STM, trade and education industry leaders offer perspectives on digital transformation in publishing

Frankfurter Buchmesse‘s white paper, Industry Leaders’ Perspectives on the Digital Transformation Journey in Publishing, is based on interviews with leaders from the STM, Education and Trade sectors. The objective was to gain insights regarding five core elements in the digital transformation journey: Content Storage, Metadata, Content Agility, Discoverability and Collaboration. The interviews were conducted in early 2017 and include senior leaders holding “C-Suite,” Vice-President and Director+ positions.

The full PDF may be downloaded here. Some highlights below.

On how publishers are progressing with digital transformation

  • Half of the interviewees believe their current transformation efforts were ‘on par’ relative to peers in the publishing industry.
  • STM organizations cited significant investments in 3 of the 5 transformational areas over the past few years, bolstering their claim to “lead” the rest of the industry.
  • Conversely, over 30 percent of Trade and 50 percent  of EDU respondents feel that their companies are lagging the industry on the transformation journey.
  • 50 percent of publishers interviewed are looking for ways to replace declining revenues from print and advertising, with 41 percent  looking to new product options.


On metadata

  • At the time of this research, metadata was considered of highest importance in digital transformation – a 4.6 out of 5 – and had the second lowest rating for current organizational ability – a 2.0 out of 5.
  • Publishers perceive metadata as hard to do and even harder to do right. Challenges such as inconsistent standards, updating archives, leading cultural change, requiring new skill sets, and evolving technologies are expected to pose a problem for the next five years.

How the agility of content [ability to repurpose it]

  • Content agility ranked as the third most important attribute in transformation journey overall but varied in priority across STM, Trade and EDU.
  • Education highlighted content reuse as a key enabler to personalized learning, targeted content and predictive analytics about learner needs. These are essential to eLearning.
  • Content agility was rated less important for general audience book publishers and had the second widest variance between importance and current ability, just after metadata.

On discoverabiity

  • Discoverability rated a 4.5 out of 5 in “importance to business” – the second highest of the five digital transformation elements. The publishers also assessed their current abilities at 2.5 out of 5, the highest rating of all the transformation areas surveyed.
  • Those publishers who have recently improved their content storage and metadata feel stronger about discoverability.
  • 30 percent of publishers interviewed discussed recent efforts in platform, widget, and partner services that are improving discoverability.
  • An additional 30 percent noted that they are actively reviewing additional tools to help end users discover content.

On collaboration

  • Publishers used the terms “fragmented,” “inconsistent” and “limited” to describe current automated collaboration abilities. Despite this sub-par experience, email and Excel are widely considered sufficient tools for content sharing.
  • Of the five elements discussed in the interviews, collaboration ranked last in ‘importance to the business’ for STM and second to last for Trade and EDU.
  • Only one publisher said their dedicated collaboration platform provided them with above average capabilities and access to new revenue opportunities when working with authors.

Some advice given by the respondents

  • Understand your customer
  • Address your company culture
  • Don’t underestimate the effort it will take to make a change
  • Question everything
  • Use what’s available

See also

Frankfurter Buchmesse’s white paper, The Business of Books 2017: It’s all about the consumers.