Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Buying and Selling eContent: Dynamic Duos of Collaboration with Aggregators and the Buy Side - and Publishers on the Sidelines

Aggregators are discovering more than ever the importance of working collaboratively with clients to solve in-context content issues, as exemplified by the conference's panel on close teamwork between the institutional buy side and sell side. Lucy Lettis, SVP and Director of Business Intelligence for Marsh USA, Inc. relayed how when she came to this leading risk and insurance services firm she threw a challenge to business information services specialist OneSource to roll out a business information solution tighly integrated into Marsh's internal portal. With glove-close design, implementation and training along with leveraging OneSource's key strengths - while not trying to replace the strengths of other suppliers such as Factiva - the result was a highly successful implementation. Key to the close cooperation what having OneSource providing data via detailed usage reports via registrant-based usage tracking. Susan Adinolfi, Director of Library Services at Merrill Lynch, presented a dual partnership with Alacra and LexisNexis. Alacra has worked extensively with Merrill to develop "Public Information Books" (PIBs), briefings on targeted companies that are pulled together from a wide range of content sources for various kinds of strategy-setting sessions by Susan's unit to support Merrill decision makers. Before Alacra's involvement, putting together such key documents could take the better part of a day for just one PIB, but Alacra pulls them together from LexisNexis and other sources into a single PDF-based document with just a few clicks, cutting the effort down to just a few minutes of effort by Susan's staff and incuding billback info so that content costs can be allocated appropriately to revenue and cost centers. Steve Goldstein, President and CEO of Alacra, gave a demo of this PIB-building capability that seemed to have impressed many.

Tracking usage info for publishers via these kinds of close aggregator relationships proved to be one of the key points at the conference. In the Q&A portion of this panel Andrea Broadbent, Director of Corporate Licensing for the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. raised the pivotal issue: would aggregators be willing to provide this usage information to the publishers who feed content to the aggregators? While there was a general nod in this direction from Andrew Hughes, Vice President for Content at OneSource and Elizabeth Rector, SVP for Enterprise and Library Markets at LexisNexis, the question was left largely unanswered by both these aggregators and others at the conference. The plus of these tight integration relationships is that aggregators provide a high level of value to their clients: the minus is that publishers are beginning to realize just how much more isolated they are from their ultimate users in these close relationships. As today's aggregators begin to look more and more like software integration houses, the stage is being set for publishers to reconsider their business relationships with aggregators and to seek the widest range of distribution channels that can ensure both premium content profits and a more intimate relationship with the people who value their publications.
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