At a pivotal time in Wiley’s 209-year history, the boss of the STM giant, Mark Allin, talks to Tom Tivnan about digital growth, open access and dealing with Brexit.
Can you talk us through the acquisition of Atypon, how it came about and what your plans are for Atypon?
Digital publishing is the driver of scientific publishing and so its long-term success is of paramount importance. Atypon is an outstanding company and the most innovative technology partner in the scientific and scholarly publishing community. Wiley shares Atypon’s vision for providing an exceptional service to the industry and we want to support Atypon in building on the great work and approach taken to date. Atypon’s founder, leadership team and people are world-class; Georgios Papadopoulos will remain as c.e.o., with Atypon managed as a separate business. There will be no change to the principles that have driven Atypon’s success for 20 years.
More generally, how does acquiring a publishing research software company fit into Wiley’s long-term strategy?
acquisition ensures the stability and longevity of a world-class publishing technology platform. It is is a long-term commitment from Wiley to Atypon, and to the publishing industry at large. The acquisition will facilitate additional investment and provide resources to help build Atypon’s support and infrastructure needs. Atypon will benefit from having well-established ownership that will help the business to grow.
We will move our own platform onto [Atypon’s platform] Literatum and we will work with Atypon like any other customer—it is not in our interest to seek our own advantage in relation to use of the platform. IBM has been retained by Wiley and Atypon to establish practices, policies and governance that will ensure security. We will be strengthening existing protocols and processes to ensure security and privacy levels.
How do you see the company developing in the next few years? Are there any areas or territories in which you are keen to grow?
Atypon will continue to invest and focus on the scientific, technical, medical and scholarly (STMS) community, although there has always been, and will continue to be, some effort in non-STMS markets. Atypon will continue to define its roadmap through customer feedback and changes in the marketplace. Atypon’s commitment to product roadmaps is not affected by this acquisition. This alliance will simply accelerate growth and increase the depth of offerings.
Wiley has been expanding into areas beyond “traditional” publishing for some time now, such as Deltak and Ranku. Is there a broader philosophical question about what an education and academic publisher is? Will Wiley always be rooted in education, or will you keep pushing the boundaries?
Throughout its 209-year history Wiley has always been rooted in knowledge and learning. The development and pace of digital has now given us the opportunity to better know our customers, their digital footprints and their experiences as users.
But more significantly, we understand their challenges and pain points and can develop solutions to drive improved outcomes in scientific discovery and education. Whether this is through recruitment technology such as Ranku, or online learning services such as Deltak, we help people and organisations develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed across Higher Education, and in the workplace with their career development, in addition to carrying out research and innovation. This is Wiley’s mission. Digital transformation has enabled us to add value in new ways and to become a partner, not just a provider.
Obviously, Atypon is linked to your journals business, but how will you grow it? How are you tweaking the models? Will you expand the Open Access portfolio?
I have recently restated Wiley’s commitment to the growth of our Research business [the journals division]. We have ambitions for substantial growth, fuelled in part by adding new society partnerships, investing in our strongest brands, improving efficiency and developing our portfolio to meet the emerging needs of research globally. We are investing heavily in services to authors and institutional customers to support this growth; the Atypon acquisition is a prime example of that investment.
Wiley has good relationships with many of our institutional customers. The value of these partnerships becomes evident as more governments declare policies and goals in support of Open Access. We are midway through a three-year offset pilot with JISC [the Joint Information Systems Committee] in the UK, and earlier this year launched a pilot that “blends” access to subscription content with the right to publish hybrid Open Access with VSNU in the Netherlands. These are constructive examples of Wiley working with our customers to meet the emerging requirements of institutions, funders and governments, as well as authors.
Our OA program has grown rapidly in the past six years: we now have 62 fully Gold Open Access journals and a healthy pipeline for 2017 onwards. We’re further expanding our Open Access footprint through a new partnership with Hindawi. Openness in many forms—access, data, science—is of increasing importance to all those who work in research, and that makes it important to Wiley. So growing our Open Access publishing programme will continue to be a major focus for our Research group.
In the last few earnings reports Wiley has noted a slowdown on the education side, mostly owing to a drop in print textbooks and course-materials sales, which are affecting most academic publishers. How are you managing the decline of this business? Will there be a point at which you get out of the print textbook market?
Digital transition is at the heart of our strategy. Technology has become the enabler, not only in digital transformation but also in changing how we engage with customers. WileyPlus—our online teaching and digital textbook platform—is a great example; when a WileyPlus course was introduced at the University of Cincinnati, it was found that three out of four students would opt to use the digital learning tool again in a future course. Students now expect ready access to content that is relevant in the context of what they are doing and accessible anytime, anywhere and in the format and on the device of their choosing. While print continues to be challenging, we are confident in the ongoing migration to digital and the value created for students and instructors.
Wiley’s businesses are organised on divisional not territorial lines, but you have substantial holdings in the UK. With Article 50 seemingly to be triggered in the spring, how will Brexit affect Wiley’s UK businesses?
Wiley is committed to supporting EU colleagues working in the UK and UK colleagues working in other EU countries. Following the EU referendum, Wiley set up a Brexit Strategy Group to lead the monitoring of developments around Brexit and their influence on the company. It will keep colleagues and Wiley’s leadership informed in a timely manner and proactively manage external communications to clients, customers and partners.