Thursday, July 31, 2003

SIIA Brown Bag Lunch Panel Probes Content and Technology Convergence
Our thanks to the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) for an excellent panel discussion at yesterday's Brown Bag Lunch "Taking Advantage of Software and Information Convergence". It was a very important topic and well represented on the panel with senior execs from LexisNexis, Yahoo!Finance, CCH and a leading attorney specializing in content licensing. We'll be highlighting this in more detail in Monday's News Analysis, but for now the teeny-tiny picture: major publishers on both the professional and consumer side of publishing (which intertwine increasingly) certainly "get" that this intersection of content, technology and people is changing their businesses profoundly, and are moving to adapt as quickly as they can to the changes, but even the fastest are having problems coming up with monetization models that keep up with the realities of today's content distribution. At Shore, we believe strongly that it's only when you grasp all three major dimensions of the publishing revolution - content, technology and the human aspects - that the full spectrum of change really comes into focus.
Mobile Weblogs Accelerating Personal News Trend
Star Wars Kid, move over. Mobile Weblogs - moblogs, for short - are accelerating the time to newsworthiness of personal reporting. A moblog is what you get when you publish content from a mobile device such as a cell phone to a Weblog on the Internet. Sounds kind of "so what" until you remember that many cell phones today are equipped with camera capabilities. According to TechNewsWorld, an incident in a Singapore university classroom in which a teacher was humiliating a student was caught on camera by a moblog-equipped student and published instantly for the world to see. The incident became a widely discussed "cause celebre" in Singapore almost overnight. When personal publishing gets this immediate, and its societal implications almost as immediate, it's difficult to discount the importance of its impact. In the old days we used to wait for 'Film at 11" to catch fresh electronic news on our local TV broadcasts. In the 1990's you waited for the CNN crew to get there. Now, news can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time, and reach the world with pictures and words instantly.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Online Music Sales Not Likely to Soar as Users Ignore Enforcement Threats
So much for playing rough. InfoWorld reports that analysts are projecting lackluster online music sales, as the hassles of managing the obtaining of copyrights is still outweighing the benefits of going to paid music services and the threats of vigorous copyright enforcement against file downloaders are having a low-key impact. According to the InfoWorld article, only 17 percent of those surveyed in recent research say that the enforcements efforts of the The Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA) are going to change their file downloading habits. Eventually the ability of people to do things with what they download in a way that services their personal needs effectively will have to come to the forefront in this battle. Copyright enforcers need to move from a policing role to a relationship facilitating role more aggressively in defining the limits of how the creators and owners of intellectual property can benefit from their work. If it isn't easy to do the right thing, nobody will care.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Pearson's Lackluster Earnings Foretell Continued Publishing Softness
Hardly alone in their woes, Publishing giant Pearson PLC's latest earnings report nevertheless paints a bleak picture that extends to many other players in the publishing sector. As reported in the Wall Street Journal and other major outlets, it's not just a matter of flagship publications like the Financial Times suffering an 18 percent decline in ad revenues; educational publishing is also hurting, as many major purchases hoped for in the first half of 2003 have been deferred to the Fall, by which time governmental budget cuts in the U.S. and elsewhere may continue to put a major damper on text acquisitions at public schools an universities. Especially in the news sector, publishers are likely going to have to face a harsh reality: ad revenues may be migrating elsewhere permanently, especially into well-targeted electronic media. The time has come for these firms to start rethinking in far more radical terms how to leverage the value of news gathering operations beyond the bounds of traditional print and online presentations if they are to enjoy a profitable ongoing existence.
Printing Takes On New Depth of Information Production
The U.S. Government Printing Office is hardly the first place that one thinks of when scanning the headlines for innovative concepts in content production, but in the wake of 9/11, it probably shouldn't be surprizing to discover that the GPO indeed is pushing the envelope in the physical delivery of content. The Rochester, New York Democrat and Chronicle reports in an interview with Bruce James, Public Printer of the United States, that the need for more foolproof security is impacting the printing world in ever more profound ways. One innovation being considered for U.S. passports is the imbedding of microchips that could be programmed with a digital rendition of one's passport photo. When we think of print as a medium, we may have to think a little more carefully as to what constitutes physical content delivery; even fairly mundane documents may benefit from electronic content imbedding, adding depth, value and context to the information and experiences that they offer.

Monday, July 28, 2003

OneSource Extends XBRL-Delivered Coverage of Euro Companies
OneSource's API-delivered coverage of corporate financial content expanded this week as they announced the availability of company financial data from the UK and European markets via their AppLink API in eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL)
format. Already providing comprehensive coverage of US and global company financials, the additional content should allow OneSource to better serve a wider array of analytic and sales support needs in European markets. More significantly, though, it begins to place OneSource into a league of financial analysis tools for international markets that is likely to become more appealing not just to sales-oriented functions but to financial institutions that are seeking up-to-date coverage of corporate financials for investment management in various applications. As aggregators search for more ways to provide value to their clients, new markets are likely to open up as aggregated content becomes easier to integrate into a wider array of purpose-specific portals and analysis packages.

Friday, July 25, 2003

RSS Standards Find A Neutral Steward at Harvard
As reported by The Harvard Crimson, RDF Site Summary/Really Simple Syndication (RSS) standards have found a new home as Harvard Law School�s Berkman Center for Internet and Society has acquired the RSS 2.0 specification for Internet weblogs from UserLand Software. The 2.0 standard, while in some ways more advanced than other standards being promoted, has been facing a certain lack of credibility as in the minds of some users and developers UserLand had commercial conflicts of interest. As we mentioned in last week's weblog, keeping weblog standards in an independent but non-bureaucratic environment is probably the best way to advance personal publishing in the short term, so from our corner this comes as a welcome announcement.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Real-Time Context for Lecture Content via IM and Weblogs
The New York Times reports that students equipped with wireless devices in lecture halls at major U.S. universities are beginning to obtain more than just the sports scores during their professors' presentations. Apparently students in many locations are using wireless connectivity to connect with one another and comment on the lecture matter itself via Instant Messaging and weblogs - short-circuiting hallway chatter to some degree, but also adding a richer context to the instruction as it unfolds. A generation of students raised on multitaksing content channels that include their peers as a central component is taking content to a whole new level. Orally delivered content is as old as human lips and ears, but community publishing is beginning to give the purely oral tradition a run for its money by providing it a context that's creating vContent worth remembering.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

MarketWatch.com Purchases Pinnacor to Penetrate Broader Markets
Marketwatch.com has purchased the content services firm Pinnacor for USD $103 million, according to siliconvalley.internet.com and numerous other news outlets. MarketWatch has become a versatile source of original financial content and related technologies, targeting not only consumers but increasingly professional financiers as well. While successful in its own right with its CBS MarketWatch portal, much of the growth in its business has been through content and tools syndication for use in institutional portals. Pinnacor adds both supplementary sources of syndicated content that will support a wider array of financial and business interests and a deeply experienced professional services staff that will allow MarketWatch to service a very broad range of high-value portal development and content integration needs. While major financial content vendors fuss about how to service the portal market, MarketWatch is pushing aggressively into this space with a strong combination of right-sized resources to meet today's user-oriented content market.
Gutenberg Bible Makes Online Debut
One content revolution has finally met another, as the University of Texas' Ransom Center has launched the first online access to images of the 15th century Gutenberg Bible, the first widely distributed printed book in Western history. The online version provides full-page images that allow fairly careful examination of both the printed text and the many illustrations and illuminations that were drawn into its pages over the years. The Daily Texan reports that the book, valued at somewhere between USD $10 and $20 million, has been used by only one researcher in the past twelve years due to the high levels of security required to control access. Online access has allowed the book to escape art object status and return to its original purpose - making valuable content available to the people who value it most in a widely accessible venue. Even precious content becomes worthless as content without meaningful access.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Louis Borders Eyes Paid Content Launch of KeepMedia
Long under wraps, the erstwhile Spyglass Media folks under the tutelage of former bookstore magnate Louis Borders are nearing the launch of KeepMedia, a portal and related content delivery technology that is to provide paid access to archived issues of about 140 major magazine titles, according to The Wall Street Journal. The theory goes that consumers will want to purchase content from reputable sources, thus avoiding questionable content from search engine results. Is this Contentville II, as mused by PaidContent.org? The timing is certainly better than that ill-fated effort that gave the official kiss of death to most VC-funded content startups, but KeepMedia faces many of the same fundamental issues as to what makes something a content capability versus a content product that will appeal to individual consumers in venues that they value. Partnering with the publishers that stock the service is one rational approach that seems to be in the KeepMedia mix already, but KeepMedia will have to look further afield for established online partners and into institutional markets to give the concept the necessary framework for full financial success.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Amazon Shifting Portal Positioning with Planned Book Searches
Non-Fiction books are about to get a shot in the arm from ecommerce portal provider Amazon as they negotiate providing an online search capability for thousands of titles, according to the New York Times. Release of the capability is expected in the fall pending completion of negotiations with major publishers. Amazon is not going to get hold of some key items that are hard to sample without giving away the whole item, such as cookbooks and poetry, and total searching of an item will be limited. It's no trivial task, apparently, as many desirable books are not available from publishers in electronic format, which will require scanning and such just to get them searchable. The Times plays this up as Amazon trying to position itself against providers such as Yahoo! and Google with more digestible and desirable content, but it has less to do with Amazon's market positioning than with the positioning of book publishers who continue to falter in the face of online search engines superceding bookstores and libaries of all kinds as the "go to" place for authoritative content. If publishers can embrace the eBooks concept aggressively and start learning how to market different slices of book content online, perhaps they will be able to reconceive the book format in a manner that is best adapted to audiences that are increasingly dismissive of poorly packaged and targeted content.

Friday, July 18, 2003

RSS Standards Evolving to Suit More Robust Enterprise Needs
RSS, known alternatively as RDF Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, is the publishing format used to facilitate the syndication of weblogs and other sources of content such as news feeds. Its beauty lies in its high degree of simplicity, which allows content to be aggregated from a myriad of personal and professional sources with near-zero IT hassles. According to InfoWorld, though, the very success of RSS in supporting increasingly professional uses is placing pressure on the bearers of the highly unofficial standards for RSS to provide extensions that will allow for the transport of more sophisticated content sources as well. The leading proponents of RSS extension in the public realm is the Atom project, which has drafted a fairly comprehensive framework, including plans for support of content licensing, security, categorization, identity management, and so on. Devising an official standard for RSS may accelerate its use by institutions and publishers for more sophisticated content, but with the heart of RSS acceptance based on highly independent players, its possible that these influences would stifle the very sources that RSS is meant to support. Ensuring one easily deployed method for content of all kinds is the key to enduring RSS success, and may make rapid independent standards development a necessary factor to ensure wide acceptance.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Media Playing For Keeps with File Sharers
The U.S. recording industry pushed ahead towards prosecuting notable file downloaders by having subpoenas issued to their ISPs for gathering evidence, according to CNET News. Backed by provisions of the Millenium Copyright Act and recent U.S. Federal Court rulings, ISPs appear to have little choice in the matter. However, the recording industry is pushing yet further by having a friendly U.S. Representative introduce legislation that would make illegally uploading a single electronic file of copyrighted material onto any electronic network a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to Wired Magazine. While the legislation's passage is far from assured, it's clear that all of this is going to have a chilling effect on the attitudes of consumers towards these companies. At the same time, it opens up the door of what content companies are doing with corporate accounts: will similar actions be taken against "innocent" postings of copyrighted materials on an Intranet? In the rush to prosecution, the content industry may create as many problems as it solves.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Passing the Buck on Electronic Content Stewardship
In the middle of a very nice summary of the state of university library services in Iowa, the Library Journal notes that the the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), which sponsors the Federal Depository Library Program, is pushing a curious concept. Faced with the prospect of 95 percent of government documents going electronic, the GPO is suggesting that the regional depository libraries should be dealing with the issues of managing the permanent storage of electronic content via an unfunded mandate. Moreover, they are suggesting that commercial distributors may be appropriate for "value added" content distribution. While markets such as finance have benefitted greatly from commercial parties distributing government information such as Securities and Exchange Commission filings, free access in these instances to full permanent archives is provided as a fully funded mandate. There's no rational reason that the government should not maintain one well-managed permanent electronic repository - but whoever said that politics were rational?

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Yahoo! Does What it Must, Microsoft Doesn't
The investor relations people at Yahoo! must have been taking some pretty strong cola drinks these past few days: on top of last week's earnings flap, Yahoo! announced the acquisition of Overture yesterday and a key marketing alliance with Oracle to target enterprise portals today. Phew, what's next? Most of the analysis of the Overture acquisition in the press is pretty obvious: basically, this was a "must do" move for Yahoo! if they were to position themselves with any amount of authority against Google's paid search ad placement capabilities. Microsoft, which had been romancing Overture for quite some time, was left at the altar, according to the Washington Post, unable to pick Overture's brains clean before they complete the development of a home-grown ad placement capability for MSN. As content and technology companies begin to look more and more like one another, the relatively agnostic approach of many content-oriented companies to technology may allow them to move more quickly on many such acquisition and marketing opportunities.

Monday, July 14, 2003

File-Swapping Wizards Hex the World of Text
To those who downplay the importance of happenings in the music business with file swapping networks, perhaps a little tale of sorcery from the world of Harry Potter will finally raise your eyebrows. The New York times reports that bootleg eBook versions of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" are spreading through file sharing services such as KaZaA on a global basis. Notably the market for translated versions has been especially brisk, in some instances getting a year's leg up on official distribution channels of the book to their local markets. Those downloading English versions seem to be the "must have" readers who are likely to get the official version in time, but just had to have it as soon as possible. While there are still some obstacles to overcome with commercial eBook distribution, it's clear that the markets have already spoken fairly loudly that the age of eBooks will not wait for publishers to figure out what to do with content collection technology that its customers already use and enjoy.
Would the Real Media Moguls Please Stand Up?
It's interesting to note that as the media industry continues to consolidate the reporters buzzing around the annual gathering of the world's media elites are beginning to outnumber the so-called moguls, according to The New York Times. But even more interesting is to note that the most buzz-producing presentation at the annual off-site gathering was not from the media companies themselves but from H. Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart. As the media meisters basked in their Sun Valley resort's luxury, Scott laid out the miserly regimen that his executives endure in the name of profits - including his own sharing of Days Inn rooms on the road with other execs for more mundane business trips. Left unspoken was how Wal-Mart's cost-conscious marketing efforts with many mass media products is positioning Wal-Mart as an increasingly influential factor in setting market prices and demand. While major professional content providers may not want to bask in the limelight that media execs enjoy, Wal-Mart's message should be clear to all content execs: consolidate all you want to gather bargaining power, but eventually it's your markets' demand that is the real "king of all media."

Friday, July 11, 2003

It's hot! It's a dog! Pump it! Dump it! What is the real story with Yahoo! stock? In spite of earnings and forecasts that were meeting or exceeding stock analyst expectations, it appears as if there are still a lot of people who are trying to "wish" the current summer stock rally beyond the fringe of realistic expectations. As reported by Reuters, the ratio of the stock's price to Yahoo's real earnings is inching up towards the territory of the "Internet Bubble" years. While Yahoo! is doing a lot of intelligent things to position itself as a media company for the 21st century, it's still just that - an increasingly mainstream media company that is trying to differentiate itself with reasonably competitive content and technology in an increasingly competitive market for securing consumer and professional content relationships. Yesterday's rising stars of the Web are learning how to succeed and are turning into contented content cash cows, while some more established content companies are trying to avoid putting on the nervous barking routine. In these still-lean days, milk is not such a bad thing.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Hyperfeed's new licensing deal with Moneyline Telerate is a three-way win. It's certainly a win for Hyperfeed, whose innovative approaches to realtime content distribution had been having a hard time getting leverage into many major investment houses. In Moneyline Telerate, Hyperfeed gets the kind of market-recognized partner with oodles of complementary content that can open doors for them very quickly. It's certainly a win also for the Moneyline Telerate crowd, in that they can quickly acquire Reuters-less realtime content coverage for exchange markets without having to invest heavily in soon-to-be antiquated-anyway ticker plants for highly commoditized exchange data. More money spent on unique data is a good thing. But thirdly it is probably the biggest win of all for the securities industry, which has been looking for a viable plan "B" for managing exchange data on a comprehensive basis since the Reuters/Bridge merger. The proof will be in the quality of the results, but consider this a promising first step in a much more interesting content story on the Street.
Google has had a page caching component in its search results for years: just click on the "cached" link near a search result, and you'll find a version of the item as it last looked when Google was crawling it (here, for example, is what this page looked like a month ago). This is an invaluable tool for those moments when a Web site's server is down or old content has been removed. But as ZDNet UK points out, it's more probematic as of late as content providers begin to shift to subscription and registration based access to archived content. Choosing the cached page option can allow one to view content that has slipped from the free zone into the controlled arena. Google has some workarounds to address the aspects of this caching problem that may not be fall under the protection afforded to caching under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), but it's a reminder that search results are not just pieces of information that lead to content but content itself, as well.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Todd Bishop in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that publicly accessible weblogs by Microsoft employees are taking hold, albeit under a somewhat wary eye from the powers that be in Redmond. So far no "state secrets" seem to be seeping out, but the typical openness of weblogger's thoughts do seem to reveal a fair amount about culture inside the software/content giant. How far does this go is anyone's guess, but it's safe to assume that Microsoft, with its increased awareness of the role of content in its future, doesn't want to get caught off guard as it did when a little pipsqueak named Netscape threatened to turn their world on its head with an earlier disruptive content technology. Consider this phase one of Microsoft's examination of weblogging's impact on corporate culture. There's a complex interplay at work in weblogging between the individual and institutions that employ them, one that is likely to spill out into the broader arena of publishing sooner rather than later. You can almost hear the "embrace and extend" hounds baying in the background...

Monday, July 7, 2003

Barry Diller, the entertainment and home shopping impressario who is in the process of streamlining the operation of recently renamed InterActiveCorp, quips a notable line in a Tech Central Station article entitled "The Hyperactive Corporation": "When you talk about content, what you're really talking about are goods and services� the selling of goods or the dissemination of services." While recognizing that hawking zirconium rings and Elvis paintings is a far cry from building portals for the financial securities industry or the biotech industry, Mr. Diller has nailed an essential component of today's content marketplace. With the increasing contexuality of today's marketplace for professional content, having content as a supporting element of building a relationship that will result in a specific transaction of some sort increasingly becomes the denominator of determining content value. Yet most professional content is still packaged and priced as if it were fuel oil. Hard to believe that the entertainment industry could be a leading voice on these matters, but there you have it.
Weak spots in the professional journal armor are beginning to be exposed: Newsday reports that U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, a Minnesota Democrat, has introduced legislation that would give immediate public access to all research papers created mostly with federal money, regardless of which journal publishes them. Given the billions of dollars of research that are funded by U.S. Government dollars, this is no small proposal. With the preponderance of collaboration in academic circles, and increasingly beyond the halls of academe, the question being asked increasingly by professionals is: given the ease of Web distribution, what's the big deal about publishing? Yes, there are academic standards to be met, but in an era in which content productivity in most professional organizations matches or exceeds that of publishers, the clear benefits of professionally distributed research are beginning to pale. If there was a peer-reviewed public posting site for publicly funded research, would the scientitic community cringe? Back to the basic value proposition, please, professional journal distributors.

Thursday, July 3, 2003

The "e" is dead: long live the "v"! The official death of the "e" era seems to be at hand, as the U.S. government has decided to drop the goal of creating "e-government" and to move towards what they are terming "digital government", according to CIO Magazine. In the Feds' minds, digital government takes it beyond the "smiley face" web sites on top of old publishing and work processes and building all information services and capabilities web-enabled and focused on the needs of the "clients". Their "tick list" of desired capabilities reads like a typical CIO's wish list: 24/7 self-service convenience, consistent services through multiple delivery channels, and so on. Well, these folks are the ones that got humans to the moon, after all, but given the still-backwards back ends of most government content platforms, one shudders at the thought of what the tab is going to look like in our paychecks. As professional enterprises discover that highly valued content does not necessarily equate to huge I.T. budgets, one hopes that the folks in Washington come to learn about what it takes to make vContent sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Newpaper executives are very cranky as they looked over their prospects at San Francisco's Mid-Year Media Review, according to Editor and Publisher. As the U.S. economy crawls forward, they're not seeing much pickup in ad spending, far greater pressure from their accounts to provide more value for their money and continuing increases in material and staff expenses. Out of pain comes transformation, though, at least for the wise. Perhaps the time has come to reconsider the essence of a news organization's mission in an era where news' context has become as important as content itself. Providing contextuality can bring opportunities not only on the product side but as well on the side of helping advertisers to build relationships with their markets, as well. In a nutshell, the Googles of the world are providing this context for both, and leading the way towards the vContent that people desire.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Free speech advocates, don't get too hot and bothered about yesterday's ruling in the California courts in favor or Ken Hamidi's right to blitz Intel employees with caustic emails against his former employer. The court sidestepped the First Amendment issues raised by Hamidi's defense team and instead stuck to the central issue of whether or not his emails were the equivalent of trespassing on private property. Since they did not have any significant anti-social impact on Intel's email network, they saw no harm. In other words, unless your email harms the property into which it is sent, it's just a personal communication. Corporate mail administrators must be groaning in agony today, but it's great news for content providers using the public Internet as a marketing and delivery channel. The ability of content providers to communicate openly with individuals in institutions via the Internet has been one of the key factors driving its acceptance as a professional content medium. Hopefully this ruling helps to keep institutional firewalls open for spontaneous communications of all kinds.