Why Traditional Print and Database Publishers Are in Even More Trouble Than Thought

November 12, 2014

I read two articles snagged by my Overflight service. The first is “Are You Ready for Marketing in 2020?” The story ran in what I thought was one of the UK’s most eager of the electronic pony riders. The other is a news report that LinkedIn, the social network for those desperate for contract or 9-to5 work and individuals with a hunger for getting 15 nanoseconds of fame. Yep, the entity “Stephen E Arnold” has a presence on LinkedIn. However, the “entity” is powered by the efforts of two of my research goslings and a real law librarian. We find the response to the “Stephen E Arnold” postings to the LinkedIn faithful amusing and somewhat horrifying.

Let’s look at each news item and then do some social and digital strategery, a neologism from the W era of the US presidency.

The Guardian asks a question and then promptly answers it without any reference whatsoever to the steady erosion of the traditional newspaper and magazine business. The author, a real journalist I presume, shows some grim data about the decline in ad revenue. There is a fix for this. A “real” newspaper or magazine can quit fiddling with the objective journalism stuff and get down to selling “inclusions.”

If you are not familiar with an inclusion in “real” publishing, allow me to explain. Think about those big, fat college guides that parents buy when Jill or James is “looking for a college.” Some of the entries are obese. Ever wonder why? Well, the business model of many college guides are based on selling space to the colleges and universities. Instead of calling these juicy descriptions of caring faculty and well groomed campuses advertising, the publishers use the euphemism “inclusion.”

How does this fit into the decline of newspaper advertising revenue? Easy. Just sell stories that pitch the advertisers’ view of reality. Then sell social media posts about the inclusion. Keep beating the drum until the inclusion buyer’s money runs out. Rinse. Repeat.

The solution is different from mine. The future in 2020 marketing will be data, content, channels, and technology. I think  these are fine words, but the job is to hook these words to money. That will be done by charging for the newspaper or magazine endorse, brand power, and ability to put out content that has more credibility than a blog produced by an unemployed journalist, a failed Webmaster, or a retired person like moi.

The Guardian “real” news story concludes with a question: “Are you ready for marketing 2020 style?” Well, the answer in my opinion is that “real” newspaper and magazine publishers are not ready for 2020. They were not ready for online content in the 1960s. Now a half century later, these outfits are still struggling in a digital fish bowl. By 2020, most of the “real” newspapers and magazines will either become PR and SEO outfits, get into a different business like real estate, or fail. In  my opinion, the very expensive and complex business model of the Monocle will not be viable due to the difficulty of generating enough revenue to keep prints, shops, online, and other bits and pieces affordable.

The second article is “LinkedIn acquires Newsle, a Google Alerts-Style Service for You and Your Network. One good thing about LinkedIn is that it is more focused than Amazon or Google. The company offers the ego- and unemployed focus that sets it apart from other social networks. Also, the company has snagged a couple of content centric properties. I quite like Slideshare because users create content, upload it, and get the benefit of being able to hunt for work or boost their ego. That’s synergistic in the MBA 1975 definition of the term. The Newsle deal, like the Pulse deal, is aimed at service. These have potential to distribute Linked In “posts” and news about Slideshare uploads as well as content that some publishers provide. Please, note that the savvy publisher will charge a person or company to write a story, slap the “real” publication’s name on it, and then hose the data to LinkedIn’s services. So I am on board with this type of acquisition for LinkedIn.

But the real impact of this LinkedIn constellation of services is that traditi0nal database publishers like ProQuest and Ebsco Electronic Publishing are likely to find themselves in a deeper hole than the one they are now in. The traditional market for these outfits is a library willing to pay outrageous prices for content produced by others. Publishers are rightly suspicious of these database outfits. If specialized information is the focal point, the audience for ACM or IEEE content remains small. As a percentage of the working population, the specialist markets are more difficult to increase. Selling cheaper mobile devices is a tough business, but these burgeoning prospect pools are looking for ways to reduce their costs of online, not raise them by reading the full text of Elsevier journals.

Raising prices for this specialized content will squeeze both the professional customers and the go-between companies like Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. Westlaw and Lexis already are feeling the effects of having their core market flee for jobs at Uber, Kentucky Fried Chicken, human resources, and trying to make a franchise pay for the kids’ sneakers. Legal information is indeed a very tough business compared to the salad days of expensive online information. I balk at paying $100, $250, or more for a query of US government produced legal documents. I am not alone I believe.

This means that LinkedIn may benefit from “real” newspapers and magazines charging for inclusions. As LinkedIn’s audience grows, it—not the publishers nor the intermediating database folks—will get the big paydays necessary to live high on the hog.

Good for LinkedIn. Not so good for the folks who have not adapted to the 1970s. By 2020, many of these outfits will be like the snow leopards. LinkedIn could be one of the winners.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2014

Arnold Steps Away from Online Searcher Magazine

October 13, 2014

After several years of writing librarian-centric articles for Online Magazine and Searcher Magazine, I have decided to become an occasional author for Online Searcher. I will try to update the LinkedIn bibliography of my work before the end of the year. Some of my Online Searcher articles are available directly from Information Today. Online Searcher, as you may know, was formed in a crucible of innovation when Information Today merged its two separate publications.

For now, I will continue to provide articles about enterprise search for Information Today and about knowledge management to KMWorld. I have focused more and more on information issues related to law enforcement and intelligence. Although there is a fuzzy boundary between these two domains, I have decided to shift my efforts to operational intelligence and OSINT. I will not be covering these topics in Beyond Search, which focused on the highlights and lowlights of enterprise information systems. Readers active in law enforcement and intelligence will be able to follow my research in my presentations and webinars for those in these specialized communities. Search vendors and those who purvey wild and crazy for fee information services cannot breathe easily. I will be tracking the commercial findability outfits in Beyond Search until the industry changes or I grow tired of writing about jargon, lateral arabesques, and “intelligent” software.

Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2014

Short Honk: The Effects of Power? Hardly Worth Worrying About

October 2, 2014

I read “Power Can Corrupt Even the Honest.” I am not sure if this is an objective scientific report or write up that says, “Hey, everybody’s doing it.” Judge for yourself.

I know that Elsevier is a purveyor of some expensive publications. The company also has an online autoclave in LexisNexis. I ran across one law librarian who told me that some law firms were reluctant to pump big bucks into Lexis queries. Sour grapes? Silliness? I don’t know.

What’s interesting is that the write up states:

After completing psychometric tests to measure various individual differences, including honesty, participants played the ‘dictator game’ where they were given complete control over deciding pay-outs to themselves and their followers. The leaders had the choice of making prosocial or antisocial decisions, the latter of which resulted in reduced total pay-outs to the group but increased the leader’s own earnings.
The findings showed that those who measured as less honest exhibited more corrupt behaviour, at least initially; however, over time, even those who initially scored high on honesty were not shielded from the corruptive effects of power.

I think I understand. To have real fun just become real powerful like a real professional publisher. Seems obvious to me, but I am not a real researcher. I do have enough common sense to come in out of the rain. Honest.

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2014

Google May Show Pesky German Publishers Its Traffic Power

October 2, 2014

I read “Google Bows to Pressure, Removes News Snippets from German Search Results.” This is a “real” journalism story from the same folks that delivered the Dave Schubmehl sale of my information on Amazon.

Not surprisingly, I interpreted the friskiness of the German legal eagles in a way that is quite different from deal old Computerworld’s.

Computerworld states with its real news authoritarian tone:

In a move to minimize legal risks, Google has stopped showing news snippets and thumbnails for some well-known German news sites in search results.

My view is that Google will allow publishers to witness a shift in their referral traffic from Google. Changes in either presentation in a Google page or results list can have an immediate and direct impact on traffic.

In my view, the Google perceives some countries as “not getting it.” What looks like a retreat may not be a signal of Google cowardice. Too bad traffic reports for German media properties are not as popular as Miley Cyrus concert attendance.

If one is not in Google, one may be hard to find or may not exist to some of the digital crowd.

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2014

New York Times: All the News that Fewer Staff Can Produce

October 1, 2014

I read “New York Times Plans Cutbacks in Newsroom Staff.” I summarized the Times’s management decisions about online in this post. The Times has been floundering with new media for decades.

Unfortunately the revenue from online does not make up for advertising sales shortfalls, rising costs for paper and ink, and the old school business model that thrived on newspaper warfare.

The write up reports:

The note also said financial results from the company’s third quarter, which ended Sunday, had improved from a difficult second quarter. Digital advertising is likely to show growth of about 16 percent in the third quarter, the best quarterly performance since 2010, and digital subscriptions are expected to increase by more than 40,000, the largest number of quarterly additions since 2012. But the company’s profitability was lower than during the same period last year as costs increased.

So, farewell “real” journalists. Perhaps the Times should buy America Online and snag Ms. Huffington? Is she the future of “real” journalism? Maybe some of those mid tier consultants can come up with new ideas. (Oh, sorry, the mid tier consulting firms are struggling for revenues as well.) Perhaps a failed webmaster, unemployed middle school teacher, or a self anointed poobah will come to the firm’s rescue for less than a single “real” journalist. Well, there’s always selling write ups via Fiverr.com.

Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2014

Cross Books Off the Back To School List

September 19, 2014

No more pencils, no more books, no more…wait! No more books? According to an io9 article, “The First College In The US To Open Without Any Books In Its Library” dead tree items might be a thing of the past at least for one university. Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland recently opened with 550 students as part of its first class. The brand new campus has the usual campus buildings, including a library. The library, though, is different from your typical archive of knowledge: it is the nations first all digital library collection.

All of the books in the library are available via software that allows the students to download ebooks and what we can assume access to academic databases. An even bigger change is that librarians will not man the reference desk, because its name has been switched to the “success desk.” Librarians will instead be train students on information literacy and how to access electronic resources. Students will still be able to access books via interlibrary loan from other universities. They will also be able to decide how Florida Polytechnic spends its $60,000 library budget.

These are some good ideas in theory, but the technology is not up to being a free and browseable collection:

“Defenders of brick-and-mortar bookstores have argued the opposite, saying that the experience of wandering among bookshelves inspires serendipitous discoveries, while searching a database yields only the exact results you set out to find. While you can find related books in a database, it is unlikely you’ll stumble across an unrelated but helpful book while searching for another one by title.”

In most cases, students are also limited to how many times the can download and read an ebook. Digital licenses can track that kind of usage, so how long will some of these ideas last?

Whitney Grace, September 19, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

IDG Nukes Macworld Magazine

September 11, 2014

I love IDG, the publishing / services company founded by Pat McGovern in 1964. Mr. McGovern spoke to me about joining the company. I was an executive at Ziff Communications Co. He seemed like a nice guy. I recall he had on a plain blue suit, white shirt, and red tie. I think that every time I saw him at a conference or in a snapshot, he had on that attire.

I decided to deflect his interest in me. I did not get happy vibes from him. Bill Ziff, on the other hand, emitted a presence and triggered singing and dancing vibes. So what da ya think? Culture maybe? Integrity radar beep?

IDG owns IDC, an outfit that has used my content over the years. Most recently, one of the IDG/IDC “experts” surfed on my name, selling a heavily modified version of a report I wrote about Attivio. Did I get paid? Nah. Did the expert, Dave Schubmehl, I believe sign a contract with me? Nah.

Does this provide some insight into the pressure on IDG / IDC to make money without thinking too much about the methods? Hmmm.

When I read “IDG Shutters Macworld Magazine, Much of the Editorial Staff Let Go,” I had three thoughts race through my admittedly small mind:

  1. There will be more cost reducing measures. This is not the dropping of a single shoe. It may signal a semi carrying print titles that is losing its load.
  2. Too bad for the IDGers who have to look for work elsewhere. Leaving a company that seems to be starting a slim down plan to deal with cost issues is not the blue ribbon it was in the triage years after the crash in 2008. There’s a recovery, right?
  3. Are there other examples of rising pressure causing interesting business decisions? Surfing on my name by selling a report that puts some sparkle on the Las Vegas dancer’s costume is different from blue chip consulting methods. See this story for some color.

The article points out that the Macworld Web site will not be killed off. Some staff have been sent packing.

Not too surprising.

Stephen E Arnold, September 11, 2014

The Importance of Publishing Replication Studies in Academic Journals

September 1, 2014

The article titled Why Psychologists’ Food Fight Matters on Slate discusses the issue of the lack of replication studies published in academic journals. In most cases, journals are looking for new information, exciting information, which will draw in their readers. While that is only to be expected, it can also cause huge problems in scientific method. Replication studies are important because science is built on laws. If a study cannot be replicated, then it’s finding should not be taken for granted. The article states,

“Since journal publications are valuable academic currency, researchers—especially those early in their careers—have strong incentives to conduct original work rather than to replicate the findings of others. Replication efforts that do happen but fail to find the expected effect are usually filed away rather than published. That makes the scientific record look more robust and complete than it is—a phenomenon known as the “file drawer problem.””

When scientists have an incentive to get positive results from a study, and little to no incentive to do replication studies, the results are obvious. Manipulation of data occurs, and few replication studies are completed. This also means that when the rare replication study is done, and refutes the positive finding, the scientist responsible for the false positive is a scapegoat for a much larger problem. The article suggests that academic journals encouraging more replication studies would assuage this problem.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 01, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

A New Look for Computerworld.com

August 29, 2014

You are familiar with Computerworld, and you may visit the Computerworld.com Web site. The emulators and name surfers somewhere in the IDG Enterprise combine wants more eyeballs. That’s why I saw this news story from the professionals at Marketwired. Note: Not “marketwire.”

The title? “Computerworld.com Integrates Responsive Design Technology and functionality Enhancements in Site Relaunch.” The “real” news story reports:

The award-winning site incorporates responsive design technology to create a universal experience by scaling editorial and advertising content to the user’s screen size, whether they are accessing Computerworld.com with a smartphone, tablet or desktop.

I thought that blog themes like those readily available for WordPress, Joomla, and other content frameworks did the responsive thing automatically. The notion of “responsive design” is getting bright lights at “the leading enterprise technology media company”, however.

I suppose on a slow news day or when an IDC unit cannot publish my information without my permission or the other impedimenta that marks professional behavior, the crackerjack experts at IDG have to dig deep and gut through the really tough news. The story reports:

The editorial voice, content and design of Computerworld.com remains unique to the brand, while functionality has been aligned across IDG Enterprise sites including back-end capabilities enhancing search functionality and digital asset management for displaying more images and video content. The reader experience is further enhanced by large more legible type and fully integrated social media tools. Ads and promotional units are highlighted in a “deconstructed” right rail optimizing effectiveness and native advertising will be threaded intuitively throughout the site.

From whence does the content come from? Well, here’s an example of how IDG maintains its alleged “leading” position:

“Computerworld.com is well known for its superb tech news. What may be less obvious to website visitors is all the other great content Computerworld serves up for senior technology leaders,” said Scot Finnie, editor in chief, Computerworld.

Interesting since the consulting outfit bandied my name about like a tennis ball between mid 2012 and mid July 2014 without fooling around with contracts, sales reports, edit cycles, etc.

Now what about Computerworld.com? Today’s Computerworld.com has 64 objects on the home page, uses 30 images, and expects my wonderful Windows phone to render a page that is a svelte 1656946 bytes. Ooops. Don’t forget that the images pumped to me today total 1612438 bytes. You can see a report by navigating to www.websiteoptimization.com.

Fascinating news about the responsive design innovation. I am surprised that IDG elected to share this secret to online success. Is it possible that Computerworld.com invented responsive design following in the impressive footsteps of Al Gore’s Internet system and method?

Well, as long as revenues rise, the long slog to responsive design will have been worth it.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2014

Inflation: How Professional Publishing Companies Cope

August 18, 2014

I saw a Twitter message at http://bit.ly/1qI2Uow. Here is the image I noted:


I then saw by happenstance another post on Imgur, a source with which I am not familiar:


I wonder if there is a relationship between these two items. I wish I were a student so I could help the publishers deal with the rising cost of paper, shipping, etc. I also wish I could be on a faculty or a library board so I could vote for more expensive peer reviewed journals and more databases of content produced by professors and researchers. Note: I do not want to be a professor or researcher. I think the pay for scholarly output is not as good as working in some other occupations; for example, professional publishing management at Springer, Elsevier, Wiley. Of course, these data may be bogus. If true, I find them suggestive.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2014

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