Magazine article Information Today

Gale's Not Just in Reference Anymore, Toto

Magazine article Information Today

Gale's Not Just in Reference Anymore, Toto

Article excerpt

If there's one thing Paul Gazzolo wants you to know about Gale, it's that the company shouldn't just be recognized for its reference publishing. But Gazzolo, SVP and global general manager of Gale, realizes that it might take some prodding before its reputation among the general public catches up. "Gale the brand has really been known as a reference publisher, so when I go out and talk to library customers, typically, they sort of put us into [the category of] reference publisher, annuals, or literary criticism," he says.

But amid a series of new initiatives--including the release of more interdisciplinary, multicultural content and a large international push--it might be time for libraries to start seeing Gale in a fresh light. One of the primary driving factors behind the new Gale is the new senior leadership: Gazzolo, Liz Mason (VP of product), and Terry Robinson (SVP and managing director for Gale International) all joined the company within the last 2 years.

Gazzolo attributes some of the directional shift to Gale's parent company, Cengage Learning. For the past 8 years, Gale "has been integrated into the other parts of the business, more in the product line than standalone," he says. Recently, Gale has become more of a standalone entity within Cengage Learning, "more able to control its own destiny, as it were," says Gazzolo.

Gale (then called Gale Research) was founded in 1954 by Frederick Gale Ruffner as a company focused on reference publishing, which grew with the decades to include products such as research and educational publishing materials as well as online databases. In 1985, Gale was sold to the International Thomson Organization (which became Thomson Corp., which eventually became Thomson Reuters). In 2007, when it was Thomson Corp., the conglomerate divested its learning division, Thomson Learning--which included Gale.

In 2007, Thomson Learning was acquired by a private equity consortium consisting of Apax Partners and OMERS Capital Partners for $7.75 billion and renamed Cengage Learning, Inc. Six years later, the company filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. It came out of bankruptcy in 2014. In an interview with Library Journal, CEO Michael Hansen explained that the company's decision to file for Chapter 11 was the result of overpayment during a bubble as well as slowing textbook sales, which was caused by an increased market for secondhand and rental textbooks.

"Seventy percent of our revenue at Gale is from digital products," Hansen said at the time. "The problem is that library budgets are not growing. For us, that means we have to focus on clearly differentiated, must-have content. We also see significant growth opportunity for our library products internationally and in developing markets."

Cengage Learning's decision to let Gale go forward into the wide world appears to be working out; Gale has returned to growth for the first time in nearly a decade with a full-year growth of 4% for FY2015.

Although Gale's certainly exploring new areas, Gazzolo explains that it's not a totally different company. "I want to emphasize that all the things that Gale stood for before in terms of high-quality reference content, archives that really cover some of the best partnerships with libraries, the Smithsonian, is still absolutely true, but we're adding a few sort of wrinkles to it that we think are going to be compelling for our customers," he says.

Technology Upgrade

Although Cengage Learning is treating Gale as a "business within a business," according to Gazzolo, Gale is still able to tap into the parent company's vast resources. He points to Cengage's MindTap personal learning platform as an example of how the company understands higher education curricula and explains how Gale can piggyback off of it to their mutual success. "What I believe that does is give Gale a unique advantage in terms of having an audience with teachers and students to insert our content into their learning path or workflow differently than some of our competitors," he says. …

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