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Knowledgespeak Exclusive: An Interview with George Lossius, CEO, Publishing Technology PLC - 21 Mar 2011

Q

Knowledgespeak: Give us a brief update on Publishing Technology since you were last featured in Knowledgespeak in November 2007?

A

George Lossius: The last time I was interviewed by KnowledgeSpeak, Publishing Technology had recently been formed through the merger of the Ingenta and VISTA brands. Since then the company has gone from strength to strength - investing more in R&D, growing in size, opening new offices across the globe and becoming more profitable as a business. The company and its related products and services have evolved significantly. We have launched new products to market, such as our Online publishing platform pub2web, and developed and innovated other products, such as new Publishing Enterprise Management system advance, so we are now in a more competitive position across our target market sectors. At the same time we have extended considerably our Market Communications activities notably now managing the BioOne sales marketing and fulfillment.
We have also acted on our desire to reach new markets outside traditional North America and Europe leading to our new offices in Brazil and (very soon) India, a partnership in Japan, and discussions on joint ventures in China.


Q

Knowledgespeak: What, according to you, are the major developments that have affected the publishing industry, especially in the scholarly sector? What are the key trends in publishing to watch for in the near future?

A

George Lossius: Technology and the rise of consumers have and are having an immense impact. Semantic Web will become crucial, especially to scholarly publishers. Without effective Semantic Web, publishers of the future may find that their content disappears into a black hole, so searchability and discoverability will become vital areas of concern. When it comes to eBooks, scholarly, trade and reference publishers are investing heavily in strategies and technologies that will enable them to convert content to these platforms to benefit from the increases mobile and eReader devices. In the scholarly and library market, this has brought Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) into play and this will continue to be a major theme in the future, transforming the way information and content is delivered and received via these new devices. In general, I would say that publishers across the board are having to listen more attentively to consumers and end users than ever before. They are the trend setters and publishers will be judged on how quickly and efficiently they can react to their needs, making the need to be truly Information Commerce capable critical.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Briefly talk about the platforms/markets that will be most important to you in the coming years.

A

George Lossius: Probably the most significant market opportunity for us is in the USA. The size, maturity and eye to greater opportunities all combine to make this our first market focus. However, like publishing, the provision of technology and services is becoming more and more global, and over the next 5 years we see our activities in Latin America and Asia building to represent a third of our business. Many challenges are faced in achieving this growth, not least the pricing of software, which mean that our approach to services in these geographies will become more and more full service based, combining each element of our business.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Publishers today are increasingly making content available in mobile format. What does mobile technology mean for the future of publishing and specifically for your organization?

A

George Lossius: Mobile and smart phone publishing are major growth areas for us. We predict that this will be the fastest growing market this year and beyond. If e-readers sell in their millions, mobile phones sell in their billions. They are capable of taking publishers into far reaching and challenging markets in Asia and Africa, where it can be difficult to sell physical product and access to broadband internet is often scarce. We are constantly looking into new ways of helping new and existing clients to exploit and capitalize on this fast growing market.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Can you briefly talk about your Ingentaconnect service? How does this service help enhance content findability?

A

George Lossius: ingentaconnect receives over 2.5 million unique visitors per month, hosts content from over 16,000 publications from 255 publishers and remains the world’s largest resource for scholarly publications around the globe. We have seen a significant increase in the number of publishers to bring their titles to ingentaconnect over the past year and I think that is testament to the fact that we provide an excellent entry-level platform for publishers of any size reacting to the demand for digital delivery. Content now needs to be more discoverable and more searchable than ever before or publishers risk losing out in the midst of the digital evolution, in which users expect to find the information and source they are looking for instantly. ingentaconnect now has social bookmarking functionality and cross-promotion of content on the platform, and will soon introduce a new faceted search facility to make content even more discoverable when users arrive at the site. We work closely with the major search engines to ensure content hosted on ingentaconnect has maximum visibility. We also have very strong relationships with subscription agents, link resolvers and library discovery services to ensure content is easily discoverable within academic institutions.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Print publications today are increasingly facing financial pressure as access to information is undertaken in an increasing range of ways. How does your Information Commerce division help publishers re-package their e-content? Would you like to quote some specific projects that involved large scale re-packaging of legacy research text collections, databases and backfiles?

A

George Lossius: Our Information Commerce Software (ICS) uses semantic web based technology to model Publishers content into Resources, which can be referenced and classified in a number of different ways, allowing the publisher to dynamically licence and deliver complex, cross-content ‘virtual products’. In order to achieve this, we work closely with the publisher to gain a deep understanding of their content, as disparate physical publications very often contain related information and it is vital to identify, capture and model these characteristics. Our license service then allows these resources to be made available to purchase and access in a variety of different ways, including ‘clicks from Google’, ‘concurrency’ and ‘time based’.

Once the content is marketable, it is key for the publisher to monitor the usage and purchase behaviour of their customers to ensure that changes can be made to the offerings, to reflect a dynamic market. Creating special promotions, to encourage timely consumption of their content (in relation to a news item for instance) is also key to ensuring that their offerings remain relevant. This flexibility, which is at the core of the ICS service, allows for this approach to be pain free and is driving our publisher customers (such as BMJ and the Institute of Physics) to make their electronic content ever more consumable.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Social Networking is becoming a mainstream component of scientific research. How does Publishing Technology approach or utilize the Web 2.0/social networking phenomenon?

A

George Lossius: We live in a world where all internet and connected mobile users tap into their social networks daily. People use social media to introduce others to products and services they value and we believe this applies to the publishing industry just as much as any other. We have developed a social commerce and media function in our direct sales, marketing and fulfilment module, advance Order to Cash, based on our belief that all publishers should all have a social strategy in place to embrace what will become the mega-mall of the future. Social networking sites are the new shop windows and social commerce, through social media, is going to be a key driver in selling content. Our software not only integrates with it, but evolves, innovates and shapes its future within the publishing process.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Comment on your company’s performance, for the fiscal 2010, highlighting key challenges that were successfully tackled. What are your growth plans for 2011/12?

A

George Lossius: In 2010 we added content and publishers to ingentaconnect, launched three new publishers on pub2web, including one in Japan, sold both our Information Commerce Systems (ICS) and our advance system in Brazil, and opened a offices in São Paulo and Sydney.

We delivered solid results with profit improvement in a challenging climate of capital expenditure restraint, it was a year that saw global expansion for the company. In 2011 and 2012 we will see greater investment in technology within the publishing industry as publishers who currently rely on decades old systems, change them to suit the realities of the digital future, and thanks to our intensive R&D efforts in the last 4 years, we are truly set to serve publishers needs. During 2011 and 2012, we will also see a continued geographic expansion of Publishing Technology into India and China, offering services to our current customers in these markets as well as seeking new customers from those markets.


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