Ten years ago, as we crossed the millennium threshold, big changes were in the wind for print publishing. Ecommerce and digital content were visions of growing clarity. Prognosticators abounded, but there was no clear industry direction. Many of our clients were waiting to see what other publishers would do to try and make money with digital content on the web, and what technologies would prevail. Amid much uncertainty, ACS developed several strategies that provided our clients with a competitive advantage:
- Keep Advantage functionality abreast of the known new developments, such as PCI, direct debit, 24x7 processing, and business intelligence.
- Aggressively pursue growing industry shifts where publishers could continue to thrive, such as ecommerce, digital content access management, and conferences/events management.
- Explore and develop emerging features in the European marketplace, such as alternate delivery (an innovative system that is now making inroads into several US markets)
- Develop project management excellence to offer to our clients, utilizing tools and techniques of the internationally-recognized Project Management Institute (PMI).
- Establish an Advantage upgrade program that enables our clients to efficiently upgrade their Advantage software on a regular basis.
Many of these strategies are still works in progress. For example, we're just releasing the first version of our Business Intelligence module and we've started work on some major initiatives in alternate delivery.
What kind of job would you say we've done in implementing these strategies? Your feedback would be very helpful.
From a business perspective, ACS has seen solid success for the first 10 years of the new millennium. As is the case for many of our clients, the last two years have been difficult for us, though I'm happy to report that ACS enters the second decade with many projects either underway or planned with our current clients, and a strong sales pipeline. We've also seen major expansion internationally: 10 new Advantage clients in the UK, France, Denmark and Australia.
Looking back, it now appears that the last 10 years were a time for sorting out where publishers could go with the advent of the internet and major new technologies affecting publishing. Here at the end of the decade, of course, we've seen major upsets to our world economy which have decimated certain segments of the publishing marketplace.
I expect that the next decade will be a period of transition providing many opportunities to fully implement and refine the new, innovative ways of publishing we've seen in the last decade. To be specific, I believe we'll see major adaptation of automation in the following areas:
Content packaging - I anticipate the emergence of new and standardized taxonomies appropriate for different publishing segments, enabling information to be custom packaged for maximum benefit to target audiences. I expect we'll see a new level of automation that allows some publishers to move away almost totally—at least in some market segments—from traditional methods which have evolved over centuries for organizing articles into magazine issues, and chapters into books.
Delivery methods - As sophisticated taxonomy methods will enable a major leap forward in organizing and packaging information for publication, so various distribution channels will be enhanced to deliver that information in the most expedient fashion for the customer. Digital push via email; social media and podcasts; browser-based, smartphone-based and eReader-based presentation of content; printed content delivered more efficiently (e.g., the evolution alternate delivery); conferences and events both in-person and virtual. And the list goes on.
Pricing and payment - We've already seen the emergence of new pricing and payment models (micropayments on iTunes is the first that comes to mind). I expect these models will be refined and adapted in coming years to support the advances in content packaging and delivery channels. New levels of sophistication in automation will likely be the only means of handling the complexity this introduces.
Business Intelligence - Analysis through next-generation Business Intelligence tools will be essential to manage the new world of publishing in the 2010's. Given the maturation of publishing concerning content packaging, delivery channels, and pricing/payment models, I expect publishers will only be able to track more closely with their audiences through efficient BI analysis. Fully realizing the value of each member of their audience will require good metrics for buying habits, content access patterns, etc. Finding optimal methods of communication through sophisticated analysis, I expect, will be the key to maximizing revenue opportunities.
We at ACS look forward to the next decade with great optimism. We stand committed to harness technology to help you not just survive in the down economy, but even thrive during the tough times. If my speculation (above) bears out, there will be a lot of adaptation necessary for publishing prosperity in the coming years. ACS is here to be your ‘adaptation partner' for the 2010's. Our software, consulting and support services, and staff expertise will help you through these years of transition. Dan Heffernan, as our Chief Product Manager, heads a team responsible for mapping the future for our software so we can stay ahead of the game, well positioned to help you adapt to the new publishing world. Dan will present exciting new futures for the software at the Advantage Users Group USA meeting in New Orleans in mid-January. I hope to see you there.