Friday, August 29, 2003

Dialog Highlights eJounals in Latest STM Offerings
Aggreagation continues to take on changing dimensions as major players expand collection retrieval capabilities on a virtual basis. dBusinessNews reports that Dialog is unveiling the addition of 77 publishers of highly valued scientific, technical and medical (STM) information from around the world who are now working with Dialog to offer e-Journal links. Information professionals can use Dialog Subscription Manager to activate these virtual collections in much the same way they would native Dialog collections. Many major institutions are favoring eJournals as a solution to content collection distribution in highly dispersed organizations, with journal sites offering far more contextual value than can fit in an aggregator's database. As professional content consumers continue to build more sophisticated relationships with primary publishers online, aggregators are focusing on adding value on top of those primary relationships. But given the sophistication of many industry-specific portal offerings these days, it appears to be thinner ground than ever to tread.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Google News To Get Ratings from Nielsen and Media Metrix
After just a few months of tinkering, Google's News product, still in "Beta" status, is beginning to get enough recognition that it can no longer be ignored by ratings companies, according to USC Annenberg OJR. Next month both Nielsen and Media Metrix will add Google News to its monthly ratings reports. If the service had been ranked this month by Nielsen it would have come in at number 18 on the charts, with 3.4 million unique users - just below LATimes.com and above Netscape News, SFGate and the Guardian. With no editorial staff, it's hard for many organizations to accept Google News as a legitimate news outlet. But when people are looking for an objective view of the world, sometimes eliminating central editorial control has its advantages. Audiences increasingly are making their own decisions about what constitutes relevant and valuable content, and while they still value editorial quality, they're far more likely than ever to make the final cut themselves, click by click.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

As Inboxes Choke, Email Publishing Pioneer Opts for RSS
Chris Prillo literally wrote the book on email-based publishing back in 1999: Poor Richard's E-mail Publishing was a widely recognized "bible" on how to best use this publishing medium for newsletters and other communications. But as reported by Editor & Publisher, he is actively encouraging e-mail subscribers to drop their accounts and teaching them how to get the same content via RSS (RDF Site Summary), the format that is used to publish Weblogs and allows people to subscribe to postings as a content channel. This avoids putting valuable content in the "spaminator" channel, and in theory increases the likelihood that it gets read and taken seriously. Does this spell the end for email newsletters? Probably not: RSS is an extremely powerful tool for enabling individual publishers, but the ability to forward and annotate incoming content for peers easily will keep email the champ channel for some time to come. Publishing is not just about getting content to audiences; it's also important to empower audiences to republish and amplify content easily and fairly. RSS is great, but its feature set is still very young.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Essential Search - Google's 911 Reputation and Jeeves' 411 Moves
Known for its puckish view of online life, The Register relates an anecdote from a recent conference in which someone apparently turned to Google to figure out what to do when a loved one was having a heart attack - rather than calling an emergency phone number first. The good news: the person got quick attention, and eventually recovered thanks to surgery. This "Google is God" reflex, though, does not always give such perfect endings to desperate searches for basic needs. Ask Jeeves is beginning to take a broader approach to intuitive searches, according to Search Engine News.com. Like Google it provides specific results to normal human questions such as "weather in Houston", but unlike Google's contextual links for a similar query, Jeeves' provides the actual information that people are seeking in the search results. Though Google's long-term goal is to get search engines to emulate the human responses that people expect to natural queries, this was Jeeves' early stong point, a point on which it is builiding more strongly. Expect many others to use natural language processing as they follow suit.

Monday, August 25, 2003

California Courts Flip to Bar Posting of DVD-Copying Software
A California court, like its electorate, has a right to change its mind, and apparently has done so. According to CNET News, the California Supreme Court overturned its earlier decision and disallowed the online posting of software that would enable the decryption and copying of DVDs. As the Court put it, "We do not see how any speech addressing a matter of public concern is inextricably intertwined with and somehow necessitates disclosure of DVD CCA's trade secrets." In other words, intellectual property rights are real when they violate clear boundaries of commercial ownership. This will certainly help to frame the digital rights management debate more firmly in favor of protecting ownership rights against code crackers, but still leaves open the broader issues surrounding how people may reuse commercial content legitimately without resorting to hacking.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Korea Gearing Up for International Content Wars
The Korea Herald notes that their nation's government is beginning to invest in a major complex to support its fledgling digital content industry. While some of this facility's intent is to support domestic outlets, much of the facility is meant to attract foreign digital-content studios. India, Australia and Singapore all have substantial leads in the outsourcing of software and content services, but with Korea's substantial investment in hardware technologies, it may come in time to represent a more serious factor in international content development networks on the infrastructure side of the business. Outsourcing understanding of real high-value human needs and interests, though, may prove to be a more difficult challenge for most outsourcing efforts, though, regardless of the market.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

KM Bashing Strikes a Gusher at Pharma Conference
David Snowden, Director of the IBM Cynefin Center for Organisational Complexity was drilling down to some of the fundamental issues of Knowledge Management at a recent conference, according to conference host eyeforpharma. His bottom line: systems that try to create value by translating intangible human interactions and insights such as pattern recognition into codified systems that cannot capture those intangible factors will fail. Knowledge Management's insistence on trying to capture tacit human knowledge into highly structured repositories is a loser every time in his book. His "poster child" proof of this is rather compelling: an oil company used a knowledge management system for 8 years to discover oil deposits in the North Sea without success; within three months of removing the system they hit two oil deposits. The dynamic intersection of content, technology and people is about much more than using IT to capture and deliver information. vContent requires a deep undertanding of how individuals and institutions create and consume information and experiences in venues that they value in the most human sense possible.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Fair Use and DRM: Keeping the Baby out of the Bath Hole
The Library Journal notes that much of the publisher-driven push for DRM lockdowns are so intent on enforcing maximum enforcement of copyright restrictions that they are disabling one of the most important factors in content distribution: the ability to apply "fair use" laws to such items. For example, under U.S. Code, fair use that does not infringe on copyright encompasses criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. So not only a few seconds of a music clip gets clipped off in this debate, but much of the typical use of professional and consumer content to support value-add operations within institutions. Some universities and associations are pushing for user-oriented DRM standards and methods, but the business sector largely sits on its hands in this debate, expecting players such as Microsoft to sort out the issues - not realizing what productivity issues may be affected if fair use concepts are not easily and naturally incorporated into DRM standards. Professional content consumers need to take a more vocal stance in the DRM debate if they are to protect their institutions' long-term interests.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

iManage Focuses on Legal Matter Workflows: Whither WestLaw?
Content collaboration services provider iManage has announced a new version of their already successful WorkSite suite that focuses even more closely on how legal firms collaborate on creating and consuming content in "matter-centric" workflows. Content management and collaboration services providers continue to focus more and more on specific business problems that need to be solved, instead of providing generic but adaptable content publishing solutions, from legal matters to regulatory compliance to scientific research. With these platforms that take maximum advantage of the interests of people who are both active publishers and content consumers, there is beginning to be a bit less daylight between their efforts and products from publishing-oriented companies such as Thomson's West division of workflow-oriented legal content products. Recognizing that audiences are key publishers in most professional workflows is critical to owning the context of their desktops, a recognition that many publishers have been slow to accept.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Breaking News Powering Contextual Ad Sales
What do you do when you're a tiny business in the U.K. selling backup intranet services and you see the news of a major blackout in the U.S. come across your computer screen? If you're like the folks behind emergencyintranet.com, you whisk on to Google's AdSense and quickly bid for placing ads in search result terms relating to the blackout - and in a flash increase your Web site traffic more than 40 times, according to WSJ Online. Compare this to the fate of many newspaper outlets, whose blackout stories were late, thin and fairly free of advertisements. Contextual advertising is proving again and again that the "where" and "when" of contextual content placement is a highly quantifiable value that cannot be underestimated - for large and small publishers and advertisers alike.
Stones Getting Satisfaction from Online Sales
The Rolling Stones, probably the most profitable and enduring musical group of all time, has finally committed to an agressive online marketing campaign for their catalog, according to SiliconValley.com and other major outlets. This is considered a major momentum event in the online music arena, as the absence of their titles was one of the key gaps in available materials. When I was a kid, you'd go to the movie theatres and see ads telling us how "pay TV" was an evil that we should fight: now that cable operators provide highly profitable outlets for TV producers' content, those ads are long gone. This weekend our local theatre was showing pre-show ads on how downloaders are hurting the little guys in movieland. It's probably going to be a fairly short time before content producers realize what the Stones have and start figuring out how to make money with peer publishing technology rather than moaning about it.

Friday, August 15, 2003

After the Lights Went Out, What Really Happened?
When fifty million electronics-hooked Americans lose their electricity for a night, you'd think that the world of content would come screeching to a halt while those of us scrambling for flashlights and candles were contemplating what to do for the evening. But as pointed out by SiliconValley.com and in the New York Times, electronic content was soldiering on through the night for the most part, as institutions now well-seasoned by terrorism threats kept their own systems going along with most of the Internet and wireless world, as well. In truth, "good old print" seemed to have somewhat of a harder time of it in some ways: morning newspapers were perilously thin when they arrived, with few articles and fewer ads, and local newsstands were hard-pressed to have many familiar titles on hand at all. It's easy to think of print as a much safer medium, but when it comes to an event of this magnitude, electronic delivery's maturity shines out clearly.
News Sites Still Ponder Value of Online Communities
Most online news outlets have been fairly timid in their exploitation of online discussion groups and forums, as highlighted by a recent USC Annenberg OJR article, with few outlets using these capabilities and fewer still actively encouraging them. Yet as the article points out, recent research shows that users of these features are five times more likely to visit these sites and far more engaged with the "real" content. Key to the success of these features is tying the threads to specific articles or areas of discussion, so that they amplify the value of editorial output. All of this, of course, is very familiar to anyone who is engaged in collaborative knowledge mangaement initiatives "inside the firewall" of so many institutions these days, as well as to public Web sites that have not grown up on the notion of publishing as a black and ancient art. When audiences value information and opinions from peers as much as from those who try to make a living sharing theirs with the world, news organizations need to rethink their identities very carefully.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Google's Enterprise Search Clients Come Out
Articles in CNET News and boston.internet.com highlight Google's unveiling of new clients for its enterprise search product, including the City of San Diego, Discover Communications, Hitachi Data Systems, Nextel, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the U.S. Army and Xerox. Since offering this product early in 2002, Google has been fairly quiet about its progress, citing its use in hundreds of other installations but not giving out any more details on use. This scalable solution uses Google-supplied hardware and software that can fit a number of enterprise and departmental needs. But it's doubtful that Google's range of solutions is going to slay institutional search players any time soon. The scale and complexity of tuning search to relatively small populations of content that oftentimes lack the links from internal sites to promote its relevance does not play to Google's strengths in many instances. Perhaps the quiet approach up to this point has been as much about Google learning hard lessons outside of the glare of publicity as anything else.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Consumers Hot, Institutions Not in Veronis Suhler Study
Veronis Suhler Stevenson's annual Communications Industry Forecast paints a mixed picture of recovery in the content industry, with consumer-oriented outlets recovering at an above-average pace while institutional sales continue to lag for the second year in a row. Lost in the numbers, of course, is knowledge of just how much individuals within institutions are increasing their reliance on content outlets in theory oriented towards consumers but which are finding stronger use inside the firewalls of many institutions. Portals such as Yahoo!Finance, for example, which provides a very rich array of content services for financial investors, are tagged as consumer outlets but are sophisticated enough that can be found in use on many a high-rolling financial professional's desk. Increasingly the appeal of online content to individuals cuts across both their personal and professional roles, making it increasingly likely that content providers targeting professional circles will need to increase the sophistication of their marketing efforts to appeal to - and sell to - people who are willing to find their own external content solutions.

Monday, August 11, 2003

eBook Format Allows for Serial Content Development at Merant
In the 19th century serializing books via popular journals was popularized, allowing famous authors such as Mark Twain to reach a mass audience as their works onfolded bit by bit. This concept has been born anew with an eBook twist, as the software services firm Merant has announced that "The Definitive Guide� to Enterprise Change Management." is going to be made available for downloads on a chapter-by-chapter basis as the book is written. Using the services of Realtimepublishers.com, Merant joins a stable of Realtimepublishers institutional authors who are creating professional-grade content using the latest eBooks publishing techniques. Once again, the models for successful publishing are coming from places that have everything to gain by defining - and redefining - how professional content value can be leveraged for profit.
Kaltix Targeting Personalization as Key Search Strategy
CNET News reports that a quiet startup out of Stanford University is aiming to apply personalization technology to search algorithms. The Kaltix web site is still in "coming soon" mode, but apparently it is well down the path to developing some new proprietary technology to exploit the growing market for content personalization. Frankly, while personalization is certainly very important to improving the performance of content location services, it's hard to imagine it working efficiently or effectively without some of the consensus capabilities that have been the basis of Google's success. People want services that not only understand their own content needs, but understand them in the context of what other people consider important, as well. Put simply, if I'm the one looking for something, I may not know what it is that I'm looking for in any great way. Successful search capabilities will be those that balance community consensus with individual needs and insights.

Friday, August 8, 2003

UK Public Sector Now Licensed to Forward Premium Content
Joining the ranks of others, UK public servant have established a new agreement via the UK Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) to be able to forward in email and scans premium content that they have received whilst allowing its sources to receive licensing fees, according to KableNET.com. Bulk licensing for redistribution has been used in many settings, and some such as Copyright Clearance Center in the U.S. have gone beyond this model to facilitate online transactions for reprint distribution. But in general publishers have done a very weak job in monetizing content that's redistributed by individuals. These are powerful points of distribution, being able not only to pinpoint who can really use content but enforcing its value through their recommendations. Bulk licensing agreements such as the new U.K. public sector deal at least facilitate the licensed flow of content, but it's about as meaningful to the individual licensees as the fine print on the back of a theatre ticket. Enabling individuals as key content distribution agents is a key factor in the future of professional content monetization.

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Merrill Lynch Pulls the Plug on Outside Pubishing
CNET News reports that Merrill Lynch is banning its employees from using outside email accounts, chat rooms and forums via its external network connections. With intense regulatory scrutiny and higher corporate accountability standards for financial firms, Merrill and other major investment houses have little choice but to try to ensure that individual publishing is done only in venues in which it can monitor and archive these communications. Clearly firms like Merrill are benefitting greatly from this need in that it is giving them much more ability to use these individual publishing venues to create and manage more valuable content that they can leverage into transactional value. But in the long run, hiding individual publishing behind the firewall may keep these institutions from being embedded in a larger world of content that increasingly is becoming empowered by rapid formation of new and powerful venues for individual content creation and distribution. Castle walls do little good to help protect a town from markets moving elsewhere.
Interwoven and iManage Marriage Finally Consumated
It probably wasn't the longest engagement on record, but after over a year of very close ties Interwoven and iManage have finally announced that they are going to merge in a USD $171 Million stock and cash transaction. iManage has had strong success in implementing collaborative content management installations in professional environments, focusing primarily on legal institutions, and had worked collaboratively with Interwoven in many venues. Enabling individuals to publish via institutional portals is a key component to establishing today's content value, something that technology companies like iManage and Interwoven are quick to exploit - with traditional publishers oftentimes left behind or out of the picture altogether.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Google News Alert Beta Debuts Quietly and Simply
Google has introduced yet another "Beta" function for its news search and aggregation services, providing email alerts on a daily or "as posted" basis through a simple signup form, as reported by CNET News and other sources. The alert function is not even hooked up to the main Google news page yet, so apparently it's more of a true beta at the moment. Hardly a revolutionary development or amazing feature in and of itself, it nevertheless provides a new outlet for their emerging news capabilities to attract people via email-enabled venues, and especially gaining a foothold in mobile venues. Sometimes it's not the technology itself that makes such a move profound as the extensibility of an already important capability into new distribution channels in an instant.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Reuters Opting to Move Financial Content Generation to India
The Hindu Business Line reports along with a number of other outlets on Reuters' pending move of many of its financial data generation operations to India, confirming informal reports of the past several days. Pushing the costs of creating content down by outsourcing to India and other technology-oriented nations is increasingly popular amongst many major financial institutions, so it comes as no major surprise that the "data factory" work of financial content vendors is finding its way to those markets also. It's hard to argue with the price structure that the English-speaking Indian market offers, but moving complex understanding of worldwide financial markets from one location to the other is less simple. Mixing content and technology production decisions requires a firm grasp of the human elements, as well. Many financial firms have had to adjust their expectations on productivity in their offshore moves based on a lack of local understanding of their markets and the resulting loss in work quality in their operations. This may be an adjustment that content vendors will not have the luxury of experimenting with easily.

Monday, August 4, 2003

Google's AdSense Targets Contextual Content Links
The New York Times reports that the inevitable is happening with contextual ad placements on Google's Ad Sense. Content providers are finally seeing the light and realizing that these ad placement techniques can be used for drawing people to content that fits in with a person's search results. Notably the placements for content ad sales follow the same bidding-based payment method that applies to other items. With variable ad costs based on the value of the search results categories specified, content publishers are therefore accepting that the value of contextual content is not just an ephemeral concept - it's something that translates to the bottom line. How long it will be before premium content sellers begin to price the top line accordingly in search results is uncertain, but it is a transition that can be anticipated in time soon enough.

Friday, August 1, 2003

Google at Five: From Free Phenomenon to Monetized Monster
The Associated Press notes via SiliconValley.com and other major outlets that it was only five years ago that Google first burst onto the Web scene with its extraordinary search capabilities that have altered the terrain of how online content is accessed and monetized. Like many such phenomenons, Google was not taken very seriously by search portal players such as Yahoo!, AltaVista, Excite and others because they came in without any clear monetization model. Oops. Guess that changed fairly quickly once Google's highly effective contextual advertising took hold. Now, according to AP, Yahoo! is spending in the neighborhood of USD $2 billion to come up with an effective search alternative, and Microsoft a likely similar or larger portion of its USD $49 billion cash mountain. Time and time again mainstream publishers fail to take seriously emerging trends that are creating vContent - highly valued content - because effective monetization models are not apparent immediately. When content value is the clear and primary focus, though, it's rare that effective monetization will not follow.