Sunday, July 31, 2005

Organic Chemistry: Can Thomson Pharma Provide Organic Growth?

When Thomson released its 2nd quarter earnings last week, revenue growth for Q2 2005 was at a healthy 10% over Q2 2004. Traditionally, Thomson has relied on acquisitions to bolster its top line. However, CEO Richard Harrington has placed greater emphasis on organic growth in recent presentations, and the result of this shift is apparent in the pace of acquisitions in the first half of 2005, which totaled $96 million versus $655 million in the first half of 2004.

Thomson's Scientific and Healthcare segment performed well in the 1st half of 2005 with 13% revenue growth in each quarter. In historical fashion for Thomson, the majority of the growth can be attributed to acquisitions from the previous year (primarily IHI). Factoring out acquisitions and positive gains from currency exchange, Thomson S&H realized 2% organic growth in revenue for Q2 2005.

To support organic growth, Thomson Scientific has placed a large bet on the future success of Thomson Pharma. Thomson Pharma was soft-launched in December 2004 when the product was far from complete. The premise of TPharma is solid: Thomson Scientific has assembled an impressive array of data sources for pharmaceutical research and is creating contextual links between related information in its repository. Thomson Pharma also pulls in content from sources from other Thomson groups, such as NewsEdge and company information databases from Legal & Regulatory and Financial.

However, in addition to delivering on the value-added features that an integrated platform can provide, Thomson faces the same pain point faced by all aggregators trying to make the leap to value-added aggregation in the age of Web search engines: that is, pricing tactics. From the evidence to date, Thomson is focused on selling subscriptions to TPharma to enterprises based on their past usage of constituent parts of TPharma, and Thomson is betting that companies will pay a premium for access to the entire collection and its value-added integrated features. This strategy has worked well with Thomson Financial's Thomson One platform. It is not as apparent that it will work with TPharma since not all companies will value the modules in TPharma a similar fashion.

To succeed in its shift toward greater dependence on organic growth, Thomson will need to prove that it can leverage its integrated information collection via multiple product packages and delivery of value-added services targeted to specific audiences. Acquisitions will continue to play a role in building out its collection. However, pricing for full access and for new product and service bundles is bound to be the biggest challenge.

Friday, July 29, 2005

SIIA Brown Bag - Reading the Tea Leaves More Clearly

The latest SIIA Brown Bag event in New York City focused on research from Outsell, Inc. into content user habits. The initial 2005 results for this series of ongoing studies were compared to a wider body of data from 2001 to build market trends. Some of the data from this study echoes findings on user habits found in Shore's study on Small to Medium Sized U.S. businesses, indicating the overall popularity of Web search engines and the continuing strength of paper media in spite of strong electronic services growth. While there are a few oddities in the data that may draw attention (have independent purchases of scientific and engineering content dropped 82.5 percent since 2001 while most other sectors show far more middling declines?), overall there's a good amount of useful data in this study. Some of the interpretation, though, seems a bit off.

The emphasis in the Outsell presentation seemed to be on corporate users turning away from the Web as a source of content, relying more on colleagues and corporate intranets, while an increase in the ratio of time spent gathering information versus analyzing it is supposed to represent research efforts heading in the "wrong direction." But this doesn't seem to jive with other data in the study. Users were indicating a strong desire to integrate external content sources, also reflected in Shore's research, and also indicating significant increases in intranet usage - yet also believing that the open Web delivers high-quality information that few avoid. There's an obvious connection to all of this data: more external content is being accessed via corporate intranets equipped with powerful search tools and analytical tools than ever before. At the same time desktop tools and Web search engines make it easier than ever before to find high-quality content in useful contexts, reducing the percentage of time spent analyzing content. These trends place enormous pressure on external suppliers to provide content value in the context of both intranet environments and in materials on user desktops and forwarded to colleagues. The New Aggregation, the process of individuals and institutions becoming the centers of defining the value of today's content, is in full bloom, placing more emphasis on extracting value from high-quality content available on the open Web and from other sources.

Although there was no overall budget data presented in this research - hard to gather in a user-level study - the anecdotal evidence collected in the study pointed to a high level of concern about restrained budgets for external content. Since this is a user level study it's a little difficult to interpret this as a trend: it could reflect frustration with overall freezing of content acquisition budgets in large corporations or it could reflect the trend towards more centralized content purchasing in large corporations peeving individual purchasers. It certainly points to the importance of paying attention to small to medium sized businesses, where our research shows strong current and projected increases in content spending, strong both in breadth and intensity. When you lack the enormous staff and technology assets of major corporations, content services can be a major source of intellectual capital that can give your company a market advantage. It may also point to the importance of tuning sales pitches: if individual users are losing budget to make purchases, it becomes more important to devise sales strategies that help these users make their case to those who hold more centralized purchasing strings, so that their needs receive appropriate attention in annual budget struggles. Just because economic buyers may be shifting doesn't mean that your user buyers are no longer important.

It's fun to look at interesting data but more fun to crunch it into a picture that translates into actionable advice and forward-looking insight. We hope that you find value in the latter part as much as we do.

Headlines for 29 July 2005

News Corp.'s Lachlan Murdoch Unexpectedly Resigns
Microsoft Gunning For Google In Search
Yahoo! Promotes Video Search with Yammy Awards
Between Google News And LexisNexis
Profits at B2B publisher Reed Business Information have boomed over the past year
ITV and Yahoo! join together for online search service
With No Byrne to Whom to Turn, Mansueto Names Inc. Editor as CEO
ProQuest Company Reports 25 Percent Revenue Growth for the Second Quarter of 2005
Design your own DRM scheme and win!
Indian Govt. to allow Local Advertisements in facsimile editions
Free and Confidential Online Health Resource Available From MSHA

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ROI: Really Over It

The recent Marketing Accountability Forum sponsored by the Association of National Advertisers kicked off by releasing results of a new survey of senior-level marketers. While some 60 percent of senior-level marketers surveyed said that defining, measuring, and taking action on ROI is important, only about 20 percent reported being satisfied with their ability to do so. Yup, here we go again, a new salvo in the advertising ROI war.

Can anyone object to measuring the return on investment of business expenditures wherever possible? I certainly don't. The rub, however, is that little qualifier, "wherever possible."

The rush to prove advertising ROI is a direct outgrowth of the recent "pay for performance" advertising phenomenon induced by the search engines, which in some cases, does allow advertisers to measure ROI with some degree of precision. And for those who can't measure the ROI of their pay for performance advertising, there's at least the comfort that the advertiser is still only paying for performance, right? Right, but let's not forget that the definition of "performance" has been crafted by the same organizations you are paying for that performance. Just try to buy something with all those clickthroughs you just spent so much money to obtain, and you'll see just how abstract that definition really is.

For advertisers, asking a publisher for proof of ROI has no downside. ROI is a "motherhood and apple pie" concept: nobody will ever laugh at you for bringing it up. At the same time, while it is a serious business concept, it's also in many cases nothing more than a trendy new sales objection Can publishers prove value? Yes, but only if they define what value means, just as the search engines have defined what performance means.

Consider an air travel analogy. You have a hot new sales prospect in a distant city. You need to make your sales presentation in person. You call an airline and arrange the flight. Do you then require the airline to prove ROI before you purchase your ticket? After all, if you don't make the sale, the price of the ticket is wasted, and you'll have zero return on that investment. In this context, what is ROI? The airline can't guarantee you'll make the sale. The airline can't be reasonably asked to show statistics and case studies to prove that a high percentage of salespeople who fly to sales presentations close deals. The airline's job is to get you from point to point safely and on time. It can't and won't make any promises beyond that. If you can get to that sales presentation without flying, more power to you. But if you need to fly, you do it on the airline's terms, in the context of their clear mission and value proposition. The airline is a means to an end, a business tool.

When missions and value propositions get fuzzy, so do business roles, promises and measurements. And lest you think advertisers have more of a handle on this than publishers, consider the big new initiative rolled out during this ANA conference, called MI4 (Measurement Initiative: Advertisers, Agencies, Media and Researchers). Core to this new initiative is a proposal that the entire industry adopt "consumer engagement" as a key to "Return on Media Investment" analysis. What is "consumer engagement?" Well, even though it's fundamental to this new initiative, it still hasn't been defined, nor has it been tested. They're going off to do that now. The takeaway for database publishers? With all this uncertainty among people who are clamoring for certainty, it is incumbent on us to not only define our value, but also to define how that value is measured.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Headlines for 28 July 2005

Marchex acquires IndustryBrains
My AOL beta unveiled using Feedster RSS Engine
Shuttle Launch Sets Record For Online Viewers
Taunton CEO Lively to Retire In November
LexisNexis fuels Reed Elsevier profit growth
Google Gets Personal With RSS
LexisNexis Integrates News Content into Yahoo! Search Subscriptions for New Channel of Users
Viyya Technologies Signs License Agreement to Resell Comtex News Network Content
America Online and ABC News to Deliver Dynamic Online News Experience
eGOware Announces AlertsUSA Homeland Security Information and Alerts Initiative

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Headlines for 27 July 2005

Thomson misses analysts' forecast
Enterprise Search: Seek And Ye Shall (Hopefully) Find
Google slips an RSS aggregator onto its home page
In Drastic Shift, TV Guide to Become Less of a Guide, More of a Magazine
Editorial layoffs hit Wired News
Blogging And Podcasting Start to Take Off in Africa: First Mobile Phone Podcast From Accra?
Street smart: the internet's search engines find the highest value lies in going local
Access Innovations Awarded Patent for Technology
Amazon.com Announces Record Free Cash Flow Fueled by Lower Prices and Free Customer Shipping
Plaxo Tests Contact Manager for Mozilla Thunderbird E-Mail

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Yahoo! Positions Itself for 21st Century Media Success

Kudos to Fortune magazine for an insightful article (requires subscription for revisiting) on Yahoo!'s strategy to be the first to master the art and science of satisfying corporate advertisers looking for highly effective brand advertising on the Web. With major corporate advertisers beginning to shift ad dollars out of television, print and other traditional outlets (according to the article, 18 percent of Chrysler Group's ad spend will be online this year, with 20 percent or more expected next year), Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel is engineering Yahoo!'s ad services to please these big strategic spenders first and foremost. Wenda Millard, Yahoo!'s head of ad sales, has lots of online experience but is steeped in magazine ad sales and knows how to woo corporate spenders with campaign statistics, solutions and seasoned assurance. No wonder content licensors dealing with Yahoo! are pretty miffed. While Yahoo!'s audience is only now catching up in its overall size with major papers such as the new York Times and USA Today, it's a neck-and-neck race, with the growth rates strongly favoring Yahoo! Clearly corporate advertisers have a strong partner with which to develop their plans.

Add on Yahoo!'s savvy moves beyond PC browsers - new desktop widget tools that will make it easier to out-maneuver Microsoft for desktop media and Web services such as search, instant messaging, e-mail and news for Motorola's hot mobile phones - and you have the outlines of a 21st century media giant that will straddle decaying media companies reinventing old business models. I don't doubt the picture painted for a moment: the question is, will this play out the way that Yahoo! expects or will their supply of pliant and expensive content sources begin to dry up? Like a dominant cable TV franchise Yahoo! creates its own entropy in many ways, but with the center of aggregation moving ever closer to users it's far from clear that Yahoo! is going to be able to grab the right end of this evolving media beast in the long run any better than other traditional aggregators. There's every reason to believe that Yahoo! is going to be a 21st century "media colossus," but far less likely in a world of user-driven aggregation that they will be any more dominant than they are today. Good copy for the general press in the meantime.

Reuters Results: Half Empty or Half Full?

The announcement from Reuters of its latest earnings strikes a positive note with positive net sales every month of 1H05 and in 2Q05 its first quarter of positive underlying recurring revenue growth since 2001. Then again, you could take the Wall Street Journal's spin on the numbers and point that net profit fell 56 percent in 1H05 compared to the same period last year. The Reuters announcement is thick with strategies for the future, including focusing on more specific opportunities such as algorthmic trading support and content for markets such as India and China. Even with these, though, the forecast is for low-single-digit revenue growth for some time to come. To help compensate for this Reuters plans to return to shareholders USD 1 billion from its sale of Instinet shares. In other words, the Fast Forward program has indeed managed to make its core operations cost-effective, but they remain tethered to financial investment markets that are hardly budging while competitors remain strong and profitable.

The promised investments in news and data are positive movements towards both their core markets and support of the broader Reuters brand in media channels, but these are incremental initiatives, not all-new revenue streams. Tom Glocer has brought Reuters through some challenging times, but the challenge now is to allocate enough investment into new markets that can leverage their core capabilities more profitably. Without this diversity, it will be hard to make the best use of shareholders' funds that can find more reasonable rates of return from other content ventures. There's cash to keep shareholders happy in the meantime via the Instinet sale, but that's not going to keep the wolves away forever. Hopefully Reuters can spin the glass as being half full long enough to come up with some more profitable lines of business. Short of that, in a year's or less it may be time to pour the remainders into a bigger glass.

Headlines for 26 July 2005

Yahoo's Brilliant Solution
Yahoo! opens 360 to outside blogging sites: end of blogging strategy for Yahoo?
May BIN In: Ad Revenue Up, Pages Off
InfoUSA board hires Lazard to consider buyout
McGraw-Hill Profit Rises 18%
For Paid Content, the Times They Are a Changin'
What's AP Got to Say?
When Cell Phones Become Oracles: MIT Dabbles in 'Reality Mining'
Watch Me Do This and That Online; Video Weblogs
A new look for library books
In praise of digital rights management
Paid Product Placement Surges In Magazines, Newspapers, Other Media
Business Website Content Copyright Violation Scare
BBC lets public ‘borrow’ its web content
Reuters Unveils Growth Strategy as Recurring Revenue Turns Positive
S&P Names Vlad Stadnyk to Head Data and Information Unit

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Monday, July 25, 2005

News Analysis - Extra Baggage: Older Content Companies Weigh the Growing Earnings Gap

O, to be a content company without content ownership and licensing issues. Then our financial reports would boast the operating margins of companies like Google, which has perfected ad revenue generation from just about everybody's content quite effectively while owning or licensing hardly a stitch of the stuff. Owning content can be great but when you're competing for revenues and margins with monetizers that can take or leave the ownership game rather casually it can make you feel like you've been left holding the bag. There's lots of hope yet for publishers and aggregators working to sort out this equation to their satisfaction but it will require traveling far lighter than many in the content industry are used to.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 25 July 2005

No Summer Break for Media M&A
Bush creates new post to fight global piracy
Online News Consumers Become Own Editors
Pearson Posts Narrower Loss, Gives Upbeat Full-Year Outlook
Associated Press votes not to charge for Internet republishing after all, increases overall fee 2.2 percent
Turning the concept of search on its head
RSS for the Average Computer User
LA TImes' John Carroll on Winning Pulitzers While Losing Circulation and the Future of Corporate News
Yahoo buys maker of 'widget' applications
Thomson Scientific Opens XML Gateway
Viyya Technologies Teams With iConcepts and SES on Delivery of New Compliance Vault
Qpass Mark More Than a Quarter-Billion Mobile Transactions Processed Since 2001
Content Beamer Mobile Printing Application Now Available for BlackBerry

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Oops! Yahoo! Subscriptions Offline

I've noted an extended outage on Yahoo! Subscriptions today (http://search.yahoo.com/subscriptions), at least from our location: all other Web services are fine, so the assumption on our end is that the service is down. All queries are returning the "Oops!" error message.

Log a comment if you're having similar issues...

*POOF*...

[Update: the service was back up the next day]

Thomson Acquires GSI for LiveEDGAR Integration into West:Law Unit

The announced acquisition of Global Securities Information, Inc. by Thomson is yet another strong acquisition by Thomson of a solid content company that will fit well into its legal portfolio. GSI's core product is LiveEDGAR, a powerful interface into filings data from the Securities Exchange Commission and additional information on legal firms involved in mergers and acquisitions. LiveEDGAR allows M&A specialists to understand both companies and the deals and dollars floating around those deals - a great financial analysis tool, yes, but also a great marketing tool and performance measurement tool. GSI had been trying to broaden its appeal via promotion of its XML interfaces into its data, but at the end of the day its value was in specialization for the legal market, not generalization. At the same time, though, Thomson still maintains SEC filing data through its Thomson Research subsidiary. One can assume that some basic SEC feed interface and QA functions will be consolidated fairly quickly, but the LiveEDGAR data structures are fairly specialized and are likely to remain intact for some time. Traditional aggregation tends to do well when it keeps a tight focus on a vertical with highly specialized functionality and data integration - a lesson that Thomson has learned quite well in many different market sectors.

Headlines for 22 July 2005

Google profit up, shares down
Agreement to Buy Primedia Business?
AP Board Approves Online Licensing Policy
AP board OKs online video service
Earnings Off At Newspaper Companies, But Online Shines
New York Times profit declines; About.com deal bolsters revenue
AAP & Google Meet to Talk Copyright
CBS Recruits Citizen Journalists
The Future Of Search: Finding Your Place In The Hive
The Podcast as a New Podium
The Thomson Corporation Acquires Global Securities Information, Inc.
The avatar versus the journalist: Making meaning, finding truth
Pheedo Issues First Look at RSS Readership Patterns
IBM to Acquire PureEdge Solutions

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Caching In

There's been a flurry of activity lately around the obscure but important practice of Web page caching -- taking and preserving copies of someone else's Web pages.

One of the more remarkable Web sites I have ever run across is www.archive.org, also known as "The Wayback Machine," a non-profit venture co-founded by Brewster Kahle to essentially take snapshots of the Web at different points in time. Using The Wayback Machine, you can easily take a look at how any individual Web site has evolved over time. Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone wants their history to be so readily accessible.

In a recent court case, a law firm used The Wayback Machine to uncover some evidence to support its case. The other party in the lawsuit turned around and sued the Internet Archive, operators of The Wayback Machine, for inappropriately making and holding copies of their Web pages. The case is complicated, and actually revolves more around something called a "robots.txt" file than the cached pages itself, but an adverse decision could have a chilling effect on archiving and making available historical content gathered on the Web.

At the same time, Canadian legislators are considering an amendment to the Canadian Copyright Act that will actually prohibit anyone from making and holding a cached copy of someone else's Web site without permission. While this could be a speedbump for search engines that cache content, it's not likely to disrupt them too much as they don't need to cache content to index Web sites, and indexing itself will not be prohibited.

But this is all part of a larger trend towards history disappearing from the Web, and therein may reside a real opportunity for data publishers.

I regularly see examples of companies removing all traces of unsucessful products, ousted executives and failed ventures from their Web sites, leaving no clue they ever existed. A large percentage of companies, mostly for benign reasons, "age off" old press releases and announcements from their Web sites, leaving only a narrow window of corporate history. Most companies seem to feel that the primary value of their Web sites is to provide current if not real-time information, with only a small nod to what has happened in the past. That means that those who capture and retain this type of business information will ultimately end up with a vast repository of business intelligence, much of it unavailable elsewhere.

Even in the pre-Internet days, historical data had real value. I published one directory that ran a small index of corporate name changes that was one of the most popular and heavily used sections of the publication. I know another healthcare directory that didn't simply delete companies that went out of business, merged or were acquired. Instead, it ran it as an index called "Mutations" which proved incredibly popular. I know one financial publisher that actually retains all the previous positions held by the executives in its database, valuable information that could be the basis for a number of specialized, high-value products. In many industries, there are successful databases that cross-reference old and new part numbers, or suggest equivalent parts to replace discontinued parts. And knowing what products a company used to make, what ventures it has exited, and what executives it used to employ will become increasingly valuable as the information becomes harder to access. When it comes to data, the past can be a prelude to lucrative opportunities.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Warming Up Weblogs: VNU Turns Up the Heat with FeedBurner Ads in RSS for Europe

Simply put, VNU is hot these days. They're taking no prisoners as they position business content more aggressively than ever for online consumption using the latest channels and tools along with its IMS Health merger to service corporate clients more effectively. The announced new relationship with FeedBurner to expand the use of FeedBurner's ad placement capabilities for RSS feeds of weblog content into VNU Business Media Europe publications is therefore only the most recent of significant moves by VNU. With just a sliver of the Web world using RSS feeds - and by less than 5 percent of business content purchasers in Shore's recent study of small to medium U.S. businesses - why should RSS advertising matter to business publications? Because it's the easiest way to bring business content from magazines into corporate Web portals without resorting to aggregation services. RSS feeds are easily managed and controlled by corporate I.T. teams, allowing the content to reach corporate users in a variety of venues and formats with little hassle. Services like FeedBurner provide the ability to insert ads for reach into those business users that gets lost in sanitized aggregation databases. It's the beginning of defining self-monetizing XML objects, first with ads and eventually with more sophisticated capabilities. So while it's a sliver of an audience now, better to start tooling up on your sophistication in deploying monetizable RSS services while it's still a growing audience to reach as many corporate users as possible profitably and flexibly. Small and hot can grow into quite a fire, they say.

Law.com's In-House Counsel Site Highlights Multiple Magazines in Rich Site

An excellent example of how the Web can help to reprovision magazine content very effectively can be seen in the recently announced debut of ALM's In-House Counsel Web site, a sub-site within ALM's Law.com Web site that provides a specific focus for editorial content from ALM's family of legal publications and databases. As with the Law.com site articles appear on the home page with the source publication name, along with tools specific to in-house counsels such as forms, papers and press releases on topics within this focus. The site draws heavily from ALM's Corporate Counsel magazine's content but there's also regional content from Texas Lawyer and case analysis from The Recorder in addition to content from other titles. There are also links to ALM's "blawgs" and other unique online content. This willingness to take content from any and all print titles as well as from online resources is the key to the future of serving focused audiences on the Web while bolstering the value of print titles. It avoids the "Well, I can get the whole thing on the Web anyway" syndrome, allowing titles to stand for advertising access to unique audiences in print format while building new slices of audiences online that pull from print content without forcing the print value issue head-on. Of course over time the online titles may generate print corollaries, but hopefully with some careful thinking about how print can be positioned in a much more customized manner for audiences captured on the Web. ALM has many great paradigms for publishers wrestling for models of online publishing excellence: toss this one on the pile.

First Look: Factiva and LexisNexis Join the Yahoo! Subscriptions Beta Program

Search Engine Watch broke the story of Factiva and LexisNexis content being available on the new Yahoo! Subscriptions Beta service before the press release was even out, an interesting irony that highlights some of the difficulties of positioning the value of subscription content in an open Web environment. Using the service itself highlights even larger issues. Okay, let's try to take this from an objective standpoint. Let's wave the magic wand and...

*POOF*...

Here I am, a person who is not subscribing to either Factiva or LexisNexis and I encounter the SEW story. Hmm, wonder if this is going to be useful? Let's try it out for General Motors and see what Factiva and LexisNexis have. The search results for this query look promising...kind of. I see the names of the aggregators but not of the publishers. Hard to even figure out what the article is about without clicking on the link. How do I know if this is a useful source? Is this recent content? Don't know, there's no publishing dates. Gee, maybe I shouldn't use this for news, maybe it's meant more as a general research tool. If that's the case, then why does an article on a GMAC financial announcement from LexisNexis come first? Could be a good reason, but I don't know. There's not even a categorization scheme to give me a hint. Let's click on the link to find out. Hmm. I see a headline, a date of publication - gee, this was from three weeks ago, why was it the first item? That's it. If I want to know anything else it will cost the three dollars. I wonder if I can find this story on Google News? Hey, that first article looks like the thing that I found on LexisNexis, but from a different publisher on the same date. Well, that's interesting.

All right, let's give this Yahoo! Subscriptions thing a try for Factiva on the same search as before - just LexisNexis and Factiva. Gee, where is the Factiva stuff? Oh, here we are - the third page of search results at the bottom - number thirty. Hmm. I guess Factiva must not be as strong as LexisNexis on corporate stuff. The link says that it's about an ethanol fuel vehicle being delivered in Colorado. OK, let's click on the link just for kicks. Wow, this is from May 26th, almost a month ago. US Fed News is the source - no, wait, it's originally from the Hindustan Times. $1.50 for this article, or ten for $9.95, kind of a mini-subscription. I get about half a sentence, can't really figure out if this is worth buying. Sounds like a press release sort of thing, maybe this is on the Web also. Let's search for the title on Google first, it's kind of old for news. Sure enough - bingo. The first item on Google's Web search results is a press release from the State of Colorado, dated May 26th. Well, so much for this subscription stuff, didn't give me much I couldn't already get.

*POOF*...

Well that was interesting, wasn't it? Obviously there are a lot of things that our friend didn't know or understand, but did the Yahoo! subscriptions service help him to understand the value of these services - or the aggregators serving up the content? Did the aggregators provide any value-add service that would compel me to buy this content or their services? Was this content in fact the "deep web" that has been hyped up as now coming to light? Oh dear aggregators, you've got a lot of thinking to do - as does your partner. There is a brighter future than this for subscription content on the Web, but not from this kind of service that does more to frustrate and confuse potential users than to solve any single comprehensible user need.

Headlines for 21 July 2005

ABC disqualifies circulation for EBSCO, InFlight sponsorship programs
Dow Jones Profit Falls Sharply, Hurt by CNBC-Related Charge
U.S. Senate Panel explores giving reporters' shield to bloggers
Yahoo Adds Content Aimed At 'Social Media Environment'
Onesource back in the frame
Digital Media Execs Debate Content at AlwaysOn
Unified Business Intelligence: Defining Alliances in the Post-Unified Business Intelligence World
The Future of RSS is Not Blogs
BBC offers mobile seaside service
Blinkx Offers TV, Radio Program Searches
Now, Weblogs for extraterrestrials
Research Professionals Applaud STN® AnaVist(TM)
Source Medical Automates Pediatric Content in Its EHR System for Rehabilitation Clinics

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On the Light Side: What is the Moon Made of? Google Has the Answer

A little hidden treat on Google is their mapping software's rendition of the Apollo moon mission landing sites. Zoom in to the most close-up view to see the inside story of lunar soil composition (I think that the colors are off, though...). Just a simple and fun indication of how visualization can be used for many different kinds of content displays - even history and science.

Headlines for 20 July 2005

Yahoo profit rises, but revenue falls short
Overdrive Announces Video on Demand For Public Libraries
VNU forms partnership with FeedBurner for RSS ads
LexisNexis North American executive leaving
Convergence: It's Becoming a Brave New World
Is confusion over RSS audience metrics holding back online media?
Accenture's $100m information management bet
Feed Read: LATimes.com Goes for RSS
Strong Protection for High Definition Content
ALM'S Law.Com Launches New Web News and Resource Center for In-House Counsel
Thomson EndNote chimes with new search power
CrispAds Launches New Graphical Advertising Network for Blogs

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Monday, July 18, 2005

Headlines for 18 July 2005

A Magical Moment for Publishing: New Harry Potter Book Flies Off Shelves in U.S., Breaking 1-Day Record
iTunes clocks up 500m downloads
Marrying Maps to Data for a New Web Service
Mainstream Media Is Tuning In to 'Podcasting'
News Corp. forms Internet division
Dogging bloggers: Firms tracking Web writers' opinions
Material from LexisNexis and Factiva Begins Appearing in Yahoo
Six Apart adds earnings capabilities to Typepad weblogs
Autonomy Corp., China Netcom form Internet joint venture
Elsevier Announces Acquisition of MC Strategies, Inc.
Thomson West Introduces New Features for Westlaw
Mobius Announces Next-Generation Content Integration
Elsevier Enhances Scopus
News Corporation to Acquire Intermix Media, Inc.; Social Networking Portal MySpace for Interactive Media


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WebMD Health IPO: Separating Content from IT Solutions

At a time when many large publishing companies are forcefully reinventing themselves as "solutions providers" and are shifting their investments toward new management, technology, and strategies that reposition their companies away from being perceived as content publishers, WebMD is taking a different tack.

With its revised IPO filing, WebMD Health is to be spun-off from WebMD Inc. [Note, there will be some changes in the companies' names to help distinguish between them, but WebMD Health is the entity that will retain "WebMD" in its name, whereas the parent will adopt a new name that doesn't include "WebMD".] The WebMD health entity is described as a network of online destination sites for health information, an advertising network for marketers who want to reach health-focused consumers, physicians, and other health professionals, and a provider of personalized portal solutions for employers and health plans, which incorporate "access to individual user data, specific health plan benefit data, relevant health-oriented content, treatment decision-support applications, personal communication services, and integreated third party applications and data".

The parent company will retain the businesses that provide IT systems for healthcare providers, healthcare reimbursement cycle management services, and transaction-related administrative services for healthcare payers. The parent also manufactures and distributes plastic products used in healthcare through its Porex business. Furthermore, the parent will retain majority control through Class A stock.

Why spin off the content portion of the company from the administrative applications/IT solutions portion of the company when other publishing-centered companies such as Wolters Kluwer are diligently trying to gain a stronger foothold in the applications/solutions space? It would take more time and space than I can provide in a short weblog to answer that question. However, the simple answer and most likely driver behind this move is the tremendous level of demand for healthcare content from consumers, healthcare providers, employers, health plan providers, and last but not least, advertisers that want to place their messages on respected health-related content sites. The heightened demand also explains why WebMD increased the maximum offering amount of the IPO from $50 million to $100 million in this amendment to its original S1 filed just two months ago.

News Analysis - Vanishing Frontier: Online Premium Content Pioneers Adapt to a Crowded Neighborhood

As the second decade of the Web unfolds pioneers in premium Web content such as Amazon and Hoover's are adapting to increased competition from a broadening array of online premium sources. While still holding advantages as well-regarded online brands, these content pioneers are having to redefine the frontiers of premium content profits on both their home turf and arenas more familiar to their more established competition. There really isn't an "online content market" but instead many opportunities to leverage online and other channels for maximizing penetration of business and consumer content markets. The pioneers may yet cut some fresh new ground in the process of responding to these challenges, but it's a race to do it before the competition gets more imaginative.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Friday, July 15, 2005

Headlines for 15 July 2005

Amazon faces the challenges of its second decade
Three Big Newspaper Firms Post Mixed Quarterly Results
Bad news for news
Q+A: Joe Mansueto—Billionaire Business Owner, Times Advertiser, Believer in Content
Blogs Really Aren't So Unique
RSS As A Change Agent
Wikis, Weblogs and RSS: What Does the New Internet Mean for Business?
Time to check: Are you using the right blogging tool?
New and Improved: Global Voices Online
Aviation Week Group to launch 'Defense Technology International'
FinancialContent Proposes RSS Stock Ticker Symbol Element to Support Syndication of Financial Podcasts
Release of LexisNexis Total Search Offers New Back-Office, End-User Enhancements
SearchBlox Launches RSS and Atom Web Feeds Search Software : Search Any Content as Web Feeds
Associated Content Launches First Public Version
LexisNexis signs contract extension with Colorado courts

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

The Vertical Challenge

Few would argue that over the last five years the major search engines have made enormous strides in improving their coverage of the open Web. They now find new sites more quickly, re-index them more often and even provide searchable access to non-textual content. It's all very impressive and very much for the good. However, as we all well know, too much information can be as much a curse as a blessing. That's why so much effort has been invested in trying to improve the precision of search, an effort often referred to as "improving relevancy." Providing a list of Web pages that contain a keyword or phrase is no longer considered innovative or even particularly valuable. Value is now embodied in identifying the most relevant Web pages for searchers. Every major search engine has its own secret sauce of techniques, processes and algorithms to devine relevance, and they seem to be getting better every day. But this isn't where the battle for search primacy ends, not by a long shot.

The next phase in this competitive battle is to get more paid content under index. Opening shots in this battle have already been fired by both Google and Yahoo. Lexis-Nexis used to run an ad campaign in the early days of the Internet touting that it held far more data than the entire Internet. As a competitive response to the Web, it missed the whole point, but it does underscore another one: even at this late date, some of the most important, powerful and useful content is still not to be found through search engines. This may be the simple explanation why content aggregators continue to do well despite the long shadows cast by the big search engines: their content is valuable and not available elsewhere.

To its credit, the content aggregation industry realized years ago that this distinction would not provide protection forever, which is why they've upped the ante, moving beyond delivery of raw data, and even moving beyond the search precision issue to focus on the biggest value-add of all: making data truly useful. OneSource built a nice business by taking on the hard work of integrating disparate databases to create highly comparable company profiles. Alacra has a nice niche providing customized data feeds to clients for use in their internal systems. Factiva continues to develop increasingly elaborate and powerful taxonomies that can even be extended to the internal data of its clients. LexisNexis builds virtual company profiles drawing on its vast data warehouses.

Interestingly, publishers are jumping on this bandwagon as well. Gale is now out with a product that assembles content from across its range of databases to present deep and comparable profiles. infoUSA is also jumping into the fray, having become a recent convert to the power of data mining to deepen its databases.

Where's this all heading? I think once the gee whiz factor of all the new content assembly technology wears off, it will become evident that the marketplace has moved beyond giant, one-size-fits-all databases. No matter how big, deep and accessible a database is, the fact remains that engineers, purchasing agents and analysts need different data different ways, and it's unlikely that anyone will cook up a single product that will keep them all equally happy. And just as there is growing user sophistication in terms of data elements and search interfaces, so too is there growing sophistication in terms of the overall dataset. Users are going to value 98% coverage of what really matters to them over 80% coverage of everything in the world. All this suggests to me that the future of search looks vertical. Business success will be a function of limited coverage, tailored to certain specific types of users, and executed very, very well.
Winners and losers in this scenario? Most data publishers already have a vertical orientation, and those that quickly figure out how to deliver data as well as they compile it will be very nicely positioned. Aggregators should have a solid, continuing role serving the distinct market that will continue to need convenient access to broad swaths of content.

It's the search engines that seem to be the ones not invited to this party. They are simply too wedded to serving up the most stuff to the most people. That will still be a great business for them, but it's a different business. And as the data content business gets comfortable with its distinctive place in the market, the industry will see greater stability and a much clearer path to profits.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Google's Master Plan (Not)

Thanx and a tip of the hat to Dave McClure over at 500 Hats for the following link to the MASTER PLAN (registration required for full-blown detail). As if we didn't know...

Headlines for 14 July 2003

Google's balancing act: a lightning rod for privacy concerns
.mobi for Cell Phone Owners & Mobile Content Providers Approved by ICANN as New Internet Domain
Analysis: EU Issues Paper Threatens Internet Expression Worldwide
In China, sophisticated filters keep the Internet near sterile
Parlez vous Deutsche? Yahoo! to translate German search queries, returns translated results
IPod Sales Give Apple 75% Jump in Revenue
visualizing RSS clustering
Panasonic shows off color ebook reader
MedicAlert and CapMed to develop portable electronic health record
MarketResearch.com, Inc. Acquires MindBranch, Inc. -Expands Content, Presence in Asia
Thomson Acquires BroadcastOne
Elsevier Brings Scientific And Medical Information To Netherlands Universities
LexisNexis Butterworths Invests In Customer Service Call Centre

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Larry Kramer Builds CBSNews.com in a Broadbanded MarketWatch Image

With strong coverage from The New York Times and Reuters today, ex-CBS MarketWatch CEO Larry Kramer is sitting in the media spotlight as he begins his efforts to bypass cable television as a news outlet and to bring CBS content directly to the CBSNews.com Web site 24x7. It's a masterful move from a number of angles. With a much older average age than other broadcast TV news outlets and cable TV viewership leveling off, CBS has everything to gain by training a far younger demographic on the value of the CBS brand via Web-first delivery of text, audio and video. Most of the text comes courtesy of AP at this point and probably will indefinitely, given that upgrades to staff are mostly focused on more efficient content production rather than additional editorial staff. Video will be posted "Web first" in most instances, with broadcasts picking up a subset of this content. There's also a trimmed-down online version of the Evening News broadcast for those who prefer that format. Podcast feeds of audio are available in RSS along with RSS feeds of news and video posting headlines with links back to the mother site for full media.

In sum there's a lot going for the first major Web-first online video news outlet. But that's not to say that it's a perfect play. The original content is good and well-contextualized with complementary multimedia features but still thin when compared to other major online news portals such as CNN.com, which recently started making its own globally-sourced video available for free. Then again the original CNN cable news outlet looked rather thin compared to its broadcast news brethren when it hit TV sets some 25 years ago. As a showcase of how online content delivery techniques can be used to build a highly repurposable content set that taps into young and growing audiences effectively there's little doubt that Larry Kramer is right on target. When we start watching our personally filtered news downloaded onto our Blackberries on the train home, then we will know that this concept has finally arrived. But with its limited financing it may be an effort that's served better by a merger with a global news outlet that's willing to feed it original content more aggressively. Film at 11, as they used to say...

The Internet Archive Sued over Copyright Infringement: Threat to Mining?

The New York Times reports on a lawsuit raised by Healthcare Advocates against the Internet Archive, which is accused of violating the copyright on their public Web site's content when they scooped it into their petabyte-scaled archive of Internet content accrued since 1996. The suit also claims that The Internet Archive violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in the process. The irony in this is that the "Wayback Machine" retrieval feature for the archive was being used in this instance to retrieve information for use in another trademark legal action against Health Advocate, a similarly-named company. The current suit claims that when lawyers defending Health Advocate started to scoop up old Web pages from Healthcare Advocates the Wayback Machine was delivering pages that Healthcare Advocates had tagged to be excluded from visits by search engines. This is a pretty shaky case from a number of angles explored in the article, but the worrisome thing is that the mining and archiving of old content from Web pages may come under more general fire should this suit succeed. In that case content services such as Zoominfo that store and deliver content from defunct Web pages may have cause for concern, as may services that mine content for financial analysts and other publication channels.

I don't think that it's likely that the courts will return a broad ruling on copyright or abuse that turns on the voluntary use of "robots.txt" tagging files that are supposed to steer away search engines from crawling all or some portion of a Web site. These files are the electronic equivalent of "beware of the dog" signs that warn but carry little if any weight in protecting against legal actions. Content made available in a public environment that's not truly secured against intrusion is available for public inspection, plain and simple. Issues of copyright may come into play since the content was copied knowing that the primary purpose of copying was to make it available for reuse by others, albeit for no known commercial purpose. Fair use will probably be cited, and that's probably the point most in question.

Every major browser available will by default copy content into a local cache to facilitate better browser performance. Tools like Google Desktop make that content more readily available to people, but do not make the copy themselves: you're making the copy by looking at pages like this. So is making a copy a violation of copyright? Or is it rather ENABLING THE USE of copyrighted content in an illegal way that violates copyright? Fair use doctrine seems to favor the latter, as does the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on malicious file sharing. The Internet Archive will probably come out a winner in this case, but we're not likely to gain much further clarification on copyrights through this action. The onus is on electronic publishers of all stripes to package their content in a way that can make its proscribed legal uses clear within the body of the content itself. The old copyright footer seen on many Web pages has been doing the heavy lifting on this front for some time, but more sophisticated packaging standards and better tools for enabling conscious compliance with copyright law are required for an age in which content use and reuse takes on so many different forms.

Headlines for 13 July 2005

First half brings ad page declines at most general business titles
Keeper of Expired Web Pages Is Sued Because Archive Was Used in Another Suit
Time for a Digital Age Communications Act
CBS News Plans 24-Hour Online News Operation
Podcasting is social media
Dan Gillmor: Brand X judgment threatens free flow of information
Gartner Archives Aging Weblogs
The "Death" of Technorati?
Papers Finding New Ways to Woo Advertisers
IDG taps Friedenberg as president and CEO of CXO subsidiary
Factiva Enhances Sales Productivity Solutions, Adding 400,000+ New UK Company Profiles
Endeca and Oculus Partner To Bring Power of High-Value Visualization to Endeca Latitude
Commerzbank Selects Verity's Advanced Search Technology for Enterprise-Wide Deployment

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Inbox Report: Open House at Hoover's

Visitors to the Hoover's ad-supported Web site are receiving one-day passes to the Hoover's Pro product online, similar in execution to other "open houses" trialed by other premium online services such as HighBeam. The promotion is also available to site visitors via ad links. Interestingly the single-line search box remains in the Pro product on the front page, with radio buttons that allow searching by company name, by ticker, stock quote, IPO companies, industry keyword, executive name, news and reports. The Pro front page has lots of great content promoting Hoover's features and at least in the Trial version includes ads still - similar in some aspects to the old ad-supported site. Not all features are turned on for the trial at the company profile level - for example, you cannot build reports on company profile pages - and ads still remain in profiles also, though fewer and smaller.

It's interesting to note that while the features of the Pro site are more desirable and more powerful, the overall look and feel of Hoover's recently relaunched free Web site is more appealing and conveys a greater sense of ease of use, even if there is less dense content. Hopefully the new look and feel will make its way into the Pro-level products bit by bit. Features presented on the free site are well designed and make it easy to like this product, but with more commonality of features that upgrade experience will become more natural. Open houses such as this are great tools for learning about what kinds of prospects are likely to upgrade into subscription products (and hopefully to get some conversions). The challenge is to be ready to gather as much data as possible from as many angles as possible on their use of the service. Enjoy the open house - feel free to share comments in this weblog.

Headlines for 12 July 2005

The Wikification of Knowledge
Adware's second act
Should Newspapers Sponsor Blogs Written by Reporters?
Blogs on the bombs
Turning Wikipedia into an Asset for Schools
Valeo IP To Shut Down Sept. 2
P&G Exec calls for Uniform Measurement System for Web Traffic
Europe’s ICT and media firms commit to EU plan for growth and jobs
Wolters Kluwer Health and Allscripts Join to Connect Physicians With Drug and Device Manufacturers
Teragram to Power Better Access to Environmental Issues and News for Journalists and Researchers
FinancialContent Launches Finesse 1.1 to Support Syndication of MP3 Files

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Monday, July 11, 2005

Joe Mansueto Affirms it in Print: His Purchases are For Real

Generally the last page of the business section in our local paper gains a cursory glance from me most mornings, so it was interesting this morning to see there a full page ad from Joe Mansueto, CEO of Morningstar, underscoring that his interest in purchasing the magazines "Inc." and "Fast Company" is far from passing. The headline for the ad blares, "OF COURSE THESE MAGAZINES ARE AN INVESTMENT FOR ME. BUT IF THAT'S ALL THEY WERE, I WOULD HAVE NEVER HAVE WRITTEN THE CHECK." The ad goes on to explain the deep respect for these magazines that he gained in his own entrepreneurial efforts and that he's committed to serving the needs of their advertising clients. I find the general media reaction to this deal to be rather strange, as if someone who wasn't considered a "member of the club" deigned to pick up some very attractive titles and was certain to throw things into chaos.

Joe Mansueto is an entrepreneur who took his company Morningstar from a pipe dream to the leading source of investment information on mutual funds for individual investors, as well as a leading source of investment information and tools for professional portfolio managers. This company was, of course, based on an online database, which may be the source of much of the anxiety. Database publishers have a notably different culture than magazine publishers, so perhaps the magazine culture was viewing this as the "revenge of the online publishers." If so, what falderol. When you have an owner whos committed strongly to servicing the needs of a leading-edge audience and who is well attuned to serving them in online and print formats, you have little to lose. Sorry you had to take out the ad, Joe. Hopefully the "country club" set will adjust in time.

News Analysis - The Solutions Solution: Business Publishing Moves to Client-Centric Content Systems

SUMMARY: With VNU and other major publishers and aggregators focusing on solutions providers for businesses, the art of business publishing is taking a turn away from its roots of title-centric publishing towards client-centric business solutions. The channels through which business media companies need to communicate with readers increasingly are in the hands of businesses themselves, forcing media companies to acquire a hand in defining the premium contexts in which their content is demanded, viewed and used by their clients. Not every business media company can afford to become a full-range content solutions provider, but every business media company needs a strategy for adapting their products for maximum revenues in solutions environments.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

VNU: The New Face Of Trade Publishing

The news that VNU is acquiring IMS, the global provider of pharmaceutical market intelligence, for close to $7 billion is not only news in the publishing sector, but the scale of this deal gives the story top billing in the Wall St. Journal and other prominent business publications. With a multiple of 12-12.5 times EBITDA, the sales price is on the high side; however, IMS is a very profitable business and the healthcare/pharmaceutical sector is a high growth sector.

This is more than a diversification move by VNU into the health sector. In fact, one could characterize it as a bold move to solidify the transformation of VNU from a traditional trade publisher to a new-era publisher that focuses on the intersection of content, technology, and business processes--what we define as vContent, and which so neatly fits with this company's name. In the world of vContent, trade publishers move from providing product information to consumers and businesses to providing customized information about customer needs, competitors, and detailed product and pricing data. In its presentation to analysts in London this morning, VNU gave the example of a pharmaceutical brand executive as a target customer for the combined company. With its Nielsen market research unit and IMS, VNU can provide an "integrated view of patient and physician dynamics" to help brand executives "successfully launch prescription products" according to one slide in the presentation.

But, VNU's sights are set beyond the health care sector. Further justification for the huge acquisition is based on creating a global infrastructure with information systems and processes that produce efficiencies that allow VNU to "build repeatable consulting and services capabilities" and "deliver revenue and cost synergies" across all units. The importance of mastering the use of IT in the mix of competencies for 21st century publishers is clear. As VNU is demonstrating with this acquisition, for continued success, publishers should also develop capabilities to mine the mix of data it assembles from its customer base and its sector coverage in order to provide high value add content-related products and services that support premium pricing. The new model in trade publishing centers on a mix of analytical research, consulting services, and conferences with traditional publishing products like research reports and periodicals included in the mix, but not playing the starring role.

Headlines for 11 July 2005

VNU to Acquire IMS Health in $7B Deal
Why Microsoft May Wade Into 'Adware'
Wired subscriber gets a jolt
The Future of the Book
Adobe and Macromedia Receive Request for Additional Information from the DOJ
Toward a Common Market for Digital Rights
E-Mail vs. E-Newsletters: Is There a Difference?
Qpass Sees Momentum for Mobile Data Services, Rise in Content Availability a Key Factor for Growth
Biometric Information Directory Sold to Grey House Publishing
FAST mSearch Powers Mobile Search for 3 Italy

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Hair Trigger: AdSense Revenues, Accuracy May have Dived with London Bombing Focus

The "blogosphere" is of course abuzz with how yet again it has succeeded with first-hand coverage of the tragic events in London this past week, a capability which we have come to expect in an amazingly short period of time. Perhaps of more current interest, though, is a report from The Blog Herald that AdSense revenues went south on many Web sites and weblogs as the events unfolded, much in the same way that ad campaigns cancelled by news outlets covering the events harm these companies' revenues. Its hard to compete with realtime news in the click-driven world. At the same time contextual ads seem to have had a hard time adjusting to the realtime news flow. Ads focused on earlier disasters and "war on terror" interests surfaced as AdSense algorithms struggled to match existing ad inventories to brand-new events that had been identified neither as marketing opportunities or comprehensible contexts. One day events in London are about traffic, strikes and social happenings and the next it's a center of international terrorism. This argues for contextualization services that can adapt rapidly to such shifting categorization challenges, but there are times when contexts will appear that are going to be marketable only for a few brave and fast folks. Hopefully relief services were able to capitalize this week on the shifting focus of us click-minded souls. Sounds like an opportunity for those seeking premium click-through ad services.

OneSource Relaunch Revamps Core Products and Repurposes Credit Data for Small Businesses

The recent OneSource announcement of new services and content for business information users was hailed by Information Today as "The 'New' OneSource" in its covering article. The quotes around the word "new" are probably apropos, since there's quite a bit of familiar content and functionality at the core of its product line. But with a major revamping of its production infrastructure, swapping out D&B company content with content from infoUSA and other sources and the addition of credit content and new specialized packaging for these sources there are a number of compelling new reasons to take a look at their content. infoUSA content helps to fuel their new Small Company Spectrum covering 13 million small businesses with both business profiles and business credit histories, while 160,000 private business profiles help to round out their core product with key hard-to-find information. I think that the most interesting aspect of this release from OneSource is the inclusion of credit information in the small business product. Folks in purchasing departments dealing with suppliers will certainly appreciate this information, but so will salespeople who need to sift through huge reams of small business prospects to figure out not only who's fitting the sales profile but also which accounts are also likely to pay off one you close with them. It's an interesting repurposing of content that may not have been thought of as sales-oriented by some. Through this new interface credit histories find a very comfy home in helping sales and marketing departments prioritize markets that are sometimes hard to quantify.

Podcasting Frenzy Fed by Apple: Is it Really Such a Big Deal?

Walt Mossberger at the Wall Street Journal filed an interesting piece summing up the state of podcasting, which has taken a definite uptick in hyped frenzy since Apple announced last week that it is making podcasts available for free downloading via its iTunes Web site. Podcasts are flowing into iTunes by the bucketful, making some of the debate about Apple's proprietary "hooks" in the XML used to transport the audio broadcast-like files somewhat moot for the moment. Aggregation by invitation to join a still-trendy platform seems to create de facto standards that are easy to manage for most and are not likely to deter further development of new centers of funkiness for downloadable audio content. Apple's insisting on reviewing podcasts to see if they have explicit content that might get them into more hot water with parents already concerned about whether their kids are at physical risk from toting the little iconic music machines around. This lack of immediacy may slow down any radio-like appeal that would otherwise be enjoyed by these audio downloads.

Mossberger points out that the where and how to get podcasts posted is still problematic. It's really not as hard as he makes it out to be, but for novices wanting to spout off with their mouth as easily as they can with their keyboards via weblogs it may be just hard enough to slow them down that they'll wait for a Yahoo! or similar portal provider to make it easier for them before taking the plunge. With magazines, newspapers and other media outlets beginning to weave audio, video and other multimedia into their content products the greater question may be just how soon we'll find ourselves in an era when we can walk out of the house with our handheld device already loaded with all the news, entertainment and custom-tailored content that we're going to want to consume on the way to work or play. Podcasting's kind of a fun concept the way that dabbling with amateur radio was fun in the early 1920s, but it's only a precursor to a far richer array of multimedia XML-based content objects that are likely to be streaming towards us in the months and years ahead from both amateur and professional sources. Play on, podcasters, but there's far more to come that will be a far, far bigger deal.

InfoUSA to Offer infoGenie, Mining Business Sites for Contextual Categorization

Business directories and categorization schemes would seem to be naturals to benefit from taxonomies and categorization, but the truth is that most schemes, including venerable SIC codes are far too broad to locate specific businesses with specific products and services to solve a specific purchasing, sales or marketing problem. Hence the appeal of search engines, which allow queries that aren't tied down to a taxonomy - though at the cost of having to risk sifting through tons of content that may not be relevant. InfoUSA is working on an interesting solution to this problem, which they have announced will be available some time next year. According to the product announcement the new "infoGenie" service will mine details about businesses, executive names and titles, financial information, and other information from the more than 1 million business websites and create a master storage facility to offer the detailed searches to its customers. Presumably this infoUSA database of mined facts will be organized to support both single-line search queries and sophisticated attribute filtering on a number of planes that will be of use to business purchasing, sales and marketing teams.

I find it a little interesting that this gets announced on the heels of talk that infoUSA will be taken private sometime soon, especially with such a long lead time on very generally described deliverables. Clearly there's a vision hatching at infoUSA that can span a broad array of market opportunities, something that may allow infoUSA to reposition itself rather dramatically in the marketplace for business information if it withdraws public shares and then relaunches - or tries to keep existing shareholders happy. With our latest research on small and medium enterprises showing that the most popular source of external business information is information from other companies, services such as that being contemplated by infoUSA that span open Web searching and researching specific businesses are likely to find high demand in the business content marketplace, both as a media-oriented service and as a premium subscription service. Expect the intelligent use of business information gleaned from public Web sites to gain further attention via services from full-blown solutions providers and well-focused niche players.

Friday, July 8, 2005

Headlines for 8 July 2005

Podcasting Is Still Not Quite Ready For the Masses
Adsense revenues decline on the back of London Bombing, also delivering strange results
RSS Readers: Narrowing Down Your Choices
Google adds new twist to publishing
'Inc.' to provide content for DHL online resource center
OCLC Pilots Traditional Libraries into Web Services
Supreme Court Ruling on Grokster to Spur Long-term Growth of Legitimate P2P Services
Pan-European copyright system?
Lawyers celebrate English Web site launch
ITtoolbox Wiki Launch Offers the IT Community an Editable IT Reference
The Weather Channel and Alticast Partner to Offer Interactive Weather Application via Open Standards
CBC/Radio-Canada Selects Coveo Enterprise Search

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Hoover's Debuts New Look, Features and Levels of Access

The announced debut of the new online portal for Hoover's, Inc. the online business information service in a new direction. Gone is the single-line search box allowing people to look up company information from the home page. In its place are three options that explain the three major uses of the Hoover's online service: finding companies, finding business people or generating custom lists. Each of these lead to separate pages from which one can initiate single-line or advanced queries for further information. The single-line search box with options correlating to the home page options reappears once you've found yourself on a given company's details. Details are a little more restricted than before - historical financials are now bundled into the subscription service, for example - but overall the look, feel and usability of the company pages remains high, with better highlighting of advanced features available via the subscription package.

The net effect of these changes is to get the ad-based user to appreciate Hoover's as both a source of diverse kinds of business information and a source of specific business information solutions rather than a search engine-like "quick fix" for company lookups. The "quick fix" newcomer visiting the home page is slowed down to the point where they are encouraged to think about the problem that they're trying to solve a little more carefully and to get a flavor of what their subscription-based content and tools look like by taking a peek at a few selected full-bore company profiles. With no real direct competition for ad-supported online business information of this kind other than their own content via portals such as Yahoo!Finance and with increased positioning via subscription partner Factiva to provide business information solutions Hoover's is challenged to define a media strategy that can yield the most revenue outside of channel relationships. Making ad-based content work harder to convert casual users into subscription users is the goal for that strategy with this new portal, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn't leave ad-based monies on the table. Time will tell whether this approach will encourage ad-based use enough to get those conversions and whether there are not additional opportunities for monetizing the context of business content that can span both ad-based and subscription business information.

Headlines for 7 July 2005

London bombings: blogs covering from the frontline
Advanstar confirms it is exploring possible sale
The good, bad and ugly of contextual ads from Google, Yahoo
Survey: Association Magazines Stress Revenue Generation, Not Just Member Service
Yahoo Expands Mobile Search with Text Messaging
Ripping Off RSS Feeds: RSS Syndication-Display Services Dozen-a-Dime
Intranets aren't just for big business any more
Hoover's Enhances Free Site With Additional Content and New Navigation Tools, Fresh Corporate Brand
ProQuest Business Solutions Acquires Technologies From Active Web Services, LLC
Thomson Financial and StreamVPN Partner to Deliver Alpha Network on Thomson One
iUpload's Blogging Solution First to Integrate With Google Maps
Finet Enters Into Agreement with Xinhua PR Newswire to Connect Global Investment Community with China

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Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Headlines for 6 July 2005

Search Engines Dive into Premium Content
Syndication' spreads as a Web tool
Study probes effects of ad placement in online newspaper stories
Marketers see opportunity as RSS gains users
Live Surgical Webcasts Play to Potential Patients
Digital Object Identifiers and the Future of Online Content
Searching for the Perfect GIS Search
MOBILearn: Offering flexible and adaptable mobile learning
Apple begins podcasting turf war
SourceLabs Announces SWiK, a New Resource for Researching and Sharing Information on Open Source
ThomasNet.com Announces Content Partnership With Entrepreneur.com
Liquid Machines to Showcase Integration With Microsoft Windows Rights Management Services

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Tuesday, July 5, 2005

News Analysis - Pro/Am Tournament: Colloquial Content Converges in Text, Audio and Video

Today's Web portals abound with text, audio and video content from both amateur and professional sources the movement towards content convergence is taking on a grass roots flavor that few in mainstream media companies would have predicted a few years ago. Video broadcasters and syndicators compete with homespun video from newspapers, corporations, governments and amateurs, even as podcasting opens up streams of audio content from more sources than ever before. The mixture of professional and amateur content keeps the convergence of media sources increasingly in the hands of users equipped with more than enough horsepower and storage to take them all on. In this mix there are no safe niches, only strategies that can get the right content into the hands of the right audience.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 5 July 2005

Why Newspapers Are Betting on Audience Participation
LexisNexis unveils information website in Chinese
Yahoo Learns New Tricks
Big Music Labels Have Digital Trust Issues
Ruling set to hasten media change
Power to the podcasters
WikiNews, OhmyNews to work together?
Businesses are getting the (instant) message
Podcasting Station Launched; New Searchable Podcast Directory
iPodder: The Cross-Platform Podcast Receiver
Thomson adds seven market makers to retail service provider gateway in the UK
Successful Corporate Libraries: Anchoring Services to Hot Button Issues
ProQuest Health Management Launches Single-Source Digital Access

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Friday, July 1, 2005

Headlines for 1 July 2005

Networks chilly to Google video
Six Ways Technology Is Changing Publishing
Google sued over "click fraud" in Web ads
Seek And Ye Shall (Hopefully) Find
U.S. publishers put pressure on Google
Ovid and Elsevier partner on EMBiology
infoUSA Plans to Offer ''infoGenie'' - A New Business Search Tool
Wired News Expands Global Reach with Daily Content Now Available in Korean and Japanese
HyperFeed and MarketXS Announce Strategic Allianceto expand TRS (HTRS) Technology in Europe
Media Rights Technologies in Accord With Supreme Court Decision

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines