Friday, April 29, 2005

Google: Racing Towards Irrelevance?

Google's recent decision to introduce advertising options not tied to keywords is a watershed event for the company. In one fell swoop, it is moving beyond the formula that made it unique and exciting -- relevancy coupled with pay-for-performance pricing -- and crossing over into the traditional world of cost-per-thousand advertising. What's driving this move? On quick inspection, it can be dismissed as nothing more than a quick grab for cash. But to me, it's a sign that Google is poised to lose its direction. Indeed the New York Times reports that some stock analysts are now suggesting that Google's advertising network will become more important to its business than its search engine.

This belies Google's origins. Its early success was driven by a pure focus on doing search better than anyone else, and keeping far, far away from the dot-com gold rush. You may recall that in its early years, it was a point of honor with Google that it accepted no advertising at all. When it finally introduced advertising, it was in discrete ads set off to the side of search results to avoid any chance of intrusion or confusion. Now, Google plans to enter the bazaar, offering graphics, animation and other elements that will let advertisers more aggressively clamor for your attention. In short, Google plans to become just like everyone else. Relevancy, the cornerstone of all its advertising programs, is now optional. After decrying the inefficiency of cost per thousand advertising for years, Google is now embracing it.

What's perhaps most worrisome in Google’s decision to even more intensely focus on advertising is that this may well lead to a reduced emphasis on its search engine. This is the mistake Yahoo! made a few years ago when it decided its Web index was nothing more than a "site feature," and actually started licensing its index in part from Google, and in doing so, fueling Google's growth. Users (a/k/a those valuable eyeballs Google wants to expose to advertising) go to Google because it is perceived to produce more relevant results than anyone else. If Google fails to deliver on this promise, or if people even start to believe Google is no longer delivering, its users will start to move to the next, new hot thing in search engines (and there are no shortage of them out there), and Google's distinction -- and traffic -- will decline.

If Google decides that its primary business is distributing advertising to its network of publisher sites, then it becomes nothing more than one of dozens of online advertising networks, focused on delivering the highest number of impressions with only a passing nod to relevance or quality. That's a huge departure for a company that built itself on being different and better.

There have been more than a few companies that found initial fame and fortune as search engines, then repudiated their roots in the race for even bigger dollars only to find themselves in much more competitive markets with little to distinguish them. Google is now at risk of repeating history. Search will remain a good and profitable business, but only for those search engines that remain committed to it. Those that treat search as a means to an end often arrive at a dead end.

Headlines for 29 April 2005

IAB releases final 2004 numbers: Ad revenue up 33%
Time for a change: The Associated Press as Napsterized news
Reuters loses market share
Goldman Sachs: Q1 Was Weakest Quarter for Newspapers in Years
Librarians worry important information is being lost
CNN accused of using blogs for Guerrilla Marketing Campaign
Ask Jeeves CEO: 1Q Showed Strong Financial, Traffic Growth
rss, where art thou?
Browser Market Share Study
Prous Science Selects Cadmus/KGL for Content Production

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Inbox Report: Zinio Launches Browse Before you Buy Feature

My inbox had an announcement from Zinio promoting browsable editions of some of their major magazines as an incentive to purchase. Previews are now available at the Zinio site via a very light and fast browser plugin that emulates most of the functionality of the current PC-based browser for downloaded full editions of magazines - including the ability to forward an issue to someone. Zinio is trying hard to make paper-formatted content work online, and while its features and performance have improved notably over the past year, it's still a challenge to read these online mags without a pretty hefty monitor. Kind of limits it on airplanes with my portable, though I've made do and enjoyed the experience pretty well. With is rich media capabilities the Zinio reader has additional tricks that are largely unexploited at this time and that will compete with aggressive Flash content development for the attention of advertisers and publishers. At the same time this seems to be the year when the universal "aha" has lit up in the minds of publishers that online content is more of an opportunity than a threat, leaving "safe" electronic platforms such as Zinio competing for attention with general Web and wireless delivery capabilities. There are still very interesting opportunities for combining paper-formatted delivery of content with online capabilities and the Zinio system has a lot of investment behind it to make it a viable platform, but there's still a lot of work to do to make the content going into user's Zinio downloads a unique and worthwhile experience differentiated from both browser delivery and traditional paper publications.

eMeta Introduces "Calling Plan" Pricing for Content and Services

eMeta Corporation has announced enhanced functionality for its ecommerce capabilities that allows publishers and online service providers "utility pricing" models that will allow them to collect for content on a usage bases within a number of flexibly defined plans, similar to the "calling plans" implemented by telcos for their services. This tier of content payment is long overdue for exploitation in publishing, allowing content providers and providers of related services and software to allow users to pay for content on a unit basis in a way that makes its "pay per view" consumption painless and proportional to their real valuation of a service. Like phone calling plans, the right packaging within this model can allow readers and users to get "hooked" on the value of a source for a low minimum and have nominal incremental revenues that are enough to satisfy publishers and small enough to still encourage vigorous use - or upgrade to more robust subscription plans.

The "calling plan" model could also be very compatible with content repurposing and redistribution schemes, allowing users to push content to where other people's clicks could activate the same payment mechanism, in theory. Thus instead of hanging on for unrealistic pricing of pay-per-view articles (does anyone really want to pay half a magazine price for one news article?) content could be quickly monetized on a per-click basis and then spread like wildfire through redistribution and weblog links to others who will value it and click on it in the immediate moment and context. There are many types of companies that can win in this scenario, if they're willing to look at their subscription and redistribution agreements and try on this potentially powerful new model. It's likely to favor first those with little to lose and everything to gain in the new model, such as new presences in online music and gaming, but keep you eye on this as a model that can impact core business content sooner than you may think.

Microsoft's Metro XML Format in Longhorn Targets Adobe

The Register providea a great analysis of how Microsoft's new XML document format dubbed "Metro" that's slated for next year's Longhorn update to Windows XP, noting its positioning as a portable document format that will allow application-independent printing and authoring on any XML-enabled platform. Microsoft is taking its time making sure that this is a quality release and early rumblings are indicating that reverse-compatability is going to be far less of a factor, so the universality of its acceptance is far from assured. That said, Microsoft is barking up the right tree with an XML-enabled universal container that can be freed from fatware such as Adobe's Acrobat Reader and take on a life of its own as a container with both content and functionality. This is great stuff, but it's a shame that Microsoft has the boat anchor of operating system sales and turf to defend in order to launch progressive content packaging schemes such as this. The move towards intelligent packaging of content based on XML objects is steaming along with or without Microsoft. They may yet catch a part of the wave with Metro/Longhorn, but yet again they have failed to define the wave, leaving plenty of room for alternative content packaging schemes to progress on their own. The sooner that Microsoft eases away from the platform business and focuses on universal packaging for completely portable content and functionality the better it will be for them and for all of us content producers and consumers.

Headlines for 28 April 2005

Yahoo Changes News Site, Adds Features
Microsoft XML guru sees power for the people
Dow Jones launches behavioral targeting across sites
Lawsuit Charges Circ Scams at Milwaukee Paper
Search engines, startup media sites dream of becoming video hubs
Google AdSense for RSS running at Weblogs, Inc.
RSS|vp Adds Branded News and Podcasting Readers to Its Marketing Arsenal
NewsGator Private Label Demo
No Google, please, we're French
Print learns to love the web
eMeta Enhances eRightsWEB, Allowing Software as a Service and Content Providers to Employ Utility Pricing

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Newsweek Will Post Online Content Regularly to Boost Viewership

Online Media Daily notes that Newsweek magazine has opted to post articles on their Web site throughout the week, because - who'da thunk! - traffic falls off after their weekly postings. This is in addition to audio podcasts and Web-only content, indicating the rapidity with which major magazines are moving away from the "online exists to promote print subscriptions" model to a model that accepts the need to cultivate relationships with online readers as revenue-generating end unto itself. Weekly news magazines have a lot to lose in today's content mix as readers opt for a broad array of online events commentary with more focused editorial outlook dispensed in constant streams. Oftentimes adapting to user lifestyles means abandoning long-cherished product concepts ("We're a weekly magazine") and recognizing that controlled distribution is no longer as important as maximizing consumption through essentially limitless distribution channels. Print continues to play a role in this mix, but increasingly as a specialized outreach tool to maintain loyalty to online offerings. The sea changes overtaking publications born in the print era continue to mount in strength, challenging all publishers to consider how to market editorial content through as many channels and contexts as possible to allow users to discover content. Early days for these publications for radical online changes, but given the lack of profitable options, there's no choice but to adapt or die.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Aggregators Buoyed by Economy, Core Businesses Uptick

Recent earnings and forecast reports by Elsevier, InfoUSA, and Thomson point to a strengthening market for their core database products, even as rumblings of Reuters raising pricing on its financial data offerings indicate one of the "whys": seat counts are stabilizing for the moment in major sectors such as finance that had been bleeding users for the better part of four years. For the moment the economy is providing major aggregators some breathing room and some cash flow from existing products to concentrate on acquisitions that are allowing them to penetrate new and existing market sectors more effectively. This is reminiscent of earlier economic recoveries, providing a sense that there is a certain return to "normalcy," albeit with some whistling in the wind. When you look carefully, the gains are strongest where investments in more content integration and workflow capabilities are paying off in conjunction with key acquisitions feeding these systems. This sophisticated approach to creating content value draws database publishers ever closer to being primarily software solutions providers that happen to have licensed content at their disposal, even as software providers move increasingly towards subscription models that resemble long-established content licensing models. There's reason to enjoy this recovery in the short run, but expect more solutions to reach the marketplace in the next few years that make it easier for professionals to purchase both content and functionality in a more modular, ad hoc fashion that can move very quickly to adjust to rapidly evolving client requirements. Aggregation is here to stay, but the value proposition is still on the move away from database publishers that cannot become the center of a user-centric content consumption culture.

Headlines for 27 April 2005

Buying spree doubles profit at Thomson
InfoUSA posts record revenue
Reed Elsevier Sees `Generally Improving' Business Conditions
Veronis buys Facts on File
Next: The Google Street Journal
World Intellectual Property Day
RSS: Cool Tool for Search Engine Marketing
The Smart Money Behind Video Blogging
Findory: Read, Learn, Personalize
Newsweek.com To Post New Articles Daily
Research and Markets: Almost 22% of Law Libraries Have Materials Budgets Greater Than $350,000
Aungate, Complinet Partnership to Deliver World's First Automated Compliance Information Platform
Reed Elsevier companies choose Bookmaster
Intellext Introduces Suite of Tools at Software 2005 for Online Content Providers to Leverage Context
ProjectForum Makes Wiki Collaboration Easy

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Headlines for 26 April 2005

Newspapers Find National Ads a Tough Sell
Netscape pioneers launch free content network
Thomson Reports Stronger Profit, Raises Dividend
Time Inc. Plans Long-Term Mobile Strategy
Google to launch RSS advertising?
JupiterResearch Reveals Growing Preference for Online News at the Expense of TV and Newspapers
American Urological Association, Elsevier Announce New Partnership
Inxight Software and A.I. Tech Software Partner to Provide a Powerful, Intelligent CRM Experience
Open Media Network, Launches Web Beta: A Free Consumer Service for Viewing Public Service Content
Mintz Levin Selects Contact Networks' Innovative Enterprise Search Solution
Intermix Media Extends Reach Through RSS Content Syndication for Greater Advertising Opportunities

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Monday, April 25, 2005

Headlines for 25 April 2005

Google Weighs Changes to Ad Strategy
Primedia explores sale of business information unit
A Hundred Cellphones Bloom, and Chinese Take to the Streets
The Year of Living Wirelessly
Newspapers struggle to avoid their own obit
Roll up for 'FT' sale of the century
EU approves BT Group's acquisition of Radianz
ProQuest to digitise parliamentary papers
Reuters picks up 26% in Times TV
What is Structured Blogging?
Stock recovery eyed by Thomson Financial
A Boldface Name Invites Others to Blog With Her
Innovative Knovel Program Helps Institutionsmake the Transition to a Virtual Library
Digital Information Network Launches Streaming Newscast Service for Local Broadcasters
Wolters Kluwer Health's Medi-Span Web Site Wins National Award
Crystal Semantics Patented Sense Engine Now Available in Server Side, Client and WEB Versions
FindProfit.com Provides Updated Research On Mobile Content Providers

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

News Analysis - Howlers: New Automation and Human Models Challenge Traditional Indexing

Professionals of many stripes came together at the workshop on current and future trends in indexing held by the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services (NFAIS) in New York last week to get a handle on what's creating value in indexing today. The session made clear that publishers who have long relied on high-quality indexing to bring in revenues are not having much fun in an environment that increasingly favors the ad hoc over long established content structure for bringing in profits. The future of professional indexers may be smaller in terms of their pre-automated past, but these same tools are also providing new opportunities for both professional indexers and their users - those "howlers" - to create more content value.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Friday, April 22, 2005

Yesterday's News

According to published reports, newspaper executives at their annual conference received what was described as "startling" news from a team of McKinsey & Company executives - - their classified advertising businesses have eroded noticeably, and are poised to drop as much as 20% more by 2007. The cause of this steep decline: Internet competitors such as Monster.com, Craigslist and RealEstate.com.

I want to empathize with these newspaper folks -- we're in different wings of the same business after all -- but for people whose business is gathering and reporting news, they always seem to be the last people to know what's going on. Of course, this may be some form of denial as well. In either case, it's worth taking a closer look at one type of classified advertising, help wanted ads, because what's driving this decline isn't unique to newspapers.

In many markets, newspapers are effectively monopolies, and their pricing tends to reflect that. I've placed more than a few newspaper help wanted ads, and if you're not careful, you can easily drop close to $1,000 for a few lines of type that would generally appear only once. It's not surprising, then, that the McKinsey study quotes a newspaper executive as saying that, "Classified advertising is more profitable than printing dollar bills."

Along comes the Internet, and suddenly the reach of newspapers can be duplicated, and even expanded upon, without the infrastructure costs. It's been open season on newspaper classifieds ever since. Just as significantly, these online competitors realized that without paper, ink and delivery vans they could charge a fraction of the price and still make boatloads of money, a development that McKinsey refers to as "price destruction."

But there is more going on with these online job sites than just lower prices, and therein lies what I consider the most important point of all: these online job sites aren't just competitive businesses; they are better businesses because they've streamlined the hiring process and integrated themselves into their customer's workflow.

Consider the improvements. With newspapers, you would often wait for the big Sunday edition to advertise. Online, you're receiving responses within minutes of posting your ad. With newspapers, your ad is forced into a category, which may or may not be where people are looking (newspaper solution: buy cross-reference ads!). Online, your ad is accessible by category and by keyword, improving discoverability. Online, you reach a national if not global audience, and your ad stays visible longer. These are all what I'd call the "built in" advantages of Web information products. But there is still another level of benefit.

The job sites allow job hunters to post detailed resumes for free, and they sell access to these vast databases so that companies could search for candidates as job hunters were searching for open positions. The job sites built workflow applications for their customers to help them screen, filter and organize incoming resumes. Credit, of course, must also be given to the job boards for turning paper resumes into a digital stream that can be more easily forwarded, stored and archived. The sites offer automated screening tools to pre-qualify candidates, and will even manually screen and select candidates for an employer. On the job hunter side there has been workflow improvement as well. Job seekers can get real-time alerts of new job postings matching their criteria, and can even forward their pre-stored resume to a prospective employer with a few mouse clicks.

In short, the business of help wanted advertising hasn't just been digitized, it's been revolutionized by these new players. And now a new breed of players, companies like, ZoomInfo, Linked-In and Ziggs are bringing still another level of innovation to this business.

And newspapers? High overheads, declining circulations, slow-moving bureaucracies, and a penchant for trying to wish away uncomfortable business changes. Given that it's 2005, what should be startling to the newspaper industry isn't that their classified businesses are in decline. It's that they have any classified business left at all.

Google and Yahoo!: Shaking up the Advertising Business

They must be dancing in the halls at the Googleplex. Their Q1 2005 results [premium site]were spectacular, exceeding analysts' expectation. As a result, their stock price is up to almost $216 per share (as of noontime on Friday, 4/22). Over at nearby Yahoo! headquarters there must be some puzzlement about why their stock price isn't on a similar trajectory, despite having released results that also exceeded expectations just the day before (Yahoo!'s stock price is at approx. $34.5 at noontime on 4/22/05, down more than a dollar from the day before).

Both companies are benefiting from the strong growth in online advertising, and both companies had first quarter revenues that were remarkably similar (Google $1.26 billion; Yahoo! 1.2 billion). There are, of course, many similarities in the two companies' businesses. First and foremost, they compete with each other for search traffic and online advertising dollars. In analyst webcasts this week, both companies stressed growth in non-US markets as major objectives. And executives from both companies pointed to an increased focus on winning a larger share of the budgets of the largest advertisers. Terry Semel put it this way(paraphrased): currently about 2-4% of big advertisers' budgets are spent on online advertising; consumers spend about 14% of their time online; therefore the share of ad dollars is obviously going to continue to move online to place messages where customers will see them. Google also said that their direct sales force is focused on increasing penetration in Fortune 1000 companies to win their ad dollars.

The impact on the traditional advertising industry will be dramatic as more dollars are directed online. Both Google and Yahoo! are offering a wider range of online ad options and increasing the level of service they provide to big advertisers. Increasingly, ad agencies have to demonstrate their expertise in creating online and cross-media campaigns. Watch for more acquisitions of SEM companies by the big agencies. And, watch for more intermediaries to emerge that can facilitate full-service online branding, search optimization, and ecommerce programs for large companies.

At the same time, there is lots of upside for smaller players in the online advertising space. The skyrocketing stock price for Google in part reflects heady enthusiasm for online advertising in general. Yahoo! has a more diversified revenue model that includes a variety of paid content, which may explain why, in the short-term, it's share price isn't tracking with Google's. Shore will continue to track the performance of these two leaders in search and online advertising to see how their results compare in the future.

Headlines for 22 April 2005

Google Net Soars on Web Ad Boom
DoubleClick Quarterly Profit Falls
DoubleClick sale may be imminent
Analysts: Newspapers Could Lose $4 Billion to Internet
Blinkx Co-Founder Interview: Patterns point to useful data
Taunton's titles stay close to homes
A blog reveals the mind of Sun
Virtual roundtable: Grassroots journalism leaders discuss the nitty-gritty
Odds No Deterrent, as Many Try to Start Magazines
With Adobe acquiring Macromedia, will websites become obsolete?
First Film About Blogs Anticipates the Future of Independent Grassroots Movie Production, Distribution
With Matrix Terminated, Goal Of Law-Enforcement Data Sharing Remains Unresolved
Blogs Will Change Your Business
Wurld Media Reveals Technology Behind Their Legitimate P2P File-Sharing Network, Peer Impact
Fox Net Sees Custom Ads from Visible

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Headlines for 20 April 2005

Reuters: May Lift Prices As Fincl Data Mkt Revives
Google Print Draws Kudos, Skeptics at ACRL
Dow Jones Faces Scrutiny on Stock Proposal
Washingtonpost.com might offer local, national home pages
Rojo - The Return - As a Taggregator
New Vertical Search Engine helps Information Technology Students
Calculating the new readership
Resurrecting the Online Past
NBC chief mulls blogs for top news anchors
Jeremy Wright to launch new blogging venture
Towards Universal DRM
Google UK launches maps and local search
New API for Factiva SalesWorks Boosts Sales Tools with Company, Industry and Executive Info and News
blinkx Introduces Customizable and Sharable Smart Folders Pioneered by 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'
Open Text To Support Content Integration Standard For Improved Compliance and Content Management

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

AP Shifts Pricing to Charge for Online Content Repurposing

As noted by AP via numerous outlets online...well, that kind of says it all right there, doesn't it? The AP's move to charge news outlets for online use of its content is a fairly neutral move from a revenue standpoint, given how they're restructuing short-term membership fees to accomodate the move, but it's a clear statement to its membership that it needs to play on a level playing ground online with member outlets and highly successful portal outlets for its content such as Yahoo! News. In broader terms its a recognition that news aggregation is taking on new forms online, with its member news organizations having to play less exclusive roles for distribution via search engines and feed aggregators and more inclusive roles for content sourcing from suppliers other than AP. AP is in a very interesting position in the rapidly evolving landscape of news generation, playing a powerful role as a value-add aggregator and distributor of news content while trying still to service news organizations that are struggling to find the most effective positioning for their content and ads online. It's far from clear that the AP will be able to manage this role indefinitely without broadening the range of sources that it manages and considering other revenue sources, but in the meantime declaring online use as a key revenue stream is an overdue recognition that AP's future lies with online distribution.

Blah Blah on Adobe Acquisition of Macromedia: A Real Platform Opportunity for Content?

The media world is abuzz with coverage of the acquisition of Web publishing and multimedia tools provider Macromedia by Adobe Systems[CNET News coverage], fairly mixed reviews for the most part. There are observations that Adobe couldn't make a slim piece of software to save its life, while Macromedia dominates many segments of Web publishing with its Dreamweaver tools and enjoys heightening popularity of its Flash plugins to deliver online multimedia content. There are also claims that this combination represents a viable cross-platform alternative to Microsoft for content delivery. Hmmm, this last one seems a little far-fetched, but when you throw rights management capabilities already well ensconced in Adobe formats and gaining ground in Flash one does see the outlines of a matrix of rich content delivery capabilities that will have a lot of appeal to both the corporate set and media companies. I leave the analysis of the under-the-bonnet bits to the tech analysts, but with platform proliferation making it more complex for content creators to have effective and efficient cross-platform packaging the combination of these two forces is likely to provide some interesting solutions for publishers of all kinds. And hopefully for good measure the influence of Macromedia will witness the dawn of PDF readers that take less than a good turn of the second hand on my watch to load...

Headlines for 19 April 2005

AP To Charge For Web Content
Adobe ready to battle Microsoft
LexisNexis Warns 280,000 of Info Breach
Internet feeding, not beating, other media
Scale Doesn't Scale: Aggregation is the New Scale
All the news that's fit to post: Newspapers figure out a future
Meet the Gamers: Preparing Libraries for the Nintendo Generation
Tag Teams Wrestle With Web Content
It's All About Content: the Need for RSS in Press Relations
Blogdigger Joins PubSub in Supporting FeedMesh Intiative
Siebel Systems and FAST Form Long Term Partnership to Integrate FAST InStream
LexisNexis(R) File & Serve Receives Recognition for Use of Isilon IQ Clustered Storage
Open Text Introduces Unified Livelink ECM Platform

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Monday, April 18, 2005

Dow Jones' Kann Shuffles Deck to Stem Ad Revenue Slide

As reported by the New York Post in the face of tumbling ad revenues Dow Jones Chairman and CEO Peter Kann is moving up DJ's top marketing and ad executive Scott Schulman to a new Chief Strategy Officer position while Judy Barry, a star ad salesperson plucked from The New York Times, will take over Schulman's slot and report to WSJ Publisher Karen House. We ranted on the state of WSJ Online's marketing a few days ago in our weblog, but clearly its not just the Joneses who are having a hard time keeping up with the new Joneses of news content. The LA Times' recently announced a media blitz to boost circulation and other news outlets are struggling similarly. The main difference is WSJ's stoic defense of its online subscription content, which may have defended its premium ad pricing to some degree but at the end of the day does not seem to have driven up the readership necessary to attract offsetting online ad revenues. As noted in this week's news analysis content distribution is not as important to driving revenues as getting self-distributing content into the right contexts. Dow Jones certainly has a noble legacy in driving electronic content via its wire services and newspapers to important business contexts, but in the post-distribution era of content the "there" of content value is all about the reader, not the vendor, forcing many news organizations to rethink the basic nature of their offerings. Hopefully these moves by Dow Jones address their core product and product strategy as much as short-term ad sales.

In Industry Events: DCI's Portals, Collaboration and Content Management Conference: KM and Portal Flavors

Shore Senior Laurie Webster-Saft provides insights into the recent DCI Portals, Collaboration and Content Management conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here for complete entries

News Analysis - Younger Days: Buyers and Sellers of Content Adapt to New Content Value Propositions

This year's Buying and Selling eContent conference in Scottsdale, Arizona featured many established stars of the content industry along with successful mavericks touting community-driven content solutions. In the midst of this equation were the institutional content buyers, equipped with increasingly virtual library collections but many of the all-too-real issues of content licensing that have been their lament for years. Somewhere between the mavericks and the established players is a powerful value proposition taking form for premium content aimed at professionals that emphasizes maximizing basic distribution to engage content where its premium forms will take root. Content licensing models based on obsolete distribution patterns may be slowing down the growth of high-margin services that are really valued by clients. Time to get the real content buyers engaged in the conversation?

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 18 April 2005

Adobe to buy Macromedia for $3.4 billion
Pearson pressed to sell Financial Times
Dow Jones' Kann Sends S.O.S. for Turnaround Team
Tribune and Knight Ridder Post Earnings Gains
What the Boys of Yahoo See Coming
Study shows US users will pay for content if it's right for them
Internet's growth, innovation threatens newspapers
The New Business of Content Alerts
Marketing Research Back in Style
The intranet is dead - long live the wiki
LexisNexis launches Japanese legal database
ALM Introduces Total Opportunity Program for Integrated Marketing to Legal Industry
Verity Introduces First Business Process Management Solution with In-Process Enterprise-Class Search
Onfolio 2.0 Includes RSS News Feed Readers and Managing Web Research to Boost Productivity
Investment Bank & Securities Firm, Bridgewell, Selects Interaction for Crm

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Catering to Digital Natives: Murdoch Leads the Second Great Awakening of Media

Rupert Murdoch may be many things but he's not a shy man, nor one unwilling to admit that a new direction must be taken when the time has come. Apparently Mr. Murdoch's watch went a-beeping as of late, as he told a luncheon crowd at the American Society of Newspaper Editors [Editor & Publisher coverage] about the need for newspaper publishers to grab on to the new generation of "digital natives" in whose readership lies the future of their trade. After citing familiarly dreary stats on the fall of newspaper readership and the rise of a generation raised on Web content Murdoch notes "I fear technology, and our response to it, is by no means our only challenge. What I worry about much more is our ability to make the cultural changes. We are too out of touch with our readers. We worry too much about whether we have the story than whether anyone wants the story."

With a raft of other stories in the news in a similar vein, Murdoch's keynote on the movement towards self-evaluation in news organizations highlights that many leading news publishers are beginning to understand the depths to which they must examine their operations to make them relevant and profitable moving forward. This concept of listening to and engaging one's audience in a highly responsive manner is still very new to the culture of most traditional publishers, but a concept that's a necessity for them to become thriving organizations in today's electronic content environment. After a decade of publishers slowly grasping the Web, the Web itself now seems to be calling them to a second "great awakening," in which it's no longer sufficient to treat as secondary the most efficient and effective content distribution channels available today. It's questionable whether Murdoch's address will have any immediate effect on news publishers, but it's clear that it will mark a watershed of the industry's self-recognition in the face of irresistible change.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Buying and Selling eContent 2005: Shore Coverage

You'll find entries from Shore analysts discussing events at the Buying and Selling eContent conference on our Industry Events weblog.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Text Mining Value Slowly Emerging

One of the sessions I attended at the recent DCI Portals, Collaboration and Content Management Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, "The Word on Text Mining", with Seth Grimes of Alta Plana Corporation, shed additional light on the emergence of viable applications for this intriguing technology. Text mining plus more sophisticated entity extraction techniques have moved the technology from theoretical to practical. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have adopted the technology to sift through the plethora of seemingly unrelated data to find meaningful patterns, but there's limited available information on the actual techniques. The same techniques can be applied to fraud detection and risk management, yielding objective scores. Call centers are also experimenting with the same type of analysis to extract meaning from random events embedded in volumes of telephone calls.

Applications in the publishing world remain elusive, with the most promising being in the realm of drug discovery, where analysis of the medical literature may yield new insights into chemical compounds and clinical results. More customers are demanding text mining rights when purchasing premium content, particularly journals, in anticipation of future needs for their organizations. Publishers are reluctant to grant these rights, not understanding that usage will be slow to develop and the need to nurture innovative applications of traditional content that can yield future value to both the customer and the publisher. It's time to relook at some old models that have yielded high value, specifically citation analysis in the scientific literature where value is discovered by documenting which authors are citing each other in scholarly research, a business built by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). Google PageRank came out of the same construct by analyzing links between websites, so watch for developments in this area to spot new advances lurking around the corner as the technology is applied in new contexts.

Headlines for 15 April 2005

LexisNexis Chief Advocates Data Security Rule
Worm attack forces Reuters IM offline
Circ Drops at 'Boston Globe,' Some Gains at 'NYT' and McClatchy Papers
RSS, Blogs and Relationship Marketing: Interview With Roger C. Parker
Blogs, Wikis, RSS: Walking the enterprise tightrope
Yahoo Revamps News Site
Newspaper Rolls Out Publication Aimed At Younger Audience
Blinkx debuts combined search
AOL Launches Enterprise Federation Program To Connect Corporate Users
IBM Senior Executive Outlines Vision For Information On Demand
Google experimenting with RSS reading functions in GMail

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Headlines for 14 April 2005

It's official: ChoicePoint, LexisNexis rooted many times
Number of blogs now exceeds 50 million worldwide
Murdoch: Newspapers Must Stop Fearing Web
WebMD ventures off Internet
Google Video Upload Program - Video Search or Blogging?
Encarta Encyclopedia Tests Edit System
Yahoo 'Hybrid' Now Dominates News Web Sites
New York Times edict to keep it short proves popular with editors
Battelle Reveals Plans: New Venture is called FM Publishing
Blog censorship gains support
HighBeam Research Announces Suite of Tools to Help Bloggers Build Better Blogs

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Headlines for 13 April 2005

LexisNexis flap draws outcry from Congress
Combat Over Collaboration
Time Inc. to use mobile messaging with magazines
The Internet's Paper Chase
Newspapers need focus on reader, editors told
Advertising, editorial lines blur as bloggers' salaries tied to traffic
Google Local goes mobile
BBC unveils five-year mobile strategy
ThomasNet.com Launches Brand Name Search Capabilities for Industrial Suppliers
Kanoodle Adds Leading Finance Publishers to Network
Thomson ResearchSoft Releases RefViz 2 for Mac and Windows

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Blogs on Blogging at the BSeC Conference: Looking in the Mirror of Online Commentators

More on the Buying and Selling eContent conference in our Industry Events weblog as we get some airport time tomorrow waiting for the redeye, but for now a quick view of the proceedings. It was one of those conferences that started out with an uncertain tone, but which ended with a good amount of intelligent learning and sharing amongst the senior industry figures in attendance. One of the more interesting aspects of this year's conference was the presence of weblogging in abundance, compared to last year, where I was one of two people who raised their hands when asked if they had a weblog (Steve Goldstein, CEO of Alacra, was the other). This year not only did several people raise their hands when asked the question but there was a fair amount of realtime blogging going on, notably from Rafat Ali, founder and CEO of PaidContent.org (his coverage starts here), who kicked off the analyst panel with his insights into the content industry whilst preparing an audio of the proceedings for uploading into a podcast. Also weblogging, and responsible in large part for the ad hoc (in the general sense) wireless network that made it happen, was Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield, who in addition to his realtime coverage (starts here, click on his home link for other conference entries) gave an excellent presentation on the capabilities of del.icio.us, a collaborative, wiki-like system for categorizing links to Web content. It's pretty easy to use, so I finally got around to adding some of our own stuff to it (take a look at the latest entry under 'aggregation'). Ross also demoed the capabilities of Wikipedia, the openly edited online encyclopedia with more a million entries, many times the entries of major encyclopedias such as Britannica (NOTE: many of these entries are valid only in the eyes of the contributors, such as separate articles on particular Bible verses, so take numbers with a Web-seasoned grain of salt). Ross demonstrated the self-healing capabilities of Wikipedia, blowing away a major article that was replaced within minutes with the original. I added our definition for content and for aggregation in content publishing to Wikipedia just for grins.

For all of these "new" content publishing capabilities being not only demoed but being used 'live' to publish content from the conference, you'd think that there would have been a huge "aha" from the attendees, but for the most part folks were pretty blase about the blogging and the wiki tools. Is it that in little more than a year weblogs have gone from being a phenomenon barely on publishers' radar screens at all to something that's taken for granted by the content industry? Or is it more a case of people thinking "Whoa, this is way too simple, let's go back to talking about content licensing"? I think that it's a combination of the two, but rather eerily like the reactions of publishers to the initial manifestation of the Web itself. Would that the mainstream publishing industry had been building some of these kinds of inexpensive and powerful tools all along to create more content value through universal publishing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Newstex Launches Content on Demand: Simplifying Content Repurposing with Tailored Feeds

It's been a very interesting few days at the Buying and Selling eContent Conference at Camelback in Scottsdale, AZ. This morning we participated in a series of roundtable discussions, including interesting discussions on mobile content, content repurposing, dealing with Google, and so on. In the mobile discussion a traditional news distributor was wrestling with the ins and outs of how to deal with the mulitplicity of channels to be managed for mobile content, wondering how to come up with a strategy that was cost-effective from a licensing and implementation perspective. Enter Newstex, a new company established by ex-Comtex executives Steve Ellis and Larry Schwartz. Newstex has announced its Content on Demand service, a new content feed capability that combines news from traditional sources and from weblogs selected by Newstex for their topic coverage and editorial quality. All of this gets indexed with categorization metadata, stock ticker symbols and can be packaged into tailored feeds suitable for many different distribution environments, including RSS feeds compatible with weblog news readers and SMS feeds for mobile platforms.

Newstex a very interesting combination of old and new business models, accepting the widening definition of what creates value in news content in an agnostic but quality-minded fashion and adding effective metadata that makes it as useful as any news product from traditional sources. The Newstex platform's tailoring capabilities allows highly specific content sets to be fed to destination sites, allowing highly efficient near-realtime delivery of targeted content sets in standard or custom formats, thus eliminating the need for local processing platforms. Being able to think broadly about content sources and to tailor solutions to highly specific needs very cost-effectively is one key aspect of success in The New Aggregation, focusing on specific attributes of content aggregation that aren't tied to narrow assumptions about what constitutes quality content as sources of success and focusing on highly specific client content needs for those sources. Feeds are an old game, but there's new life in them when new thinking is applied.

Headlines for 12 April 2005

LexisNexis Says 320,000 User Files Opened By Hackers, Ten Times Original Estimate
Workers of the World—Collaborate
Reuters red-faced over memo mistake
Reed Elsevier reaffirms targets as LexisNexis fraud probe at Seisint unit ends
U.S. Government Printing Office Seeks Vendor Link
Los Angeles Times Investing More Than $10 Million in 2005 on Advertising and Direct Marketing
Gannett Profit Slips 3.2% On Lower Broadcast Revenue
Content and CRM: Completing the Picture
Vivisimo Upgrades Velocity Search Platform; Adds Enterprise-Class Security, Reporting and Alerts
Thomson TradeWeb Reports Record Volume for First Quarter of 2005
Rocketinfo Launches Rocket Desktop News Search Tool
Tele Atlas Integrates High Quality Points of Interest from infoUSA with its Digital Map Database
SOHU.COM Announces Plan to Acquire Go2Map Inc., A Leading Online Mapping Service Provider in China
MedSeek expands its patient-centric healthcare information product suite with content from Healthwise

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Headlines for 11 April 2005

News Sites Solicit Articles Straight From Readers
BBC creative licence on archive copyright
Wire services, newspapers and media conglomerates side with bloggers in appeal of Apple decision
Makeover of a media giant: Born as a newspaper company, Scripps' future hinges on cable networks
Turning a digital page: the move to mimic paper
Wicks Medical Information acquires DesignWrite
'We Could Offer a Babushka Content Deal'
Reuters Datascope Announces Alliance with Princeton Financial System
Newstex Launches Content On Demand; Instant access to full-text premium news
LexisNexis adding stock research, analysis
Thomson Financial Introduces Enhanced Version of Thomson PORTIA
Dialog(R) Newsroom Tops 11,000 Sources, Adding Over 82,000 New Articles Daily
Endeca Selected by the National Cancer Institute to Power Search Collection of Cancer Information
iVillage Acquires HealthCentersOnline
LexisNexis and Weiss Ratings Join to Distribute Independent Research and Analysis Content
Wolters Kluwer Health Releases Updated Master Drug DB with Daily Updates and more Patient Safety Focus

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News Analysis - Benchmarks for Success: Database Publishers Move to Grow Online Revenues

New research from Shore affiliate Russell Perkins on database subscription pricing benchmarks reveals that we've passed the point at which print publications can be considered primary sources for the clients of database publishers. The print subscription revenues from these publications are sagging while online revenues are surging ahead. This parallels the general movement in the content industry towards having to recognize revenues from online content as the primary driver for their businesses. Building revenues and margins in an online environment can be tricky and is oftentimes not the high-margin mass business to which print-derived publishers have become accustomed. Those wanting to maintain high margins in their publishing businesses are going to have to tailor their marketing plans for much more focused efforts.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

New Research - Database Subscription Pricing Benchmarks

Freely available content has made many users unwilling to pay for database content. Those that continue to buy typically want to pay less, creating pressures on many publishers. This report provides analysis and benchmark data that examines overall market trends, marketing paid subscription data products, pricing and bundling, price-per-listing metrics and trends and issues in multi-user licensing.

click here for report details and purchasing

Friday, April 8, 2005

Headlines for 8 April 2005

All the News You Can Trust
Google Intros Q&A Service
Thomson CEO Says Europe Is Key Growth Focus
World of mergers and acquisitions distant for many micro-publishers
AOP Predicts Significant Growth For B2B Sites
Can the Internet Have Borders?
TiVo Inc. Acquires Six U.S. Patents from IBM
Jason Calacanis on Weblogs, Inc.: $1,000 a day!
Blah, Blah, Blog: Review of Reuters Weblog Panel
Proskauer Rose Uses LexisNexis Market Intelligence To Support Business Development Strategy
Reducing Expenditures and Driving Costs Out of the Corporate Library Budget

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Thursday, April 7, 2005

EBSCO Gains Focus for Business Information Users

As noted by Managing Information EBSCO is edging beyond the world of library services with a new interface that services the business information needs of business researchers more directly. The interface is free to specific customers of their Business Source databases and provides query capabilities that focus on relevant content from Academic Journals, SWOT Analyses, Trade Publications, Industry Profiles, Company Profiles, Market Research Reports, and Product Reviews. It's a baby step of sorts compared with the highly user-focused interfaces of business information products such as Hoover's and OneSource's Business Browser, but at least a step towards realigning EBSCO's capabilities with the needs of business professionals supported by their content management capabilities. EBSCO has enormous potential to support end user needs far more efficiently in environments beyond the traditional corporate library model, potential largely untapped to date. Watch this space for more happenings from subscription agents that become intelligent partners in subscription management and content packaging in a far wider range of venues than ever before. Will EBSCO be one of them? Film at 11, as they used to say in the television news trade...

Google Comes out as a 'Media Company' in 10-K Filing, But 'Blogger' is no Clue to That

As noted by Search Engine Journal and other outlets earlier this week, a careful persusal of Google's latest 10K annual report filing with the S.E.C. indicates that the Mountain View crew have come out and declared themselves to be a media company. Given that 99 percent of their revenues are from advertising that certainly makes sense, but sometimes you'd hardly know it from the assemblage of pieces that comprise Google's capabilities. Long resisting the media portal approach to integrating in the content value of its various capabilities, the company suffers from a lack of awareness of users as customers with whom they may interact, as opposed to sources of development feedback and ad clicks. This shows through most clearly in their Blogger weblogging facility, which rolls around with no integration whatsoever with other Google holdings and nary a hint of a marketing or product plan to the outside world save for being another spot to place AdSense. Add on recent outages and performance problems highlighted by Wired News today and you can hear the sound of goodwill from leading sources of weblog content being sucked down the drain.

While early reviews of Yahoo!'s beta weblogging and social networking tool are tepid at best, at least we can be sure that Yahoo!'s mature attitude as a media company, with more than a decade of managing individual content users and producers as clients, will be a welome relief for many who trusted the "G" word with their personal content. For those who want more sophistication, there are other capable free and fee-based weblogging services available. We hear a lot about the importance of supporting personal content, but for all of its commitment to content egalitarianism Google has a lot to learn about the human side of the publishing business.

Headlines for 7 April 2005

BlogRunner a rival to Google News
BlackBerry users rise to 2.5 million
Mobiles to ‘replace TV as prime ad medium’
MediaBrains agrees to buy Berkshire Information Services
'Blogger' Bloggers Pitch Fits Over Glitches
Can Credit Raters Be Regulated? Lawyer, Cases Cite First Amendment Protection
Lessig preaches openness to Flash faithful
New Business-Specific Interface Now Available from EBSCO
Google Mini search appliance has a lower price with a higher size
FAST Search and Transfer Growing Rapidly in the Enterprise
BlogKits BlogMatch Network: World’s First ‘Paid to Blog’ Network
PRnews.cn content available via Factiva on Desktops globally
Wikimedia Foundation Announces Corporate, Operational Support of Wikipedia from Yahoo! Search
Primedia merges 'Catalog Age,' 'Operations & Fulfillment' to create 'Multichannel Merchant'
ebrary Provides ALA Members with Free Access to Library Science Collection for National Library Week

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LexisNexis and Content Services: It's All About the Need

Great content companies don't stop at one market with one type of delivery: they move into high-value solutions for specific needs no matter where they are. As Patricia Joseph points out in her new research, it can sometimes take you afar from what you thought was your core value proposition. LexisNexis is pushing their envelope for personal content services a little further yet by announcing InstantID Q&A, a new service that provides identification verification of customers at consumer points of contact. Companies like LexisNexis recognize clearly that having a license to distribute content is just the start of the value proposition and work constantly and aggressively to find new market opportunities for content services far beyond core database and search capabilities. As Mike Masnick notes in The Feature, it's the innovators in content services that are making the most effective inroads into new platforms such as mobile phones: content delivery is by and large a given that people understand replicates what they can get on other platforms. Content may or may not want to be free, but content wants a great service surrounding it to make it worth our while to keep caring about it. New content channels such as mobile phones and satellite radio will enjoy a period of happiness for content distributors based on being the first show in town, but without sophisticated content services tailored to specific users' needs, the same services equation will catch up with them as well soon enough.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

The Associated Press Gears Up for an Era of User-Centric Aggregation

Associated Press President Tom Curley spoke recently before some of their membership in Texas and highlighted the upcoming AP delivery platform that will enable more direct delivery of text and multimedia content to a wider range of devices and platforms than ever before. Curley notes the shift away from newspapers, scheduled broadcasts and bookmarked Web sites towards the consumption of specific news items collected directly via users on PCs, TiVos and portable devices. Being a member-driven organization, the new AP platform is designed to help member news firms get their content into these new user-driven content channels more effectively by allowing member news organizations to search and select content more efficiently. The question being begged, though, is how an organization like AP can convert this "supplier to the suppliers" model into a sourcing model that's able to deliver its members' content more directly to the expanding universe of channels for news content.

The AP is evolving its marketing positioning to become a more aggressive player in distribution of news from both its members and other sources of news in a convenient format, but one wonders how it will be able to turn the "ship of state" quickly enough to address new market opportunities when its members hold on to making aging content channels more effective. As a service organization for news outlets the AP must walk a narrow path between servicing existing news infrastructures while becoming a more efficient distributor that can succeed beyond this loyal base. In the meantime, services such as Google News and RSS feeds have brought a new level of universality to news delivery that bypass both the AP value proposition and the value proposition of traditional news organizations to bring effective news delivery and aggregation into anyone's hands. There's a place for organizations like AP in this mix, but it will require even more aggressive thinking about how to make the most of being a "middle man" in the content industry.

Personal Video Gains Ground with Google, Gore: Everyman's Media in the Spotlight

There's a wave building for multimedia content from any number of angles these days. Australian scientific and technical publisher CSIRO is gearing up with Continuous Media Markup Language (CMML) standards that allows users to search, access, navigate and query time-continuous media the way HTML does for text [CIO Magazine], while radio and video make their way onto weblogs and multimedia-ready cell phones. But the big news this week is not how professional sources of multimedia content are gaining ground but how amateur video is gaining status. Google's video searching service is now accepting submissions of amateur video for inclusion into its online index, according to PC World and other majors. Google's search will show transcripts, if available, and still photos, just as it does with other broadcast sources. There's no built-in video retrieval, so this will not mean an easy way for an amateur video phenomenon like "Star Wars Kid" to propagate easily, but it does recognize that non-media sources of multimedia are gaining stature as both entertainment and information.

This trend is further underlined by former U.S. Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore's new cable TV venture targeted at 18-34 year-olds that will include amateur video submitted by its viewers into the programming mix, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The new TV channel, dubbed Current, is slated to debut this August with a mix of professional and amateur content tied in closely to its Web presence. Currently Current's Web site is running contests and promotions to encourage amateur submissions - kind of an online American Idol looking for the next Star Wars Kid, if you will, to build up an inventory of clips. In all of this it's clear that the phenomenon of personal publishing that quickly swept the world of text is beginning to gain steam in shaping how traditional content outlets must position their multimedia value propositions. Just as PCs awaited the Web to unlock personal content to be shared with the world, services such as Google Video and Current are enabling a legion of personal camcorders to gain access to a marketplace for monetizable multimedia. Is nothing sacred...?

Headlines for 6 April 2005

Media M&A activity increases in Q1, Jordan Edmiston reports
Internet Firms Face Legal Test on Advertising Fees
The future of blogging
Human and automated aggregators help make sense of blogosphere
Blogs and the Law Shield laws should protect journalism, not journalists
Multimedia? CSIRO's Ready For the Rush
Gore's new media venture seeks to blend TV, Internet
Some Sirius competition from Sprint? Cell phone carriers are eyeing the growing satellite radio market
LexisNexis launches identity verification product
LexisNexis signs deal with Dauber to expand legal info
Thomson Financial signs four to treasury management system
Lebhar-Friedman completes acquisition of Dowden Health Media
RedDot First to Deliver ECM Solution with Fully Integrated Compliance Management
CP Increases U.S. Commercial Content on the CP Wire
FinancialContent Offers Flash MX Interactive Stock Charts

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Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Headlines for 5 April 2005

Google Video to Accept Public Submissions
Google adds real-time stock, ride info
Weblogsinc breaks $100,000 in Adsense revenue
IM me: Instant Messaging for libraries
The Difference Between Services And Content
Blog Meets Pod
Blogging from East to West
Viral Marketing and Media: Mutually Exclusive?
The New York Times Launches News Supplements with Newspapers in Venezuela and Austria
ContentGuard Awarded Nine New Digital Rights Management Patents

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Monday, April 4, 2005

News Analysis - Diamond Visions: Creating Content Value from Existing Sources Gains Focus

A new research report from Shore Senior Analyst Patricia Joseph focuses on creating new content value from sources that were oftentimes right under a publisher's nose. With search engines, text mining tools and other technologies being rather unfussy about where they find content value to exploit, traditional publishers and other companies in search of healthier profits are learning to roll up their sleeves and use creative thinking to provide value to both existing clients and altogether new markets. Finding diamonds in the rough is about a lot more than just tweaking up existing sources with rich data. It's about looking at content sourcing with wide-open eyes and looking at the competitive landscape with a new sense of the opportunities and the competitive forces at play.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 4 April 2005

Google 10-K: 'We’re a Media Company' and Other Tidbits
AP's Curley announces plan to help media reach Internet readers
The Electronic Investor: Blog, Blog, Blog
Inside Yahoo News: Aggregator brings RSS to the masses
The Customer is Crowned at Last
Thomson Gale Quietly Rolls Out New Business Service
The Brokerage and The Bot
Shore Report Reveals Best Practices for Mining New Profits from Existing Content
Yahoo Raises Profile With Hollywood Push
Global villages convene in wiki town halls
Vignette Awarded Patent for Content Localization and Personalization Technology
blinkx 3.0 Links Users to World's First Fully Integrated Search Tool
Intellisophic Taxonomies Fuel Inxight SmartDiscovery for More Accurate Search and Data Discovery

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New Research - Diamonds in the Rough: Creating New Content Value through New Uses

As the market for business-oriented online content matures, near-substitutes for many established content products abound on the open Web, which creates pressure on the profitability of many publishers. Shore Senior Analyst Patricia Joseph provides examples of how new uses for content have led to success for both traditional and non-traditional publishers.

click here for report details and purchasing

Aggregation or Aggravation?

The New York Times this week noted a raft of new start-ups with names like Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com and WorkZoo.com, each offering job listings aggregated from the big job boards like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and HotJobs.com, as well as hundreds of smaller job sites. By now, the idea of aggregating other people's content is a fairly tired one, but in this area, it actually makes sense. It also portends real trouble.

Meta-search engines were perhaps among the first aggregators, and they flourished in the early days of the Web because at the time, all the major search engines were largely solo acts, and none even began to approach comprehensiveness. In that environment, a consolidated search of multiple search engines provided real benefits. Today, however, with the major search engines all providing much better coverage, and with many of them actually licensing their indexes to each other, the results are far more homogenous. Consequently, a meta-search engine such as DogPile.com doesn't yield you much more than you would get using Google directly. And with the major search engines working tirelessly to improve relevance of search results while also rolling out new features, meta-search simply feels far less compelling.

In the area of business content, the list of quality content suppliers is limited, and most were smart enough not to enter into exclusive deals with any one aggregator. As a result, the big business content aggregators began to look very similar in terms of content offered. That left them to compete on price, an unattractive way to do business, which is why they've largely shifted their strategy to focus on value-added tools.

But aggregation does actually make business sense in the area of job boards. This remains a balkanized market with lots of players of all shapes and sizes. Given the costs involved, it's a rare company that would place a job listing on more than one of the big job boards at a time. Relatively high costs have therefore allowed specialty and regional job boards to thrive, offering the benefits of more targeted markets and lower prices. Since job listings are scattered over a large number of both well-known and obscure job sites, this is a market ripe for aggregation, especially since the recent boom in online advertising provides a source of quick and easy revenue for these aggregators. Users of these aggregation sites get both comprehensiveness and convenience.

At the moment, the major job boards are regarding these aggregators as just added distribution for their listings. But, as other information providers have learned, as these aggregators grow and develop their own brands, the brands of the job boards will very likely get diminished as job hunters increasing tell employers they saw the job listing on, say, SimplyHired rather than Monster. And if history is any guide, as these aggregators grow more successful, there will be enormous pressure for at least a few of them to try to sell job listings directly. And if they've got the traffic, what's to stop them?

So, if I ran a major job board, I'd be far less sanguine about this new crop of companies. Because over time, aggregators become a source of aggravation for information providers. They get a free ride off our content, allowing them to build front-ends to original sources of information, and siphon off traffic from our own sites, with the potential to become competitors should they choose. That's why I suggest you keep your eyes peeled for aggregation activity in your market, especially if your content is involved. These free riders can put a real dent in your business.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Headlines for 1 April 2005

Report: Newspaper Sites Will Bring In $1.52B in 2005
Pay Per View Comes Full Circle in Test
Google enhances search for Firefox users
Blogging in a box
Thomson Financial chief eyes Asia for growth
Mobile phones as blog tools
FISD Announces Market Data Best Practices Recommendations
Mondosoft Launches MondoSearch Enterprise; Superior Scalability and Speed for Large Web Sites
ThomasTech Partners With Riversand; ThomasTech to Integrate Product Information Management (PIM)
“Royalty Free Music” Internet Radio Announced by CSS Music

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