Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Buying Digital Conference: Cadmus 3Path Delivers More Sophisticated Digital Payloads

I spoke at the Buying Digital Content conference today, part of Information Today's new multi-track conference held together by their InfoX vendor showcase. While the conference format could use a little tuning, it was interesting to see the cross-section of vendors participating in the event. Most were spot-on in the center of the developing market for institutional content that is bleeding away from the traditional SLA/ALA set and yet still far from the I.T. focus offered by other venues. Yet conflicts with older business models still exist. An interesting example of this was Cadmus' 3Path content packaging and delivery solution. 3Path sets up a private delivery channel for a publication to a user's electronic desktop via software that pulls news content down from a publisher's site into a rights-protected local library. Using Cadmus' dPub software a publisher can move beyond simple "emagazine" page-flipping and embed links, audio, video and Web-like presentation to their desktop presentation. A browser-like interface allows interchanges with the publisher's customer service capability. Great stuff for print publishers trying to adapt to an electronic environment in a way that makes sense within well-established print business models.

But does this really make sense from a content consumers' perspective? 3Path gives each publisher a presence on a desktop via a branded icon within which lies the body of the desktop publication. In other words, each publication appears as a little island of content, cut off from any ability of the user to collate it, assemble it into a larger library of useful personal and external content objects, to enhance it or to share the content with others within the bounds of licensing and reuse standards. In their strident efforts to maintain existing methods of capturing and maintaining subscribers within established performance measurement metrics publishers are missing out on opportunities to use desktop presences as new leverage points for providing value to both their subscribers and their advertisers. What if, for example, an article from that desktop presence in the hands of an implementer could be forwarded to a person with purchasing authority? What an opportunity to slot in a whole new ad regime and marketing approach. What if the content in downloaded digital payloads could be revisited and refreshed regularly with new content, interactivity and functionality as a core element of the subscription package? What if, as with RSS, publisher feeds could be easily re-syndicated to new audiences in rights-restricted formats that could be activated on the recipients' desktops as more full-blown digital services?

Cadmus and other services such as Zinio are doing a good job of servicing publishers trying to leverage more value from their print model on desktops, but they'll be far better served by moving to flip their models and to help publishers to deliver "electronic-first" premium payloads to users that are well-adapted to the power of individuals as agents in the publishing process. Out of those payloads can come print-friendly presentations and even custom print products (want to have a finger in the bidding for a self-designed magazine before it's printed?). We see hints of this in Cadmus' 3Path, but the hints need to become less subtle for publishers to catch up with the shifting value of user-managed content.
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