Friday, October 31, 2003

Yahoo! Enterprise Integration Falls as Its Focus on Individuals Clarifies
In the wake of Yahoo!'s termination of paid video services, CNET News reports that their move to profitability is now sending its Enterprise Software division out to pasture. Unfortunately the sophistication required for most business-oriented portals has eclipsed the ability of most consumer-oriented portal development tools to compete in the increasingly crowded market for Enterprise Content Management. The move towards tighter corporate governance is creating far more complex content management solutions than those offered by consumer-oriented portals, even as new collaborative and content seaching requirements have pushed most major institutions towards solutions that are highly tailored to the specific publishing requirements of task-driven professional communities. Companies like Yahoo! will continue to thrive in the professional space, though, through their ability to service professionals as individual consumers and as members of a greater professional community outside of the firewalls. Being able to leverage that more public professional arena is the greatest untapped potential of the public Web today.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Yahoo! Pulls Plug on Paid Video Service, Ponders Possible Packaging
CNET News reports that Yahoo! has decided to call it a day for its paid video clip service, while considering other models under which to monetize streaming video content on the Web, including a possible fold-in to its Yahoo Plus service. This is just the most recent of a string of concessions on the front of video subscriptions for consumers that sprung up in the "we must make it pay" craze of the post dot-com era. With Microsoft offering ad-supported video that is free to consumers via MSN, it's not surprising that these earlier models are withering away. On-demand streaming video is a highly valuable source of content, but its image quality limitations and competition from hundreds of cable and satellite video channels make it difficult to determine its true value based on the merits of delivery alone. Streaming video needs much more context-oriented content that can be produced around it and add value to the video experience to justify premium prices charged to online consumers. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but having the thousand words on tap that match its value is the true key to online distribution success. It works for audio content on the Web, and it works for video on DVDs, so there's no reason to think that online video content can't consider the same model for success more actively.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Hyperfeed Spins off Realtime Financial Market Data Clients to IDC to Concentrate on Integration
Hyperfeed Technologies announced that IDC's ComStock unit will be picking up its financial market data clients for USD $8.5 million, along with transitional licensing rights to their client-side and ticker plant feed management technologies. Paul Pluschkell, HyperFeed's President, emphasizes that it's a move to enhance their technology licensing business, which has seen a number of strong deals in the past few months, but certainly the increasingly strong relationship between Moneyline and both of these companies has to play a significant role as well. Moneyline's flexible approach to content integration allows players like Hyperfeed and ComStock to fit into the picture on a partnership basis with major clients very effectively. Content aggregators and their content suppliers in many market sectors are taking a similar approach to deployment technologies, trying to focus on providing value to their core collections through whatever deployment technologies bend themselves to the needs of their clients. Companies like Hyperfeed are smart to elect to be a highly competent technology piece in a highly collabrative approach to content delivery, rather than a moderately competent solution to a greater part of the content delivery problem, and leave the broader questions of providing content value at the level of business solutions to players like Moneyline, and questions of managing content collection subscriptions to players like IDC. Where this leaves companies like Reuters, which has decided to outsource much of its content solution "smarts" to Accenture, remains to be seen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Enabled By Technology and Interactivity, Web-based Directories Emerge as Marketplaces
Thomas Register, the venerable 33 volume directory of industrial products, is alive and well at over 100 years old. And, although the print version is still used by many sales and purchasing managers, the Thomas Register has thrived because it has become a online marketplace where buyers and sellers interact. Buyers can find the precise goods they need, download CAD drawings to include in their bill of materials, select a vendor, and even place orders from the site. Sellers benefit from including more detailed product descriptions (with aforementioned CAD drawings), product catalogs, along with services that allow buyers to place orders directly from the site. Thomas Publishing clearly understands the value of providing technology-enabled content solutions to its core audience.

I had the pleasure of hearing Ruth Hurd, the VP, Publisher Operations at Thomas Industrial Network, speak at the InfoCommerce 2003 conference held in Philadelphia October 27-28. Infocommerce, a new incarnation of a long-held conference for directory publishers, is now in the very competent hands of Russell Perkins and his InfoCommerce Group .

Russell put together a diverse group of new and veteran directory and database publishers, including well-known names like D&B, infoUSA, Martindale-Hubbell (and several other Reed-Elsevier representatives), along with some more specialized names, such as Columbia Books which publishes an intriguing database that lists lobbyists and their clients, and Eliyon Technologies , which creates a database of profiles of business people using technology that scans the Web and extracts data uses algorithms to determine if information relates to a person and his or her job and then uses matching algorithms to compile additional information on each individual entry. Jonathan Stern, CEO of Eliyon, is first to admit that the current algorithmic approach is far from perfect, but it quite good for top level executives (with lots of coverage), and the positive response to the database, perfect or not, has demonstrated how much demand there is for people information on the Web (I suppose has already proven this point).

The opportunities for directory publishers on the Web are glaringly obvious. Like search engine users, users of a directory are in inquiry mode, often with the aim of buying goods or services. With the interactive capabilities and ecommerce technologies, Web-based directories can provide tons more value than print to users in terms of faster access and streamlined (and more informed) purchasing.

But, in an ironic twist, if you start with a major search engine, you won't likely find results from these rich sources of product information at the top of your search listings, partially due to the text-oriented search algorithms and in the case of Google, its page-rank algorithm. This is beginning to change as directory publishers work with the big search engines to find a solution. As they get closer to a more functional solution, search engine users will certainly benefit from the rich information they will find in directories. And directory publishers will benefit from greatly increased traffic when the greater universe of search engine users at Google, Yahoo, and MSN start being directed to product (and other) directories for relevant queries. With search engines eager to include more quality sources content in their universe of coverage and Web advertising growing at a fast clip, now is the time for directory publishers to be working on their plans for leveraging the monetization possibilities that are inherent in being the owner of a marketplace on the Web.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Warm User Reception for Amazon Book Search Feature's new capability to search the texts of books in its catalog, which we previewed in this Weblog several weeks ago, is finding a warm reception from users and librarians alike, according to the San Jose Mercury News and other outlets. This capability opens up a whole world of content for Web-trained consumers of all kinds, who now have the ability to browse true premium content online. The search is as simple as any other Web site interface, and returns the book title, purchasing info and an excerpt showing search text in context. Click on the page reference link, and you get an image of the page with the phrase "Copyrighted Material" embedded in the image. A little awkward, but perfectly acceptable for many browsing needs. Getting the most relevant context for a given phrase is still somewhat a work in progress: Entering the phrase "now is the winter of our discontent" returns a critical analysis of William Shakespeare as the first choice, but the bard's play Richard III that opens with this line was not to be found - perhaps not among the texts provided by the 190 publishers participating in this exercise. It's early days, so no doubt it will take some time to get meaningful correlations between user iterests and titles, but overall it's an encouraging performance. The ability to browse book content online elevates books and book browsing into a new realm of relevance and value, and through Amazon's aggressive promotion of search integration technologies it should make its value known not just to consumers but to institutions as well in short order.
Reuters Group 3Q Results in Line, No Revenue Turnaround in Sight
Reuters Group PLC issued its third quarter trading statement this morning in calls with analysts and portfolio managers in London and New York. These trading statements do not include profit disclosures, which Reuters is obligated to report only twice a year. Group revenues for the three months ended September 30 were �658 million down 12 percent on an actual basis from �716 million in the same year-earlier quarter and were in line with expectations. Chief executive officer Tom Glocer reiterated forecasts of an 11 percent decline in recurring Group revenues for 2003. He will provide 2004 revenue guidance in mid-January. Glocer�s presentations are a bit like reading tealeaves. Analysts and portfolio managers hang on his every word and nuance for signs of a turnaround, i.e., plus signs in front of revenue disclosures as opposed to the steady stream of negative comparisons over the past several years. Most see the turn coming 2005. Glocer disclosed that Reuters would make the JPMorgan eXpress electronic trading platform available to its global customer base as another offensive/defensive move against Bloomberg in the fixed income space. Glocer also said that TIBCO would file a registration statement within the next ten days covering the planned distribution of part of Reuters� 49 percent interest in TIBCO shares. Proceeds from the sale are estimated at US$230 million. Reuters also intends to float a bond issue in the next several weeks with the proceeds being added to working capital. No details were disclosed.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Primedia Continues to Rationalize, Sells Sprinks Ad Service to Google
At the SIIA's Brown Bag lunch panel this week, Sprinks General Manager Lance Podell characterized the service's capabilities as being somewhat the "anti-Ad Sense" approach to contextual advertising with its more topic-oriented approach to ad placement. No doubt with the announced purchase of Sprinks by Google noted by Reuters and other sources, future wording of these differences will be noted as being "complementary". Sprinks avoids a lot of the inherent pitfalls of trying to come up with effective contextual matches on a page level when placing ads in sites by sticking to a topic-based placement, and this seems to be an effective approach for advertisers who are trying to capture broader audiences efficiently. All the stranger, then, that Primedia would dump this property to raise cash for shoring up some yet-to-be-defined core of stable print publications. Primedia's loss is certainly Google's gain as it becomes an increasingly powerful force in the online ad world, but one wonders what Primedia will do to grow its business in the long run without securing key elements of online profitability. Print as a medium will exist indefinitely, but for those companies that cannot adapt an effective and profitable online identity to complement and bolster the print medium, print as a business will continue to look bleak, no matter how many babies are thrown to the wolves.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Online Ads Booming as Traditional Outlets Suffer
Maybe if you build it they will WSJ Online [PREMIUM] reports that major media players are suffering great softness in their traditional advertising bases, reports that online ads are growing strongly in European markets, paralleling similar online ad growth reported recently in U.S. markets. With the generally weak global economy, print is a luxury that fewer can afford on a regular basis, wheras the typical consumer's online investments are relatively fixed assets that can deliver new information and experiences without having to truck down to the local newsstand, and viewed increasingly as essential to both personal goals and professional goals such as job searching. Print will continue to provide a very valuable, portable and persistent advertising medium, but our latest economic downturn may have marked the turning point of print being thought of as the leading advertising medium. Online advertising is still a nascent and primitive art for the most part, but its potential to drive both personal and professional content and services is beginning to ascend to a leading position in driving content economics.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

OpenText Picks Up IXOS as Content Management Continues Consolidation
As noted at and other outlets, OpenText's purchase of the German ECM firm IXOS takes some pressure off of the content collaboration company's market positioning as a less-than-complete publishing and management solution for content. In general, though, this is a continuation of a trend in which partial managment of the entire content lifecycle via technology is just not cutting it in the marketplace. The productivity benefits for content creators and publishers fall increasingly on the top and bottom ends of the publishing spectrum: on the top, the ability for individuals to communicate effectively via content to highly targeted audiences, and at the bottom, persistent storage and retrieval options that are independent of specific delivery platforms. CMS publishing systems between these top and bottom layers are important, but only one of a wide variety of content sources that need to be integrated for most institutions. In essence, CMS as a standalone concept is falling victim to the same forces of disintermediation that are engulfing the world of professional publishers. OpenText's move is a solid one from a technology sales perspective, but challenges still remain ahead for them and other technology companies as they try to add value to content that's increasingly in the hands of its creators to manage and distribute.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Harvard Skepticism of Elsevier Journal Bundle the Tip of the Iceberg
The Library Journal reports that Harvard University is weighing seriously its renewal of a multi-year package of eJournals from Reed Elsevier, a package made available through the Northeast Research Library consortium. As much as the bundle can be a saver with the 20 other universities that purchase the content collectively, tight budgets are forcing Harvard to consider how to purchase specific journals that return value more efficiently and effectively. Harvard is not alone, apparently: the article cites a recent Association of Research Libraries (ARL) study in which 40 percent of respondents indicated that they were "planning to cancel or were considering canceling a bundled package this year." The emerging trend towards research being distributed through non-traditional channels is doubtless part of Harvard's concern about signing a relatively long-term deal. It's a quiet way of saying that the aggregation business is going to be very different three years from now - and sooner.

Monday, October 20, 2003

BlogRunner Debuts with Entry-level Aggregation Sophistication
While the new BlogRunner site is hardly the Associated Press of weblogs just yet, just a few consolidated headlines from weblogs created by major news outlets and prominent journalists. But it's an interesting exercise in taking weblog content from highly valued sources and making it available in a digestible format. The XML-based underpinnings of weblogs have been largely unexploited for the purposes of stripping out specific weblog entries from a page for aggregation or super-syndication, so BlogRunner's efforts in assembling its demo portal are at least a thought-provoking demonstration of the possible roads that independent publishing could take via weblogs packaged into high-value, topic-driven content streams. Hmm let's see, they have the respected journalists who weblog from multiple sources and disciplines, they have easily managed syndication capabilities, there are defining distinct editorial I missing anything?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Apple Teams with Pepsi to Create Sweet DRM Carrot for Downloads
If legal downloads are to succeed, the Digital Rights Management capabilities that protect the interests of publishers will need to be ubiquitous and unburdensome in the eyes of consumers. As related by The Globe and Mail and other major outlets, Apple has taken an aggressive stance to make their brand of downloads ubiquitious by teaming with Pepsi as a sponsor for free downloads from its catalog of 99-cent songs and spoken word tracks through March 2004. On the spoken word side, bestselling books, magazines, radio programs and original shows will be available along with 100 million song downloads. Combined with Apple's earlier announcement of iTunes downloads compatible with Microsoft Windows, Apple is laying down a blitzkrieg strategy to become the de facto source for rights-protected, platform-independent audio content. Success in the Web era tends to go to those who give people what they want first, as opposed to those who try to give people what they want them to want when it suits them.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Moneyline Telerate Backer To Fund Resolution of Reuters Billing Dispute
Moneyline Telerate has announced that it has reached an agreement with Reuters to settle their suit against them for alleged nonpayment of invoices. The key to the settlement was twofold: Moneyline Telerate and Reuters agreed that an independent audit would settle what fees if any are owed to Reuters, and that Moneyline Telerate would fund an escrow account with USD 18.3 million in funds to cover whatever resolution the auditors may require. The funding for the escrow is to be provided by One Equity Partners, the major financial backer of Moneyline Telerate. As Shore Senior Analyst Jack McConville noted from the road today, "The move by One Equity Partners should send a strong sign to the markets and any nervous institutional customers that Moneyline Telerate will remain a viable vendor in the market data space." Everyone saves face in this maneuver, especially Reuters, who was risking cutting off its nose to spite its face by creating chaos for firms that take in their competitors' services - clients that for the most part still use Reuters services as well. "See what they made me do" is not a good plan for client relations, in content or any other business.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

New Public Library of Science Swamped with Success
Getting a leap on government-sponsored initiatives, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) launched an online service for free distribution of scientific papers has been awashin interest since its launch last weekend, according to CNET News. The service is concentrating initially on biomed, and collects fees from contributors who get efficient peer review as a part of the process. "Free" resonates as a dirty word to most professional journal publishers, but this is not about giving away the store as much as creating value for the people who need to publish as much as for the content consumers. The probable explosion of people willing and able to share their advanced thinking with colleagues is bound to create opportunities for monetization and value creation far beyond those imagined to date by journal publishers.
KMWorld & Intranets 2003/Streaming Media Conferences: Quick Takes
The KMWorld & Intranets 2003 Conference this year is co-located with the Streaming Media CA conference, which made for some interesting juxtaposition at times. Attendance was slightly off from last year's, and exhibitors were way down. Here are a few quick takes on the highs and lows:

- The opening keynote offered Peter Rinearson of Microsoft offering their version of "eating your own dog food", which featured video clips of happy near-future office workers sewing up a big deal by dragging and dropping digital objects across huge panel screens, tablet PCs, PDAs and such. The less romantic current reality of Microsoft trying to get everyone to go paperless and to use tablet PCs was presented quite honestly by Peter, to his credit: one photo shows what looks like at first a Microsoft employee scribbling away happily on a tablet PC, only to reveal in the next photo that he's actually using a paper pad resting on top of the PC. So much for capturing "tacit knowledge". Technology can change content culture, but technology cannot create content culture until the individuals accept the value of the content created by it.
- While Knowledge Management is still a real concept, it seems as if this year marks a watershed point as to its focus. Last year's gathering was the "yes, we're ready to do this" conference, as legislative mandates for corporate compliance and public sector initiatives compelled many institutions to adopt more stringent content capture, storage, management and retrieval capabilities. This year is more the "yes, we're already doing this" conference, which ironically seems to have taken a lot of the wind of of KM's sails. With IT willingly supplying much of the infrastructure to enable the technical components of KM, much of its emphasis has shifted to changing content culture via communities of practice, alarming, storytelling and other initiatives oriented towards implementing new models of management.
- Discussions of digital rights were frisky and intriguing in the Streaming Media conference, and virtually absent from the KM and Intranets tracks of its sister conference. Microsoft, with its pending Longhorn initiatives, is most aware of this on the institutional side, but the intersection of rights-driven issues is sure to make a major impact in the next year on the KM/institutional side of the fence. The partial connection between the two exhibit halls for these two conferences this year is perhaps symbolic of the as-yet unconscious pending marriage of the focus of media companies and behind-the-firewall institutional perspectives on content value management.
- The taxonomy battles rage on, like Delacroix and Ingres battling over whether the essence of painting is color or line. A panel including David Seuss of the reconstituted Northern Light and Claude Vogel of Convera locked horns over the importance of context-oriented categorization and hierarchical taxonomies. Claude argues more towards the camp of defining an item's essence in a strict hierarchical taxonomy, whereas David fell more on the side of multi-nodal ways of placing an item in a more dimensional taxonomy. There is still no one right answer to this discussion; the real answer seems to be to have content organization methods that meet both the immediate and ongoing needs of an institution's assets. If one defines the essence of something that never gets used, then the benefits of that essence are limited.
- Anacubis was the "big booth" at this year's conference, which says as much about the lack of major players making a big push as much as anacubis' ambitions. Content visualization tools were a big part of the exhibition, as even players such as Taxonomy tool-oriented Stratify was showing desktop visualization capabilities. While anacubis looks sexy as all get-go and plays very well with structured data to spot company-oriented relationships that are useful in some key CRM and competitive intelligence settings, the power of the tool gets on much thinner ice when you begin to look at more complex data relationships and falls apart in most ways when it comes to examining unstructured data relationships.
- Doing it right at the desktop level is a major emerging theme for content organization. 80/20's long-standing approach along these lines seems to be mimicked by a number of players, now, some of which may be trying to revive stagnant institutional sales by appealing to users as much as anything else. Its the content, Inc., an all-new company representative of this user-level trend, provides simple, well-integrated tools that allow users to classify content easily on the fly for themselves and workgroups, so that it's more immediately usable for the individual and increasing the probability that the organization will benefit from this "me first" approach to content usefulness. At the end of the day, all content politics are local...
- There is Knowing, but Is There Knowledging...? Hubert St. Onge of konvergeandknow provided an excellent C-Level presentation making the case for Knowledge Management on a business basis, emphasizing the importance of developing an organization's capability to respond rapidly to market opportunities in a competitive marketplace as a key factor. Hubert's outlook sells very well, and it should, given the experience that's gone into it. However, while there are objectives in his model, it lacks concrete activities to which people relate on a daily basis. "Knowing" is not something that can fit on a time sheet; it's an asset, not an activity. This is why concepts such as publishing are so important in the framework of KM: knowing and learning are important, but publishing in highly social contexts, teaching and sharing are the things that people do on a daily basis to create value through content.
- Weblogs making grass-roots KM happen. Billions of dollars of infrastructure and countless academic studies later, what's the one thing that's really enabling the essence of Knowledge Management within professional organizations and communities? The cheap/free capabilities of weblogging are enabling individuals and institutions to realize many of the goals of KM with simple tools to develop expert networks and Communities of Practice inside and across institutional firewalls. Kudos to Darlene Fichter of the University of Saskatchewan/Northern Lights Solutions and Arik Johnson of Aurora WDC for laying out just how much power is available to professionals through weblogging for creating highly valuable content that can support an organization's key goals.
EMC Purchases Documentum in Move to Broaden Content Value Base
Many of this year's mergers in the world of content technologies have been about moving content management and organization companies up the value chain to include more human-oriented publishing value with capabilities such as collaboration and content visualization. With EMC's purchase of Documentum, the trend moves to the other end of the spectrum, as EMC's storage-based approach to managing content from birth to death takes on a more human-oriented face with Documentum's wide range of user-oriented content asset management software and services. Rigorous requirements for corporate compliance have been driving EMC, Documentum and other content technology companies towards radically vertical integration of control over content capture and creation, but the wider trend is organizations becoming increasingly aware of their roles as publishing entities that need to maximize the value of their content while still allowing content creators a great deal of flexibility and choice in the publishing process. The move is a coup for EMC, which can now position themselves aggressively against vertically aligned players such as IBM across a very wide range of core enterprise publishing, storage and retrieval requirements. It's ambitious, but positioned with the right eye towards a well-integrated approach that really addresses institutional requirements.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Dialog Portal Publishing Initiative Pushes Integration Forward
Information Today reports along with other sources on a broad initiative by Dialog to play very aggressively in the enterprise portal marketplace. Known as Dialog Portals, it leverages established portlet technology from its NewsEdge acquistion along with its existing Internet toolkit to provide highly contextual research in easy-to-deploy modules. The Portals package is design to fit in smoothly with most major portal integration environments, including BEA, IBM Websphere, Microsoft Sharepoint, Vignette and many others. Mostly oriented towards its news-oriented sources for now, plans are afoot to use the Portals platform for core content. On the horizon: a full API and Intellectual Property management hooks. For some time considered the sleepier of the major professional content aggregators, this effort is at least a signal of Dialog's intention to play aggressively alongside institutional publishers in their industry-leading publishing environments at least as much as other Thomson properties. While the really new pieces are still rather limited, Dialog's intentions speak to a far broader commitment to the manner in which professional content is consumed today.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Resurrected Napster Pushes Paid Content, Plays Down P2P
What's in a name? According to a recent study noted in Forbes, 92 percent of consumers had heard of the Napster brand, far more than any other file downloading services. Small wonder that the "relaunching" of this service by Roxio as a DRM-secured music service with monthly subscriptions and 99-cent song purchases is gaining instant attention from the media. Rather lost in all the hubbub, though, is that there is little of the peer-to-peer file sharing capabilities that had established the brand name originally. This is a play by Roxio and its major partners (Microsoft, Gateway, Samsung and Yahoo!) to integrate music ecommerce into the PC-oriented world in a way that music publishers can support to their liking, a play that helps users to promote content on a peer basis but leaves little room for individuals as content distributors. While the new Napster will do a great deal to solidify the transition of music publishers to effective online merchandizing, the capability of individuals to add fundamental value to premium content will remain largely untapped.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

The Dawn of the Business Information Officer: vContent Reigns Supreme
As noted in CIO Magazine, there is a new kind of corporate animal wending its way into a power structure near you. Sometimes labeled Business Information Officer, sometimes known by other monikers, the typical BIO's portfolio plies the fluid ground between IT, traditional knowledge management, business intelligence, corporate compliance and business process engineering. Recognizing that it's hard for technologists to understand content from a business perspective and vice versa for most business experts, organizations are increasingly investing in people who can bring an understanding of human business needs to technology decisions. Some of this BIO noise is spin by Gartner and the like trying to reposition themselves with folks who have budget to spend. Looking at a typical BIO Job Posting, you can see that some people are seeing this as a CIO in business-aware drag. What's in and around all of this action that's being missed? The need to understand one's organization as a publishing entity that creates vContent - highly valued content - on many levels that IT enables, but hardly encompasses. It's three circles in our diagram, after all, not two.
Yahoo! Stock Surges on Revenues Driven by Paid Search
Yahoo!'s stock soared after announcing that its third quarter revenues jumped 43 percent powered in large part by strong sales of paid search results from its Overture acquisition, according to The Wall Street Journal. Contextual advertising is driving the success of online portals in many venues, though as reported by CNET News, the very success of this capability is spawning a lot of nefarious methods to drive people through revenue-producing "clicks" to Web site visits. There is a danger of this method reaching saturation, as advertisers try to over-position products and services through contextual ads, raising the risk of creating "ad spam" that becomes as annoying as email spam. But most of this is well within the control of the service providers to ensure a quality match between a site's content and the content of its ad partners. More importantly is how under-exploited this method is for supporting the contextualization and sale of premium content, as will be explored in Janice McCallum's soon-to-be-released report. Bottom Line: exploiting the contextual value of content online has barely begun.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Reuters to Reduce TIBCO Position, Adds More Cash
Reuters Group PLC has announced that it will reduce its TIBCO Software, Inc. holdings (103,304,269 shares, or 49 percent, as of September 30, 2003). In addition, TIBCO will be allowed to market and sell its applications to the financial services market, something it was precluded from doing under the terms of a license agreement with Reuters. However, TIBCO will not be able to market or sell risk management applications and market data systems to financial services companies. Reuters will continue to use TIBCO technology internally, but will phase out as a general reseller of TIBCO products. Reuters will continue to make quarterly payments of up to US$5 million to TIBCO until its reseller rights are phased out in March 2005. The planned sale of TIBCO shares by Reuters puts an end to months of speculation and is consistent with the vendor�s goal of rationalizing its businesses back to content. The planned sale will add cash (as will the proceeds from the proposed sale of Reuters' Fleet Street headquarters in London) at a time when the dividend is not being covered by internal cash flow. TIBCO has agreed to file a registration statement with the SEC to facilitate public sales of the stock by Reuters. If Reuters completes a single registered public sale of at least US$100 million of TIBCO shares within 12 months of the SEC filing, TIBCO will repurchase an equal number of shares from Reuters at the same price, up to a maximum of US$115 million.
Google To Continue News "Beta" Indefinitely
Craig Silverstein of Google recently was interviewed by ZDNet UK, revealing little of news or interest in the process, save that the "Beta" phase of its news capability could be extened indefinitely, much as the original Google search engine was considered a "Beta" phase product under development for years. While many companies would be hesitant to have a long-term Beta phase content product out in front of the entire world for so long, it is in many ways an excellent product development scheme and an excellent marketing ploy for Google. By exposing it to the most people possible, Google builds up a huge amount of relationship capital in delivering new kinds of on-the-fly content aggregation through feedback and ongoing improvements, while from a marketing standpoint expectations are kept low if things aren't perfect and an aura of newness is retained that can allow them to do any number of soft relaunches without investing much time or effort. Given that their news capability is up against many established players, this is probably an effective strategy - unless the competition manages to come out with more and better features more quickly. Google seems to be betting against this, and perhaps for the moment they're right. But as other aggregators take a look at their capabilities more carefully, they may find their timetable disturbed in this increasingly competitive space.

Monday, October 6, 2003

An Open and Closed Case: Open Content vs. Closing Content
Magazine publishers have come back nearly full circle on their Web presences. One of our team members forwarded me an email on a story posted in Business Week's Web site today. Funny thing was, it was only a link, and the story required registration access. Fine, so I registered. Once through this process, the web site then announced that I needed to be a magazine subscriber to view the article. I'm all for supporting premium content, but this one made no sense to me whatsoever. What value was in this email except to promote subscriptions to Business Week? I didn't even get an option to purchase the single story with an upgrade, or a free trial, or any other reasonable online incentive. I am sure that the person sending me this email did not expect to be the unwitting transmitter of a sales pitch message: no doubt he thought that he was building a relationship through forwarded content. By contrast, BetterHumans points out that Wikipedia, a collaboratively developed multilingual, collaboratively developed encyclopedia now has more than 160,000 English-language articles contributed for free distribution, one of numerous Open Content initiatives under way. Between these two radical extremes lies the future for most professional publishers, in a world where people acknowledge the value of building a wide range of relationships through content and sensible and progressive ways to recoup the market value of content when it serves both the supplier and the consumer. Asking people to establish a relationship that they don't want or need to get a relationship that they DO want and need is not a formula for long-term content marketing success.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

EU Court Adviser Challenges Dominant Copyright Owners
A preliminary ruling by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice appears to be setting the table for highly dominant copyright owners to be challenged if a competing company can find uses for a similar materials that produce "goods and services of different characteristics," according to WSJ Online [PREMIUM]. While the original challenger, NDCHealth Corp. has since moved on to develop materials distinct from a database originally created by IMS Health, the echoes of this decision, if passed by the full EU court, would certainly fall hard upon the ears of major content and software producers alike. Copyright protection continues to be an important competitive advantage, but in an era when the ability to copy and redistribute content at the user level is easier than ever and more premium content becomes controlled by fewer sources, professionals seem willing to challenge what copyright's real value has become at the institutional level.

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Microsoft Office 2003 DRM Hooks Lock Users Out of Alternatives
You can almost hear the lawyers breaking out their accordion files as CNET News reports via ZDNet and directly that the new Digital Rights Management capabilities of Office 2003 are designed to require a rights-tagged document to be only manipulable by the software that creates it. In other words, if you'd like to share your rights-secured Word document with someone equipped with a Palm PDA, StarOffice or Lindows, you're out of luck. Part of the dependency comes from Microsoft choosing a clunky design that requires a server running Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 operating system and Windows Rights Management Services software. Given the growing prevalence of untethered PDAs and peer-to-peer solutions, this seems to be an extremely narrow approach to rights management that's unlikely to set the web-oriented content world afire. Yet some publishers and content ecommerce enablers are languidly awaiting Microsoft's solution as an impending de facto solution to their institutional DRM issues. Microsoft is out to solve its own software sales problems first and foremost, leaving the real encompassing needs of professional and institutional publishers for rights management to be resolved via other methods.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Google Acquires Kaltix for Personalization Search Technology
As we weblogged back in August, Kaltix was a "coming soon" stage startup out of Stanford University that had some very promising content personalization technologies - so promising that Google, in its efforts to step up its search technology, has acquired it. As we noted in August, personalization technology without consensus-based capabilities such as Google offers are only half the solution to providing contextual content value. Looks like Google has solved that problem. The Register says that Kaltix may be on board to spice up Google's PageRank(tm) technology; Jeremy Zawodny speculates further in his weblog that Page Rank is getting long in the tooth and unable to adjust effectively to new sources such as weblogs and increasing expectations of advertising clients. Kaltix may bring capabilities to the table that allow a more personalized sense of popularity work its way into contextual search results, so that specific topics can be tuned to a community's interests more effectively. Whatever the rationale, Google is scrambling hard to eliminate smugness as public companies with more investor accountability begin to target them more effectively.