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.

Human Figures Solving Green Jigsaw Puzzles On Grey Background

“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.io, Authorea, 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.

Angela Cochran

Angela Cochran

Angela Cochran is Vice President of Publishing at the American Society of Clinical Oncology. She is past president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing and of the Council of Science Editors. Views on TSK are her own.

Discussion

14 Thoughts on "Wiley Acquires Editorial Services Group"

As Angela notes, this is indeed a very interesting move by Wiley – instead of publishing society journals and using the subscriptions/APCs to pay for the editorial staff, the societies collect the money themselves and pay Wiley for editorial staff. Will J&J journals find themselves in a Wiley tractor beam?

“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.” Well, now they are part of Wiley they can perhaps advise Wiley on how to help its peer-reviewers maintain their expertise. This requires regularly scanning the TOCs of numerous journals in their disciplines. Wiley is by far the worst offender regarding the practice of providing incomplete TOCs. Readers are then invited to go to the publisher’s webpage to see the rest. Expert peer-reviewers have only 24 hours in their days, just like the rest of us!

Example: Email TOC for Journal of Cellular Physiology for March 2021. At the bottom the list reads “20 of 54 articles shown”.

The listing of what is missing is accompanied by a link luring the reader to the publisher’s site. It all eats into the time available for maintaining expertise in a field! Perhaps future consortia of experts will fight back and refuse to review for publishers who engage in this practice.

Thanks for your comment. We recently made a change to our email TOC alerts so that they no longer automatically cutoff at 25 articles. We hope this helps you stay up to date.

Scholarly Kitchen provides a forum for communication between the various players. Indeed, that was why, with the support of some publishers, Bionet.journals.note was initiated circa 1993 (by me, then a laboratory scientist). Thank you Rachel for your most helpful response.

Interesting topic, Angela – thank you! I didn’t know J&J operated a different business model from that of PA EDitorial and The Editorial Office, so I’ve learned something there!

I was at the ISMTE Conference in Baltimore in 2018, when the announcement was made about Elsevier acquiring Aries. Seeing as I’d previously worked for both Wiley and Atypon, it appears all of my former employers are destined to take each other over eventually! This may be simply a symptom of my many years within the industry, but I think it more likely that both the scale and diversity of these consolidations increases with time, as the major players learn from the process and its potential pitfalls, which gives them greater confidence to gild them for the next acquisition.

In Baltimore, I joked with Kent Anderson, late of this parish, that customers of the acquired organisation go through something akin to Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_stages_of_grief). I know that the stages don’t map exactly onto one another. However, there is oftentimes initial denial and anger, but when customers consider the merits of the service they have acquired thus far, and the hurdles they would have to negotiate to jump ship, they very often decide to stay put rather than move to an alternative vendor.

We need to also consider the reassurances that the buyer company gives about the firewall (I guess this may be the ‘bargaining’ stage). Larger companies get more confident about how to give these assurances with time and as they make more acquisitions. I wonder how a primarily WFH culture affects this, if at all. When Wiley moved the Atypon office into their own building we had a particularly dramatic illustration of the barrier between the two, with walls, security keypads and ‘No Admittance’ signs added, clearly barring publishing staff from Atypon’s inner sanctum.

Hi Mark
Interesting indeed. However, I would just like to point out that while Editorial Office doesn’t have the exact same business model as J & J, we are not ‘ brokers of independent contractors’ , or an umbrella organisation. We recruit and train all of our own team – in the same way J&J do – and do not advertise for or accept applications from independent editorial assistants. Our team is definitely all EOL!

Hi Alice, I’m very sorry if I misrepresented you or your company. While I appreciate that you select and train your team, and have done so very well for many years, it is also true, is it not, that they are for the most part contractors rather than salaried employees in the traditional sense?

Hi Mark – yes, as I said we don’t have the exact same ‘traditional’ model as J&J – since 2001 we have benefited from a highly flexible and self motivating freelance team. We now have a core of 11 full time employees who manage a team of over 130 long standing administrative and scientific freelancers who are both recruited and trained by us. What we are not is a hub for independent editorial assistants who wish to grow their own portfolio as referred to in Angela’s excellent article (and I’m not saying that Angela suggested that she was referring to us – she clearly didn’t mention any names).

Hi Angela, Thanks so much for your continued coverage of Wiley’s efforts to build up an array of publishing services through acquisitions. In reflecting on the Atypon, Magdex, and now J&J purchases, I wonder if we are seeing the elements of a broader strategy emerge. This services business that Wiley is building seems like it is growing into an increasingly strong alternative to the society hosting business. Is the competition for societies and the revenue guarantees that this business has come to require becoming unsustainable in an environment of transformative agreements, unbundling/cancellation, etc? And if so, is the services strategy a way for Wiley to shift the risk of a major society business off its books and onto those of its societies, in a way that allows it to continue monetizing all the services that it actually provides to them?

Thanks, Roger. The strategy does get more focused as time goes on. The Atypon purchase seemed more like a recognition that they could not successfully build their own platform. With as many journals as these big publishers have, it does not make sense to pay a vendor for a platform. It does sound like this pragmatic approach to the platform ended up kicking off a new model.

Going one step further, Wiley has invested in other society friendly services such as continuing education and membership support. When they walk in the door of a society, they make sure they have more to offer than just journal publishing. The more vendors and platforms in this space that they have under their brand, the easier the sell.

This certainly diversifies revenue. As for the overall strategy, I think we are still in “watch and see mode.” There have been a lot of changes in key positions lately.

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