Expanding the Reach of Expert Content

Taylor & Francis Group devotes new energy to discoverability.

Taylor & Francis Group devotes new energy to discoverability.

In 1852, William Francis joined Richard Taylor in his already 54-year-old English publishing business. Taylor & Francis sold expert content (a.k.a. books) in areas including agriculture, chemistry, engineering, geography, law, mathematics, medicine, and social science. They evolved into an industry leader in specialized academic journals and high-level research materials. Today, Taylor & Francis Group publishes more than 2,700 journals and about 7,000 new books per year.

Matthew Kemp serves as the London-based Content Discovery Director for Taylor & Francis Group. For the past eighteen months, Kemp has worked with a 20-person team to implement a large-scale discoverability upgrade. Discoverability goes beyond brand awareness and digital marketing. Discoverability signifies precisely how content pops up in search engines or databases.

Kemp is tasked with a largescale transformation of Taylor & Francis’s content distribution methods. He coordinates metadata strategies to maximize the search engine visibility of 150,000 backlist titles. Gone forever are MARC cards and other physical media like microfiche or card catalogs. Today, Kemp knows that he must reach eyeballs through smartphone screens.

“It’s a new version of an old thing,” explained Kemp. “In the 1800s, every book looked the same. Then we put on distinctive covers to make our books as visible as possible.” Kemp’s wide-ranging mission begins with connecting the consumer with the content. “We don’t mind how people consume it, whether it is on a kindle or a hardback book.” While expanding into other formats, Taylor & Francis continues their commitment to the physical book, especially in the area of immersive learning.

To modernize older titles, Kemp uses natural language processing tools to extract useful information like title, author, table of contents, and electronically extracted indexes. Then, his team employs surgical metadata techniques to code for searches engines like Amazon and Google Scholar. “We’re making an interface for millennials who want to use their smartphones all the time. Helping readers discover expert knowledge is our role in the global digital revolution.”

On the production side of Taylor & Francis Group, discoverability strategies are incorporated from day one. At every step, understanding the search engine data fields is key to reaching future customers. Matthew Kemp’s large team devotes much time and energy to getting their titles up within the top three search results. Always evolving, his team continues to develop new techniques to tailor metadata for maximum reach while continuing to support electronic library cataloging through MARC and KBART digital records.

Taylor & Francis Group is a longtime favorite of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). Their backlist includes essential titles for graduate students at major universities, especially in the social sciences. Today, Taylor & Francis Group is growing their audience by targeting additional verticals like major corporations and lifelong learners. To adapt and grow, they connect with broader populations and imagine the changing profile of research customers.

Tom Cox, the Global Books Marketing Director for Taylor & Francis Group, spoke at length with Library Journal about developing lifelong relationships with content consumers. “Learning doesn’t stop after college. We publish in many areas where knowledge must be kept up-to-date.” Cox’s goal is to create long-term bonds with each reader. Ideally, a student feels brand loyalty for Taylor & Francis while still in school. Then, Cox wants graduates to continue using these research products long into their professional careers.

Cox directly targets industries that reflect the Taylor & Francis portfolio, like STEM and  human serviceshumanities and social sciences (HSS). “Companies want their teams to keep progressing,” said Cox. “We want to enable and empower these companies to access our expert content. This includes areas that we would not traditionally consider like leadership, health, and safety.” Cox builds relationships of all kinds: the Ph.D. who goes into corporate life, the employer who wants to foster staff development or anyone who wants access to the best high-level research available.

Cox embraces the inclusive new world of physical books and screens. “We accept that the industry is changing, that the scope is broadening,” he said. Cox works to create more flexible options for content consumption. “We welcome the new horizon. To succeed, we have to acknowledge that the way people learn is changing fast.”

Cox’s digital tools provide him vast data to monitor customer behavior. He can see exactly how Taylor & Francis materials are being sought out and viewed. Cox can measure engagement rates with all sorts of content. “The customer is at the center of our business model. It’s a data-hungry business across all corners of the organization. It’s a big investment of time, energy, and resources. Everything is dedicated to making sure we are equipped for the
digital transformation.”

The market is growing in many directions at once. In addition to book readers, Taylor & Francis Group wants to reach new customers seeking out content on screens. Publishers are still vying for readers’ attention, as Matthew Kemp made clear. It was a competition for attention all along. Except now we access a permanent cloud of human knowledge, accessible with our new external sensory organ: the smartphone.

Preparation for the Gutenberg Bible started in 1450. Richard Taylor founded his publishing company in 1798. Now in 2019, Taylor & Francis is taking the next steps to bring information to readers of all kinds and in all ways. Tom Cox and Matthew Kemp dedicate their time and talent to ensure the long-term viability of this historic brand. With this new burst of energy, Taylor & Francis is reaching more people in more ways than ever.



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