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This article serves as foundational reading in anticipation of John J. McAdam’s three-part presentation at AAUP 2016, entitled “Reimagining the University Press from Scratch.” Watch a webinar replay of Part 1 and make sure to attend Part 2 and Part 3, debuting in Philadelphia.


By John J. McAdam

At the Association of American University Presses‘ Annual Meeting on June 18, 2016, I will be facilitating an industry mastermind discussion on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) in scholarly publishing from a start-up business perspective. In particular, we’ll explore: “How has the publishing industry performed over time and in particular the scholarly/university press publishing segment?” By way of background, I thought it might be helpful to provide some of that data regarding the broader publishing industry in advance of the meeting to get the conversation started.

For tax and economic reporting purposes, the US government utilizes the North America Industry Classification System (NAICS) to segment industries within the US economy. Entering the keyword search term “publishing” at www.naics.com, three key horizontal industry segments in publishing stand out:

NAICS Code NAICS Title NAICS Description Notes & Questions
511130 Book Publishers – except exclusive Internet publishers Organizations that design, edit, and market, and distribute books Why separate Internet publishing?
511120 Periodical Publishers – except exclusive Internet publishers Magazine, journal, or other periodical publishers Do these publishers support professors adequately?
519130 Internet Publishers Publishers that provide text, audio, and/or video content on the Internet exclusively Notes:

1) Publishing and/or broadcasting content on the internet exclusively or

2) Operating websites

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Why does NAICS carve out exclusively Internet publishers? Following the logic of the NAICS, exclusive Internet publishing has grown to warrant its own industry classification. In fact, Exclusive Internet Publishers is three times the revenue of both Book and Periodical Publishing and employs twice as many people.

The aforementioned NAICS “industry” codes contain five digits and represent a horizontal view of the publishing industry. Next, let’s review the publishing industry both vertically and more broadly using only two and three-digit NAICS codes. The NAICS categorizes publishing into three segments. The first is the industry sector Information (NAICS code 51). The second subsector is literally Publishing (NAICS code 511). The third is Book Publishers (NAICS code 51130) which is the best fit for most university presses. Now that we have data from these three market segments, let’s analyze the data points using Compounded Annual Growth Rates (CAGRs). What does the CAGR analysis tell us?

  • The number of firms is flat for Book Publishers, decreasing in Publishing, and increasing in Information—by the same amount, respectively.
  • Revenue in Information is growing 4.5 times as fast as that of Book Publishing.
  • Payroll expense is growing by double digits across all Information and Publishing
  • Workloads have increased per employee as evidenced by increasing payroll per employee.
  • Book publishers need to understand for what information customers are willing to pay.

If you are feeling overworked in Book Publishing, then the data confirm this feeling. If you feel underpaid, the data suggest otherwise (sorry). Payroll is growing at 9.1 percent and revenue is growing at 4.2 percent while total employment is declining at 5 percent compounded annually. Furthermore, revenue per employee increased to 9.7 percent annually which means employees are becoming productive (more revenue per employee) and being paid more per employee.

The revenue trends across Information, Publishing, and Book Publishing tell a clear story, as we can see in the chart below:

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Clearly, people have been buying more from the parent Information sector and at a higher growth rate over the last 15 years, than either the Book Publishing or Publishing subsets, which have remained relatively flat. As we view this revenue trend chart, we should wonder what’s happening in the Information industry that is generating such consistent annual growth. When we break down the subsectors and compare revenue trends, here’s what we see:

  • Recordings had flat growth.
  • Telecommunications had slow growth.
  • Broadcasting, Data Processing, and Data Hosting had fast growth.
  • Other Information Services had exponential growth.

Anecdotally, within Other Information Services, revenue in the Libraries and Archive industry is in fact growing. Of course, as will be no surprise to anyone, the Internet Publishing, Broadcasting, and Web Search Portals have the fastest growth. Look for more industry segmentation here when the NAICS updates economic activities next for 2017.

As we prepare for our SWOT analysis mastermind industry discussion, we should be curious about what is growing and why. Economic activities data inform us that information in nontraditional forms present opportunities for growth. If the university press continues to provide information in traditional ways, such as books and periodicals, then it should not expect growth. Why is growth necessary even for small, mission-driven nonprofit organizations? First, to ensure that revenue grows sufficiently to match growth in expenses such as pay raises. Second, in this case, publishing industry data reveal that book revenues are flat and people are demanding information in forms other than books. Your strategic business plan to keep your university press sought-after by and relevant to your stakeholders should account for these trends even if growth is not the objective in and of itself. Eventually change will be unavoidable. Whether growth or adaptation is the objective, let’s discuss what valuable information a university press might offer that people need. My intention is to facilitate a constructive discussion that will benefit both you and your university press. I’ll see you in Philadelphia.


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John J. McAdam is the author of The One-Hour Business Plan (Wiley), an instructor in Strategic Business Planning at The Wharton Small Business Development Center, an association workshop speaker, and business advisor. For more information, visit John on Twitter, LinkedIn, his website, or contact him via email.

Copyright © John J. McAdam 2016. All Rights Shared with AAUP.

By Dennis Lloyd

One of the great things about the AAUP meeting in the last few years has been the simultaneous conversations that have taken place on Twitter before, during, and after the meeting. The use of the #aaup12 hashtag made it easy to keep up with discussions, and even follow presentations that were taking place simultaneously to the one you were attending. (Or, in the case of AAUP staff members who weren’t able to attend, even if you weren’t in Chicago at all.)

However, what if you want to revisit that information later? It’s incredibly difficult to do so. (Don’t believe me? Go to your twitter account and try to search for the #aaup11 hashtag.) There are ways to archive, but also difficult to do after the fact. At least as far as I can determine.

I don’t know Martin Hawksey, but I was able to follow the instructions on of his blog posts to create a partial archive of the #aaup12 tweets. I say partial, because the 1500-tweet limit only allowed me to back up to some point during the first round of sessions on Tuesday morning. Although someone with better blogging skills than I might be able to actually fold them into this post, instead, I’ll just offer a link to the spreadsheet of those posts I created on google docs.

Hope some of you find this helpful! And if anyone has a complete archive of tweets, or knows of a better way to save them, step up!

One the eve of its annual conference, the Association of American University Presses has launched a redesigned website and released the results of its second digital book publishing survey in as many years. The press release announcing the report can be read here, and the report itself is available for download.

In addition to providing interesting statistical breakdown as to the number of presses participating in a wide variety of digital publication efforts, it also reveals the widespread (unavoidable?) use of digital technology in traditional print publishing, particularly print-on-demand.

For most presses  (53 of 71 who participated in the survey) revenue from sales of electronic editions remains below 3%. It will be interesting to see how/if that changes in the coming year, particularly since the percentage of presses now reporting as participating in site licenses to libraries has nearly doubled (from 34% in the 2009-2010 survey to 65% in the Spring 2011 survey).

Overall, finding a working business model and creating systems to best allocate limited resources remain the biggest obstacles faced by university presses when it comes to digital publishing. As the report clearly demonstrates, despite these concerns, AAUP member presses are actively and enthusiastically embracing the possibilities. And if history is any indicator, following this weekend’s annual conference, “The Next Wave: Toward a Culture of Collaboration,” that enthusiasm will be redoubled throughout the summer.

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