Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tiger Burning Bright: Apple's Latest Mac OS X an Increasingly Important Content Venue for Scientists

You have to be careful about drawing too may conclusions from a single day's headlines but it is interesting that there are announcements today both from Elsevier MDL and from Thomson ResearchSoft regarding features newly available on Apple's Mac OS X "Tiger" platform. Based on a highly tweaked version of the platform-independent Unix operating system the Tiger platform offers high graphics and analytic performance for scientists that need a high level of reliability and accuracy in their research. The portability of Tiger has allowed Apple to announce the migration of Mac OS X from its current Motorola processors to Intel processors over the next couple of years. It's therefore likely that Tiger will be a growing presence where there are specialized corporate and scholarly users who need greater performance using ubiquitous Intel-based hardware. Not coincidentally these high-end users are where many publishers and aggregators would like to make their mark.

It's not likely that we're going to see a flood of users embracing Tiger any time soon, even in rarefied scientific circles, but it's important to recognize that Tiger is but one instance of growing platform diversity in major institutions that must keep publishers and aggregators thinking broadly and openly about their content platforms and packaging. Be it on mobile devices important in medical work, in specialized field equipment or in desktop devices, it's important to verify carefully the changing relationships between content users and their equipment on a regular basis. We may yet see Tiger burning more brightly on everyday desktops, but in the meantime there's a good amount of high-margin money to be made with content that caters to its existing specialized users.

Rent This Space: Google Adapts AdWords Model to Print Ads

As noted in CNET News, the art and science of advertising has had a new wrinkle added as Google extends its AdWords capabilities into the domain of print. Working with two tech-oriented publications already using AdWords themselves, Google purchased a page in their mags that they then sold to its AdWords clients in divvied-up blocks (online version from PC Magazine). While at the moment no more than a small-scale experiment, it's yet another indication that the scope of Google's media model continues to expand its ability to deliver contextual content value in more venues than ever. It's doubtful that many mags will warm up to this concept in the short run, but in the long run it part of an important trend that's likely to grow.

Ad networks in the online world have already detached many elements of the ad sales process from both publishers and ad agencies. The Google experiment demonstrates that the ability to make money from available context without getting involved in the details is going to be a much wider phenomenon. It will absorb not only print outlets but more sophisticated electronic content downloaded into the devices of users. Instead of selling content that has context, the trend is to sell context that has content. Perhaps we think of this as ads today, but it's more about paid placement for any number of messages and commercial opportunities that are not packaged as traditional ads. Perhaps it's a display from a useful software application that complements a story. Perhaps it's an offer for a financial transaction that can be executed with a click. But most importantly it detaches that ad-placing function from the people providing the editorial content.

This opens the door to editorial content coming from any source that can get a piece of the action in a common contextual object - like the common ground found in search results today but with a difference. The day may come when a Google Newspaper or a Google Magazine with content tailored to an individual from many sources makes its way to our driveway or mailbox. If this concept frightens you, then get to work on making the name on those publications yours.

Headlines for 31 August 2005

Google takes ad sales to print
LexisNexis inaugurates corporate reputation monitoring service
So where does digital fit into the media world?
Hurricane Katrina overwhelms Web sites
Blogger Faces Lawsuit Over Comments Posted by Readers
Copyscape Searches For Scraped Content
Intel encourages consumers to influence development of DRM
China's Sinopharm sells 50 pct of subsidiary to Reed Exhibitions
Standard & Poor's to Provide Securities Data to Innovest Systems
Elsevier MDL Announces DiscoveryGate(R) for Mac OS X ''Tiger'' to Reach Scientific Community Online
Thomson ResearchSoft Ships EndNote 9 for Mac OS X
FAST and AskMe Partner to Bring Enterprise Search to Expertise Management Solutions
blinkx Extends Its Lead in Searchable Video Footage, Doubles Content Partner List

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Headlines for 30 August 2005

Critics Pan Springer's Merger Plan
Opposition To Google's Book-Copying Intensifies
Baidu, Google dominate Net search in China
Equifax acquires BeNow
J-Lab launches site for D.I.Y. community journalism
CNNIC Releases China Search Engine Market Survey Report
Quality Of Wolters Kluwer Acquired Asset NDC Health is Low
Wolters Kluwer Health Adds Chemical Structure Searching to Its Pharmaceutical Intelligence Tools
LexisNexis, Biz360 Expand Alliance
Variety and TMS to Launch Worldwide Entertainment News Service
Bloomberg Chosen as Trading Platform for Indonesia Bonds
McGill University Selects WebCT Vista to Expand and Enrich Rapidly Growing Online Learning Offerings
Harris Corporation Demonstrates Integrated Software Applications Delivering Content to Multiple Devices
Max Muscle Selects ISYS Search Software's Enterprise Desktop Search for Advanced Customer Search
FAST and IntelliReach Partner to Bring Enterprise Search to Email Lifecycle Management
Elluminate Delivers Real-time Collaboration for Insights Learning & Development

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Monday, August 29, 2005

News Analysis - Copy Right: LexisNexis, Copyright and the Search for Today's Most "Useful Arts"

The LexisNexis announcement of its sophisticated and powerful CopyGuard service is meant to send shivers down the spines of copyright violators. But its ability to compare works for suspicious similarities is more likely to protect publishers from plagiarism problems with its own staffs than to reap any revenues from content snatchers caught in the act. The problems of copyright law have far less to do with inadequate enforcement of outdated regulations than they do with technology that makes copying itself hard to avoid, much less control. Publishers need to focus more on copyright enforcement that enables users to get more value once they've received copies of content than on trying to control the copying process itself.

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Wolters Kluwer Buys IMS Competitor

As widely reported, Wolters Kluwer announced its acquisition of the Information Management division of NDCHealth bright and early this morning. The acquisition will approximately double the size of the Pharma Solutions Division of Wolters Kluwer Health (WKH) and will propel that division to be nearly equal in size to the Medical Research division, which includes the Ovid platform. The overall size of WKH will grow to almost $1 billion in revenue in 2005.

This acquisition fits with previous statements made by CEO Nancy McKinstry and WKHealth's CEO Jeffrey McCaulley with respect to their intention to add three new business intelligence products in 2005. The Pharma BI products of NDCHealth focus on decision support tools for sales and marketing departments within pharmaceutical, medical devices, and biotech companies. These high-value products (projected 2005 sales of $165 million) supplement WKH's flagship Adis R&D Insight pharma BI offering with new pharma BI offerings that compete more directly with the core IMS drug sales products. NDCHealth emphasizes the longitudinal aspects of its database with 7 years of historical data and differentiates itself from IMS by the fact that NDCHealth collects sales data on a customer level basis from retail, non-retail, mail order, and hospital and other institutional sources. One drawback of the collection is that it only covers the US market.

The multiples for the acquisition also look good at face value. However, there are a couple of details that require further scrutiny. WK states that the earnings multiple is 10.5 times EBITDA, which is in line with other industry deals. However, the calculation of EBITDA that is used includes adjustments that add $26 million in restructuring, depreciation and amortization, and expected cost synergies to the base $8.1 EBITA of the division in FY 2005 (which just ended for NDCHealth). The fact that $12.5 million in immediate expected cost synergies is factored in to the purchase price raises an eyebrow or two, but it's not impossible that WK can enact vast cost efficiences given the internal infrastructure improvements they have implemented over the past 2 years and the expected synergies in sales and marketing. The other concern relates to the rate of growth in sales of the target division. Nominal growth for the IM division of NDCHealth in 2005 was negative until Q4 when it was propped up by sales of ArcLight, a "new unique product". A lot is riding on the success of new products and the projected synergies between the companies in order to justify the terms of this deal. This deal definitely increases the position of Wolters Kluwer in the pharma business intelligence segment where it competes with Thomson Scientific & Healthcare, IMS, Reed Elsevier and others. But it is not entirely clear that the acquisition will give WK the boost in organic growth and in margins in the next year or two that it so sorely needs.

Headlines for 29 August 2005

Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet.
Craigslist booms on lure of free ads: Usage up 26% in NYC
An 'envelope, please' moment for books: Quills Awards stir debate on hype
When Content Isn't King in SEO
Rocketboom's Powerful Lift-Off
Finding Profits In Podcasting
Wolters Kluwer to Acquire NDCHealth's Information Management Business
Irish firm in enterprise alliance with Google
Verity Adds Bloomberg LP as a Customer
EBSCO Creates International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center

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Friday, August 26, 2005

As The Cookie Crumbles

There has been a tremendous amount of hand-wringing in the press about a spate of new surveys that indicate that a growing number of consumers are routinely and aggressively deleting cookies from their computers. One study, for example, claims that 27% of consumers clear cookies from their machines on a weekly basis.

Cookies are small files that your Web server software can place on the hard drive of every visitor to your Web site. Originally, cookies were designed to provide added convenience to the user. As an example, a cookie can be constructed so that a visitor to a subscription-based site doesn't need to go through the login process every site they visit the site.

For advertising-based sites, cookies are critical to measuring traffic and usage. If you ever wonder how a Web site without required registration is able to compute "unique visitors," the answer is via cookies. When a site user visits for the first time in during a reporting period, a cookie is placed on that user's computer that essentially says "don't count me again for the rest of the reporting period." If the user deletes that cookie, the same user is counted again, effectively inflating the unique visitor count.

When cookies represented a one-to-one relationship between publisher and site visitor, very few people found them objectionable. But when Web advertising networks introduced the concept of "third party cookies," things began to get ugly.

When an advertising network with say, 1,000 sites, places its cookie on a user's computer, it is then able to tell if that user visits any of its other 999 sites. Every time the user visits one of those sites, the network is able to capture this information, building a behavioral profile of the user. A number of years ago, one major ad network got a little too clever and started matching its behavioral profiles to online registration data, allowing it to know not only who you were, but your interests and Web surfing preferences as well. That hit a little too close to home, and the program was canceled after a storm of public protest. Behavioral profiles have again come back into fashion, the difference this time is that they are all anonymous. What upped the ante on cookies is when most of the popular anti-spyware software companies decided that these third-party cookies were invasive, and allowed users to delete them. Even though these software companies grudgingly admit that these cookies are generally not harmful and don't really invade anyone's privacy, they have an agenda of their own: it allows their software to "find more stuff" on user's computers, making their software seem more valuable.

It is possible to delete all the cookies on your computer using a feature built right into every browser. Trouble is, this deletes "good" cookies (those that speed login to specific sites by saving user name and password), as well as third-party cookies, which is why more Web-savvy users don't do it. It's also important to understand that most anti-spyware software selectively deletes cookies, trying to delete only third-party cookies. That means for most data publishers, the cookies set for subscribers with their passwords remain intact, and counts of unique visitors are not going to be distorted.

Those most loudly bemoaning the issue of cookie deletion are the advertising networks, which increasingly depend on the third party cookies they set to control ad rotation and target ads based on behavioral profiles. Some executives from the major ad networks are busy writing editorials suggesting that publishers must convince their audiences of the benefits of third party cookies. Correct me if I am wrong, but the only reason third party cookies need to be defended is because the slippery practices of some advertising networks have brought them into disrepute, to the point where legislation has even been proposed that could potentially outlaw cookies. But now publishers are being asked to run out and put their reputations on the line by endorsing cookies on behalf of this group of unregulated and often shadowy advertising networks. And since we're being asked to endorse third party cookies, and since networks can charge more for targeted advertising, is it not unreasonable to ask how much of that premium pricing trickles down to publishers?

Headlines for 26 August 2005

Conde Nast Joins the Business Press
InfoUSA board rejects Gupta’s buyout offer
US: 51% of journalists use blogs
ABM Debuts New Trade Show Tracking Numbers
That’s What I’m Talking About
What Blogs, Podcasts, Feeds Mean to Bottom Line
Retailers hope shoppers buy blogs as the place to go
What the BEA/Plumtree merger means for Web portal futures
SIIA Survey Finds State Progress Slow but Steady on Adoption of E-Textbooks
Thomson Gale Introduces New Profiler Module

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Newsweek Taps Technorati to Provide Valuable Sidebar Content

There's been lots of hot chat about how mainstream news organizations can tap the power of weblogs to create more content value for their brands. According to Technorati CEO David Sifry's weblog, Newsweek has come up with a reasonable solution to this quandary: put links to weblogs that point to Newsweek news and commentary on that content's Web page. To my knowledge this is a first for a major online news outlet inviting external blog content onto their own pages (example, have to scroll down about 2/3 of the way to find it on an individual news article like this - the BlogTalk example that Sifry gives provides a better but less representative visual). The aim here is to make the news article itself the focal point of weblog-driven news amplification and commentary, aided by Technorati providing the neutral selection and feeding of the content. Technorati also gets a plug and a search box for bringing people back to their site (sample search results , note that the Newsweek logo on the results page does not relate to the number of returned search results specific to Newsweek, somewhat misleading).

This is a pretty shrewd technique for getting webloggers to write about Newsweek content: if they stand a shot at getting highly contextual links on a major news site sending traffic to their weblogs, why not mention Newsweek as the base source of a story rather than another source? As one commenter put it on Sifry's weblog, "Hell yes we want to see more of this!" It's a simple and effective way to drive traffic to their weblogs. News organizations are desperate to find better ways to be a part of the news conversation that is dominated increasingly by weblogs as the focal points of editorial story selection and spin via their links and commentary. This is a bold move by Newsweek to join the conversation with webloggers at more of a peer level, a recognition of their power to help shape the importance of news coverage. Technorati also wins big by providing webloggers an effective way to play with major media outlets, providing new branding strength that's bound to attract the attention of other outlets - or acquirers. The inevitable "leakage" of readers to other destination sites may hold back other publishers from trying Newsweek's approach. But with distribution prowess a nil-strength factor in Web content news organizations have to rely increasingly on the Web-driven conversation found in Weblogs and other emerging outlets to drive their online content into audience-defined relevance.

Reference as Productivity: Knovel Recreates the Value Proposition for Reference Content

The recently announced implementation of the Knovel Library service at Black & Veatch Corporation, a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company, is an interesting example of how reference content can move from expensive shelf-sitters to active components in building workflow productivity. In this instance the match is perfect: in engineering and construction, having the right applied science data as quickly as possible is essential for coming up with the right calculations to support client projects effectively. Much of that content lies buried in reference books and eBooks, but Knovel extracts that content and makes it searchable and usable in ways that answer complex questions quickly - hence the claimed $1.5 million first-year productivity savings. This is powerful marketing ju-jitsu, turning the argument from "Why should we spend all this money on expensive reference products" to "How can we not afford to invest in the most efficient reference products?" There's a limit to what a fairly circumscribed content set can do to back up these claims and good measurements are essential for proving this success. But in the instance of Knovel Library targeting applied science specialists who need to get the facts and figures just right in practical solutions it's a compelling argument to leave the dusty stuff on the bookshelf behind and to get important deadlines met by spending much less time on finding the right answers to reference questions.

Going for All the Content: LexisNexis to Resell Yipes Network Services

LexisNexis provides a strong paradigm on many levels as to how business content providers can work with clients to solve a wide range business problems. Add to this paradigm the recently announced relationship with Yipes Enterprise Services, Inc. to resell their LegalConnect! secure, high-availability network solutions for law firms needing scalable access to hosted legal services. Using these services LexisNexis will provide a more productized packaging to their law firm-specific hosted services, which include document management, electronic discovery, off-site document repositories, backup and recovery and network services. The ability to intertwine client-owned content with published content grows ever stronger in the LexisNexis model, creating truly embedded business solutions that prosper with premium content but are not wholly reliant on them for the value of the solutions.

This grey space between solutions traditionally managed by I.T. departments and companies and traditional publishers and aggregators is ground zero for many marketing efforts leveraging The New Aggregation, echoed by Google's recent moves to blur the lines between what constitutes personal content technology services and general publishing services. We are going to see more efforts at packaging in premium content as part of specialized networking services for business as a new breed of solutions providers learn how to use premium content to build business solutions in a more source-agnostic manner. If your customers need pipes, you may as well fill them with what they want and need in spades - even if it's not content that's in your current dossier. Nothing new in many ways, but for business-oriented aggregators trying to figure out the shifting terrain of packaging valuable services for their clients looking at network solutions from a content perspective rather than a purely I.T. perspective can make one wonder why some content players are so keen to shed their network operations.

Headlines for 25 August 2005

Google Gets Better. What's Up With That?
Google, Yahoo Ad Battle Could Benefit Publishers
IBM Releases New Identity Resolution Technology
Reed to increase trade shows in Latin America
The Super Network: Why Yahoo! will be the center of the million-channel universe.
SwetsWise Online Content Signs Additional Publishers
SchemaLogic Introduces Vignette Taxonomy Integrator Adapter using SchemaServer Application
SIRIUS Unveils Wearable Satellite Radio
EmediaUSA Joins UK-based 101 Communications to Publish Email Bulletins for Special Interest Markets
ProQuest Appointed For UK eBook Deal

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Headlines for 24 August 2005

Google unveils instant-messaging, voice entry
Relax, Bill Gates; It's Google's Turn as the Villain
Dow Jones rises on more buyout talk; Dow Jones continues to deny it's seeking a suitor
Yahoo! Offers Cars for Content
Section Targeting by Google AdSense
Your Search or Mine? Jeteye hopes searchers will rely on strangers (and friends)
Yahoo, Viacom Forge Web Search Pact
Yipes and LexisNexis Deliver Scalable Network Platform for Law Firms
Productivity from Knovel Library helps Black & Veatch Engineers saves $1.5 Million annually worldwide
Nstein Technologies to drive content indexing on Cyberpresse
Rocketinfo Partners with Viapoint Corporation to Provide News Search Adapter
PennWell Launches PennEnergyJOBS, an Online Employment Service for the Global Energy Industry
Marsteller Announces User Generated Media Alliance with Best of Breed Companies

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Life with Google Desktop 2: Snuggling Up to Your Content

The recent announcement of Google Desktop 2 cranks up the heat a bit on Google's efforts to create a ubiquitous environment for content consumption. Like its earlier incarnation the new desktop tool provides searching of local emails, cached Web pages and office automation documents, but it adds an optional (but heavily pushed) "sidebar" feature that can display content such as weblog subscriptions, photo slideshows, news, recent emails, a scratchpad and a "Quick View" of a mix of recent and frequently used Web pages. All of these features can be tuned fairly easily for preferences and the sidebar can disappear altogether or be rearranged to personal tastes. Open up your Outlook and you get a new Google Desktop search bar embedded in the application, with quick search results for emails and a link to Desktop search results for more content from Outlook and other desktop sources. Like the earlier version there are some worrisome factors: I had by coincidence visited by bank's Web site just prior to downloading and the QuickView feature captured the signon page. However, specific pages or Web sites can be excluded from the feature's gaze (of course you have to be aware of that gaze first).

While there have been personal sidebar tools in circulation for some time, it's interesting to note the degree to which Google is trying to bridge the divide between Web tool and user desktop interface in melding personal and Web content with Desktop 2. It's a "My Yahoo!" on the level of content that matters most to an individual - personal content - with a mixture of content from external sources that's deemed important to an individual based on habits as much as conscious selection. Instead of sweating the details of developing "personal" portals online, Google is concentrating on creating personal content value where it matters most to individuals: in their own hands. While not the loudest of shots across Microsoft's bow, there's no mistaking where this personal approach is intended to lead the loyalty of PC users who find less and less use for the traditional Microsoft desktop. It's a far cry from a sidebar tool to an operating system, but what we click on is what we use and identify with as a brand. The brand of Google is gaining more depth by the day with users via tools such as Desktop 2.

Headlines for 23 August 2005

LexisNexis service to defend copyrights
Google changes irk advertisers, please publishers
Google Searches For New Profits
Curse of the Skyscraper: Towers as Harbingers of Media Doom
Not So Fas Fax: An Analysis of the Flat Newsstand
Inxight with Customizable Architecture, Integrated User Authentication in SmartDiscovery Awareness Server
Knight Ridder VP for news to step down
Dow Jones Newswires and eSignal Expand Distribution Agreement on All eSignal Products
Former Presidents of Ask Jeeves International and Business Solutions Team Up to Join InfoSearch Media
Elsevier Health Sciences uses OutStart Evolution Learning Content Management System for eLearning
Standard & Poor's Equity Research Services Publishes Research Objectivity Policy
The Telegraph Group Selects NewspaperDirect's SmartEdition ePaper Solution
New Oracle Collaboration Suite Takes Aim At Microsoft SharePoint

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Headlines for 22 August 2005

Google search for Trader deal
Google Revamps Desktop Search Program
Where to Spend $4 Billion? Google Has Plenty of Projects in Mind
Microsoft demos RSS features in IE 7
United Business Media acquires Informex for $24 million
Sun launches open-source digital rights plan
Eight Masters Of Information
Big picture still hazy in video search
Copyright law needs drastic changes to keep up with technology
At Dow Jones, It's All About Family

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News Analysis - The Little Package that Could: eBooks and Their Friends Prepare for the Limelight

Alas, the poor eBook has suffered quite an identify crisis these past few years - in spite of the fact that their sales growth continues to surge impressively. By some reckonings electronic books will be outselling their paper-bound counterparts as soon as 2010. But the key to the future of electronic books lies not so much in getting existing book formats into electronic packaging as in creating new concepts for packaging content for portable use that extend the concept of the book in new directions. The good news is that the resulting packages offer premium content providers significant revenue opportunities - if they can learn how to create products that appeal to users used to both text and interactive capabilities.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Akamai is Looking to Ride the Second Internet Wave

The Boston Globe refers to Akamai as a "little-known company" in its article announcing Akamai's move into content creation. Since I'm based in Boston and I'm a long-time online media analyst, Akamai is anything but an unknown company to me. I remember when they went public in late 1999 and the stock price shot up from $110 to $145 on the first day. Not long afterwards, the price peaked at $345. One could say that Akamai was the Google of its time. (Note, current stock price is $14.93.)

This week Akamai, which is primarily known as a content delivery platform that speeds up users' access to high-bandwidth content, announced that it has introduced a Net Usage Index that tracks traffic to news sites on a real-time basis. The index as displayed on their web site illustrates usage by continent and is updated every five minutes.

Taking a step toward creating content based on information culled from their servers is a smart move. For now, it's a small step, since it is not clear how Akamai will translate the index into a service that can be monetized. But, there are definite possibilities to help advertisers optimize their reach, for instance. In addition, with so much attention from the big search engines and major publishers focused on expanding into Asia, combined with growing attention on creating search engines for video content, Akamai's strengths in serving high-bandwidth content and its global network should help the company increase its visibility and make a name for itself that is more widely known.

Amazon Shorts as an Author Marketing System

Amazon continues to innovate book marketing, with its debut of Amazon Shorts, described as "Short literary works delivered digitally for 49 cents each". These are previously unpublished short-form works of 2,000 to 10,000 words, many of which are from well-known authors, who already have full-sized hardcopy, ebook and audio book editions readily available on Amazon. At this price, individual authors may not make a lot of money on the new short digital works, but the advertising and public relations aspects are much more valuable. Today's featured Amazon Short is by Harry Dent, author of The Next Great Bubble Boom: How to Profit from the Greatest Boom in History, 2005-2009, a traditional hard-copy book, published in September 2004. His Amazon Short is dated August 1, 2005 and provides an updated view of his 2004 view, thus solving the inherent problem of keeping a traditional book current, yet utilizing established distribution channels. The sales page for this work conveniently lists "The Complete Works of Harry S. Dent" including the 2004 book at $26 list price, a nice upsell for a $.49 work, as well as the full backlist.

It's this understanding of the dynamics of the publishing business, and the tension between authors, traditional publishers and buyers that makes Amazon successful. The focus has been on technology in the ebook marketplace, but innovation in improving the publishing cycle and providing new value to readers which benefits authors will be key to growth in digital publishing, as seen in the growth in digital audio books. Amazon is valuable not only as a sales channel, but also for the profile of the typical reader / buyer, which is possible only in ecommerce channels, not the bricks and mortar retail channel. Feedback to authors has long been a Holy Grail, and Amazon is effectively working with authors, as well as publishers, on multiple levels, a key to business success.

Headlines for 19 August 2005

14,159,265 New Slices of Rich Technology
Despite Earlier Predictions, 'Free' Web Is Going Strong
"Read All Over" — Including Online: $1 Billion in 2004 Online News Revenues
Akamai Launches Internet News Tracking Index
India govt rejects Reuters content services plan
eMeta's eRights Suite Aids Publishers of Digital Content
Internet Is Replacing TV in Korea
“Extreme data” revolutionizing the way companies do business, says CSC report
The RSS Crisis?
Bucks for blogs; "PR is Dead"
Demand For E-books On The Increase
Melodeo First to Offer Podcasts for Mobile Phones; Company Appoints New CEO

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Finding the Expedia Solution

Expedia and Hotels.com, two of the great innovators and success stories in the online travel agency business, have recently been spun off by their parent, Barry Diller's IAC, into a new company called Expedia. The spin-off is intended to boost IAC's sagging stock price. Apparently, Diller believes there is more upside potential in IAC's remaining properties, which include Ticketmaster and the Ask Jeeves search engine, than in its online travel properties.

On August 8, the New York Times wrote a piece that nicely summarized the many challenges facing the newly independent Expedia. In essence, Expedia profited handsomely during the economic downturn by buying blocks of hotel rooms on the cheap from the major hotel chains then reselling them at a markup. Hotels got badly needed money, but they ended up paying a high price in business disruption, not the least of which was enabling a third party to sell their hotel rooms less expensively than they could.

But now with an improving economy, the hotels are fighting back, aggressively pushing travelers to their own, much improved Web sites, which now always offer the best available room prices. Some chains have gone even further, and are now squeezing Expedia on standard booking commissions. Further, Expedia's many competitors have begun copying much of the Expedia business model. End result: much more competition and a less compelling product are both kicking in at the same time. Expedia is hardly out of the game, but it's going to be a tough battle going forward. And how does Expedia plan to distinguish itself and hold onto market share in this hotly competitive market? A new focus on content to help travelers make more informed travel purchases, an effort that will likely be fueled by another company that IAC included in the Expedia spin-off, TripAdvisor (a 2004 InfoCommerce Model of Excellence winner).

A second article in the New York Times on August 16 described the rapid growth and success of the managed corporate travel business. Managed corporate travel essentially involves a corporation pushing all its travel bookings through a single online travel agency in exchange for efficiencies and savings. One of the biggest players in this field, the article noted, is Expedia Corporate Travel.

Is there a contradiction here? Not at all. What it underscored are the essential differences between consumer and business markets, and the power of infocommerce.

Because consumer markets for almost anything tend to be huge, they attract lots of players. These players compete aggressively for market share, because consumer markets tend to depend on volume to make real money. To attract fickle consumers, the general pattern is for the competitors to start an arms race to offer the most content, the most features and the most functionality. It's an endless, expensive spiral, and many companies cripple themselves in the process of trying to cripple the competition. Worst of all, it's harder than ever to build loyalty among consumers, and more expensive than ever to try to remain front-of-mind with them.

In contrast, business information markets tend to be smaller but afford greater stability. Further, businesses still tend to consider other factors in the buying decision beyond price, such as dependability and functionality. Expedia Corporate Travel is doing so well in the corporate travel market because it's doing a lot more than booking cheap fares. In addition, it provides management tools, enforces corporate travel policies, provides sophisticated reporting and saves client companies money as well. By taking information (hotel and airline rates and schedules) and making it actionable (by taking reservations), Expedia adds value by improving productivity while controlling costs. By acting as a central corporate travel agency and providing management control and reporting, it embeds itself into corporate workflow so deeply it is almost impossible to dislodge.

Not all data providers can or want to take their customers all the way to a purchase, but what we should be striving towards is adding functionality to data so that it helps customers improve their efficiency and productivity. And that is the essence of infocommerce - to become part of internal customer workflow, where you can deliver the highest value while creating long-term customer dependency and significant switching costs. As the tale of the two Expedias illustrates, the future of data publishing is less linked to finding lots of new customers than pushing more deeply into the businesses of our existing ones.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Second Scoop for the Google Float: New Stock Issues Expected to Generate $4+ Billion in Capital

As covered by Bloomberg and other major outlets Google's SEC filing for a new issue of 14.2 million shares is expected to bring in a tidy sum for fueling its growth, in spite of the filing's warnings that its earnings growth is likely to slow in months ahead. What better time to build a war chest - before the sledding gets rougher? To some degree the acknowledged pressure on their earnings is a factor of success: as their AdSense network grows, more of their revenues come from partners who take a piece of the ad revenues. But to another degree it's an acknowledgement that building a brand with unique strengths will be expensive in the face of aggressive investments by Yahoo! and others to take a piece of Google's potential revenues in new and expanding markets such as China and mobile platforms. So far Google's response seems to be to invest in content technology companies that offer them the ability to generate unique content, such as Blogger or the Keyhole technology that powers their Google Earth multidimensional mapping capabilities. In the long run it's important to have unique content that knits in well with a unique positioning, but in the short term Google's reluctance to partner with or absorb cultures with a less Google-shaped view of the world just to tack on revenues is bound to slow their progress, even if it is progress in the right direction.

Some of Google's near-term growth must come via more intelligent treatment of its users as media consumers and of advertisers trying to deliver meaningful marketing messages to those consumers. Contextual ads as deployed today are useful but showing their limits as other ad networks offer both contextual ads and more sophisticated marketing capabilities. Hopefully a good portion of this new war chest also gets allocated towards facilitating content ecommerce for publishers trying to find valuable contexts for their premium content. If Google is a media company, as stated in some of its recent filings, then it's time to start investing in a strong media strategy that helps Google build valuable and well-integrated properties that fit in with both their mission and the changing landscape of publishing in specific markets and channels. This means getting down to specifics - and like its Google Earth product, the big picture of Google's media strategy is not always complemented with ground-level details. While Google's emerging media properties are likely to remain unconventional, learning how to play with conventional players more effectively to fill in those details is going to have to be a key part of the game. Google's growing up, to be sure, and sometimes growing up is not much fun, especially when the "adults" are afraid of you. But with money to burn, Google has some interesting options as it tries to keep growing in healthy directions.

Headlines for 18 August 2005

Google to Sell $4.2 Bln of Shares a Year After IPO
About.com boosts New York Times ad revenue
Survey: Google and Yahoo Lead in Customer Satisfaction
Yahoo embraces user-made content
Springer hires open access pioneer
Book Publishers Can't Buck the Web
Where Content on-the-go and Rich Mobile Media Services Meet
Rowse announces Six Figure Blogging program
Home Alone? How Content Aggregators Change Navigation and Control of Content
Finet Partners with Factiva to Expand Global Distribution Network
iPhrase Technologies Combines With IBM WebSphere Information Integrator OmniFind Edition
AuthentiDate Teams with RSA Security to Provide Simplified Enterprise Content User Authentication
IBM Data Transformation Software to Simplify Complex Integration Tasks in a Service Oriented Environment

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Jigsaw Highlights the Value of User-Maintained Business Contacts

Services such as Plaxo are handy for maintaining our own personal contact information, but when it comes to stretching beyond that domain most of us are stuck between navigating relationships in "six degrees" products such as LinkedIn or obtaining lists from business information suppliers. But what if you could chip in to a powerful database of contacts and get access to other people's contacts without having to shell out big bucks or reveal your private network? That's the concept behind Jigsaw, a service that amassed about 17,000 users and more than a million user-maintained contacts in just a few weeks, according to CNET News. Searching is free for registrants, who are given an initial "credit" of ten contacts to pick from the system. Credits can be amassed by adding contacts to the system, by maintaining contacts or via a $25 monthly fee for those not sure that they'll be chipping in a minimum of 25 contacts a month for free access. A maximum "credit line" of 300 points is in place, in their representing the number of contacts likely to be taken from the system in a year. Users can buy or sell "points" via an online community feature. Unlike other services Jigsaw encourages anonymity, providing a fungible business environment not unlike a securities exchange. This is powerful enough, but the kicker is that the sales-oriented contributors are also encouraged to provide data on contacts' companies such as revenue estimates. The theory is that it will take only a few educated guesses to come up with reasonably accurate estimates for hard-to-get numbers on private companies and the like. It's not high science, but as the database grows it may prove to be a useful approach to getting data on companies.

It will take some more momentum and contributions to build this out to a truly representative database, but it's a pretty healthy start for a fairly well designed service. There are some possible downsides to this system, to be sure. It could be that everyone gives junky contacts and data in hope of getting good content, and social databases tend to have a "sweet center" of content but get a little dodgy once content is outside of the interests of a core community. The business model is obviously in its early stages as well. But this is an excellent first pass at how individuals and institutions can take advantage of the people who are doing the most detailed research on contacts and companies: the people trying to get in to see them. With its moderated features it's a bit like a Wikipedia for business content, an omen that could turn out to be very positive in the long run. To all the business information companies I've been urging for years to take a look at how to use your users to collect quality business information, please indulge me in one brief moment of "I told you so." OK, that's enough.

Headlines for 17 August 2005

Jigsaw tries leveraging 'Wisdom of Crowds'
Google Buys Android for Its Mobile Arsenal
Consumers Want Personalized Online Experience but Are Cautious, Survey Says
The Rise Of RSS
LexisNexis Butterworths Launches Online Research Tool
Peppercoin secures $8m funding
San Francisco Chronicle Partners With The Korea Times
iVillage to Launch Web Search and Targeted Advertising by Yahoo!
Best Practice and Benchmarking DB Delivers Data to Executives' Desktops to Aid Strategic Decision Making
Yahoo! Redefines the Local Search Experience With New Neighborhood Focus

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Alacra Joins Premium Search Game with The Alacra Store

With Alacra's announcement of The Alacra Store beta we're finally getting somewhere with selling premium business content online in a way that is likely to make sense to business-oriented content purchasers aiming to pick up single reports and research. While it's still definitely a beta - a little rough in some of the details of navigation and needing some more robust document summaries - the overall design of the product is head and shoulders above the efforts of Yahoo! and compares very favorably to services from LexisNexis and Factiva. It comes with 30 sources so far, and while it's mostly PDF-format documents it's "the good stuff" by and large, not timid stuff. How do we like this tool? Let me count the ways:

- No login or complicated search syntax: just type and go
- Search box right on the front page, with options to search by keyword, company and publisher
- Search results are very well designed. Instead of a blob of relevance-ranked results (are they ever really relevant on relatively tiny collections?) results are categorized by type of business information - for company searches categories are Company Profile, Economic Data, Investment Research Market Research, News, Share Ownership, Executives, Credit Research - and then by publisher within category with country of content origin and other helpful indicators. The top results for each publisher are displayed, with a "more results" link allowing a flat display of results by publisher for the search terms.
- Alacra is working to make this content highly ranked in search engine results, both on open searches and new premium searches from search portals such as Yahoo!
- More features coming, including an RSS feed for updates to queries

I'd show you an example with a link, but so far search results are not bookmarkable - put that one in the enhancement queue, please. Try my standard "general motors" query to get an idea of the range of content.

As Rafat Ali points out in PaidContent.org nobody's likely to use this tool to buy $8 news stories, but that's not the real point of this tool. The point is to provide a true browsing environment for business information consumers structured in a way that's likely to appeal to people looking for particular kinds of specialized business-oriented content for specific business and research purposes. Most importantly, most of the content is stuff that's REALLY not found on the Web, and it's generally easy to understand which is which via this tool. The search engine metaphor is a nice entry into the store, but with finite collections absolute relevance oftentimes is not as important as useful categorization, as is provided in The Alacra Store. In this sense it's kind of a hybrid approach, walking ground that falls between the Hoover's and OneSource portal offerings and the Yahoo! and Google search offerings. For those looking to cherry-pick specific types of research and reports The Alacra Store offers a very useful and usable alternative to other premium search tools that's well designed for business content users. We'll see if the price points hold, but my guess is that purchasers in the know will come to understand the value proposition pretty quickly.

Headlines for 16 August 2005

Bancroft Booty: Younger Clan Members Push Anew for Dow Jones & Co. Sale
Yahoo!, Google search for upper hand
Google's growing pains: A year after its IPO, despite soaring stock, firm adjusts to growth
RFID Positioned to Aid Measurement of Traditional Print: Pilots Offer New Possibilities
Penton reports lower revenue, narrower loss
Hoover's Expands Access to News
News Corp. Eyes Search Engine Blinkx
Yahoo!'s edge?
Econometrics Buzzes Ad World As a Way of Measuring Results
From Web page to Web platform
Feedster Develops New Ranking System to Identify The Top 500 Blogs
Alacra Launches the Alacra Store, a New E-Commerce Site for Consumers to Purchase Premium Content
Wolters Kluwer Appoints Leonard P. Forman to Its Supervisory Board
OneSource and Sales Performance International Partner to Boost Sales and Marketing Effectiveness
McGraw-Hill Higher Education and Zinio Offer High-Tech, Lower-Cost ebooks to College Students
One in 10 Weblog Readers Personalizes Content with RSS Feeds, According to Nielsen//NetRatings
Thomson Financial Partners With Reel Biography To Deliver Corporate Video Online
Viyya Technologies Signs Reseller Agreement With Nationwide Internet
Business Wire is Now Available On Infobolsa, Leading Equities News Service Serving Euro, Latam Markets

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Monday, August 15, 2005

News Analysis - Return on Context: Thomson Scientific to Measure Content's Contextual Value

As publishers and content services wrestle with content collection managers to prove out their slice of institutional library budgets based on collection user stats, Thomson Scientific is looking beyond traditional stats to come up with measurements of how content gets used and cited beyond the collection. While its forthcoming Collection Development Manager may be fairly limited in scope it's an important step towards helping collection managers to understand the return on a content investment in the context in which published content is most valued by its users. Think of "return on context" as the new measurement for weighing the total value of content to an institution's intellectual capital - and start thinking how you're going to be doing it some time soon.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

College Students Win with McGraw-Hill Digital Textbooks Powered by Zinio

Tis the season for full page color inserts featuring college dorm room accessories, and discounts on the requisite PC's. Just announced for fall classes, students fortunate enough to be taking courses with McGraw Hill textbooks will get an additional option for buying their books--the first digital textbooks that really make sense. The initial attraction for cash starved students is the price--approximately half the cost of the print version, reflecting lower distribution and production costs. But even more importantly, the Zinio book technology is next generation digital books, reflecting the ability to incorporate multi-media elements, web links, notes and full text search capabilities into an eye-pleasing page flipping format that looks exactly like the print version, down to the page numbers.

Kudos to McGraw-Hill for their forward thinking--unlike other digital textbook programs, there is no expiration date on purchased electronic books, and pages can be printed. Purchased books can be accessed both online and offline, easing the problems of Web access and the occasional PC crash or theft. As adjunct faculty member teaching a distance learning class in online searching, I would highly recommend this quality of digital textbook if it were available as an alternative to my students, particularly those who do not have access to a physical bookstore or who reside overseas. McGraw-Hill has the advantage of first hand success with digital versions of their business publications, so understands the opportunity in these new markets. Now to convince more publishers that digital books really do make sense, from both a marketing and a college experience!

Trillion Dollar Baby: VSS Forecast Sees Communications Industry Topping Thirteen Figures by 2009

The annual communications industry forecast announced today by media investors Veronis Suhler Stevenson sees healthy growth across the board over the next few years for publishers, media outlets and related services providers, adding up to a total industry forecast of $1 trillion revenues by 2009, fueled by an average ten hours a day of content consumption and an average $1,000 annual per capita expenditure. By VSS's reckoning this would make content the fourth largest and fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy in the '04-'09 period. While the overall forecast of 6.8 growth for 2005 is down somewhat from 2004's 7.3 percent growth rate, institutional end-user spending on content is up to a healthy 7.2 percent growth rate ($187 billion total market), eclipsing growth in consumer spending for the first time since 2001. Wherefore all of those "flat" institutional content budgets? If we look past traditional subscription patterns, spending is certainly healthy on value-add services for end users that enhance the value of content, helping to drive this growth. Also of interest is a predicted slip in time spent with ad-driven content, predicted to be down to 54.9 percent by 2009 from today's 56.8 percent. Where are they ad eyeballs and ears going? To subscription and interactive content, with outlets such as wireless content services dulling the ad roar for user-focused aggregation services.

VSS has tweaked its model somewhat this year to provide a more robust picture of the industry that looks more towards where it's heading than where it's been in the past twenty years. The results are more interesting and, hopefully, more usable for content executives trying to build out business plans in this changing environment.

Headlines for 15 August 2005

Inside Yahoo's China Gambit
Academia's quest for the ultimate search tool
Libraries overbooked on sharing
ABC Rules Change Fallout: BusinessWeek Misses Rate Base
RFID Positioned to Aid Measurement of Traditional Print: Pilots Offer New Possibilities
An IPod for Your Thoughts: A Web Site Offers Incentives to Reviewers
Reading websites, RSS, ebooks, text adventures, apps, games and more on a watch...
Yahoo! Health Launches New Blogging Content, Featuring Health Experts and Celebrities
Veronis Suhler Stevenson's 2005 Forecast Reveals Accelerated Growth as ''New Media Order'' Transforms
Penton Media Allies with Global Sources/CMP Media Joint Venture to Serve System Designers in China
Autonomy Upgrades Idol Mobile, Bringing Personalized Retrieval and Information Delivery
Elsevier Develops Account Management Tool For Customers
Pubsub to deliver search to KnowNow’s Enterprise Syndication Solution

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

News by Committee: Common Times Uses Social Bookmarking to Create News Outlet

I peek in on the del.icio.us social bookmarking service regularly but find it frustrating at times. In its less actively maintained categories it can be more like a content flea market than a reliable outlet, though useful for picking up buzz and trendy ideas. One such item that came to light recently was also a social bookmarking tool - the Common Times news portal, a brainchild of the Common Media project to build directories of freely available content on the Web. Common Times looks at the most popular headline suggestions from news around the Web collected by social bookmarks and builds them into a very professional-looking news portal supplemented with an alphabetic "heat map" of topic popularity as well as a ranking of most popular news sources. As it is meant to attract the "open content" crowd the focus of the bookmarks takes on a predictable slant but it's an impressive packaging of the concept. Common Media intends to use the service to encourage financial donations for folks wanting to post multimedia content on their portal, so there's even a monetization model that has some relevance. Portal services such as Yahoo! can tell users which are popular headlines as well, but there's not an effort to use this as an explicit basis to build news streams purely on analyzing user-driven categorization. As with del.icio.us, Common Times is a great showcase for the potential of social bookmarking for building valuable context for content assets, but taking the concept one step further to demonstrate how a user-driven news service could go from geekishness to user-friendly usefulness.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Yes, Virginia, There is a Publishing Industry: Google Regroups on Book Scanning Program

As noted by CNET News and Google's own weblog there are strong indications that Google has not only been listening to vocal publishers' concerns about their Google Print Publisher program but actually deciding not to ignore them. Publishers had been very vocally opposed to Google's scanning of materials under copyright provided by major university libraries. There will be a pause in the scanning of these materials until November to allow publishers to communicate via the Publisher program which volumes being scanned are fine for scanning and which are to be excluded. This makes eminent sense for all involved, especially Google, which is becoming more aware of the revenue opportunities to be had via sensible cooperation with content sources that want to monetize their publications. For out-of-print books one can imagine the ability of users who encounter them via the Google Print capability and to order up a print-on-demand copy of the volume - with proceeds going to copyright holders as appropriate.

As we've mentioned in earlier entries it's kind of amusing that publishers have left this opportunity as fallow ground until Google decided to plow it, so the ruckus they've raised about the scanning program is in some ways far less about copyright per se and more about publishers awakening to the opportunities for books online rather late in the game. Perhaps publishers will begin to take eBook packaging a little more seriously thanks to the Google program. In the meantime Google is at least beginning a more productive dialog with publishers to establish the foundation of an appropriate commercial framework that honors rights holders and that will help content consumers to honor them as well.

Truth and Consequences

A few weeks ago, CNET published an article about Google. To create some interest, the article kicked off with some information obtained via Google about Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO. The specific information published about Schmidt was by today's standards pretty banal: town of residence, money made selling Google stock, political contributions and a tidbit or two about his outside interests. None of it was all that revealing.

Google's reaction to the story has to merit an award for tone-deaf public relations: it banned everyone at Google from talking to anyone at CNET for one year. Yes, CNET is being punished for using Google to write an article about Google. Irony and hypocrisy abound. But beyond the quick yucks, there is a much bigger issue: to varying degrees, we've all been throwing data together so quickly and on such a grand scale that we haven't really stopped to consider the consequences of our work. Putting all the information in the world under one index is indeed an activity rife with implications, and even less ambitious attempts to gather and disseminate data have issues associated with them. And these issues actually grow as you become more successful at what you do.

Many of us now have data products based in whole or in part on data mining, assembling data gathered on an automated basis from all over the Web. Getting data assembled properly is no small feat, and there can be consequences if it is not correct. This isn't just an issue for consumer information, as the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in its famous Greenmoss decision. Nor is it just an issue for financial information. It's only a matter of time before some company is passed over for a contract, or some individual is passed over for a job based on an incorrectly aggregated data profile, and then watch the legal fireworks. Blazing new ground can be risky.

Similarly, we all need to remain focused and clear on why we collect and report certain information. We've all seen the spate of recent headlines about identity theft. The real question for many of these data providers, one not publicly addressed, is "what were you doing with all that information in the first place?" Which of your customers had legitimate uses for it and why? To hear some of these data providers talk, you'd come away convinced that private investigators were the largest and most lucrative market out there. Hardly. Talk to these data providers privately, and they will quickly admit that the main reason they aggregated all this personal information was because they could, and because when it comes to information, more is always perceived to be better. In many cases, those data aggregators most loudly proclaiming that "more is better" are the ones that know the least about their customers and how their data is being used.

I've been very bullish about rating systems and user recommendations as a way to add value to databases, and still am. Yet I will acknowledge there is a dark underbelly here as well. We spend a lot of time worrying about attempts to game these systems to achieve undeservedly high scores. But there are also cases of consumers using rating and referral services to punish businesses they take a dislike to, sometimes for the pettiest reasons. Some businesses are saying that negative comments hurt them financially, and that the data publishers behind these systems are disinclined to get involved in the messy business of arbitrating disputes, so they are left with no avenue of appeal.

Our vision of infocommerce is that data, properly formed and properly delivered, becomes more valuable to customers, who rely on it more. That's a great business model, but with increased reliance ON our data, there comes increased responsibility FOR our data, and what we are seeing now is just a sampling of some of the heightened level of scrutiny to come. We must be ready with a thoughtful policy that protects interests that extend far beyond our own businesses.

Headlines for 12 August 2005

Google pauses library project
Yahoo! Acquires 40% of Chinese Site Alibaba for $1 Billion; Inbox Robot Offers Extended News Coverage
ValueClick Acquires Fastclick
Books, Not Tales, Get Taller Before Baby Boomers' Eyes
New iriver Flash Players Support Subscription Services
Acxiom boosts risk mitigation with InsightAmerica acquisition
Answers.com Partners with Opera
New RSS Feeds Feature from BiotechConnection.com Gives Alerts on Product and Industry News
Moreover Provides Content for Information360
CCH Insurance Services Announces Eight New AuthenticWeb Matrices Covering Life Insurer Topics
Reed Elsevier Texas Deal Worth EUR75M

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bloomberg's PhatPipe: Race to the Bottom?

The recent announcement of Bloomberg's PhatPipe financial market data feed comes at an odd time for these kinds of products. Major investment banks are turning increasingly to direct exchange feeds for low-latency market data, even as vendors such as Reuters boast of sub-millisecond performance on their big pipes to keep up with the needs of computer-driven trading strategies. Why would Bloomberg want to step into this hornets' nest of competition to try to keep up with this highly commoditized side of the financial information business? To some degree the answer is: they're not.

While it's not improbable that Bloomberg may nibble a little market share from Reuters in the larger data feed installations it's more a matter of keeping up with the plethora of trading platforms that are driving a new generation of financial market analytics and electronic trading. The Bloomberg as a desktop unit is still a prestigious product and highly valued by those used to its ways and its depth of tools, but it may be facing a generation gap as traders become more used to more technology-driven interfaces into financial market information that are designed to solve more complex financial trading and analysis scenarios, oftentimes using information gleaned from sources other than traditional market data providers. Keeping these existing clients loyal to the Bloomberg name as they migrate onto new platforms is a key survival strategy, but not one that's likely to take a Reuters head-on any time soon for high-octane exchange-oriented trading.

At the same time the core of Bloomberg's unique strengths as a content network - its messaging service carrying a wide range of off-exchange deals and matrix-priced fixed income data - are also giving way to rapidly strengthening electronic markets that rely less on the "I am not afraid to pick up the phone to make a deal" players for bonds and other less liquid markets. So the more liquid these markets become via trading networks, the less important these unique Bloomberg strengths become. There's no choice but to follow these more open markets onto more the more open platforms increasingly preferred by traders active in these less time-sensitive markets.

Given Bloomberg's ongoing strength as a market brand it still has a huge reservoir of budgeted-in strength at major institutions that is not likely to fade for a few years. But as more deals begin to flow to a broader array of off-exchange execution channels and flow through back office infrastructure provided by other vendors, the niches in which Bloomberg represents a unique and undisputed channel between buy side and sell side institutions are going to narrow fairly quickly. Going the "big pipe" datafeed route is a necessity to ensure their brand presence in these changing times, but it could represent the beginning of a "race to the bottom" for all market data vendors as a new strong player makes itself available for price wars.

Headlines for 11 August 2005

News Corp's Murdoch: No Bigger Priority Than Internet
Bidding Up Local Ads: Newspapers Bypass Google With Services Auctioning Online Spots to Businesses
Tracking the Latest Trends at Law Libraries
Web's Wikipedia to tighten editorial rules-founder
Web Increasingly Cluttered By Sites Full of Paid Links
30 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do on the Internet
SchemaLogic Expands Business Alliance with IBM to Enhance WebSphere Enterprise Search Capabilities
ZDNet creates site for government IT professionals
Merger Creates SirsiDynix - a Global Leader of Information Technology Solutions for Libraries
Electronic Discovery Firm Cataphora Strengthens Presence in Key Legal Markets

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Headlines for 10 August 2005

Jupiter forecasts online advertising will reach $18.9 billion by 2010
Barry Diller helps Ask Jeeves get in shape
In Sale of Marketing News Sites, Jupitermedia Looks to Images as Main Revenue Stream
Entitlement management systems: Next-generation management for broadband services and content
KnowledgeStorm to Launch Vertical Search
Doing a Vertical Search
As blogging blooms in China, firms aim to cash in
Web Sites Have Sex(es) Appeal
Recall Ability: Web Content Versus Print Content
Envisioning RSS as a Web 2.0 platform
Tripos and Elsevier MDL Form Strategic Alliance; Companies to Provide Integrated Informatics Platform
Endeca Announces New Government Search & Analysis Solutions
FAST Introduces a New Standard for Application-Based Search
Elsevier MDL Inks 63,000-SF HQ Relocation Lease

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Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Headlines for 9 August 2005

Yahoo! In Talks On Record China Investment
New York Times Takes Job Site Stake
Web search ads to top banners by 2010
IBM To Open Source Enterprise Search
CommonTimes: News Your Choose
Wiki-mania: free Wikipedia gets more traffic than the New York Times and USA Today combined
Google News does RSS at long, long, long… last
Growing with Knowledge Management
ebrary Inks Deals With Top International Publishers
Elsevier Buys MediMedia’s Medical Publishing Businesses
BusinessWeek Online Integrates ZoomInfo People Search; Researching Newsmakers Made Fast
Northern Light Acquires Analyst Direct and Analyst Views

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Monday, August 8, 2005

On the Light Side: Why Do Media Companies Discover the Present When It's the Past?

The entertainment industry is not our focus but Jon Fine over at BusinessWeek has a nice piece "Late To The Download Dance" that describes how the beleaguered radio industry has come up with this wacky new idea: sell downloads on their Web sites for the songs that they broadcast! Gosh, what will they think of next. It's amazing how this scenario gets played over again and again as media outlets encounter new technologies. Hey, I've got a great idea: why don't we start selling DVDs in the lobbies of movie theatres so that they can capitalize on people's enthusiasm for a movie when it's at its peak? Better yet, why not feature funky films that are developing a cult online following that can build "long tail" demand for in-lobby DVD sales, which in turn can build demand for on-screen presentations? What, you mean we movie theatre operators can survive on something other than tickets and popcorn? You mean we can choose what films we want to market? Or why not take the multiplex concept one step further and have premium "home theatre" screening rooms that people can rent out for on-demand custom small-scale showings at premium prices?

But no, it's just the same old folks hawking the same old ideas to the usual suspects...thank goodness for the Web.

IBM Launches Text Analysis Framework to Unify Vendor Analytics

In a well-orchestrated announcement IBM launched its WebSphere Information Integrator OmniFind Edition (what a mouthful!), a new software package that simplifies the integration of content extracted from unstructured content into searches and applications. Based on the free and open source Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA) developed and promoted by IBM, the new capability provides a common framework for vendors to supply their text mining and analytics capabilities into IBM WebSphere installations. The list of content technology and services vendors opting in to this framework reads like and All-Star list: Attensity, ClearForest, Cognos, Endeca, Factiva, Kana, Inquira, iPhrase, Inxight, nStein, QL2, SAS, Schemalogic, Semagix, SPSS, and Temis. The Web was ablaze with press releases from these vendors announcing their individual capabilities within the new framework.

IBM has been strengthening WebSphere's position as an enterprise platform for value-add content extensively over the past few years, culminating with this latest advance in a much stronger venue for value-add vendors to strut their stuff with both clients' content and content from premium vendors and open Web sources. It's great news for companies specializing in content analytics, offering them an easy integration framework that can accelerate the ROI cycle for their offerings, but perhaps somewhat less rosy news for Microsoft and other integrators who are just beginning to pick up the scent on mining unstructured content's full value. Making premium content analytics-friendly is an art and science still in its infancy for many publishers, but this announcement may accelerate the importance and awareness of these kinds of applications amongst publishers and have them pause and think about how their offerings can be made more valuable to enterprise text miners.

News Analysis - Express Yourself: Major Business Publishers Search for Winning Online Brands

American Business Media's "B2B Meets..." events draw top-drawer panelists to chat about key topics in the world of business publishing. The most recent session was supposed to be focused on the impact of weblogs and RSS on business publishing, but much of the talk from the blue-ribbon panelists was about how their editorial operations are still focused on getting the basics of their online brands right. The good news is that they are succeeding in expressing their brands in many instances, but it's with a recognition that they're used to creating a product that's far different than what many born-on-the-Web content brands are able to assemble. Seismic these changes may be, but the shaking has hardly begun.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 8 August 2005

Primedia to sell specialized business publications to Wasserstein for $385 million
Factiva Debuts Reputation Tool
Weblogs Inc. To Make $1 Million A Year From AdSense?
CNET: We've been blackballed by Google
IBM plans to podcast audio white papers
Analyze This: Combining Data
Fewer Tools, Smarter Searches
ClearForest and iPhrase to Offer Support Automation Solutions to the Manufacturing and Technology Sectors
IBM Enterprise Search Software to Enable Discovery and Analysis of Information On Demand
ClearForest Debuts IBM Open Source Text Analytics for Quality, Fraud Detection and Customer Loyalty
KANA Unstructured Content Analysis to Support New Open Source Text Analytics Framework from IBM

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Friday, August 5, 2005

Inbox Report: Gartner Sells off Custom Research Unit to GCR

OK, here's your pop quiz: does GCR stand for Gartner Custom Research or Griggs-Anderson Research? As of today it stands for both, as Gartner has decided to sell off its custom research business unit to GCR Custom Research, formerly Griggs-Anderson Research. The email announcement circulating this afternoon notes that GCR will continue to provide primary research services to Gartner for the next eight years as a part of the purchase agreement. A nice piece of outsourcing at a time when Gartner and other major I.T. research houses are trying to find the meatier part of the business. Standing field research units are useful but increased Web surveying, tools such as online sales lead generation services and Web statistics analysis are building shorter paths to understanding market behavior. These capabilities are important to Gartner but require shifting the mix of skill sets. Better to have existing custom research skill sets deployed where their pipelines can be filled more easily across a broader range of market sectors. Sounds like a good move for both parties, and a continuation of Gartner's focus on getting its margins to be as healthy as possible in a shifting market for I.T. research services.

Know Thy Customer

I opened up two recently purchased music CD's yesterday and found they both contained postcards I could fill out to get on the mailing list for the music labels producing the CD's. I have seen this in scattered instances before, and what's particularly interesting to me is that only the small labels ever seem to bother, even though the cost to insert a postcard into a jewel case is virtually zero, and the information gained can be priceless. Yet for whole segments of the publishing industry, the customer continues to be an intermediary, not a true end-user.

I've never been particularly excited about any form of publishing where there isn't some direct connection with the end-user. I say this even for advertising-based publications. Many print publishers to this day continue to rent lists and ship out their ad-based publications to strangers, hoping that the large quantity they are sending out will compensate for their lack of knowledge about who they are sending to. This happens with many ad-based Web sites as well, with publishers evaluating their success based on level of site traffic -- eyeballs -- with no real knowledge of the users behind that traffic

Subscription-based publishers usually have better information on the end-user, but not always. Many data publishers sell a significant percentage of their subscriptions to libraries. Even when the customer appears to be an individual in a company, the subscription ends up in an internal information center, and the individual subscriber of record may not use the information at all.
Of course, many data products are sold through distributors and aggregators, another type of intermediary sale where the ultimate user is unknown. Distributors have traditionally been loathe to release any end-user usage information. I can remember sitting in meetings when Dialog ruled the roost, begging and pleading for the tiniest shred of information on who might be using our content. Ironically, with aggregators and distributors increasingly feeding corporate intranets, even they don't truly know the ultimate user anymore

Interestingly, a lot of publishers are wringing their hands and worrying about maintaining their brands in an environment where information distribution is increasingly anonymous and diffuse. The focus on branding content is in one sense an admission of defeat: publishers are effectively saying, "I probably will never know who you are, so I want you to at least know who I am." Presumably these end-users will then seek out the publisher directly for additional content. At least, that's the hope But this is not the time for passivity when it comes to knowing your customers. It's not just a sales issue. It means understanding how and why your content is being used, and intermediaries will never be able to truly answer that question for you. Because if you don't know exactly who is using your data, as well as how and why it is being used, you won't be able to apply the high-value infocommerce characteristics that are critical to continued success and growth.

Headlines for 5 August 2005

Congress Seeks to Better Regulate ChoicePoint, Other Data Brokers
In 'Seismic' Shift to E-Media, Business Titles Leverage Content—and Their Newsrooms
Yahoo's new search master
While Web publishers slept: RSS advances
Storm clouds gather over podcasting
Primedia’s Q2 financial statement has few details about status of business information unit
Giving Reviews the Thumbs Down
Times Names Editor for Internet Publishing
AP, News Corp. Combining Sports Operations
BitPass and The Royal Bank of Scotland Team-Up on Foreign Exchange for Digital Content Sales

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Thursday, August 4, 2005

Take Two: Factiva Tries Again on Reputation Management

Well, unfortunately we were right about Factiva's first attempt at a reputation management system. It's ill-fated experiment with IBM's Web Fountain infrastructure fizzled when it just didn't deliver the horsepower and sophistication to support an enterprise-quality analysis tool. But in its newly announced form using new technology that will complement its other efforts to develop content that's relevant to sales and marketing professionals. This iteration uses scavenging and analysis tools from Intelliseek, creator of the popular BlogPulse weblog analysis service. Like the "original recipe" version Factiva's current stab at reputation management combines content from subscription sources and Web sources such as weblogs and message boards to help companies monitor what the "buzz" is on their brands and products, combined with financial analysis and sales lead information.

So will this pass at reputation management fare any better? I think that there are two things going for this renewed effort. First, Factiva is using technology for analysis that is well-proven in the open content marketplace rather than hatched in the bowels of a corporate "skunk works". Secondly Factiva has moved forward in its ability to support sales and marketing professionals with more advanced tools that meet their workflow needs, so this capability has a better sales pitch surrounding it overall. But at the end of the day it's a fairly thin advantage that will have a hard time improving the value of Factiva's core subscription content holdings, content that's usually several ticks behind on the buzz beat these days. This appears to add up to Factiva needing to decide whether it wants to be in the general aggregation business or in the sales and marketing intelligence business. In the meantime, hopefully this new stab at reputation management will begin to fuel a more powerful and profitable sales pitch to sales and marketing professionals.

The $50 Million Dollar Site that Could: Will Topix Pay Off?

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Rafat Ali over at PaidContent.org for digging through the SEC filings on just what investments were made by newspaper bigs in the Topix.net news portal. Gannett, Knight-Ridder and the Tribune Company purchased three-fourths of Topix.net, as announced in March, worth about $50 million as a combined investment by Rafat's calculations. Individually these are chicken feed kick-ins from the major paper chains and a pretty good payback given that the Alexa stats for Topix show that since just prior to the March acquisition traffic is up more than 50 percent. Putting this in perspective, Topix traffic is ranked at 2,238 amongst all top-level domains on the Web, compared with the Wall Street Journal online at 639, Reuters at 396, Gannett's USA Today at 226 and The New York Times at 106 (Other sites such as Google, Yahoo!, ABC News and BBC News are in the top echelon of sites also but Alexa stats to not break out news pages separately). Pretty impressive for a Web site born in 2002. Topix aggregates news content from a wide range of mainstream news publications, showing its strength most effectively in localizing news searches by U.S. Zip codes and in effective use of general news categories. In addition to Google AdSense ads, Topix sells preferred placement in its categories to news providers wanting to stand out above search results.

We expect Topix to continue to grow appeal as a closed but relatively neutral source of open online content aggregation, building appeal for news browsers who prefer to get an objective categorization and search service without the hassles of subscription-based aggregation services. Topix gets quality news placed where users value news the most with familiar brand names and quality "born on the Web" content, both in the portal and via RSS feeds. Its search capabilities are not as strong as leading news portals such as Google News once you get past well-defined categories, or as sophisticated in its filtering capabilities as a Factiva or LexisNexis, but for most news browsers it will be quite satisfying. As to whether Topix, like many other news aggregation portals, can manage to get much cash flow off of limited ad capabilities remains to be seem but in the meantime it's helping major news outlets to contextualize their content pretty effectively. Not a bad investment by major news outlets learning to rub shoulders with Web content more effectively - all for chump change.

Headlines for 4 August 2005

Knight Ridder, Gannett, MediaNews Strike Blockbuster Deal
Yahoo tests audio search service
Low-key Topix.net tries to recreate a journalist's brain with computers
Web publishers: Adapt or else
Yahoo! Publisher Network to Compete with AdSense
Rocketinfo Launches RSS Enterprise
Profits disappoint at Wolters Kluwer
News Corp. Chief Discusses the Newspaper Business
Mobile downloads to overtake the net
Living la vida Craigslist

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Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Headlines for 3 August 2005

NYT merges print, online newsrooms
ClickZ Sold to Incisive for $43 Million
The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth
Yahoo, Microsoft Enhance Ad Focus
Can Google Stay Google?
Is RSS Feed Branding The Next Wave?
Blogs Rule ! - A New Blog Every Second
Corporate Blogging Gaining Momentum
WebEx Snaps Up Intranets.com
Thomson Announces US$400 Million Debenture Offering
FinancialContent Seeks Beta-Testers for Financial Podcast Services at StreetIQ.com

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Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Headlines for 2 August 2005

Topix Got About $50 Million in Acquisition
Oracle To Buy Assets Of Context Media
Thomson aims to gauge full impact
Larry Kramer on CBSNews.com, Transparency, and Having 1,500 Employees for a Web Site
High Blood Pressure: Doctors Sever Ties With Medical Journal
Voyager deal fuels gains at ProQuest
AOL, Ask Jeeves log double-digit growth in searches
This Pod Is Brought To You By...Current Tries New Sponsorship Models
Elsevier and MediMedia MAP Partner in Health
In-Stat Opens Office in Beijing
Content Analyst Company Appoints Julie Hartigan Senior Technology Officer
Thomson Financial Names William Krivoshik Chief Technology Officer

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Monday, August 1, 2005

News Analysis - Now See Here: Online Video Enters the Mainstream of Business Content Services

Corporate video services supplying broadcast TV footage used to be rather sleepy affairs, forwarding tapes and transcripts well after broadcasts had aired. Today's Web-oriented video environment is changing this snoozy status quo rather rapidly, though. In addition to consumer-oriented moves by Yahoo!, Google and others, business-oriented Web services that can trigger awareness of online broadcasts seconds after they hit the airwaves are beginning to catch on in the marketplace. These services offer invaluable strategic and tactical input to corporate and governmental professionals, as well as a nifty supplemental revenue stream for broadcast outlets now able to reach behind-the-firewall online audiences. It's a young marketplace that's developing far more rapidly than many may imagine - a sure sign that more imagination may be required to harness profits from it sooner rather than later.

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Headlines for 1 August 2005

Pearson names financial executive to be chairman
U.S. Equity Partners places bid for Primedia’s b-to-b unit
Google tries to patent Web syndication ads
Yahoo to Partner With CNN, ABC for Video
IAC's Ask Jeeves Changes Search Ad Price Program to Provide Bids
Radically Rethinking Magazine Retail Sales
New File-Sharing Techniques Are Likely to Test Court Decision
Order From Chaos Via RSS
Pluck-y Approach to RSS Version 2.0
SarbOx celebrates third birthday, opinion slowly shifting
LexisNexis, Critical Mention Ally to Deliver TV Video Search and Print News Clips via LexisNexis AlaCarte!

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