Springer and Macmillan merger : some observations

The proposed merger between Springer and Macmillan came as a surprise to me. They are two big brands that come together. However if you look purely at figures in number of journals Macmillan is a midget compared to Springer and combined they are probably slightly bigger than Elsevier. It is the brand value of Nature and the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) that might shine on Springer and its journals if this merger is managed well. Imagine a cascading peer review system for turned down articles from Nature to the complete Springer portfolio rather than the NPG journals only. That would give the Springer journals an enormous boost. In number of journals involved this planned merger will probably not be stopped by the anti-cartel watchdogs.

What has not been mentioned in most press releases is the fact that this deal will for sure create the most profitable Open Access publisher in the world. Springer already acquired BioMed Central some years ago, and is expanding ferociously its own Springer Open brand and platform. Macmillan’s Nature Publishing Group acquired the Swiss Frontiers early 2013. Frontiers showed a healthy growth from 2,500 article in 2006 to 11,000 in 2014. The combined numbers of Open Access articles published by Springer Open, BioMed Central, Frontiers and the Nature Open Access journals (Nature Communications, Nature Reports) is still not topping that of Public Library of Science (PLoS). However the revenue in Article Processing Charges for this portfolio easily surpasses that of PLoS. For the Netherlands I made an estimate for the national APC paid to the largest publishers in early 2013. This new merger is the largest in turnover simply because they charge the highest Gold APC.

Interesting as well is to look at books, I have no figures at hand, but Springer publishes around 6000 scholarly books per year. The number by Macmillan likely to be a lot smaller, but complementary since Macmillan has a much better penetration in the textbook market. If Springer will learn from Macmillan to produce text books, rather than purely scholarly books, their earnings will increase considerably.

What amazes me however, is the fact that Digital Science is not part of the deal. Springer is still a bit of a traditional publisher and so is Mamillan. Books and journals abound it is the mainstay of their businessmodel. Okay Springer have acquired Papers, as competitor to EndNote and Mendeley. Digital Science however, is the collection of start ups from Nature and Macmillan, they have a whole portfolio of new and exciting things, Readcube, Figshare, Altmetric, Symplectic and many more. Those are really the jewels in the crown, but they are not part of the merger and Springer will badly gonna miss them.