Publishing’s future as a data-centric business

While scholarly publishing’s past was in the business of creating and distributing printed journals, its future is as a data business. Even if we rule out future-gazing and limit ourselves to current trends which are already happening, the shift towards a data-driven future is clear.

1. Budget Squeeze. The squeeze on library budgets is pushing the concept of ‘value for money’ centre stage. Both libraries and publishers are seeking to test and prove the value of subscriptions, with increasing scrutiny of usage stats and cost per download. In sales, hard evidence of demand for content is more crucial than ever: both through ‘access denied’ stats, and via other user activities which demonstrate a keen interest in the content, such as alert sign-ups or single article purchases. For publishers to manage renewals and sales effectively in such a climate, it’s essential to have all of that data readily to hand.

2. Author Focus. As Open Access publishing continues to grow, it’s more important than ever to be able to attract and retain the best authors and reviewers, and that comes down to having a good overview of all of your submission and acceptance data. It’s also essential to be able to ‘roll up’ those author headlines to their affiliated institutions: that opens up opportunities to solicit more papers from institutions with lower-than-expected submissions, and from those institutions which tend to achieve higher acceptance rates.

3. Print to Electronic. The ongoing migration towards e-only subscriptions poses challenges for tracking the transition, and ensuring that revenues are maintained under an e-only model. It also brings with it a wealth of additional data about article-level usage and unmet demand (“turnaways”), both of which can be extremely valuable sets of information, but which were impossible to capture in the old world of print subscriptions. So, P-to-E migration isn’t just about managing subscription pricing, it’s also about ensuring that all of the rich additional data it opens up is suitably captured and mined.

4. Emerging Markets. With increasing sales opportunities (and author submissions) in growth markets such as India and China, data insight has a central role to play there too. By licensing a third-party database of worldwide customers such as the one provided by Ringgold, publishers can use data analysis to calculate a percentage penetration for different markets, and from there identify and target the biggest new opportunities. Effective data insight is also essential to track those market penetration figures as they increase over time in response to sales and marketing efforts.

5. Rise of “Social”. The increase in “social” technologies is a general trend, which means we all have higher expectations about the personalised ways in which companies and brands should interact with us. What this means for publishers is that crude ‘broadcast’ communications are no longer sufficient. In order to communicate in a more targeted and segmented way, data insight is essential once again: capturing the preferences and interests of all of the contacts we work with, and using that information to communicate effectively with different groups.

It seems clear from these current trends that capturing and exploiting data is becoming increasingly fundamental for all scholarly publishers. In the future, the most successful publishers in this emerging new world are likely to be those who have embraced this data-centric future and put data insight at the heart of their business strategies.

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