Higher sales of a range of digital and online products offset continued declines in print revenue, leading to a 2% increase in sales in the first quarter of fiscal 2021 at John Wiley & Sons. Revenue was $431.3 million in the quarter ended July 31, 2020, compared to $423.5 million in last year’s first quarter. Net income shot up to $16.3 million in the period, from $3.6 million, due to a combination of lower expenses and restructuring charges. (In the spring, Wiley instituted a number of cost-savings measures when the pandemic broke.)
The major sales drivers were Wiley’s largest segment—research publishing and platforms—where sales increased 5%, to $240.8 million, and education learning, where sales jumped 29%, to $63.6 million. In the academic and professional learning group, where most of Wiley’s traditional educational and professional operations are housed, revenue fell 12%, to $127 million.
In his remarks, CEO Brian Napack said the unusual market conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic led to a marked increase in demand for Wiley’s digital products and services. Among the positive trends that Wiley saw in the quarter were strong growth in Open Access publishing, research content usage, online student enrollment, and digital courseware.
Gains in those areas offset the decline in its APL group, where book sales and in-person training revenue were negatively impacted the closure of bookstores, testing centers, and corporate offices. In a conference call with analysts, Napack said that, despite the quarterly decline, he saw some encouraging signs in the division. “We're seeing quite positive trends in digital content and courseware as universities and companies pivot to virtual learning,” he said. “We appear to be in an inflection point for digital content and digital courseware, with record growth of 32 and 88%, respectively, on a pro forma basis.”
Napack added that Wiley believes that the current trends will continue to affect the division for the remainder of the year, with sales of print books hurt by lockdowns and the growth in virtual learning. Digital content and courseware will continue to grow strongly, he said, helping to mitigate any potential decline this fall in higher ed enrollment.
In his remarks, Wiley CFO John Kritzmacher noted that as part of the company’s cost savings efforts, Wiley expects to reduce its real estate costs this year “given our successful transition to a virtual work environment.”