Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Solution to Selling Premium Content When Trend is Toward Open Free Access

This week the big news in the B2B segment was Dow Jones' bid to acquire MarketWatch. The online version of Dow Jones' pre-eminent publication, The Wall Street Journal, has been held up frequently as the exemplar of how the paid subscription model can work for certain established brands in the online news market. Now, Dow Jones appears to be acquiescing to the open access, ad-supported model to gain wider exposure and greater advertising dollars.

In the STM realm, publishers are faced with a similar trend toward open access for research articles that have historically been packaged into print journals for distribution. However, the response to the trend toward free access to previously premium content has been quite different in the STM environment. STM publishers like Reed Elsevier and Thomson are positioning themselves as providers of "solutions" to their constituent user groups in order to extract a premium. [Note, there is still an option for the open access content to be provided on an ad-supported basis.]

This week, Thomson Scientific announced Thomson Pharma, its new platform for accessing "premium patent, scientific, and financial content drawn from across the full range of Thomson-owned businesses". In its factsheet, Thomson Pharma is broadly described in three core elements:
Developing the complete pharmaceutical solution
Fuelling all stages of the drug development pipeline
Providing key functionality.

Overall, Thomson Pharma appears to be not much more than a collection of content with a specialized interface, but it is a step toward providing users with a "solution" that utilizes content to provide its answers--rather than a disconnected collection of content waiting to be sought out. Recent moves by Reed Elsevier also provide evidence of other STM publishing heavyweights' moving toward providing their content as part of an integrated package. Just last week, Reed Elsevier Ventures was the lead investor in a round of financing for Inpharmatica, a company that provides a drug discovery platform.

Professional publishing has always required knowledge of the target audience's business needs and applications. Now, more than ever, publishers of premium content need to move even closer to their ultimate users in order to provide services and solutions that merit premium prices.
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