Sunday, October 23, 2016

Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?

The story of the charming, honest ad campaign DDB created for VW... universally acknowledged to be the greatest and most influential of all time. Directed by Joe Marcantonio - Book available:
"Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?" from Dial M Films on Vimeo.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Photo: Auckland Lottery Seller

From a street in Auckland New Zealand, these two guys look like they are dreaming of lottery wins.  Maybe the guy on the right is promising to share the winnings.  The image is dated 1977.

Auckland Kiwi Jackpot Seller, 1977

EdTech Market Map

An interesting formulation of a market map for ed tech provided by Flybridge Capital Partners. Not sure when this was first published since some of the information is no longer valid. For example, some businesses have folded and I am pretty sure the Microsoft Surface is no longer available.

 Here is a more recent static market map from CB insights:

And another view from CB Insights:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What Teachers Say about EdTech in The Classroom - Report

A research report from the Gates foundation delves into the state of technology adoption in K-12 schools across the country and takes the point of view of teachers.  The report was released in November 2015 however results and analysis are updated on the report website.

Here are some of the conclusions from the report:

As part of its ongoing outreach to education technology developers, the foundation’s companion website to this research,, will feature more in-depth data from the research as it becomes available, along with existing resources for developers and interviews with a wide range of teachers who provide real-life examples of their needs and challenges. Through this research and ongoing efforts, the foundation hopes to elevate the voices of educators about what they need and spark conversation among the developer community, teachers, school leaders, and other supporters of public education. The recommendations for product developers, district and school leaders, teachers, funders, and investors made in earlier Teachers Know Best reports continue to offer our best guidance, grounded in the research, for ways the field can make technology more responsive to teachers’ needs and speed its adoption in the classroom. Based on our current findings, we add to that guidance a small number of additional, more specific, recommendations:

Product Developers:
  • Teachers need core resources, a sentiment backed up by their perception of the supplemental nature of many digital tools and the belief that they are less useful for remediation than other classroom purposes. Product developers should continue to work to fill perceived gaps in the market—in part by identifying and addressing specific standard, subject, and grade-level needs cited by teachers.
  • Developers should make their feedback process more transparent. Following the lead of their counterparts in other sectors, support and feedback could be driven by open, online communities in which teachers and developers collaborate to identify and resolve issues and iterate on improvements.
District and School Leaders
  • District leaders must find ways to address the digital divide. Without ensuring equal access to technology in all schools and classrooms, learning gaps are likely to increase as digital tools become a more integral part of classroom instruction. Equity must also be considered in digital instruction plans, as teachers will be less likely to embrace the use of digital tools and more personalized instruction if they feel that they do not equally benefit all students.
  • District leaders should ensure that they better understand how teachers will use the digital tools they are considering for implementation—and create avenues to help teachers become more directly involved in school- and district-level technology decisions.
  • Educators should familiarize themselves with resources like Graphite and EdSurge that provide information not just about digital tools, but also the strategies that align those tools to the most effective instructional purposes. Doing so can help ensure that a digital tool that other educators have found effective is used effectively in their own classrooms as well
  • Educators should provide feedback to developers of the digital tools they use most. Doing so will close the feedback loop and speed ongoing improvements.
Funders and Investors
  • Given the continued prevalence of access-related barriers to technology adoption, funders and investors should identify ways to address school and educator needs. Doing so involves not just supporting the improvement of access to digital tools but also the hardware required for students and teachers to use them, as well as the training and professional development needed for them to be used effectively and for teachers to become more engaged technology consumers in their classrooms.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Amazon's Prime Bizarre: More and More Content

The way Amazon is going with the relentless push to add more and more value to the Amazon Prime membership there won't be any more content that isn't included in the membership fee.   Hyperbolic certainly; however, Amazon has just added more than 1,000 books, comics and magazines which Prime members can access for free via phone, tablet or Kindle device.

From Nieman Labs:
There are currently 42 magazine issues listed in the program, called Prime Reading, including familiar names like Sports Illustrated, Vogue, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Consumer Reports. “Every month we choose a selection of top magazine issues for you to borrow as part of your Prime membership,” Amazon said. Users can download up to 10 titles at once.

Originally, I and probably most people joined up when in the process of buying something big the promise of free shipping prompted a 'why not' shrug to their Prime promotion.  Years later and the free shipping pays for the membership but, most importantly (in my case anyway), it has worked glue-like in the manner of airline miles to encourage loyalty.  The added stuff like book and magazine content and audio books announced earlier this year are increasingly making a tie that won’t ever break.

Several recent news stories put the number of Prime subscribers over the 50mm household mark.  It is also estimated that Prime members, who pay $99 per year for the membership, spend roughly double non-members.  (Twice)  The reports and estimates do tend to feed on themselves because Amazon is very cagey about reporting out actual data.  Other recent reports include BusinessInsider and CNN.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

PND Flip Board Magazine

Here is a current link to my most recent article picks for the PND magazine:

PND Flipboard Magazine

Articles about,

The 'new' telenovella
Amazon's pricing algorithm in conflict with 'customer first'?
How bad data costs all of us
Ferguson's philosphy
Who's black box do you trust.

+ More

Thursday, September 15, 2016

....Well, if it saves money then we sure should teach prisoners.

Article from the Village Voice about efforts to increase and improve the education of prison inmates.  These seem largely due to efforts of enlightened and caring individuals.  (Voice)
The program is one of several created in the 22 years since Congress banned inmates from receiving federal Pell Grants, causing a precipitous drop in the number of prison college programs, from about 350 before the 1994 ban to just 12 by 2005. (The controversy was nodded at on the most recent season of Orange Is the New Black, where the warden's idea to rehabilitate the women under his watch by establishing an education program at his privately run prison is shot down by his corporate bosses.) But while prison education advocates have long mourned the loss of college programs behind bars, legislators have been slower to come around. Last year, the federal Department of Education stepped in to begin expanding prison college programs, after federal policy had for two decades dismissed college courses for inmates as a waste of public funds.

Last year, following President Obama's announcement of sentencing reforms and of his intention to grant early release to 6,000 nonviolent drug offenders (as of June, he has released 348), the federal Department of Education announced the launch of a pilot program that will once again allow some inmates to receive Pell Grants, despite the 1994 law. In June, the DOE announced that 67 partnering universities would enroll about 12,000 incarcerated students in over 100 correctional facilities across the country beginning this fall. Seven of the schools, including John Jay, Hostos, and LaGuardia Community College, are in New York.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

College Textbook Prices Continue to Rise

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released updated data on the price of education in the US and if you think it costs more and more for an education then you are not alone.  The data covers all levels of education and the cost of ancillary materials such as textbooks.  In fact, according to the data, textbooks have led the growth in costs since 2006 which is the first year of this analysis. 
"From January 2006 to July 2016, the Consumer Price Index for college tuition and fees increased 63 percent, compared with an increase of 21 percent for all items. Over that period, consumer prices for college textbooks increased 88 percent and housing at school (excluding board) increased 51 percent."
Looking back even further to 1977, data from BLS suggests that textbook prices have risen over 1000%.

For interest, The College Board published a report on Trends in College Pricing that looks at "prices prices charged by colleges and universities in 2015-16, how prices have changed over time, and how they vary within and across type of institutions, states, and regions".  That report can be found via this link.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Don't give up on Print.

A recent telephone survey undertaken by Pew Research confirmed book reading is still a strong pastime despite the wide variety of distractions and other content options. The study confirmed that 73% of Americans read at least one book during the year with the mean number of books read at a healthy four titles per year. With respect to eBook consumption, the research confirmed other reports (including Pew research) that indicates more readers are replacing dedicated eReader devices for multi-purpose devices such as iPads and smart phones.

Here is a link to the report summary on the Pew Research site.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Is Google Positioned to become the Dominant Education Platform?

Interesting article from The Clayton Christensen Institute reflecting on the transition underway in Education from Apple and Microsoft to the open technologies provided by Google:
And yes, Google’s suite of office tools lacks the raw functionality of Microsoft Office’s suite, but Google has taken advantage of two key dynamics. First, most users are overserved by Microsoft Office. Most don’t take advantage of at least 98 percent of the functionality in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, for example. Google’s office tools get the basic functionality right, enable new features like collaboration—which is custom made for the Web, and keep getting better with more and more functionality. Second, Google’s apps are free for educators, whereas Microsoft makes you pay. Faced with the decision, it’s become increasingly a no brainer for educators to opt for Google. If trends continue, a whole generation of children may never know what PowerPoint is.
What would be great to see is Microsoft move away from just focusing on the content creation marketplace of its traditional Office suite and instead leverage its acquisition of LinkedIn and to do three things: support competency-based learning—through badges, portfolios, and rich profiles for all students; invest in building students’ social capital—a key determinant of life success that education typically ignores—in a deliberate way; and, through both of these efforts, help students discover and cultivate their true passions.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wiley the publisher acquires Atypon the technology provider

If, like me, you are working in the software for publishers space then this acquisition by Wiley of Atypon is a big deal.   Consolidation in the space - which is dominated by Atypon and Highwire - has been on the cards for a number of years; however, I wouldn't necessarily consider this a consolidation of providers.  Wiley certainly will be making use of the Atypon technical expertise to build out their new Wiley content platform but I would also expect Atypon to continue to be a strong and aggressive competitor in the space.  Atypon and Wiley will also want to ensure they protect (and add to) the current Atypon client roster and are probably likely to build a 'chinese wall' between Atypon and Wiley.  They will do this to make sure the Atypon customers remain despite some degree of competition between Wiley and some of the Atypon customers.

Over the coming months it will be interesting to see how the other vendors in the market react to this news.

Here is the press release:

Wiley Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Atypon

John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a global provider of knowledge and knowledge-enabled services that improve outcomes in research, professional practice and education, announced today it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Atypon, a Silicon Valley-based publishing-software company, for $120 million in cash. Atypon ( is a trusted technology partner that enables scholarly societies and publishers to deliver, host, enhance, market and manage their content on the web. The transaction is expected to close October 1, 2016.
Atypon is privately held and headquartered in Santa Clara, CA, with approximately 260 employees in the U.S. and EMEA. The company provides Literatum, an innovative platform that primarily serves the large scientific, technical, medical and scholarly industry. This sophisticated software gives publishers direct control over how their content is displayed, promoted and monetized on the web. The company generated over $31 million in calendar year 2015 revenue.
Atypon’s valued customers include some of the largest and most prestigious names in the industry. Literatum hosts nearly 9,000 journals, 13 million journal articles and more than 1,800 publication web sites for over 1,500 societies and publishers, accounting for a third of the world’s English-language scholarly journal articles.
Atypon will be managed as a separate business unit while benefiting from the financial stability and continuity of Wiley’s 209-year-old organization. The data and plans from each of Atypon’s clients will remain sequestered and behind firewalls. Clients use Atypon as their core journal-delivery platform or as a way to supplement end-user engagement. Wiley will itself become an Atypon customer.
“Wiley is committed to enabling the success of our customers and partners to advance research, discovery and learning,” said Mark Allin, President and CEO of Wiley. “Atypon offers an outstanding set of publishing solutions that can help industry participants like Wiley drive the discovery of research. We will ensure Atypon’s flexible platform continues to fully support the research community and industry partners so they may better serve their own customers.”
Georgios Papadopoulos, Atypon’s founder and CEO, will continue to lead the business and will report to Mr. Allin. He said: “We have worked hard with our partners to build the industry’s premier publishing platform and support the needs of the research community. Atypon is delivering solid growth and marked its most successful year in 2015, nearly doubling its staff in two years. With Wiley’s commitment we are very excited about the many opportunities to accelerate the expansion of Atypon’s service offerings strengthening the fabric of scholarly communications, expanding access, readership, and utilization, lowering operating costs, enabling organizations to create and expand offerings and products on their own, and building value for all stakeholders.”

Thursday, August 11, 2016

PND Flipboard Magazine New Issue: Am.Lawyer Magazine Reset, Apple's Long Term Strategy + More

CJR on American Lawyer Magazine's new strategy
E&P on digital strategies driving the media industry
AdAge on how Nike changed marketing
Fastcompany on Apple's long term strategy
+ More.

View my Flipboard Magazine.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Barack Obama's Scholarly Journal Article on The Affordable Healthcare Act.

President Barack Obama (Barack Obama JD) has published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled United States Healthcare Reform - Progress to Date and Next Steps.  Apparently a first for a sitting President.

Here's a summary from JAMA:
The Affordable Care Act has made significant progress toward solving long-standing challenges facing the US health care system related to access, affordability, and quality of care. Since the Affordable Care Act became law, the uninsured rate has declined by 43%, from 16.0% in 2010 to 9.1% in 2015, primarily because of the law’s reforms. Research has documented accompanying improvements in access to care (for example, an estimated reduction in the share of nonelderly adults unable to afford care of 5.5 percentage points), financial security (for example, an estimated reduction in debts sent to collection of $600-$1000 per person gaining Medicaid coverage), and health (for example, an estimated reduction in the share of nonelderly adults reporting fair or poor health of 3.4 percentage points). The law has also begun the process of transforming health care payment systems, with an estimated 30% of traditional Medicare payments now flowing through alternative payment models like bundled payments or accountable care organizations. These and related reforms have contributed to a sustained period of slow growth in per-enrollee health care spending and improvements in health care quality. Despite this progress, major opportunities to improve the health care system remain.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Travelin' man, that's what I was.

Travel has always been a constant in my professional life.  There have been gaps but for the most part I've had to travel for business constantly since I joined my first company after grad school back in 1989.   Growing up we were a Pan Am family because the company my father worked for was owned by Pan Am and, much of the time, we were able to fly first class on airline employee passes.  As a child I developed a distorted idea of how normal people traveled.  But, we had it good for a long time.

In the late 1970s - early 80s all the fun was soaked out of flying.  It became an angry experience.  People didn't dress up to fly any more.  No one wanted to take you to the airport to see the planes.  People get ugly and angry with frequency.   I admit to some of that myself on occasion.

Over the past three years, I traveled internationally far more than I expected.  Our business was challenged (to understate our circumstance) and this situation required me to be in the UK almost constantly.  When friends and colleagues ask me about this experience they have - on my behalf - tried to calculate miles and round trips and hours spent.  To be honest, while the travel was far more than expected it wasn't my place to complain but friends (and Mrs PND) with more objective points of view remain astonished that there wasn't an intervention of sorts to help reduce my travel.  There was no way this could continue at this level.

So I got to thinking what the numbers really looked like and here's what I came up with for my travel over the past 36 months:
  • 440,000 miles flown (415,000 on United).
  • 185,000 miles flown in 2014
  • 100 flights in/out of Heathrow
  • 150 flights in/out of Newark
  • Other cities: Beijing, Tokyo, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, San Francisco, Washington, New Orleans, Chicago. Edinburgh, Boston, New Delhi, Berlin, Manchester,
  • Typical travel week included more than 20 hrs in travel time
  • Approximately 75 books read
  • Complete seasons of Deadwood, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad + assorted others
  • 840,000 airlines miles/points earned
  • (Only) 2 complimentary upgrades
  • Platinum United frequent flyer (and gold for life)
  • Approximately 90 round trips (75 out of Newark)
  • Approximately 25 mileage upgrades to business class (not enough!)
  • 1 cancelled flight
  • Approximately 65 multiple day rent-a-cars
  • Approximately 300 hotel nights
  • Approximately 100 nights with my parents (stress inducer but money saver)
  • 0 economy class meals eaten
  • 2,800 miles running (to stay in shape and reduce stress!)
  • 60+ train trips: Amtrak, UK, Europe
  • Conservatively, 2,000 photos
  • 1 missed hotel fire alarm
That was my job (and I wouldn't wish it on anyone).   In order to make sense and reduce stress and anxiety a set of routines are almost forced on the frequent traveler.  I knew the configuration of the different planes traveling between the US and UK so I'd look for specific seats to grab.  I'd try to execute a strategy so that I could maximize the chance of the seat next to me being left open.  Having a little more room to sleep on an over night flight becomes the most important goal in the days running up to departure.  But flights on Sunday (out) and Thursday (home) are rarely empty.  Sunday departures were always the worst since I'd begin packing around 3pm and leave for the airport around 4.  But, arriving Monday morning gave me the 'right' to return on home Thursday night.

Since I left PT (now "Ingenta") I've continued to travel but I don't see myself spending this amount of time on aircraft and at airports any time soon.

Next - What's in my bag?

Michael Cairns has served as CEO and President of several technology and content-centric business supporting global media publishers, retailers and service provider.  He can be reached at and is interested in discussing new business opportunities for executive management and/or board and advisory positions

Friday, May 06, 2016

Photo Image: Piccadilly Curcus 1968

Since so many people liked the 1954 version of Piccadilly Circus I thought I'd show one from 1968.  Here you can see that the center statue (Eros) is no longer an island in the middle and that there is a wider pedestrian space around the statue.  The road wasn't entirely blocked (note the railing on the right) until the early 1980s.  I am sure I have one from that period as well.  In 1954 the movie playing was The Bed (largely forgotten) and in this image the movie is "Beach Red" where "only man hunts his own kind".  Never heard of it.

Also, don't forget about my flipboard magazine where there are all kinds of interesting articles on media and publishing.

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Photo Image Piccadilly Circus 1954

© Michael Cairns
Piccadilly Circus 1954

Long time since I posted an image.  Something I used to do regularly.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

EdSurge Special Report on Adaptive Learning

EdSurge recently released their special report looking into the status of adaptive learning experiments, their effectiveness and what the future may hold for adaptive learning in schools.

Here's a sample:
"But like so many bright and shiny technology promises, adaptive learning has yet to offer any definitive answers, despite decades of work. Both industry and teachers are even wrestling with exactly what will constitute the “evidence” that so many educators crave. If there’s scant proof that these tools raise test scores, is it worth doing if it makes students more enthusiastic learners, or if it frees up teachers to spend more time teaching to smaller groups? These questions unnerve many, including parents who don’t want their children to get an inferior education as schools work out the kinks in new technology, and school district leaders, who are loath to champion risky projects that could get them in hot water with the school board or on the front page of the local paper."

The full report is located here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pew Center Study on Life Long Learning: Most of us like to Learn.

Pew Center study on life long learning concludes with some sobering stats related to some of the hottest topics in education:

Some key new digital platforms and methods of learning are not widely known by the public

The educational ecosystem is expanding dramatically. Still, there is not widespread public awareness of some of the key resources that are becoming available. Noteworthy majorities of Americans say they are “not too” or “not at all” aware of these things:
  • Distance learning – 61% of adults have little or no awareness of this concept.
  • The Khan Academy, which provides video lessons for students on key concepts in things such as math, science, the humanities and languages – 79% of adults do not have much awareness of it
  • Massive open online courses (MOOCs) that are now being offered by universities and companies – 80% of adults do not have much awareness of these.
  • Digital badges that can certify if someone has mastered an idea or a skill – 83% of adults do not have much awareness of these.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Marketing wants to Market, Sales wants to Sell: Give them the Tools.

An historic lack of investment in the tools that allow your best customers to use your content may be frustrating those inside and outside your business.  It’s time to consider a strategic approach to identity and access management.

Over the past few years, many large software companies (including IBM, EMC, SAP and others) have invested in or acquired software which facilitates the relationship between a consumer and the owner of a digital item.  Typically, this ‘item’ is a content type such as an article, television show, movie or website.  But as more and more of our interactions occur on the web, the universe of ‘items’ available to us expands every day.  The category of software which facilitates these relationships is referred to as Identity and Access Management (IAM) and more and more, it is becoming an area of increased investment by both the providers of this type of software and the companies which provide the access rights.  Gartner defines Identity and Access Management (IAM) as “The security discipline that enables the right individuals to access the right resources at the right time for the right reasons”.

Most publishers with web content and web-delivered products will be familiar with the two main components of IAM: authentication and authorization.   Both have been critical in the distribution of electronic products into the library, academic and direct-to-consumer markets for our market for many years.   The software which manages these activities is frequently embedded in other applications – such as a content management or subscription system – or is derived from those systems.  Now, increasingly, we are seeing purpose-built IAM systems which sit between a database/repository of content and the user.  Companies like EMC, as well as new-to-the-market companies such as, are aggressively expanding this market as the ‘subscription’ and ‘membership’ model economy grows.  Publishers and content-centric companies – whether they know it or not – have represented many of the original business cases upon which these companies have based their investments.  The irony is that many publishers have under invested in their own IAM tools: As a result, they are likely to be leaving money on the table and suffering a comparative disadvantage versus others who are investing in the new tools and software.

Naturally, all content owners want to expand the usage of their content, be able to experiment with different business models and facilitate as many access modes as possible.  The consumer wants access to be universal across their devices (without disruption) and they increasingly expect some degree of personalization which provides them with additional relevant and timely content. 

Publishers are unable to deliver on these requirements due to their lack of investment in IAM solutions.  For example, they will provide access to journal articles for stated periods of time but don’t have the technical flexibility to work with collections of articles created by users and then price these collections dynamically.  Marketers and sales staff are left frustrated by lost sales - often to competitors - who are able to provide more creative and personalized options for their users. 

As publishers review their options and plan their technical architecture they will need to answer several new(ish) questions about the IAM software they are considering.  Licensing this software from the same content management (CMS) provider is likely to prove less and less optimal as companies like those noted above build out the functionality and capabilities of bespoke IAM solutions.  

Within the context of a strategic plan and a review of the company’s sales and market goals, you may consider the following important questions to answer and issues to discuss with vendors:
  • How flexibly can we define customer types?  Can this definition happen dynamically as a user exhibits certain behaviors?   How easy is the admin interface that allows marketing and sales personnel to define customer types?
  • Business models in the “old world” were very static; however, there may now be an almost unlimited number of business models to support a wide variety of customer types and access rules.  How well can this software manage a wide variety of models?  How are new models created and/or augmented and existing ones changed?  Importantly, is there an ‘archive’ capability so you can place any number of business models on hold and return to them in the future.  Is reporting easy – especially if you expect to adopt a multitude of models?
  • As our own personal experience shows, we access content and online resources via a variety of devices ranging from our television to our watch.  The experience is naturally very different from device to device and these differences need to be mitigated so as to not diminish and/or devalue the user experience.  The IAM should be able to intervene as needed to maintain the best and most consistent, uninterrupted experience for the user.
  • Lastly, IAM may be able help content owners expand the overall usage of their content.  To the extent that IAM enables some identification of the user this information can be used as a basis for delivering specific, personalized new content of which the user may be unaware.  Together with a strong analytics capability (a topic for next time), marketing can categorize users into like groups to deliver curated (and programmatic) content packages.  These type of activities are strategically important because they can support new revenue streams, renewal rates and price increases.  Tying an increase in utility to an annual price increase can be very effective in raising topline revenues.
  • A second aspect of identity management is to confirm that your chosen technology can monetize the ‘non-registered’ or ‘over the transom’ traffic which comes to your site on a daily basis.  If you have a site which generates a lot of daily non-subscriber traffic you’ve probably asked a lot about how you can turn that traffic into real revenue.  Asking specific questions about how this can be achieved via an IAM is important because, here, you may find a true ROI.
Increasingly, IAM will be viewed as a business-critical solution supported by the marketing and sales team, rather than a ‘black-box’ software package managed by the corporate IT department.   Decision makers on the front line selling content, subscriptions and memberships should begin demanding more from the IAM.  The solutions are out there.

Michael Cairns has served as CEO and President of several technology and content-centric business supporting global media publishers, retailers and service provider.  He can be reached at and is interested in discussing new business opportunities for executive management and/or board and advisory positions.