The publishing leader currently driving De Gruyter’s digital transformation has given a candid interview about the effects of digitisation on the academic and scientific publishing sector, and his decision to bring the firm’s publishing platform back in house after ten years of outsourcing to a traditional vendor.
Managing director Carsten Buhr talked to renowned publishing magazine Buchreport.de about his wish to put De Gruyter at the cutting edge of digitisation. The company has recently taken back control of its platform, ending a long standing outsourcing agreement with Sheridan PubFactory, and has partnered with 67 Bricks to develop a new in-house digital publishing platform that will act as the central building block of De Gruyter’s digital transformation. The publishing house currently has 12 million annual platform users. “Bringing this in-house will change the company fundamentally and make us fit for the future,” said Carsten. “We plan to put this platform and our users at the centre of everything we do, along with thorough data analytics, out of which we will develop entirely new products eventually.”
Carsten explains why the time for change was now: “We have relied on industry standard solutions twice in a row. But with that you often don’t get the latest technology, but rather the lowest common denominator. And we have seen that innovation only happens very slowly.
“We have a growing revenue share in digital formats, but only a very limited view on how our users interact with our content and what they really want from our platform. Of course, you can arrange additional services with a provider and ask for quotes for specific services and projects. But it makes a huge difference to be able to sit together and learn and discuss what the customers are doing on our platform. We expect to be more flexible in the future. And we expect that know-how that we have developed to enable us to become much better at developing products, both as a publishing house and in terms of the platform as a whole.”
Carsten concludes: “At the moment, my vision is quite simple: to create the technological conditions and to learn from other industries what is possible in terms of product development. We are in a good position in this respect, we have people on board who have designed digitization processes and who are familiar with platform technology. So we are now building the infrastructure to be able to analyze more intensively our users and their ideas and wishes.”