

We spoke with Kent Taylor, VP – Americas for acrolinx, a leader in quality assurance tools for professional information developers, The acrolinx information quality tools are used by thousands of writers in over 25 countries around the world. We talked with Kent about the growing importance of Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies across the global content value chain (GCVC), as well as acrolinx’s interest in co-sponsoring the research and what he considers the most relevant findings.

Gilbane: How does your company support the value chain for global product support?

Taylor: Our information quality management software provides real-time feedback to authors and editors regarding the quality of their work, enabling quality assurance in terms of spelling, grammar, and conformance to their own style guide and terminology guidelines.  It also provides objective metrics and reports on over 90 aspects of content quality, therefore delivering quality control.  The value of formal information quality management across the information supply chain is reflected in reductions in translation cost and time of 10% to 30%, and reductions in editing time of 65% to 75%.

Gilbane: Why did you choose to sponsor the Gilbane research?

Taylor: To help build awareness of the contributions that Natural Language Processing technologies can bring to the global product content value chain.  Natural Language Processing is no longer just a laboratory curiosity; it is in daily use by many of the world’s most successful global enterprises.

Gilbane: What is the most interesting/compelling/relevant result reported in the study?

Taylor: The fact that "quality at the source" is now being recognized as a critical success factor in the global information supply chain.

For more insights into the link between authoring, quality assurance, and multilingual communications, see the section “Achieving Quality at the Source” that begins on page 28 of the report. You can also learn how acrolinx helped the Cisco Leaning Network with their quality assurance service, which now projects cost savings of 28% for Cisco certification, beginning on page 59 of the study.  Download the study for free.

 

eBook Strategy Offering Now Available

As we have mentioned before, we have been very interested in leveraging the knowledge base we developed from our successful digital publishing study, Digital Platforms and Technologies for Publishers: Implementations Beyond "eBook."

With that in mind, we have moved forward and developed a strategic consulting offering, "Implementing Digital Publishing." 

Consultation Description

Publishers face a wide range of strategic and tactical decisions when looking to start or build their digital publishing programs, and while publishers have taken many paths to success with digital product development, marketing, sales, and distribution, the organizational underpinnings of the most successful efforts have the common characteristics of technology spending consistent with business needs and opportunities. 

The Gilbane Group’s Content Strategies service is offering a three phase consultation that is aimed at both management and operations personnel in educational, professional, trade, association, STM, and specialty publishing. The goal of the consulting is to assess the publisher’s current systems involved in digital publishing—planning, editorial and production, rights and royalties, manufacturing, promotion and marketing, sales and licensing, and distribution and fulfillment—and to provide decision-making support and guidance. The consulting targets and sets the course for achieving effective and efficient digital publishing business models.

Stakeholders

Depending on the size and scope of the publishing company, as well as the particular consultation phases sought, the stakeholders addressed in these consultations may include Publisher, VP and Editorial Director, VP of Production Services, VP of Digital Publishing, VP of Marketing, VP of Royalties, VP of Manufacturing, VP of Rights, VP of Business Development., VP of Digital Licensing, VP of Sales, VP of IT and CIO or CTO.

The Educational and Directional phase of the consultation (Phase One), which may be purchased as a standalone service or in conjunction with Phase Two and Phase Three, provides the publisher with a high-level assessment of the publisher’s current state of digital publishing capability across the multiple publishing systems. This phase concludes with a report and briefing that defines the publisher’s current state of digital publishing and provides recommendations for improving digital publishing capabilities.

The Analysis, Planning, and Recommendations phase of the consultation (Phase Two) moves the publisher from a general assessment of the conditions and challenges it faces in moving toward a more effective digital publishing business by providing an in-depth plan that a publisher can use to undertake its transformation into a more effective and efficient publisher for digital success. This phase concludes with 18-month action plans and on-site presentations and discussions of findings and recommendations with appropriate stakeholders.

The Implementation Support phase of the consultation (Phase Three) is designed to provide structured support as the publisher follows through on recommendations from Phase Two. Services within the Phase Three purview can include implementation progress reports, regular client visits, retainer and query programs, RFP assistance, prospective vendor research, and bid and implementation document review.

For a full data sheet describing the offering or for other information, you can email me or contact Ralph Marto via email or phone, 617.497.9443 ext 117.

SharePoint 2010 – The Big Story

I spent a couple of days at the SharePoint conference two weeks ago with about 8000 others. Many attendees were customers, but the majority seemed to be Microsoft partners. It would be difficult to overstate the enthusiasm of the attendees. The partners especially, since they make their living off SharePoint. There has been a lot of useful reporting and commentary on the conference and what was announced as part of SharePoint 2010, which you can find on the web, #spc09 is also still active on Twitter, and videos of the keynotes are still available at: http://www.mssharepointconference.com.

As the conference program and commentary illustrate, SharePoint 2010 is a major release in terms of functionality. But the messaging surrounding the release provides some important insights into Microsoft’s strategy. Those of you who were at Gilbane San Francisco last June got an early taste of Microsoft’s plans to push beyond the firewall with SharePoint – and that is the big story. It is big because it is a way for Microsoft to accelerate an already rapidly growing SharePoint business. It is big for a large number of enterprises (as well as the SharePoint developer/partner ecosystem) because it is a way for them to leverage some of their existing investment in SharePoint for building competitively critical internet applications – leverage in expertise, financial investment, and data.

The numbers are telling. According to an IDC report Microsoft Office and SharePoint Traction: An Updated Look at Customer Adoption and Future Plans, IDC # 220237, October 2009, of "262 American corporate IT users, just 8% of respondents said they were using SharePoint for their Web sites, compared to 36% using it for internal portals and 51% using it for collaborative team sites." (the report isn’t free, but ComputerWorld published some of the numbers).

Can Microsoft increase the use of SharePoint for Web sites from 8% to 36% or 51% or more? Whether they can or not, it is too big an opportunity for them to ignore, and you can expect the market for web applications like content management to look a little different as a result. Of course SharePoint won’t be the right solution for every web application, but Microsoft needs scale, not feature or market niche dominance.

There are more pieces to this, especially integration with Office 2010, which will have a major impact on the scale of penetration. We’ll look at that issue in another post.

You can see why SharePoint is a major topic at Gilbane Boston this year. Join us next month to continue the discussion and learn more.

SharePoint 2010 – Get the Full Story

With the upcoming release of SharePoint 2010 "The business collaboration platform for the Enterprise and the Web", Microsoft is hoping to accelerate the already dramatic growth of SharePoint. The SharePoint partner ecosystem is clearly excited, and even sceptics agree it is a major release. But how do you decide whether SharePoint is right for you, or which parts of SharePoint could meet your needs, either on their own or in conjunction with other enterprise applications? Should you use it for collaboration? for search? and what about web content management – a major focus of SharePoint 2010?

With SharePoint 2010 just entering public beta and scheduled for release in the first half of the year, it is time to make sure you know what its capabilities are so you can make informed near term or strategic decisions. And, you need to get the full story, and the way to do this is to see it for yourself, and talk to sceptics, evangelists, and people already using it for applications similar to yours.

Whether you are attending the full conference or just visiting the technology demonstrations at Gilbane Boston, you will be able to learn what you need to know. Get the full story on SharePoint 2010 for content management at Gilbane Boston:

How CMOs Are Planning for Social Media

Updated November 24

While preparing for today’s webcast on digital marketing and lessons learned from the publishing indusry, we discovered the August 2009 CMO survey conducted by professor Christine Moorman at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, with support from the American Marketing Association. Moorman’s results include insights into expectations about the role of social media in digital marketing.

The 511 top marketing executives of US companies interviewed in late July expect to increase spending on social media efforts by more than 300% over the next five years, moving budget allocations from 3.5% to 13.7%.

Top investments are pegged for social networking (65%), video and photosharing (52%), and blogging (50%).

The five most frequently projected uses for social media applications are brand building, customer acquisition, new product introductions, customer retention, and market research.

Read the CMO survey press release for details on the research and links to full results. Register for today’s webinar on digital marketing and lessons learned from publishers. 

Update: The webinar recording is available here.

The Customer-Vendor Conversation: A key to success in WCM

 

Having gotten my feet [soaking] wet with briefings from Web Content Management vendors, I’ve come to a realization: the Customer-Vendor feedback loop is one of the strongest keys to long-term success for all parties. A blinding flash of the obvious? I don’t think so.  Let me explain…

I have seen, and written, a lot of RFPs seeking “the perfect” WCM product. The natural tendency in these “quests for the holy grail” is for the tool-seeker to list as many WCM features as one might possibly use […maybe…at some point in the future… if only…] and for the vendors to respond, in turn, by listing all of their capabilities and feature sets. As one might imagine, this scenario typically results in responses which provide the decision-maker minimal product differentiation information.  Why? Because like it or not, most WCM products offer similar feature sets, and if they don’t offer a particular feature today, one can be sure it’s “on the roadmap”.  [I’ll spend more time in a future post describing how one can craft an RFP to elicit valuable responses which actually help one decide which product(s) align most closely with needs of the author.] But today’s capabilities are tomorrow’s old news, so how can one be sure they’re selecting a vendor whose product will meet tomorrow’s needs? Take a look at the vendor’s track record and approach to collaborating with customers to expand and hone its offering.

As I delve into some of the top-rated [by users] WCM vendors, I see a consistent “customer-is-key” theme being played out in the form of both formal and informal feedback channels.  These “conversations” with customers can be either synchronous or asynchronous, direct or indirect, two-way or multi-way…or all of the above.  The point is that successful vendors [pro]actively engage their customers, and then respond in a meaningful manner to enhance their offering in a way that ensures that the product’s “roadmap” is *always* aligned with the needs of both current and future customers.

In a recent briefing with a vendor [who I feel has a great approach to managing this feedback loop], the last slide in their presentation listed four of their key differentiators…but all of them were technology-related and failed to mention my aforementioned favorite. Why not?  Is it because they aren’t proud of this factor? Absolutely not…they are very proud of it and have worked hard to create such a valuable dialog with their customers. My sense is they left it out because this subject is not yet a key criteria in the minds of decision-makers.

We are failing to ask the right questions.  Why wouldn’t customer service and engagement be the key in such a huge purchase decision? It should.  Innovation is essential, but I believe it is critical that we, the customers, ensure we have a place at the table to refine the direction of such innovation. After all, innovation without purpose or utility is useless.

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