Publishing is more than just information

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Publishers need to provide more than just content to their end users, they need to ‘move up the value chain’ by providing more useful search tools than publicly accessible services such as Google, according to Andrew Richardson, VP of business development at Wolters Kluwer Heath.

‘Publishers are not technology companies yet, but we’re moving in that direction,’ he told a seminar on the future of STM publishing at the Online Information Show in London at the beginning of December.

‘Don’t keep content and search tools separate,’ he recommended. In his view, publishers had to get away from delivering the sorts of services that the customer or learned society could easily access themselves. ‘It used to be enough to say “it’s online’’ but that is not enough any more.’

The continued development of search tools to help users navigate their way through information overload was one such service that a publisher could deliver. ‘Deliver value to the point of use, not just content,’ he said.

The publishing world had changed, he pointed out, not only as a result of Google and trends such as open-access publishing. The ‘information economy’ in particular is GDP-driven, he noted, and no one should expect it to bounce back quickly from the recession. The average purchase per user is also going down.

STM publishers have to be clear about what they provide, he argued. First and foremost, according to Richardson, publishers facilitate objective research because they manage the peer-review process that ensures objectivity in science. But for customers such as learned societies, for example, they also provide access to markets through their existing salesforces. Large publishers can offer economies of scale that are not available to small learned societies, keeping costs down and quality up.

But everyone should remember that the journals are the brands, rather than the company (or indeed the society) that publishes them. It is the journals Stroke and Circulation, published on behalf of the American Heart Association, that are recognised brands rather than Wolters Kluwer itself or even its Lippincott Williams & Wilkins subsidiary.

For all publishers, the task is to manage the process and to provide prevision search and discovery of STM information. Ultimately, he said, the customer wants ‘the right content, in the right place, at the right time, and on the right terms.’