Digital transformation is a controversial subject, despite the many benefits it conveys for publishers and their customers. When it comes to making systemic changes across their organization, publishers anticipate frustration, expense, and hugely complicated, multi-year implementation plans. Even agreeing on common definitions for the basic steps toward digital transformation can be convoluted, as evidenced by the recent study commissioned by CCC and Ixxus, Industry Leaders’ Perspectives on Digital Transformation.

Even agreeing on common definitions for the basic steps toward digital transformation can be convoluted, as evidenced by the recent study commissioned by CCC and Ixxus, Industry Leaders’ Perspectives on Digital Transformation.

Why Pursue Digital Transformation?

Based on interviews with 25 senior leaders of publishing organizations in the STM, Education, and Trade sectors, publishers today have three common goals which spur the industry toward the modern, large-scale technology adaptations known as digital transformation.

  1. Respond to consumer demand: Customers now expect easy, immediate, inexpensive access to content in many formats and across many channels.
  2. Create new revenue streams: MOOCs, self-publishing, new distribution channels, and digital competitors have significantly eroded book and journal revenue.
  3. Develop new product opportunities: Digitizing the back catalogue makes it easy to export existing content to new formats and markets, and in turn, to generate new revenue.

Digital Transformation, Defined

At CCC and Ixxus, we have identified the five essential steps in the digital transformation sequence: content storage, metadata, discoverability, content agility, and automated collaboration.

Content Storage

Essentially, content storage is the place where your content lives. Although the ideal example would be a single, global, centralized file repository in the cloud, most organizations currently rely on patched together siloes and systems. In any given office, this might include some combination of desktop folders, network drives, an intranet, a wiki, and, perhaps, a cloud system like Google Drive or Outlook 365.


Metadata is short-hand for the use of software to apply labels or tags to files in an automated, systematic way. The tags enable quick browsing, making it possible to pull relevant files on demand. The largest barrier in this process is tackling publishers’ massive back catalogues.


There are two sides to discoverability: internal, as in the organization’s ability to locate content for production; and external, as in the end-user’s ability to find content. Machine-powered smart search can pull the materials you want, plus related materials that you didn’t even know were there. Another way to think of discoverability is like a roadmap that provides the most direct route to the content you need – avoiding too many sub-menus and extra clicks along the way.

Content Agility

Content agility results from the successful implementation of content storage, metadata, and discoverability practices. When those factors are in place, publishers can easily respond to external demands by identifying opportunities to reuse and repurpose content. This optimization can offer significant advantages to organizational information and assets, breathing new life into existing content.

Automated Collaboration

Automated collaboration overarches the other four elements of digital transformation. Internally, this can mean live-editing documents, e.g., enabling multiple staff members to work together on a shared spreadsheet. On a larger scale, think of linking content, e.g., changing a master file and prompting the same change to be made on every item derived from that file.

The Future is Now

Tech-savvy consumers are ready for digital transformation. They expect sophisticated searching abilities at their fingertips. They’re hungry for insightful content, regardless of publication date, delivered instantly in PDF, HTML, XML, or whichever file format comes next. They want access to automated collaboration tools for easy manipulation of content. Digital transformation is the means to those ends. It’s more than a trend – it’s a systemic shift in the content industry, and it’s here to stay.


Author: Robert Gaggin

Robert Gaggin is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, and marketing programs in support of the Information & Content Services business unit. He contributes to the development, management, and marketing of CCC’s licensing and content management services for the learning market, including higher education, K-12 and corporate learning and development. Robert previously held marketing and editorial positions at Pearson, Cengage, and CISION.
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