Opportunities to Digitally Transform Publishing


Orchestrating business process, content, and data for future value

The US television network NBC stumbled in their digital transformation journey when, in September 2007, they pulled out of a partnership with Apple to stream their content on iTunes. Over the next couple of months, piracy of NBC content compared to its contemporaries grew more than 11 percent while piracy of NBC content from a unit perspective more than doubled. The losses were so impactful that in less than a year, NBC did a complete reversal and accepted Apple’s terms.

The failure of NBC wasn’t a technical problem—it was a business problem. They were so focused on protecting an old business model that they failed to plan for the future.

“We need to speed up science. One thing that slows us down today is that it can take a year or longer to publish research in a scientific journal.”

When the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative launched in April of this year, president Cori Bergmann said, “We need to speed up science. One thing that slows us down today is that it can take a year or longer to publish research in a scientific journal.”

Scientific publishing provides a microcosm of the challenges that all publishers face. Primary among those are user expectations of speed, seamless workflow, and strong collaboration. Data can be processed at unprecedented volume and rates to gain new scientific insights. Technological advances in processing data result in the demand for more data. Researchers expect to easily access this data instantly.

Digital efforts—like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which is funding an effort to allow researchers to share drafts of papers before the papers are published— begin to address researcher expectations.

The goal is to allow scientists and researchers to share drafts of their papers and results of their research, including negative results, before the peer review process to drive greater collaboration and speed discovery.

In a 2017 survey conducted of 25 leading STM and trade publishers in the UK and US, digital transformation was seen as “critical to business growth” while being frustratingly complex. The frustration comes from clinging to old business models and thinking that parts of the system can be saved by implementing new technologies. This was NBC’s mistake in 2007.

While changing researcher expectations is critical, emerging changes to research incentives will create more dramatic demands on publishing—for more agility, services, and innovation. Publishers, therefore, need to think bigger and move quickly.

Digital transformation is about changing business processes and systems to enable companies to bring value to market more quickly.

Related Reading: The Definitive Guide to Digital Transformation

In scientific publishing, that value is being defined by the market today as more published research results, seamless access to content, and massive data sets in addition to journal articles to feed data processing.

Publishers can gain a better understanding of their customers and embrace data-driven decision-making through digital transformation. They can establish new processes that leverage the value of existing data while capturing new data.

This requires the ability to create new workflows and manage old ones, in a way that doesn’t disrupt current business while accommodating new opportunities.

In a move seen as crazy by industry insiders, in 2011, Netflix committed $100 million to produce two full seasons of a TV series. Their data crunchers had analyzed viewing patterns of 33 million subscribers and were confident the show would be a hit. While major networks waited for Netflix to fail, House of Cards went on to become a huge success, winning Emmy and Golden Globe awards.

NBC didn’t understand the shift in user expectations in 2007. Netflix used data to defy accepted norms, investing in two seasons of shows and producing a massive success.

Publishers would be wise to learn from other content industries, recognize the power of shifting user expectations, and harness the power of data through digital transformation to create future value.

This post originally appeared in the October 11, 2017 Publishing Perspectives Show Daily Magazine (p. 21).

Tracey Armstrong

Author: Tracey Armstrong

Tracey Armstrong has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) since July 2007. She brings almost 30 years of experience in rights management, helping transform CCC’s solutions to meet the needs of today’s digital world. Armstrong works with publishers, authors, universities, businesses and industry associations around the world, addressing global copyright issues and establishing new alliances. She serves on the Board of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) and holds an MBA from Northeastern University, where she mentors young women in its MBA program. Armstrong also works closely with Harborlight Community Partners, a non-profit, Massachusetts-certified Community Development Corporation which provides affordable housing.

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