Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Headlines for 31 May 2005

Ask Jeeves Hopes to Zoom Ahead of Competitors
Copyright contributes 6% to China's GDP
Anton: Plan in Place for Hanley Wood Growth
The People's News Source
We the (Media) People
Do Newspapers Have a Future?
BBC, in Union Pact, Agrees To Not Sell Unit Before 2007
Sun Micro Revamps Brand, Stresses Shared Services
Going where no search engine has gone before
Digital rights management embedded in Intel chips
Topix CEO Rich Skrenta: RSS is a great way to attract permanent subscribers
Thomas Register Now Exclusively Online, Reflecting Widespread Web Adoption by Industrial Buyers,Sellers
SOHU Announces Closing of Go2Map Acquisition

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Complete Coverage of the SIIA Content Forum in our Industry Events Weblog

Shore Senior Analysts Jean Bedord and Janice McCallum provide detailed coverage of the panels and conversations held at the recent SIIA Content Forum at Universal City, California.
Click here to view our Industry Events weblog coverage

News Analysis - Lost in Translation: Japan's Industries Consider the Integration of Enterprise Content

At a recent conference in Tokyo, Japan executives from leading industries convened to hear about the latest and greatest technologies and techniques for integrating content within their enterprises. Some of these capabilities are fairly new to Japanese industrial markets, which have not advanced as far as U.S. industrial markets in integrating internal and external content sources into useful portals and applications for solving business problems. As Japan and other nations consider how to compete with countries that benefit from both globally accepted languages and advanced content integration capabilities it will be important for them to consider how to leverage assets beyond their traditional I.T. strengths to create strong content-centric cultures in their organizations.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Friday, May 27, 2005

Contradictory Noises on Google's Library Efforts

It's awesome! It's dangerous! Sounds like this could be the lead-in for the next summer blockbuster film, but the rash of contradictory noises are all pointing towards Google's online efforts to integrate scholarly content into its search engines. The level of hostile noise notched up a bit this week as a letter from The Association of American University Presses sent to Google (PDF version) has been circulating in the press, with numerous covering articles ensuing. But as noted in several accounts (AP wire story for example), in spite of the hostile tone of the letter there are no plans afoot so far by the AAUP to sue Google - fueled in part, perhaps, by the fact that prominent members such as Harvard University are also active participants in the scanning project. In the letter's "16 points" that they request Google to address the gist is that the AAUP is concerned that the Google scanning effort is walking far over the line into collecting copyrighted materials unless publishers have specific objections. This seems to be somewhat in contradiction with public statements made by Google early on in the project, so it will be interesting to see what Google's response, if any, might be.

What's clear is that AAUP members have not been moving aggressively to address the use of their presses' output in digital form on many fronts. For example, reference desks at some universities are fairly liberal in managing access to digital works. At the same time other efforts at popularizing digital access to scholarly content are working successfully with Google to promote its use in a structured manner. This week Project Muse, a subscription-based service providing access to scholarly materials, has announced that it will be allowing Google access to its content for indexing. The AAUP move may have some sound points to clarify, but much of it seems to be a holding action to delay confronting the larger issue of how university presses can provide a transition for their revenue models to a new era in which electronic access via channels most convenient for their readers is a given and a necessary standard. It's not a bad idea to have Google clarify what they're doing with their business model in this area, but it's perhaps more important for AAUP members to spend less time rattling sabers and more to consider what they need to do with their own business models, which have their own lethargy as the primary threat.

Business Media Rides High on Shifting Revenue Profiles

FOLIO: Magazine's recent poll of business media CEOs paints a picture of an industry with robust revenue growth over the past four years, with much of the growth coming in the past year of advertising renaissance. Much of the growth, according to the article, can be placed at the feet of business media companies working hard to diversify their revenue streams in that period In 2001, b-to-b media print ad revenues were 72.6 percent of the mix: in 2004, 66.7 percent. In the same period revenues from e-media, events and data soared to a combined 18.5 percent from 10.9 percent in 2001. The strengthening of business media clearly rides on the success of online properties and their ability to convert online communities into events communities effectively, with print retaining a key role as a relationship-building media for the briefcase-stuffing crowd. Unspoken in this mix, however, is the role of content distributed via aggregators such as Factiva and LexisNexis. While these channels remain important to business media the strengthening of these publications' online properties will continue to challenge traditional database services' ability to capture their increasing sophistication. Challenges also exist for business publications in serving enterprises trying to make the full value of these publications available via enterprise search engines and applications. There's plenty of good news for business publishers who are able to capture revenues shifting to online outlets, but still much work to be done adapt their content fully to an increasingly sophisticated professional audience that seeks to integrate business content more fully into applications solving business problems.

Headlines for 27 May 2005

Microsoft opens MSN portal for China
VSS sells Hanley Wood to investment group led by JPMorgan Partners
As TV Moves to the Web, Marketers Follow
Latimes.com introduces blogs, with more changes on the way
News Groups Wrestle With Online Fees
Reed Elsevier buys medical publisher
Project MUSE partners with Google to index journal content
RSS: What It Is and Why You Must Care
Yahoo, Google Eye A Lead Role In Emerging Video Search Field
ALM's Pennsylvania Newspaper Group Launches Mid-Atlantic Executive Legal Adviser for Business Leaders
MobiTV Expands to Europe with Orange UK Launch: Live Broadcast and Made-for-Mobile TV

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

SIIA Content Forum 2005: Beyond Content, The New Economics of Content

Los Angeles and the Universal Studios Sheraton were an appropriate setting for the Software and Information Industry Association annual 2005 Content Forum, with an industry that is facing a situation similar to the broadcast industry. Publishers, content technology companies and online distributors are struggling with creating valuable channels to reach their audiences, in a world dominated by the big three search engines: Google, Yahoo and MSN (does this sound like CBS, NBC, and ABC?). Yet the future for the attendees at this always lively and valuable conference is in creating specialty channels, similar to the cable TV model which can deliver hundreds of different views, each catering to a different niche audience, using a mix of advertising, pay, pay per view, and paid inclusion.

Passing the TV channel changer was an apt analogy highlighting the theme of reaching the individual user of content, not an industry per se. This requires delivering the right content at the right time to the right user, a not insignificant challenge in an industry which originated in the print media, and still derives the major part of revenue from either print advertising or subscriptions. The opening keynote panel, "Searching for Content in all the Right Places", featuring FAST Search & Transfer, Topix, Yahoo and Vivisimo, all emphasized the value and opportunity in building specialized vertical search engines/portals, structuring the content to optimize retrieval by the large search engines. Following on that theme, Shore Senior Analyst Janice McCallum, chaired the panel on "Morphing Channels: Choosing Online Channel Partners" with medical information providers, Ovid, Infotrieve, ePocrates, and FDC Reports, describing the different channels they use to reach their customers.

Defining the audience in terms of a job function, or maybe even a set of tasks, was a recurring theme in the different sessions. For ePocrates, it's the individual physician who needs certain authoritative information at the bedside, and can't be lugging around print materials or necessarily have access to a terminal. For Biz360, it's the public relations person, who needs to know breaking news which may affect their company. For Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, it's ensuring over 1000 lawyers worldwide know events and news that might affect their clients, before the client is even aware. INPUT has built a database of intelligence about government procurement, an essential source for sales people selling multi-million, even billion dollar contracts to the federal government. Congressional Quarterly delivers content to analysts who need information about congressional actions in Washington D.C. . GlobalSpec has built a database of part numbers and their technical specs for design engineers, no small feat given the vagaries of manufacturers. Infotrieve delivers content to the bench research scientists, who want a single source of journal articles from hundreds of primary publishers, and deep vertical solutions for topics such as proteomics. The individual, regardless of whether payment is through an institution or individually, is the new market reality. Interestingly, this flowed into the keynote speaker, Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson speaking to both the Ed Tech as well as the Content Forum attendees, emphasizing that the student is the customer, not the government and not the school system.

The global market place was another theme, with the search engines being the obvious worldwide distribution channel, but increasingly the content is taking on a global aspect. Variety, the quintessential American entertainment publication, now has Variety China and is looking to expand titles to other countries. Reed Business Information is not only developing international versions, but also outsourcing production, and actively looking for partners in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Ovid delivers content in local media in local markets, i.e. CD-ROM in Iran, and is also actively expanding international medical coverage through their Lippincott imprint. Infotrieve has the challenge of publishers who artificially lock themselves out of markets by fixed copyright charges which illegal in certain countries.

For more insight and details on the panels, including the perennial issue of the impact of the technology, Janice McCallum and I will be posting to the Industry Events weblog, in lieu of the virtual John Blossom, who is in Tokyo this week.

Headlines for 26 May 2005

30% of Americans have read a blog: poll
LexisNexis Database Hackers Reveal Tactics
New York Times Co. to Cut Staff Amid Ad Weakness
Gannett Appoints Craig Dubow New President and CEO
More Money From Paid Content
Student's start-up draws attention and $13 million
Google Searching For A Business Market
Reed Elsevier to buy medical publishing business MediMedia MAP for 270 mln eur
Coveo Solutions Inc. Designates SoftSelect (Pty) Ltd as Master Reseller
SchemaLogic and iPhrase Form Strategic Partnership to Help Companies Leverage Enterprise Information
ProjectForum 4.4 adds Tables, Slideshows to Easy-to-use Wiki
Mondosoft's New Database Indexing Feature Enables Enterprise-wide Unified Search with MondoSearch

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Highlights From Goldman Sachs Market Data Conference

I recently chaired a panel of market data experts at THEMEdia 2005 conference held by Goldman Sachs in London. The panel included Julie Holland, global head of Research & Asset Management at Reuters; Mark Hepsworth, managing director of Interactive Data Corporation's ComStock Europe; Hardeep Rai, executive committee member of the Information Providers User Group (IPUG); and Donal Smith, chief operating officer of Thomson Financial Europe. (The panelists were assured their individual remarks were off the record.)

In an informal and non-scientific poll at the beginning of the session, audience members were asked to give their estimates of annual revenue growth for the vendors over the next three years. The consensus was zero to down four percent. At the end of the panel, the same question was asked and the consensus declined to zero to down two percent.

My Shore Communications 2005 forecast calls for estimated revenues of $7.105 billion, a .06 percent increase from $7.060 billion in 2003. The 2004 revenue total was up three percent from $6.860 billion in 2003. For details on the 2005 forecast, contact me at jackmc@shore.com.

The Goldman Sachs panel was asked about their customers' current spending habits. One said customers were still looking to eliminate multiple and overlapping vendors. Spending on transaction services also has improved. Another said cost cutting is still very much a priority, as is spending on program trading improvements. Several said that spending to meet regulatory requirements is increasing. Spending by hedge funds continues to move higher but at a slower rate. Automated trading and algorithmic trading needs are getting more customer attention these days. One panelist said that with the 2004 Global Research Analyst Settlement in the US, there will be more of a shift from sell side research to buy side research, which will require more investments by the buy side. Bottom line? Cost cutting is still dictating spending patterns.

The panel was asked about why Bloomberg, after a well publicized entrance into the foreign exchange market two years ago, has made no headway against Reuters. One of the axioms in the market data space is that the first there tends to remain first, something that seems to be working out here. One panelist said the deal Bloomberg did with EBS to bolster its foreign exchange presence was not the answer. But, another panelist said the Bloomberg/EBS service is takings some traction and that Reuters is losing some terminals to Bloomberg. In my mind, it's clear that Reuters is still ruling the foreign exchange roost, and, if anything, is improving its share of market over Bloomberg in foreign exchange.

Headlines for 25 May 2005

News Corp tells managers to seek growth
Once blogs 'change everything,' fascination with them will chill
Future of magazines: Net could empower readers
Google CEO defends privacy policies
Collaboration key to Web services success
Viyya Technologies Announces the Acquisition of WISE Learning Solutions
Wolters Kluwer Completes Acquisition of De Agostini Professionale and Utet Professionale in Italy
Brainshark to Support Presence and IM Applications within On Demand Presentations
Wolters Kluwer Selects diCarta Contracts to Manage Intellectual Property Agreements
FDC Reports Appoints New President, Mike Squires, Formerly of Medscape

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Tokyo Journal: Digital Encoding on Paper Media Becoming a Standard

I've just returned from a trip to Japan where I was delivering a presentation at a conference on U.S. best practices for integrating internal and external content into enterprises. More on that later in our News Analysis and further research papers, but for now an observation about the progression of digital encoding in Japan. One gets off the plane in Tokyo and receives a visa stamp on their passport with a small square patch of black and white checkerboard-like digital data encoding. Kind of neat, in and of itself. Then on the express bus into Tokyo you see the same patch appearing on ads plastered in front of the seats. You see it on business cards, and on ads in the subway cars. This little scannable patch of data is making strong inroads, delivering what many have tried to deliver in U.S. media unsuccessfully - an easy-to-use link between paper and electronic media. Part of this little patch's success is that it doesn't hold a terrible lot of data - just enough to give address, telephone numbers and web links, with a little to spare. Earlier schemes tried to do too much, rather than linking to media that are better equipped to provide the details. With smart phones and PDAs the patches are enough to allow one to scan an item on a shelf and have your handheld device link to a Web page for details on a product or a demonstration or online ad. With an electronic culture that is using highly sophisticated cell phones as a base for media and entertainment it's no surprise that Japan is leading the way with this capability, but it's somewhat of a surprise that U.S. companies have not grabbed on to these increasingly standardized methods for linking on-the-go content consumers with paper-based experiences. There's enorrmous potential for these little patches - if the platforms and tools that use them are in place to exploit them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Headlines for 24 May 2005

UK Offers Free, 24/7 Online Reference
Podcasts to be available through iTunes Software update to provide access to amateur shows
The Fun Begins With Structure
Online journalists produce their own reality, says longtime Web reporter
Mysterious changes underway at Google Adsense
Fast Selected as new Search Infrastructure for EMC Documentum Enterprise Content Management
Google's library project challenged Publishers cite loss of revenue, possible copyright violations
Google hits the business world: Variety of services keep Google a friend of Wall Street
McCann Touts Multiplatform Content at FIPP
EMC Announces New Generation of Content Classification Software
Vivísimo Velocity brings structure to enterprise search
Knowledge Mosaic Releases the Energy Mosaic Website and News Service
Rocketinfo to Power SmallBusinessSearchEngine.com Portal
New Internet Tracking Solution from Accountability International Monitors Sensitive Content

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Headlines for 23 May 2005

B-to-B Flying High: Exclusive Survey
Phony Accounts Eyed in LexisNexis Breach
With Its Home Page, Google Could Get a Bit Closer to Its Users
How Old Media Can Survive In a New World
RSS Sets Its Sights on the Enterprise
Shocking Controversy Follows Content-Creating Robot
Business Intelligence Network Launches BEYESearch Search Engine
Midsize Law Firm Bernstein Shur Selects LexisNexis InterAction for CRM
Fast Selected as new Search Infrastructure for EMC Documentum Enterprise Content Management
Digimarc Launches ID Validation Solution to Support Homeland Security Measures and Combat ID Theft

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News Analysis - Gold Rush: Heady Days for Enterprise Search as Institutional and External Content Merge

This year's Enterprise Search Summit was a well-attended and robust expression of just how vital and important search functions have become for enterprises of every scale. Maturing enterprise search solutions included offerings from Google that are putting pressure on many other search engine providers to provide more internal and external content sources in a simple package with more features that make answers easier to find. Any way you measure it enterprise search has reached a new level of maturity that places far more emphasis on performance and results than experimentation and partial solutions. Users are coming out winners in this gold rush, but a broader array of sophisticated content sources and content organization tools will keep those users clamoring for more precious gold than ever before.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Senators Hear From SEC, Exchanges and Investment Management Companies on Regulation NMS and Proposed Exchange Mergers

The US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held two days of hearings on the impact of Regulations NMS, which was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission by a 3-2 vote on April 7. The Committee also looked at the proposed merger of the New York Stock Exchange and Archipelago Exchange that was announced on April 20, as well as Nasdaq's proposed purchase of Instinet's electronic trading platform from Reuters that was announced on April 22.

The lineup of witnesses involved lots of people with an agenda. The panels on day one included John Thain, CEO, New York Stock Exchange; Robert Greifeld, President and CEO, Nasdaq Stock Market; Gerald Putnam, CEO, Archipelago; Edward Nicoll, CEO and Director, Instinet Group; Sandy Frucher, Chairman and CEO, Philadelphia Stock Exchange; Kim Bang, President and CEO, Bloomberg Tradebook; Scott Evans, EVP, TIAA-CREF; Thomas Joyce, Chairman and CEO, Knight Trading Group; Marc Lackritz, President, Securities Industry Association; and George Sauter, Chief Investment Officer; The Vanguard Group. SEC chairman Bill Donaldson held forth on day two.

Chairman Donaldson put some color on the proposed mergers stressing his testimony reflected his own views and not those of the other commissioners. He says the transactions resulted primarily from economic and competitive forces in the marketplace. Size matters, as does "the need to maximize economies of scale, reduce excess capacity, and, in the case of the New York Stock Exchange, respond to a growing demand for more automated trading and, at the same time, position itself to tap the public capital markets to fund future expansion opportunities."

Up to the formulation of Regulation National Market System (NMS), the lack of consistent intermarket trading rules for all NMS stocks had divided the equity markets into halves: a market for exchange-listed stocks and a market for Nasdaq stocks. For historical reasons, including the history of the NYSE as an auction market and Nasdaq as a dealer market, these stocks traded in quite different regulatory structures. Exchange-listed stocks were subject to the Intermarket Trading System, or ITS, rules that went into effect 30 years ago. These rules include trade-through restrictions, restrictions on locking or crossing quotations, and participation in a "hard" linkage system. In contrast, the market for Nasdaq stocks was just beginning to develop when the ITS was created and has never been subject to the ITS rules.

Donaldson says that with Regulation NMS, outdated and inconsistent existing rules will be eliminated. It will "facilitate competition between the NYSE and Nasdaq across all NMS stocks." Old rules, like ITS, gave floor brokers an advantage. The new trade-through rule expands the opportunities for electronic markets to compete with the NYSE floor for order flow and "ratchets up the pressure for the NYSE to implement its hybrid market proposal in a way that will truly facilitate automated trading." The new NYSE Group will have a "formidable electronic platform for acquiring market share in Nasdaq stocks."

Among the presenters, battle lines were drawn by whose ox was being gored. The various comments essentially are guesses as to what will happen when the final regulation is published later in the year.

I'll concentrate on the controversy about the flap about the new trade-through rule. (Interested readers can get all the testimony by clicking on the day one and day two links above.) When implemented, all best bids and best offers regardless of where they are will be required to interact with the best displayed prices on the electronic limit order books. Chairman Donaldson says it will "produce significant benefits for investors in the form of deeper, more liquid markets and more efficient pricing." Sounds logical to me.

The NYSE's Thain says the modernization of the trade through rule is the "centerpiece of the regulation." What's the trade-through rule? It was put in place in 1975 (before electronic trading I might add) to insure that an order would get the best available fill price before looking for the next best price. The rule essentially favors slow markets like the NYSE and in my mind is cumbersome and no longer useful now that orders can be executed electronically with a keystroke. Nasdaq does not have a trade-through rule which is to the liking of buy side institutions that are willing to trade through the best published price in order to get the order filled in the size they want.

Chairman Donaldson says the new trade-through rule "underscores the principle that, no matter where a customer order is routed, it should receive the best price that is immediately and automatically available anywhere in the national market system. The trade-through rule prevents markets from ignoring better priced automated quotes displayed by their competitors." He maintains that "smaller markets displaying the best price cannot be ignored by larger, dominant markets; the new trade-through rule will make it easier for all markets to compete on the basis of price." That should heighten competition between markets.

Kim Bang of Bloomberg's Tradebook disagrees. He says, the trade-through rule has functioned as "protectionist regulation" and has been "among the foremost impediments to competition and market efficiency." Electronic venues (like Tradebook) that offer firm bids and offers must take a detour to the NYSE for the best price. He says that while some price improvement might take place, the order runs the risk of being held or rejected as the market moves away or is filled at an inferior price. The new rule won't let orders get held on the floor eliminating the risk that specialists or others might trade around the order as they have so often in the past. He says the new rules are not to Bloomberg's liking but any change is welcome.

In my mind, the logical go to guy on trade-through is Gus Sauter the chief investment officer of The Vanguard Group. He puts his money and positions on the line every day. On the question of best execution, he told the Committee it's a combination of speed and certainty to get the expected best price, adding, "it is the best price an investor thinks he or she can obtain for the entire trade at the instant the investor decides to buy or sell securities." It minimizes transaction costs and maximizes returns. Isn't that what all this is about?

If you want a thoroughly irreverent look at trade-through, check this out.

Level playing field? Several panelists made reference to the establishment of a more level playing field once Regulation NMS is up and running. Chairman Donaldson in his Q&A sparring with the committee members brought it up repeatedly. In my years in this business, those that had been playing at the high end of the playing field at the onset of new rules and regulations invariably find themselves playing in a ditch when the changes are made. Anybody want to buy or leasse a large high-ceiling room at the southwest corner of Broad and Wall Streets in lower Manhattan?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Headlines for 20 May 2005

Enterprise Apps Header Google's 'Fusion' Begins with Home Pages
Growing pains at Google?
Search warrants executed in LexisNexis ID case
Blog-to-Blog Wars: ABM's Week-Old Blog Already Experiencing Growing Pains
Factiva's Partnership With Complinet Empowers Client Screening Services
Vignette Unveils Browser Access to Records and Document Management Application
China goes undercover to sway opinion on Internet
Gates Outlines 'New World of Work' at CEO Summit
CNET CEO Reminisces about online advertising
Non-traditional sources cloud Google News results
Ask Jeeves and InfoSpace Enter Agreement to Support Excite.com

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Curb Your [Upgrade] Enthusiasm

Most print database publishers have learned -- often the hard way -- that you don't mess with success, or even failure for that matter. Directory users are highly resistant to change, so even improvements come with real risk attached. What particularly fascinates me is that the it is the most poorly designed directories that have the subscribers most vocally opposed to making changes to layout, indexes and overall organization.

The explanation for this is partly that directory users are creatures of habit. Once they are comfortable with how something works, they don't want to have to re-learn the product. There's also a secret club aspect to it -- once users accustom themselves to cryptic codes, unintuitive indexing and arrangement, and non-standard abbreviations, it's as if they've cracked a code and joined a secret society that makes them a little smarter and a little more valuable in their organizations.

Not surprisingly, this passionate preference for the status quo extends to Internet-based directories as well. Unfortunately the ease of making changes to user interfaces has tempted more than one publisher to begin an endless series of "improvements" to their online products, leaving a trail of customer anger and frustration in its wake. On several occasions, I have experienced this myself, finding the online database I logged into on Friday bears no resemblance to the one I logged into on Monday. My first reaction, "why did they mess with something that worked just fine?"

In many cases, publishers have abdicated control over design of their Web products to their IT departments. Good intentions notwithstanding, IT-designed Web sites tend to favor neat and cool over functional an intuitive. This mindset even extends to colors. A professional site designer believes "less is more" in terms of color; a programmer believes that if there are 64 million available color combinations available, as many of them should be used as possible.

Publishers should monitor and discourage gratuitous "upgrades" to their Web sites. Changes to layout, navigation and functionality should be implemented slowly and only after customer testing. Familiarity with your interface is a form of subscriber "lock in," don't throw it away on a whim

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Recommended Reading: What Really Happens with Weblogs

David Scott has a great nose for many things in our industry, so it was a pleasure to read his recent post on the new Pew Internet and American Life Project Report on Weblogs (PDF format, a bit of a bulky download). David shrewdly picks up on the lack of substantiation in the report for a Reuters story's claims that the report dispels the notion that weblogs are replacing mainstream media outlets. There's this ongoing neurosis in news organizations about being usurped by weblogs, when in fact, as David points out, they play a role in forming news distinct from most traditional journalism. As he notes, "It is better to think of the Web as a huge city teaming with individuals and blogs as the sounds of independent voices just like the street corner soapbox preacher or that friend of yours who always recommends the best books." In short, weblogs are us, the royal "we" of personal content. Some of us even know how to monetize our skills through weblogs, but at the end of the day weblogs are the voices of people that flow into formal news coverage - voices that are not recognized oftentimes as legitimate sources, not attributed as sources or vetted as reliable sources often enough by journalists. To disrespect weblogs as news content sources is to disrespect sources in general and to be tied to the narcissistic journalism that plagues much of our U.S. news media. The news has to spring from somewhere, so it may as well be from people who have the courage to write about events with passion and conviction - and hopefully with facts. But we'll leave that last part to the journalists, won't we...?

The New York Times Tries a New Tack on Paid Online Content

The media crowds are in a tizzy about the New York Times' announcement of its plans for charging users an annual fee in September to read its Op-Ed pieces, news columnists and archives in a new bundle called TimesSelect as one way to bolster online revenues. On one level this makes sense: to be honest I hardly read the darn hard copy version any more but generally skip to the Op-Ed pieces to see if anyone has a good take on the news. But with weblogs in abundance it's hardly the last port of call for this kind of content, even as new and similarly positioned opinions in new free outlets like the Huffington Post add a far wider array of op-ed outlooks in one easily bookmarked or RSSed site. One has to assume that the marketing folks at NYT took a look at the stats on what people still cared about in the Times from a brand perspective and tried to draw a moat around it. But it just doesn't seem like this is going to fly any better than any other attempt at building subscription value around content as opposed to unique features or services.

What's also making somewhat shady sense is Times SVP Martin Nisenholtz' evolving model for affiliates noted in ClickZ Network's coverage of his comments at a recent industry event. Though 85 percent of its existing traffic comes through its site homepage, Nisenholz notes how the rise of RSS feeds and links from MyYahoo! and other affiliate channels are driving much of the growth in site visits. The scheme? Unbundle site content and drive it into the channels most valued by content consumers. That part sounds pretty sensible, but then Click Z states that "The idea is to sell bloggers TimesSelect and incentivize them to link to content behind the subscription wall by giving them a cut of the revenue gained via new subscribers they refer." Come again? Sell bloggers content? Let's try that again, shall we? Media companies keep thinking that their content is different enough to allow it to be priced differently in open distribution channels, when feature for feature it is essentially the same as free or other ad-supported content. As the L.A. Times discovered with its events calendar listings (earlier post), waving a hand over part of your database that's essentially the same as everyone else's is not a viable scheme. With all due respect to the Times' months of research on this matter the markets have driven well ahead of their research's conclusions. News products must be far more robust and user-centric to justify a subscription wall around unbundled or bundled content. The level of sophistication in most media companies' thinking about content packaging and distribution must make a quantum leap over the next two years if major outlets are going to come out smiling at the end of this period of remarkable transformation.

Google's Enterprise Moves Begin to Coalesce into a User-Centric Strategy

In contrast to our earlier post on enterprise search tool providers who are adding features in search of a marketing strategy, Google started early on with a very simple and elegant one: "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." A bit broad, mind you, but then again, they seem to be on track with implementing it in many ways, most recently gaining ground in the enterprise arena. While in the online world Google is still in knockaround mode with numerous tools that may or may not fit this marketing vision, in the enterprise space Google is developing a very simple and coherent strategy. Step one: develop the next-generation Google Search Appliance to be a very competent consumer of enterprise content for far more than just web pages and a few other kludged sources. Step two: actually market the stuff. This year's Enterprise Search Summit witnessed not only a genuine product speech from a local Google bizdev executive but a reasonably objective view from a satisfied Google enterprise client and people in the booth who actually spoke to clients about solutions: a far cry from last year's standoffish and somewhat amateurish efforts. Step three: start bringing it all together. The recently annouced enterprise-ready desktop search from Google (Reuters coverage) now provides a nexus for personal, enterprise and Web content searches that offers a very high level of value and a level of security compatible with most enterprise requirements, to be sure, but it also continues to leverage brilliantly Google's most potent asset: the perceived value of its services in the eyes of Web-savvy users.

More than most any other search engine provider Google has managed to keep the user as the focus of its marketing efforts. While other players are still talking to I.T. mangers in enterprises about six-figure solutions before their product ever sees the light of a user's desktop, Google is out there learning first-hand about what enterprise users need from content, even as they learn how to build into their "black box" Google Search Appliance all the functionality that I.T. needs to access to make their name a resident of intranets as well. It's a strategy highly reminiscent of Bloomberg, L.P.'s penetration of the financial securities marketplace: a "black box" solution that bypassed a lot of the I.T. department's allegiances to I.T.-centric content vendors with a solution that appealed first and foremost to users, with lots of reinforcement of the user-level brand value via popular media channels. In the meantime I.T.-centric Microsoft is just starting to catch up with its unfortunately named MSN Search toolbar (Reuters coverage), underscoring Redmond's predilection to confuse individual content needs with consumer content needs. Google's intranet, desktop and Web search tools may be the "80 percent of what 80 percent need" solution for many institutions, but by my calculations that could leave the rest of the search universe with about 36 percent of enterprise business to fight over in the years ahead. And like Bloomberg it may leave a lot of content aggregators and vendors scratching their heads about how they lost their hold over enterprise subscriptions far quicker than they may imagine today. If this is the improvement that we can see in only a year with fairly immature pieces, one can only speculate about the year ahead.

A Conversation with Zinio: Hip SOM Technology with a Solid Business Model

In San Francisco, the SOM (South of Market) area was the home to the dot.com boom and bust. Scattered among the empty buildings and storefronts next to SF Giants baseball park, there are thriving survivors who understand that business economics are more important than the latest, "cool" technology. The "page-flipping" approach to electronic content is not unique to Zinio, and actually began with the earliest ebooks. Each generation improves with the technology and understanding of user needs in the digital environment, as well as changes in preferred reading devices, i.e. the Blackberry. Mimicking the "look and feel" of the experience of the familiar print product may be key to reaching beyond the early adopter market, but does require conversion from somewhat standard publisher formats to a proprietary format and Reader.

In a recent chat with David Zinman, SVP, Marketing & Product Management and Michele Schott, Director of Marketing at Zinio, I found a refreshing focus on the total value chain from the reader, the publisher and most importantly for long term business success, the advertiser. Print publishing has its limitations, with time required to develop the content, sell advertising, then physically print and distribute issues to the readers, as well as significant built in costs. The challenge is to reduce the production costs using digital processes, while still retaining the revenue generating processes that have been financially successful over the years, but currently under pressure with new web technology and competitors. While the public face of the company is the storefront of the over 250 magazines from over 70 publishers, which still needs to grow to critical mass, the backend is the integrated circulation services with an impressive understanding of the nuts and bolts of publishing, including fulfillment integration with all the major U.S. fulfillment houses. Digital subscribers, as well as print subscribers, require customer service, frequently the overlooked stepchild in new product development. Subscription agents are a significant source of subscriptions, so they need to be able to sell both digital and print versions.

After attending conferences focused on web technologies, I've come to appreciate the difficulties of measuring marketing effectiveness. Zinio provides auditable results that can be compared with print distribution, a major selling point for publisher rate cards for advertisers. Digital delivery of advertising messages is but one of many channels, so comparability is essential to adoption, never mind the technical superiority. My discussions indicated that the technical platform is well in place to provide support for traditional approaches as well as innovative tests of new capabilities.

Given all these features are in place, the major challenge is simply rate of adoption, as publishers have to incorporate electronic publishing into their work flow. Even getting a PDF file exactly as it is sent to the physical printer, let alone optimized for digital delivery and advertising can be challenging. XML is a twinkle in the future, as conversion from Quark and other publishing formats is the first step. Technology has always been low priority for publishers, but now their future depends on effectively using it to reach new subscribers as well as retain their current subscribers and advertisers. And the technology can be effective, as demonstrated by the new Zinio Express browser viewer optimized to provide sample issues, a very effective traditional approach adapted to the web environment.

It's really the readers who will drive this switch from print to digital, as I find myself increasingly canceling my paper subscriptions and dumping unread issues. Instead of stockpiling paper on my floor and desk, I'm relying more on headlines and at the moment searching. If all my subscriptions were available on the same technical platform, I'd switch to digital editions. As it is, I'm increasingly seeking out alternatives that are more timely and offer searching capability across sources. Print publishers, take note!

Inxight Picks up Intelliseek's Federated Search and Alerts for Complete Enterprise Content Package

One of the key themes emerging from this week's Enterprise Search Summit in New York is the preponderance of search engine and search tools vendors trying to develop content solutions instead of discrete pieces of technology. Search engine expert Steve Arnold would likely argue that such packaging moves are a lot of marketing fluff to cover up for ineffective technology, and in some instances he's probably dead right. There are a lot of folks out there with good but narrow solutions for search that are trying to cash in on as much of the current land rush for enterprise content integration as possible. But if they come up with good solutions that help businesses, who's to argue? A good example of this is Inxight's recently announced acquisition of the federated search and alerting assets of Intelliseek (Intelliseek holds on to their business intelligence pieces, already a complete solution). Inxight has been an interesting combination of content categorization and search tools and very interesting content visualization tools, but never quite able to leverage a wide enough base of content to make the most of either of these areas of strength. With the acquisition of the Intelliseek capabilities Inxight now can haul in content from a very wide array of external and enterprise content sources, normalize them into a common format for analysis and stream them out to their visualization tools or alerts streams via email, RSS and other transports. This provides a lot more value for their clients, even if it doesn't add any new or improved technology in and of itself. Content tool providers tend to come up with marketing plans after they've come up with the technology that drives them into the marketplace, which tends to limit their upside in providing valuable content solutions, but when you're in a market with interest as strong as the current enterprise search "gold rush," better late than never.

Headlines for 19 May 2005

CTOs From Microsoft, Sony, And Yahoo Say There's Lots To Fret About
Big Media Blues
The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth
Indian government to grant accreditation to online journos
'New York Times' to charge for online access to columnists; CNN to offer free video
Lawyers.com Courts Legal Marketers
Knowledge Management: Waiting in the wings for legal
Google Pushes Security In Enterprise Desktop Search Launch
Bersin & Associates Views Brainshark as Key Player in Fastest-Growing Segment of eLearning Market
Fulton County, Ga., Court Chooses LexisNexis File & Serve To Manage E-filing in High-Profile Murder Trial

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Headlines for 18 May 2005

Google releases desktop search for businesses
Microsoft to flash Windows ID cards
NYTimes.com Ponders "Information-Affiliate Program"
Times: No Plans to Further Charge for Web
Making news bidirectional: HoustonChronicle.com upgrades several blogs to Movable Type
Firefox Users Monkey With the Web
Two Weeks Late, 'San Jose Mercury News' Shows Huge Circ Declines
Twelve key features for your business portal
The Hand-Helds Strike Back
JurisPro Database Expands LexisNexis Expert Witness Resources
Arbortext's Pharmaceutical Application Provides for Immediate Cost-Effective SPL Compliance
ISYS Search Software Announces the Arrival of ISYS 7, Commences Immediate Shipping of ISYS
ProQuest Signs Five Leading OEMs to Use ProQuest Outdoor Power Products and Solutions
Day Previews Java JRS170-based Content Repository Extreme (CRX) for Enterprises

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Visceral bodily signals: where old can meet the new.

We just completed a best practices study of how major U.S. corporations integrate licensed content into intranets. Of course, our findings will be forthcoming in one of our Shore reports for your purchasing and reading pleasure! One of the companies mentioned their subscriptions to Zinio and how the younger scientists would love to have this on their BlackBerries. They love the page flipping.

I've been reviewing Zinio's magazine technology. In case you are not familiar with their products, they take an issue of a magazine and place it in their technology content container. This allows you to see the exact pages on your computer screen, create sticky notes, search on words, etc.

Why is this intriguing to me? It's cool. I love the search capability and the live links so I can click through to anything that hits my fancy. For me, the think-do action produces instant gratification (something my 20 year old daughter loves) and creative insight (since I consider something like reading a magazine play, not work). It's play that drives our creativity and is part of what differentiates the U.S. knowledge worker.

What are the drawbacks and can I overcome them? I don't like to sit at my desk and read magazines. I like to feel relaxed and comfortable doing this and my desk is a symbol of work time. Sure I have a laptop with a wireless connection so I could unplug and go sit elsewhere. It does work on the Tablet PC, but I don't own one of those. I want it to be more portable like my MP3 player.

That reminds me of the keynote presentation at the 1994 CAUSE conference (higher education technology) where Jennifer James, a cultural anthropologist talked about the electronic book. From her perspective, there needs to be the familiar coupled with the new. Leave the facade, then you're free to introduce the change. I can still see her image of a leather covered book. It can read to you (like my Text Aloud software) or you can read it in any size or color font. Of course, you can search and highlight text, but I don't remember her mentioning connecting with hypertext links to the Internet!

Back to Zinio, they do have a good marketing approach. By viewing for free the first 20 pages of a magazine, I was hooked enough to click on the "why not subscribe now" button. My guess is their click-through conversion rate is pretty high!

At this moment, I don't have the answers for what I see as the drawbacks. Yet the technology was compelling enough for me to shell out $9.99 for 22 issues of PC Magazine. If I come up with more creative ways to "read" this content, I'l report back.

Enterprise Search Summit: Quick Conference Notes

At the Enterprise Search Summit today, I'll have a fuller writeup in our Industry Events weblog later, for now some quick notes:

- Vendor presentations kept to ten minutes are a hoot, it's interesting to watch hype get squished into a nice small window. Plays into the hands of Northern Light CEO David Seuss, who has a nice compact elevator pitch that focuses on scalability and performance. But does an enterprise really care about servicing 216 queries per second? Better to do that in a minute with highly usable results.

- The presentation by MITRE on their Google Search Appliance information was an objective an insightful look at their strengths in an enterprise installation. Going from about search 250 queries a day to more than 30,000 queries a day demonstrates that a search engine that people trust can make all the difference. Still, it's mostly HTML in the searches, with some interesting kludges to get at SharePoint files and other enterprise content, and the search tools are still crude the the standards of some search engines, but where an enterprise has a strong web content and needs competent search quickly it's a worthy option. More to the point, MITRE was able to implement some neat KM tools - "find an expert" based on matching authors to searches and searching mail lists (egroups) for knowledge. Nice tricks for cheap and easy KM benefits. Also key was the use of a "fast jump" feature to indexed but unsearched content that provided highlighting of these resources via the same features used on Google's commercial engine for ad serving using keywords. This highlights the value of tools used currently mostly for ads to highlight the value of content sources in context.

- Autonomy at the lunch break touting the benefits of Bayesian algorithms. Good stuff for international content, but after ten years of touting it are we supposed to get excited?

Back to the conference...

Headlines for 17 May 2005

Parsons: Would consider AOL spinoff
Blogs haven't displaced media, study finds
Information wants to be free -- but it isn't
China: Internet Copyright Administrative Protection Rule Announced
Newsmagazines lose their balance
Newsgator Acquires FeedDemon
'Plastics News' to launch electronic newsletter for China
Access Innovations Now Offering Notation Module for Thesaurus Master(TM)
Inxight Acquires Federated Search and Alert Technology Assets From Intelliseek
Thomson Financial to Optimize Thomson PORTIA for the Microsoft Platform
Business Intelligence Network Launches BEYESearch Search Engine

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Headlines for 16 May 2005

Microsoft launches desktop search tool
NYTimes.com to Offer Subscription Service
'Barron's' gets a redesign
Wolters Kluwer reports 1Q earnings fall
Scripps Plans Niche Broadband Strategy
Governance Gauge: Only You Can Model Your Content
Thomson launches European M&A news service
Thomson Financial's Nelson Information Ranks World's Best Money Managers For 1Q05
Elsevier Launches new Health Science eJournal and eClinics Collections
Thomson Financial and The Wall Street Journal Develop The 2005 'Best On The Street' Analysts Survey
Arbortext Joins Forces with TRADOS to Provide Global Enterprise Publishing Solutions
Teragram Unveils TK240 Version 5 Taxonomy Management Software

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News Analysis - Radio Days: RSS Gains Steam as the Content Broadcast Stream of Choice

While people associate the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) site feed capability with weblogs, it's really a medium unto itself that just happens to be populated with weblogs. More to the point it's essentially a broadcast medium, returning the Internet to its Ethernet technical roots and promoting the ability to push content from anyplace to anywhere via a common network "ether." Publishers are just beginning to wrestle with this new broadcast medium in earnest after amateurs showed the way, just as in the early days of radio and the Web itself. What they're finding is a medium that is far cruder than they may like but with far more potential to become a powerful content delivery medium than they may imagine.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Google Struggles to Move Beyond Tech Roots

Not a red letter week for Google: its new Accelerator feature took heat from several quarters (Register article) for caching sensitive information (didn't we go through that already with Google Desktop?) and announced the acquisition of Dodgeball, a social networking company startup still at the "two guys in a garage stage" that provides linkups via mobile phones. Dodgeball has its followers, but as noted in the CNET News article one of the arguments for picking up the service is that its founders were "Google superfans." And this is going to help its so-so Orkut social networking service...how? Google continues to have a lot of nice pieces, but as a media property it continues to mystify. The continuing proliferation of "Beta" services with promise but only the outlines of a business plan or mature functionality at times seem to be lonely pieces adrift in a "Santa's workshop" of content development still trying to figure out how to meld into a cohesive whole. Major opportunities to position content value from sources such as weblogs and music downloads seem to have drifted by Google with little effort to distinguish these as unique content sources that require special treatment. The team at Google does seem to have a knack of stumbling onto "the new new thing" at times and hitting it big, but there's oftentimes a remarkable unwillingness to follow up on these initial "ahas" with mature services development. Google still shapes much of what publishers need to adjust to in today's content marketplace, but as more types of content find their way into platforms and channels that can package it more effectively for audiences without relying on the Google search algorithm or ad services the maturity of their marketing vision will come into focus more clearly. Would that we all had problems like Google, but they seem to be very effective at inventing new ones as of late. Just because you don't want to be just another media company doesn't mean that you need to avoid anything that smells of adult behavior.

A Conversation with LinkedIn: Moving Towards Profits through vContent

The LinkedIn service for professionals has progressed rapidly from a networking service to link trusted business contacts with one another to a more full-fledged content service that leverages contacts data to help job posters and job seekers and to provide directories of professionals who may have skills appropriate to a wide variety of business needs. The network of contacts grows at an astounding rate - well into the millions of member profiles at this time - in part because it's a fairly "spamproof" system: it's generally only possible to make contact with people through LinkedIn via a direct agreement to link or via a compliant intermediary contact. But is it a model that makes money? In a recent chat with LinkedIn's Marketing VP Konstantin Guericke there's optimism that they are heading towards a profitable quarter sometime in the next year and a clear "heads down" focus on profitability that has them focusing on initiatives that can drive them towards that goal. The job posting service, which charges corporate posters to list openings, is building revenues, and the directories service provides a level of content and focus that would be appropriate for contextual ads. Other services such as their growing alumni listings and groups services are also potential hooks for revenues. The features grow richer and richer as does the content and highly human contextuality. All in all it's a service that promises to provide great value to professionals, a self-marketing tool with great power.

The question is, though, whether LinkedIn is ready to make the jump from being a tool to being a full-fledged content service. The features in LinkedIn are great and maturing rapidly towards that goal, but there's still not a steady stream of content coming out of the service that makes it a "must-visit" tool for people in their day-to-day work life. LinkedIn has done an excellent job of building a rich and robust database and has made it useful to people finding jobs and services, but the knottier issue of using that network to build actionable intelligence is still out there to be solved. There are a lot of ways that LinkedIn can build profits, but first and foremost it will be important for them to move beyond the linking and referral business to more robust views of what people do in their daily professional lives with those links and referrals for driving not only jobs and contracts but market intelligence and news. A great company in the center of the vContent movement, one that will benefit from looking beyond the database and into the content needs of their members more carefully.

iPod Goes Goes Mainstream with Moms: Is Podcasting Next?

This week brought yet another indication that the Apple iPod is more than a trendy fashion statement. I suppose buying one was inevitable, given that my family lives nearly next door to Apple, and these sleek devices have been proliferating around the high school campus my teenager attends, though I tend to be skeptical about the gadget du jour, with a stash of now outdated game consoles and various devices gathering dust. My son and I did research on the web looking at the different iPod models, and I was frankly surprised by the new capabilities.

Earlier, I had quickly discovered the utility of flash computer drives for transferring lecture materials from my home computer to classroom computers, and thought their 256 mb capacity perfectly adequate, but now I discovered the iPod could be used the same way, but has a 20 GB hard drive, twice the capacity of our home computer. Then in browsing through the technical specifications, I discovered somewhere along the way, some "parent-friendly" software had been developed to download an electronic calendar, phone numbers, address books and to-do lists, the reasons early generations of PDA's were popular.

Now this was becoming much more interesting, but somehow the games and hype about the size of the playlists still didn't fit my baseball/soccer mom image. But then my Newsweek arrived the day after Mother's Day with guest columnist, Caroline Gong, another soccer mom, declaring "I Can't Live Without My Darling iPod" and I got a different perspective. I had already noticed the proliferation of iPod accessories in my local Fry's electronics, well beyond the desires of fickle teenagers. And then I discovered the iTunes store has downloadable audio books, including best sellers and language lessons, plus National Public Radio programs. Up until now, I had considered podcasting an interesting technology ahead of its time appealing primarily to technogeeks, but with moms (and their buying power) embracing the underlying gadgets, 2005 could become the year that podcasting goes mainstream!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

VSS Hanley Wood Deal Stalls: Have the Exits Closed?

As noted in FOLIO Magazine, and as presaged in our earlier weblog entry and News Analysis, the latest M&A round of business media acquisitions seems to have hit a snag in the wake of downgrades of Ford and GM debt to junk status draining life out of the high-yield debt market. VSS may have to rethink its asking price for Hanley Wood, which they have been pushing to reach up to 16 times EBITDA, according to FOLIO, and the lengthening of the evaluation period required for buyers to consider shifting financial marketplaces opens up the possibility that cold feet will begin to prevail. We still stand by our earlier view that there's time for an orderly procession to the exits for those looking to flip their business media titles, but the more sober tone to finance markets now taking shape may focus both buyers and sellers on long-term strategies rather than short-term deal structure. From that perspective there's going to be a lot more pressure on both buyers and sellers to explain what the real outlook is for business magazines. This environment is not likely to favor publications that have taken their time to put in place elements in their online publications that can build online channels as a strong contributor to revenues and earnings. Hanley Wood's aggressive development of online titles will likely pass this test, but there is a significant body of publications that consider themselves tuned into the changes in the marketplace for business content that in fact have been dawdling along at a precariously slow pace of change. Just as the optimism of the M&A markets was too widespread before this latest speed bump, pessimism should be contained carefully to those publishers that have not developed aggressive online strategies. Perhaps the sky is not the limit any more, but there's plenty of good M&A business to be had on sober terms.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Headlines for 13 May 2005

Hit a Snag? Hanley Wood Deal Delayed as VSS Struggles to Get its Price
Google puts the brake on Web Accelerator
Senate Debating Data Privacy Changes
Papers Turn to 'Podcasting' In Bid to Draw More Readers
ABM launches b-to-b media blog
India opens door just a crack for foreign papers
Lessons from the Cutting Edge: RSS Advertising
15 things you can do with RSS (it was supposed to be 10, but I got carried away)
Reuters Links Up with AOL's Singingfish Video Search Engine
MindBranch Offers RSS Feeds of the Latest Market Research
One Legal Goes Live With Electronic Court Filing Service - Helps Courts & Attorneys Operate Efficiently
Reducing Expenditures and Driving Costs Out of the Corporate Library Budget

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Headlines for 12 May 2005

Google buys social networking service?
Seven big ideas (and one pet peeve) from BlogNashville
IDG names Ostrow president-publisher of ‘InfoWorld’
Federating the Enterprise: FileNet’s CM Vision Evolves
BBC opens RSS to third-parties
Content Blog Or Syndicate Blog: Which Is Yours?
FeedTagger : News as it happens
Can Yahoo's New Music Service Earn a Profit?
PR Newswire's eWatch(TM) Monitoring Service Upgrades WebPubs with Inclusion of Blogs
BitPass Enables Premium Podcasts

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

LA Times Makes Subscriber-Only Content Open Again, but the Future of Paid Content is Not in Jeopardy

As noted in USC Annenberg OJR the LA Times has decided to re-open its entertainment online section to general access, after ad revenues failed to pick up for the section and the restriction failed to generate more subscriptions. This seems to have prompted the "paid content is dead" chorus to sing again, with postings at Poynter and at the New York Post spelling general doom and gloom. But the seeds of "doom" were sown long ago when publishers failed to recognize the long-term weakness of aggregating content in traditional print-branded, all-purpose packages based on business models in which distribution and aggregation was relatively rare and expensive. The poster child case in point is the Huffington Post, a weblog-based news and commentary portal fed by well-known figures in the media and thrown together with little more than inexpensive Movable Type software, links to news stories and some good PR. Its long-term value and viability will be grist for the media mill for months, but the bottom line is that when you can throw together a media property like this about as easily as kids go out to play ball, things are changing in content aggregation.

There is still lots of room to develop premium features for subscribers, but the layering generally cannot be "all or none" for text-only services in an era when content objects can travel so easily from one context to another. Online subscription content does very well where features are very robust and where communities provide valid and validated input into the content streams, but subscriptions based on segregating text content arbitrarily will tend to do rather poorly. In the short term this makes newspapers all the more reliant on licensing income from aggregation services such as Yahoo!, Factiva and LexisNexis, but in the long run newspapers and trade publishers are going to have to wake up to the need to make basic text content more profitable not by restricting its distribution via subscriptions or bulk licensing to aggregators but by maximizing distribution and monetizing the value of the context into which it flows with truly value-add premium subscription services and with context-aware features and ads. Content collections will thrive on the subscription model when their contents are very focused, high quality and well beyond text, but it will become harder to sustain a full range of aggregation services around those collections. Business content producers need to heed the lessons of The New Aggregation and treat our friends in the newspaper business as the canary in the coal mine that is warning publishers of all stripes to look at business models for text-based products from a fresh perspective.

Headlines for 11 May 2005

Microsoft inks China joint ventures to expand MSN
Wolters Kluwer Ready To Turnaround
Mass Media Meltdown
LA Times abandons paid content model
CCC: Permission Needed for E-Reserves
Podcasters May Be Overlooking Huge Legal Risks in the Fine Print
spid.ero.us helps you discover the hot and fresh bookmarks from various Social Bookmarkers (SBM)
Europeans resist Google's view of the world
Mini Google for companies arrives in Europe
NameProtect helps businesses ensure they aren't misrepresented online
Yahoo takes on iTunes with new music service
iPhrase Announces Latest Version of Award-Winning OneStep Platform
Reuters Extends Its Evaluated Pricing Reach to European Fixed Income Markets
AllBusiness.com Extends Leading Business Content to San Francisco Chronicle
TechTarget Is First U.S. InfoSecurity Publisher to Enter Fast-Growing Korean Market
Autonomy Supports Legal Information Network at White & Case
Interwoven's Strong Partner Network Delivers Targeted Business Solutions
BitPass Teams With Content Delivery Networks Abacast and Fast-Serv Technologies

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Headlines for 10 May 2005

Will Answers.com Be the Next Google?
EU Endorses European Digitization Project
SEC To Publish Corp. Filings Comment Letters This Week
Taking Cue from Web, 'Boston Globe' to Auction Prime Sunday Ad Spot
USA Today gets blog figures (really, really) wrong
Click Fraud: A Legal Look
Bloggers' conference emphasizes reporting
Newspapers try innovative approaches to regain readership
To Search or Not to Search: That is the Query
Information Vendors Back Disclosure Law
LexisNexis inks deal with consulting firm The Brattle Group
Thomson Financial to market CMS BondEdge to European asset managers
Newstex to Distribute Reed Business Information Publications Via Content On Demand
Three Leading Trademark Research Companies Join Together to Create Thomson CompuMark

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Monday, May 9, 2005

News Analysis - Don't Rock the Boat: The ABM Spring Meeting Highlights an Adapting Industry

The Spring Meeting of American Business Media in Boca Raton, Florida this year was a happy affair, with most in attendance enjoying a respite from stormy years of change and choppy revenues. But it's not just higher tides of ad revenues that are carrying along business publishers to a successful year. Business media outlets are progressing at a healthy pace towards a revenue and earnings mix that counts online outlets as a significant component of their success. Navigating for success in this environment means making sure that you have the right crew on board and a course that can be adjusted rapidly as new online and offline revenue opportunities present themselves. Business publishers who can keep up this pace are going to have some great years ahead of them.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Blogging in Circles: The Vanity of Media Blog Chatter Obscures Their Real Impact

The New York Times posted a feature article on weblogs highlighting Nick Denton's Gawker Media, a collection of popular consumer weblogs underpinned by common ad sales and infrastructure. The gist of this article and a complementary opinion piece by Adam Cohen in the Sunday Times is that increasingly weblog "moguls" find themselves playing by the same rules as other journalists and media outlets as they reach for broader audiences and try to aggregate readers for ad dollars. In short, weblogs are just another media outlet that can be tamed for revenues like any other channel, or left to run wild without intervention from title managers and monetized under the New Aggregation model by ad services operating independently of traditional media outlets. Neither the traditional publishing model for managing a stable of weblogs nor the independent model for weblogs is "right" or "wrong", just as a printing press can be used to publish propaganda or eternal truths. Weblogs are just a technology that some have figured out how to monetize effectively along with other leading content technologies. But the push my many in both consumer and business media to figure out weblogs seems to obscure the benefits of their simplicity and (when left to their own devices) lack of hype.

The importance of weblogs is not in the handful of relatively well-known titles that gain the lion's share of notoriety and visits - these are turning rapidly into just another form of commercial content that can be managed and monetized under familiar models and are increasingly just another set of over-hyped media outlets. Some in the non-hyped part of the weblog universe also succeed from a business standpoint: Rafat Ali's paidContent.org being a fine example of a subject matter expert who just goes about his business as a business-oriented publisher using weblogs as a technology vehicle quite adeptly and profitably. The real impact of weblogs is the ability for readers to pick and choose individual weblog titles for aggregation at their own whim, providing a level of loyalty and branding for content that's far more focused and personal than most publishers are used to providing on a title basis, more akin to an artist's fan base than a media outlet's loyal readership. Those are qualities that are a little harder to package for most publishers and difficult to balance for those who are trying to navigate the transition from authentic voices to media properties. Hopefully we can get past this frenzy phase of weblogs and get back to the real issues of managing content in a user-centric aggregation environment that are the real focus of today's most important challenges to publishing.

Headlines for 9 May 2005

A Blog Revolution? Get a Grip
Big media companies weigh blog strategies
Where the media end and you begin
Turning a digital page
Wall Street Journal goes tabloid in Europe, Asia
Ask Jeeves eyes growth under IAC umbrella
Primedia Business' French: Focus on Topline
Craigslist.org Founder Eyes Journalism
Beyond Weblog Syndication and News Aggregation: More RSS Applications
Consulting Firm, The Brattle Group, Selects LexisNexis InterAction for CRM
Firm360: 'Intelligent' Business Intelligence for Law Firms From The Thomson Corporation
First Research Selected to Provide Industry Intelligence Via SourceMedia's Online Research Vault

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Sunday, May 8, 2005

The VSS Cashout: Selling at the Top of the Market, but What's Next?

Folio Magazine's review of media merchant banker Veronis Suhler Stevenson's pending spinoffs of business media companies Canon Communications and Hanley Wood notes it as an event marking the end of an era for a financier that was riding high on these and other acquisitions. With multiples expected to reach 12x earnings, VSS is getting great value from these properties just as the ad markets are peaking and events are riding high again. This underscores the importance of one of our 4"C"s of major trends for 2005 - Consolidation - as major properties in business media this year, but also underscores the long-term challenge of investment companies chasing media deals in a market where core value propositions are changing rapidly.

Like many media investors VSS is faced with the challenge of timing a market for business media properties that is unlikely to see a continuation of the current buying frenzy much past the end of the year. A lot of business publishers floating down the river very happily this year will be facing pressures for online business titles to become tied to "vertical search" capabilities - beginning to force revenues into new patterns that are not likely to favor the traditional title-centric publishing model for top ad revenues much longer. These are changes happening gradually, so it's certainly too early to call for a clear path to the exits, but those publishers hoping to enjoy a seller's market indefinitely may find the environment much less friendly sooner than they think as pressures that have engulfed newspapers this year begin to gain steam in influencing the fate of business publishing. Kudos to VSS for giving and getting good value at a great time - and freeing up cash to ride out these changes and to prepare for new patterns of investment at more favorable buyer's multiples.

Friday, May 6, 2005

Factiva Adds RSS Feeds via NewsGator with Lockdown Feature

As noted in Online Media Daily premium content aggregator Factiva is launching a new RSS feed service via NewsGator software and services. NewsGator is a "feeds made simple" solution that makes RSS-formatted XML feeds available via Microsoft Outlook and other interfaces and works actively with premium publishers to add valuable content for consumers and enterprises. The NewsGator software is provided for free to Factiva subscribers while existing NewsGator users may access Factiva content for a fee. Great stuff, but with some of the caveats you'd expect from an aggregator like Factiva. The feeds available are "Editor's Choice", meaning you have a selection of 25 pre-defined topic areas, and require authentication to access. According to Factiva's RSS FAQ page, "Factiva believes that at present, the authentication model for RSS subscription is not sufficiently secure to protect Factiva customers from abuse of their accounts. To enable personal folders, more confidential user information would need to be included in the RSS files to provide a suitable user experience. Using 'standard' folders like Editor's Choice allows us to provide a reasonably secure experience, while still providing valuable utility." In other words, Factiva's not ready from a business or technical standpoint to let users define their own feeds based on their existing folders and alerts tools.

Well, it's a step in the right direction, but the lack of user control over content limits the usefulness of the feed outputs - kind of a Dow Jones-ey safe approach to feeds that limits the value of RSS to deliver highly focused content to highly focused audiences. Score one for Factiva for choosing an excellent partner for this new user-friendly arrangement and for being able to say "yes" to RSS, but also score one for tailored feed suppliers such as Newstex that can create well-focused and well-tagged news feeds in RSS and other useful output formats for major institutions, with high-quality weblogs thrown in to boot. There's lots more opportunity to exploit RSS as a highly focused content delivery vehicle for premium content, especially if authentication and licensing schemes can be made more adaptable to today's content distribution realities.

Thomson's Harrington: The Fire Hose vs. The Sprinkler

Thomson Corp. CEO Richard Harrington sounded off at the company's annual meeting as noted in a recent Globe and Mail article on the difference between Thomson's highly focused content products and open Web searches such as Google. "Thomson is the Google for the high-end professional user," Harrington noted, seeing the Googles of the world as the fire hoses of content and the professional services such as Thomson as inch-wide, mile-deep solutions highly targeted towards their users' needs in legal, financial, educational, and scientific/health care. Thomson's results have certainly held out the strength of that strategy, providing highly effective integration of premium content sources into the workflows of professionals in these lucrative market segments. Being able to tune content to specific needs in context is the key to creating highly valuable content products today, no doubt. But interestingly enough a study that for which we've just completed field work indicates that across major segments Google comes out more highly rated as a source of business information than major subscription content services amongst institutional purchasers of content. A well-tuned search can be an inch-wide, mile-deep content service unto itself, reminding us that the aggregation game is going to get more competitive in core B2B markets as more and more technology-oriented players try to add value in institutional marketplaces. We're voting for the sprinklers to win in this marketplace, but there will be a lot of hoses being tamed to get those streams to institutional users in the years ahead.

Registering Reservations

An article in today's PaidContent discusses an unusual move by the New York Post newspaper to not only impose forced site registration, but to ask for personal details including birth date, email address, zip code and income. Reportedly, the registration form was hurriedly removed after numerous complaints and highly negative press coverage from rival New York papers, although I encountered this very registration form just a few moments ago.

What is the New York Post thinking? Who knows, as the Post won't comment on its move to collect a lot of information (making registration much slower), and a lot of very personal information at that.

Even at this late date, publishers remain remarkably divided about the merits of forced registration. Publishers who derive the bulk of their online revenue from advertising generally don't want to lose even a single set of eyeballs against that advertising, and generally opt for no registration at all. That maximizes traffic, but at the expense of knowing much about their online audience.

Another group of publishers believe that, since they are providing valuable content to visitors, it's not unreasonable to ask visitors for some information in return.

Complicating the registration decision is the extreme variation in results when registration is implanted. We know publishers who have seen their site traffic drop by as much as 80% after requiring registration. We also know publishers that have only experienced a 20% drop. We know two publishers whose traffic dropped briefly and then actually began to increase over pre-registration levels. Of course, many of these numbers reflect the anarchic state of Web analytics, which at the moment make it hard to predict the true impact of forced registration.

Leaving aside the tricky question of whether or not to require site registration, here are the ground rules if you go the registration route: ask as few questions as possible (the longer the registration process takes, the more visitors you will lose) and make sure you can fully justify every question you ask. Hey, we're all in the data business, and it's a natural instinct to collect more data. But we've seen more than a few publishers who have taken a traffic hit as a consequence of forced registration, and literally never bothered to look at the data they collected. So don't succumb to data excess or you'll just end up with excess data. If you don't have a known and compelling use for the information, don't collect it.

Headlines for 6 May 2005

The Power of Print in the Age of the Internet
Dow Jones Exec: Company Reducing Reliance On 'B2B' Ads
Thomson's TradeWeb to launch online market for credit derivatives
Google Releases Web Accelerator
Working to save the endangered cookie
Google trying to patent news ranking by quality
Media struggle with growing 'blogosphere'
Critiquing The Critiquing Of Weblogs Inc Blogs
Media Auditors Migrate to U.S., Offering Prospect of Cost Savings
LexisNexis Releases Accurint SureContact for Debt Collections
Hart Energy Reportedly Siphoning Off Three Titles

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Headlines for 5 May 2004

Thomson Unfazed by Internet Search Engines
Factiva Adds RSS Feeds
Yahoo says its video search now widely available
Content Meets Social Networking
Merrill Lynch: In a Surprise, New Numbers Show 'Quality' Circ Still Sliding
Cadmus Communications Corporation: The 3Path to (Information) Enlightenment
Yahoo Hires Cnet Editor To Head Technology Site
TechTarget Revenue Increases 77 Percent on Strong Gains Throughout Business Profit Soars
Endeca Announces New Manufacturing & Distribution Search Solutions for Product Data
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey Upgrade to Hummingbird Enterprise(TM) for Legal Matter Lifecycle Management

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

American Business Media Spring 2005 Meeting: Posts in our Industry Events Weblog

This year's edition of American Business Media's spring meeting of B2B publishers had an interesting mix of industry leaders speaking to this major gathering. Shore's coverage of this event starts here in our Industry Events Weblog.

Headlines for 4 May 2005

Forrester reports advertising shift to online
Google: biting the hand that feeds it?
The Cellphone's Potential as a Search Tool Gets Tapped
Google Signs Deal for Content With InfoUSA
Veronis Suhler Stevenson at a Crossroad
Times Mulls Subscriptions For Internet Archives
'Tags' ease sifting of digital data
Jongejan sets out Swets vision
XBRL Gets Real as the Standard for Financial Reporting
Believe It or Not: 65 Papers That Posted Circ Gains
Can the Huffington Post obsess itself into the news cycle?
Thomson Directories signs up to Google Adwords
Snap Selects Moreover Technologies to Provide Aggregated Online News Content

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Headlines for 3 May 2005

Print Insists It's Here to Stay
Internet Ads Click With Firms; Some Shift Budgets
Google seeks all the news that's fit to search
EMarketer says search spending will be more than expected
Latest Promotion Vehicle Is a Hand-Held Media Device. Will Anyone Watch?
Some Papers Lose Big in Today's New Circulation Numbers
Feeds: A New Channel for Search Marketing
Thomson Financial buys private-equity research firm
Elsevier MDL Restructures to Better Serve Life Sciences R&D
Dialog & InfoChem Offering Chemical Structure Searching Through Dialog(R) Online Service
Collins Butler Chooses ISYS Search Software's ISYS:desktop Search for Attorneys
Growing Number of Companies Choose FileNet Records Manager for Compliance Needs

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Monday, May 2, 2005

Headlines for 2 May 2005

Newspaper Circulation Continues Decline, Forcing Tough Decisions
Pearson Chairman Says FT Not For Sale
Google searches for quality not quantity
Ad Agents for the Search Engines
Reuters IM bitten by e-bug
The Bookless Future
'Tags' ease sifting of digital data
Tagging as a Social Phenomenon
Nstein Technologies signs agreement with ProQuest
LexisNexis Releases Accurint SureContact for Collections to Help Locate Debtors Even Faster

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

News Analysis - Cleared for Takeoff: Aggregators Large and Small Focus on Scale that Matters

Just as Boeing and Airbus are vying for air supremacy with different visions of how to give airlines the most value in routing their passengers through the skies, publishers and aggregators increasingly find themselves having to choose between working with ever-larger forces of content aggregation and more direct routes to very specific audiences. Scale matters in today's aggregation, but as much as large-scale search engines and aggregation services are winning many markets with efficiently collected and targeted content, more direct routes between publishers and audiences are gaining in popularity. Choosing what scale you want to play on is more important than ever before, leaving less and less middle ground for publishers and aggregators to have it both ways.

Click here to read the full News Analysis