Thursday, June 30, 2005

Vertical Search: Follow the Money

Vertical Leap: A Search Engine Conference this week featured both gorillas and startups, ranging from Google, Yahoo and MSN to stealth mode private companies, with advice ladled out by successful venture capitalists. The room was packed for this first search engine conference sponsored by the SDForum, a highly regarded non-profit venue for the technology community in Silicon Valley. Keynote speaker, David Hills, CEO of LookSmart, focused on the opportunities in vertical search to attract advertising money, a different currency and a different language for the typical technology company. He predicts advertisers and agencies will embrace verticals which offer audience segmentation closer to the point of purchase, but need easy ways to buy, a familiar theme. Verticals are not new, but he seems them accelerating much as cable media buying expanded with the multiplicity of channels, and that advertising money will follow as value is established. Yes, this is the latest flavor of niche publishing, just using web technology in addition to the human factors!

Money was also the topic for the obligatory venture capital panel on "Investing in Vertical Search", with the speakers emphasizing their interest in opportunities that have the potential of becoming $100 million plus companies. However, they see plenty of opportunity for innovative $20 to $30 million dollar companies founded with sweat equity and a modest amount of capital. Judging by the crowds in the hallways afterward, attendees were taking the opportunity to pitch their ideas for the next gorilla.

Ably organized by Dave McClure, Simply Hired, and tied together with his pithy "Top 10 Rules for Vertical Revolutionaries", the rest of the panels focused on established categories where vertical search is working today. The emphasis for this audience was consumer categories, and none were surprising. Each of these categories has its own nuances:

  • Local Search was seen as a large opportunity, and is more than just business listings. Everyone is local, and the total advertising dollars for services is high, though fragmented. However, the key players are the big search engine companies, with representatives from Google, Yahoo!Local, MSN and Ask Jeeves talking about trying to provide great user experiences AND the right results. Interestingly, no one talked about how to partner with newspapers, with their experience in local news, events and advertising to follow the lead of their own local newly redesigned San Jose Mercury News.
  • Shopping Search is another large opportunity, with the next frontier being information about local inventory. The big challenge is getting feeds from retailers, with manufacturer SKUs and product descriptions, then categorizing them into meaningful categories. Standardization is a major issue, a familiar aggregation issue. The importance of reviews and buying guides was emphasized, but this technology driven group, has not embraced paying for content from established authoritative sources.
  • Travel search is an area of tools to find seat inventory and pricing across multiple carriers in real time. With the fragmentation of the airline industry, this has become even more difficult, and particularly so in Europe which has over 60 carriers. From a financial and customer relationship perspective, airlines prefer using vertical search rather than agencies such as Travelocity and Expedia. Cost of advertising, unsold inventory and technical infrastructure from the Sabre legacy are all issues in this still evolving vertical.
  • Classified Ads / Job Search is consolidating around several models. On one dimension, there is the need to aggregate job listings nationwide, represented by Simply Hired. On a different dimension, Oodle specializes in large city sites with an emphasis on high end transactions such as real estate, which are concluded locally. Then eBay's Kijiji is the international version of Craigslist, a very successful model, which accepts no advertising, and charges for job listings in only a few cities. LinkedIn complements the job listing companies to selectively reach qualified candidates, as well as do reference checking.
  • Blog search is still the wild, wild west and the panelists bogged down in discussion of the decade old wire problem of multiple rehashes of the same news. New technology, same journalistic issues. There was agreement that the Google Page Rank does not work well with the timeliness of blogs, so other algorithms are key to establishing relevancy, authority, and sentiment--key measures for advertisers interested in this new form of content.

The wrap-up of a long day was positioned as future technology directions for vertical search, but the focus became more general. PubSub was the most intriguing technology, since it is essentially an alerting service for new content which appears on the web in blogs, press releases, SEC filings, newsgroups and other sources. Other future developments include different algorithms for search, depending on the domain being searched, unified interfaces, and repurposing web content to provide useful answers. Not surprisingly, these are the same themes surfacing in the broader search world, which includes enterprise search and desktop search, as well as commercial search services, areas not included in this conference, but certainly part of the web ecosystem.

Ave Atque Vale: Valeo IP Closing Operations by Early September

It's never a happy day when a company calls it quits, but it's especially sad to hear that Valeo IP will be closing its doors come early September. The company's ownership has decided based on its performance to close up shop, with clients given support until the September closing. Valeo IP caused quite a stir in the industry upon its launch with some innovative marketing ideas, enough to catch the attention of major players in the copyright compliance and relicensing industry and some high-visibility clients. But at the end of the day its messaging and product development became enmired in its legal dispute with Data Depth Corporation over the licensing of Data Depth's "iCopyright Tag" and Instant Licensing Software. The legal matter was never resolved conclusively and could have dragged on indefinitely, a difficult burden for a company managing intellectual property rights to bear.

While on the surface this is a victory for Data Depth Corporation and its investors, it is a victory that came at a fairly high price. Both Data Depth's and Valeo IP's efforts and reputations became damaged in this test of wills, to the benefit of not only Copyright Clearance Center and other content relicensors but also new players looking for marketing opportunities in content licensing. In the opportunities column lurk players such as Google and Microsoft that are focusing on how content gets monetized regardless of its copyrighted status. Many of these opportunities will come after content has been delivered, rather than beforehand, as distribution becomes increasingly commoditized into a utility service. Through this post-delivery view of content the "relicensing" business is being transformed from residual revenues extracted via awareness of legal enforcements into a fertile field for many forms of primary and add-on revenues, with copyrights being but one of many devices to be used for claiming those revenues.

The technologies that Data Depth brings for managing the awareness and licensing of copyrighted content are valuable components but it will take more than good features to claim victory in the marketplace. Recent court cases may bolster the spirits of copyright holders but it's far from clear that copyright in and of itself is a powerful monetization vehicle in the electronic era. It will take a clear vision of where the use and monetization of both copyrighted and non-copyrighted content is moving to create a framework that can benefit audiences as much as copyright holders in generating revenues from content that's already in the hands of licensees. In the meantime best of luck to the staff of Valeo IP as they consider their next moves.

Headlines for 30 June 2005

Google testing tailored search
Web Content by and for the Masses
We're Not Content With Web Content
blinkx Debuts Podcast Search
For Soaring Google, Next Act Won't Be as Easy as the First
Microsoft Said to Be in Talks to Buy Adware Developer
Your brain: Search engine, or calculator?
Authors @ Your Library Database Launched
Denton subject to content theft disguised as “Public Art”
LexisNexis(R) Headnotes Now Integrated With Shepard's Citations Service
Ask Jeeves Announces Expanded Syndication Network
Elsevier Introduces ScienceDirect College Edition

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Taxonomy Wars: Factiva Ups the Ante with Synapse Acquisition

In a move that seems to reset the stage for the blooming taxonomy industry Factiva announced its acquisition of Synapse, a leading provider of software solutions for building and maintaining taxonomies, thesauri and ontologies. Coming to Factiva from Synapse in the deal is Taxonomy Warehouse, a collection of more than 500 taxonomies that provides a powerful array of "hooks" for contextualizing content. There are many highly competent companies that develop taxonomies and tools to develop and maintain them but this acquisition is a long leap for Factiva towards being a "big dog" in this space instead of an also-ran trying to leverage news-oriented taxonomies for places where they just don't fit very well. As I mentioned in our earlier observations on the file sharing case bounced back from the U.S. Supreme Court the real money for publishers to chase is no longer in distribution but in the contextualization of content. If you own the taxonomy process you have a significant part in the value of the content within those taxonomies, making taxonomies as content a highly valuable resource for tuning content sets to client needs. Taxonomies don't work very well on the open web though: they need relatively finite sets of content to be useful. But that works out just fine for most corporations trying to make sense of their own content as much as external content via taxonomies. This is a shrewd move by Factiva which is likely to be followed by other acquisitions by competitors trying to keep up with the taxonomy tide.

Headlines for 29 June 2005

Here Comes the iTunes of News
Majority of mag websites now in profit says survey
Apple Updates iTunes Adds Aruntx Podcast Network
AAP Question Google’s Library Plan
TheStreet.com Shutters Research Subsidiary
Macquarie buys BBC Broadcast
Yellow Pages Association adds vertical search to Local Search Guide
MSNBC.com survives, thrives despite trouble between parents
Google to Earth: New 3-D Mapping Service
HuffPost First Blog on Yahoo! News
Podcasting: An Emerging Major Trend
LexisNexis Unveils Three New Products at Homeland Security Conference on Information Sharing
Factiva Acquires Synapse, Broadens Taxonomy Consultancy
Wright Investors' Service Launches Wright Reports, a Global Company Report Service
SanDisk FlashCP Technology Securely Distributes Copyrighted Content for Flash Cards and USB Drives
Cognos Extends and Enhances Reporting and Analysis Capabilities for Microsoft Office

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

U.S. Supreme Court File Sharing Verdict Changes Few of the Facts

In a unanimous decision the U.S. Supreme Court sent lawsuits targeting Grokster Ltd. and other file sharing services back to lower courts for trial [Bloomberg coverage], a decision warming the hearts of media companies and putting illegal file sharing in the spotlight again. Media companies should have much to celebrate, as should mainstream technology innovators not trying to induce illegal actions. But while encouraging illegal activities is hardly admirable and worthy of legal action, user behavior will continue regardless of the entertainment industry's assaults in all venues. As shown in our recent survey of small and medium businesses sharing copyrighted content is frequent in the business world, with large percentages sharing content with their peers on a regular basis. The facts on the ground seem to indicate that many publishers and content services providers continue to take an unrealistic approach to electronic content licensing and the technologies that make their persistent views of content licensing obsolete.

In the greater scheme of things the issue is not whether technology can be used to violate copyrights: if this were the case then media companies ought to be suing companies such as Microsoft for software features such as "cut and paste." The greater question is why content licensing is not packaged in a way that takes natural and valued behavior into account and makes it convenient for content purchasers to exhibit that behavior legally and simply. Single-user, "lock box" licenses for electronic content make it hard for people to spread the news of what's good content to one another, limiting the most valuable electronic distribution network - trusted peers - from doing their job. Distribution is no longer the primary mission for most forward-thinking content companies: the primary mission has become making content as valuable as possible in whatever user-defined context it finds itself, regardless of how it got there. In this environment preventing distribution reduces the potential for revenues.

While this phenomenon tends to favor ad-oriented monetization models in the short run, the emergence of sophisticated XML-based packaging of content objects is likely to favor content companies that move aggressively to define packaging that makes it easy to facilitate premium shared and single-user services for content once it finds a valuable context. Traditional product-oriented content marketing will be replaced over time by efforts to push content into the hands of audiences that "get it" for a specific item and to encourage them to spread its use as quickly as possible to people who will demand premium services. Subscriptions will still be a part of this mix, but they will move away from distribution management towards other services, as they have already with publisher-provided "workflow" content applications.

So have at it and bash the Groksters of the world: they deserve it. But don't mistake the initiatives of clever if misguided software developers with the opportunities in the content marketplace that their efforts underscore. Until publishers move far more aggressively to monetize contextualized content better than anyone else they will continue to lose the battle for leading revenues. There are good reasons that Google and Yahoo! dominate with revenue growth: it's time for publishers to respond to those reasons and to produce products that adapt well to those reasons.

Headlines for 28 June 2005

Entertainment Industry Wins U.S. Supreme Court Fight on Piracy
The Post-Grokster Era Begins
ChoicePoint gets 5-year IRS contract
Play It, Google: Google launches Google Video player
Google pays the price for being top dog
$500 Million Later, G+J Sells Fast Company, Inc. to Morningstar CEO
New Pew poll: Online newspaper readership growing
Are your feeds turning into too many long tails? Filter!
Knowledge Management : No Such Thing As A Knowledge Worker
Packing Up the Books: Online Discussion
Experian launches B2B marketing service
LexisNexis, University of Maryland Team Up to Preserve Images of U.S. Serial Set Maps

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Monday, June 27, 2005

News Analysis - Riding the Long Tail: Libraries Confront the World of Infinite Content Supply and Demand

Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine, unleashed a global debate with an article last December on "The Long Tail," the huge portion of content that's thought to be of residual value to companies catering to mass audiences but turning out to be both powerful and profitable to a wide range of audiences. Companies like Google and Amazon prove out this model every day on the web, but so do corporate librarians who focus increasingly on the bulk of content in their own organizations beyond the reach of commercial services. The future for librarians serving local communities can be found in looking at both online and corporate models for tips as to how to manage the content that matters most to highly contextual audiences.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 27 June 2005

Reuters, Seeking Brand Awareness, to Offer G-8 News Online and Direct
Varying Content Commitments from Vendors for Yahoo! Search Subscriptions
ChoicePoint overhaul falls behind
Online music stores singing a new tune: No big labels allowed
The Newspaper of the Future
Cary's Dialog loses CEO; 150 jobs at stake
Audible to offer New York Times podcasts via RSS
Over 2000 bloggers taking cash for comment
Microsoft plans to deliver RSS support in Windows Longhorn
Collaborative filtering with del.icio.us
Still No Official Word on G+J Sale; Reported Buyer's Stock Dips
Thomson Financial to deliver Instinet's algorithmic trading strategies over AutEx
APhA Partners with Elsevier
RR Donnelley Premedia Technologies Launches Pipeline(SM) Project Management and Tracking Tool
Akademos Boosts Sales of Textbooks and Other Media with its Deployment of FAST ImPulse

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

SIIA Brown Bag - Three Perspectives on Growing the Top Line: Repurposing of Assets Comes of Age

It's nice to hear Shore's themes being echoed in so many venues these days. Last week's SIIA Brown Bag panel in New York City focused on one such theme, the push for repurposing content assets for top line growth (see Patricia Joseph's report on the same topic). Hal Espo, President of Contextual Connections, LLC chaired a panel including Paige Amidon, General Manager for Market & Product Development at Consumer Reports, Victoria Cho Pao, newly appointed President of McGraw-Hills's Platts division (coming from McGraw-Hill Construction) and Joel Poznansky, President of Apex CoVantage Publishing Solutions.

From a consumer perspective Paige Amidon related the successes of Consumer Reports in creating new online services and print titles without using ads (CR is a non-profit), which places the emphasis on enhancing premium print titles and online services. CR does quite a bit of both, but the key from their perspective is having gone to an "electronic-first" content production model. This allows them to develop repurposing for content quickly and flexibly in both print and online media with special buyers' issues and focused online offerings with ever-deeper content in areas of high interest. While there were worries about how such an aggressive online content program would hurt revenues, but with a brand that is "better than the Pope", according to recent research, Consumer Reports has actually been able to raise subscription prices for its online content. The lesson from a CR perspective is to build rich packages of content through repurposing that are well targeted to the here-and-now interests of audiences and to build interactive capabilities considered essential by younger audiences.

Victoria Cho Pao focused primarily on her experience at McGraw-Hill Construction rather than her new assignment at Platts, where embedding value-add content into clients' professional workflows has yielded strong results for both ad-based content (more and more valuable pages of content) and subscription services. Using integrated solutions to provide repurposed content is not just about providing multiple sources in a common interface - an approach that is likely to promote discounting, as many aggregators know all too well these days. Rather the emphasis in providing workflow solutions needs to be on senior executives who care about the value of solutions and with a product pricing structure that is built from the ground up with repurposing in mind. All of this places a challenge on the editorial and marketing components of a publisher's organization, oftentimes requiring new skill sets in both areas to understand the kinds of content that are going to meet the value-add needs of specific markets and clients. It's important to avoid confusing the client in the sales process with too many options: sometimes repurposing is all about making things simpler, not more complex, connecting key sources of content in the most strategic way possible.

From the perspective of an electronic publishing solutions provider Joel Poznansky sees repurposing as nothing new in and of itself but with electronic content creation and distribution tools its acceleration is the key issue as more content than ever can be broken into small, discrete packages for targeted consumption. In his mind search engines are making the difference in the need to have repurposed content noticed in more contexts, requiring more work with metadata and indexing to have its attributes fully understood. The emotional attachment that many publishers have to established print titles and production methods seems to slow down the migration to electronic publishing that facilitates repurposing, Joel notes, but once through the change there's more likely to be a common vision for both print and online products that will inevitably change how information is designed. In the print world Joel notes that the finiteness of the printed page creates an attitude towards information design that is not easily parralelled in the relatively infinite display capabilities of online information. So repurposing from one medium to another requires not just a migration of information but a reassessment of how the quality of the product will be perceived in two fundamentally different media.

It's difficult to encapsulate what turned out to be a very insightful and spirited discussion of content production in the era of repurposing, but the upshot of all this is that repurposing is more than ever at the heart of the publishing industry. It may take the form of new media, new audiences, new formats or new features, but the ability to use online publishing technology to obtain insights into user needs and to turn around new presentations of information to fill those needs very quickly is a necessity for profitable publishing. Getting content into the context that matters most for audiences at the right place at the right time means far more emphasis on deep insights into user behavior and having the right technology and product focus to turn around those insights into targeted and saleable content. The good news is that it can mean a more effective capability for print profits as well as online, a factor that's not lost hopefully on those slow to turn to new production processes. Another highly valuable brown bag lunch with thought leaders who know how to deliver the goods.

Embracing XBRL for the Future: EDGAR Online's I-Metrix Builds a Global Home for XBRL Content

The eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) has its fans and its doubters in the U.S., with many institutions and content vendors dragging their feet to use the standard for financial reporting and corporate information. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a voluntary program to encourage filings, though so far only a smattering of companies are biting. So why should a business content vendor jump at XBRL at this point? Ask EDGAR Online, which has made data from all companies in its SEC feeds available in XBRL format and introduced its I-Metrix series of business analysis products that uses its Microsoft Excel-based XBRL interface to fuel I-Metrix' executive dashboard and alerts tools. The display and content integration capabilities of I-Metrix are fueled by business intelligence software from Theoris, providing powerful visual analysis of external financials, reports and company-internal business content to allow companies to develop compelling analysis for senior executives, financial analysts and auditors. The XBRL underpinnings of data from EDGAR Online allow an informed selection of specific data elements using its XBRL-based data dictionary to help build "apples-to-apples" financial data comparisons.

It's a slick series of focused capabilities that takes EDGAR Online via its Theoris partnership towards the business solutions market. Its strong front-end user technology and flexible back-end management via Excel makes a compelling case for taking advantage of XBRL formatting sooner rather than later for management teams needing sophisticated analysis with live updates - and not just in the U.S. The movement towards global financial markets and the subsequent need for standardized international analysis is creating another widening market for XBRL adaptation. This may wind up providing EDGAR Online a broader corporate marketplace beyond the financial services industry into which I-Metrix tools can be sold with EDGAR Online data and Web links. Scalability is claimed, though it's probably safe to say that the appeal of sophisticated analysis tools such as I-Metrix within a given company will provide a somewhat self-limiting challenge to the claim. With companies up to their gills in government reporting requirements, it may take the pull of more effective content solutions such as I-Metrix to push more companies into the XBRL camp more quickly. Until then, XBRL can prove its own merits clearly through I-Metrix applications.

InterSearch Helps Institutions Profit from Web Searching

It seemed to be for the most part a fish out of water at the SIA Show (weblog coverage) but one of the more interesting booths was a display by InterSearch Group, Inc.. InterSearch was announcing its Search Equity corporate search engine technology, which enables companies to profit from employees clicking on ads appearing in search results. With the Search Equity setup users have essentially the same search experience, but when someone at a participating enterprise clicks on a sponsored link it goes into a revenue share pool, from which InterSearch and their clients take a cut. InterSearch estimates that for each 1,000 employees a participating enterprise could take home more than $18,000 annually - a pretty tidy number. It's a very simple proposition that may have a lot of appeal to companies that provide access to open Web search engines anyway, though it's really just the tip of the iceberg. Companies are used to their content providers claiming the "real estate" in front of their staff as their own, when in fact it's via infrastructure paid for by the client. This is a small step towards companies beginning to recognize that their employees' desktops are valuable places for other businesses to communicate with them with value that they should be claiming for their own top and bottom lines more effectively. Should companies be paying aggregators for distribution of content? Or should they be charging aggregators for monetization rights on their internal networks? Sponsored search ads are just one monetization model to be used behind the firewall for external content sources providing contextual content value, with many new and repackaged models to come.

2005 SIA Technology Management Conference: Making Way for New Players

The 2005 Securities Industry Association Technology Management Conference was a get-together notable for the degree of shift in the marketplace for financial content services displayed at the conference's exhibit hall. The show is getting smaller in overall space and even as the booths being presented are mostly smaller and representative of a broader array of smaller companies servicing this marketplace. Notably the historical push of big market data companies dominating the show are long over. The Reuters exhibit still dominated the entry to the show but one you got past a spread-out set of Thomson kiosks and the vestiges of ADP the marketplace for fully integrated market data solutions begins to thin out very rapidly. Instead the new center of gravity for the show is the array of exhibits provided in the third floor ballroom of the Hilton by technology giants such as Microsoft, HP, IBM and the increasingly dominant presence of Sungard. Traffic seemed fair and informal "how's the show" queries seemed to elicit a lot of enthusiasm from smaller exhibitors looking to initiate serious conversations, but the buzz was mostly with solutions that bypassed content vendors in favor of financial firms and content technology companies.

The REAL center of the show has become the institutions that are the focus of integrating securities trading technology into their core trading strategies. Beyond the usual suspects of major investment banks are companies such as Lime Brokerage LLC, a boutique trading company a the SIA show billing themselves as a "direct access securities broker." Yes, it's a source of trading liquidity for hedge funds and other trading partners, but at least as important in their selling proposition are their trading technologies and interfaces. In other words more than ever content vendors are competing with their customers for defining the value-add layer of content services supporting specific market niches, as increasingly those layers are essential for defining profits as well as managing expenses. Thus Reuters, with its algorithmic trading services featured at the SIA show, finds itself trying to stay a step ahead of their clients' improvements in program trading infrastructure capable of managing trading via proprietary algorithms consuming realtime and fundamental financial data. With the value and advantages of specific sources of financial content becoming more transitory and proprietary than ever, the dissipation of interesting content product displays at the SIA show is a pattern that's likely to continue for some time.

In an environment like this the traditional product development lifecycle for most aggregators appears exceedingly slow in comparison to what their customers are doing with heavy investments in trading and market data infrastructure. So although the solutions-oriented displays by Reuters focusing on hedge funds, asset management and direct feed management showed many powerful capabilities, these are solutions for increasingly smaller and focused market segments. They at least seemed more focused than the more generic solutions being shown at the Thomson display, which featured at one point a presentation on the importance of Intel processors in their solutions mix. With solutions such as Reuters RDF Direct allowing its clients to consume feeds from exchanges and clients directly without the inherent latency in centralized ticker plants, even as Hyperfeed takes over the Reuters TRS trading room platform to manage distribution of content at client sites, the model of The New Aggregation is in full flower in financial market data: specialization in specific aspects of content aggregation that work best for a given model while abandoning those that are best provided by clients or technology companies.

While the SIA show remains a valuable outlet for financial content vendors it is becoming increasingly hard to find the diamonds in the rough at this venue. The main ballroom exhibits of technology companies do provide a particular focus for the exhibition, but there's less and less rhyme or reason to any of the other display areas. Where do I go to find network solutions? Trading floor solutions? Up and coming content providers? While the Hilton facility has always had limitations in this respect the fragmentation of the industry and the propagation of small suppliers providing displays makes this an increasingly frustrating exhibition to traverse. Most exhibits have become far too small to gain any sense of what a vendor is trying to accomplish. Since space is not at a premium at this point it would be nice for the pricing for exhibitors to reflect the changing face of the industry to encourage more vendors to present messages that stand out from the pack.

Google eCommerce Initiatives: Follow the Patents to Premium Content

Much of the early media buzz on Google's move to ecommerce functionality (initial WSJ article, premium) focused on the concept of Google going into competition with eBay. But as Internetnews.com pointed out later in the week a very likely source of the rumors may have more to do with the fruit of a patent filed by Google last December that provides for a number of content accessibility capabilities - including management of access to premium content from magazines, CDs, DVDs and audio books. This is already promised in the FAQ page for Google Video, which states that although current uploads are distributed for free the ability to charge is in the wings. We'll leave it to others to track the potential eBay aspects of Google's ecommerce initiatives, but clearly Google is sticking to its core philosophies in assembling content ecommerce capabilities - making unique technology available to all who desire content commercialization in an apparently source-agnostic manner. As we mentioned in last week's weblog entry the Yahoo! Subscriptions beta is publisher-centric, focusing on searching premium sources that still have their own unique premium access management methods.

The source-agnostic Google methodology is certain to make publishers used to managing access via their own established controls somewhat nervous, but it's a vision that someone is going to win with eventually in the long run - perhaps even Google. What eBay has demonstrated is that "the long tail" of commerce for goods outside of the mass marketing spotlight are well-served by an open marketplace that allows sellers and buyers to find one another efficiently - a concept that seems to draw in the mass-marketed goods over time as well. The supplier that focuses on creating a content marketplace that works for buyers as well as it does for sellers of all kinds is the one likely to become the eBay of content. So far that's not major aggregators or Yahoo!, which seem to be unsure about having today's premium content in the same league as other sources via search and ecommerce mechanisms. There are any number good reasons for segregating high-quality content from junk, but the wheres and hows of this are changing rapidly. All publishers and aggregators need to be prepared to have their content and content services compete in an open marketplace that favors buyers as much as sellers. Will Google be that marketplace? Stranger things have happened...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Google Print: Indexing vs. Copying and the Future of Scholarly Books

Finding authoritative information sources has always been a major challenge for searchers and researchers. The commercial search services were born over 30 years ago to answer this need, and while the technology has steadily improved, obstacles to finding those sources still remain. In a thoughtful post to the liblist-l at Yale University, Chuck Hamaker, a librarian at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, expresses his concern that book content is not as visible to students and scholars as articles, primarily because journal articles are indexed widely, have the context of snippits and are available full text in electronic format through some service. By contrast, books remain stuck in print silos, with the exception of some emerging book databases such as ebrary and safari. As Hamaker observes, "Massive indexing of monographs which is what I see Google Print actually doing, is critical for survival--the survival as usable text, of the book, to keep it from becoming nothing more than an interesting artifact of civilization."

The current controversy between the Association of Academic Publishers (AAP) and Google Print focuses on legal definitions of copyright, which were developed long before the electronic age. The value of indexing and assisting the scholar in in finding knowledge has been ignored. As an adjunct faculty member teaching online searching as a distance learning class at SJSU School of Library and Information Science, I introduce my students to a wide variety of electronic sources, particularly full text, since they have only virtual access to a library. But those sources do not include scholarly "books" because they are not indexed either by traditional classifications systems or full text.

Journal publishers found that indexing, particularly in Google Scholar, has increased usage of their journals and improved their electronic revenues. By contrast, scholarly books have abysmally low actual usage by library patrons, hence the question of the value of continuing to spend scarce budget resources on this type of material. Improving usage should be the major concern of book publishers, not throwing up roadblocks to wider access; it's time to think marketing and moving into the twenty-first century.

Headlines for 24 June 2005

Clock Ticks on Old Media
Net To Newspapers: Drop Dead
US newspapers find readers-if not money-on the Web
Preregistration Up for ALA Conference
Plenty of Room at the Bottom? Personal Digital Libraries and Collections
Dow Jones Hires Yahoo Executive
Blogs: A Rich Media Ad Playground?
ABM Dips Toe into Podcasting in Latest E-Media Foray
Online communities: Growing an Internet garden
Weblogs Inc., to include chat rooms for leading blogs?
VIYYA cuts search time in half, personalizes, filters & processes web and content search automatically

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Headlines for 23 June 2005

A New Page in Google's Books Fight
Leader: Is the iPod love affair over?
Blog tool wins innovation prize
Newspaper Executives Cautious On Outlook for Ad Spending
Larry Kramer: CBS will be web centric and bypass cable
Six Apart Adds Earnings Capabilities to TypePad Weblogs
ECNext Names Marty Kahn to Board of Directors
NewsGator Technologies Introduces Business IQ Industry Intelligence Svc with Factiva's Editor's Choice
Answers.com Partners with IceRocket
Elsevier's ScienceDirect Passes 7 Million-Article Mark
Mobile search engine developed for off-portal content

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Google's Settlement System

So, is the fracas about the Google payment system just the coming to life of the payment tracking system that they disclosed in their S-1 and was reported on by Shore in a May 2004 Weblog?

In the S-1, Google reports that they are contracting out their "worldwide billing, collection and credit evaluation functions. The third-party provider will also track, on an automated basis, our growing number of AdSense revenue share agreements."


In October of last year, our Weblog commented on the IT partner arrangement again when Bertelsmann's BFS Group was disclosed as the IT partner in a San Francisco Chronicle article.

From this analyst's perspective, it was clear from the beginning that the system, once created for settling AdSense payments between publishers and advertisers (and of course, Google, too), could be extended to serve as the backbone for settling content e-commerce (and product e-commerce) payments between members of the Google network. Indeed this is big news, since a payment settlement scheme on a scale that Google can provide dwarfs other attempts at micropayments or online subscription services and opens the door to experiments with new models of aggregation that don't require significant back-office billing and payment operations. However, it shouldn't be surprising news to Shore readers...

Headlines for 22 June 2005

Google Moving Forward on Payment System
Newspaper Executives: Concerns Over Industry's Health Overblown
How syndicated information enhances content delivery for Office Depot
'Wikitorial' Pulled Due to Vandalism
The Business of Blogging
OneSource Extends Product Portfolio To 3.7 Million UK SMEs
Relegence Selects Newstex to Supply Content On Demand
Elsevier’s Scopus Garners 500 Customers in Six Months
Thomson ResearchSoft Releases EndNote 9 for Windows
FinancialContent Partners With KRT InfoConnect to Offer Local Business News

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Headlines for 21 June 2005

The End Of the Media Conglomerate
Associated Press Aims to Expand Its Horizons
Morningstar CEO to Buy Fast Company and Inc.
The "New" OneSource
CSA Scientific and Technical Content Added to Dialog
WSJ selects MSN Spaces over 360 and Blogger
Dial-Up Internet Going the Way of Rotary Phones
Groxis and Sun Shine Light on Global Corporate Library
Newstex Adds Automated Chart Pattern Recognition from Recognia, Includes 'Technical Events'
AllBusiness.com in Alliance With BusinessWeek OnlinePremier Business Site Provides Advice Center

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Monday, June 20, 2005

New Research - Business Information Use in Small to Medium U.S. Businesses: 2005 Survey

Small and medium businesses in the United States are very active users of internal and external business information and growing their budgets for business information rapidly. While many traditional sources of business information show strong use, new sources and online access methods are changing the marketplace for business information services rapidly. This ground-breaking quantitative study details the business roles, budgets and preferred purchasing methods of executives purchasing business information and profiles the usage, sharing and importance of newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, market research reports, books and reference materials, weblogs, subscription services, company information and internal sources. The report maps sources to preferred access methods, including in-house systems, source Web sites, search engines and Web portals, fee-based online services and other access methods.

Click here for details and purchasing options for this research

News Analysis - Where the Buys Are: Small and Medium U.S. Businesses Step Up to Business Information

Shore's new survey of small and medium sized U.S. businesses reveals aggressive spending on business information that these businesses find to be highly valuable. Not surprisingly much of it is now online information, but it's not just purchased information that powers these businesses to success. A combination of original sources outside of subscription products and carefully purchased premium content is the key to small and medium businesses making the most of business information without huge I.T. investments. There's lots of opportunity in this changing mix of business information usage for vendors that want to help these businesses to grow.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 20 June 2005

Google Plans Online-Payment Service
Reviving Reuters
AP takes on its future and the world
Google vs. Yahoo: Clash of cultures
What Is Google, Anyway?
PubSub Government Tracks Political Discussion on Blogs and Web
Advertisers forced to think way outside the box
What Ever Happened to the Big Media Boogeyman?
Thomson Financial Provides Imputed Investment Banking Fee Analysis via Alliance with Freeman & Co.
Relegence Selects Newstex to Supply Content On Demand
OneSource Announces Major Upgrade to Current Product Line and Two New Products
LexisNexis' Choice of Corticon to Automate Customer Order Management Drives a 70-80% Cost Reduction
Business Objects, EDGAR Online, and Ipedo Deliver First XBRL-Enhanced Business Intelligence Solution
Mamma.com Conquers Deep Web: Launches Innovative Health Search Site in Beta

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Ads That Turn Readers On

The Online Publishers Association is previewing results of their latest User Experience Study in a road show that I attended last Wednesday in Boston. The study revealed the top usage drivers that keep users returning to news and other popular destination Web sites. Along with the expected attributes, such as Entertains, Absorbs Me (1), Regular Part of My Day (3), and A Credible, Safe Place(5), the ninth most important user driver is: Turned On By Ads (9).

In the era of annoying pop-ups and flashing ads that interfere with the user's ability to read editorial content, why does "turned on by ads" rank among the top reasons for returning to a Web site? Shore has followed the evolution of online contextual ads (see here, here, and here, for example) and we have underscored how well-placed contextual ads that provide links to relevant products, services, or content can enhance a site, in addition to contributing advertising dollars.

ContextWeb, one of the new-breed contextual advertising firms, offers technology that improves upon the standard contextual matching algorithms and furthermore offers added control to both advertisers and publishers in choosing how to optimize ad placement. (See our earlier NewsAnalysis for more insight into ContextWeb and its technology.) Perhaps most important, ContextWeb's ContextAd platform dynamically indexes Web pages in the network so that news and other frequently updated sites can benefit from true contextual matching. In a recent conversation with ContextWeb's senior management, Anand Subramanian, CEO of ContextWeb, explained that some publishers are using ContextAd to monetize their archival content, since the technology does not require pre-indexing the entire collection. With recent deals announced with Meredith Publishing and HighBeam Research, it is clear that leading publishers and aggregators are catching on to the benefits of ContextAd.

The announcement today that they have secured $9 million in series B financing led by Updata Partners will bolster ContextWeb's ability to expand its network to include additional publishers and aggregators. Even with consistent improvements introduced by Google and Yahoo!, there is ample room for players like ContextWeb in the rapidly growing field of online advertising. I would really like to see some STM publishers experiment with ContextAd as an alternative--or adjunct--to subscription and pay-per-view models of monetizing online journals and archives. In the process, publishers may find that they improve the readers' experience with useful informative advertising content.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Terminology: Finding a Yoga Whatchamacallit

Yoga is my latest passion, and like all fitness pursuits, requires certain paraphanalia. The rolled up mat is too long to fit into my usual collection of totes and bags, so I went to the web search engines in search of something to store and carry all my yoga equipment. My first try was "yoga bag" which brought up sleek carrying cases for the mat, but no place for my block and straps, let alone a hooded sweat jacket. I also tried "yoga mat carriers" and "mat tote" which brought up straps for my mat, as well enlarged purses with a strap on the side to accommodate the mat, much like an umbrella. I finally tried "mat bag", and finally found what I wanted under "yoga duffel bag", basically a rugged bag large enough to accommodate all my yoga equipment, plus a pocket for keys and my cell phone. I came close to buying the "Sweaty Stuff Yoga Bag", but finally ended up buying offline so I could actually feel the fabric, and see if my cell phone fit the pocket, rather typical consumer concerns.

My experience illustrates the conundrum of finding products or information on the web. The words that I entered as search terms meant something to me, but they didn't match the results that I found. Classifications and taxonomies have become much more important on the Web, but their limitations are the same linguistic issues that I found, which are quite separate from the search engine technology itself. We truly use a variety of dialects, and that is the challenge of adapting to the web world!

Parallels Between Consumer Products and Publishing

The news that James Kilts, CEO of Gillette, is joining the board of the New York Times may seem like an unusual choice, but it brought to mind an article from early 2005 that described the rationale for the acquisition of Gillette by P&G. In essence, Kilts and P&G management were responding to the shift in the balance of power that was too heavily skewed toward the retail giants like WalMart and Tesco (in the UK). Here are a few snippets from the article:

Just a decade ago global manufacturers like P&G and Unilever held the balance of power -- they were in charge, dictating to the supermarkets exactly how they wanted their products and promotional material displayed.

But as the dominance of supermarkets has grown (Tesco now accounts for 1 in every 8 GBPs spent on the high street) the influence of the likes of P&G and Unilever has diminished.

The proposed merger of P&G and Gillette is the biggest sign to date of how the tables have turned.



On first reading this article, it struck me how publishers are in a similar situation to the manufactures with respect to having lost bargaining power to aggregators that are making deals that benefit the aggregator at the expense of the publishers that supply the content to their services. Some deals made between aggregators and search engines, for instance, may benefit consumers and the aggregators, but the publishers of the orginal content earn little or no incremental revenue from these deals.

In the case of Gillette and P&G, their combined resources will help them influence the shape of the distribution landscape. And, with a combined advertising budget of approximately $3 billion (in 2004), the combined entity will have the resources to reach consumers directly via Web advertising. (Note that P&G was in the news last week for cutting its commitment to TV advertising, which portends its accelerating shift in ad dollars to the Web.)

Publishers that license their content to syndicators and aggregators are facing a similar situation. Publishers with strong brands like the NYTimes need to reassert their value in the market through new distribution and advertising models on the Web. The Times has made some smart moves in the recent past, including acquisitions that add to their publishing bulk and make them a more important advertising property. With the addition to their board of an experienced CEO who can relate his experience in "turning the tables" in the consumer products market to the publishing market, The Times has made a smart choice in naming Kilts to their board.

Headlines for 17 June 2005

Yahoo Launches Search For Subscription Content
Is the Primedia Business Deal in Trouble?
Digital Magazines Boost Sales of Print Editions
Reuters takes direct action
Thomson Gale Launches AccessMyLibrary.Com for Access to Trusted Library Information Online
One-Fifth of Web Users Prefer Online News--Nielsen
And why not a wiki?: Blogosphere lights up over 'wikitorials'
The Wikitorial era begins
B-to-b ad revenues up 4.5% in April
Verity's desktop search buy gets industry thumbs up

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Inbox Report: LexisNexis a La Carte Back from Service Outage

Apparently the new LexisNexis AlaCarte service has had some glitches as of late. From the email received today:

"After a brief hiatus to enhance site security and to build a solid foundation for upcoming growth in site traffic, LexisNexis AlaCarte! is once again serving premium news, business, and legal information for hungry information seekers." They're offering a limited-time 2 for 1 deal to recommit their users. "Upcoming growth" is presumably their upcoming contributions to the Yahoo! subscription Beta, so watch this unfolding over the next few weeks in new spaces.

It's interesting to see that these new interfaces from LexisNexis and Factiva are moving rather slowly and incrementally into the world of online access, trying to maintain service quality and corporate levels of security and content maintenance in an environment that's much more open and scaled to mass media audiences and expectations. It's not that easy to serve two masters, both online media channels preferred by small to medium businesses and the corporate content fortresses of major institutions. It's about more than just bits and bytes, it's culture as well. Somehow this 2 for 1 offer sounds like a recognition that LexisNexis is still feeling its way through being in the media space and needs to make amends for a good first try that didn't quite take into account just how open an open Web can be. Perhaps those pony tailed folks will be making a comeback after all...

The Other Shoe: Factiva's Initial Participation in the Yahoo! Subscription Beta

Well, we mentioned the rumblings of Factiva and others joining the Yahoo! subscription Beta earlier today, and now comes an email from Factiva outlining their initial participation. Here's the key paragraph from Factiva:

"Now, Factiva subscribers will be able to retrieve select Factiva articles from their Yahoo! search. Factiva will provide to Yahoo! a daily, "rolling"” selection of content in categories commonly searched on the Web, including sports, entertainment, health and science. By partnering with Factiva, Yahoo! is able to bring a unique value proposition to users the ability to simultaneously search the free web and also access Factiva'’s premium aggregated news and information. Extending Factiva'’s content assets into a mainstream search engine makes Factiva content available to a new and significantly larger audience of business users while providing another access point for existing Factiva subscribers to obtain information."

This sounds like Factiva parked its recently announced RSS feeds on Yahoo!'s doorstep and is using the same validation mechanism used in their NewsGator interface. I have the same thoughts overall on Factiva RSS feeds that I did in a previous posting - pretty limited flexibility and content. But as additional content sources are added Yahoo!'s search will be a much more visible mechanism than NewsGator in which to note news headlines for Factiva users, so as additional content is added from both Factiva and other sources this could be a fairly powerful tool for subscribers. But it's going be interesting to see how newspapers, working hard for online revenues, are going to react to a subscription service honing in on their potential for online ad income from direct searches. Push has really yet to come to shove in this mix, but it's fun to see Factiva and Yahoo! beginning to tip the balance in aggregation that much further from proprietary interfaces to tools that begin to separate subscription management from aggregators' search engines. The New Aggregation is coming on strong...

Yahoo! Launches Beta Search of Subscription Content

Reuters and many other outlets note the arrival of Yahoo!'s new Beta service for searching subscription content. The service currently supplies access to several "best of breed" business and consumer publications, including Consumer Reports,FT.com (60 days of archives only), Forrester Research, IEEE publications, New England Journal of Medicine, TheStreet.com and the Wall Street Journal (30 days archives only). There are rumblings of Factiva, LexisNexis and others coming down the road as well. The subscription search has its own page, though there is a link to subscription search from the search results pages of Yahoo!'s Web search engine. Like many federated search capabilities Yahoo! defaults to all sources but allows source-by-source filtering via checkbox options. Search results themselves share most of the same features as the Web search results, including the ability to save individual search items to one's "My Web" Yahoo! page, as well as site blocking preferences. The "advanced search" capability looks just like the Web search options with the addition of the subscription source checkboxes. Notably absent from the Beta subscription search results pages are any contextual ads. Search quality seems to be pretty good, but with such a limited universe of content it's really hard to tell.

One expects Yahoo!, with its more media-friendly outlook on content and a true media outlook on its portal services, to have skunked Google on this breakout service for a major search engine. This innovation allows prestigious publications that have been reluctant to make their subscription content accessible via Web searches in an environment segregated from that "other" content - the Web - that now threatens to overwhelm many media business models. With so few publications available, the current setup of this subscription search is hardly a test of the theory: if I wanted to do a search on an auto or a toaster, I may as well go to Consumer Reports directly or do a Web search, which will include some Consumer Reports content anyway. Similarly for most of the other sources. It's in this sense a true Beta, a feedback mechanism to give publishers and aggregators some idea as to what it will take to succeed in an online search environment. The real potential winners could be the major aggregators if and when the come on board, positioning them rather smartly as subscription agents for premium content available via the Yahoo! search interface for simple searches and via business application integration and more sophisticated tools through their own infrastructure in a business environment. This Beta is certainly a big shoe dropping in the world of premium content, but the real shoe dropping to listen for will be when the access to subscription content via Web search engines, regardless of its source, becomes as transparent as access to general Web content. The Yahoo! Beta is a very well calculated step in that direction, but only a fairly small step.

Headlines for 16 June 2005

New Yahoo service searches subscription sites
Google: is it really a media company?
RSS Newsmastering Engines And Syndication Servers Just Around The Corner
Blogging Evolved: Application Aggregation
Bid to take infoUSA private
Major sites hope to keep users 'tuned in'
Murdoch returns for Fleet Street's last rites
Wikis, Weblogs and RSS: What Does the New Internet Mean for Business?
Elsevier Signs Deal With Dutch Universities
Thomson Gale Launches AccessMyLibrary.Com to Allow Access to Trusted Library Information Online

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Headlines for 15 June 2005

TechTarget rolls out lead management service
Monster.com founder planning to step down to launch venture
All Media In 'Palm' Of Your Hand
Blo.gs purchased by Yahoo!
High Court Leaves Ownership Limits In Media to FCC
NY library debuts digital audio books: no iPods
Ketchum Bows 'Personalized Media' Practice
Contest gets the lowdown on what makes readers forward links
Elsevier’s Scirus Opens Repository Search Service
Reed Elsevier completes 700 mln usd bond offering
Study: Falling CD sales can't be blamed on P2P
Knobias, Inc. Signs Content Redistribution Agreement With Acquire Media Corporation

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Headlines for 14 June 2005

On Google, Bubbles, and Market Madness
OneSource to Be Acquired by infoUSA Subsidiary
UK Consumers want media convergence and control- study
Search, Find and Listen to Podcasts Easily
Verity Closes Deal with 80-20
Elsevier MDL Releases Major DiscoveryGate Upgrade to Boost Research Productivity for Pharma + Academia
MetaCarta Introduces Location Intelligence for the Enterprise
Reuters Renews Long-Term Video Monitoring Agreement with Teletrax
IFR Markets Hires Three Market Veterans in Drive to Enhance Credit and Structured Products Coverage
ProQuest deliver NewsRx to library users
ProQuest Increases Newspaper Coverage with MediaNews and Columbus Dispatch

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CORRECTED: Gupta Wants to Take InfoUSA All Private

[We originally put this out on 14 June with the headline "OneSource Goes Completely Private, Sealing a Successful Deal " and a link to an Information Today story on the InfoUSA/OneSource deal that ran in May of last year: our apologies for the error, a corrected version runs below with the correct citation and commentary regarding yesterday's news report of InfoUSA's plans to go altogether private.]

As reported by DM News, Vin Gupta & Co. LLC, controlled by InfoUSA chairman/CEO Vin Gupta is proposing to acquire the rest of InfoUSA's shares and to take the company private. This comes on the heels of a revised earnings report by InfoUSA to account for weakness in Donnelly Marketing and small business revenues, while its subsidiary OneSource Information Services reports strong growth. Why go private now? InfoUSA has had good success in encouraging more profitable and efficient operations in its new OneSource subsidiary, encouraging new thinking about operations and using its own data sources effectively in OneSource's business information databases: Gupta's dedication to squeezing out costs from data acquisition, quality control and management is legendary. But efficiencies can't always overcome markets that are weakening. Even as the demand for integrated solutions such as OneSource's business information services strengthens, direct marketing through spam-plagued email and more traditional mass-marketing media and communications channels are facing uphill battles to get noticed by audiences turning to online resources for answers. At the same time contextual ads and online sales lead generation services that bypass firehose-scaled techniques to focus on specific "right now" prospects for products and services are making online outlets a very powerful way to build relationships with potential clients online very cost-effectively. With marketeers infatuated with making the most of these online resources, especially smaller businesses that have found a more level playing field for getting out their message through contextual ads, it's no small wonder that InfoUSA may want to consider how to reposition its powerful marketing databases for the long run in less of a public glare. If this comes to fruition, and there's no reason to think that it won't, don't expect that it will be the last of InfoUSA stock. A little privacy just might give InfoUSA a chance to tidy up its strategy and resources to the point where a new curtain will rise for public investors to consider down the road.

Monday, June 13, 2005

News Analysis - A Place for Everything: Content Vendor Taxonomies Hook Clients to Useful Structure

The recent debut of LexisNexis Taxonomy puts the business content giant toe to toe with Factiva in the arena for extending the organization of vendor content into enterprise portals. It's a great play and will certainly provide LexisNexis with some important traction in the portal wars, but it's not going to stop clients in their tracks. Taxonomies used to organize content from a client's files alongside vendor content can easily organize other content - including content from competitors' services. It's nice to get close to your clients hooked to you via taxonomies, but don't count on them keeping your database pricing warm and snug forever.

Click here to see the full News Analysis

Headlines for 13 June 2005

Microsoft joins hands with Yahoo!, Google to censor China's web
Can Google News robot rival the newspapermen?
Gallup: Public Confidence in News Media Falls to New Low
Technology Can't Fix Trust Breach for Personal Content
Top Management Gets Big Payouts in Successful Equity Deals
Wikis find role in community governance
MAKE ebooks for your iPod guide!
From Blog to Book in 90 Days or Less
Autonomy to Enable Seamless Knowledge Flow for Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
Viyya Technologies and WISE Learning Solutions Announce New Product for Monitoring Security Threats

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Answering the "Blogs Don't Scale" Dilemma

The recent Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) conference in San Francisco had the usual panel discussions relating to the sheer number of blogs, and their role vs. traditional media. But this audience has a different concern, since they are clearly looking for ways to utilize this new media for advertising and marketing purposes. The sheer size of advertising budgets is overwhelming to new media. According to Mediapost, the top 10 advertisers spent $4.8 Billion just in Q1, 2005. Now let's compare this scale to the typical blogger, who could be compared to a newsletter publisher, with a niche circulation, looking for ways to monetize the content without alienating readers.

Visionary John Battelle has stepped into that gap with the announcement of his new FM Publishing (for Federated Media), to aggregate high authority blogs into an advertising network, focusing initially on technology arena. This will be a win-win situation for both advertisers and bloggers as publishers, since large advertisers have difficulty dealing with individual blogs, and bloggers want to retain control over the advertising that would appear on their site. As a publisher, respected journalist and blogger himself, John is well positioned to address those sensitivities by making the network non-exclusive (unlike Google) and addressing channel concerns. This is definitely a venture to follow, from both the marketing perspective and the blogging perspective!

OMMA and Disruptive Forces

Themes at the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) conference in San Francisco on June 7-8 in San Francisco reminded me of the Star Wars Dark Side. This conference was valuable in highlighting the major changes shaping the traditional media world, which extend well beyond search. Geoff Ramsey, CEO of eMarketer, as Master of Ceremonies, provided a wealth of statistics as background. Then speaker after speaker described the need for change in all aspects, yet organizations , including their own companies, have resistance to change, a familiar situation. These are large scale companies, and adapting to the smaller scales represented by new and emerging technologies, represented by the vendors, is difficult for all the involved players.

The ramifications of technology are having an impact on all major businesses, and those changes are transforming the media industry from advertisers to agencies to publishers, with enabling technology companies providing tools to cope with the process. To begin with, the consumer market is becoming much more fragmented. Broadcast media is no longer the three major networks, but hundreds of TV channels, each with their own audience. And the consumer is in active control of the media, whether it be TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, blogs or podcasts. Traditional demographics, such as sex, age and zipcode are relatively easy to identify, but no longer make sense in this granular world. Instead there is a shift to behavioral targeting and identifying interest groups, approaches which run counter to traditional marketing methodologies, and are relatively untested, particularly for branding.

Traditional media thrived in silos, but online is more effective as part of an integrated marketing campaign, so agencies are struggling with a shift in skill sets needed to effectively manage the transition. Simple text ads and buying keywords on the major search engines is inherently a different process than producing a TV ad, which takes much more time and money. And perhaps even more unsettling is that those search engine ads can be tracked and measured to provide a definite ROI, unlike TV Super Bowl spots. This is attractive to advertiser CFO's, and this ripples into decisions on marketing budgets for different types of media. Now, the creative part of the business to forced to consider the business aspects in a new way, with the traditional CPM metrics inadequate for decision making. And in this new digital world, public relations assumes a new dimension since PR is best integrated into the marketing plan, particularly search marketing, a non-traditional role.

Just as businesses are having to deal with smaller, nimbler competitors without high cost structures, marketers and advertisers are unwillingly changing to meet the new market dynamics. The technology itself is just one component, with smaller niche markets becoming a bigger reality, represented at the extreme by blogging technology which allows individual authors to become publishers. The Star Dust will take a while to settle, as new methodologies and new players contend for leadership!

British Library Direct Sells Research Content from Major Aggregators

Google may be searching for a business model as it digitizes library content, but leave it to the increasingly savvy British Library to launch its new British Library Direct service that gives fee-based access to top journals from around the world, including content from major suppliers such as Elsevier and Springer. The online service makes a la carte purchases available through a single-line standard search interface with pop-up article abstracts and easy click-through ordering. This month BL also debuts the delivery of targeted content collection licensing and delivery to its clients for both journal content and other content found in its Electronic Table of Contents (ETOC) collection, with daily FTP updates available. The British Library is an unusual institution of its kind given its aggressiveness and effectiveness in making both its own content and other content in its collections available commercially, but an important paradigm for other library services providers to consider. Meeting patrons' needs need not be a purely altruistic function: if there's commercial value in content, then meet your patrons' needs head-on where the value can be compensated by commercially motivated patrons. Anyone can collect content these days, so the onus is on library services providers to leverage their core strengths in as many directions as possible, serving the public on a free access basis where it is possible and makes sense and learning how to leverage commercial value from key local strengths where that too will serve the overall public interest. While few libraries have the BL's powerful position, all libraries need to look at the commercial landscape for content as well as traditional outlets to consider how best to service their patrons' needs.

East Meets West as Legal Acquisitions in Europe Shore up Growth

Two announcements this week, one from Thomson and one from Wolters Kluwer, highlight these two legal aggregators' efforts to expand markets through acquisitions. In the instance of Thomson, it's an effort to expand in core Western European markets such as Germany, France and Italy to go toe-to-toe with Reed Elsevier's legal holdings. In the instance of Wolters Kluwer it's an acquisition of EON Programming, a Rumanian online legal database publisher. It's increasingly hard for aggregators to increase revenues with organic growth through deeper penetration of already saturated markets, so acquisitions seem to be the order of the day for these giants as they try to suck up every ounce of purchasable content to gain revenues. While the Thomson acquisitions come from a position of necessity in its battle for "all in one" service in legal with Reed Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer's seems to be more from a position of opportunity in Eastern European markets that have more long-term growth potential, assuming that the EU continues to expand. European margins for professional content are obviously more attractive than cutthroat North American markets these days, in spite of a wavering Euro. But there's a strong danger that the EU is going to succumb to globalization pressures in a rather messy way and force even nastier rationalizations in corporate purchasing budgets than those experienced in North American corporations. Relying on Western European largesse for short-term revenue bursts may be necessary to please shareholders for these companies, but these revenues need to be recycled into efforts to develop world-class business information services that can compete on their own in any global market. If you can make it in Romania - or China, or the U.S. for that matter - you can make it anywhere, they say.

Vertical Search is Buzzy, but Does it Work?

The recent announcement by Forbes.com to add online content search capabilities for I.T. oriented content (MediaPost) is not a revolutionary change to the Forbes portal: already Forbes has used partners to provide focused searches to browse white papers and to provide a products and services directory embedded into its Web site's search results page. But unlike this fairly captive content the IT.com engine (search results example) tunes its algorithms for open Web searches. This raises the question of how effective such a tool can be in providing a useful focus. In comparing the above results from IT.com to results for the same keywords ("medical monitors") on Google and ThomasNet you can see the differences that can be found in different approaches to searching on a specific topic with different kinds of filtering criteria. The IT.com results focus on vendor Web sites and have some pages related to medical monitoring equipment but also a fair amount of information pulled from non-product pages such as awards and case studies. The Google results are highly product focused and provide what appears to be an excellent listing of highly relevant products, with fairly relevant contextual ads. The taxonomy on ThomasNet does not appear to have picked up on this fairly common phrase (chosen at random), choosing first a fairly random page from an OfficeMax catalog and then a listing for general scientific lab equipment.

Based on the results themselves in this quick test the verdict is not very conclusive for the strength of vertical search per se. But what's more important is to embed vertical search in destination content, such as specific articles or sections of a site, as is planned for the IT.com assets on Forbes.com. Our recent research seems to indicate that business users don't view general portals and search engines as destination content but means to specific ends - and they're not likely to venture out to specialized search engines when Google will do quite nicely. But embedding an effective and focused search capability in specific items of destination content seems to afford a vertical search the focused audience that will encourage them to build a relationship with an effective service contextually. In essence any specific page of content that holds an audience is a portal, and a perfect place to put any number of value-add services for that audience, including vertical searches via directory products and specialized search engines. Forbes is increasingly canny on these kinds of tools and one to watch for developing best practices!

Headlines for 10 June 2005

British Library Launches Fee-Based Research Service
Elsevier seeks to build bridges
Online research library unveiled
Thomson Looks to Europe
'BusinessWeek' unveils rich media version of 'IT-100' issue
So Far, Scripps Has Bet Right On New Media
Old media shout to be heard
Collective power: 'Smart mobs' connect, share information on Net
The Secret to Successful Customer Relationships? BI (PDF)
New Technorati Public Beta - Go bang on it!
Promoting the Value of Corporate Libraries: Tactics to Thrive, Not Just Survive
Proquest Adds Newspapers
MSN Autos Expands to Include Content From Consumer Reports
infoUSA Revises Revenue & Earnings Guidance for 2005

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Headlines for 9 June 2005

Relief from Sarbanes-Oxley on the way?
Magazine revenues post healthy increase in May
Thomson seeks to expand legal publishing ops in Europe
Wolters Kluwer buys legal publisher in Romania
Total Western European Paper Market Projected to Remain Flat over Next Five Years
Elsevier Welcomes Youngsuk "Y.S." Chi
From the Interactive Media Conference: Blogging vs. Journalism
ThomasTech Launches LineDrive SOftware for Directory Publishers
eMeta Corporation Names Andrei Vazhnov Chief Technology Officer
Thomson Higher Education and Turning Technologies Bring Technology Innovations to College Lecture Halls

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Headlines for 8 June 2005

Google now most valuable media company
Is Google Overpriced?
Intel and Apple, total DRM control?
InfoUSA jettisons wholesale pricing structure
Wired Co-Founder Nears Launch of Blog Ad Network
Newsstands Withering in Tandem With Newspaper Sales
Factiva Expands Web Parts Suite for Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003
Thomson Financial Expands China Economic Data Coverage by 50%
Moreover Technologies and Cymfony Partner to Help Companies Analyze News and Blog Discussion
Rocketinfo Partners with Viapoint to Provide Current News and Business Information Adaptor
Coveo Solutions Inc. Introduces Coveo Enterprise Search 3.7
America Online and YellowPages.com Announce Strategic Agreement

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Headlines for 7 June 2005

Scripps To Acquire Shopzilla
Publishers Preview Fall Fare at Day of Dialog
Citizen journalism takes root online Just plain folks can create their own news sites
NewsGator link-up gives Factiva edge in RSS feeds
Thomson Medstat tool turbo-charges health benefit claims auditing process
Welcome to TagCloud.com - automated "folksonomy" tool
Leadership Directories Information Now Available Through Alacra
Ovid and Elsevier Announce Exclusive Partnership to Offer EMBiology Resource for Bioscience Research
Reuters And ICAP Enter Into Extended Data Agreement
NASDAQ and Reuters Launch New Venture to Help Companies Obtain Independent Analyst Coverage
BookPitch.com Launches Publishing out of the 1950s, Finally onto the Internet
Leading U.S.-Based Newswire Launches End-to-End Workflow Solution for Investor Relations (IR) Pros
Liquid Machines Delivers Enterprise Rights Management With Expanded Microsoft RMS Support

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Monday, June 6, 2005

Microsoft Accelerates Push to XML-Formatted Content: Pressure on the Value Chain

While the effects of Microsoft's announced (CNET News) support for XML as a default file format in next year's version of its Office suite are not immediate in the practical sense, the rise of XML as a universal format for content produced by individuals and institutions looms ever larger thanks to this announcement. The benefits to both commercial and enterprise publishers are clear, as content searching and refurbishing become all the easier now that proprietary file formats are waning, but it also represents an acceleration of challenges to both content vendors and content technology providers. Content that was previously unstructured will become much more accessible in structured formats, both for editing using traditional office automation tools such as Microsoft's Office suite and for advanced functions using Web services capable of "surrounding" XML with functionality and additional content. This means that content vendors that have heretofore seen XML as largely a way of managing and transporting content from their own databases to clients' servers need to start thinking more aggressively about how their content will be used as objects within an XML-standardized enterprise environment. Tools such as Mark Logic's newly upgraded XML-based suite are able to both normalize content into XML and provide an expanded array of content categorization and searching functions on top of its XQuery, already accelerating the ability of organizations to implement XML-standardized content infrastructures even before Office 12 becomes a reality. Normalization as a profitable publishing attribute is quickly losing its luster in this environment, pushing publishers to consider how to use XML to provide more features and functionality. The time for publishers to consider these opportunities is upon us now, not when Microsoft decides to raise the curtain on the next chapter in XML content.

News Analysis - Now Hear This: Publishers Use Broadcasting Models to Widen Content's Appeal

As publishers move to online content as a mainstay of revenues, a surprising number of them are moving past standard models of text delivery to delve into models that borrow both content technologies and management models from their broadcasting brethren. These experiments are no longer limited to teens in pursuit of online thrills: they're rapidly penetrating core news and business content publishers' operations. It takes more than a title and a good Web site to attract an audience into a loyal relationship with a content producer. Audio podcasts, interactive online "talk shows" and TV properties becoming Web properties are but a few examples of the merging of content production disciplines. Reaching audiences through all of their senses and using all of their media-spawned sensibilities is an essential consideration for business and consumer publishers alike.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 6 June 2005

What eBay Could Learn From Craigslist
Forbes.com launches vertical search engine
'Inquirer' Will Introduce 'Radio-Style' Programming Online
EU oversight for new media?
UK Libraries set for E-Content Deal
German Publishers Plan Challenge to Google Print
Blogging becomes a corporate job
The bloggers have all the best news
Technorati set to break 11 million blogs tracked - up 1 million in 1 month
LexisNexis Launches Taxonomy Program to Help Customers Manage Information Overload
'Hand Cuffs', 'Hardcore'? Must Be More Death to Rate Base Talk
Dow Jones & Company Launches Advertising Sponsored, Industry-Specific Sections on MarketWatch
Mark Logic Introduces MarkLogic Server 3.0 Release of Industry's Leading XML Content Server
Reuters Completes Telerate Acquisition
Copyright Clearance Center and Canadian Licensing Organizations Expand Partnership
ThomasTech Launches LineDrive Software for Content Reuse in Multiple Directory Publications

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Friday, June 3, 2005

OeBF Repositioned as International Digital Publishing Forum

The annual meeting of the organization now known as the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), formerly known as the Open eBook Forum (OeBF) was held on June 2, in conjunction with the major book trade show, Book Expo America, in New York City. Discussion and review of the annual report focused on the reasons for the name change, a rather clumsy moniker, but descriptive of the revised scope of the organization. As I listened virtually to the meeting from the West Coast, I was struck by the continuing need for standards, a demanding area, to move the book industry forward into the digital era. Publisher after publisher reiterated that substantial growth in digital formats can't occur without standards to reduce their production costs and ongoing maintenance in tracking multiple formats, let alone adding new formats. As chair, Steve Potash, OverDrive, a pioneer in digital distribution, actively recruited attendees for working groups to extend the earlier work of the OeBF.

Indeed, technology has indeed muddled the divisions between traditional media. Traditionally, audio, multimedia and video forms of content required separate hardware, delivered on different physical media, and were marketed by different publishers, even though the titles might be the same. However, as new devices, or perhaps we should call them gadgets, have proliferated with new capabilities, delivering digital content is increasingly handled in completely digital form, without conversion into tangible media to be sold at retail. Who would have thought that portable PC's would play DVD's, audio music and narrations on CD's and screen readable books? Or that an Apple iPod or any number of portable audio devices would play both audio books as well as favorite music? Or that subject databases would mingle content from different book publishers?

The rate of change has been difficult for a very traditional industry trying to adapt to the impact of technological changes. The early days of ebooks were back in 2000, when the Open eBook Forum(OeBF) was created to meet the need for developing production standards to produce electronic books primarily for the consumer market, a successful joint effort by members. Fast forward to 2005, and the needs have evolved. "Book" content has expanded to compiled databases, distance learning materials, lendable library materials, multimedia works, as well as downloadable books and traditional audio materials. New marketing channels have evolved, and with digital delivery, international distribution has become a increasing reality. Yet the business and rights management issues remain the same, and as well as the challenges of reaching new markets, yet building on the strengths of established markets. Moving forward, the less than glamorous work on standards by IDPF is an essential step, and my assessment is that this organization is fully capable of laying that foundation.

Thomas Register: The End of the Beginning

At the risk of repeating the excellent comments made by my colleague Janice McCallum, I was intrigued by the very consistent reaction to the news this week that Thomas Publishing was ending the print edition of Thomas Register. I'd characterize it as being "shocked but not surprised."

I think the shock was driven by the symbolism of the decision. When this publishing icon, one of the largest and most successful buying guides of all time, says so clearly that print is passe, we all then have to acknowledge that the future of our industry is online. By now haven't all database publishers acknowledged that their future is online? Yes, but that acknowledgement hasn't always been backed up with action, in part because there is no clear path to get from here to there.

The lack of surprise comes from the fact that Thomas was an early and aggressive player on the Web. At a point in time when the future of online was anything but clear, Thomas made the huge gamble that the value of an online audience would ultimately be worth more than the print subscription revenue it was putting at risk. It won, and it won big. The transition for Thomas has been anything but painless, but by starting so early, it became a major Web destination well before there were even such things as keywords to buy, and that has given it a huge competitive advantage. Also, by starting early, Thomas learned a lot and was able to make some mistakes without incurring much damage, all while hedging its bet by maintaining its print edition and selling a print/online package. If there isn't one already, this would make one amazing business school case study.

Now that Thomas has killed the print version of Thomas Register, there will be a lot of soul searching by the industry with publishers asking themselves whether it's time to discontinue their own print products. While our research says that print will move into a period of accelerating decline over the next 2-5 years, most publishers will find that 20-25% of their customers will continue to prefer print for the foreseeable future. Most publishers can still economically accommodate this market. Thomas, with its 33-volume annual behemoth, was dealing with atypical print economics.

As someone who cut his teeth (and his hands, re-making pages with an X-acto knife) working on the print edition of Thomas Register, I am certainly going to miss those "big green books." At the same time, we are watching a whole new era unfold before our eyes, one where our information and our value are no longer constrained by the limitations of the print format, but only by our imaginations.

Headlines for 3 June 2005

Zinio report finds healthy growth in digital editions
Microsoft adding XML files to Office 12
Google launches Google Sitemaps service
Blog Mining Gets Real
Inside Google News
HarperCollins to create wireless hotspots
iUpload: Any Author, Any Content, Anywhere
Web Publishers Aim For TV Audiences
Atypon Provides High-Speed Access to Users in China Through an Agreement with CERNET
CMP'S VARBusiness Magazine Launches Podcast Series
Globe and Mail Makes Online Content Free for the Day and Refunds Subscribers
Bowker Launches Breakthrough Products for Publishers at Book Expo America 2005 Trade Show
SuperFeedSystem.com--Harness Freely Available RSS Feeds For Fresh, Updated Content On Your Site

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Headlines for 2 June 2005

Internet the new growth engine for newspapers: NYT publisher
Many sources drive traffic to news sites, according to report
Loosing Google's Lock on the Past
Thomson Financial signs exclusive content deal with AFX News
Elsevier Appoints New Vice Chairman
Thinking Right About Content
TNS: Ad revenue up 4.4% in first quarter
The secret behind the CIA's venture capital arm
EU executive wants phone logs for up to a year
CanDeal and Thomson TradeWeb Join to Deliver Online Fixed-Income Markets in Canada
OR-Live.com Launches OR-Library, a Dynamic New Content Channel for Healthcare Professionals
Client Dynamics Announces Launch of AdSpark
Viyya Technologies and WISE Learning Solutions: Delivering a One-Two Punch for the Security Industry

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Donaldson Steps Down as SEC Chairman on June 30

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William H. Donaldson will leave that office on June 30. His comments can be found at the SEC website. He had been the 27th chairman since being appointed by President Bush in 2003.

Donaldson said, "I have been honored to serve as Chairman. Although there will always be more work to be done to preserve and enhance the integrity and strength of our nation's corporations and markets, I believe the time has come for me to step down and return to the private sector and my family."

His resignation creates an interesting set of intertwined issues. He is a Republican on a five-person commission that consists of two Democrats and two Republicans.

Thomas Register Big Green Books Now a Relic

Almost 2 years ago, I wrote that Thomas Publishing was transforming its Thomas Register line from print directories to online marketplaces for buyers and sellers of industrial products. Since that time (October, 2003), Web-based directories have become hot commodities as directory publishers increasingly understand the advantages of moving to an online advertising model and leveraging the search engines to drive traffic to the directory sites to increase usage and revenue. Yesterday Thomas announced that the Thomas Register will discontinue its print publications and complete its "transition to the Internet". For Thomas, the cost-savings realized from discontinuing to print and ship its huge directories are blatantly obvious.

Perhaps the largest benefits accrue to the users of the online directories. Interactive features of refining searches to quickly create the desired prospect list and the ability to immediately link to more information about vendors--and even place orders online--are huge timesavers. Better yet, online directories don't take up space on one's bookshelf.

But before we announce the death of print, it may be wiser to focus on the shifting role of print. There may yet be new print vehicles for specialized content from the Thomas Register (and the other Thomas buying guides) that serve the needs of specific audiences. As John Blossom wrote earlier today with respect to changes in the market for print magazines "the answer is to move print magazine outlets to become a far more personally packaged product for elite subscribers, so that advertisers can take advantage of highly focused audiences within their target demographics to maximize the value of their print campaigns". In the case of Thomas Register, industrial buyers may not want to clog up their offices with a 33 volume directory; however mobile sales people may still prefer to have a tangible print product to showcase their goods. The possibilities for specialized print supplements to the online directories are endless. Just as TechTarget, a born-on-the-Web series of online IT directories, develops new print magazines to support certain segments, Thomas Publishing will likely also find that print still plays a role in its media mix. So, while it is tempting to declare print 'dead' when hearing that the >100 year old publication will cease to be produced, it is better to view the news as confirmation that Web-based publishing is now the core of Thomas' publishing operations--just as it should be for any publisher that plans to stay in business.