Product Distribution Update Overview
A New Way to Manage Product Distributions
As VST has grown and matured, our simple US, UK and AU store settings are no longer a sufficient way to ensure our clients' content is available only where we want it to be. As such, VST is moving over to a channel-based distribution model powered by our publisher contract terms. Distribution Channels Settings will ensure your titles are being sold in all the correct markets, and allow us to adjust settings based on product type, distribution channel, even individual countries.
What is a "Channel"?
In short, a Distribution Channel is one of many ways publishers can use VST to reach their customers. Different channels serve different types of consumers, giving VST fine-grained control over what content is available for various business models in different regions. Because distribution channels are powered by VST’s own search framework, creating and populating a new channel is as simple as defining, in search terms, the content we want to include. Adding content to a channel automatically makes it available to stores, resellers, or institutions that are relevant to that channel.
Distribution Channels is the culmination of a years-long project to distill VitalSource’s business requirements, company contracts, sales rights settings, and pricing rules into a flexible, understandable system that can be applied to our catalog of titles.
Some VitalSource History
As VitalSource has expanded as a business, we have increasingly run up against the limitations of our system that were put in place years and years ago, notably in our Store Settings, which you will read much about in this article. We were using these fields to control what content was in markets unrelated to our eCommerce stores, and the situation was becoming untenable.
We hit upon the idea of using our powerful search framework instead, to answer the question of “into which markets is product X being distributed?” We ended up taking all of our publisher contracts, translating the contract terms into search terms, and creating search queries that returned the list of products we were looking for. And so, distribution channels was born.
An Invisible Migration
When VST migrates to Distribution Channels on October 10, publisher content will make it into our clients' catalogs via our set of finely-tuned search queries. We will be assigning a list of distribution sets to companies in Manage throughout the day on 10/10/22, and when the dust settles, all catalogs should look the same as they were the day before.
It should be noted that we are not touching any existing distributions already in place! Those will stay as they are. We are simply adding more distribution sets to each company as a substitute for the calculations being run off our Store Settings.
Lastly, on 10/10/22 we will stop acknowledging changes to Store Settings, and users will see those settings disappear from Manage entirely. Where appropriate, channels settings will take their place.
Planning for the Future
In January 2023 we will begin to reject metadata updates that include Store Settings, so make sure to adjust your workflows accordingly. Here is our advice for each metadata pathway:
VitalSource Upload: Download a new metadata sheet from the User menu to stay current.
Assets API: Cease sending
in_(us/uk/au)_storeinformation as part of your API calls.
CoreSource publishers: No changes needed!
A Combined Release
We can’t wait to reveal our new, redesigned Asset page! The clean, modernized interface is also launching on October 10 and contains a host of new features and helpful workflows.
Supported Distribution Channels
VitalSource currently supports five distribution channels (with two more on the way!), which are listed in the table below. These channels fall into a few broad categories:
VST Stores and Sampling - For the general VST store, white-label stores, and sampling service
Wholesale and Resellers - Two separate channels support these catalogs
Inclusive Access - Supporting “day one” course material fulfillment programs
Tailored Markets (coming soon!) - Supporting sales markets with unique pricing requirements
Channels are not mutually exclusive, and a title can be added to any or all channels in the list.
One of the most exciting parts of moving to this new model is that adding a new channel will be relatively easy. We are already working to add two new Reseller markets to be used internationally, which should be active by the end of the year.
Where to Find Channels in Manage
Here is a quick overview of where you can find channels settings for your imprints and products throughout the Manage ecosystem. We will explore each area later in this document.
Create and Edit Imprint pages: as a contract is being finalized, new imprints are created and will have their channels assigned to them by our team members.
Asset page, Channels tab: the new assets interface will include a link to the channels tab for each asset. This tab will appear if you own or have distribution rights to the content. Users with the ability to edit asset metadata will see the Modify Channels Settings on the Channels tab as well. Here a user can make changes that apply to products under the individual asset.
Create and Edit Package pages: settings for packages can be viewed, set, or adjusted on the Create or Edit pages for those with the proper permissions.
Advanced Search: Channels settings will appear in your spreadsheet by checking the Business Rules box on export. Channels information will only appear for owned items, not for items shared via distribution rights.
How to Add, Manage, and View Channels Settings
On October 10, distribution channels will become a core part of VitalSource’s business logic. Like many of our metadata fields, Distribution Channels settings will flow down from the imprint level to all products under that imprint. Individual products can have their own custom settings, which will override the settings passed down from their imprint.
We will now look at all the ways in Manage that you can view and edit Channel rules.
On the imprint page
Requesting Imprint-Level Changes
The only constant is change! We know that content is shuffled around all the time. If you need to request changes to imprint-level settings, please contact your Support representative. We will review your request, along with our contract terms, and see where changes need to be made.
On the Channels Page, for Individual Products
By navigating to the Channels tab in the blue sub-menu of the new asset page, you can view the channels settings of an individual asset. Similar to the Pricing and Distributor sections, you can view the settings for all products at once, or use the left-hand menu to show only the product you wish to see. See the next section for an explanation of the Channel and Region Setting columns in the screenshot above.
Users with the ability to edit asset metadata will see the Modify Channel Settings button, which they can use to open the channel controls.
Product: Pick from any available duration, or apply to all durations
Distribution Channel: Choose the channel to apply these changes to
Allowed Regions: Include or exclude countries by choosing All, None, All Except, or Only, or Inherit from the product’s imprint settings
Region Configuration: This will appear as needed, and accept a list of country codes
We will go into these settings in more detail later in the article.
On the Package Pages
*The Create New Package page is shown on the left, and the Edit Package page on the right.
Packages also have their own channels settings, which can be found on the View and Edit screens for those with the permission to access them. This page will display all the same options as the asset page.
When creating a package, take the time to fill out the Distribution Channels settings using the below guide. Because packages aren’t owned by an imprint, they will not fall back to default settings and require their own channels configurations.
Simply set up your configurations using the dropdowns, and create or save your package. Repeat the process if you need more specific configurations.
A channel configuration consists of two parts: a rule, and a region.
Channel Rules Explained
Channel rules act like a math equation, adding or subtracting regions from a given channel. Let’s look at each rule in turn.
All: Simple! Picking this rule adds all available countries to this distribution channel.
None: The opposite. Picking this rule turns off the distribution channel entirely.
All Except (requires regions): Passing regions with this rule turned on will add all countries to this channel except the regions listed.
Only (requires regions): Passing regions with this rule turned on will add only the regions listed to the channel.
Inherit (products only): Removes all product-level channel settings and will use imprint settings instead
The Region List
Selecting the All Except or Only rule requires you to also pass a list of countries in order for the “equation” to function. While we can’t fit them all here, check out this list on our Developer site for a database of two-letter country codes.
You’ll want to pass these codes in your text box, separated by commas. Capitalization doesn’t matter here, but commas definitely do. Here’s an example:
Click Update Settings to change the settings for your asset.
Rule + Region Examples
It may seem like a lot of rules and regulations, but modifying channel settings comes quite naturally once you understand how all the pieces come together. Here are some channel settings combinations and their results.
So what do I need to do when October 10 comes?
Just sit back and relax! We will begin adding channels-focused distribution sets to all of our Manage companies on 10/10/22. This may slow down search results and catalog feeds a smidge, but when the dust settles, we will be delivering all your content via the distribution channel settings that you helped us define via our contracts.
If you use Upload, now is a good time to download a new metadata sheet from the User menu to stay up-to-date. If you send us metadata via API, start discussions with your engineering group about removing the In Store settings from your workflow (see below). And if you create packages as part of your work in Manage, remember to fill out Channels settings according to this guide as you do so.
I don't need to start providing any metadata about channels settings?
Nope! These settings are for us at VST to leverage, and are deeply integrated into our systems. If you’re curious, though, you can pull a Search Export report containing channels settings for your content by clicking the Business Rules checkbox.
How are you doing all this distribution management without tracking in Store information?
Because we are still leveraging pricing, currency, and sales rights information like we were before! Our In Store settings have simply become another distribution channel, the VST Store. In order to be distributed through a channel, content has to meet sales rights, channel, pricing, and other criteria before it becomes eligible. We have lots of checks and balances in place.
What about my unique distribution arrangements in place previously?
That all stays! We are not superseding any existing distribution arrangements or preferences with this move to channel-based distributions. We have incorporated many of these preferences into our channel-based logic, and spent an abundance of time comparing old distribution sets to our new channels sets to identify gaps that needed to be resolved.
When will I need to stop sending in Store information?
Through the end of 2022 we will ignore information sent for the
in_au_store fields. Beginning in 2023 we will start actively rejecting metadata updates containing these fields, so to stay ahead of the curve, please make a plan to stop sending these fields by the end of the year. Here is our advice for each metadata pathway.
VitalSource Upload: Download a new metadata sheet from the User menu to stay current. This sheet will not contain any Store Settings columns.
Assets API: Cease sending
in_(us/uk/au)_storeinformation as part of your API calls.
CoreSource customers: You are in the clear! To keep your data clean, you may wish to stop including VST-US, UK, and AU values in
SalesOutletIdentifier, but we will ignore these values regardless.
What about new Imprints that I need to set up?
We will take care of the channel settings for any new imprints that need to be created. Our team knows what to do here, and will set the new imprint’s channels settings accordingly.
What about new Packages that I create?
Unlike assets, which will use their imprint’s settings by default, packages do not automatically inherit channel settings. So, instead of defining Store Settings when you create a new package, you’ll need to define channel settings going forward. Follow this guide for information on how to configure each channel.
My content is changing ownership, what do I do?
Chances are, we are already aware, but please talk to your Success manager. If you are acquiring or offloading any imprints that already exist in Manage, we may need to adjust their channel settings.
What if I have questions about my channel settings?
Feel free to reach out to your Success manager. We can look over your settings with you and discuss changes to them, or compare them to our contracts and see if there is a disconnect.