Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Buying and Selling eContent: The Software/Content Convergence Creates Solid Successes

Patrick Spain, CEO of HighBeam Research, reflected at the beginning of a panel on the convergence of software and content on how five years ago the CEO of then-high-rider VerticalNet somehow managed to complete a speech at this same conference during which the dot-com bubble was bursting in real-time and leaving his company $1 billion poorer before the stock markets closed that day. How times change. Today's Web portals thrive on honing the edge of converging content, technology and human factors in an environment that's remarkably free of hype and long on profits for those firms that can do it extraordinarily well. Certainly Yahoo! is a lead dog in defining the model for online financial success, servicing over 2.1 billion searches a month into a collection of more than 4.6 billion online documents. Search is a key vContent convergence and Yahoo! has moved quickly with its YST (Yahoo! Search Technology) to close the gap with Google's capabilities via this Google-less search engine, along with desktop toolbar widgets and contextualized content for search results, including localized content, stock graphs, news and financials, and so on. Also key to Yahoo!'s evolving vContent strategy is the inclusion of RSS-based feeds into MyYahoo! pages, an attempt to encapsulate the trend towards personal aggregation within the portal framework. Will Holmes, Business Development Manager for Microsoft Corporation, focused on how Microsoft is trying to drive content value into the hands of the millions of individuals equipped with their desktop publishing tools, using XML as the underpinnings to integrate the estimated 80 percent of available content that resides on personal drives and files with professional offerings from Factiva, HighBeam, Gale and others via its Research Pane to make it easy to integrate this content with personal documents - usually within the confines of an existing enterprise subscription. HighBeam focuses on the ground between the Yahoo!s and MSNs of the world of content, providing a high level of one-stop convenience and usability for individual subscribers wanting to search for both Web-based content and premium aggregated content, - including its highly popular images library - along with desktop integration capabilities such as importing content into Microsoft Word and Powerpoint presentations.

The convergence of software and content gives more players more ways to sell to more individual and institutional markets for content than ever before. Presentation, packaging and relevance becomes increasingly targeted towards the needs of specific users in specific contexts rather than distribution containers and mechanisms, promising the greatest rewards to those who can repackage and repurpose content most efficiently in those contexts. In this environment it becomes less important as to who is the publisher and who is the tool provider than it is to be the one who doesn't care particularly about those distinctions on the road to providing the greatest possible value.
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