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A New Presidential Face at Thomson Gale: Gordon T. Macomber

Magazine article Online

A New Presidential Face at Thomson Gale: Gordon T. Macomber

Article excerpt

Early in April 2004, Thomson Gale, the publishing entity formerly known as Gale Group, acquired a new president-Gordon T. Macomber. His last name rhymes with slumber, which is not to suggest he's a slouch, snoozing on the job.

On the contrary, our attempts to connect for an interview were thwarted several times, usually because of his travel schedule as he visited with the various units that constitute Gale, but occasionally because of mine.

Macomber comes from a solid electronic publishing background. Just prior to Gale, he was CEO at Merriam-Webster, Inc., a subsidiary of Encyclopedia Britannica. Earlier he held several different positions at Simon & Schuster companies, primarily with reference book responsibilities, ending as the president of Macmillan Reference USA. Some of the Simon & Schuster imprints, such as Thorndike, Charles Scribner's Sons, and Macmillan, are now part of Thomson Gale. I asked him if taking over the presidency of Gale was a bit like coming home. He chuckled and admitted that he'd had to be reminded that he'd been on the payroll briefly after Macmillan Reference USA was sold to Thomson Learning in 1999. In his new job, Macomber will report to Ronald Dunn, president and CEO of Thomson Learning Academic & International Group. Cue the soundtrack for "It's a Small World After All."

One of his more interesting positions for a couple of years between his stints at Simon & Schuster and Gale was as president and CEO of NYUOnline, the university's attempt to monetize e-learning. Two revenue streams still exist. One instructs corporate staff in using online; learning for internal training purposes, the other concentrates on content management systems.


At Gale, Macomber's been impressed with Thomson's willingness to put huge resources into content and invest in technology to create a common platform. Phase one of Thomson PowerSearch will be available initially across InfoTrac products, with the complete launch scheduled for early 2005. This common platform should allow for federated searching capabilities across all Thomson content-and that's a lot of content. That raised, in my mind, the question of which part of Thomson has the most valuable content? How will Thomson divvy this up internally?

"It's a classic publishing question," says Macomber. "We will need to decide on the financial arrangements for intra-Thomson transfers of information. Remember, not every group is focused on the library market. Gale is differentiated by its concentration on the library market. We see this market as being academic, public, K-12 school libraries, large ARL research libraries, and community colleges. Although several of these could be grouped together as academic libraries, they have different buying patterns. Some Gale products are only of interest to one part of our market. Thorndike large-print books, for example, are only purchased by public libraries. We reach the corporate and government market, but it's through resellers rather than direct sales." What about a geographic distribution? Thomson Gale is, of course, known worldwide and has offices around the globe. "We're seeing the same patterns of demand outside the U.S. as we see in this country. There's growth in Europe· and the U.K. There's interest from Asia, particularly China, and we're doing pretty well in India."


If you look at Macomber's career, a common theme emerges-moving from traditional print to online delivery of information, whether that information is contained within a reference book or a professorial lecture. It came as no surprise then to hear him describe Gale's market as shifting to electronic delivery. "There are three legs to the Gale stool-periodical aggregation, primary research, and proprietary information-the three Ps. We're going to intellectualize their content and move it further towards electronic delivery. …

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