Tuesday, January 31, 2012

BPN 1591: CEO WK: mobile is more profitable than online

Yesterday I attended an award ceremony of the Dutch media association of professional and scientific information providers. Part of the program was a speech by Nancy McKinstry, the CEO of Wolters Kluwer. Of course when a CEO of a publically listed company speaks at such an occasion you should not expect news as company information is stock-sensitive.

However Ms McKinstry spoke in the framework of the award ceremony, focussing on the development of digital publishing. I almost had used the word electronic publishing, but that term stems from the time that I worked at the Kluwer subsidiary Oosthoek Reference from 1973 till 1979 and that I was pioneering - what we call now - the digitalisation of the workflow. In 1987 I was involved with the Kluwer team in producing their first legal text CD-ROMs. So, I was interested to hear from the CEO how far they had come in digital publishing.

She started out with the usual figures of the last annual report, dividing the publishing segments in: law, finances, accountancy and health. The segment health has been fine-tuned recently by selling the pharmaceutical products and focussing more on professional information and clinical decision support solutions. In this way the segment would be more comparable with the other three segments. In all these segments Wolters Kluwer delivers software, products and services. Wolters Kluwer sees itself as a content provider for professionals, not for academics like Elsevier.

Interesting was het statement about the evolution of digital publishing in Wolters Kluwer. She recognised three phases: printing, online and mobile. The conversion from print to online was not very profitable. Technically it was expensive and a lot of advertising money and reader profile details had been lost. But the conversion from online to mobile was really profitable. Distribution costs were lower than delivering print. Advertisement could be targeted thanks to the reader profile and usage details. The company has already 170 mobile apps in the Netherlands and will take in the next 36 months all journals and loose-leaf publications to the tablet.

Besides this technical turn-around, Wolters Kluwer is experiencing the editorial turn-around. When Nancy McKinstry was CEO of the US medical publisher CCH, editors were not allowed to have contact with the clients. Presently contact with clients is stimulated not just to see how they use the software, products and the services, but also to create and evaluate content; this can range from user generated content to user team collaborations between professionals. And the cooperation between editors/marketeers and professionals does not limit itself to content, but also reaches into the innovation strategy. They participate in innovation boards and can contribute innovative software, products or services.

Wolters Kluwer has come a long way from print to mobile and from a general publisher with newspapers, consumer magazine and book publishing, trade publishing and academic publishing. It followed the technology and shedded its general publishing in order to become a focussed solutions provider for professionals and in co-operation with professionals.

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