Friday, May 30, 2003

The Microsoft/AOL settlement comes as no great surprise, as Microsoft needs the muscle of a major multispectrum online content provider to drive the acceptance of a digital rights management scheme that can be pushed through as yet another de facto industry standard. It's doubtful that all other hatchets will be buried as peacefully as the initial spin would have it, but at the end of the day an accepted DRM strategy is all that Microsoft needs out of the deal to declare themselves the smart ones. All part of the greater picture of Microsoft's rapidly evolving content-centric "embrace and extend" strategy to guarantee themselves a place in the home entertainment centers and work spaces of the future. This is the focus of this week's news analysis piece, coming soon to a ShoreLines newsletter near you!

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Recent research from the UK highlights the power of social software to create content that is based on real-world relationships enhanced by these capabilities moreso than the mistaken image of a "cyberworld" of people connected only by technology. This is a key factor in ensuring the success of any content-driven environment that is hoping for success based on incorporating socially-driven content contribution. If people don't feel that they are contributing to bona-fide relationships, or have a real possibility of developing or amplifying such a relationship, they are not likely to participate in creating content for social software. Rare are the people who find purely online relationships satisfying. But once people do find these communities, and feel comfortable that they can represent themselves as they like to be seen, it's rare that these systems don't take off like a rocket - in both professional and personal circles.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

In the financial world, real-time financial quotation and trade content is crucial, yet its value is highly tenuous: if it's perfectly fast and accurate, it's gold, and anything else fast approaches a leaden state. Hyperfeed has been taking a different approach to the delivery of financial real-time information for a couple of years, now, giving their clients the option of taking a traditional consolidated quotes feed or taking content directly from selected securities exchanges in their own format and using their central services for data recovery. Because of the demands of networking and throughput Hyperfeed now partners with SAVVIS Communications to provide the reliability that their clients demand, but the overall model can be applied to all content markets. Aggregation is not just about "the big pipe": it's about servicing a broad array of content delivery needs from multiple sources, with or without a central, aggregator-supplied content stream.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Sharman Networks Limited's Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing software Kazaa became the Web's most popular downloaded program last week, with over 229 Million downloads reported by CNET's Download.com facility. Interestingly, the previous download champ was ICQ, an internet chat/messenger facility that has waned somewhat in popularity as other more sophisticated and well-filtered chat channels have come into use. Kazaa, along with an increasing host of other easily managed services, is proving to the world that publishing content can be easy and fun. Now if only the publishers could figure out that creating an enjoyable, shared publishing experience is something that might be worth marketing...

Friday, May 23, 2003

While Microsoft's continuing moves to leverage the content world gain a lot of headlines today, the tidbit that gets our special attention is the increasing prevalance of data collection for security risk analysis. This has been a growing trend for some time in the government arena, but it's poised to have a major impact in corporate circles and the content and related technologies industries that services it. We think of the power of social networks in generating content value as a positive trend for business in many ways, but there's a dark side to it, as well. Understanding relationships between people and institutions is a powerful tool, and content that allows people to understand the risks involved in these relationships as well as the opportunities is going to become a very powerful point for generating value - and revenues - for some time to come.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The Online Publishers Association (OPA) notes that year-on-year online ad revenues are up 40 percent in year-on-year first quarter results. The conflict in Iraq at first resulted in lower ad revenues, but then revenues surged within a few days of hostilities commencing. The corner has definitely been turned for online ad sales, not due to any economic shift so much as major advertisers finally realizing where the eyeballs are and having more effective ways in which to attract them. So much for chortles at the expense of ad-driven electronic content sales. Electronic advertising can respond quickly to changing campaigns and conditions, get highly contextual with very specific audiences, and enter an environment where relationships are built as much as product knowledge. The hype is over: long live the reality.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The Australian journal BRW reminds us that content's value is as much about the venue we find it in as it is about the information. BRW publishes a list of the 200 richest Australians, based on a goodly amount of digging into public information and informaiton not-so-public. Left to the audience of the tax man, no doubt these people don't care. But put into a public journal, and some well-to-do tuna fishermen get a twisted feeling in their knickers. The kinds of sleuthing that they do, though, is using oftentimes the same technology and techniques that institutions are using for their own data mining and competitive intelligence business. All the world's become a newsroom...

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

I was listening to the comments of Bill O'Brien, an interim CEO for The Waiting List Practice, which publishes information on medical training, at the recent InfoToday 2003 conference as he took on some of the Knowledge Management presenters. I asked him to send me his thoughts about the conference from a CEO's perspective, and he mailed back the following very interesting notes:

- I got the sense that this community is looking for an identity in the business community. It is looking for ways to legitimize itself.
-The idea of so many presenters dismissing the ROI as �answering the wrong question� is particularly alarming and as a CEO I can assure you that I am not interested in their question of it doesn�t roll up to mine.
- I got the sense that this field has become a �club� in which the 2 o�clock presenter is legitimizing the findings of the 3 o�clock presenter and visa versa.
-One particular presenter spoke about how CoPs had added so much value and then as a toss aside comment mentioned that her job might be in jeopardy due to funding cut backs. CEOs are looking for critical path projects and if that is the plight of her �value added� project I am totally confused.
- I have the sense that knowledge management is dead. The value inherent in Knowledge Management is probably already manifesting itself in so many different ways in hundreds of companies. In other words, the idea of KM having some sort of standard will never be realized and that�s probably a good thing.
-Finally, I think the Social Network technologies have a big potential future as the collaboration tools used in complex projects, like in the Product Lifecycle Management space, begin to commoditize; causing the next question to evolve naturally which is �is anybody actually sharing any information in the way that we had hoped when we architected the HW/SW solution in the first place?�.

Thanks, Bill, it helps to see things from a CEO's point of view!

Monday, May 19, 2003

Gerry McGovern wins the Truism of the Day award for his quote in a Sydney Morning Herald article on information overload: "(It's) the-more-the-merrier kind of concept ... if we create more, we create more value," McGovern says. As if channeling his thoughts, a new free web authoring service called Bloki was launched today, a service that allows web site creation with the simplicity of a Java/browser-based word processing interface for easy page creation along with some of the collaborative sophistication of groupware and content management systems. Bloki is not going to put any CMS companies out of business any time soon, but it is yet another example of disruptive technology that allows publishing to seek the least common technical denominator for creating and disseminating content with the features that matter most to attracting and maintaining a content-publishing community.

Friday, May 16, 2003

A New York Times article wonders out loud whether the bloom is off of the high-tech rose, seeing that it may become a commoditized component of general business production capabilities. But as Craig R. Barrett, chief executive of Intel, notes in the article: "I.T. is the vehicle by which you turn ideas and content into intellectual property products." In other words the I.T. industry has always been the "tool and die" side of the information business. It's not a matter of whether people will spend or not for technology - if something can create content that will give a company a valuable edge over their competition, they'll do it - but more a matter of people beginning to understand just how to realize the value of creating content - specific information experiences for specific audiences in specific contexts. With standards-driven technology allowing more layers of technology to settle into a stable role, the value in technology will turn increasingly towards what works for people as publishers and consumers of content.
The Web site dcmilitary.com notes that knowledge sharing is power. Not a particularly radical statement in and of itself, but placed in the context of the military establishment, long the center of hierarchical command and control structure, it's pretty revealing. Operation Iraqi Freedom was the first large-scale implementation of the U.S. Military's knowledge-centric battlefield management systems, which provided stronger coordination of tactics and strategy than ever before, in large part because units in the field knew of their peers' movements and the central command staff could get a very accurate "dashboard" picture of events unfolding. In the wake of World War II, many corporations adapted the management techniques that their managers learned as officers in the military, giving rise to very hierarchical organizations. In the 21st century, corporate warfare based on establishing cooperative, content-centric cultures seems to be leading the way for the military.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

It's interesting to note how IBM apparently has moved its WebSphere development team under the aegis of its user-oriented Lotus division, according to a Line56.com article. This is of course the team who gave us Lotus Notes, the teamware solution of the 1990's that enabled individuals throughout organizations to build content collaboratively with a minimum of technical know-how. Lotus Notes was a great concept, and still succeeds today in many organizations and as a web engine via its Domino interface, but the underlying architecture was not up to the task of open and universal communications. Now that the more cost-effective and more easily deployed WebSphere components are entering the age of enabling individuals to collaborate effectively as publishers, it sounds as if these two great pools of expertise are about to enable individuals and institutions in some interesting and powerful ways.
An article on allAfrica.com that highlights the emergence of information kiosks in rural villages throughout Zimbabwe. The writer gives a vivid "before" picture of a villager finding a scrap of newsprint with a piece of an important news story. The villager scrutinizes the scrap, makes of it what he can - and then uses it to roll a cigarette. We think of content being a necessity, and yet in many parts of the world that have been passed over by the major media outlets, content is seen as a luxury at best. But most importantly, the kiosks are also being used to distribute local information between the villagers - instead of email, people walk up to the kiosk to get the local scoop. Even on the far frontiers of the information culture, community publishing is enabling individuals to communicate with one another as never before.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The online file sharing industry continues to push music publishers to place all of their content online, as iMesh CEO Elan Oren blasts them for putting up such limited content. At the same time, ebooks are attaining a rapid acceptance in local libraries even though the range of titles available is fairly limited and the business model remains the same: one electronic "copy" checked out at a time, which expires on the user's local ebook reader in two weeks. Just think of the follow-up sales that could be attained with purchase links worked in to an ebook interface when those "borrowings" expired! Moral of the story: when content technology works for your clients, embrace it aggressively, and they will follow the established relationship gladly.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The U.S. court decision defending the ability of people to file class action lawsuits that target the privacy of search engine queries is very interesting in that it appears to be setting a fairly high watermark on the borders of personal electronic content. According to the ruling, your input to a Web search engine, though wrapped in technical parameters as it traverses the Web en route from your browser to the search engine's Web site, is personally authored content whose violation may be the target of court actions if appropriate permission is not given to collect that information. With people in many corners railing against privacy intrusions spawned by the U.S. Patriot Act legislation, a number of courts are reacting to these intrusions with staunch defenses of existing concepts of privacy. This bodes well for online content commerce in general, as it is likely to improve the ability of people to share content with one another in a legally secure framework.

Monday, May 12, 2003

In the wake of continuing "realism" in the media markets, Reuters breaks the news that Bertelsmann is selling its BertelsmannSpringer division for science and trade publishing to a private equity firm for more than EUR 1 Billion, helping to trim its substantial debt mountain. Many of the media giants are still scrambling to come up with rational cash flows, but it's interesting how so many of their core content "cash cows" are being put out to pasture. In general, it appears that content holding companies are trying to focus more on core markets, leaving a number of opportunities for content sets in key market sectors to be consolidated under more singular ownership. It's not just about the number of channels that you have, but your ability to manage them effectively. Technology can be leveraged so far, and then detailed knowledge of specific market sectors becomes all-important for penetrating institutional accounts.

Friday, May 9, 2003

Some recent research by Gerry McGovern of 800 Web site managers worldwide paints an ugly picture of content that is mismanaged, poorly updated and lacking good structure and processes. Now that people have been knee-deep in the technology of the Internet for some time, they are increasingly aware that technology is not delivering instant knowledge of how to be a publisher. Hence the value of enterprise portals: leave the creation of valuable context for content to those parts of an organization that are best suited to manage that context and its audiences. This is one of the prime enablers for making today's institutions the leading publishers of our time: with the same technical powers as traditional publishers, and enabled with a wealth of content unique to their organizations and relationships, these institutions are well situated to provide new levels of content value for some time to come.

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Dow Jones previewed their new Media and Marketing Edition of The Wall Street Journal at this week's SIIA conference, and today it was launched officially. It features a home page with sector-specific headlines, research from co-owned Factiva, Market analysis tools from co-owned SmartMoney.com, and other nice tools. At the conference the Dow Jones exec revealed that investment in this new edition was minimal - in low six figures, to be exact. It's an excellent example of how one can provide very useful and contexualized content with a minimum of effort that can service very specific audiences effectively. And when those audiences are highly marketable, the margins can be very encouraging, indeed.
Microsoft is readying its next operating system codenamed Longhorn, within which is buried a capability that has been nicknamed "the Nexus" - an encryption and permission management system that will allow personal secrecy and digital rights management. Not surprisingly, at the same time Bill Gates bubbles about needing to get closer to hardware vendors. Is this a good or bad thing? We're glad to talk to people about this in detail on an advisory basis, but in short, it's probably not going to be the boon for which the publishing industry is pining. Microsoft's cozy relationship with major content vendors and hardware providers is surely designed to place them at the nexus - that is, the controlling, linked center - of the information industry. But at the end of the day, this platform will only support whatever business models are placed in its way. If the world rejects those models - as it does increasingly within the world of content - no amount ot technology will be able to enforce undesired relationships.

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

One redeye flight later, and on to the InfoToday 2003 Conference and Exposition...
Sad to say that in spite of many excellent speakers and panels, the conference was notably smaller than last year's, due in large part to the overshadowing presence of the SLA conference due in New York a month from now. Vendor displays were down by at least half from last year, probably more. The assumption has to be that the vendors were not convinced that the buyers were coming, and perhaps they were right. The CEO breakfast with Dialog CEO Roy Martin, Jr., MuseGlobal CEO K.T. Noerr and SIRSI CEO Pat Summers wrestled with the state of professionally managed content collections, and had respectable attendance, but the chat and Q&A by Craig Silverstein, Director of Technology of Google, which dealt with the unmanaged Internet, was packed to the doorways. More coverage of this in our news commentary later this week. Bottom line: one camp searches for the persistence of memory, while another camp lives to understand the present.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Some quick reflections on this week's SIIA Conference in San Francisco:

- Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy kicked the conference off with a sweeping top-of-mind on where he saw the industry going. Not surprisingly, he sees the future in terms of complete systems and platforms using a standards-driven interface that is at least browser-like. He made it a point to pick up and show his Java-enabled cell-phone at least seven times during the chat, and was very proud that 200 million of these devices are likely to ship around the world this year - far more than PC sales. But when I asked him about where content figures into his vision, given Microsoft's aggressive positioning with content channels, he drew rather a blank. Sun has brilliant focus, but product loyalty will hinge as much on content as it will on features.

- Dow Jones sent its top brass to reflect on the success of their online content initiatives over the past couple of years. Derided as heretics when they put their prestigious Wall Street Journal online as a premium subscription product, WSJ Online is a huge success that is moving aggressively into new market segments. Probably the most interesting is their reflection that they have been both a print and an electronic company since their inception, so their ability to author effectively for both online and paper audiences has been a given since the beginning. Big unanswered question: how individual sales and corporate sales are going to merge in the future.

- I looked at a vendor display that was showing its wares for managing software duplication and licensing. I asked them if they did anything with content licensing: No. In the content licensing session, no talk of how to license content using techniques enabled for software distribution. What's wrong with this picture...?

Monday, May 5, 2003

As we outlined in our news analysis a few weeks ago, the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act is going to have wide and deep ripples throughout the Content Engineering space, with institutions continuing to gain much deeper and wider control over their content assets. So far much of the IT-oriented thinking is pointing towards techie improvements such as improved control via content management capabilities and business process analytics. These are real and advisable short-term milestones, but the horizon continues to offer the hope that once the paranoia factor wears off and institutions have a better feel as to the full breadth of their content that they will then be in a far better position to exploit its full value in ways that add directly to the bottom line. So yes, buckle up (it's the law!), but once you're in the driver's seat comfortably, take a good look at the road ahead.

Friday, May 2, 2003

As the pieces of "Flip" Filipowski's divine are being readied for sale by a bankruptcy court, it's a little sad to reflect on how bad business practices can ruin a great idea. divine had promised to bring a very wide spectrum of professional content and enabling technologies into a singular, well-knit fabric. Unfortunately, divine never seemed to rise above a collection of poorly integrated parts, and the strengths of the healthy acquisitions that they had made were lost in the scramble to make something of the weaker elements. The Northern Light acquistion was especially disappointing, hardly evolving at all under divine's tutelage; RoweCom fared even worse, being milked for cash flow that was never plowed back into the professional subscription unit. In spite of all of the hype, Flip turned out to have a rather "old school" view of content, with not much a view at all towards true content and technology synergies. Few content or technology companies have made this leap, so perhaps there's some consolation to be had after all.

Thursday, May 1, 2003

Mahesh Shantaram on rediff.com notes the rise of BlogShares, a portal that allows people to speculate with imaginary dollars on the value of weblogs based on the number of inbound links, bringing new meaning to the pat phrase "information economy". If the value of content can be so easily conceptualized in a value-driven model, how far away are we from being able to have the pricing of content in different contexts based on similiar value-driven models? We see that already with auctioning for contextual placement of ads, and it's not all that far off for mainstream content, as weblogging concepts make their way into the mainstream of professional and consumer content. Journalists are already getting their knuckles rapped by their corporate keepers for tying to leverage their reputations in the weblogging sphere, but how much longer will it be before we begin to see the inverse - major media outlets bidding for "free agent" webloggers as star attractions within their portals?