A handful of digital change

Subtle changes in the freemium / premium model are afoot in quality journalism – will these changes eventually impact on journal publishing and open access?

From last week all articles published on the New Yorker website since 2007 will be free, but not for the reasons you might expect. The publication is embarking on a data / behaviour gathering exercise before introducing a more comprehensive paywall for their content.   

The Guardian Newspaper is continuing its commitment to free digital articles, but is also beginning to talk up the potential benefits of membership  – which sounds like subscription to me.

The debate about the free web and its effect on quality journalism and authorship has been going on a while. High quality writing from bloggers on all sorts of topics, and in all sorts of industries, has demonstrated that it’s not always the case that you get what you pay for.  But hoaxes, rumours and persistent inaccuracies have also reminded us of our desire for information we can trust. And if we want articles and commentary from professional journalists and authors, then someone has to pay the bill.

Over the last couple of years it’s also become more widely recognised that the web isn’t free, but its currency is our personal data, rather than our money.  Perhaps I’m not the only one who’d now like the opportunity to pay for a service on the web, rather than have it for free at the cost of becoming a commodity myself.

Another aspect to consider is that my personal data isn’t worth enough to keep organisations going – otherwise they’d all be wildly profitable, and they’re not.  Publishing, in all its many forms, is struggling to find digital business models that really work, with the low price of e-books a real issue.

One technological change that may make a paywall more palatable for consumers is the move to the mobile internet. We pay for phones and data packages in small monthly instalments and we’re becoming increasingly comfortable with the in-app purchase. Buying a hint in a crossword puzzle or a new Death Star construction tool involves an amount of money so low we can spend it without thinking – the amount of money you might previously have a spent on, say, a daily newspaper.

The crucial difference for the user is that the in-app purchase doesn’t require you to navigate away from the content in order to pay for it, whereas in a desktop browsing environment you would always have to go to PayPal or through a checkout process and then be returned to the content. This is because you have to tell the website who you are and how you’ll pay. Your phone already knows that.
Could this eventually have an effect on journal publishing? It is, in someone ways, the diametric opposite of The Big Deal. A tiny amount of money for a small product might need a fundamentally different approach, but it’s a business model with a long, proven track record in the offline world.

If I ran the mobile strategy for a large publisher seeing a lot of visits from mobile devices, or for that matter, the Guardian, I might begin by inviting people to pay for content.  

Requesting voluntary payment would at least allow publishers to assess how resistant readers are to giving a few pence to the authors they read.

An honesty box system of micropayments might be especially successful for academic societies, whose readers will, in many cases, be members and potential authors with a vested interest in successful, profitable publishing and dissemination in their field of study.

Mobile devices don’t just open a world of mobile reading, they also put a handful of digital change into our pockets.  Potentially good news for journalists, and writers of every kind.

Author: Megan Toogood*

 

If you can’t get hold of me, I’m reading seven years of New Yorker articles…

 

Maverick Changes Company Structure and Adds Senior Management Experience

Maverick Publishing Specialists Ltd. (MPSL), the specialist consultancy and outsource solutions company for the publishing industry, announced today that as of 1st July 2014, Darren Gillgrass will become CEO of the Company, reporting directly to Martin Marlow in his role of Principal and President of the Maverick Group. Marlow will continue to work with the MPSL Senior Management Team and global network of Maverick Associates to further develop the range of consultancy and support provided by the company, as well as explore new service development for the Group as a whole.

To support the appointment of Gillgrass, the MPSL Senior Management Team will also re-structure under divisional or functional Vice President roles reporting to Gillgrass, and further Senior Associates and Affiliates have been appointed to increase the levels of experience and expertise Maverick are able to provide.

Speaking of the announcement, Martin Marlow commented, “Over the last few years Maverick has gone from strength to strength and I am extremely proud and grateful for the hard work the Maverick Associates have put in to get us to where we are today. In order to continue to provide the level of service for which we have become known, we have now added even more experience to our team, as well as put in place a new management structure that will help us continue to support the growth we are enjoying. With the support of the Senior Managers and Associates, Darren will take on overall responsibility for the performance and running of MPSL. This will allow me to focus more time on developing the Maverick Group, build the Maverick Associate network still further and work closely with our Clients from all around the world.

Darren joined Maverick in Summer 2013, initially to head up the business development function in International markets. With over 20 years experience in STM publishing, he has held several senior management roles including Managing Director of the Informa Healthcare Communications and Informa Custom Publishing Groups, as well as General Manager of Wolters Kluwer Health, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. He was also responsible for running the Pharma Business Intelligence Group across Europe, Japan and Asia. Darren's particular areas of expertise include Continuing Medical Education (CME), product and market development, licensing and top level publishing strategy. Darren said, “I am excited to have the opportunity to lead Maverick Publishing Specialists at this point in its development. I have been impressed with the way the Company has achieved growth across all of its service divisions and look forward to working with the Senior Management Team and our highly respected Associates to continue the good work they have achieved.”

In related news, Maverick also welcomes two new Associates and one Affiliate Associate.

George Farina joins as Senior Associate in the USA, to provide further support in the US and Latin / South America, as well as Internationally. George has held executive level sales and client development roles, as well as senior marketing positions, for both major global STM publishers and distributors. These include iGroup (Asia Pacific) Ltd; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; Thomson International Publishing; and eight years living in Tokyo working with Longman/Pearson (ELT publishing). George is skilled in strategic planning, developing and executing sales growth strategies on a global level, and is well versed in the details of international expansion, distributor networks and global partnering.

Shona Mullen joins as Senior Associate in the UK and delivers a wealth of higher education experience covering 25 years and gained in a variety of senior roles including McGraw-Hill and latterly Pearson. Her career spans editorial, sales, marketing, and rights with a particular emphasis on product development and digital strategy. Shona was General Manager at McGraw-Hill, before taking on an interim Project Director role with Pearson in 2013. Earlier experience also includes both trade and academic sales – working as a sales representative for Macmillan Education and Open University Press.

Former Director of Innovation Strategy for Palgrave Macmillan, Alison Jones has also joined Maverick as an Affiliate Associate. Enjoying a 22-year career in trade and scholarly publishing working with major publishers such as Chambers Harrap, Reader’s Digest, Oxford University Press and Macmillan, in 2014 she left Macmillan to set up Alison Jones Business Services and works as a business coach, consultant and independent publisher. A trained small business / corporate coach, she combines extensive publishing expertise with facilitation and training skills. Her focus is on business strategy, content marketing, innovation and digital publishing. She works with start-ups and small businesses on brand strategy and business development, and particularly the creation, publication and leveraging of content. She also offers consulting and training services to traditional publishers and societies, especially those seeking to diversify and/or upskill their workforce.

Marlow further commented, "As Maverick continues to grow and support publishers, intermediaries and publishing solution providers from all markets and regions of the world, it is essential we continue to recruit the talent, expertise and in-depth knowledge that will help our clients address the challenges presented by the rapidly changing publishing environment. George, Shona and Alison all have excellent experience and are respected within the industry. They will be great assets for our customers as well as a valuable addition to our associate team.”