Wiley Acquires Editorial Services Group

by | Oct 4, 2021 | 0 comments

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By: ANGELA COCHRAN

Today it was announced that Wiley has purchased J&J Editorial and once again, a major commercial publisher has acquired a previously publisher-agnostic service.

If you are not familiar with J&J Editorial, let me provide a brief background. J&J Editorial was founded by Jennifer Deyton and Julie Nash back in 2008. Deyton and Nash worked for a Wiley-published journal in support of the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) located in North Carolina. As was quite common at the time, the EIC of a journal would hire their own editorial team, usually located near their university. When the editor changed, so would the editorial team.

Journals and publishers realized that it was not efficient to change the editorial staff with each EIC change and busy editors were pushing back on the responsibility to manage an editorial team. Further, journal owners were one step removed from the management of one of their greatest assets. There was an obvious answer — bring editorial management in-house. And that is what most did. However, J&J Editorial offered another option.

Early in our careers, Julie and I were both very aware of the disruptions in scholarly publishing at the time (there are always disruptions). We made a strategic decision then to position ourselves as experts who could transition high-profile portfolios to new online submission systems. We were thus also able to convince Editors in Chief to not only make this move to EM [Editorial Manager], S1 [ScholarOne], or EJP [eJournal Press], but also to keep us with them remotely for continuity and excellence of service,” Deyton said.

J&J Editorial was not the only company of this kind, but they took a different angle than others. Many other editorial services were basically brokers of independent contractors. J&J Editorial instead brought people on as employees, all located in North Carolina. They also focused on their expertise of the peer review systems and the ability to on-board new systems for journals.

J&J Editorial now has 185 employees providing support to journals. They do the same tasks as in-house editorial coordinators, managing editors, production editors, copy editors, proofreaders, and systems administrators. The beauty is that the team of staff know how journals work. They know how to use all of the major submission systems. They offer flexibility to cover short- or long-term leave of journal staff. And it typically costs less than hiring someone full-time.

Growth and Opportunity

“The decision to combine forces with Wiley was a strategic decision that was made with two clear and long-standing goals in mind – to help us continue to deliver the high standard of service that our clients expect, while simultaneously providing more opportunities and resources for our staff,” said Deyton.

According to the press release posted today, J&J Editorial have over 120 clients that include self-published societies like the American Chemical Society, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, as well as big publishers such as Elsevier, Oxford University Press, Wiley, and Wolters Kluwer, among others.

As an organization that started in service to a Wiley-owned journal, it is perhaps not surprising that J&J Editorial would make its way back to Wiley at some point.

“In some ways, I feel like this was always written in the stars. In our collaborations [with Wiley] through the years and more strategic and defined goal-setting of the recent weeks and months, we are still working with some of the same folks Julie and I met back in 1999 when we started our careers in scholarly publishing,” Deyton wrote.

Wiley’s Strategy

J&J Editorial is functionally in the same business unit as other Wiley acquisitions such as Atypon, Madgex, and Hindawi — all of which have non-Wiley customers. Under Jay Flynn — who recently replaced Judy Versus as Wiley Executive Vice President and General Manager, Research — these business units add another component to the suite of publisher services.

“We think of J&J as bringing the ‘services’ part to our software and services strategy. While J&J is well-known for its exceptional work at the editor and managing editor level, that’s not all they do – J&J supports publishers with all types of challenges, including helping customers set up their manuscript submissions system, premium copyediting services and content management, and strategic consulting,” Flynn wrote.

Wiley has been building their one-stop-shop solution for years. Purchasing Atypon, the largest platform for scholarly content, was a major step and a real “testing of the waters” to see whether non-Wiley publishers were comfortable with having their platforms owned by a competing publisher. I can’t say that this fact doesn’t weigh in on decisions when publishers are shopping for a platform, but given the number of publishers that have migrated to the Atypon platform since the acquisition has grown, I think we can say that concerns are minimal.

“The acquisition of Atypon in 2015 really changed our thinking about what business we were in. Are we in the content business or the services and software business?” Flynn wrote.

Atypon has made strategic purchases that also extend into the publication workflow. Manuscripts.ioAuthorea, and Inera are examples of purchases that bring the possibility of more seamless production and distribution of content.

J&J Editorial brings something entirely different — human support (not that our friends at Atypon are robots). J&J staff are well trained in the peer review systems we all use and it would be pretty easy to see how that structure may be leveraged for other Wiley enterprises.

For example, the Atypon platform requires a very hands-on approach for customers. Journals must have at least one staff person with database and platform expertise to manage the platform well. This is a barrier for entry with some journals that might want to be on the Atypon platform. J&J Editorial could easily scale up to provide platform support services to smaller customers on the Atypon platform.

“The acquisition of Atypon in 2015 really changed our thinking about what business we were in. Are we in the content business or the services and software business?” Flynn wrote.

Wiley and J&J Editorial may insist that J&J remains its own separate company, but there are early signs that the integrations are closer.

While Deyton is reporting directly to Flynn, Nash is reporting elsewhere within Wiley.

“I will be reporting into David Nicholson’s team, which focuses on partnership development across our full suite of solutions, working with customers to address their needs, and Jenn will be reporting into a group under Jay alongside Atypon, Madgex and other solutions for publisher customers that need to operate under the principle of separation from the publishing business unit,” Nash explained. According to Wiley, “Julie has a lead role in both the integration of J&J into Wiley’s basic business infrastructure, and in leading the development of new partnerships for J&J. We see a lot of potential for growth in the J&J business and Julie is in the ideal position to foster that growth, collaborating with colleagues in similar roles for our other partner facing solutions including Literatum and Madgex.”

Similar melding has been happening at Atypon where those who previously served in a sales role at Atypon are now selling all of Wiley’s services in addition to the Atypon platform. For the sake of efficiency, this makes sense, but it does put a significant dent in the optics of being a “separate” entity from Wiley.

Bring in the Firewalls!

There are obvious sensitivities to a major publisher purchasing a company that was previously unfettered and independent. I would bet that most of what J&J Editorial are doing these days is assuring customers that there is a giant firewall between their operations and Wiley.

“As has always been the case, our primary role will be as an advocate for our society clients, no matter where they choose to publish,” Deyton wrote.

Flynn added, “J&J will operate as they always have, and we are taking extra steps to maintain appropriate boundaries with Wiley’s publishing operation.”

As the number of submissions to journals have gone up, publishers (and especially societies) have used editorial services providers to augment or even replace staff positions. When done well, editorial services staff should feel like an extension of your own team. Most times authors and even editors of journals have no idea that these individuals don’t work as staff for the publisher or society. These individuals attend editorial board meetings and even strategy meetings.

There are some questions that as of today, remain unanswered:

  • Publishers have so far tolerated other publishers owning systems used. There was no widespread exodus from Atypon or Editorial Manager after Elsevier bought Aries. Will they tolerate acquisitions like this that focus on personal (and personnel) services?
  • Firewalls typically protect data between systems and reports. Can a firewall be high enough to provide confidence that J&J/Wiley staff should communicate with your editors and participate in strategy discussions? Or are stronger protections needed?
  • At what point will publisher A no longer tolerate how much money they are paying to competing publisher B for services?
  • Does this acquisition change the dynamic of publishing partnerships where editorial is kept at arms length? To say that differently, usually the one part of your operation that stays purposefully in-house is editorial control. If a large portion of editorial work is outsourced to your publishing partner, does this change the relationship in less than ideal ways?

As Roger Schonfeld and Joe Esposito wrote a few weeks ago, there are many pros and cons to mergers and acquisitions. For Wiley, they are gaining a new publisher service (and perhaps more importantly, a pipeline to non-Wiley society publishers that now become Wiley customers). For J&J Editorial, they have access to capital and are now unburdened by business operations such as human resources, finances, and IT. Only time will tell how the market reacts.

See the original article from The Scholarly Kitchen HERE.

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