Saturday, July 07, 2007

STM publishing: between cooperation and confrontation

Yesterday I commemorated the 20th anniversary of the company C-CONTENT. While ruffling through their press folder, I discovered a lecture of by Dr Karl-Peter Winters (photograph) about the future of the German Publishing Industry: Between Cooperation and Confrontation. Mr Winters is managing Director of Dr. Otto Schmidt Publishing Group and President of the Publishers Committee of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

I think Mr Winters, who is very familiar with the German publishing market, is really grappling for solutions in the global publishing market. Despite implying the German Publishing Industry he hardly mentions any detail about the German market, except that the largest bookseller in Germany is with a turn-over of 600 million euro and that the biggest German publishing group – newspaper publishers aside – Bertelsmann/Springer is only half as big as Wolters Kluwer. For the rest he is dabbling with the global STM market making some interesting observations.

Mr Winters observes that the structure of the market is changing as larger publishers (Top 20) grew twice as fast as the other publishers in 2006. The most influential factor affecting the publishing industry is technological development. He basically poses that publishers who mange to use the technological possibilities at all levels – in communication, production and marketing – are most likely to survive.

But the technological infrastructure is not the only factor which will help the publisher survive. While it is possible to earn now money with digital content, the question remains whether this will be possible in the future. Especially copyright law will be a major factor in STM publishing with scientific authors campaigning to have all scientific texts available on the internet free of charge.

Mr Winters arrives at these five theses.
“1.Content alone is no longer a guarantee of business success. Equally important are competence in technology, understanding of the internet’s legality, the user’s mentality and usage habits. Whoever thinks like the new generation, can do business with them. Whoever thinks like the internet elite, is also able to do business in the internet.
2. The direct contact with customers, the utilization of user behaviour and customer wishes is crucial for successful electronic products. The better you know your customers, the more able your are to create products for them.
3. Not every content is successful in the internet, information and news are mostly free of charge. Content only sells in connection with convenience – professional users need to simplify their work and save time.
4. Filtering and rating content is a critical service of publishers who have to stem and channel the flood of information. Publishers can only sell successfully what is important.
5. Publishers are only successful if they cooperate at all levels like standards, platforms, links, etc.”

It is clear from the presentation that the future of STM publishing is difficult to forecast , regardless whether this is for the German or global market. As Mr Winters says: “Scientific publishing will change, most certainly not to the delight of Reed Elsevier. Search engines and platforms (Google, Amazon, eBay) will become competitors of publishers – with regard to printing on demand and the second hand book business, Amazon is a competitor already.”

You can download the presentation as pdf.

Blog Posting Number: 806


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