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.
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