Thursday, March 31, 2005

LexisNexis TotalSearch 3.0 Makes Clients' Own Legal Content as Accessible as Its Own

I had the good fortune to get a thorough run-through of LexisNexis TotalSearch when I was judging the SIIA Content Codie awards a while back, and was impressed by the package even then. It's an interesting concept: a client's own legal documents can be extracted and normalized into a form that makes them searchable in much the same way that content from LexisNexis' own database, including embedded citations of case law relating to a given matter. Local content is held separately from LexisNexis content, but the shifting from local to vendor content keeps the same general interface and capabilities available. Now LexisNexis has announced the release of TotalSearch 3.0, now including Shepard's(R) Citations Service imbeddable into a clients' content, beefier searching tools and more integration into popular document management systems. While it may appear to be bass-ackwards workflow integration at first glance, when you consider how central the well-designed LexisNexis interface is to researching legal matters, it makes a good amount of sense to go this route. Treating content from all sources as potentially valuable in the right context is a very important key to creating value in content services these days, so treating a clients' content with equal importance to your subscription content is a play that can keep systems integrators from eating away at your margins - especially when it amplifies the value of your primary interface as a key component of that value. By turning content integration on its head TotalSearch is thinking ahead to new value propositions that will keep it in a central problem-solving role for its clients.

Dow Jones' Crovitz Defends Subscription Online Content: Right Battle, Wrong Question?

Reuters carries the comments of Gordon Crovitz, head of Dow Jones' online efforts, at the recent Bank of America media conference, in which Crovitz notes that free content on the Web with paid print content "is an unsustainable business model," and that publishers are devaluing their brands in the process. It's a true statement, but perhaps answering the wrong question. On the first front, there's no question that online revenues must drive access to both least-common-denominator and high end readers, even as print is becoming a specialty media service that caters to the either highest end of customers or the lowest, as with the free "street" publications being scooped up by major paper chains. In both models the middle is hard to sustain, and it's really the middle model in most marketing efforts that's under threat, regardless of the media in question. Just as medium-sized run-of-the-mill supermarkets were squeezed out by superstores and category-killer health food stores, it's questionable whether there's a long-term future for mass-market publications that cannot compete in the broadest marketplace or with a much more elite and focused clientele.

Dow Jones has a great editorial staff and is to be admired for its belief in premium content subscriptions, but a sober eye has to admit that WSJ Online is a product not that much different than any other online general business publication. You can continue to price the goods any way you want, but at the end of the day if the storefront's the wrong fit for the marketplace you must either change the goods in the store or find new channels. Looking at the strength of brands with broader market access such as Google or Dow Jones' own MarketWatch property and the strength of more specialized brands such as ALM there's an argument for a mix of high-margin-special and low-margin-general content that's likely to drive publishing markets for the foreseeable future. In the middle will be companies doing a great job of creating new value out of content regardless of its sources - companies that thrive on The New Aggregation model. Long live premium content - in the right package at the right place at the right time.

Headlines for 31 March 2005

ChoicePoint to allow people access to personal records
Thomson Financial names Rowlands as CEO
MarketWatch Founder Is Hired To Head CBS's Digital Media Unit
Time Warner Won't Split Off AOL In Near Term
New Web sites to store public's digital content
Going Native: Making the Case for XML Databases
Law Firm Astor & Phillips Selects ISYS:desktop Search Solution for Attorneys' Desktop and Network Search
VNU Marketing Information to Deliver CBI - Continuous Business Intelligence Solutions for Global CPG Ind'y
Hummingbird Unveils New ECM Client for Microsoft Outlook Featuring Dynamic Business Views
New Vice President For Elsevier's Health Sciences Division
eCopy Forum Focuses on Creating Industry Standard for Transforming Paper Documents to Digital Content
Rocketinfo and CNW Group Announce 5-year Licensing Deal
Digital River Adds E-books Content to Its Downloadable Product Catalog
Elsevier Releases 4th Edition of Principles & Practice of Sleep Medicine

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Headlines for 30 March 2005

Database operators settle freelance copyright suit
Hollinger Inc. Sues Conrad Black, Others, for $525 Million
Dow Jones Executive Foresees More Paid Web Sites
Read Your Blogs, Check Your Packages
P2P v. Big Content: Opening arguments in the Supreme Court case to watch
Jupiter forecasts online ad growth
Microsoft to plug ID controls into Windows
HighBeam helps employees do their own research
Calacanis suffers growing pains
Publish and don't be damned: WAM!NET plays a crucial role for high-performance content distribution
Analysis: Apple's incomplete legal victory
Google Scholar Advances, Universities Test Link Resolvers
Lawyer's plain-language blogging on Schiavo case a refuge for many
McGraw-Hill And Xrefer Establish Partnership For Online Reference
Elsevier MDL to Build New Electronic Lab Notebook for Life Sciences Research via MDL Isentris Technology
LexisNexis Launches LexisNexis Total Search v. 3.0 Major Enhancements Ahead of Schedule
Reuters Signs Partnership With blinkx TV
LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell Signs New Contract with Nixon Peabody
Press Release Website Offers Free Business News Content To Website Owners

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Blogworking Goes to Print: Online Communities Generate Relevant Print Communities

A recent rant on AlwaysOn discussing blogworking - community-developed weblogs, or "mob weblogs," if you will - noted that AlwaysOn has spun off a quarterly print publication that packages together its insights on technology and media with special online access privileges and special discounts. This is yet another example of online-first publications developing new revenue streams from print, but most interestingly one derived from a true online publishing community. Magazines and journals have always been about trying to define and service specific communities, but it's interesting to note how print publications can spring from successful online communities that define themselves, as opposed to having to rely on overdesigned marketing studies to trim down content to what appeals to a given demographic. Print as a service to club/association/community members takes on a new meaning in this light as a premium capability for ad-supported online community members who want to upgrade to a new type of "in" crowd within that community. These kinds of uses of the print medium as secondary channels for premium communities are likely to increase and prevail as the changing economics of publishing make "online-first" revenues an economic necessity. Print as a primary model for publishers may be seeing its day pass, but trees will continue to be killed in the name of content that draws people together.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Headlines for 29 March 2005

Blogworking: The business begins to mature into print
The U.N. thinks about tomorrow's cyberspace
BBC warns IT consultant over 'illegal' Ceefax site
It's time to re-invent the upfront ad market
Speedy desktop search tools raise security concerns Goes Mobile
LexisNexis Butterworths Budget Service Right on the Money with Exegenix Content Conversion
Xinhua PR Newswire Launches Service Showing China Clients Where Announcements Appear Globally
Google Agrees To Acquire Urchin
eGOware Supplants RSS Technology
Convera Secures $5 Million Equipment Loan

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Monday, March 28, 2005

News Analysis - The New "New News": News Companies Wrestle with Online News Technologies

In a wave of fast and furious change news organizations are fighting back against search engines and independent classified services with their own services and pointed counterattacks against perceived IP infringements. AFP takes a swing at Google News while Gannett, Knight Ridder and the Tribune take a stake in new search engine Topix and CitiExpress readies a Craigslist alternative - all in one week. It's certainly a very spirited street fight, but one wonders whether these are blows that will have any sort of deep impact on a news industry that won't wait for major publishers to catch up with new aggregation patterns. The news industry was happy to try to catch up with the "New News" promised ten years ago; are they really ready to do battle with the "New 'New News?'"

Click here to read the full News Analysis

SunGard's $10.4 Billion Deal Places Financial Content Technology in Spotlight

Bloomberg News reports on the largest private takeover of a company since Kohlberg Kravis's $31 billion purchase of RJR Nabisco Inc. in 1989. But instead of ponying up to milk a consumer company the consortium of buyers lead by Silver Lake Partners, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and other leading financiers are taking under their wing the most widely successful content technology company in the financial sector. SunGard has been a regular acquirer of content technology companies themselves through the years, so to some degree this is a deal in theory not unlike someone sweeping up a portfolio of leading financial content technology companies in one fell swoop. At about 2.9 times revenues that sounds like a pretty good basket buy, a lot more reasonable than some other newsworthy acquisitions. While much of the coverage in the trade press and general media on financial content centers around companies such as Bloomberg, Thomson and Reuters, it's SunGard that's gained the greatest integration into major investment banks in recent years by concentrating on not just desktop trading functionality and availability services but 'straight-through' trade processing functionality and other key back office and mid-office processing needs. It's a heavily I.T.-based approach but one that fits in very well with the increasingly complex requirements of financial companies needing to track and manage both internal and external content sources cost-effectively. As in other areas of the content industry it's increasingly hard for mainstream content companies to catch up with leading technology companies who have tackled a wider range of sector-specific content management issues internal to their clients than most of them are comfortable managing. If I'm one of the "Big Three" content vendors I'm a little worried that there's more acquisitions that this consortium may be considering to provide additional content-oriented services to draw the "sell side" of finance closer to the "buy side".

Headlines for 28 March 2005

Acxiom agrees to buy Digital Impact for $140 million
Dow Bets Big
Top court to hear landmark P2P case Tuesday
Database company dossiers not always complete or accurate: AP reporter
Tribune looking to turn the page on uncertainties
Yahoo: Exporting An Uber-Brand
Justices Let Stand Ruling Rejecting Journalist Privilege
Blog-o-mania Hits Newspapers, With 'Attytood' to Spare
News Aggregator The Briefcase Steals Content
Endeca Provides Latitude for Information Retrieval and Analysis
Intelliseek's BlogPulse 2.0 Features Faster Performance, Deeper Search and Graph Creation
McGraw-Hill strikes deal to sell publications on, a knowledge-based Web portal
ALM Appoints John Mason to Head Pennsylvania Newspaper Group

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Jeeves Goes to Serve Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp for $1.85 Billion: Why the Yawns?

Mind you the announced deal by Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp to acquire search portal AskJeeves for about USD 1.85 billion in net cash is not the biggest surprise as of late, but it's interesting how it's receded into the coverage woodwork fairly quickly. Jeeves is a competent search portal that pioneered the concept of answering consumers' questions and that has recently bolstered its online resources to provide better answers and more user-friendly services. It's commercially attuned search results and services are a great match for IAC's wide stable of leading online ecommerce and personal service portals, a Yahoo!-like framework that can be used to glue these properties into the semblance of a cohesive online media presence rather than balkanized stand-alone sites. Yet why does that seem to be so...20th century? Diller has a great nose for successful media properties, but this may be an instance where one plus one equals three or more. It's hard to imagine that a Jeeves-enabled service could be anything more than a third or fourth place contender in the online portal wars - which may be enough in IAC's mind to justify the purchase. With Jeeves search options on IAC's wide catalog of successful portals Jeeves may have a new entree into the minds of consumers that had been lacking before in a pure search-only approach to getting in front of users. This may be one of those instances where the boutiques wind up sending traffic to the "department store" search engine rather than vice versa. That may be all the synergy that IAC needs out of this deal - for now.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Data Pricing: What A Difference Four Years Make

As I write this, we're putting the final touches on a new research report called Database Subscription Pricing Benchmarks, based on InfoCommerce Group's Subscription Price Index database. The SPI database allows us to examine how the marketplace has changed between 2000 and 2004, and that change is fascinating.

What's particularly noteworthy is the shift in attitudes in just four years. In 2000, publishers were being relentlessly pressured by a marketplace that honestly believed it could find anything it needed on the Web for free. With so many ill-fated Web start-ups, along with a lot of established publishers, indeed offering their content for free, the move toward a world of free content seemed inexorable. Needless to say, it wasn't a happy time for subscription-based publishers.

Those that continued to charge for their content were certainly in no position to seek premiums for their Web offerings, and the trend at the time was towards "parity pricing," with print and Web versions priced identically. Indeed, many publishers were having such difficulty with their sales that the idea of the bundled offering -- buy the print version, get the Web version for free -- became a marketing staple. This bundled offering neatly sums up the thinking at the time: I can't charge for my Web content, but I can give it away in order to spur sales of my print version, which is tangible and still has value.

But look at where we are now. By the end of 2004, the situation had flipped: publishers still market the bundled offering, but now it is buy the online version and get the print version for free. No difference in economics, but a huge difference in perception. Publishers have realized that the market is moving to the Web, so they are increasingly putting the emphasis on their online products. Even more importantly, people are increasingly willing to pay for Web-based information.

This change has reflected itself in pricing. Publishers are moving away from parity pricing to charging significantly more for their Web products, reflecting their inherently higher value. With solid evidence now that users both want Web products and are willing to pay for them, we're seeing more and more publishers starting to invest in their Web products, adding new features, functionality and content, which allows them to charge even more. It's a new virtuous circle: users are willing to pay more for higher quality Web products, spurring publishers to keep rolling out ever more sophisticated and powerful products. But while we stand at the threshold of a new golden age in database publishing, many would say it's been a long four years.

Yahoo! Embraces Creative Commons-Licensed Content via Beta Search Tool

As noted by MediaPost's Online Media Daily and others note the arrival of a new Beta search tool on Yahoo!'s portal that looks at Creative Commons-licensed content, providing a typical search box and the ability to specify content that can be used for commercial purposes and content that can be modified, adapted or built upon. Searches work well enough - a search for mobile content yields a link to at the top of the list, an early and enthusiastic Creative Commons supporter - but with about ten million pages of Creative Commons content out of billions of pages on the Web it's not likely that all that many people in the general marketplace for content are going to use a separate tool for this kind of searching. This is more of a move to appeal to the enthusiast core of webloggers and other Creative Commons aficionados and let them know that Yahoo! "gets it" on some level and wants to attract some street buzz and buy-in to their expanding efforts to use personal and community-built content as a cornerstone of their value proposition.

The greater issue to be addressed by Yahoo! and other search providers both public and institutional how to make their users aware of effective use for ALL content based on its rights structure. The Creative Commons movement has done an excellent job of helping valuable content to flow into valuable and valued new contexts and to encourage repurposing with respect for rights owners, but traditional copyrighted materials are also fair game for reuse - if the ease of doing so is provided. Services such as Copyright Clearance Center and Valeo IP make it easier than ever to do just that, providing opportunities for reuse from a much wider perspective than many may imagine. I'd much rather have a search environment that calls out the terms of reuse rights in general search results, so that the merit of the content itself can stand on its own in relation to other sources. This will become more important as premium content providers merge subscription-based and ecommerce-based sources in with publicly available sources via federated searches in enterprises and via public search engines. Great to have Creative Commons get more visibility, but there's a broader problem to be solved that's not really being addressed by "preaching to the choir".

Headlines for 25 March 2005

Yahoo! Partners With Creative Commons
All the news robots pick
Many Advertisers Find Blogging Frontier Is Still Too Wild
Yahoo Lawyers Ask Court for Protection
EU to push for research and convergence in Information & Communication Technologies (ICT)
Bloggers Narrowly Avoid Regulatory Crackdown
Cult Branding and the Art of the Deal at Newspapers '05
RSS Alerts go mobile
Corporations spent $35.5 billion on custom publications in ’04
'New News' retrospective: Is online news reaching its potential?
“Blog People” Fight Back, Creatively
Why Quality Content is Key For Search Engines
File sharing on the rise: Pew study
Let fans decide on digital rights: ITunes hacked
Elsevier Reveals Open source Cross-Referencing Tool
ProQuest to Distribute ACM Journals

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Headlines for 24 March 2005

Google co-founders left out of bonuses
Newspaper Bargains
Blogs, Everyone? Weblogs Are Here to Stay, but Where Are They Headed?
The Role of Business Intelligence in Knowledge Management
EFF Appeals Ruling in Apple v Bloggers case
UK Report: Libraries Should Offer Premium Services
CityXpress Launches Craigslist Competitor for Newspapers
SIIA's Content Division Announces New Vice-President
Rocketinfo Monetizes RSS Feeds With Kanoodle
Best-Selling Dissertations Find Their Audience
First Horizon National Corporation Deploys Verity Ultraseek on Its Public Web Site and Intranets

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Topix Takes News Giants Gannett, KR and Tribune as Parents: A Finger in the New Aggregation

As noted by AP and several majors the news portal has news majority parents today, with the combination of Gannett, Knight Ridder and the Tribune as parents. As noted in the announcement on their Web site Topix intends to remain an objective source for headlines from over 10,000 news sources but now able to take advantage of the extensive advertising and content assets available from its new parents. Why does that sound like a contradiction? Because it is, of course, but no mind, it's a sign that major papers are getting serious about playing in the emerging space for news aggregation that is rapidly crossing the boundaries of paper-bound editorial thinking. Today's news reader wants to get the right information from as many sources as possible in a convenient Web format, increasingly placing companies with editorial resources in the position of having to place their content in environments other than their "home sweet home" news portal to be effective in the eyes of their readers. Unlike traditional database-driven content aggregation services, though, in The New Aggregation providing an editorial context for news sources that meets the needs of individual readers is increasingly important. Major papers dragged on for far too long thinking that the combination of traditional aggregators and their own portals would cover the needs of their readers, but are now forced by the success of Google News, Topix and other on-the-fly headline aggregators to consider how they may be able to have their editorial and advertising resources play in this more open environment. Purchasing Topix gives major news outlet a compliant partner in this effort, but it's far from clear that this will result in a compelling news product in and of itself. Topix is only a starting point for an effort that will require a lot more development to develop "tomorrow's newspaper". With the resources at their disposal it's likely that such development will be on tap, but being able to blend "old news" editorial and advertising culture with Web-driven expectations of sophisticated readers via a cross-source portal may prove to be more difficult than Topix' purchasers may imagine. The good news is that they picked a pretty good place to start.

Headlines for 23 March 2005

Media Firms Piece Together New Strategies
Diller brings convergence to Web
The Topix for Today: Gannett, KR, Tribune Invest in News Site
Google to expand operations in India
RSS Use to Increase Dramatically, Survey
How to succeed as a citizen media editor
Nerac Announces Plans for New Content Integration and Patent Search Platform Using Mark Logic
China's C1 Energy Headlines Now Available On Reuters
1,200 LexisNexis Authors Use Arbortext Enterprise Publishing Software to Automate Editorial Process
AIB signs data supply deal with Reuters
VNU sells magazines, Web site to Schofield's Ideal Media

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Eliyon Becomes ZoomInfo, Adopts Google-Like Interface for Primary Portal

As noted by Information Today the service formerly known as Eliyon has become Zoom Information Inc., with a new portal at serving as the home page for the company that has been collecting personal profile information on professionals and public figures from public Web pages since 2000. The Zoominfo portal is Google-like in its appearance, a bone-simple search box and search results that list names, number of references and a spritz of teaser data complemented by Google AdSense ads. Each profile lists the person's current position, past employment and extracts from the pages from which profile information is extracted.

We had the pleasure of seeing a sneak preview of the Zoominfo portal a few weeks ago in our visit to then-Eliyon's offices (see our earlier News Analysis) and found the positioning to be very insightful. For a young company that has few direct competitors, Zoominfo has little to lose by this new positioning and everything to gain. It still retains its high-test capabilities for sales force integration and support of major content distributors, but now has functionality that will make it as easy as "Googling" someone to get well-formed information direct from the Web on more than 24 million professionals, mostly in the U.S., the U.K. and other English-speaking countries. This in and of itself is powerful positioning for the open Web, where the vast majority of searches for information on professionals begin.

Significantly, though, the syntax of features built into the Zoominfo query interface fit remarkably well with those used in the Google interface - a very handy coincidence if one wants to be positioned for more intimate relations with the search giant. Zoominfo is an extraordinarily strong rebirth of a company that was already reaching a significant degree of success with personal content but with new financial backers eager to bring them to a new level of performance. If anyone doubts the power of raw Web information made highly accessible through data mining techniques one need only watch the trajectory of Zoominfo to get a better understanding of how business information aggregation is evolving far more quickly than many traditional sources may imagine. Yet again, good content is where you find it.

Headlines for 22 March 2005

Google to Drop AFP from News Index
Eliyon Renamed Zoom Information with New Consumer-Oriented Strategy to Match
SunGard Data Mulls Selling Company, Shares Jump 24 Pct
Big Business Blogging
Internet Marketing Solution - Content, Content, Content
U.S. Reuters employees in byline strike
Scripps Takes Latest Channel Direct to Web
Zinio Systems debuts Zinio Reader 3
Endeca Expands Information Retrieval Vision at PC Forum With Launch of Endeca Latitude Content Now Available via Factiva on Desktops Globally
TechTarget Optimizing Bitpipe Partner Network to Add Top Business Sites and Targeted IT Sites
Wolters Kluwer's New Corporate Branding Accelerates the Company's Strategy and Vision for Professionals
Contact Networks Raises $1.6M in First Round Financing
EMC Turns a Corner on Content Management
Norwich Union Life selects Autonomy to maintain competitive edge

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Monday, March 21, 2005

In Premium Weblogs: Thomson Financial Supplies More PR Help to Companies, S&P's Capital IQ Adds Features

In our Finance premium weblog Shore Analyst Jack McConville provides decisive insights on these and other late-breaking events in the world of financial content.

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News Analysis - Nothing Personal: Personal Content Vendors Confront New Rules for Success

Congressional hearings, major retoolings of vendor policies and concerns over long-avoided regulations hang heavy in the air for personal content vendors these days. Was a crisis of this kind avoidable? Probably so, given the lack of focus that many personal content vendors had on how their content was being used and the assumption that possession was nine tenths of the law when it came to relations with people profiled in their databases. Successful personal content companies today win when they treat their products first and foremost as a personal service that has both the opt-in and the control of the people profiled. Technology helps to drive the scale, but a people-first approach to personal content is the key.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 21 March 2005

Ask Jeeves Inc. to Be Bought for $2 Billion
AFP sues Google over copyright infringement
Consumers Spooked By ID Theft, Switch Banks
Keeping A Grip On Identity
Media Deconcentration
Yahoo buys photo-sharing site Flickr
Borders Looks Beyond Border
The Company Bloomberg Keeps (for Now)
Redefining the Debate Over Protecting Intellectual Property
Latest Online Scoops Thwart Apple's Bid For Secrecy
Find/SVP to acquire Atlantic Research, Signia Partners Expands to Offer Industry-First Consumer Ratings and Best-in-Class Used Vehicle Rankings

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Quality Clicks In

A major article in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal is suggesting that advertisers are beginning to balk at the rapidly escalating costs for keywords. The article cites examples such as "mortgage," which now goes for $7-11 per click, and "mesothelioma," a form of cancer caused by asbestos, which goes for $49. It also notes that eBay, one of the largest purchasers of keywords, is publicly complaining about high price levels. The article suggests that high prices, combined with growing awareness of click fraud, and the presence of middlemen, could cause a backlash that would curb the rapid growth of paid search revenue.

As Executive Editor Staci Kramer of astutely notes, "The real lesson here: nascent also equals unpredictable, and overreaction in any direction can -- and will -- do damage." But marketing sloppiness exhibited by many keyword marketers is taking its toll as well. Increasingly in a product search, I'll find an eBay ad saying it's got what I'm looking for. When I click through to eBay, I frequently get the message "no items found matching your search term." Perhaps eBay thinks it is clever marketing to have dragged me to its site. My reaction, however, is that eBay just wasted my time, and I am sure to be less receptive to its keyword come-ons in the future.

It's not just eBay; a large number of online retailers seem to be buying keywords for products they don't sell, and brands they don't carry. The marketing objective appears to be to get me to their sites, even if under false pretenses. This game of traffic for traffic's sake turns the Web from a precision marketing tool into a mass medium. Run enough eyeballs past your site, and some of them will buy.

The paid search industry is beginning to realize just how crudely marketers are applying its very refined technology, undermining their real value proposition in the process. That's why they are starting to educate customers and give them tools to use keyword marketing correctly and productively. Credit FindWhat for helping lead the way by offering technology that shows how well clicks on ads convert to sales. FindWhat CEO Craig Pisaris-Henderson, who will be a keynote speaker at InfoCommerce 2005, believes better understanding of returns will ultimately encourage more spending on searches, but in a less speculative fashion. In a bold move to improve not only click analytics, but the overall quality of clicks, FindWhat removed a large number of marginal Web sites from its network a few months ago, making a big bet that as keyword marketers get smarter, the marketplace will reward those who can deliver higher quality clicks.

Step back a bit, and it's not hard to see that paid search marketing is going through an initial growth phase, complete with a gold rush mentality, lots of misinformation, and lots of money being wasted. But there are now signs that this phase is coming to an end, to be replaced by a new phase where savvier, more educated marketers will start using the technology in a much more sophisticated way. This will present new challenges for the big search engines, and create lots of lucrative opportunities for online publishers.

Content Directions Goes for Contextual Marketing Links for Ads: Is a Feature Enough?

Kudos to Content Directions Inc., which has announced the first client for a new service that CDI is implementing to bring rich linking to online ads. The new CDI feature uses their now-familiar pop-up categorized link capability to display a hierarchical directory of pages available from an advertiser's Web site when you mouse over their ad (try this on the sidebar ad on this page to get a flavor). I appears that CDI had the sense to realize that a large part of their value proposition was not necessarily the permanence of its Digital Object Identifier (DOI) archival link capabilities but rather the ability to keep a catalog of current information contextual to those links up to date in an effective and centralized manner. Contextuality being what advertising is all about, this seems to be a natural and powerful fit. It's a little like having a department store directory at your fingertips rather than just a front door or a specific department, empowering a user to choose the click destination that meets their immediate needs best. This most likely will make those click-throughs highly valuable to advertisers, which should boost CDI revenues. Given that DOIs are not yet a burning success in the content marketplace, it's important to have a powerful contextual feature put to revenue-generating use. But it is just a feature, and it's vulnerable to players such as Google, which has just announced its own AdLinks feature to its AdSense program to provide more contextual value to advertisers [news coverage from Search Engine Journal]. Like many content technology players CDI is feeling its way towards more valuable and monetizable content plays, learning that content in the moment may be much more monetizable than content for perpetuity's sake.

Headlines for 18 March 2005

Westlaw to Curtail Access to Personal Data
Yahoo pledges full Firefox compatibility
Google Adds Ad Links Tool to Google AdSense
Size Matters: OneSource to Fit All
Despite premature obits, e-mail still integral to Web publishing
Fortune, Business Week mulls India edition launch
TechTarget to publish Japanese version of ‘CIODecisions’
Bertelsmann CEO Mulls Move Into Mobile-Phone Svcs
Chemical Structure Searching Now on Dialog(R)
Dialog NewsEdge Expands Access To Critical Financial News And Analysis
Epygi Technologies First Advertiser to Launch Content Directions' New Interactive Multi-Link Ad Service
ContextPortal for Microsoft Outlook Transforms Microsoft Outlook Into a Knowledge Portal
Thomson Gale Adds Content to Databases

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

CMO Summit: Same themes, different crowd

Yesterday, I attended the 2005 MIT Sloan CMO Summit, and although the speakers were addressing a group of B2B and B2C marketers, they could very well have been addressing a group of publishers. The issues are remarkably similar:
Technology and new tools have put more control into the hands of consumers;
P2P communication is raising new issues and opportunities;
Web-based intermediaries are forcing change on traditional channel structures.

The overarching theme related to the growing power of the consumer and the need for marketers to establish strong trust-based relationships with consumers.

I've written before about the blurring of lines between advertising and editorial content. It was interesting to hear the same comments from the marketing/advertising side of the equation. Astute marketers understand the need to shift from "push" advertising, which Professor Glen Urban from MIT describes as "tormenting your customers" with intrusive messages, to providing customers with tools and information to help them make appropriate buying decisions that will lead to positive experience and a happy customer. Happy customers can add a dimension of trusted real-world recommendations and viral marketing to the company-provided product information. It is up to the marketers, however, to leverage the recommendations of happy customes and ensure these customers also become loyal repeat customers. These suggestions almost precisely mirror the suggestions that Shore affiliate Russell Perkins repeats to his audience of directory and database publishers regarding the value of the three Rs: ratings, rankings and reommendations in adding value to basic information.

One additional lesson for marketers and publishers in the era of CMR (consumer managed relationships) [the term used by GM's director of CRM, Jack Bowen]: marketers must harness the power of interactivity enabled by the Web and other 2-way communication platforms. This point was driven home by the brief presentation by Professor Dan Ariely at MIT, who implored marketers to use the interactive functionality of the Web to experiment, experiment, and experiment some more to gain knowledge about what customers want and to learn how they respond to your message.

Headlines for 17 March 2005

Creative Commons comes to the UK
Bush Picks FCC's Martin to Be Chairman
Could landmark media case shackle World Wide Web?
Associated Press Breaks Tradition With Optional Leads
New UK And European Content In OneSource Business Browser Products
Web site alternate using eBooks packaging works fast
Snap-on tools creates lifestyle magazine
2,000 Talmud Tapes, or One Loaded IPod
Index Engines Search Appliance Exits Stealth Mode
Suddenly, It's Fast Forward at TiVo
GuruNet Names Jeffrey S. Cutler as Chief Revenue Officer
Accoona First Search Engine With One-Click Access to Business News and Information
ProQuest Company Names Randy Best to Board of Directors

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Yahoo 360 to Combine Weblogs with Social Net

CNET News notes along with other majors the Beta testing of a new Yahoo! service. According to the teaser page put up to greet the public Yahoo!360 is a combination of social networking, file sharing and weblogging with controls that allow one to limit the exposure of content to others easily. With no plans to monetize this effort immediately, Yahoo! is taking a Google-like stance to work with people to attract a committed online community. The implication is that this is oriented towards consumer uses, yet communities and their content are likely to form on a number of levels, as with weblogs and other tools that were presumed by many to be mostly personal content tools. Yahoo! is aiming to provide a service that integrates personal content and communications on a number of levels, as opposed to the relatively scatter-shot approach taken by Google with its unintegrated Blogger, Orkut and Gmail efforts. For all of its insights into how content can work for people via technology Google seems to be hanging back from making concerted efforts to draw people together via its content development efforts. Google remains the anti-portal, friendly in its own way and effective but ultimately not terribly engaging or interested in getting to know their users all that well. This keeps them focused on their technical mission, but at some point all technology companies playing in the content arena have to decide whether they're really trying to build a content product or a technology platform or feature (witness TiVo's recognition that salvation may be becoming a feature inside a Comcast cable box). Google still seems to be wrestling with it's identity as a publisher as opposed to a collection of clever technologies. It may want to stay lean and mean and not be bogged down by to many "people issues," but ultimately it's the content companies that solve those issues best with technology that survive.

MONEY Magazine Tunes to Investor Lifestyles: The Mars and Venus of Financial Content

Time, Inc.'s MONEY Magazine has announced the relaunch of the consumer-oriented finance magazine with a new lifestyle focus for its audience which, in their words, "moves beyond its traditional focus on investment to offer guidance in all the areas in which money intersects with readers' lives." The awareness seems to be growing in publishing circles that the blather of daily financial market news and data means very little to the goal-oriented individual investor, who is concerned how their investments are performing in terms of their personal objectives far more than the ins and outs of daily markets. This is of course about 180 degrees away from the majority of financial content thrown at the retail investor today, which is mostly information originally intended for professional traders and investors repackaged for the presumed similar needs of the individual investor. In a strong bull market this information is attractive to the self-designed "hunter-gatherer" goals of some day traders and individuals managing their own portfolios. But if financial markets are from Mars, most retirement-oriented investors are from Venus, using stocks in their younger years to make the killings they need to build a "nest egg" and then shifting to safer investments such as bonds to watch over the nest egg - oftentimes in the hands of women. Looking at financial content from the perspective of investors more concerned with family-oriented personal goals than the macho world of financial markets is a transition that many financial content providers are going to have to consider more carefully as the bullish investor of earlier years gets grayer and softer.

Headlines for 16 March 2005

Yahoo inks Blackberry deal
LexisNexis Increases Customer Security Requirements and Further Restricts Content Displays
My Life, According To The Data Merchants
Lawmakers Grill Data Providers at House, Senate Hearings
Microsoft to launch its own paid search technology
Yahoo 360 takes spin through blogosphere
Letting the Blogs Out: Local Paper Uses Weblogs to Create 'Town Square'
FAST vs Google: As Search Engines Go Mobile, Different Business Models Compete
Professor's online publishing experiment: Lessig looks to wiki collaboration to update book 'Code'
Public Library of Science Adds Journals
The Content-Rich Workplace
New front in paper war: Canadian papers push free dailies
The answer man: Interview with GuruNet CEO Bob Rosenschein
Indian media blog shuts down after legal threats from Times of India
Thomson Financial Launches PR Online
McGraw-Hill's New Digital Engineering Library Offers Pinpoint Access to Information with 'Super' URLs
Elsevier Launches New Law Enforcement Magazine
Autonomy Selected to Power Industry Wide Resource Portal for the Mexican Petroleum Market
Texas State University Implements Vignette Enterprise Content Management, Portal And Integration Solutions

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Headlines for 15 March 2005

China 'ripe' for media explosion
Elsevier's Jongejan takes top job at Swets
Did ChoicePoint End Run Backfire?
Lawmakers: Hands off blogs
Weblogs Are The New Spam
TechTarget plans big push in Japan
Ex - AP Exec Testifies Before Senate Panel
Billboard Launching Mobile Application
FAST launches search technology for mobile devices to Partner With
Metagenics Selects ISYS Search Software's Enterprise Search Solution for Scientists' Intranet
Microsoft Digital Pharma Initiative Is Supported by More Than 18 Companies
All-New MONEY Magazine; Expanded Content; A Fresh Voice; A New Look; For You, Your Family, Your Future
Microsoft-Time Warner-Thomson Complete Acquisition of ContentGuard

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Monday, March 14, 2005

News Analysis - Feelin' Groovy: Microsoft Goes with Groove to Create Collaborative Content

Ray Ozzie nursed the Lotus Notes collaborative software in the 1990's from its infancy to widespread use and its acquisition by IBM. Now Microsoft has purchased Groove Networks, Ozzie's second shot at content collaboration with a more peer-to-peer model of content publishing and sharing. Premium publishers have oftentimes ignored file sharing networks as legitimate marketing venues for their wares, but with the Groove acquisition publishers have been put on notice that user-controlled collaborative tools are a key and increasingly crucial environment in which to establish their value. When the users control who and what gets shared across organizations, publishers had best understand the value proposition of Groove rather quickly.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 14 March 2005

Can Papers End the Free Ride Online?
Report: Non-traditional media gain ground, consumers
Weblogs Inc. Launches 'Focus Ads'
Social networks: All around the Net, but underused by news sites
Judge: Apple can pursue fan site sources
The Public Editor Looks Back: Okrent on His Time at the 'Times'
With LJ Piece, ALA President-Elect Gorman Touches a Nerve
Major League Baseball pitches cellphone content
Simple Syndication (RSS) -- Where's The Payoff?
Former analysts put stock in blogs
Lawsuit stirs up blog fog
Case raises fears about access to information
IBM Buys Content-Management Firm Ascential for US$1B
ebrary Launches New Collections for the Government Market, new Server-based PDF Distribution Tools
MetaCarta Signs Contract with Department of Homeland Security
German Banking Giant NORD/LB Chooses ECM Solution from Open Text

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In Premium Weblogs: BT Buys Radianz From Reuters; Strikes a Multi-Year Contract, Reuters Accounting Changes, Reuters Expands Hedge Fund Presence

In our Finance premium weblog Shore Analyst Jack McConville provides decisive insights on these and other late-breaking events in the world of financial content.

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Factbites Searches for Relevance by Looking for...Well, Relevance

There are more new search engines and search techniques than you can count these days, all trying to out-Google google for locating relevant Web pages of content. But what is instead of giving us search results we actually learned something by looking at a page of search results? This is the basic premise of FactBites, a newly announced search engine that takes a very different approach to providng content via search technologies. Instead of just looking for keyword matches, FactBites analyzes the text of documents to figure out if a page has content that actually provides a reasonable quantitiy and quality of information on a given topic - like searching for "wikipedia" entries on the fly, if you will. With this analysis its search results [sample] can look like an outline on a given topic, with highly relevant sentences in the summaries of each of the recommended documents. So not only do you find possible pages that can help you, you can learn an awful lot just by browsing through the search results. It's a great tool for those needing a fast education on a given topic and to make more informed decisions about which document to choose on a given topic. At Shore we've always thought of search results as destination content; Factbites takes this concept a step further than some other search services for people looking for not just a directory to answers but the answers themselves from a variety of sources.

ALM Expands Real Estate Positioning with New Acquisition: Symbiosis in Sectors Opens Many Doors

When American Lawyer Media recently changed its official name to ALM, you knew that it was trying to position its brand as a more general publishing player. The breadth of that positioning becomes more clear with its recently announced acquisition of Real Estate Media, Inc., a leading provider of commercial real estate news and information. The rationale provided for the acquisition is an interest in amplifying its sales force in common geographic and business sector marketplaces, enabling complementary sales to companies involved in both the legal and financial side of real estate transactions in both national and local markets - a nice complement to ALM's existing stable of national and regional law titles. As standalone sales forces become harder to justify for single-sector publications this kind of complementary sector leverage will become increasingly common. It's a savvy positioning of print-oriented ad sales capabilities, but hopefully a positioning that leverages ALM's increasingly sophisticated online presence as well to help businesses in real estate and other sectors solve a wider variety of business problems. Trade publications need to focus more on a wider variety of needs within their client bases not just through title acquisition and title proliferation but through delivering solutions that move beyond title-oriented islands of information to integrated content solutions that mix traditional editorial skills with online technologies more effectively to provide rich data and more content from their audiences. This means a new kind of sales force as well, a challenge that many titles will be hard pressed to meet in the transition to predominantly online revenues. Kudos to ALM to a timely purchase and best wishes for a strong marriage of both sales forces and online capabilities.

Friday, March 11, 2005

J.D. Power: The Next Standard & Poor's?

While one could easily dismiss McGraw-Hill's acquisition of J.D. Power as a financial transaction given the seeming lack of fit with the various McGraw-Hill businesses, I'd suggest that this acquisition is a brilliant move by McGraw-Hill, possibly in league with its 1966 acquisition of Standard & Poor's. Indeed, the two companies are similar in that both are strong and trusted brands that deliver needed, objective guidance in large and important markets.

And it exploits a trend we've been harping on for some time: the greatest need of both business and consumer buyers, all of whom are overloaded with information and starved for time, is objective third-party guidance in consistent, standardized form. We call it the "new 3R's," -- ratings, rankings and recommendations, and J.D. Power is the embodiment of this type of high value information. McGraw-Hill has picked up one of the biggest names in one of the hottest segments of the information business, so the deal is already looking smart at this level.

Is it fair to call J.D. Power an information company? I think so. After all, its business is to gather, database and publish consumer opinions on a wide variety of products. If you call the gathering process "research," then you would regard J.D. Power as an awkward fit with McGraw-Hill. If you call this gathering process "compilation," then J.D. Power looks more like a database information company, and McGraw-Hill has a strong track record with that type of business. Admittedly the line is blurry, but I'd argue that the owner of the company can push it into one camp or the other.

So how does J.D. Power, a ratings database company fit with the existing McGraw-Hill empire? Think of how the Aviation Week Group could amplify its market dominance as the new source of data on passenger airline satisfaction, which it could extend worldwide. Think of how the Construction Group could leverage its position as the preeminent provider of residential and commercial builder and landlord satisfaction data. Think of the endless stream of valuable "best of" content for BusinessWeek. And perhaps the greatest opportunities of all could come from leveraging qualitative data from J.D. Power with quantitative data from Standard and Poor's that could lead to breathtaking new opportunities powered by two of the best-known and most trusted brands around. And none of these even addresses the possibilities inherent in the custom side of the J.D. Power business, where it helps businesses measure the satisfaction of their own customers.

What's the downside to this deal? Figuring out how to sort through and prioritize the endless array of new opportunities this acquisition offers. J.D. Power is a huge brand backed by a powerful data collection platform churning out some of the most sought-after content anywhere. In my opinion, J.D. Power has loaded the bases, and now McGraw-Hill is at bat. Watch out!

Headlines for 11 March 2005

Study Finds Consumer Spending on Online Content Grew 14 Percent Last Year to $1.8 Billion
Prudential, in Major Study, Notes Steep Declines in 'Quality' Circ
Newspapers in the digital age: The last reader is expected to croak in 2040
Yahoo seeks to expand in Google territory
Google's AdSense a bonanza for some Web sites
Nearly 2,000 BBC jobs axed
Reuters boss gets a 23% pay rise
Grassroots Movie To Star Bloggers
Microsoft Stays in its Groove
Virgin Radio Breaks New Ground with Podcast

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Headlines for 10 March 2005

New Start-Ups Aim to Build Content Capital
Google personalizes news site
Search Engines Build a Better Mousetrap
Media giants join forces to fight Ontario ruling
VNU posts lower revenue, higher profit
Off the Record: Sulzberger on the NY Times' Fate
Reuters spotlights crisis news
Search engine / encyclopedia hybrid launched today
Exploring IBM's Search Strategy
Does Your Company Have an Enterprise Search Problem?
Elsevier Engineering Information and GlobalSpec Announce Alliance Launches New FindLaw for Small Business
PrimeZone's Asia Newsline Content Now Distributed on AsiaPulse

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Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Reuters CEO Glocer Focuses on Content Personalization as Key to Revenue Growth

If you have subscription or aggregator access to the Financial Times it's worth pursuing their coverage of a recent speech by Reuters CEO Tom Glocer regarding the personalization of content as a key revenue driver. Glocer outlines the parameters of successful content personalization, including the ability not only to zoom in on personal profiles but to provide content that looks beyond personal horizons to what's important outside of that profile - perhaps up to 20 percent of what an individual needs to know. Glocer is seeing new opportunities to leverage the Reuters brand in more personal venues via the proliferation of consumer-oriented content platforms, with platforms such as "3G" mobile phones providing more control over content monetization options than the ad-driven Web arena. Getting content into more personal contexts is certainly a very key factor for publishers today, yet for a company whose revenues are still driven primarily by the bulk distribution of professionally-oriented financial content there's an irony to be considered in Glocer's words. Reuters can make great inroads in getting its highly respected news product into the hands of more individuals in the content marketplace, but the intransigence of content acquisition methods in the financial industry continue to prevent both Reuters and other major vendors from introducing more progressive revenue models for their core markets in many instances. Individuals understand how to manage the risk of working cooperatively with content suppliers to get their personal needs fulfilled in some ways far better than the corporate set. The scales of risk are obviously different in the corporate space, but there's a need for "just-in-time" content supply chains that move beyond mere speedy delivery to new content sourcing methods that add the right content at the right time in the right context far more effectively than found in today's bulk feed and database production and distribution. The company that does this well will have a new kind of integrity that goes well beyond technology and traditional editorial prowess to a new level of information professionalism.

More Personal Content Theft: Reed Elsevier's Seisint Unit Takes a Hit

Reuters reports along with other majors on the recent theft of about 32,000 names from its Seisint division's collection of data from government agencies and other sources. One misappropriated ID and password and boom, major exposure. Combined with recent shady purchases from ChoicePoint and other events a pattern of global exposure is evolving rapidly, calling in to question many fundamental aspects of how personal content is managed by database publishers. There's gold in personal content but there's also an enormous amount of responsibility that goes along with it, in these instances pointing to the need to examine clients' motivations very carefully. We've been hearing an awful lot about the need to control terrorism as of late, but there is no doubt that one of the most devastating forms of terrorism is identify theft. The personal content industry can be more self-regulating in some of these issues and the rapid prosecution of the Nigerian theives responsible for the misuse of ChoicePoint's data holds out promise that our current legal framework may be able to keep up with these crimes. But nevertheless the stewardship of personal information is entering the international court of public opinion, with international standards for both vendors and law enforcers likely to emerge in the years ahead. U.S.-based suppliers should be ready to consider that their standards for ethical use need to rise several notches if they are to survive as a relatively unregulated industry serving global markets.

Public Library Branches Moving to Corporate Parks: Merging of Public and Private Content Resources

We've been noting for some time the role that public libraries have been playing with small businesses, but an item from The Roanoke Times highlights how library branches are becoming common assets in corporate parks. The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center is sponsoring the local library branch with subsidization similar to what it provides for other community-oriented services such as a health club. While there doesn't seem to be much input from the companies within the facility as to the collections in the branch so far, these kinds of facility enhancements are very likely to draw corporations far closer to public library facilities than ever before. With the Web positioning many key content assets as part of a greater public information infrastructure available to corporate users it only makes sense to extend this metaphor into common elements of collections used within corporate settings that have been traditionally managed by corporate library services. Federated search capabilities are increasingly common within corporate intranets, making the availability of public collections of premium content more easily integrated, Of course broader services such as Google could come along to simplify access to common premium collections as well, but the combination of traditional library resources with intranet-based access to a local library catalog may be a powerful combination worth exploring for many corporations.

Headlines for 9 March 2005

Consumer Data Stolen from Reed Elsevier U.S. Unit
What's in a name?
Libel case chills world's papers
Branch library coming to Corporate Research Center
IBM Launching Search Tools For XML Documents
Blogging Tools Start To Catch On In The Business World
Google practices dividing to conquer
A Cool Blog Discovery Tool
EBay Opens Classified-Ad Web Sites Around World
Broadband killing off newspapers
A Memo from Sony's New Chief
TNS: Ad spending up 9.8% in 2004
Yahoo! Small Business Launches Resource Center

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Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Headlines for 8 March 2005

Stringer's Goal For Sony Is to Merge Content, Technology
Google Moves Desktop Search Out of Beta CEO explains why NYT spent $410 million to buy site
Digital Impact rejects infoUSA bid
Yellow Pages in $2.55 billion deal to buy SuperPages
Technorati accused of blog censorship
Man sentenced in ChoicePoint identify theft case
Content and CRM: Completing the Picture
Kanoodle Launches Ad Service for Local Web Pages
Martha's Critics See Dim Future for Mags
Why DRM Offends the Sensibilities, GlobalSpec Join Network
SAVVIS Unit Unveils Automated Content Portal
ALM Acquires Real Estate Media, Leader inf News and Information for Commercial Real Estate Sector
PubSelect(SM) By RR Donnelley Premedia Technologies Enhances Online Custom Publishing

Financial News USA Announces News Feed Distribution Agreement With FinancialContent
International Business Advisory Firm BBK Selects LexisNexis InterAction for CRM
DialogLink 5 Helps Information Professionals Format, Distribute Intelligence & Analysis Across Enterprises
Coveo Enterprise Search Deployed on the SAAQ Intranet
WesCorp Selects Vignette Over Plumtree, BEA and Microsoft for Employee Intranet

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Monday, March 7, 2005

In Premium Weblogs: Reuters to Sell Bridge Trading to Instinet for $21.5M, Dow Jones 2005 Proxy Punts the Class A Shareholders

In our Finance premium weblog Shore Analyst Jack McConville provides decisive insights on these and other late-breaking events in the world of financial content.

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News Analysis - Entity Entropy: Eliyon Changes the Equation for Personal Content Suppliers

Eliyon is moving beyond the struggles of a scrappy startup company to become a firm that has defined a strong niche for personal content others were unwilling or unable to exploit. By sticking to automated collection of personal profiles extracted from Web pages, Eliyon has built over 24 million complete profiles of professionals, with much information cached in its databases that's now disappeared from the rapidly evolving Web. Add in the ability for people profiled in their system to update their profiles and for readers to suggest changes and you have both powerful content and powerful editorial sources that promise to make this a definitive online database of personal information. We still "Google" people today, but that's a noun-turned-verb that may change someday soon under the influence of Eliyon.

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Headlines for 7 March 2005

Reuters to go personal
Glocer: Why the media must get personal
Are Bloggers Journalists?
Dot-con job: How InfoSpace took its investors for a ride
Pew Finds Surge for Web as Source of Political News, As Newspapers Sink
New challenges to being heard
ChoicePoint to Restrict Sale of Personal Data
Firms Taking Action Against Worker Blogs
New Vioxx Search Engine Launched
Associated Content's Online Publishing Model is Well Received by Media Producers and Readers

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Friday, March 4, 2005

Headlines for 4 March 2005

ChoicePoint faces inquiry, will curtail data sales
DRM patent holder seeks 12 percent of iTunes/iPod gross from Apple
Ads Embedded in Online News Raise Questions: The New York Post Jumps Into the Fray
Bank of America Math: 1.2 Million People Is Just A Small Number
Chinese Censors and Web Users Match Wits
Control over Russian Internet: Wishful Thinking
Arthur On: BBC no digital dinosaur
Factiva deals help keep Reputation intact
Kanda Introduces Search Engine Super-Marketing
Infotrieve Launching Life Science Research Center, Search & Discovery Tool Simplifiies R&D Processes
TheMarkets Users Save 2.5 Hours Per Week in Research, 98% Client Satisfaction, 120% Rev. Growth
NewsStand Releases iSite Unique Electronic Edition Integration with Publisher Websites
Rocketinfo Now Accesses Premium Periodical Content from Gale
MerseyBIO Selects Autonomy to Support Biotechnology Network

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Wolters Kluwer: The Transformers

It's not easy transforming a large diverse corporation. Like any change, the transformation process takes time and a delicate balancing of resources to maintain current revenue streams while investing in new products and services.

On Wednesday, Wolters Kluwer released its 2004 results, which showed substantial improvements over the previous year, but the overall top-line growth when stated in the most rosy terms (organic, net of exchange rate effects, acquisitions, and divestments) was only 1%. Without these adjustments, revenues for the year declined 5%.

Wolters Kluwer's chairman, Nancy McKinstry, who initiated a restructuring plan in late 2003 shortly after she was appointed to lead the company, has focused heavily on transforming WK from a publisher of static print and electronic products to a provider of end-to-end solutions that help their target customers become more productive in performing their job functions. As Shore affiliate Russell Perkins pointed out in his recent post, McKinstry illustrated her commitment to developing software-based solutions in her statement: "we have as many programmers as we do editors".

Indeed, it is refreshing to witness McKinstry's tight focus on providing solutions that incorporate a mix of content, software, and an understanding of their customers' fundamental objectives. By now, everyone who knows Shore, knows that this mix is what we call vContent and we fully support the efforts of publishers who are moving in this direction. But, the move to vContent requires balancing resources, including investments in new infrastructure, content assets, and key personnel with current operational expenses. Finding the right personnel may be the most difficult aspect. It isn't easy to find top executives who have the ability to lead operations that produce both quality content and produce, sell, and service effective software solutions. In its Health division, WK has moved quite dramatically toward hiring top execs with experience in developing large scale technical products and services (several from GE Healthcare, which seems to be the favored breeding ground for WK Health and Thomson Healthcare). These tech-savvy executives are certain to help WK keep their eyes on the future and help them move them toward their goal of delivering high-value content-based solutions.

However, investors won't allow Wolters Kluwer to ignore the here-and-now. Despite improvements in organic growth, WK lags behind Reed Elsevier and Thomson in top-line growth. Like other European-based global publishers, Wolters Kluwer is also hurt by the weak dollar. As we said, it's a delicate balancing act to transform a large company.

Click Clarity - Getting What You Pay For

It's been an interesting week in the world of pay-per-click. First there was the big New York Times article on click fraud, which gently concluded that the search engines will ultimately extinguish it, so paid search marketers can rest easy. Then, click fraud was the topic of a lively session at the huge Search Engine Strategies conference, where nobody seemed to think that the problem of click fraud would disappear anytime soon.

There also was the article in Business Week suggesting Google might just be a "one trick pony" given its near-total focus on paid search advertising. For good measure I'd throw in the announcement by the search engine that it is rolling out a "cost per action" advertising program that allows advertisers to tie payment to specific activities, such as downloading a white paper, registering or making a purchase. Keep in mind that while may be a small player, it's an Idealab company, and they're the people who invented paid search in the first place with a little company that later became Overture.

All this market discordance says to me that we're on the verge of a new generation of pay-per-click business models and tools that will reflect a better understanding by all parties as to what pay-per-click can and cannot deliver.

It's been my view that the phenomenal growth of pay-per-click has been fueled by hype and misunderstanding. Advertisers embraced pay-per-click because of its compelling COD -- cash on delivery -- premise which offered guaranteed results. Is it any surprise that advertisers flocked to it?

Despite their loose use of terminology, paid-per-click providers aren't really in the pay-per-performance business, at least as advertisers define it. These providers are selling traffic to their advertisers, with absolutely no guarantee that this traffic will turn into sales leads, purchases, or anything else for that matter. Stated another way, these providers are delivering what those in other media call advertising impressions, they just charge for them differently.
My sense of the market is that advertisers, sensitized by such issues as click fraud, are rapidly coming to realize that they've been buying impressions, not performance, and are now starting to demand real pay-for-performance that ties payment to specific, measurable and largely fraud-proof actions. Ultimately, what advertisers want, they get.

It's too early to say if this shift will be good news or bad news for data publishers, but it seems likely that this new clarity on the part of advertisers will work to level a playing field that had tilted much too far in favor of the search engines. Finally, everyone will truly get what they paid for, and that is a good thing.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Headlines for 3 March 2005

Top Exec Quits Bloomberg After Management Shuffle; NY Times "Circuits' Section May Be Unplugged
Wolters Kluwer turns to profit in 4Q
National Association of Realtors puts copyright bill plans on hold
Broadband growth 'astounding'
Blogs Expose Personal Finance: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Friendster befriends blogs--and fees
Infinity to Stream News, News-Talk Stations
BBC governors set to be scrapped
More than half of search users not loyal to one brand
Craigslist expands its reach to outer space (streaming video)
Intel shows off Mac mini-like concept PC

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Wednesday, March 2, 2005

BlogginWallStreet: Weblogs Offer a New Twist to Market Commentary

When you think back to the early days of, there was an exuberance and simplicity to their product that was not unlike today's weblogs. A little smattering of market data and a stream of comments mostly from Jim Cramer made for a very entertaining and chat-worthy product. Then they had to go get "serious" with VC money, honchos from market data companies who "knew" the content markets and so on. Today's is certainly a serious product, with free and paid subscription components, broad editorial capabilities and sophisticated insights. Unfortunately, though, it winds up being just another good financial portal in the process. Enter BlogginWallStreet, a recently announced offering from EdgeInvest that provides a very raw stream of Street-oriented rants on a wide variety of investor topics with a smattering of market data on the site. Sound familiar? Cramer in his prime was far sharper than this weblog, but it's refreshing to see someone striking out to give an edge to financial markets commentary again in a simple package. Just about anyone can come along now and set up shop as their own self-styled Cramer in the making. The main EdgeInvest offering is InvestorIntelligence, a tool to simplify receiving filtered updates to key business content sources via their desktop application. And this is If I'm in their shoes I'd dump the publisher feeds, do a Jason Calacanis and build a stable of weblogs using competent Street commentators with an ad layer and a subscription layer. Would certainly have a focus and escape the VerticalNet-like blandness of Weblogs Inc. Cramer, we hardly knew ye...

RSS Progresses into STM Publishing via Elsevier's Engineering Village 2: Push Was Always Good

Feedback from Elsevier on Shore affiliate Russell Perkins' recent weblog entry on the increasing use of RSS in B2B publishing highlighted their use of RSS in their Engineering Village 2 portal to deliver streams of updates to clients for search queries. An EV2 user can form a query for documents and from the search results order up an RSS stream to push down summaries of new documents posted to EV2 that fit the query's specs. Elsevier claims that EV2 is "the first subscription based engineering A&I platform [that] provides RSS feeds." I'll take that last part with a grain of salt, but this is clearly a good example of how publishers are using RSS to publish database update streams to their clients in an easily repackaged form. Publishers can't be too pushy with the volumes of content shoved down to individual users via feeds - pushing the limits of user and network technologies in the process. Alerts capabilities such as the RSS alerts feature of EV2 are representative of the more selective update process that is powering many content push applications today. When clients have the ability to receive just the content that they want on a sprinkled basis rather than a full firehose you've created a more personal relationship that will keep them coming back for more pampering. Relatively lightweight technologies such as RSS allow personalized streams of content to be delivered to the right users at the right time with a minimum of fuss and overhead in a convenient XML wrapper. That point-to-point delivery of content value can be just the thing to cement client relationships at the desktop level.

ClearForest Focuses on Extracting Actionable Intelligence from Content for Publishers and Institutions

ClearForest has been one of the pioneers in text analytics technologies used to create actionable intelligence from reams of content. Like many content technology providers they've decided to tune their marketing message to focus more on the creation of content value as the end product rather than technology. ClearForest recently underscored this shift with their announcement of a "partner ready" version of its upgraded Text Analytics Platform to encourage publishers, enterprises and technology partners to extract and package new forms of useful content out of their existing structured and unstructured data sets. In concept you can turn ClearForest loose on these data sets and let it discover valuable patterns that can be used on the fly or packaged for internal or external publishing. While this kind of enhanced rich data formation may not obsolesce business intelligence professionals or the marketing departments of publishers any time soon it's certainly the kind of tool that can see some significant patterns of usefulness in content long before someone relying on more traditional tools can identify and react to a good number of these opportunities. Identifying the "now-ness" of content value becomes increasingly important in an era when database technologies are ubiquitous but the ability to respond rapidly to content packaging opportunities is still a nascent art. A good repositioning of some long-established technology into more of a vContent profile.

Headlines for 2 March 2005

Yahoo opens search engine to developers
The Blogfather? Calacanis expands family
Pearson’s chief wants structure left intact
Time Warner CEO: Making AOL a Real Player in Online Space
New Browsers, Same Unwanted Ads
Facing Internet Age, China Retools Laws
Reuters Summit-Web Search Technology Still in Early Stages
Blogs Keep Internet Customers Coming Back
Thomson Financial Adopts ICB in Global Distribution Deal
WIPO And KIPO To Develop Multimedia Content On Intellectual Property
BlogginWallStreet Attracts Investors With Timely Humor and Provocative Perspectives
ProQuest wins Toyota deal
Investment Bank, Sandler O'Neill & Partners, Selects LexisNexis InterAction for CRM
Onfolio and Feedster Team Up to Bring Persistent Web Searching Capabilities into Onfolio 2.0 Feedster
Internet Mortgage Rate Portal Upgrades to New Data Provider and a New Look
Blogdigger and Webjay Announce Partnership for Enhanced Audio/Video Search

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Tuesday, March 1, 2005

FAST Tunes ProPublish to Service Professional Publishers' Needs

In an interesting twist enterprise search engines are reaching out to deliver more value to professional publishers trying to add more value to their online wares. FAST Search and Transfer has announced the availability of its ProPublish search and publishing solution, a productisation of capabilities it has developed for both enterprises and aggregators. The features of ProPublish are derived from FAST's Enterprise Search Platform (ESP), with a rich and powerful array of features to locate, navigate and display search results for documents in a highly navigable form, as well as to package retrieved documents for easy use. Also carrying over from the enterprise version is the ability to manage access to subscription content via a centralized access management capability. While these newly targeted FAST capabilities may not blow away some of the capabilities of major aggregators' own search features, their robustness being made available to publishers of all kinds emphasizes how underpowered many publishers' search infrastructures are and how the search capability of aggregators is no longer the only solution they need consider to make their content more accessible to their readers. Most significantly FAST's ESP underpinnings for ProPublish are derived from the same technology honed in enterprises demanding solutions not just for publishers' content but for structured and unstructured sources of many kinds. By offering the same kind of capabilities to publishers FAST is working on creating a "common tongue" for professionally-oriented content searchers that may challenge the basic value propositions of many content aggregation services over time. Others such as IBM are on this chase as well, of course, but few have the inroads to both the publishing community and the enterprise community enjoyed by FAST. This is a space worth watching very carefully in the months ahead as publishers try to develop deeper value propositions for their content that match up well with the enterprise-based needs of their client bases.

Headlines for 1 March 2005

The Next Generation: For today's media execs, digital is where the action is
In Hunt for Online Advertising, Yahoo Makes Big Bet on Media
It started as 2 guys in a trailer: The story of Yahoo!'s success
Pearson can't p..p..pick up its Penguin
LinkedIn to introduce fees
Visualize This: Visualization Software Helps Searchers
EMC Gives Centera a Search Jolt
Google Adds Movie Showtime Search
Northern Light Adds Market Intelligence Centers to the Business Research Engine
FAST Unveils FAST ProPublish to Publishers Improve Production and Delivery of Digital Content
ClearForest Announces Partner-Ready Platform and Technology Roadmap for 2005
Accoona Adds News Search Functionality to its Artificial Intelligence Search Engine
Captiva Signs IBM to Resell Its Input Management Solutions And Services

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News Analysis - Boundary Issues: Google's AutoLink Feature Tests The Edge of Content Real Estate

When Google launched a new AutoLink feature for its browser toolbar, the new feature was inserting links automatically into Web pages for maps, books and other key contextual content. This encroachment on content didn't make some folks very happy, so the feature has been retuned to not intrude automatically. While it's understandable that publishers would get unsettled by this effort to make Web content more valuable at their expense, there's nothing to stop us from congratulating Google on coming up with a new method of creating monetizable value out of contextualizing content. As today's Web content providers become more adept at using software to contextualize its value tools for monetization like AutoLink are bound to flourish.

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