Monday, October 31, 2005

News Analysis - Potato Heads: Silicon Valley's Content Leaders Keep Basic Research a Priority

Basic research is at the heart of many of the companies in Silicon Valley that are driving the value in publishing today. When the revenue and margin leaders in electronic publishing are plunking down 10 percent of their budgets on R&D it's hard to imagine how traditional publishers and aggregators are going to wheel and deal their way to a superior position against these competitors any time soon. When robust R&D is at the heart of your company's culture, innovations that surface as highly profitable products just seem to follow naturally. It takes more than R&D types to understand today's publishing environment, but if you're not attracting the best and the brightest of them you've got to wonder what tomorrow will bring to your bottom line.

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Headlines for 31 October 2005

ABM survey shows surge in digital media
BtoB Online
Google Wants to Dominate Madison Avenue, Too

The New York Times*
How Google Milks Money From Web Search Better Than Rivals

Dow Jones via SmartMoney.com
Elsevier Poised to Enter Business Intelligence Market
Managing Information
Britannica Gets It
CRN
E-books attract young writers

Financial Express
Comprehensive Listing of Del.icio.us Tools, Plugins and Add-ons for Social Bookmarking

Kris Krug
PointRoll Ignites Local-Market Advertising on the Web with PaperBoy Local Delivery(TM)

BusinessWire
Speculation Swirls: Primedia Selling Pieces, Planning
Liquidation

FOLIO: Magazine
Social Content Web Site Digg Secures $2.8 Million Series A Funding

BusinessWire
REITcafe Launches First Website Focused on REIT Podcasts

PR Newswire
The Internet Archive Chooses LuraTech's Scanning Capture and PDF Compressor for Open Library Project
BusinessWIre

Friday, October 28, 2005

Greetings from Monterey: Internet Librarian 2005, Libraries Embracing Web Technologies.

Now in its ninth year, this annual gathering has become the must attend conference for information professionals involved in Internet and Web based strategies. Presenters and attendees are at the forefront of implementing search technologies to deliver library services in innovative ways, with lessons learned from public, academic and corporate settings. Even Google, noticeably absent in previous conferences, participated this year, with challenging questions from this group of expert users, familiar with the dark side of information not acknowledged in the Google mantra.

- Keynote speaker Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet and American Life Project, spoke on
"Shifting Worlds: Internet Librarians at the Forefront", focusing on changes in Internet usage from the previous year (he was also a keynote last year) and the social implications. Internet technology, per se, is increasingly part of the fabric of everyday life and increasingly simply included in applications, such as public toilets in France with IP addresses and RFID tags on golf balls. Though broadband penetration has increased significantly in the last year, there is still a sizable component of the population termed
"cold" users (approximately 20% of adults) who do not use the Internet, due to philosophy or indifference, with an additional group of
"tepid" users who choose dialup, rather than the more expensive broadband.
Libraries are uniquely positioned to provide an
"Information Habit" for reflection as well as expertise thus meeting the
"long tail" needs of these groups, as well as the "hot" users (87% of American teenagers!).

- Elizabeth Lane
Lawley's
keynote speech on "Social Computing & the Information
Professional' was a whirlwind of evolving trends she observes in a dual role as founding Director, Rochester Institute of Technology Lab for Social Computing, as well as Visiting Researcher, Microsoft, bridging the worlds of information technology and libraries. Making search better is a function of social networks, such as del.icio.us rather than technology algorithms which try to mimic a good librarian. Social software functions as recommendations of various
"friends" to help find trusted information.. Another trend is
"partial continuous attention" as an emerging reality of social interactions juggling technologies, and not limited to teenagers.

- The closing keynote entitled
"Google: Catalyst for Digitization? Or Library
Destruction?" featured the ongoing conversation/debate between technologists, Roy Tennant, from the California Digital Library, and Rich Wiggins, from Michigan State on the implications of Google Print. From
Rich's view, though the costs of digitizing print copies has been reduced and improved, the task of digitizing and managing the estimated printed 20 to 28 million titles (Library of Congress counts) requires an organization which
"thinks big", and that turns out to be Google. Rights management is a big barrier, with the paradox of latent value in titles on library shelves which are not delivering royalties to either the author or publisher. Roy delves into the more nitty-gritty issues, such as retrieving references to multiple publisher editions of public domain books, without showing the free versions which have no publisher promotion.
He's concerned about copyright restrictions on the most current information, so users will retrieve out of date material, and assume
that's the best available information. Adam Smith, Product Manager, for Google Print joined the debate to present the Google point of view of fast development and feedback on products. This is a skeptical
crowd-the point was made that Harvard Library is over 400 years old, and Google is only 7 years old, so which institution would you trust?


- Blogging was highly visible this year, in contrast to last year, though this may have been a result of finally having free and effective WiFi access, thanks to the efforts of the Information Today staff. My experience with resort hotels this year is that adequate Internet access for technology savvy professionals is still sadly lacking. Information Today staff provided a lively live commentary on the conference weblog.

- Wikis and blogs are coming into wider spread use in public and academic libraries, both to improve internal staff communication and to communicate with patrons about library services, and as an alternative to intranets. Effective use was woven into presentations by Jenny Levine, Suburban Librarian System and TheShiftedLibrarian.com and Darlene Fichter, University of Saskatchewan.

- The emergence of public libraries as a hotbed of technology adoption and evangelism was highlighted in a separate track, as well as a Demo Derby at the Monterey Public Library. Twenty-one public librarians were on the panels at the conference providing their insights!

- The search related tracks were the most heavily attended sessions, with well-known experts talking about different aspects: Ran Hock on Desktop Search utilities, Gary Price and Greg Notess with updates on search engines, and Mary Ellen Bates with tips on utilizing search engines, Steve Cohen on RSS. The overall theme was the constantly changing nature of the search engines, along with the need to use several as each one has strengths and weaknesses.

- The joint Groxis and SunLibrary presentation was a highlight in the Information Discovery track, and a valuable lesson in a cooperative venture between a content buyer and an unproven visualization technology to provide high value to Sun engineers. The major insight was that metadata in indexed databases by IEEE and ACM provide vastly superior results compared to unstructured Web content. Later in the exhibit hall, attendees were stacked deep around the Grokker product booth to get hands on demos of the
applications-stay tuned to this space! By this time next year, there are likely to be more projects which blend both visualization technology and structured
databases - all reasons to come back to Monterey next year for the 10th anniversary of Internet Librarian!

Headlines for 28 October 2005

Google flight search takes off
IBM to use Google desktop search deep inside firms
Fairfax Jobs Cut - Bad Decision in Growing Online Industry
Online opportunities make journalism’s future bright, despite gloomy feelings
Forbes Attacks the Blogs
CMP Media debuts lead generation and demand management program
CNBC Rolls Out Mobile Content in Asian Markets
Reuters revenue up, shares fall
Dow Jones Shares Up On Renewed Rumors Of Takeover
LookSmart(R) Unveils 161 New 'Vertical' Web Sites in 12 Categories for Consumers
Thomson TradeWeb automates CDS index market

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Headlines for 27 October 2005

Internet to ask, 'How may I serve you?'
Google Base goes far beyond an Ebay competitor
Web Threats Keep Users Away
AOL Adds New RSS Content to Its Video Search Engine
Uphill battle for copyright protection in China
Who Owns XML?
Nasdaq reports profit, raises guidance
Bill Gates: "In 5 years, 40 to 50% of people will read their news online."
Standard & Poor’s lowers N.Y. Times Co. long-term ratings
Ontology Tools Survey, Revisited
McGraw-Hill's AccessMedicine Forms Alliance With Center for the Advancement of Health
The Wall Street Journal Online Announces 2005 Open House To Drive New Subscriptions and Ads
GeoTrust Expands TrustWatch Search Engine; Now Verifies Content Sites in Addition to e-Commerce Sites
Autonomy's Consumer Division Announces Creation of Conceptual Index of World Wide Web
www.InvestorIdeas.com Content Expands to Participate in Chinese Internet Market Growth
LiveDeal.com, Leading Free Local Online Classifieds Provider, Secures $4.85 Million in Series B Funding

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Copyright and the Internet Archive: Is Google Print Really Off Base?

I am working on some private research for a client and found myself delving into materials at Archive.org, the public repository for past images of many of the Web's sites since nearly the Web's inception. The Internet Archive, is active in the Open Content Alliance (OCA), the Yahoo-sponsored alternative to the Google Print program. As you've read in our postings there are suits and complaints against Google's pre-emptive scanning of copyrighted materials, even though they expose only snippets of this content in apparent compliance with "fair use" restrictions. OK, so here's the irony: check out the FAQ on the Internet Archive's copyright policy:

The Internet Archive respects the intellectual property rights and other proprietary rights of others. The Internet Archive may, in appropriate circumstances and at its discretion, remove certain content or disable access to content that appears to infringe the copyright or other intellectual property rights of others. If you believe that your copyright has been violated by material available through the Internet Archive, please provide the Internet Archive Copyright Agent with the following information...

So legal eagles and Internet "luminaries" out there, please help me: doesn't this sound suspiciously like the pre-emptive "copy first, ask questions later" policy that Google has adopted? And isn't it providing for the pre-emptive display of full copyrighted works, not extracts, via the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine?" Although OCA members have some altruistic goals in trying to build open library sources online, it's no secret that OCA members will be just as active as Google in trying to find ways to make money with this content. If one doubts this at all please reference today's news that Microsoft is looking at joining the OCA. There may be both right and wrong things that Google is doing in its scanning efforts, but before its detractors get too high and mighty they'd be wise to look at their own policies regarding copyrighted materials and see if they are really doing anything other than blowing smoke around their most aggressive and powerful competitor.

Wolters Kluwer Financial Services Uses Secure Document Exchange (SDX) Packaging for Sophisticated and Secure Content and Services

With a wealth of concerns about compliance, security and legal monitoring in the financial industry the packaging of content has become a key concern for banks and brokerages worldwide. One solution that has emerged quietly on the infrastructure side in finance and other sectors has been Secure Document Exchange (SDX), a method for packaging content and functionality in digital objects that can travel through normal communications channels such as email from one company to another. SDX objects provide security, auditability, secure two-way communications and built-in forms to update data. Wolters Kluwer Financial Services has announced its implementation of SDX to support improved work flow and faster transactions in finance. SDX messaging in effect can create secure "deal rooms" in which information and insights can be exchanged and then deals secured via legal documents incorporated into SDX objects. While the emphasis at Wolters Kluwer Financial is on compliance, credit, and operational risk management solutions, the potential for SDX-style digital objects to become venues for deal-making of all kinds is huge - as is the importance of content vendors being able to provide content in SDX messaging that adds value to a transaction as it forms. We've talked a lot about the importance of getting content wrapped around the context of specific transactions as a key component for profitability in financial content; SDX represents the kind of transaction environment that may in time replace many desktop services as key market venues for financial content suppliers of all kinds.

Headlines for 26 October 2005

Google To Launch Google Base
Google wants your car listings, events
MSN to Launch Book Search
Google-brary: The Status Quo of Tomorrow’s MEGALIBRARY
ValueAct ups bid for Acxiom to $2 billion; calls company direction 'fool's gold' strategy
Bill to shield reporters filed in Mass.
Thomson ponders options for free cash flow
VNU shares up on report of possible buyout
MetaCarta Extends Geographic Intel Capabilities with Machine Learning and Connector Framework
Wolters Kluwer Financial Services Announces Next-Generation Internet Document Exchange Solution
Stout Risius Ross, Inc. Selects LexisNexis Interface Software for CRM for Tracking Client Success
Fast enterprise search gets personal
LiveDeal Joins With Torstar to Deliver One of the Largest Free Online Classifieds Sites in Canada
NAVTEQ Announces Launch of Comprehensive Telecom Offering
EMC to Acquire Captiva Software Corporation

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Google Base in the Wings: Structured Content Becomes Open Content - Updated

It's a rather grainy screen grab and quite sketchy blog posts clarified by CNET News but a slipup in online testing revealed yet another seismic shift underway at Google: an open online database. No, it's not Oracle for the masses, but it appears to be an ingenious way for people to collect and organize facts in a database format that can be organized into specific data categories of a common or custom design. While the news-breaking Blogcritics post claims that it will be an open source database, it's not clear on the surface that source code will be available for this not-even-in-Alpha product. All very sketchy, and who's to say when or whether this actually emerges into the daylight of the Web, but it makes perfect sense in the broader scheme of things. Silicon.com's take on it is that it's a potential eBay killer, while ClickZ News sees it as a play for classifieds, both of which seem to be grabbing at the legs of a more generic content elephant grasped by Blogcritics: we're talking about open technology that can be used for virtually any purpose in the content marketplace, with or without ecommerce elements attached.

Web-based search has been centered primarily on texts since its inception, with multimedia added to the fray only recently. The missing component that's been a staple of institutional content sources all along has been structured data and digital objects that combine data, functionality and text. For all those who thought that relational databases would protect their content from commoditization, this is a shot across the bow that says: what weblogs did to news, open databases can do to your content. Mind you, mySQL databases as part of the LAMP Web server environment have helped to make databases more common as components driving Web pages, but apparently Google intends to expose databases themselves to Web searching and feeds in a much more generic way than ever before. That's a whole new wrinkle indeed. Keep your eye on this one, it's a powerful new development with enormous implications for content vendors.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

VNU/ACNielsen and IMS Breaking Up Before the Marriage?

In early July, the big news that VNU was acquiring IMS for $7 billion in a friendly transaction was announced. A new management structure for the combined company and significant planning activities have been underway and have been chronicled in company presentations and SEC documents. However, over the past month, news that some large institutional shareholders oppose the deal has been covered in the press. Today's Wall St. Journal article ($premium) reports that a consortium of private equity firms is waiting in the wings to make a bid for VNU once the deal is called off. Given all these reports of shareholder dissent, it is looking less and less likely that VNU's plans to merge its ACNielsen market research unit with IMS will occur.

The WSJ article states that the consortium wants to buy VNU in one piece--presumably to later break it up and sell the pieces for a price where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. But where does that leave IMS? With all the media attention on this pharmaceutical market research firm, it is likely that there will be a range of suitors, including strategic buyers such as Thomson and Reed Elsevier who have considered a bid for IMS in the past, as well as some newcomers that are positioned for growth in the healthcare segment, such as Steve Case's Revolution Health Care or newly-IPO'd WebMD. Last but not least, expect interest from several private equity firms that have been active in the healthcare sector.

Weblogs Hit Corporate Spam Filters: Time For a White-Listing Service?

While much of the online world crows on about the benefits of interactivity and community building, the plain truth is that such openness punching through from the open Web to intranets gives most corporations nightmares. A Wired News article points out that it's common practice for many corporations to filter out weblogs using many of the same tools used to eliminate email spam and access to entertainment sites. But of potentially greater concern to companies than someone sneaking a peak at their favorite time-wasters online is the tendency of people to post comments on weblogs that may reveal corporate secrets that would pose both competitive and compliance nightmares. Today's corporations are publishing entities more than ever, with both legal and regulatory interfaces to the public as well as sales and marketing front ends via Web sites and other collateral that reaches many audiences. As David Meerman Scott points out in a recent MarketingProfs article such online presences are about a lot more than just gaining a basket of sales leads from inquiry forms: online publishing provides corporations channels through used to build relationships with multiple audiences that are crucial components to strategic selling and maintaining relationships. So although individuals may yearn to reach out via weblogs to the outer world it's not likely that they're going to be encouraged any time soon in corporate circles focused on building coordinated online communications.

But such trends should not stop serious weblogs from being a key component in corporate content infrastructure any more than email is likely to be turned off as a communications channel into public networks. The issue is not weblogs as a channel but rather how weblogs are managed as content channels. Services such as Newstex provide via their subscription service packaging and indexing for quality weblogs that meet their own criteria for quality content along with premium news sources. This corporate-friendly channel provides weblogs the equivalent of a "visitor's pass" through the corporate infrastructure, in which form they may be consumed with fewer of the security and disclosure concerns that may worry corporations. What's missing from this equation, though, is a filterable online "white list" of weblogs that corporations and other entities can refer to that would provide some level of assurance on the quality and focus of specific weblogs. Such a mechanism would allow corporations to subscribe to white-listed weblogs fed into their corporate infrastructure via RSS feeds or other channels and then sanitized as need be. Individual corporations maintain their own white-listing infrastructures any way, to this would seem to be "low lying fruit" for those trying to add another layer of channel management to weblog distribution.

Headlines for 25 October 2005

Share the Knowledge, Expand the Wealth
For VNU, a Shareholder Revolt May Lead to Its Sale or Breakup
Conlin Out as CEO of Primedia as Company Contemplates Split
Tribune Co. taking hard look at holdings
Blog Search Market Heats Up
No Longer Safe for Work: Blogs
Mercury News to discontinue three niche publications
New Times Will Buy Village Voice Media
Microsoft's RSS aggregator
Internet Librarian :: Day 1 :: Opening Keynote
ValueAct Ups Acxiom Takeover Bid
Econtent and the Law Practice
Biotech community built on shared Autonomy
ClearForest and Kapow Technologies to Integrate Web Content into Unified Business Intelligence Systems
SealedMedia Unveils New Documentum Content Server Solution
Dialog Group's Data-based Lead Generation for Pre-Movers Market Managed by 21st Century Marketing

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Monday, October 24, 2005

News Analysis - Fair Game: German and American Book Publishers Wrestle with Google Print

This year's Frankfurt Book fair drew more than 250,000 people to the world's largest content event, but the biggest event for books during the fair was the alignment of camps in the fight over Google Print. American publishers are suiting up for a fight on copyright issues, while German publishers seem to be content to let Google be Google and to get on with building stronger online presences for searching and consuming books. Given the history of other recent wars on copying premium content guess who's likely to be the richer of these two camps in a few years' time? It's time for all publishers to embrace fair use of book content for searching and to focus on how they're going to make money in a search-enabled world.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 24 October 2005

Publishers to build own online book network
The 800-pound Google
The Parsons Project: Time Warner Chairman Talks Strategy
Why You Should Pay to Read This
Google exec touts communities, content over APIs
Blog to Wiki
Brand Blogs Capture the Attention of Some Companies
Motorola admits the ROKR iPod phone doesn't ROLL
Calls for New Metrics, Recognition of Product Placement Dominate 2005 AMC
Are Magazines Recapturing Leadership of Media World?
Kalikow - Music Business Information Guru Launches Mobile Business Information Group (Mbig.Com)
Scirus to Index Caltech Digital Archives
Reed Business Information Announces the BioDiscovery Expo 2005 - Free Online Conference
Dow Jones Newsletters Launches New Publication on Flourishing Hedge-Fund Industry
OneSource Releases Government Data Tool
Leading Brokers and Banks to Implement Reuters Post Trade Notification Service
ABN AMRO inks exclusive distribution agreement with Thomson Financial for embargoed research
Elsevier Society News Group to Launch CHEST Physician

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Who is Evil? Craigslist Complaint Against Oodle Raises Questions of Public Access for Linking

The San Jose Mercury News coverage (registration) and SJMN's weblog seems to be in the center of the surfacing dispute between free classifieds database Craigslist and classifieds search engine Oodle. The story seems to be that Craigslist asked Oodle in an undetermined communication, presumably with legal implications, that Oodle was pushing too hard to scrape links from its site for Oodle's cross-source classifieds index and search engine. But as of yet no specifics on any legal charges have been mentioned, only concerns that the posted terms of use have been violated. As Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Watch notes, though, "Looking over at Google, I see Craigslist seems to have no problem of Google indexing 12 million of its pages. Of course, there's a difference between indexing a page and scraping the content to be included in a more vertical service."

But is there really a difference? Oodle does in fact provide more intelligent indexing than a straight search engine would, using faceted navigation to peruse listings that can only be gained from databasing an index of full content. But at the end of the day such a function is no different from any other search engine that helps to contextualize links to full content. As such this is a potentially chilling development for any content provider deriving links and indexing to other content on the Web. But the apparently discriminatory manner in which Craigslist is enforcing its browse-wrap terms and conditions would seem to open up as many issues for plaintiffs in such cases as defendants.

There are many conflicting and hazy legal threads hanging over the crawling and mining of Web sites, but a lot of the issues seem to boil down to one key question: is building an index or other services derived from crawling open Web content an act that can be restricted on a discriminatory basis or not? Are links to "browse-wrap" legal terms found at the bottom of many Web pages hidden policies that can be changed and applied prejudicially by a Web site proprietor or are they public notices equivalent to "jackets required for gentlemen" signs posted in the lobbies of fancy but public restaurants, unmistakable to all who enter? To say that some can use access to public content for commercial purposes while others cannot would seem to run up against such basic issues of discrimination in public venues.

The twists and turns of legal precedents are highly unpredictable today but with meta-searching and federated searching services such as Oodle becoming increasingly common the law is likely to move towards supporting most uses of publicly available content without explicit, up-front usage contracts or clearly consensual notices, especially when usage falls short of full replication for commercial purposes or documentable abuse that restricts its use by others or its commercial exploitation by its owners. That's going to be a pretty tall bar for most content originators to cross before they can afford to complain about what has been made available to the public. In the Content 2.X era, working collaboratively with a user base that is increasingly a publishing audience is going to take us further away from hostile confrontations between content users and originators and towards an era in which all parties creating and using content benefit fairly and mutually from both its creation and its use.

Headlines for 21 November 2005

Google's Profit Jumps Sevenfold; Revenue Doubles; Are TV Ads Next?
Craigslist targets Oodle for 'scraping' its listings
Google's Escalating Book Battle
Copyright vs. copyrape: the Google Print saga
Publishers become retailers by selling online
Apple is Readying Vingle: Radio or Wireless Net?
Wikipedia's audience quadruples
FindLaw to launch new home page
How to make money on your news content website
Answers.com and Wikimedia Foundation to Form New Partnership
Business Wire Confirms Its Growth Strategy in Continental Europe With the Opening of Its Paris Office
Cadmus Communications Expands Its Highly Successful Global Packaging Solutions Network
PrimeZone Expands Media and Online Reach in China through Strategic Partnership with China PRnews
LexisNexis(R) Enhances Its Fraud Prevention Resources With The Release of Business InstantID
New Media Strategies RIses in the Ranks on Inc. Magazine's List of Fastest Growing U.S. Companies

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UPI Goes Native: When You Can't Get to the Ads, Let the Ads Come to You

I don't pick up news from United Press International every day, so it was interesting to click on a headline in my daily rounds and discover that UPI is now using text ads to support its feeds, along with providing RSS feeds of their content. While having ads on a wire site is not groundbreaking - Reuters has been pushing a subset of their wire content online with ad-supported pages - the UPI's use of text ads acknowledges that these days a smaller wire service has to compete more on the same terms as proliferating weblogs that use text ads to support their operations. So, why not use the same revenue streams that this level of competition does since it's getting harder for small wires to get hooked up with ads in mainstream outlets? It's an interesting solution to the ongoing question of where wire services fit in with today's media mix.

UPI provides news gathering and distribution solutions on a number of levels now, leveraging their infrastructure and staff in a number of ways that also tend to resemble the multi-faceted revenue streams of many of today's online operations. UPI is on to something with this model as a way to get into the mainstream of today's user-oriented aggregation with traditional journalism on its back end. It will be interesting to see where they take their editorial stream as this model evolves: will UPI be a career stepping stone for webloggers wanting to move on to mainstream journalism without giving up audiences in established online channels such as RSS feeds? Or will the flow begin to go the other way, with services such as UPI used as a starting point in the careers of journalists seeking independent careers?

Flock Browser Debuts: Combining Social Bookmarking with Feeds and Web Aggregation

The new Flock browser has made its pre-release developers' debut and is available for download. The browser's source code is also available for download for those wanting to tinker and improve on its capabilities. Flock's premise is straightforward: make it easy for people to use and interact with user-generated media. The browser's very intuitive bookmark function can save a user's favorite sources to their del.icio.us account, thus allowing bookmarks to be shared instantly with anyone using this service. You can also build special lists of items about which you want to blog and grab photos from Flikr. But the most interesting aspect of Flock is that it makes it easy to create personal aggregations of content from weblog feeds - it's as simple as adding a bookmark in most instances. Editing a weblog can be done within Flock also.

In truth Flock is not doing anything that other services aren't providing already in their online services or via components that can be dropped in to existing browsers. The power in this still-thinking-about-the-business-plan effort is to see how content aggregation and authoring by individuals is becoming the center of people's content experiences. The browser remains the least common denominator for most people's electronic content experiences today and is likely to remain so as more sophisticated tools come along to make the experience even more intuitive. As for Flock itself, its reality is a little humbler than the Web 2.0 hype that has surrounded its debut. Think of it as an early demo of where future content aggregation and creation desktop products are heading in the era of user-generated media. Much more exciting things to come, perhaps from Flock itself but just as easily from elsewhere, given its public license.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Headlines for 20 November 2005

AOL Rediscovers Success With Free Web Sites
Publishers sue Google over book search project
New York Times Executives: Aim To Trim Costs, Boost Revenue
VeriSign's Content Revenues Drop 25 Percent Sequentially
As costs rise, library cuts journals
The European Commission Imposes DRM as the Unique Solution
Copyrights, Trademarks and Search Engines
Making Bucks on Blogs
Yahoo Buys Whereonearth To Boost Local Search
Ovid Partners with QUOSA to Offer Desktop and Team Sharing Platform for Full-Text Article Retrieval, Search
Knovel Releases "Knovel Plastics"; New Resource Will Increase Productivity for Plastics Industry Engineers
Thomson Higher Education U.S. Exclusive on Select Harvard Business School Publishing Multi-Media
LexisNexis(R) Martindale-Hubbell(R) Comprehensive Benchmarking Study of Small Law Firm Marketing
Hurricanes hurt earnings at ProQuest

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Pajama Party: Pajamas Media Collects Top Journalism Stars for Blogging

As CNET News notes there is a new collection of online and traditional media journalists who are congregating under the banner of Pajamas Media to aggregate news and news commentary weblogs. Founders Charles Johnson and Roger Simon took up the blogging bug after seeing the ability of weblogs to break news stories and to "out-report the mainstream media" on breaking and investigative news. But certainly the success of weblog parties such as The Huffington Post, a collection of weblogs from journalists and media commentators surrounded by news links, provides encouragement that the personalities aggregation model with an editorial wrapper of news links can be highly successful. The Huffington Post is now in the low 3,000s in the Alexa.com site rankings, easily doubling their traffic levels in less than two months' time and closing in on a comparative basis with long-established Salon.com, a semi-premium site with a similar focus but built around a more traditional journalism model. When it comes to online content people go where the party is, with weblogs providing a movable feast of personalities and quick responses from autonomous contributors to developing events that have made them the party captains of a wide variety of subject matter areas. Bringing more talent to a common party amplifies the buzz that much more, with commentary from readers providing the background noise that makes it all the more interesting. The final product of Pajamas Media will have to speak for itself but for now collaborative "party" media via weblogs seems to have the ability to move news and ads very effectively in today's online news environment.

Yahoo Revenues Soar , But Text Ads Stumble as Overture's Meisel Bows Out

The Wall Street Journal has good number crunching on Yahoo's earning report, but The New York Times's coverage has more inside scoop and analysis. Yahoo's efforts to build strong destination content to support brand advertising seem to be on track, but search-based ad revenues and profits appear to lag significantly behind Google - hence the announced exit of Overture chief exec Ted Meisel. The segregation of Overture's efforts probably made some sense in the beginning when they acquired a known entity, but as Yahoo moves towards an integrated advertising strategy that provides access to all advertising venues it no longer serves them well. While Yahoo certainly has their work cut out for them wringing out more margin and growth from text ad programs, the harder trick will be for Google to develop brand advertising revenues on top of text ads. There are limitations as to how well Google can do this as long as they insist on having ownership of traditional destination content sources, as Yahoo has done, but as Google has concentrated on creating more novel venues in which to find and consume content from others it may maintain a comfortable cushion for a while from text ad revenues while it sorts out brand advertising. Neither approach is 100 percent right, but with traditional editorial content being swamped by the proliferation of user-generated and non-traditional media in many venues, the numbers may favor for some time yet those who are content to let others own media properties.

Headlines for 19 October 2005

Yahoo's Revenue Soars With Ads, Premium Services
Bloggers unite for aggregation site
Google, Yahoo Chasing Real Estate Data
The Future of the Web -- in Many Dimensions
Meet the Life Hackers: The Science of Interruptions
How Web Content Can Shorten a Complex Sale
Elsevier Engineering Information Uses Blogs For Committee Work
Dow Jones Indexes to Launch Dow Jones China Offshore 50 Index
FAST Extends Leadership in Rich Media Search
Harte-Hanks partners with Before the Call
Experian Launches Portfolio Solution to Track, Analyze and Benchmark Credit Marketplace Activity and Trends
Inc.com Goes Interactive With Launch of Inc. 500
Cognos to deploy Nstein's intelligent enterprise search solution
Idiom and Blast Radius Partner to Provide Solution for Comprehensive Global Content Creation and Delivery
PaperThin, Inc. Announces Advanced Content Classification and Discovery Capabilities
IDG Entertainment Forms Content Partnership with Ask Jeeves

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Verisign's Moreover Acquisition: Controlling More than Content Infrastructure

PaidContent.org has been on the trail of the acquisition of news aggregator Moreover for weeks now and comes through with a great interview summary of their conversations with VeriSign SVP and GM Mark McLaughlin and Jim Pitkow, formerly CEO of moreover and now reporting to McLaughlin as VP of Real-Time Publisher Services. In a nutshell, Verisign started making noises about real-time content on the Web early this year and began to roll out a strategy to build and acquire components to support it. Prior to the Moreover acquisition their little-noted acquisition of Weblogs.com signaled an effort to get into the stream of pingback messages indicating links to content, still more of an infrastructure play than a higher level strategy. But when you add Moreover's management of high-value news sources to some of the key services that Verisign offers - unified authentication, billing and payment services, commerce security, interoperability services - it's clear that the pieces are likely to add up at some point to a content ecommerce play at an infrastructure level that there's a very interesting suite being assembled here that's more than stray infrastructure bits. Verisign could use these and other pieces to develop high-value, high-update premium content channels that can be dropped easily on to any number of platforms via any number of networks, with or without premium subscription components.

Verisign has many technology bits well-embedded into the bowels of the Web that can surface in any number of public and enterprise network environments to facilitate access to this content - perhaps too many bits for people to get the picture right away, but we can expect that picture to change. The jury is still out whether Moreover will fit in to the Verisign portfolio from a focus perspective, but at minimum Verisign just made itself a much more attractive takeover candidate for potential suitors looking to have more least-common-denominator control of high-value Web content - suitors which could include jilted Moreover bidder Google.

News Analysis - WFIC 2005: Financial Content Searches for New Profits in Open Markets

The World Financial Information Conference (WFIC) gathers every two years to contemplate the state of global financial content markets, an exercise that this year attracted some of the best minds in the business to the conference's Rome venue. The big picture emerging from the conference is that increasingly transparent markets for securities trading are placing enormous pressure on exchanges, vendors and institutions to find profitable positions in highly regulated markets. Financial content services that can drive the top line of profits as much as bottom-line cost savings are desperately needed, but the big ideas seem to be waiting in the wings for new players to push them through. Texas Holdem, anyone?

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Monday, October 17, 2005

The AOL Deal Frenzy: The Frantic Search for Effective Channels

Well, any more rumors for outfits willing to pony up for a piece of AOL? Mind you, in all likelihood it's just a piece that Time Warner may peel off. With major media companies in a total frenzy to position themselves for online audiences that are growing ever more distant from established content channels it's doubtful that Time Warner has any intention of surrendering its oldest and most developed online channel entirely. The driver for these rumored deals is AOL's quality destination content and personal publishing services such as AOL's instant messaging service that provide destination pages for ads and add-on services. Of all the rumors the Google/Comcast seems to be the most probable one to benefit both parties. Yahoo's unrelenting drive to develop its own content makes it unlikely that Time Warner would want help from its strongest competitor for destination content. Microsoft also has its own destination content that complicates matters.

Google and Comcast come in as more purely technology-oriented media players, providing interested partners that can benefit from feeding destination content that can slow down their competitors while maintaining their focus on other aspects of profitable online media. But with Google's adamant stance on not owning content sources one can assume that such a relationship would keep Google out of the producers' suites and more on the side of providing AOL a broader technology and advertising base with which to compete with Yahoo. Such a deal could make good sense at this point, especially given Google's forthcoming network that would add a wrinkle to the AOL relationship oddly reminiscent of AOL's own attempts at using a private network to manage access to public content. It all comes down to effective channels for content, with Google vying to become the new ether through which most content is found and accessed - with or without a destination portal. If you're AOL that's not a bad channel to have on your side.

Test Drive: Google Reader Provides User-Friendly Browsing of Online Subscription Channels

A week on the road with EUR10/hr. Web access at your hotel doesn't encourage much time for exploration, so it's with some pleasure that I find myself scrambling to catch up with the latest in content tools. The new Google Reader contrasts favorably with Inform.com for ease of use and an open search-oriented approach to finding content feeds that can be easily navigated, updated, bookmarked, emailed and blogged. Handy shortcut keyboard strokes cut down on mouse fatigue and the headlines from a given feed scroll nicely down the left side while excerpts from the original source appear in the main window with click-throughs to the original items on the Web without framing. The searching mechanism picks up RSS feeds, but also picks up non-RSS sources that can be parsed for update streams easily. While the package lacks some of the robust portal features of a myYahoo service it's a smooth and easy-to-use package for managing online content subscriptions that plays nicely with publishers by supporting access to original content formats. It takes the "geek" out of RSS while leaving room for other methods of accessing content on a subscription basis that are not necessarily RSS-based. Some seem to have complained about its over-simplicity, but my guess is that the strength of its core design will have a broadening appeal to users thirsting for a widening range of content sources.

Inform.com Takes a Tech Approach to News Gathering

The New York Times notes the arrival of the beta version of Inform.com, a news filtering and exploration tool that promises to provide sophisticated filtering and exploration of online news. Inform.com is very much a beta, with numerous rough edges to iron out, but its general framework operates enough to evaluate its overall effectiveness. Inform.com scans Web sites and key weblogs and categorizes content in articles found at these sites to allow for both monitoring and exploration of news based on various trees of the Inform taxonomy encountered in an article. Tools allow for easy tagging and exploration of individual articles, development of custom "channels" (queries) based on selected topic categories and selection of specific sources amongst other features.

And that's the gist of Inform - a collection of features, each with some usefulness, but which in total seem to add up to a package that is somewhat awkward to use, even for a news junkie like myself. There are also a number of aspects of the service that don't seem to add up to a "best practices" approach to news on the open Web: it's session-based and database sessions can log out as with Factiva or LexisNexis, it frames open Web content in its own content (which could be tricky when or if Inform starts to apply its own ads), its content categorizations cannot be refined easily and its selection of relevant articles somewhat questionable in cursory testing. Most annoying of all the search results for a "channel" are shoved in a narrow band to the left of the main display area, which requires lots of scrolling just to scan headlines.

Some of the design and navigation concepts in Inform.com are useful, but many aspects of the design cry out for more refinement. It's not clear that the people willing to use a service like Inform.com are not going to be better served by a LexisNexis or Factiva that have many of the tricky issues required to provide sophisticated monitoring down pat already. That said, Inform.com's debut points out that there is a gray area between general Web news search tools such as Topix and subscription database products such as Factiva and LexisNexis that largely shun the open Web. With large revenue bases to protect it's not likely that the subscription news database providers are likely to develop more tools for open Web content consumption any time soon, but their potential for future revenues and mindshare are being eroded constantly by news filtering and monitoring tools that provide increasingly strong levels of functionality and content.

Increasingly sophisticated tools such as LexisNexis' recently announced negative news monitoring service will help to drive up the value of commoditized news in subscription databases, to be sure. But major aggregators need to confront far more aggressively born-on-the-Web competitors that are going to be working their way up the value chain to their core value propositions with more diverse revenue bases. Without parallel strategies to build a brand from the Web on in rather than the database on out news aggregators continue to run the risk of becoming increasingly niche-oriented players in the content marketplace.

Headlines for 17 October 2005

Big Media's Challenge: Taking on the Tech Giants
Magazine and trade show deals nearly double in third quarter
Yahoo seeks 1 million sq. ft.
RIM's Helping Hand from Palm
Pluck launches on Shadows Web site
Inform.com: All the News That You Can Use. And More.
Authoritative Voices: Who Will You Listen To?
Here's Looking at your Future, Kid: The Media Buying Environment of 2020
TV Downloads May Undercut ABC Stations
Google To Host Home-Video Uploads
Intelliseek to Provide AOL With Daily Blog Trend Analysis
FosteReprints in licensing deal with Reuters
Blackboard and Agilix Labs Release Backpack -- New Mobile Learning Application
WebSideStory Helps YellowPages.ca Build Advertiser Loyalty and Increase Sales
ChoicePoint Debuts 3 Direct Marketing Products

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Converting Instructors: BlackBoard & WebCT Announce Merger

Two leading providers of e-learning software, BlackBoard and WebCT, have announced their merger in a press release. Stripping away the usual positive PR noise, this merger is a recognition that the real challenge in this space is not market share, but expanding the market and usage of their software platforms. These are two technology based companies, but adapting teaching styles and coursework has been the challenge for over twenty-five years since the PC was first introduced into the classroom. Just because a software platform is available within an institution does not mean widespread adoption by instructors; instead that comes department by department, instructor by instructor, course by course.

I use BlackBoard in teaching an online searching class at the library school at San Jose State University, and appreciate its capabilities, though like all software packages, there is a learning curve. There are online tutorials, and an effective technology support team to answer my questions, all of those elements of a well implemented system. And BlackBoard certainly simplifies the administrative aspects of student enrollment, testing, and grade posting , making the instructor's life much, much easier. However, my major challenge was adapting my teaching style and materials to the totally online distance education format. My previous teaching experience had been face to face in classrooms, in both academic and corporate environments. The step of adapting the "lecture" material into Word documents, getting rights and permissions for class materials, and structuring the format of the class online is basically the same structure as long established correspondence courses. BlackBoard is being effective in simplifying that with its new agreement with the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC).

The real challenge is figuring out effective interaction with students, getting the type of feedback I enjoyed in the actual classroom. I have found the Discussion Board aspect of BlackBoard works well for soliciting that feedback, the equivalent of "class participation". But my students have to be encouraged to use it as a way of communicating with each other, and to post questions and comments to me. So my incentive is a 20% weighting of their grade that comes from their postings--and this works for my class! There are also features I choose not to utilize, though they may work for other instructors in other courses. "Instant chat" is one of them since most of my students have jobs, so can't be online at the same time, plus my personal preference for online communication is in complete sentences, not snippets.

BlackBoard is already used on 40% of American universities, so like it or not, instructors have to deal with at least submitting grades through the software. The addition of WebCT will bring more customers. The real opportunity is to use its capabilities for more effective instruction, and that comes with developing an effective Community of Practice to model successful courses and master instructors, which is not a matter of just technology!

Headlines for 14 October 2005

Hard Questions From Google
Tribune CEO: Weighing Asset Sales To Boost Holder Value
Time Warner CEO says AOL sales talk is all rumors
New York Times First Bookstore Opens
Big Media, Little Blogosphere
Call to scrap levies on European music downloads
Reed Business Information Launches Pharma Asia Magazine For Asian Pharmaceutical Industry
With Fewer Paying Up, AOL.com Shifts to Free
A Case of Clustered Clarity: The University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences Library System
Bacon's Announces New Vice President Western Sales; Former Factiva executive to lead West Coast BD

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Robin Good in Rome: The Changing Face of User-Generated Media

"Good content is arrogant," chimed a voice at the recent WFIC event in Rome. I found it to be a good encapsulation of how people are attracted to the brash style of so many of today's leading webloggers. Yet many personalities powering user-generated media are very modest and genuine people when you get to know them up close. So when the elevator doors at my hotel in Rome opened and I met Robin Good in person for the first time it was in one sense no surprise that this online icon was a heck of a nice guy. Born under the name Luigi Canali De Rossi his online persona Robin Good has become more than a public identity for him. Robin Good is a person reborn under a personal brand that personifies his belief in the power of user-generated media to help personal content producers and consumers to control their own destiny. Certainly Robin is aware of the power of his insights and he is able to fire up his online persona when needed. Yet as we drove down to the banks of the Tiber and wandered through the intimate backstreets of Rome that are the city's true lifeblood Robin revealed himself as someone who produced his insights through a power far greater than ego or intellect. In this sense Rome itself is reflected in Robin.

Our first encounter came on the heels of Weblogs, Inc. and other user-generated media properties being gobbled up by media giants. It was natural then that the evening's conversation flowed around the future of independent user-generated media. How do ingenious independent content producers such as Robin keep their brands alive independently in the face of major media companies staking out claims to so many highly successful independent content producers?

The entertainment world as we know it provides some analogies that will work for the major media companies. Folks like Jason Calacanis are talent and media property developers who groom independents in the same way sports teams develop emerging talent in minor league systems and then unleash them in the media spotlight of major league franchises. What makes this system work? Brand advertising. Stadium billboards, endorsed products and of course TV and radio advertising allow individual talents on sports teams to dip in to the benefits of advertisers willing to do anything to associate their seductive images and messages with moments that matter to their audiences. Even with talented Web entrepreneurs like Robin tweaking the system for all it's worth the revenue from tiny text ads via contextual placement services such as AdSense are never going to compete with the revenue potential of brand advertising in major media channels. When individual media producers are content to make a reasonable living rather than an extraordinary living, maybe that's not a bad thing.

But at some point the power of major media companies backing "major league" webloggers with major investments in content, technology and brand advertising that can surround their core abilities is going to create a lure of stardom as powerful as anything offered to today's mainstream journalists. John Battelle's plan for FM Publishing holds out some promise for independents to benefit from brand advertising - if they play into his own flavor of ECNext-like publishing services aggregation. There may be a limited window of opportunity for independent webloggers to make a decent living before the ad revenues keeping them alive today migrate to more sophisticated channels that require playing within the emerging online media talent development program.

It's not a huge technical challenge to extend an ad service like AdSense and to provide sophisticated automated placement controls for brand advertising - a move that's very likely to surface sooner rather than later. The greater challenge is to figure out how to allow the independent publisher to negotiate placement and price with sophisticated brand advertisers cost-effectively. The key to success in independent publishing is to be able to maintain the integrity of your personal brand while attracting higher-grade advertising that wants the implied endorsement of being seen in a publisher's personal brand space. That comes at a cost for both parties, a cost that will require methods to negotiate the market value of that space more directly with the publisher than today's online ad auctions facilitate. We can see these types of services evolving rather rapidly. If they do, then the future of independent publishers such as Robin Good could be, well, quite good.

My thanks again to Robin for a memorable night in the "Eternal City." Both Rome and Robin met all of my expectations, leaving ample reason to return again some time soon.

Headlines for 13 October 2005

Comcast, Google said to be in talks with Time Warner about stakes in AOL portal
Will lawmakers raise shields to protect bloggers?
Paper view technology
Yahoo Japan steps up mobile content distribution
Unplugged: Information Overload Requires a Human Solution
'Wall Street Journal's 'Weekend Edition' finds big readership
Blogging Predicted by 19th Century Russian Prince
A Marriage of Bookshelf and Phone
Google print: doing no evil
Blackboard to Discuss Merger at Town Hall-Style Information Sessions at EDUCAUSE 2005
International Herald Tribune to Launch Daily 'Marketplace' Section with Bloomberg
Nstein Technologies Raises $4.1 Million in Senior Secured Convertible Notes
Knovel Adds IEE's EMIS Datareviews and Springer-Verlag's Landolt Bornstein Electronics Content
The NewsMarket Sees Record Demand For Digital Delivery Of Video As Breaking Events Dominate News
LexisNexis Negative News Search Helps Identify People Or Organizations With Negative Affiliations
Business News Americas Expands Coverage of Information Technology in Latin America

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Greetings From Bella Roma! The 2005 WFIC Conference, Robin Good and More



It's been a busy week in Rome at the World Financial Information Congress, a biannual (so far) event held by the SIIA Financial Information Services Division (FISD). The FISD team has upgraded this event substantially to make it a much broader and executive-oriented conference with real leading-edge thinking focusing on the present and future state of financial content. We'll have full coverage of this event as soon as fingers can get to keyboard in detail.

We'll also have coverage of a great evening wandering the streets of Rome with Robin Good, one of the world's leading webloggers covering user-generated media and marketing. Robin and I had a wonderful time going from one end of the content spectrum to another.

More on the plane home if the Lufthansa wireless system cooperates...

Headlines for 12 October 2005

Apple Introduces iPod That Plays Videos
Microsoft, Yahoo Ink Instant-Message Pact
Google's Still Got It
Report: 6 Percent of Paid Circ Sponsored
EU commissioner lays out vision for converged multi-media market
Software delivers real-time information to mobile users
Study: RSS Still Not Widely Adopted
Biggest News That No One Cared
Science Center Company Acquired by Thomson Scientific; The Science Center Acquires Astrolabe
Wolters Kluwer to rebrand US financial activities
InforSense and Elsevier MDL Expand Strategic Relationship
The New York Times Introduces Innovative Ad Unit in Stock Listings, Unique Among National Newspapers
O’Reilly adds hundreds of new titles to SafariU Library
Reed Business Information Announces Launch of Pharma Asia Magazine for Pharmaceutical Industry
CanWest MediaWorks Launches The All New driving.ca
NetApp Wades Into Data Classification
A.D.A.M. Receives Awards for Interactive Health Information

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Headlines for 11 October 2005

Google ETA? 300 years to index the world's info
Will Google Kill News Media? EPIC 2015: The Update
All the News That's Fit to Dis
Yahoo Adds Blogs to Its News Section
Blooker rewards books from blogs
Publishers’ Blogs and Podcasts Steal Show at AOP Online Publishing Awards 2005
Elsevier announces partnership between Scirus and NDLTD
Government News Network Service Features Real-Time Content From Moreover Technologies
Alexa Web Information Service Launches on Amazon Web Services Web Site
The Wall Street Journal to Make Series of Innovative Design Enhancements, Cuts Web Width to 48 Inches

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Monday, October 10, 2005

Headlines for 10 October 2005

As Podcasts Boom, Big Media Rushes To Stake a Claim
Forget Blogs, Print Needs Its Own IPod
Google tests personalized news feed service
Sergey Brin unplugged at Web 2.0
KnowNow eLerts Deliver Real-Time RSS
Blog subscribers seek out small universe of sites
Martin Nisenholtz Eyes the Digital Landscape from Atop the New York Times | NewMedia Spotlight
Content's Value Enhanced
Authors' Second Chance
New Yahoo podcast service
Reuters Posts Stories First With iPass
Dow Jones Newswires and Relegence to Develop 'Dow Jones Total Coverage'
Government News Network Service Features Real-Time Content From Moreover Technologies
R.R. Donnelley to acquire Spencer Press

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News Analysis - Content 2.X: The Clash Where Publishers, Technology Companies and Audiences Meet

The excitement brewing around the recent Web 2.0 conference is palpable in Silicon Valley as the literati and glitterati of content technology cook up a heady batch of concepts to attract new investment. But before intelligent and savvy investors start writing out checks it would be wise for them to consider just what kind of businesses they're underwriting. There's a lot of power in the Web 2.0 framework, but it's a loose framework that doesn't define a powerful and effective scope of business operations against which to measure success and failure. Enter Content 2.X, Shore's definition of the powerful and rapidly evolving union of technology, publishing and audiences partnering towards common goals.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Friday, October 7, 2005

Headlines for 7 October 2005

Yahoo! CEO: We are new-media trail blazers
If Content Is King, Are Consumers Royalty?
Thomson Corp. in 'best condition' ever as knowledge company, CEO tells investors
Google Advertising Patents for Behavioral Targeting, Personalization and Profiling
Are You Ready for Web 2.0?
Time Inc. Will Appoint Huey Editor in Chief Before Year End
Google unveils fresh lobbying effort
Grassroots journalism: Actual content vs. shining ideal
Opening Arguments, Endlessly: Lawyers and Weblogs
Wolters Kluwer Acquires Tripoint Systems Development Corporation
Timely Content Enters K-12 Classrooms Through Thomson Gale's ClassTrac

Click here to view stories from today's industry headlines

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Life with Times Select: A Half-Step Towards The New Aggregation

When The New York Times announced its new Times Select offering a couple of weeks back the media din was deafening, much of it against the segregation of their major columnists behind the new subscription package's firewall. Busy enough anyway, I gave it a rest and thought that I'd see if it grew on me. In short, some of it did, but much of it didn't. Some of the features in Times Select make perfect sense and fit in with our New Aggregation model of using basic content objects to promote and proliferate the availability of premium levels of content such as background material, multimedia and (upcoming) podcasts to a broader audience. Special advance access to Sunday Times content is welcome also, a little bit like coming back from a show in New York and grabbing tomorrow's paper at midnight from the newsstand. Perfect. It's the basis for a growing online community willing to get deeper content to complement basic news.

But no matter how many angles from which my mind plays back the segregation of their lead columnists behind the subscription wall it comes back a loser. My assumption is that somebody in the marketing loop saw radio personality Howard Stern moving his act to the Sirius subscription satellite service and said to themselves, "Aha, people are willing to pay for daily fixes of superstars!" Well, maybe that works for potty-mouthed monologuers, but it seems to ignore what weblogs have done to online commentary. Weblogs are about taking part in a broader Web-driven conversation, appreciated not only for the perspectives of people who write them but as well for the way in which the best webloggers manage to become editors in their own right to help bring current news stories to life with links to alternative coverage and background materials. Recently developed sites such as The Huffington Post wrap links to news around a string of strong contributing webloggers who provide the backbone for the site. Opinionated, yes, but ultimately the balance of editorial skills that many are seeking to absorb news more efficiently.

The Times Select model provides temporary bolstering of online and print revenues squeezed from those who need their Op/Ed "fix" of established columnists, but in the long run it isolates these columnists from the media mix that's driving much of the value of online news content today. One has to assume therefore that the Times wants them isolated to some degree, keeping their personal brands in check before they can bolt to become independent news-driving superstars in their own right, much as movie studios locked in key stars to long-term contracts to bolster their content & distribution empires. But when television came along and made stars out of "nobodys," the studio system fell apart. Weblogs, this generation's disruptive technology, are doing the same with a whole new generation of commentators who are pulling away the "superstar" status from newspaper columnists who are not allowed to engage audiences on equal terms.

The Times Select project will probably milk their older columnists like aging studio properties and eventually usher in a new generation of commentators who can help them build market share on an equal footing with webloggers - and then build premium levels of content around their open content. Expect this to happen with webloggers from the Weblogs, Inc. crowd as they are absorbed into AOL's media empire. In the meantime, the staple Times columnists will be warming up for their own version of "Sunset Blvd.".

Reuters Builds for the Top End with EcoWin Acquisition

Reuters is hoping that getting more unique high-value content under its wings will help to pump up its profile against the growing strength of Thomson Financial and the pervasive presence of Bloomberg, LP. And why not - it's a strategy that has served aggregators well for many years. The latest Reuters acquisition announcement is EcoWin, a purveyor of global economic and financial data and analysis tools that provides both its own data and tools and add-on content from major banks, associations and commercial sources. In addition to its own desktop capabilities EcoWin integrates with the EViews statistical analysis package popular with quant analysts and economists, helping their content to fit in easily with established tools and workflows. This is a smart move by Reuters, providing high-end content that doesn't require immediate integration into an all-purpose desktop tool and opens the door to further content integration. With more databases and tools such as EcoWin under its belt Reuters can continue to chip away at high-end users whose needs are not so easily subsumed in the increasingly automated securities business that will leave fewer general-purpose financial content users to prop up content vendor profits. This means more highly specialized services that will be responsive to rapidly shifting content needs. It may not be the market data business of old, but if that's where the users are, then you follow them.

New Label: AOL Buying Weblogs, Inc. Properties

It's official, now: weblogs are indeed media properties.

In search of unique user-generated content to keep up with the likes of NewsCorp and Yahoo, AOL announced the acquisition of Weblogs, Inc., the assemblage of leading weblogs shepherded by "new" media maven Jason Calacanis from the infancy of weblogs to his long-calculated selloff. Smooth. With media giants seeking out unique online content from all corners, Jason's timing is perfect. The idea of a weblog-only aggregator as a media company will pass fairly quickly in most arenas but the thirst for leading unique online properties to acquire could hardly be higher than it is today. What happens from here with these properties? It's reminiscent of those songster biopics like "Ray" and "The Buddy Holly Story": the talented upstarts get some needed grooming from someone with vision and get wooed over from their first bad deals into the real media business . And while good things happen as a result, something gets lost along the way. Webloggers will be touted like music industry stars are today as they are gathered from their "garage" roots into the major media fold - a process already well under way on a much smaller economic scale. While there will always be millions of amateur and "starving artist" webloggers on the Web providing it richness and focus, the dollars are going to become a bit more superstar for top weblogging properties - dollars that may begin to challenge news organizations and other content aggregators with shallower pockets and more narrow advertising bases. Mission accomplished, Jason. Have a blast.

Headlines for 6 October 2005

Post This: America Online Acquires Weblogs, Inc.
Is Yahoo public enemy No. 1 for Big Media?
Diller touts original Web programming
Flock, the New Browser on the Block
Smaller Video Producers Seek Audiences on Net
AOL partners with SixApart to deliver AIM to TypePad, Live Journal
Text of Gore speech at media conference
Google the Publisher?
Technology: The future of news is (really) simple
Reuters to acquire EcoWin for $40 million cash
New Content Added to Elsevier's Scirus Science-Specific Database
Google Merges Local and Maps Products for Unified Seamless Local Search and Mapping Experience
Ovid Expands Electronic Content Offerings for the Academic Community
CNET News.com Announces Major Site Re-Launch
Sprint Bundles Handmark Express News, Maps, and More on New Samsung VI-A820 Phone
FosteReprints, UPI Ink Reprint, Digital Licensing Deal
Reed Business Information Announces HPC Expo 2005 - Online Event for High Performance Computing

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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

The Adobe Factor: Will Content Server's Absence Help Sun to Push its DReaM?

Preston Gralla has a nice post on TechWeb pointing out that scanned documents appearing in Yahoo's developing online archive of key library content will be displayed via PDFs, requiring dependence on Adobe's ubiquitous but sometimes troublesome Acrobat software. This limits display and use options, of course, but it also poses some broader challenges. As noted in our news analysis on this topic, effective rights management is going to be a key factor in attracting copyright holders to this and Google's library scanning efforts. Kind of strange, then, that Adobe decided earlier this year to drop support for its Content Server rights management tool, a move that sent eBooks suppliers and distributors into a scramble. There are any number of rights management suppliers that can fill this gap, but it is a reminder that many leading technology companies and publishers have failed to solve rights management issues effectively.

Interesting, then, that the announcement of Sun's software alliance with Google comes along on the heels of Yahoo's archiving announcement. The media focus on the Google/Sun alliance is mostly on Sun's Java-based OpenOffice office automation software, but let us not forget Sun's DReaM rights management project being promoted under its Open Media Commons initiative. With no widespread industry consensus on rights management standards and issues the Google contingent has just as much opportunity to solve this problem for publishers - and will have more copyrighted content ready to be exposed via such tools more quickly than Yahoo. Yahoo gains much by accommodating cautious publishing and media companies but what they don't necessarily gain is technology momentum to carry them forward to a solution to manage copyrighted content effectively on the Web. With an open and platform-less focus to its rights management solutions Sun may yet claim the day in enabling online archives to be both accessible and protected.

Headlines for 5 October 2005

Working Together, Wherever They Are
U.S. plays it tough on copyright rules
'Folksonomy' Carries Classifieds Beyond SWF and 'For Sale'
Yahoo Gets Book-Scanning Right...Almost
Web 2.0 & Business Models
It's a case of who owns the words
Magazines for Less on eBay
The Web Effect: New Tally Reveals True Newspaper Reach
Yahoo Inc. Acquires Upcoming.org
Google, Sun form alliance
ValueAct sweetens Acxiom takeover pot, adds top executive
Wolters Kluwer Health Integrates Data for Three Business Divisions With SalesLogix CRM Suite
LexisNexis Market Intelligence Gives New Client Share Analysis Tools and Access to Factiva(R) News Content
Wolters Kluwer Corporate & Financial Services Acquires Entyre
Thomson Scientific Adds More Than 1.25 Million Full Text Links to Web of Science From JSTOR Archive
LexisNexis Risk Management Helps Better Business Bureau To Help Verify Validity Of Small Businesses
blinkx Signs Global Distribution Partnership With MIVA and Launches Smart Ads Platform
NewsGator Acquires NetNewsWire

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Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Headlines for 4 October 2004

To Surf Web While Aloft, Fly Foreign (for Now)
Consumer Magazines Enable E-media Workflows, But Lag In Converting
Scopus of Influence: Content Selection Committee Announced
'UnGoogleables' Hide From Search
Want Dowd, Friedman, Kristof, and Rich Online? Try Factiva
Help for Info Age Have-Nots
Yahoo Content Alliance Differs From Google Print
Thomson Directories expands email marketing service
LexisNexis unit expands legal consulting
Thomson Scientific Renews Aureka License for Vivisimo's Search Clustering Technology
LexisNexis E-Filing Service Increases Control over Canadian Case File Mgmt.
Wasserstein & Co. completes purchase of Primedia’s Business Information unit

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Monday, October 3, 2005

News Analysis - Open Sandbox: The Open Content Alliance Forges the Ultimate Content Collection

If there's one thing that Yahoo! knows how to do it's building effective partnerships with media players. The announcement of the Yahoo!-sponsored Open Content Alliance that aims to counter Google's library scanning efforts underscores that it pays to play nicely with some of today's leading content archivists. The OCA has openness, voluntary participation by publishers and a global set of participants on its side to help to accelerate its efforts. But as powerful as its proposition may be there are many consortia that have fallen by the wayside as others with fewer vested interests to negotiate sped along. Google may have a "sandbox bully" image to contend with at the moment but there's nothing to say who's really going to build the better sandcastle.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 3 October 2005

Yahoo backs new digital book group
Google, Yahoo, and eBay: Next-Generation Conglomerates?
Google Morphs Into Multifaceted Juggernaut
Google offers San Francisco Wi-Fi -- for free
Deal pace accelerates in media and information industry
ChoicePoint tries to regain trust
Google: Fit for intelligence work?
Race to Rate Hedge Funds Begins in Heavy Fog
The Ad-Averse: Finicky and Opinionated
The current state of the Web
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Sunday, October 2, 2005

Thomson Gale's Access My Libary Beta Opens Up Premium Content to Library Patrons On the Web - Kind Of

The announcement of Thomson Gale's Access My Library project back in June seemed to sink into the background fairly quickly but with the fall trade shows beginning to gear up the buzz is increasing again. This is a foresightful project that aims to provide both its own native interface into its premium database online and allowing major search engines to crawl the content for placement in their indexes. Once you find an article you can click on a link, provide your library card number and personal coordinates and boom - you have access to news and journals in the Gale collection. After your first encounter with the library access validation interface the service tracks your identity so that you don't have to re-enter your personal data. Instead, you can go right to the article text, equipped with printing and email forwarding links. The text pages also indicate sponsorship branding for the institution through which access has been provided - a "best practice" suggested by Karen Andrews of UC Davis at the ASIDIC conference a few weeks ago.

Thomson Gale's Access My Library provides a simple but effective interface to locate premium content and to make access to it transparent to patrons of participating libraries and institutions. Making this content available via leading search engines is the beginning of a new era for content aggregation, allowing premium services to maximize their reach to intended audiences via popular Web search interfaces. This move away from proprietary interfaces and location-specific licensing to ubiquitous access via institutional licenses is one of the keys to making The New Aggregation a reality. In this model library licensing is going to play a very important role in increasing the exposure of premium content on the Web - and in increasing the importance of these premium services to their patrons.

However, there is still a fly in the ointment...how do you find this stuff via a major search engine? The native Access My Library search interface works fine enough but in searches on major search engines, including the new premium search interfaces offered by Yahoo! and Google, Gale content that comes up on their native search interface is not to be found. Even full titles of articles with very distinctive titles failed to surface a single article on a wide variety of topics. So as exciting as this is, the story is still incomplete. Hopefully the curtain rises on this story more fully via major search engines some time soon with a little bit of savvy online marketing. Otherwise it's not likely that this interface is going to make much of a splash with library patrons without a lot of hand-holding. In the meantime for those of with local libraries that subscribe to Gale resources (thanks, Westport Public Library!) it's a whole new era for accessing premium content online.