Swets focuses on agent business technology

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At the start of February Swets decided to sell Extenza e-Publishing Services and Extenza Marketing Solutions. Siân Harris investigates why the Netherlands-based subscription agent is moving away from providing services for publishers

Swets has continued to divest its smaller businesses by selling Extenza e-Publishing Services (EPS) and Extenza Marketing Solutions (EMS). This follows a similar pattern to last year's sales of the company's publishing activities, Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers and Swets Test International.

The two Extenza businesses have been sold in order for their former parent company to concentrate on its core competence of being the middle man between libraries and publishers, according to Bob Visser, the chief information officer and an executive board member of the Netherlands-based Swets. He said that the company as a whole went through a challenging time last year. 'We are going to focus on our core competence moving forward,' he explained.

EMS was launched in 2001 and EPS followed in 2003. 'We started Extenza in response to perceived new opportunities in the market but Extenza has remained relatively small in comparison with Swets' turnover,' said Visser. This, he added, meant that Swets Information Services, which is the company's subscription agent business, continued to attract the bulk of development resources. In addition, Visser noted that 'publishing services is a very tough business characterised by a high level of price competition'.

EPS has been bought by Atypon Systems of Santa Clara, California, and the sale should be completed by August of this year. EPS provides services such as the conversion of electronic print files into internet-deliverable content, hosting services, access control to publications, and search capabilities across abstracts and titles to around 55 publishers.

Swets' Visser said that Atypon was chosen as the buyer for EPS because it has a strong reputation in the publishing services market and will allow EPS's customers to grow in functionality and services if they want to. Atypon will continue to use the Extenza name for the product, although this arrangement will be evaluated after a year. 'We have no plans to use the Extenza label in the short term,' explained Visser, adding that keeping the same name for the time being will help customer confidence.

Atypon sees Extenza as a good fit with its existing Literatum e-publishing platform. Literatum is focused at middle-sized and larger publishers who require a high level of hands-on administrative control of their online business with a customised, feature-rich website to present their content. These customers include Blackwell Synergy, Annual Reviews and the University of California Press. In contrast, EPS served smaller publishers, which is a group that Atypon had not previously targeted. 'Extenza e-Publishing Services is an excellent hosting option for publishers who need a streamlined and low cost online solution,' said Georgios Papadopoulos, Atypon's CEO. 'Extenza's clients will benefit from our technological and industry experience, while enjoying a smooth transition and uninterrupted service. Between Literatum and Extenza, Atypon offers an increased range of services to scholarly publishers.'

For Extenza Marketing Solutions (EMS), which provides outsourced, cost effective telemarketing and direct marketing services to publishers, Swets also looked for a specialised buyer. This business has been sold to Accucoms of the Netherlands. 'We wanted to sell to a company that is solely focused on marketing,' said Visser. 'The founder of Accucoms used to work for Swets. This business was founded to deliver marketing services to publishers and it was very eager to continue servicing our publisher clients.'

'This is the next logical step for Accucoms' growth,' added Pinar Erzin, who is managing director of Accucoms. 'We know the staff and operations of Extenza Marketing Solutions well. They have built a highly professional and well-respected service. Together, our expanded and combined businesses will increase the range of services we offer to scholarly publishers seeking excellent communication and marketing to libraries worldwide'

Swets still owns a third arm of Extenza, Extenza-Turpin, which provides fulfillment and distribution services for academic, STM and professional publishers world-wide. The future of this business is still being considered. 'It is a profitable business and outsourcing for publishers is still interesting but the argument about focusing on our core competencies still applies,' Visser commented.