Transcript: The Power of Content

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With Tracey Armstrong, President and Chief Executive Officer
Copyright Clearance Center

Recorded at Frankfurt Book Fair 2016

For podcast release Wednesday, November 9, 2016

KENNEALLY: In May, Copyright Clearance Center acquired UK-based Ixxus, a leading global provider of publishing solutions that reinvent the way publishers in other organizations produce content to drive new revenues and enhance product and content agility. As the rights licensing experts, CCC has worked for many years with publishers around the world to develop solutions that provide anytime, anywhere content access, usage rights, and information management, while promoting and protecting the interests of copyright holders. Together, CCC and Ixxus are moving to help publishers harness the power of content and licensing together.

Clearly, content is at the heart of every conversation between publishers and their business partners, and with authors and readers, too. As journals change publishers and publishers change owners, managing content becomes increasingly complex. The challenge is only magnified in the global digital environment, where content is distributed across continents and easily becomes inaccessible or undiscoverable.

For well over a decade now, the talk at every book fair and trade show is about digital transformation. Yet it’s becoming apparent that simply migrating to digital is not enough. The focus for publishers is on growth and sustainability. The importance of initiatives such as new product development, channel expansion, and customer acquisition and retention are of increasing importance.

What lies ahead? What steps are publishers taking to organize their content? How will a combined CCC and Ixxus organization support a unified content and rights management strategy?

For answers and insights, I’m very happy to welcome Tracey Armstrong, president and chief executive officer at Copyright Clearance Center. Good morning, Tracey.

ARMSTRONG: Hello, Chris. That was quite a tee up.

KENNEALLY: OK. Well, we’ll tell people briefly about you. As president and CEO at CCC, Tracey Armstrong works with publishers, authors, universities, businesses, and industry associations around the world addressing copyright concerns and establishing new alliances. Leading the organization through a period of phenomenal change and challenge, Tracey has helped transform CCC’s licensing solutions to meet the needs of today’s digital publishing world. Tracey Armstrong also serves on the board of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations.

Tracey, let’s start. We only have a half hour to talk about this. There’s a lot to cover. For many publishers, whatever markets they serve, the essential ingredients of a content-first strategy are probably already in place. What will it mean to publishers that CCC and Ixxus have combined forces to help them better harness the power of that content?

ARMSTRONG: Well, it might be helpful to sort of set the foundation and talk a little bit about who Ixxus is and why the two companies came together. Ixxus is a software professional services company. They are a company full of engineers. And they have deep domain expertise in the publishing space. They are serving a wide variety of publishers. They are serving trade publishers and academic publishers, scholarly publishers. And that complements a lot of what CCC is doing also in those sectors.

Of course, publishers have a content-first strategy. And there has been an enormous amount of talk at many Frankfurt Book Fairs, which I think many of us in the room and maybe some watching this have been attending now for decades, about the transition to digital. We’ve effectively transitioned the content to digital, but the business process transformation – the analog business process, if you will – largely, in many cases, still exists.

We’ve now entered the age of data. One of the hottest spaces out there right now is that sort of encompassed by what would be the chief data officer or the data center of excellence or whatever that is – whatever name you put on that. It’s a very, very hot space right now. We’re really looking at the digital assets in a completely new way.

So this notion of content first and the digital content itself – we need to get more out of that. We need to understand what we have in the firm in a deeper way. We need a richer set of tagging – the taxonomies, the different ways to enrich the content – so that we can improve the workflow around that content. And that is a domain space that Ixxus excels in. We can talk more about that as this goes on, and also happy to talk more about it at the end of the program, but this is a very complementary space to where Copyright Clearance Center has its roots and its domain expertise, which is of course foundationally in rights.

We just had a program prior to this talking about open access, where we also have a deep domain expertise. And there’s a porous layer, we believe, between these – and I think this is obvious – between these two areas. When you’re working in your content area, you’re constantly touching on the area of rights and what can you do with the content? And how do we bring those two workflows, two sets of information, that enrichment of the rights information, into the content? How do we break that membrane and bring those two areas together?

KENNEALLY: Right. That’s really the point, isn’t it – that these two areas of rights management and rights data and content management and content data coming together is a really powerful package. It’s probably important to talk about some of the expertise, not only that you mentioned Ixxus has, because they’re all about being smart with your content, but what Copyright Clearance Center has been about for so many years is about being smart with your rights. So the way to get smart about rights or content is really relying on that data, and it’s got to be the best quality you can have.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Data – we have in all different types of firms today, but certainly in publishing firms today, we have heterogeneous data. And we need to improve data quality. We need to improve the foundational layer where the data lives, how the data exists, so that it can be better utilized in the workflow.

One of the things that we all tend to do – you know, we tend to be reactive. We see a problem, we want to address that problem. But what we would like to do together – this combined group, this new combined team of CCC and Ixxus – is help publishers and clients reach conceptual clarity as to their entire landscape – so not fixing individual problems, but understanding the entire ecosystem where the data exists and what we need to use it for. I think that takes a very, very – you have to exercise restraint instead of diving in and saying, well, let’s just adjust this one thing, and then we end up seeing other problems or were not addressed.

How many people in the audience can think about a systems project that you did that went over time or it went over budget or it didn’t meet expectations? Or maybe you’re a business user and a technical decision was made in another part of your company and imposed on you. Maybe a search engine was purchased, and you are supposed to be benefitting from the results of that, but you’re not benefitting in the way that you would have hoped to. You knock on someone’s door to explain, but they don’t seem to understand the gap in what you’re realizing and what their expectations were. That is the result of a lack of conceptual clarity. I think we can probably all relate to some example that I’m talking about here. And that’s what we’re trying to eliminate by laying the groundwork early and coming up with a very, very clear picture of that ecosystem with the client in a very collaborative way and then helping to determine how to execute against that.

KENNEALLY: And it’s an awfully difficult task, because not only is the content dispersed across various parts of a single business, but it’s across the world and it’s across devices. When I’ve been chatting with some of our Ixxus colleagues, I’ve begun to understand just what a monumental task that is and how difficult it is for them to approach that with publishers. It really does mean taking a step backwards and trying to understand not only what your needs are today but anticipating the ones that are coming.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah. No, that’s true. And I think in order to get there, at the foundational layer, there’s a lot of work to do, because we have these various – as you say, around the world – we have various content repositories today. We have societies that are warehoused within scholarly publishing companies in every company. We have different types of datasets and databases and data warehouses and places where we’re organizing things that are not consistent and, in some cases, not coherent. That is a substantial challenge. That is an obstacle to growth.

What we really need to be thinking about here as a solutions provider to the industry – we need to be thinking about how we can help clients save money, how we can help them make money, and how we can help them do both of those things in combination. Let me give you some of my thinking on that. I’m thinking we need to be able to bring products to market more quickly, more efficiently – in doing so, reusing content assets that we have in the firm, being very responsive to our library customers and our academic customers and our corporate customers who need these information products.

We heard a very strong panel just prior to this discussion. In that, there was a discussion about the future of the journal itself – the content container as we’ve known it in scholarly publishing. It was quite something. In thinking about that and thinking about how content is being atomized – and it is there – and what the client needs and what the client expects and our ability to deliver on that from a publishing industry perspective, there is really a lot of opportunity here – just a tremendous amount of opportunity.

KENNEALLY: And it starts in really simple ways. Again, I’ve been speaking with Ixxus colleagues, and I hear about the dilemma of lost content and the price of lost content. To not have things fully identified, identified properly, searchable, findable, and all of that really means a waste of resources and that there’s calculations about the number of hours and the number of people involved who are just engaged in looking for the content they already have. To begin to address that would be an immediate win, because people would be able to get to what they’ve got, and then they could take those further steps about thinking about new products and other ways to work with that content.

ARMSTRONG: Right. And one of the things that the Ixxus team has done very effectively and really got Copyright Clearance Center very interested in getting married was the intellectual property that Ixxus has developed. So Ixxus, in their work – they were founded in 2007, and in their work over those years, now coming up on 10 years, that they’ve been doing with clients, they have created accelerators – very common in the professional services space. They’ve created this product layer, if you will, in their business where they can help with ingredients that accelerate the implementation and the solutioning once that conceptual clarity is achieved.

And one of the things that we will be doing together – Copyright Clearance Center and Ixxus – is developing more of those. So when we come in to an engagement with a client, as we assess the situation, we can employ best practices that have been learned from years of working – really now a decade of working with a wide variety of clients. In the end of the day, the data – data is data. We can learn lessons from trade publishing and academic publishing, higher ed and scholarly. We can learn lessons that benefit across these different firms. And that’s a huge piece in terms of improving efficiency.

It’s a difficult challenge – again, I just want to go back and emphasize – it’s a difficult challenge as a business executive to exercise that restraint and not to try to cherry-pick problems to solve on a reactive basis and to really step back and say I need to commit to a holistic solution. But the payback for this industry in terms of investing in a foundational platform for data inside the firm to be exploited effectively and efficiently will pay dividends for years to come.

If the publishing models of the future – if we think the publishing models of the future are not what they are today, if we believe that publishing is in a transformation and there are new products and services that what we know as publishing companies today can provide – if we believe that, then this is an essential investment for this industry to reassess how it is accommodating its data.

And outside of publishing, in our academic institutions, in life science companies, in chemical companies, in fuel – in all of these heavy research and development companies, that is what they are doing. That is what they are doing. As the bar rises in their own practice, in their own research methods and protocols – as those develop and change and their chief data officers are hired and their data centers of excellence are developed, their expectations of what publishing should be able to deliver to them in the world of machine learning will be unlike anything that we’re experiencing now.

So it’s essential for firms in the publishing industry to make these investments in the near term. It’s a challenge and it’s a commitment, because this is not a quick fix. It’s not a three-week journey. But on the other hand, it’s not a 10-year journey. I mean, it’s a very effective period of time. But it needs to be made in order for those other business models and other business opportunities to be unfolded for publishers.

KENNEALLY: Right. When we’re talking about data, in our world today of digital technology, everything is data. But the kind of data you’re talking about is metadata, obviously, and the semantic enrichment that can come into the data that will identify it, will categorize it, will go far beyond title, author, publication. What we’re talking about is really being able to arrange things in such a way that’s very complex. This is, as you say – it’s not a walk around the block, it’s not a trip to Mars, but it is going to take some real work to get there.

ARMSTRONG: Well, it is. We’re talking about full text. We’re talking about images. We’re talking about everything – everything that exists. Ixxus has done fantastic work with images. They have done fantastic work with – their clients, which you can look them up and see – they’ve got clients like Dorling Kindersley with a wide variety of assets. Nike is a client. They’re doing brand asset management there. There’s a wide variety here, in addition to Pearson or Oxford University Press, Wiley, clients like this.

So there’s a really wide range of services that they’ve been providing. And think about the learning that these solution architects, for example, and the publishing consultants and professional consultants services layer bring to the client – not proprietary information, obviously, but that best practice layer that they’re building. We’re talking about helping create a foundational platform really on a bespoke basis. CCC is a product company. We’re bringing products to market, such as RightsLink, which really, we think, meet a market need. I think evidence is there that it’s meeting a market need. And we calibrate that for each client on a client-by-client basis.

And Ixxus is doing a custom implementation to help each client meet their specific needs. So this diversifies our enterprise-wide offering, so that we can complement those product solutions and extend them with these professional services offerings, and we can take the custom professional services offerings and enrich them with some of the product offerings in the CCC collection. So you can see it’s a very interesting potential combination.

We’ve only been together – we publicly announced this merger on the 3rd of May this year, in 2016. Here at the fair, we have a variety of Ixxus colleagues and CCC colleagues who are still getting to know each other, and it’s been a fantastic journey on all fronts.

KENNEALLY: Right. As much as we’re talking about technology, this is about more than technology. For Copyright Clearance Center, as you started to mention, the organization, the people involved – that’s really important – but also for the customers. This is about a transformation here – we talked about digital transformation – but there’s a transformation in cultures. There’s a content management culture that needs to be cultivated, I think. And I’ve heard that from some of the colleagues at Ixxus – this notion that it’s people and processes and platforms and all of that, but the people are a really important part of it.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah. No doubt. A company like Ixxus is – the people are the company, so that’s a huge piece. But as far as the client goes, the business process transformation is another enormous piece. Let me make a couple of comments. So Ixxus has deep expertise at the intersection of Alfresco and MarkLogic. MarkLogic is a NoSQL database that’s used by many publishing companies and companies outside the publishing industry, and Alfresco is a content management system. While their expertise there is immense and it’s fantastic, their domain expertise is not limited to that. So it’s an extensible set of experience that they have that can pull across a variety of different content management platforms and other database systems that are used. It’s not an exclusive situation there.

The other thing I think that’s important to point out here is the areas of expertise. I’ve talked a lot about the domain expertise. I think intelligent software components are extremely essential. And the integration expertise. That’s what we’re now bringing together with Ixxus and Copyright Clearance Center. CCC, of course, has a lot of domain expertise as well, so we bring these pieces together. And the intelligent software components – we build those together.

I mentioned those accelerators. We’ve addressed the CCC products. And then there’s the new space – the space where we innovate together. We’re already working on this and solutioning this. We’re already brainstorming. We already have our engineers and architects working together. I think our biggest challenge will be prioritizing and deciding what to do first. Of course, for that, as we always do, we will be seeking input from the market. We work really closely with our clients to understand where their challenges are and to meet them where their problems exist and the integration expertise.

So one of the compelling reasons that we came to this was as we were talking to clients – if we think about the evolution of RightsLink, as we were talking to clients about RightsLink, we were there to solve a problem. It was in the mid, early 2000s, if I remember correctly, that we were talking to a client right here at this fair who said, you know, gee, we’ve got these issues with author charges. Can you help us with that? And we said, oh, OK. We hadn’t thought about that. Let me think about it. We went back. We talked about it. And we said yes, we can. And we built it into the roadmap.

KENNEALLY: Very early days.

ARMSTRONG: Very early days. We weren’t talking about green and gold back in those days. This was a problem space. The client needed an efficient and effective solution, and we built it into the product roadmap. You can justify many of those extensions to the product roadmap, and we’ve done so and expanded it. Now we find ourselves talking to these same publishers. They’re looking for consultations. They’re consulting with us on open access. They’re asking deep questions. They’re looking for more services. And we will be able to offer that now with the professional services piece.

That’s not all. Of course, there is the content management piece. There is an enormous amount we can do. One of the things that’s – we talked about heterogeneous data and the need for high-quality data standards, homogenizing the data so that it’s better used. I’m trying to keep it simple, and also I’m not a technologist, but in order to do that, we have to organize it and move it. We have to write, and engineers need to do work to bring the data together.

This is not a slam-dunk. Once again, I think we could probably talk to – if you talk to a CEO that’s implemented a financial system, and now the largest ones have merged together, you know, they lament that they can – everybody remembers when they went to this system or that system and how much that implementation was a burden to the organization. They’re not going to go back and do that again, right? In the movement of data, that’s another big piece. And what Ixxus has done – of course, an essential part – what they have done for client after client is help them to bring those data pieces together.

KENNEALLY: Right. As a way, then, to sort of wrap this up, it seems to me that the vision here is a single searchable content platform, a single source of truth. That’s what publishers – and we’re going to try to work them to achieve – if I could put it that way, a single source of truth.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah, I agree. Yeah. I think that’s a very good way to think about it – that authority so that you know with confidence what content assets you have – again, images, text, this is not limited to one form of content – and what you can do with that content, how it can be used, who needs to be compensated for that content, across the firm, so across the societies, across the different workgroups and work streams and systems that we have in our companies today.

That helps us publish books faster. It helps us bring them to market in a more cost-effective way. It helps us to be responsive to market demand and bring those information products – and maybe those containers will change. In some cases, they are changing – again, back to the atomization. So I can bring those pieces of content that we need to the market.

Now, I know we’re near the end, but I offer another example of a large B2B publisher that was recently acquired, where Ixxus is building the entire foundational platform. I can’t think of a system in the firm more strategic than this that will feed the content assets to every one of their websites. So think about a B2B publisher – each one of those websites where you’re going to take your continuing education credit tests or whatever you’re doing to engage with that website, and the entire infrastructure for that is being developed by this firm. So that’s a fantastic set of experience that helps us drive the strategy as we go forward.

KENNEALLY: Well, it’ll be – as we say in the news business – a continuing story.

ARMSTRONG: It will be.

KENNEALLY: Thank you very much, Tracey Armstrong, president and CEO of Copyright Clearance Center.

ARMSTRONG: Thank you so much, Chris.

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