Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Moneyline Telerate to Integrate Interactive Data Corporation Content
Moneyline Telerate may have its residiual differences with Reuters, as we noted last week, but that isn't stopping them from going out to spread their presence more aggressively throughout financial services companies. A newly announced alliance will allow MT to provide workflow-oriented solutions to service traders and mid- and back-office users more efficiently using IDC's broad range of global financial content that compliments its own sets fairly well. IDC's ComStock division, purchased last year from Standard & Poor's, will provide global coverage on exchange data that will help them to address Reuters dependencies, while "meat and potatoes" reference data such as securities masters will help to power off-trading-floor trade processing operations. With some of its recent trading floor wins, Moneyline Telerate is preparing to leverage those relationships further and cement a base of premium accounts that are intertwined with its flexible approach to financial content delivery. IDC gains a strengthening workstation partner to front its global content far more effectively at the desktop level. Things at Moneyline Telerate are still a bit white-knuckled, but those knuckles are punching hard.
Embedded Content Makes Forays with OneSource and Amazon
Contextual content continues to make inroads into many business venues, thanks to Web services and platforms such as Siebel that make premium content integration a priority. OneSource's business information embedded directly into Siebel's CRM applications via its newly announced Catalyst capabilities includes personalized news alerts, presentation tailoring and usage tracking for management to determine how efficiently the embedded content is being used. Meanwhile Amazon continues to make inroads by opening up its Web services capabilities in a very open manner to developers to exploit their catalog and ecommerce capabilities. USA Today relates how a thrift store chain tinkered with Amazon's Web services interface to turn piles of used books into more than $8,000 monthly revenue. Opening up premium content to independent and partner integration via Web services is a highly underexploited capability that is ready to power premium content quickly and effectively in many institutional settings, allowing both content buyers and sellers to have a high level of control and understanding of one another that's often missed in straight feeds or standalone portals. What better way to fit into a workflow than to let the customer design it themselves?

Friday, September 26, 2003

Weblog Portal for Business Draws Excitement and Skepticism
What's hotter, business weblogs or weblogs about business weblogs? CBS MarketWatch fires back today [REGISTRATION] at yesterday's Wired magazine article about Rafat Ali's PaidContent.org postings on former Silicon Valley Reporter editor Jason Calacanis' plans for weblogsinc.com, a portal intended to profit from hundreds of B2B weblog providers. While Rafat Ali sees this as an extension of About.com's (partially) successful topic docent model, MarketWatch quotes from Nick Denton's weblog, which warns that webloggers are not going to want to make their personal brand subsidiary to an aggregators' brand. On balance, I have to weigh in with Nick on this one. Weblogs are very powerful as personal communication tools, but they lack the elements of community, context and perspective that the editorial process brings to breaking news. News as we know it definitely is being reinvented via weblogs, but that's not to say that weblogs per se are going to reinvent media or reinvigorate branded aggregation. Dot-com era concepts of aggregation are largely outdated, superceded by search technologies that favor premium value being provided in much more specific and context-driven communities.
Amazon Goes A-Search(engine)ing for Product-Focused Content
Silicon.com reports along with many others on Amazon competing head-to-head with Google to get the best technologists available for developing an advanced search technology focused on locating prices and information on consumer goods. While this could be seen primarily as a defensive aim at addressing Google's efforts with Froogle and other product-oriented Web search tools, it's also an acknowledgement that Amazon and others in the aggregation game are increasingly frustrated in trying to define their missions outside of search itself. Amazon provides excellent contextual tools around the search process, but with a world of outlets from which to choose and search engines that make them more accessible than ever, people continue to expect the widest possible scope of content from which to choose in order to make informed consuming decisions. When the whole world can be your boutique, why build a department store? See Monday's News Analysis for more...
New Book On "How the Wheels Came off at Reuters", and More Cash Maneuvers
Well those folks (still) on Fleet Street can't keep out of the headlines. On the same day that Reuters CEO Tom Glocer spoke with The Wall Steet Journal, the Motley Fool reports that a new book entitled Breaking News - How The Wheels Came Off At Reuters by two former Reuters journalists will be released 2 October (already available for orders on Amazon), even as Reuters prepares to sell off its research properties The Yankee Group and TowerGroup. In the interview with WSJ, Glocer reviews the trials of a U.S.-style manager trying to open up the management culture of the British icon, perhaps with a certain lack of appreciation for just how difficut it is to keep initiative alive as you're axing both heads and culture wholesale. According to the Fool, the new book echoes this sentiment, but reminds us of how dawdling the old regimes had been in using immense resources to plan aggressively for the future. As Glocer tries to align cash resources through selling assets even as they are suing Moneyline as retribution for lost business, one wonders just who will be left to move in to Canary Wharf in 2005.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Strong U.S. Paid Content Sales Surging Stronger than Overall eCommerce
The recently announced report by the Online Publishers Association shows an online market for paid content bouncing back. According to the report, U.S. consumers spent $748 million for online content in the first two quarters of 2003, an increase of 23% over the same period in 2002. While much of the press is focusing on the continuing strength of social content services for the affluent such as online dating, there are other important key indicators in the report. For example, year-over-year, penetration of online paid content was up 13% in Q1 2003 and 15% in Q2. For the same period, eCommerce growth was up 3% and 4% respectively. While subscription revenues continue to dominate (89% of paid content revenues in the first half of 2003., up from 86% for 2002 annually), micro payments have steadily increased to fully 8.0% in Q2 2003 and revenues from single payments of $50 or more were up a combined 20% in the first half of 2003 relative to Q4 2002. The younger consumers who can afford this content are mostly in good paying jobs - doubtless in institutions where professional content will be an increasingly important part of the mix.
Reuters Fleeing Fleet Street to Consolidate in Canary Wharf
The slog down to The Blackfriar for a pint or up the alley to Samuel Johnson's home just got a little longer for denizens of Reuters Group PLC, as the global content company announced a new lease on 281,000 square feed of space in the Canary Wharf district - enough to consolidate ten of its offices scattered widely throughout London into one facility just blocks away from its global operations center. Reuters is the last of the British publishers to leave the traditional home of the industry. As much as the very historic headquarters on Fleet Street will be sorely missed by some, the balkanization of its management offices had long played a very detrimental effect on a company trying to shape itself into a 21st century content company, and distanced itself from many of the major global financial companies that have settled into the Docklands vicinity. Consolidation on new neutral ground at 3 Times Square has helped the efficiency of its US headquarters operations greatly, to be sure. Hopefully the best of its 150-year history will not be forgotten in this move, but history, after all, does not pay the rent.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Independent Music Producers Thriving in File Sharing Environment
The New York Times reports that small music labels are finding that they can gain marketing leverage over major producers via file sharing. The medium is not used for content sales, but simply to build up market interest in their products through the informal distribution of their wares, which generates enough new excitement that listeners then go out and make purchases. With such minimal marketing overhead, it takes only tens of thousands of sales for many of these companies' recordings to make a profit. In the world of online text content this is not a terribly revolutionary concept, but with very few media outlets providing access to new and interesting sources of independently produced audio content, it's kind of a big deal that people may actually want to surf more than one or two sources for something worth purchasing, or that referrals are a great source of business. Just imagine if record producers had an "email to a friend" link to songs posted on their sites! As much as we may kick an howl sometimes about text-based publishers, many have already spent years learning hard lessons about online content distribution that media producers are only beginning to grasp.

Friday, September 19, 2003

eBook Revenues up 30 Percent over 2002, Units up 40 Percent
The Open eBook Forum reports in just-released research that while eBook revenues may seem paltry at an estimated USD $4.9 Million in the first half of 2003, this represents a huge growth in sales compared with the 5 percent growth experienced by the overall book industry in the same period. As Shore analyst Jean Bedord notes in her upcoming report on the eBook marketplace, this may be a relatively small market so far, but it's rapid growth indicates a level of enthusiasm for eBooks that outlets such as Barnes & Noble may have underestimated. We believe that ALL premium content providers should pay very special attention to the eBooks marketplace, as it promises to lead the way to both business models and technology that will help to power sales for many forms of premium content. When looking for how to produce vContent - highly valued content - it pays to keep your perspecitve very wide, as the changes that will influence one sector are oftentimes already being well proven in other sectors.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Factiva First to Dip Into IBM's Web Fountain
Premium content aggregation took a major step forward today as IBM and Factiva announced that they will be applying the text search and analysis capabilities of IBM's Web Fountain platform to Factiva's extensive collection of premium content sources. Significantly Factiva's first target is tracking corporate reputation via Web Fountain's analysis of Factiva sources, Internet pages and newsgroups. While Factiva still provides value via simplifying the acquisition of premium sources, the value of simply assembling content collections has been diminishing very rapidly in the face of enterprise and public search tools. Web Fountain's capabilities provide Factiva with powerful leverage to define new premium levels of content value using leading edge technology, creating highly tailored content services that can produce highly profitable results. Both IBM and Factiva stand to win a great deal via Web Fountain, but its ability to scale to enterprise-wide content and expectations is still a work in progress.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Too Late for DRM on DVD Content?
The Wall Street Journal reports that testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee today by Edward Felten, a Princeton University computer-science professor, paints a grim picture for the movie industry to regain control of electronic distribution via the proposed "digital flag" to prevent piracy of DVDs and broadcast digital content. His rationale: the millions of DVD players already sold would be unable to digest this new content, forcing consumers either to purchase compatible units or resort to other acquisition methods. DRM technology was not very mature when DVDs and digital broadcasts first came to market, but at the same time it's hard to imagine how anyone planning on premium digital content today cannot think about this as an integral part of product planning. Bottom line, significant new user benefits and features will have to accompany any DRM technology to make it worth the while of any individual or institution to make an investment that locks them in to new schemes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Justia Optimizes Search Engine Placements for Legal Professionals
Search results are not just information that gets you to content, it's content itself, content that can make or break companies in highly competitive market segments. Justia is taking an interesting approach to search engine optimization, targeting specifically legal firms and professionals seeking to improve their chances in being recognized in Internet search engine results. Their recently announced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Center provides a good range of general information about how best to approach this process, but also gives good examples of how to apply this practically to legal content. Increasingly creating content is not just about putting out words and graphics but as well understanding what makes that information valuable to specific audiences in specific venues; understanding specific markets as a part of that process is oftentimes a key factor in creating that value successfully.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Bloomberg Takes On theStreet.com Content via Professional Platform
It's all about the content and the context. Upon-a-time dot-com upstart theStreet.com has announced that it has begun to make its Street Insight product available via the Bloomberg Professional platform, making it available to Bloomberg's clients worldwide. Traders and analysts are coming under ever-increasing scrutiny for their use of external sources and worldwide Internet access is sometimes iffy in many places where private financial information networks thrive, so to some degree the reliability of private access is a driving factor here. But the strong plus is integration with core Bloomberg sources and the ease of single-interface access that its users are long used to. If the context fits your audience, wear it...
RIAA Enformcement Efforts May Isolate Content Companies
The New York Times reports that as the Recording Industry Association of America's efforts to prosecute unfold, they may be creating demand for a new generation of file sharing software to drive people further away from scrutiny - and from interaction with people outside of their networks. One such derivative system, dubbed Blubster, already had an estimated 250 thousand users before the Times article broke. As discussed in this week's news analysis, as individuals continue to gain strength as publishers, premium content providers need to engage them in the technology venues in which they come to value their content, and provide enhanced services that make a relationship with the provider worth the while. Push people away now, and you lose the common ground for engagement.
IBM Pushes Frontiers of P2P Content Capabilities with Socializer
Imagine walking into a new office building, and having location-specific and peer-specific content appear on your PDA automatically, based on your identity and its relationship to people at that location. IBM has been imagining just such a future, and has been bringing it closer to reality with a project called Socializer, according to Instant Messaging Planet. Socializer is a prototype of an open, distributed, peer-to-peer platform with capabilities including chatting, file transfers, application sharing and broadcasting and discovery of services. By being location-centric, Socializer allows content to be contexutalized at the intersection of local and personal interests in ways that only science fiction has approached to date. While this is still blue sky stuff, these kinds of capabilities are a clear reminder of how the content industry has to focus much more aggressively on how individual content rights and use intersect with institutional capabilities and interests.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Corporate Users of File Sharing Software Gain Focus by WeComply
In case you thought that using file sharing software to distribute copyrighted content was mostly an issue with teens and loner malcontents, guess again: according to WeComply, a company specializing in online compliance training, a recent survey of 560 companies of all sizes found that file-sharing software was installed somewhere within 77% of the companies - and within 100% of those companies with 500 employees or more. File sharing is nothing new to corporations: Lotus Notes has been around for more than a decade and newer professionally-oriented P2P products like Groove Networks are gaining in popularity. The need to comply voluntarily with copyright laws for redistributing content at the corporate level has been serviced by firms such as Copright Clearance Center since the advent of photocopying. With new content-sharing tools and cultures, though, the need to monitor and manage distribution rights at the individual level now intersects with institutional exposures more clearly than ever before.
Reuters Provides Gateway From Professional IM to AOL's Messaging
Reuters has announced an agreement with AOL to provide access from their professionally-oriented secure messaging system and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service. The upcoming version of the Reuters Messaging client will allow their users to communicate with colleagues and customers that use the AIM and ICQ instant messaging services. In addition, AOL instant messaging users will have the ability to add Reuters Messaging users to their AOL buddy lists. This is an important step forward for Reuters' attempts to breathe life into their new messaging service, which lacks the market authority of Bloomberg's long-established messaging service. Bloomberg's service gained enormously from its ability to interface with public email systems, allowing people to receive key business content from financial partners and clients without requiring them to use a Bloomberg system. With the increasing difficulties associated with emails, secure IM channels allow many of the same advantages for professionals with fewer disadvantages. Expect content on serious financial deals to start flowing through Reuters channels as it gains in Bloomberg-like universality.

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

As Barnes & Noble Pulls Plug on eBooks, Others Thrive
This must be "circle your wagons" week in content-land: The Motley Fool reports that BN.com, online subsiduary of bookseller Barnes & Noble, has decided to call it quits with eBooks. No immediate reasons are given, but the Fools are speculating that perhaps the storefront-based side of the business was beginning to get nervous about how to manage profitability of store-based outlets when electronic items are taking off in sales. If so, it's a little bit like someone saying in days of yore that they should concentrate on paying off the mortgage on the blacksmith shop before opening a garage. It's clear that eBooks will not be just about low-margin sales; premium features and capabilities that will lock people in to content communities will provide much quicker and effective sales of content. Others with zero investment in storefronts such as Amazon are willing to take up the challenge, and some, like Lulu, are even willing to go electronic with high-quality books without established publishers. BN.com, we hardly knew ye...

Monday, September 8, 2003

Websense Patent Targets Filtering of In-Office Web Use
Lunchtime surfers, beware: Websense Inc. has announced the introduction of software that will allow institutions to have much finer control over who may access specific Web sites. Both the who and the when can be addressed with control over what Web sites may be accessed, at what time of day and for how long, as well as options to notify employees that a requested Web site may include content that falls outside of their organization's defined policy or to request them to defer viewing of certain Web content until after work hours. With corporate governance regulations tighter than ever, access to content is increasingly a monitoring issue for many institutions. However, expect that this capability may have some impact on individuals' ability to access not only casual personal content but professional content as well.
Media Companies Fight Back Against Piracy, But Don't Address Core Issues
As noted by CNN and other major outlets, the Recording Industry Association of America's lawsuit against 261 people accused of illegal downloading of music files swung into action today, with many more suits expected and an amnesty program hoped to bring others in line for legal action under control. As the article notes, there are at least an estimated 60 million people who use file sharing networks. While a companion article in The New York Times notes that the media industry's dedication to technology may have turned on them finally and forced consolidation and bottom-line focus, it's really rather the opposite. Media companies held on to the CD format and its price points for more than twenty years, years in which technology's ability to deliver content inexpensively and efficiently was changing rapidly. By ignoring the top line of value that could be delivered to audiences using rapidly changing technology and concentrating far too much on milking content catalogs that mostly ran dry in true value years ago, many media-oriented content companies have paid a steep price.

Friday, September 5, 2003

Proposed U.S. Database Copyright Legislation: Protecting Sources or Aggregators?
Reuters reports via CNET News that a draft bill circulating in the U.S. Congress would protect publicly available factual information such as courtroom decisions and professional directories that are not currently protected under copyright law from wholesale copying and aggregation by other sources. The legislation has the support of the Software and Information Industry Association, amongst others, as well as major publishers such as Reuters, whose representative was quoted in the article. Small wonder: this legislation will provide little benefit to the free sources themselves, and a fair amount of protection to major aggregators who would like to hem in the spread of redistributed public content beyond their own collections. Clearly content created for personal or institutional gain merits unique protection, but hemming in public domain content diminishes both its availability and the creativity that people may apply to it to benefit both the public and institutions that can benefit from the widest possible range of value-add services provided for that content.

Thursday, September 4, 2003

Microsoft Rights Management Beta Has a Mixed Reception
Beta News reports on Microsoft's latest downloads of its nascent rights management package, designed for compatability with both Office 2003 applications and ihncluding a "light' plugin that will allow HTML-formatted email messages to be protected as well. But with strong ties into their .NET Passport identity management services and hardware-specific (read: Microsoft-friendly hardware) usage, the overall focus on this capability thus far is far less on enabling the distribution of valuable content to desired audiences than it is on locking in corporate infrastructure at the server and user level to Microsoft solutions. We expect that it will be a popular solution for those institutions that are anxious to lock down content from prying eyes, and comments from readers of the Beta News article seem to indicate some reasonable level of user acceptance is likely. But for those hoping to enable relationships effectively through content, its limitations on platform compatability, especially for mobile devices, and the additional "hoops" required to lock people into Microsoft network services may make this a no-starter for many individuals. And without buy-in from individuals, the authors and audiences that drive content in most institutions, I.T. centric approaches to rights managment are likely to flounder.

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Factiva Targeting Individual Users With Tiered Subscription Access
Aggregator Factiva has announced the availability of tiered subscription access to its extensive news and business informaiton sources, targeted at individual users and small businesses. Unspoken is exactly which individuals, but clearly Factiva is trying to position their capabilities better with professional content users who may not have access to Factiva through institutional contracts and who are more likely to use content than the "by the drink" offerings through WSJ.com. The concept is sound, but Factiva's execution is still a work in progress. Subscription pricing is about as steep as a full Journal subscription (USD $69 annually, $39 during the introductory period), with additional monthly charges for tracking folders, per-article retrieval, headlines plus lead paragraphs, keyworkds in context and custom formats with lead paragraphs. Did you understand half of that? Neither did I when I went through the purchasing process. Selling to individuals - including professional individuals - is about a lot more than coming up with price points that protect institutional margins and making the technology and content available. To succeed in the individual marketplace, major aggregators will have to think much more carefully about the human and relationship aspects of how they engage their audience online.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Kazaa Attacks Pirates - of Kazaa
From the irony of ironies department comes word via CNET News that the Kazaa file sharing service has invoked the Digital Millenium Copyright to have Google remove from its search index listings of eight Web sites that were distributing a purportedly pirated version of their file-sharing software. Known as Kazaa Lite, the unauthorized version removes the advertising features that power Kazaa's free version (for a subscription fee the Kazaa Plus version can be obtained from Kazaa without the ads). As Kazaa moves to become a more mainstream and legitimate distributor of content, it appears that they are learning indeed that intellectual property is something that is worth protecting - if it's your own. Notably, though, it's the search engines that are caught in the middle of this battle to eliminate the association between a brand name and pirated property that intimates association with the real thing. It is not just the power of a similar idea that borrows a brand name that makes this threat powerful, but moreso the fact that a search engine like Google can funnel so many people to the alternative. Case in point: the stats on the home page of Kazaa Lite indicate that it's had over 32 million visitors.