2018 delivered many notable changes in the topics that we cover on the Velocity of Content blog. Contributors Jill Shuman, Chuck Hemenway and Chris Kenneally sat down on our sister podcast, Beyond the Book, to look back on some of this year’s trends.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation was undoubtedly one of the biggest areas of conversation on the Velocity of Content blog this year. Digital transformation is more than a trend or buzzword – it’s a systemic shift in the way we all do business – and live our lives. And it’s here to stay.

So, we have to start by asking what it actually means to digitally transform your organization. When we spoke with Dr. Deborah Soule, who most recently has partnered with MIT for digital transformation research projects, she said it really breaks down to three areas:

  • First, changing mindsets. These are new attitudes, beliefs, and values towards digital tools, information, organization, management, workers and the work itself.
  • Next, think about changing practices, like moving toward data-driven decision making and collaborative learning.
  • And finally, changing resources and focusing on technology investments.

We were able to dive deeper into specific best practices for publishers. The areas that Dr. Soule identified can be applied in beneficial ways at publishing houses. Digital tools for organizing documents, for version control, and for collaborative workflows can expedite the production process in getting new content to market.

Hefty metadata can allow content to be surfaced through smart search, and then repurposed in novel ways, for example in special issues, omnibus ebooks, anthologies or course packs.

Digital transformation optimizes the content ecosystem for publishers. Each piece of content can be published faster, cleaner, with a wide reach and a long lifespan. This is especially relevant for publishers with decades or even centuries of backlist content.

Life Sciences

In the life sciences realm, digital transformation is slow-moving, but the seed has been planted. And the good news is, we’ve seen a lot of studies this year that suggest that change is coming.

New research, conducted at the end of last year by TayganPoint Consulting Group and PharmaVoice, reveals that more than one in four life science companies expect large-scale transformation in the next three years.

A survey of 350 life science professionals released by the Pistoia Alliance earlier this year showed that 44% are experimenting with AI-based solutions, like natural language processing and machine learning.

And, Deloitte’s annual report suggests that innovative tools and technology offer the pharma companies the opportunity to buck the trend of declining R&D revenues. It highlights artificial intelligence, real-world evidence and robotic and cognitive automation as technologies which could help improve R&D efficiency.

This goes back to the overarching theme of digital transformation though. Dr. Deborah Soule put it perfectly: “Tools are important – but they’ll only go so far if your organization lacks overall digital dexterity. Organizations that will be successful in digitally transforming need to rely on a strong combination of people, process and technology.”

Open Access

Open Access spent a lot of time in the spotlight this year. It was exciting to pivot from basic content, like explaining how the gold open access publishing model was different from the green open access publishing model, to digging into the ramifications of open access across the publishing world in the years to come. What are the ethics of open access? Can the industry sustain a large-scale open access environment?

In the latter half of the year, there is no doubt that the conversation was dominated by the funder-driven initiative that came out of Europe, Plan S, which we covered extensively, including the post “Get Smart About Plan S with Rob Johnson.”

An initiative of 13 European national research funding organizations (cOAlition S), “Plan S” puts pressure on Open Access publishing business models by capping article fees, ending embargoes and withdrawing support for “hybrid” OA journals. The “S” in “Plan S” can stand for “science, speed, solution, shock,” says Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s OA special envoy.

Following 1 January 2020, “scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

Delta Think, an independent publishing and digital media consultancy, estimates that “Plan S” funders account for roughly 3.3% of articles published globally.

At the broadest level, the information industry continues to struggle with the migration from traditional subscription publishing to Open Access publishing (and open science and open data more broadly). The stakeholders – authors, publishers, institutions, and funding agencies (including government bodies) – consider Open access from very different perspectives. Recently, given the Horizon 2020 mandates in Europe (originating at the Belin Conference in 2016) and now in the U.S., “Plan S” indicates that the institution and funding community is pushing harder than ever on the traditional publishing community to change their business models or be replaced.

Copyright Law

2018 has been a busy year for copyright law. We covered a lot of important copyright legislation this year, including the Marrakech Treaty Implementation Act to increase access to literature for the visually impaired, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act which could allow a simpler system for creators to protect their intellectual property, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act to modernize the Copyright Office of the United States, and of course the European Union’s Copyright Directive which changes the way content can be shared in print and online for European citizens.

One of the most popular legislative stories we have followed this year has been the Music Modernization Act, which became law on October 11.

Streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Music provide unlimited online access to music for their customers, though not downloadable copies of albums or individual tracks. This popular innovation has, over the last decade, outstripped the mechanisms of law and regulation that would see creators and performers paid for these new uses of their works. But that is about to change.

The Music Modernization Act requires that a new blanket license for streaming be created and managed by a new, non-profit collecting society dedicated to this one purpose.

As it turns out, mechanical, sync, composition and other rights in music are complicated, and performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI have not been able to quickly adapt to the new music consumer’s environment – one that now includes a lucrative streaming business.

Many trade association and membership groups involved in the music business – including the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Music Publishers’ Association – supported the Music Modernization Act (which will almost certainly increase royalties paid by users to rightsholders).

After expressing some initial concerns, the National Association of Broadcasters, ASCAP and BMI also offered support for the legislation.

The new law— which is the first substantial copyright legislation to pass in decades—accomplishes three main changes:

  • The use of music by streaming services will now (more about that in a minute) be paid for in a regularized royalty arrangement;
  • Audio producers and engineers who participated in musical recordings will start to be paid when their recordings are played on online and satellite radio services;
  • Digital services will have to pay for their use of songs recorded and released before 1972 ([which] were not previously protected by copyright law).


Author: Chuck Hemenway

Chuck Hemenway is Director, Publisher Solutions for CCC. He has been at the company for over 20 years and is responsible for helping publishers find efficiency through automation, technology, and market-wide collaboration. His primary focus is the market-wide adoption of the RightsLink platform, and the exploration of new efficiencies and revenue opportunities for publishers.

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.

Author: Jill Shuman

Jill Shuman is a former Director of Product Engagement at Copyright Clearance Center and currently a CCC Consultant. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Tufts University School of Medicine, where she has taught courses in grant writing, searching biomedical literature and expository writing. Prior to her role at CCC, Jill headed up the corporate library and Knowledge Management Centers at Shire, and also served as a healthcare research analyst and an award-winning science journalist. She is active in SLA, HBA, and the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). In 2016, Jill was the recipient of AMWA’s lifetime achievement award for her success in teaching more than 40 classes, workshops, and seminars. When not at work, she can be found reading (on an e-reader to make the print bigger), looking for her glasses, or writing children’s mysteries that feature sick children as super sleuths.
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