Friday, December 30, 2005

Million-Dollar Home Page: Thinking Small with Ad Aggregation Yields Big Profits and Click-Throughs

Reuters reports on the idle dream of a U.K. college student hard-pressed to come up with his tuition money that turned into big money overnight. His Million-Dollar Home Page sells ad space for $1 a pixel for advertisers wanting to put up a graphic with a link and some supporting text that pops up when you point your screen cursor over an item. Kind of a dumb idea? Maybe so, except for one thing - the page has almost completely sold out its inventory of a million ad display pixels and has attracted attention from potential investors. Even more significantly, the page is generating traffic for advertisers that is providing an excellent return on investment, attracting big-name advertisers along with smaller fry trying to get some sort of visibility in the limitless space of Web advertising. What's at play here is an old idea that has found new life in the Web community. Think of Million-Dollar Home Page like a microscopic Times Square of online ads, random signage that's attractive in its ability to entertain people by the sheer number of large and small interesting and novel sights in a crowd. There's something very fundamental about enjoying picking something interesting out from a busy landscape, I suppose.

Regardless of the metaphor that applies to this phenomenon it is interesting that this idea is proven out with such tiny pieces of variable Web real estate within a fixed block. Million-Dollar Home Page is proving this out in a very static model, but imagine what this could look like if it were combined with auctioned contextual advertising and social bookmarking topic heatmaps found on services such as del.icio.us. Ad values could soar per pixel of attractive screen real estate in the most valuable contexts and be tweaked from click to click depending on a given audience. The power of tiny advertising units is proven out already in a small way with VietmamNet, which provides tiny logo ads on the section headers of its navigation. It's a little like a ride in a Tokyo subway, where every tiny surface that the eye can appreciate gets used for ad space. In 2006 the key to big ad dollars online may be borne out in thinking about smaller increments of screen space that can be of use to advertisers and attractive to audiences.

Headlines for December 30 2005

When Answers (With Ads) Are Just a Phone Call Away
The New York Times*
Cash pours in for UK student with $million Web idea
Reuters
Online Advertising and Bubble 2.0
Corante
Online Ad Growth Accelerates, Outpacing Newspaper, TV Spending
Bloomberg News
Web delivers wonders with a side of spam
Chicago Tribune
The unified feed theory
UberGeeks
The Case Against Micropayments
OpenP2P.com
Staff at Chinese Newspaper Stage Walk-Out After Editor's Sacking
WSJ Online*
Guild Still Seeking Investors for Knight Ridder Purchase
Editor & Publisher
Autonomy Completes Acquisition of Verity, Inc.
PR Newswire
Sonic Foundry® introduces Mediasite™ EX Server software
InfoComm International

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Raising Newspaper Ad Rates: Fulfilling the Vision of EPIC 2015?

WSJ Online notes that in the face of free competitors such as Web portals, Craigslist and ad-supported street handouts many newspaper companies have decided to...raise their ad rates. While this would seem to defy some basic rules of economics regarding supply and demand, it's been a tactic that has at least stanched the blood of falling revenues in the short run. WSJ notes that Gannett Co.'s USA Today has been able to keep ad revenues at least flat through an 8 percent raise in rates as ad packages dropped 6 percent for the last six months, so at least the move has kept the cash flowing. But obviously the move is towards smaller audiences who prefer print delivery. At this rate newspapers may yet fulfill the dark view of the future found in the EPIC 2015 online multimedia essay: in EPIC 2015 (nee EPIC 2014) it's presumed that by 2014 The New York Times will fold and become a newsletter for the elderly and the elite.

But would that be such a bad thing? As noted in The New York Times itself, SoBe News, the developers of Ocean Drive magazine for the affluent South Beach community in Miami, Florida, is launching a magazine with a fixed circulation of 25,000 in February. The magazine will be distributed exclusively to current and prospective owners of condominiums developed by a Florida developer. The ability of print to appeal to upscale readers with time on their hands and coffee tables on which to put flashy status magazines is going to keep ad costs comfortably high for these types of niche publications for quite some time to come, especially when it's an elite few who can receive them at all. Much of the Times' print ad content is decidedly upscale already, as is its community-oriented content, so to some degree the Times is already on this path of catering to the carriage trade and drifting away from mass audiences.

The answer to the dilemma of what to do with print may be to push harder to make it a more exclusive medium, both through demographics and the quality of personalized services that can be made available in customized print delivery. As to what this may mean for the quality of news coverage is a debate for another day, but it's a trend that's progressing perhaps far more quickly than even EPIC 2015 is predicting. The sooner that news publishers can move away from status quo print publications the sooner that they'll find a solid bottom to falling circulation and through loyal and appreciative targeted audiences.

Amazon Adds Author Weblogs to Personal Pages to Build Relationship Value

While I am fond of using Amazon.com as much as the next person, I tend to view it much as I would any other store: find what you need, get out and do something else. Amazon is designed to make a content purchaser as smart as possible in as little time as possible; its pioneering pre-eminence in content ecommerce still leaves most outlets in the dust. I appreciate the Nordstrom's-like pampering I get on my visits via the contextual information that the site makes available such as reviews, looking inside the books and such, which help to enhance the purchasing experience, but at the end of the day it's still more of a storefront than a destination. So when The New York Times notes that Amazon is hosting weblogs of authors whose books are sold through their portal it's an interesting feature that brings the portal closer to being a destination site for people who want to hear from authors more directly.

As shown in the example page for the Amazon Connect weblogging program, content from authors can be read as a part of one's personal Amazon home page, including mentions of local appearances and reflections on other topics that can help to build a relationship with an author. While book publishers offer promotional opportunities for their authors via online content through their own portals, Amazon is the first to try to aggregate weblogs from book authors in an environment that encourages interaction with authors in such a well-integrated content ecommerce experience. It's an extension of existing marketing methods in some ways - authors travel regularly to libraries and other community settings to speak and to interact with readers - but weblogs have the ability to bring communities to the author in ways that can build into more different kinds of revenue streams. Expect to see more authors develop online content in 2006 that will draw new kinds of revenues beyond book royalties.

Headlines for 28 December 2005

Newspapers to Lift Ad Rates But Face Tough Game
WSJ Online*
A Chance to Meet the Author Online
The New York Times*
Googlers' take so far: $5 billion
Mercury News
It Was a Good Year for Behaviorally-Targeted Advertising
ClickZ News
User-Generated Content Is Online Content Publishers Most Promising Future
Robin Good
Wholesale Blog Plagiarism
Om Malik
Spam Plagues Blogs
Red Herring
'Product' versus 'music'
P2PNet
New Search Engine Navisso.com Launches Open Beta Program
PR Web
iCrossing(TM) Joins Mobile Marketing Association
PR Newswire

Monday, December 26, 2005

Headlines for 26 December 2005

Data Brokers Press for U.S. Law
LA Times
Yahoo Revamps Search Ad Plans
Red Herring
When News Breaks, Flashy Content Loses Out
The New York Times*
Media Executive Interview Series: David Levin, CEO, United Business Media
paidContent .org
China to Proceed With Case Against New York Times Researcher
WSJ Online*
China closes unregistered websites en masse before Christmas
Interfax China
How Google is changing medicine
BMJ Journals
Pundits Find Freedom, and Audiences Through Blogs
Editor & Publisher
Who Gets Intellectual Property Rights? Everyone

Information Week
Insider Editing at Wikipedia

The New York Times*
Intel is working on products to help people manage, store and protect computer files
East Valley Tribune
Prism Business Media acquires Boston Aviation Services
BtoB Online

News Analysis - Investing in Users: 2006 Forecast Preview

Content crystal ball-gazers, rejoice: the best is yet to come in 2006 as publishers and technology companies vie for the hearts of publishing-savvy users looking for personal and professional content. Shore sees investing in users for 2006 revolving around four trendy "Ps" shaping content today: packaging, platform, premium and personalization. Watch the cash flowing into these investment area quickly as both established and new players in publishing get very, very serious about who is going to be on top when realigning business models settle down. You'll need real-time tea leaves to keep up with the content deals in 2006, but fear not - we'll be with you every step of the way.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Friday, December 23, 2005

Shore Joins The Weblog Project Open Source Movie

While in Rome this October I had the good fortune of being interviewed by Robin Good for his open source movie The Weblog Project; my contribution was posted today. I was pretty tired by the time he rolled the camera but it was fun in any event and I am honored to be a part of this innovative work. I wished that I had mentioned how in some ways Rome is the birthplace of weblogs via the diurna journals from the age of the Roman Empire that slaves would compose and send back to their masters out in their countryside villas. Oh well, next time.

Here's our clip (Apple format) along with a transcript...

Here's the same on Nessuno.tv's site in Windows Media format, a little better contrast

Best Holiday Wishes from Shore Communications Inc.!

In this holiday season, we remind you to
reach for the stars...

for how will we ever get to the stars
unless we reach for them?

Our very best wishes
to you, your families and your colleagues
for a peaceful holiday season
and a New Year that brings
joy and dreams worth reaching for!

From all of us at
Shore Communications Inc.



Click here to view our online greeting card

Headlines for 23 December 2005

Microsoft settles with Google over executive hire
CNET News
New Twist: Guild Leads Effort To Buy 8 Knight Ridder Papers
Editor & Publisher
114 Magazine Industry Predictions for 2006
FOLIO: Magazine
Google Says Don't Worry, AOL Won't Change Us - But There's Wiggle Room
Search Engine Watch
Boston.com Registers 1 Million-plus Users; Toronto Star Drops Registration
paidContent.org
Wink At Powered People Search
Web Pro News
Paying for the Good Stuff
ClickZ News
GPO releases draft RFP for digital content system
GCN News
Welcome to the Future of the Web
MSNBC
Blog to Become Novel
The Blog Herald
Jason Calacanis: My Predictions for 2006
Calacanis.com
Comtex Wall Street CustomWire(SM) Selected by Llesiant
PR Newswire
McGraw-Hill Construction Partners with U.S. Department of
Labor to Create Career Magazines

PR Newswire via Yahoo! FInance
Navio Expands Executive Team

PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Proposed U.S. Broadband Legislation Poses Challenges to Content Providers

CNET News covers proposals for new U.S. legislation backed by major broadband Internet access providers to charge varying rates for varying types of traffic. This is a move which is meant to increase the ability of major ISPs to pave the way for more profits as video programming, IP telephony and other streaming media begin to gear up for Web delivery. While some of the proposed legislation (PDF) provides good basic regulatory reforms in light of the merging of telecommunications, television and Web marketplaces, it also sets the stage for ISPs trying to move from Internet access being a neutral commodity to a service that will have tiered pricing for different levels of access quality for content providers. Given the bandwidth-intensive requirements for streaming video and other content sources reliant on high bandwidth services there's perhaps more than a grain of sense to this proposal. But it also may wind up deterring the market penetration of these services as content providers find themselves having to wrestle with a new layer of commercial arrangements that may have to be onpassed to their audiences in one form or another more directly.

Given that multimedia services are an increasingly important element for premium content providers maintaining and accelerating their market penetration the need to deal with premium communications fees is likely to slow that penetration, and hence slow the development of services. This may be good for major ISPs intent on creating their own video and phone services, hence their push. It also may tend to put a drag on other types of publishers that find themselves having to pony up to have performance that's on a par with their competitors in an escalating ISP fee war. Publishers of all kinds would be wise to look at this potential legislation carefully and to consider how their own lobbying efforts may need to be accelerated to ensure that they are not going to find themselves grabbing the short end of the available bandwidth. While it's important to make sure that there's adequate funds for building out broadband facilities it's probably best to have those funds come from more intelligently scaled user access fees that allow them to choose the quality of overall performance that suits them best.

Headlines for 21 December 2005

Playing favorites on the Net?
CNET News
Take Your Cable Channels With You on the Road
The New York Times*
Online Video: Why 2006 Will Be The Year Of Video
Robin Good
America Online, Google Seal $1B Deal
AP via Orlando Sentinel
Google's Faithful Just Want to Believe
WSJ Online*
Is content king? v2.0
Corante
New storage standard proposed for connecting reference information with storage locations
TechWorld
Teen Pleads Guilty After Blog Confession
AP via CBS News
TTAB Citable Decision: "LAWYERS.COM" Generic for an Online Legal Database
The TTABlog
Podcast: Legal Battle Over The BlackBerry
Legal Talk Network
Plenty of Room for FactSet
The Motley Fool via MSNBC
McGraw-Hill Construction Creates E-Commerce Store With Analytic Forecasts and Trend Analysis
PR Newswire
Elsevier MDL Isentris Platform Selected by LEO Pharma to Enhance R&D Informatics and Workflow
CCN Matthews
Greek Academic Libraries Sign Agreement With Elsevier
PR Newswire
iVillage and MSN Renew Content Publication Agreement
PR Newswire
Books24x7 Reveals Research on Information Tools and Resources Used by Senior Executives
PR Newswire
WebCollage Granted Patent for Real-Time Product Information Content Syndication Technology
BusinessWire
Proposed New Interface to Bring Next-Generation Connectivity and DRM to PC Monitors and CE Devices
PR Newswire
Foreclosure.com Adds Fresh Content That Helps Subscribers Make Smart Property Purchase Decisions
PR Newswire

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Web 2.0 Backlash? Content 2.X is in Control

There was a great collection of headlines on paidContent.org highlighting some of the mounting skepticism surrounding the Web 2.0 movement. In summary the inability of Web 2.0 protagonists to define the boundaries of this buzzword sometimes makes it difficult for it to mean something that can really translate into a serious discussion, much less a business plan. Even Richard MacManus, one of the people initiating the use of this concept, has pulled the plug on Web 2.0, saying that he plans to be "focusing on more media-related web technology." We pulled the plug on Web 2.0 in October, of course, arguing that Web 2.0 was the tail of the content dog that's wagging easily deployed publishing technologies in more venues than ever before. At the time we said "Content 2.X is the technology business evolving along with the publishing business into a common content business in partnership with their audiences." We're still on target, as far as I can see. There is a lot of great creative thinking revolving and evolving around the easily deployed technologies that are at the center of Web 2.0, but the real opportunity is in creating monetizable content value, not infrastructure. This is something that publishers and media companies are getting better at day by day as they learn how to focus on user needs in a plethora of new contexts. Web 2.0 is dead: long live Content 2.x!

Test Drive: Google Homepage API Boosts Content "Widgets" War

What's a "widget"? It's a digital module of computer program code and content that acts like an independent object within a given set of technologies. When the technologies of choice for widgets are based on the popular open standards for HTML, XML and JavaScript then it becomes easy to build popular widgets that can deliver sophisticated content services in standard Web browser environments without a lot of other technology getting in the way. This pretty much describes the widgets available through the new Google Homepage API, a new toolkit that allows anyone to develop interactive content that can be embedded on a user's personalized Google homepage. Yahoo also has a JavaScript-based Widget application, but unlike Google's it is a kit that allows very slickly designed graphic tools to be integrated into a desktop via a software download: they're not browser-based and therefore separate from a user's MyYahoo home page.

While Yahoo gets the nod in terms of the visual sophistication of their tools and the breadth of widgets already built, Google is much closer in its browser-based approach to bringing useful content-serving applications into the environment in which most people consume content. This makes it far more likely that the Google approach will yield valuable content-oriented widgets. The widgets available through the Google Homepage API also benefit from the easy-to-use Google Homepage itself, in which headlines and other sources can be rearranged easily on the page with drag-and-drop clicks of a mouse. By comparison the MyYahoo home page requires more awkward rearrangement of page elements.

This all adds up to a very prominent message to content producers that the aggregation of content is beginning to take on new dynamics via the development of widgets. Instead of trying to bring users to portals of a publisher's design publishers need to recognize that more and more content is being consumed in other portal environments, including the intranet portals of businesses and institutions. Via tools such as Google's widgets it becomes possible to maintain a personalized relationship with a user via a portal-embedded content delivery tool, enabling both information and technology services to be combined easily in an environment that users are drawn to on a regular basis.

Unlike widgets developed for enterprise portals, though, the Google API opens up the possibility of widgets that do not require any institutional infrastructure: widgets can begin to have a life of their own, becoming digital content objects in and of themselves. There will be the usual little tools, toys and mashups developed for the Google Homepage API, but content providers would do themselves a favor by looking at this environment carefully and considering how they can create highly functional digital outposts on a major portal that can integrate in with a user's other favorite content and work tools. At the same time portal software developers would do themselves a favor by considering how easily imported widgets can allow users to assemble content-enabled digital objects in any environment a user desires. These are simple beginnings for online widgets, but harbingers of a major trend in content development.

Headlines for 20 December 2005

Reuters video to get mass distribution
CNET News
AOL Coaxes Google to Try Busier Ads
The New York Times*
AOL deal risks Google's "objective" reputation
Information World
Who Will Buy ‘Verified’ Circ?
FOLIO: Magazine
MemeWatch: No Web 2.0
paidContent.org
New Year's Resolutions for the Newspaper Industry
Editor & Publisher
Google Offers a Bird's-Eye View, and Some Governments Tremble
The New York Times*
Yahoo! Answers Relies on the Kindness—and Knowledgeability—of Users
Information Today
Content, Targeting & Advertising: How behavioral targeting boosts the value of content
iMedia Connection
GSA: Metadata not essential for search
GCN News
IBM's UIMA Goes From Search To Concept
Web Pro News
Earning trust on the Web
Seattle Times
UK Universities on ScienceDirect database
Buziaulane
Elsevier Acts to Safeguard E-Journals
PR Newswire
Brainshark Express Brings On-Demand Rich Media to Small Businesses and Professionals
BusinessWire via TMCNet
Sonic Foundry Addresses Growing Volume of Rich Media Across the Enterprise With Mediasite EX Server
PR Newswire
Noetix Wins GSA Approval for Its Award-Winning Business Intelligence Systems
BusinessWire
TechTarget partners with Italian publisher to launch TechTarget Italy
BtoB Online

Monday, December 19, 2005

Headlines for 19 December 2005

AOL's Choice of Google Leaves Microsoft as the Outsider
The New York Times*
Wikipedia Tops Information Sites
Media Connection
Wikipedia alternative aims to be 'PBS of the Web'
CNET News
Wikipedia planning stable version
iol
Wikipedia's Woes
WSJ Online*
Web 2.0 mania revives dot-com investing
Seattle Times
Facebook Profiles May be Monitored
The Harvard Crmson
A better way to count clicks?
CNET News
Deciphering Google
ClickZ News
NYC Worriers hitch ride on the Net Flood Craigslist with pleas
Daily News
New video craze hits the internet
NineMSN
Yahoo! and MMA offer measurement service
BtoB Online
TheStreet.com Selects ContextWeb to Enhance Revenue Generation and Customer Satisfaction
BusinessWire
Study on Chinese Authorship Reveals Increase in International Collaboration Amongst Scientists
PR Newswire
IJIS Institute Has Deployed Blogs, Cited by BusinessWeek as Web Smart
GovTech
Elsevier and NESLi2 Conclude Major New Agreement to Provide Online Science Journals
CNW Group
Elsevier MDL Collaborates with NIH to Contribute Structures from xPharm(R) Database to PubChem
CNW Group
Qpass Launches the Qpass Media and Application Provider (Q-MAP) Program
BusinessWire via Yahoo! Finance
blinkx Unveils 'blinkx.tv To Go' With Free, Customizable Video Content for Your iPod or Portable Video Player
PR Newswire
infoUSA to License Directory Assistance Content for Online Yellow Pages and Mobile Devices
LBS Zone

Saturday, December 17, 2005

From Trash to Treasure

Maybe it's just me, but surfing the Web lately has become an increasingly frustrating experience. Without question, the major search engines have made tremendous strides in expanding the scope of their coverage, increasing the frequency of their updates, and most importantly of all, discerning the relevancy of search results. This is all for the good. Yet at the same time, an equal if not greater amount of intellectual energy and creativity has been expended on getting between users and their search results in the name of commerce. And the cumulative impact of all these tricks and games is beginning to counteract some of the true advances in search.

I first noticed this with paid search links. Every so often, I'd be searching on something incredibly obscure, and my search results would contain a paid ad from eBay claiming the item was for sale on its site. "Not darn likely," I thought, and after some searching on eBay, I determined I was correct. eBay wants me to visit its site so badly it's willing to misrepresent itself to maximize traffic. I am seeing a number of retailers doing this as well. Type in a search for Brand A, and you'll see lots of links to retailers claiming to sell that brand. Click on the link, and you'll find they sell only the competitor to Brand A. Clever online marketing? No, because the retailer has angered me by wasting my time. Good for search engines? No, because these experiences teach me to discount and distrust paid links.

You've probably also noticed the growth in pseudo-directories; sites that you land on by accident (or, increasingly, by misrepresentation) that contain endless lists of paid links, or search features that produce only lists of paid links as results. A close cousin of these sites are the notorious "link farms," sites created to make other sites look more popular and thus raise their ranking in search results. There are also a growing number of links that re-direct you from content you want to see to content a merchandiser wants you to see.

Is this a problem? I think it is, because it reduces the ability of the search engines to deliver a fast and dependable result. Also, keep in mind that I am just discussing navigational sleight of hand. This doesn't even begin to address the growing issue of content accuracy and trustworthiness.

The more I think about all these issues, the more I see a strong future for some form of vertical search. Interestingly, vertical search to date has focused on presenting users with highly focused content, which has value. That's all well and good, but the more I use the general search engines, the more I think that the real value of vertical search will be not only that it provides focused content, but that at the same time it is also providing filtered content, creating treasure by taking out the trash.

News Analysis - New Tunes: User-Generated Media Creates New Models for Quality and Cooperation

As surely as the birth of jazz music was shunned by many classically trained musicians the rise of user-generated media has gained the scorn of many professional content producers. But when you're using pretty much the same tools as any professional producers in a medium that reaches the world as easily as any one the differing qualities of user-publishers should not be discounted too quickly. User-generated media from individuals and institutions is more than just a fad - it's the major publishing trend of our times that has informed and modified how we approach professional publishing forever.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Friday, December 16, 2005

Amazon's Alexa Opens Web Content to Do-It-Yourself Aggregation

With the ability to mash together content and technology from all sorts of sources into newly useful combinations gaining prominence the launch of Alexa Web Crawl this week(ClickZ News) makes it that much easier for innovative thinkers to create content aggregation services by using the Alexa cache of 4 billion Web pages and its search service to identify and publish content that's of key interest to specific audiences. Amazon's Alexa service will even provide hosting for your application if you're so inclined. It's a far more aggressive repurposing of content caching than even Google's promotion of its APIs for useful mashups - and one that probably opens at least as many questions regarding the repurposing of copyrighted content for potential commercial use. When all the world's a database the power tends to flow to those who can repurpose that global database most effectively - placing ever more pressure on publishers to package their content for maximum value in era of open content repurposing.

It also calls into question just how much longer search engine crawlers are going to be welcomed universally into the sites of content owners trying to attract audiences of their own. With Alexa's hooks into statistical ranking of Web sites the likelihood of Alexa being rated "crawler spam" is relatively low for now. In fact, such a product may help to alleviate the burden of crawlers over time if Alexa's caching can provide more effective information with fewer complications than direct crawling. But in The New Aggregation, an environment in which owning databases and distribution is less important than owning the context of content usage, publishers are going to have to adopt their product packaging and marketing for obtaining maximum value in far-flung contexts that are often many times removed from their point of origin.

Alexa Web Crawl is at the very early stages of its development but it augurs the development of more value from search-based applications that are removed from the search engines themselves. Welcome to the era of search publishing, where crawling content is just the first stage in developing valuable tailored online publications for focused audiences.

Google Grabs Garland in Grapple for AOL Partnership

Washington Post reports on Google's $1 billion-dollar victory in the contest for AOL's quest for an online ad and technology partner, a coup that had pitted Google against Microsoft and Yahoo. Of the options available to AOL it was clearly the best match and a great match for Google as well. In Microsoft AOL would have had a search partner with unproven ability to deliver sizeable audiences across the consumer spectrum and one with its own portal ambitions via MSN. Yahoo would have provided a much more media-savvy partner with a strong advertising product and strong user-generated media capabilities - perhaps too strong for a company that is already well down the road with integrating user-generated media and video into its own portal capabilities. And although Yahoo's search capabilities have strengthened considerably in the past year they have failed to make much of a dent in its stagnant market penetration.

In Google AOL gains the industry's leading source of online contextual ads, the strongest and fastest growing search presence, the most innovative approaches to user-oriented content aggregation via leading technologies and little direct competition to its established base of in-house and licensed content. AOL specializes in creating online communities and in listening carefully to its user base. Google is rather awkward when it comes to dealing with the human element of content but has the vision to create brilliant technologies that will bring users closer to the content that they want. The cultures are about as far apart as one could imagine - rather the opposite problems of the AOL/Time Warner merger - but with a mere 1 percent stake in AOL the pressures to combine the uncombinable are not likely to be great for some time to come. Add in Google's recent launch of XML-based modules for adding applications, mashups and other content to Google Homepages (CNET News) and you're looking at an extremely powerful base of content technology capabilities that can boost this potent combination of media giants into new levels of exposure and profitability.

The wild card in all of this is the power of user-generated media as a draw for large-scale content sites: Yahoo has been very aggressive in its recent acquisitions and partnering moves for social networks and content, moves that may not pan out in the short term for profits but that hold great long-term promise. Google's popular Blogger.com lags in functionality in comparison to other leading providers but has a strong market share, while its Orkut.com social networking portal has good traffic but little mindshare and lagging functionality as well. Yahoo may luck out with its user-generated media moves and create a more fun place to visit than the combination of AOL and Google can manage. But the key for 2006 will be who can draw the most ad dollars as quickly as possible; from this perspective the combination of mature and growing Google and AOL capabilities could be ringing in the most profitable combination of all of the majors.

Headlines for 16 December 2005

Google Buying Stake in AOL for $1 Billion
Washington Post
Internet encyclopaedias go head to head
Nature
The Wikipedia War
MIT Technology Review
Google, Microsoft To Fund New Internet Lab
NewsFactor Magazine
Six Apart and Yahoo! to Provide Blogging Solution
ecommerce guide.com
Start-up merges cell phone and PC into a handheld
CNET News
Postcards From India: Day One: The Broadband Pipes, Literally
paidContent.org
Copyright Clampdown Coming To Europe: The EUCD Is Here
Robin Good
Fortune 100 firms' websites leaking sensitive data
SC Magazine
VAS pie grows but content providers languish
The Financial Express
Redefining freelancing with entrepreneurial Web journalism
USC Annenberg OJR
The rise of search . . . and the decline in journalism
ZDNet
Scripps Networks launch broadband network
AP via Boston.com
Thomson launches data intraday snapshot service for funds
Banking Technology
FAST and NEON Systems Partner to Bring Enterprise Search to
Mainframe Data

BusinessWire
The Scripps Research Institute Adopts MDL Informatics Applications to Support NIH Research
CCN Matthews
HowStuffWorks Secures Capital from Carl Icahn, Partners With Publications International, Ltd. (PIL)
PR Newswire
Elsevier Society News Group to Publish Caring for the Ages Newspaper for American Medical Directors Assn.
PharmaLive
ActiveShopper.com Introduces Two RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feeds
PR Newswire

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Headlines for 15 December 2005

Google Music whistles a new tune
CNET News
AOL Choice Will Affect Ad Market on the Web
The New York Times*
Google home pages get even more personal
CNET News
Wikipedia Tops Information Sites
iMedia Connection
Compound Feeds, Microcontent, and the Future of Syndication
PubSub Sandbox
VNU confirms sale talks, updates financial outlook
BtoB Online
Los Angeles Times Is Ending Its National Edition Next Week, Cites Heavy Online Readership
Editor & Publisher
CIO Council committee, GPO discuss XML template
GCN News
A "Structured" Blogging Skeleton Emerges
Publish
‘Milblogs’ vie for top spot
Marine Corps Times
Social-Bookmarking: A Delicious New Web Idea
Forbes
Integrated Visual Desktop Environments: Why Goowy Is Better Than Glide
Robin Good
Reed targets China for expansion
Guardian
Special Interest Publications Company Infomedia Announces 49:51 JV With Reed Business
ContentSutra
First Call to Begin Offering Side-by-Side EPS Estimates
NewRatings
Dow Jones Newswires Adopts Industry Classification Benchmark
PrimeZone
Serence and Click&Buy Combine RSS Feeds and ePayment Platform for the Desktop
PR Newswire
Business.com Reaches More Purchasing Decision-Makers; Increasing Reach to Corporate Influencers
eMediaWire
RR Donnelley Acquires Critical Mail Continuity Services Limited to Expand Business Process Outsourcing
PR Newswire
About.com Introduces 5 New 'Guide Sites' to Offer Practical Information on Topics from Moving to Music
BusinessWire
LexisNexis CourtLink Offers Statewide Online Access in Colorado for Attorneys
BusinessWire

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Headlines for 14 December 2005

Media Companies: Not So Boffo in 2006
BusinessWeek
Media Companies Slim Down in 2005
AP via Yahoo! News
BIS emerges as Dialog goes Scientific
Information World
Time Inc. Cuts 105, Restructures Management
FOLIO: Magazine
Goldman Sachs Thinks More Job Cuts on the Way
Editor & Publisher
GoFish Nets Deal With Tribune
Web Pro News
Structured Blogging: Untangling the Web
Structured Blogging
Podcast Hijacking Is Here: What To Do, How To Avoid It
Robin Good
Search Engine Offers Restricted Content From Publishers
DM News
Battling the 'bots? Try bringing out the big guns
USC Annenberg OJR
MTV Urge: A Departure For Microsoft; Basis For Next Version Of Windows Media Player
paidContent.org
Technorati Explore & Feedburner FeedFlare : Blog News
Search Engine Journal
Google's Alan Davidson on Areas of Special Concern
Urs Gasser
Experian Acquires PriceGrabber.com
PR Newswire
iCopyright Launches Expanded Suite of Instant Licensing Services for Information Publishers
PR Newswire
Morningstar, Inc. to Acquire Ibbotson Associates
PR Newswire
EBSCO Focuses Search Efforts Around Endeca
BusinessWire via Yahoo! Finance
Announcing New Release of DocuLex Desktop Search, with the dtSearch(R) Terabyte Indexer
PR Newswire
Quova Powers Targeted Online Advertising, Content Localization with Quova Marketing
PR Newswire
BusinessWeek Online Selects blinkx for 'Best of the New Web'
PR Newswire

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Morningstar Picks up Ibbotson for Asset Allocation Expertise

While the image of the online investor has tended to center around macho tools to help daily traders of securities and aggressive fund-pickers, the truth of the matter is that most of today's investors are oriented towards keeping long-term nest eggs in good shape through well-reasoned asset allocation management. So the announcement of Morningstar's acquisition of the privately held asset allocation services of Ibbotson Associates for $83 million in cash seems like a very well timed deal to bolster Morningstar's already powerful online presence for individual and professional investors. Ibbotson's provides investment consulting for asset allocation and fund research as well as and investment management capabilities to institutions that will complement Morningstar's professional products and services. According to the announcement this acquisition will make Morningstar one of the largest independent providers of managed retirement accounts in the industry, making for easier decisions in the workplace for 401(k) plans and other investment vehicles that are the most frequent points of investment management for most individuals.

Morningstar's acquisition of Ibbotson positions them more powerfully as a full-service provider to retail investment advisors and managers. It's a move that meets consumers at their real point of need for goal-oriented long-term investing rather than stopping where traditional financial trading and investment management content and technologies leave people short of those goals. But it's also indicative of a broader trend of content providers building execution value through enhanced services that meet the multi-faceted needs of their audiences. This helps to diversify revenue streams away from the traditional sources found in advertisements, subscriptions and events. Maximizing the ability to execute transactions via the context of a content service is the key to content offerings in most any environment where a high involvement with content leads to sales of products and services. It's as important for content providers to understand what people want to buy and how they want to buy it as it is for their advertisers and channel partners, so that they can add as much value as possible to the execution of a transaction with a user.

HarperCollins - Gulp! - Invests in Book Scanning for Web Access

Reuters reports on plans by HarperCollins to start scanning its inventory of 20,000 book titles into digital form so that Web search engines can index them for online audiences. There are no immediate plans as to how HarperCollins plans to monetize books via this effort, but clearly book publishers are beginning to realize that new market channel strategies are going to be required if they are to maximize profits from online access and sales moving forward. HarperCollins chief executive Jane Friedman told Reuters "This is going to be a costly initiative," likely in the millions. Heavens. Actual investment in new business models. Friedman is quite right that book publishers have to take better control of their own inventory and stop treating online marketing as something best left to others with well-established online retail capabilities.

Channel partners such as Amazon, Google and the Open Content Alliance are certainly good "clicks" equivalents to the "bricks" retailers that have serviced the book publishing industry for centuries, but the value of all online content revolves increasingly around the communities that have interest in it. Publishers of all kinds are beginning to realize that leaving that community-building entirely to search engines and content portals disintermediates them from both revenues and relationship -building capabilities. Book publishers are not very far along on this path, but as the tenor of their attitude towards online search engines and portals shifts from crying foul and conservative aggregation plays to staking out a claim of their own using books as premium destination content they are far more likely to develop their own highly profitable online presences. This may result in business models new to book publishers in some instances while in other instances it may mean breathing new life into very old models such as serialization via ad-supported distribution. Whatever the outcomes may be it all starts with committing your inventory to having its own independent online presence. Here's to HarperCollins succeeding in establishing a strong new presence online where books can thrive in new and exciting ways.

Headlines for 13 December 2005

Yahoo Works to Keep Answers Clean
eWeek
Reed Elsevier contemplating share buyback, acquisitions - report
Forbes
Google Added to Nasdaq 100
TheStreet.com
Amazon Revs Its Search Engine
WSJ Online*
HarperCollins to create searchable digital warehouse of books
Reuters
Print vs. Online Battle at 'Wash Post' with Froomkin in Middle
Editor & Publisher
Old idea, new media: Newspapers embrace the content business
Toronto Star
Memories Well Up as Reporters' Boot Camp Nears End
The New York Times*
Free Watson helps consumers find what they weren't seeking
Orlando Sentinel
USA TODAY Combines Online and Print Newsrooms
PR Newswire
Thomson Financial Launches Intraday Snapshot Service In
Europe

WebWire
Elsevier MDL Introduces MDL(R) Notebook
CCN Matthews
Elsevier Collaborates With MIT Researchers to Increase
Access to Scientific Web in Developing World

PR Newswire
Reuters Selects FeedBurner to Deliver Global News and Advertising to RSS Subscribers
MarketWire
Biz360 and Feedster Partner to Measure Buzz, Surface Threats and Opportunities in Blogosphere
PR Newswire
Owen Media Launches Its Online Content Channel with ECNext
PR Web via Yahoo! News
Wolters Kluwer nv to Propose to the Shareholders Meeting the Abolishment of Depositary Receipts
MarketWire

Silicon Valley Conversations: The Googleverse

During the last week, a group of panelists joined in discussing different aspects of the Google story, focusing on its accomplishments and ambitions, with the full commentary at SiliconValley.com. Each of us brought our own perspective, so I am sharing this with our readers:

"While much of this conversation has focused on Google as a company, I look at Google through the eyes of a researcher trying to find answers. Google changed the market for online information by making the world of HTML content more easily accessible and enabling mashups such as maps and addresses, which were difficult to do in a different technical environment. But there's a universe of information that's not accessible, premium content, and the content in databases as well...as Gary Price documents so very well at www.ResourceShelf.com . Then go over and look at http://www.docuticker.com/ see the variety of reports being generated by our tax money and non-profit organizations.

I see two challenges finding this content in Google, and reasons to move to other resources. The first is that general search engine technology is still in its infancy for retrieving relevant information. (Vertical search works very well for this problem!) Books and reports don't have PageRank, but are authoritative sources. There are some brilliant minds working on this aspect of retrieval, so this area should improve. It's startling how different the search results can be in different search engines.

The second challenge is much more intractable, and that is rights management which has always been messy (even worse than water rights), and has become more so in the digital age. Steve Arnold has mentioned that legal issues could have a significant impact on Google. I have to second that....the engineering mentality and brashness of youth doesn't recognize that content producers own their intellectual property and have the right to determine usage. Granting permission is a fundamental aspect of content management, and Google has to grow up to understand the implications of that. They could find themselves with Microsoft sized legal bills, and court mandated changes to their business.........."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Yahoo Delves Deeper into User-Generated Media with del.icio.us Acquisition

Reuters reports along with other majors the acquisition of social bookmarking service del.icio.us by Yahoo, yet another move by the online portal giant into user-generated media. Del.icio.us traffic has been soaring over the past month according to Alexa stats, presumably in association with the takeover, and has shown steady traffic growth throughout the year. While boasting 300,000 registrants the deal is less about raw traffic than about building on the "go to" buzz that has grown around the social bookmarking service, which provides a common repository of links to pages that interest its users. Combined with its recent launch of Yahoo Answers and its earlier acquisition of social photo sharing site Flikr, Yahoo is shoving a big stake in the ground to become a leading destination site for user-generated media.

The ultimate value of user-generated media in and of itself may be debatable in some ways - del.icio.us is usually awash in trivial bookmarks that are as much about self-promotion as genuine content sharing - but in many ways its the LACK of "quality" that gives a service such as del.icio.us its true quality. Del.icio.us acts as a real-time barometer of people's online habits, providing raw ratings of what's of interest to people on the Web that would be otherwise very difficult to obtain. The ease of bookmarking pages with del.icio.us makes it a simple "voting" mechanism" that distinguishes pages of content that were visited from content that people are willing to recommend to others. That's herd mentality, to be sure, but as the herd defines for itself what's interesting it creates instantaneous trend tracking and packaging that most traditional mass-media publications could only dream about.

While search engines are going to remain a solid point of reference for problem-solving content retrieval, social bookmarking is just beginning to come into its own as a service that can help browsers to get a sense of what's the most important current content in a given subject area. The "micro-trends" identified in social bookmarks will help to create finely tuned marketing opportunities in much the same way that stock tickers identify windows of opportunity for securities trades as a day unfolds. Bear in mind also that it's not always the latest and greatest content that will be identified via a social bookmarking service: sometimes items in "the long tail" of content not in the media spotlight are rediscovered by people and re-exposed via a social bookmarking service, creating a complex heat map of interests that will require more sophisticated marketing techniques to exploit. Yahoo seems to be winning the battle of getting to the pulse of users via user-generated media, but it will be a long war with many new developments to come in 2006.

Headlines for 12 December 2005

Yahoo acquires shared bookmark site Del.icio.us
Reuters
AOL Co-Founder Calls for Split of Time Warner
The New York Times *
DLJ Pulls Advanstar Off Block
FOLIO: Magazine
Battelle: Mags Must Adapt to Web
MediaWeek
Microsoft May Give Consumers A Share in Advertising Revenue
WSJ Online*
Google Book Search: Not So Easy to Find the Library Link
Library Journal
New Media Predictions 2006: What Will The Web Future Bring?
Robin Good
Potential bidders emerge for KR
SiliconValley.com
More Wikipedia Inaccuracy: False information posted by volunteer gets Wales in more trouble
Official Wire
Wiki hoax post author apologises
P2PNet
The super DRM architecture of the future
Heise Online
Google Unveils Public Transit Mapping Service
InternetWeek
Knowledge Management for Libraries and Archives get an Eloquent New Look
PR Web

Friday, December 9, 2005

Skype Hooks Into UK Local Directory Listings via Thomson Directories

NetImperative picks up on the Skype Internet telephony service's integration of local business listings from Thomson Directories. Business Listings will appear at the top of the page and a list of businesses will appear down the left hand side which are then geographically displayed on a map. The listings enable one-click voice calling to a merchant via Skype's network by clicking on the provided business. With a proliferation of interest in pay-per-call this year what better place to get PPC integrated than the phone itself? The telephone is not just a communications device but an instrument that people reach for to solve problems. Let us not forget that the first words spoken via a telephone were "Watson, come here, I need you." Thinking of Yahoo's interest in integrating telephony into their offerings and their recent launch of Yahoo Answers, it will be interesting to see when the day will come when instead of picking up a mouse to get our online questions answered we will instead simply speak into our online headsets and find ourselves connected to the person who has the answer to our needs. A day perhaps closer than we may think, given the rapid integration of voice and directory services with online portals.

RSS Feeds Come Home to Wall Street via StreetIQ.com

RSS feeds used to syndicate weblogs and other simple XML-formatted content have made it possible for people from all walks of life to be content distributors, something that used to be reserved for news organizations, stock markets and the like. So it's kind of interesting that StreetIQ.com is partnering with FeedBurner to provide financial quote data in a standardized XML format via FeedBurner's platform. FeedBurner will be using FinancialContent's RSS format for financial data to provide standard metadata such as ticker symbols and market categorizations. This kind of extension allows market commentary via text and podcasts to be pulled into applications that can place related content contextually around the feed's output. The unsung virtue of RSS and related simple XML-based syndication tools is the ability to insert more sophisticated XML packaging with a general XML wrapper. If the receiving application does not have mapping for these elements they're ignored, allowing simple transmission of content for those who need it and sophisticated transmissions for those who do - all without any changes to coding on the receiver's end.

With a proliferation of highly sophisticated content channels in professional financial circles RSS is in some ways a forgotten stepchild at this point by hard-core traders, but as StreetContent.com illustrates RSS can allow a proliferation of far more sophisticated financial content on an opt-in subscription basis than may have otherwise been the case. Financial institutions looking to hold down costs may want to consider other extensions of RSS that could allow for the simple establishment of information streams to prospective institutional buyers and sellers. The idea of transmitting sophisticated XML-packaged objects with a wide variety of content and transaction elements embedded in them is just beginning to come into its own and can be expected to accelerate as institutions seek to develop new ways to have execution capabilities built into every communication with the marketplace. RSS may not be the right vehicle for many of these communications, but it may turn out to be an interesting staging ground for institutions who need to re-invigorate one-to-one relationships with trading partners who are already embracing RSS feeds with enthusiasm.

Yahoo Answers Serves Up User-Generated Expertise

Red Herring notes along with others the debut of Yahoo Answers, a Beta site that leverages user expertise rather than professional researchers to answer questions on a wide variety of questions. As RH points out this is a play for user-generated content, and a very interesting one at that. Online group discussions in list servers, bulletin boards and other community-oriented content services are oftentimes the venue for questions posed to a group of user-experts, but in those venues questions from amateurs are oftentimes ignored or serviced by a relatively narrow group. Yahoo Answers turns this formula on its head and focuses on the questions as the bait for any one to answer. As seen in the service already there is no lack of questions in the world. From "What is the phone number for WQUI 95.9 in Detroit?" to "How did Johnny Cash get the scar on his face?" to "How to analyze literary texts and short stories?Could you give some tips for analyzing and examples?"

Yahoo Answers has plenty of questions, though not that many answers yet - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I think the most fascinating thing about this new service is the way that it treats questions as content in and of themselves, content that can be matched to advertisements pointing to goods and services that can answer a question, to be sure, but much more than that as well. Questions content can give an extremely valuable map into what people are really trying to answer in their queries that doesn't come out in typical search engine queries, where users are used to limiting the scope of their wording to meet the capabilities in search engines. This is enormously valuable market research in and of itself: instead of asking people questions to learn about their needs and attitudes, learn about those same things by the questions that are most important for them to answer, with the semantic details needed for finer analysis in perfect context.

As a service Yahoo Answers on day one is obviously well-designed in many aspects to be highly usable (though the search box placed in the lower-left part of the screen is awkward and the searches crude - doesn't handle plurals) and already has attracted a community of users who likes to answer questions on a wide variety of topics. Yahoo does the human side of things very well in their services. But one assumes that more than just a community is going to be needed to fill in the gaps of people who have immediate needs to be addressed. People are willing to wait for the answer to "What is the meaning of life?" but they may not be so patient for "How do I stop the bleeding?" With that in mind the other likely follow-up is that Yahoo will probably use this service as test input for the semantic processing of questions in general, so that more reference-oriented content can be integrated into the service one it's clear that it will service those questions effectively. Looking further down the road we may be looking at is phase one of development work on a natural language query interface that may someday become the primary interface for searches via Yahoo. It looks like simple questions may lead to some very sophisticated answers.

Headlines for 9 December 2005

Yahoo Has New Answers
Red Herring
Media Week: Parsons: Really. AOL Is Not For Sale; Creative Answer Needed For A La Carte
paidContent.org
Who Will Buy 'Verified' Circ?
FOLIO: Magazine
NYTimes To Relaunch The About.com Network
Web Pro News
Get it together: Blog collectives seek to draw ads
USC Annenberg
Michigan Library Consortium Endorses Google Book Search
Library Journal
Will mobile web make fast progress?
IT Week via VNUNet
War of the Worlds: Hollywood Opts Out of the 'Google Economy'
i2 Partners
Google gets Microsoft treatment on book search efforts
NewsForge
Wikipedia's open-source label conundrum
CNET News
Hell Freezes Over: Wal-Mart Launches Massive Newspaper Ad Push
Editor & Publisher
Times Co. Names Research Executive
The New York Times*
LawyerFinder.com Announces Legal News, Verdicts and
Articles Publication Service

PR Web
Gmail gains 'Web clips' feature
Digit
Nasdaq's Instinet acquisition complete
Reuters
Reuters Shareholders to Receive USD1.1 Billion from Instinet Sale
BusinessWire
Skype partners Thomson for local search
NetImperative
Wolters Kluwer ratings outlook cut to negative; ratings reaffirmed - Moody's

Forbes
An Analysis of Customer Usage and Adoption Levels of the Mobile Market in India

BusinessWire