Session H-3: Legal Publishing in the 21st Century
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
This year’s Hot Topic program featured several top executives in the legal information industry in a relatively informal conversation about trends and challenges in legal publishing today.
The session was moderated by Jim Heller (William & Mary) and Sally Wiant (Washington & Lee). The panelists were MaryKatherine Callaway (LSU Press), Stacey Caywood (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business), Scott Livingston (LexisNexis), Andy Martens (Thomson West), Dick Spinelli (William S. Hein & Co.), and Paul Wojcik (BNA).
The program was presented in a question-and-answer format, with the moderators asking a series of questions of all the panelists. Audience members had an opportunity to submit their own questions, and a few of these were included near the end of the allotted time. Following are some program highlights.
1) Who is your primary market, how does this impact your decisions on product development and pricing, and how do you determine prices for print and digital products?
BNA: Their primary market includes attorneys and tax professionals. They produce content-based products that are priced based on the cost to produce and the availability of competing products.
Hein: Academic law libraries are their primary market, although they serve other types of libraries as well. They price products according to what the market will bear.
WKL&B: They serve legal professional, law firms, and the federal government. Their pricing is similar to the BNA response.
LN: They are a content creator and a content aggregator; they attempt to focus on research solutions rather than individual products. They use focus groups and customer feedback to inform product development. Their pricing is similar to the BNA response.
LSU: They market their products to retail outlets and directly to scholars. They price digital and print products the same, because the costs to produce are the same.
TW: Legal professionals are their primary market. They are mainly a content company, but they are expanding into litigation support areas.
2) What about Google Books? Are they a competitor or an ally?
Nearly everyone said that Google Books is not a competitor now, but we will have to watch how it evolves. It is a potential competitor but also a potential way to promote books. I could shift user expectations about information delivery.
3) What is the future of university presses and other small presses?
LSU: The university press is tied to the mission of the university and is more of a niche publisher.
Hein: The future is bright if Hein can stay independent, find their niche, do it well, listen to their customers.
BNA: They will succeed by sticking to what they do – create content, not technology – but they need to be business partners with the bigger companies in order to get the content out there.
4) What are the major challenges facing the industry, both general and specific?
WKL&B: A general challenge is making content available electronically, with added value and with their own editorial voice. More specific challenges are aging systems and keeping up with technology.
Hein: Fighting for dollars in the marketplace.
BNA: Franchises are always at risk in the digital world throughout the industry. Specific challenges are the cost of technology and web competition.
LN: Ditto on the web competition. The digital world has lowered information barriers so more free information is out there competing with commercial databases.
LSU: They are not-for-profit, so they can’t lose money endlessly. Their initial print runs are less than 1000 copies on most titles, as compared to 2000 in the 1980s.
TW: The biggest challenge for all companies is to focus on what unique value they add to their services. A more specific challenge is when they buy other companies, trying to integrate them into the larger organization without destroying what made them good in the first place.
5) What is the relationship between companies and their parent conglomerates?
TW: The corporate environment is not international, but rather multi-domestic. The parent company sets revenue targets and the like, but domestic companies run the way that suits their markets and product lines.
LN: Similar answer to TS. They try to make decisions at the lowest possible level.
WKL&B: They are a Dutch company with an American CEO and 4 separate business units. Broad strategic vision is set at the top, but markets are handled by individual units as locally as possible.
6) What are your profit margins?
Hein: privately-owned, cannot reveal
LN: did not know; profit for first half of 2007 will be announced in 2 weeks
TW: did not know; profit for first half of 2007 will be announced in 2 weeks
For more detailed information, see my fuller report in the September issues of TSLL.