Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Headlines for 30 November 2005

Microsoft tests classifieds service
CNET News
Is Yahoo The King Of Media?
Investors Business Daily
The Royal Society of Microsoft
Effect Measure
Podcast Chaos Be Gone: New Search Services
Wired News
Intel aims to spur content for PCs
The Mercury News
FCC's now open to a la carte cable TV
MarketWatch*
Yahoo Unveils RSS E-Mail Folder
AP via ABC News
Financial Services Firms and Other Major Enterprises Must Confront Implications of RIM's BlackBerry 'Jam'
PR Newswire
TV News in a Postmodern World: The Remarkable Opportunities
of Unbundled Media

Donata Communications
OneSource targets more Indian cos
CIOL
Thomson Scientific Launches Web Citation Index: New Scholarly Index Directs
Managing Information
Thomson Scientific and Dialog Announce Upcoming Availability of Enhanced Derwent World Patents Index
WebWire
Smith Named CEO of Reed Business Information; Casella Takes Reed Business Reins
Library Journal
Nerac delivers new research solution
CCNews
Oxford University Press Selects eMeta's Managed Access Control Service for Largest University Press
BusinessWire via TMCNet
Reuters to Distribute DBRS' Rating Information
CCN Matthews
ROO Feeding Online Video Search Engines via Media RSS
MarketWire
ShopLocal, LLC Partners with Local.com to Provide Dynamic Local Sales and Circular Content
Internet Ad Sales
Finnish Academic Libraries Select Endeavor's Digital Asset Management System
PR Newswire
VNU Launches Video Game Web Destination & Blog; Sites Target Booming Video Game Market
BusinessWire
Factiva President and CEO Clare Hart Honored With 2005 New York Ten Award
PR Newswire via TMCNet

Walking on Thin Air: Time for a Google Correction?

paidContent.org offers a nice wrapup of recent Google headlines, including an observation by Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Rich Fine: "The current valuation seems to presume a new revenue stream; soon would be good." Point taken. Google is throwing out new features faster than a luggage conveyor belt at the airport, which all seem to give the sense of momentum but many of which are just pokes in the dark from a revenue perspective. Will Google be able to deliver a mature, reliable marketplace for goods similar to eBay any time soon? Given the rawness of Google Base and the rawness of the content that it's attracting, I am not sure that "soon" is the answer to this question. Will Google Print actually prove to be profitable any time soon? Lots of content coming into place and lots of potential, but the ecommerce aspects are a huge question mark.

Google is in a mindshare battle as much as a market share battle, trying fill the cracks of journalism with developing products in somewhat the same way as Microsoft became adept at sucking the market momentum out of a space simply by announcing their intent to deliver products into it. One important difference in Google's scenario is that they deliver bits to play with while evolving their strategy, but it's the same game: keep the spotlight on the brand so that it's perceived strength can discourage substitutes from being taken seriously. Thus far Google is becoming the new master of this technique. No wonder Silicon Valley types discredit Google for being Microsoft-like.

There is bound to be some investor disappointment and stock price pullback as some of these initiatives mature at their own pace, but the only thing that has really changed is investors' expectations. Google has always evolved its capabilities at a fairly leisurely and careful pace: it's just that the stakes are so much higher to deliver finished goods that the marketplace will absorb quickly. Google continues to teach us new things about how to market content services, but some more traditional forethought may be needed to build market share and self-sustaining revenues against established competitors in market segments that are new to Google. Time has been on Google's side for quite a while, but perhaps not forever if they become laden with too many features still in search of a plan for productization and profitability.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Back to Eyeballs? Visitor-Based Valuations Don't Tell All, But are Telling

Back in the height of dot-com madness there was a lot a froth about counting unique Web site visitors - "eyeballs," as they became known - as a means of deriving valuations for Web sites built out of thin air. Unfortunately those metrics did not stand up to reason in the short term, and the rest is history. But the other side of the history is that traffic continued to build on low-rent sites based on weblogs and other user-oriented publishing technologies until monetization via ads seen by those eyeballs was an entirely reasonable business plan. Business 2.0 notes that although more sophisticated valuation techniques are still important, factoring $38 per unique monthly ganderer allows for some very interesting shadow valuations - $155 million for the geekish weblog Slashdot, $127 million for Facebook and $76 million for Nick Denton's Gawker Media. Looks like AOL got a bargain for Weblogs, Inc. at a paltry $25 million by these estimates - or came up with a more realistic formula for user-generated media value. It's highly doubtful that eyeball-only valuations will become the norm again but as a first-pass metric it shows the huge return on investment to which pioneers in user-generated media staked themselves with little more than a few years of sweat equity and some well-turned words. Just one more log on the fire for shareholders of established publishers to warm up their envy of born-on-the-Web properties.

Google Calling: Pay-Per-Call Testing by the Search Giant

PC World reports along with other outlets on the initiation of a Pay-Per-Call advertising feature dubbed "Click to Call" to compete with similar offerings from other online services. Examples of how this works can be found on Greg Yardley's weblog: a little green phone icon appears next to an AdWords item, which when clicked on pops up a place to enter your phone number with extra space for descriptive ad text. The on-screen presentation in the AdWords space then guides you to the completion of the connection. As noted in the new service's FAQ it's free to the user unless you're on a mobile and consuming on-air minutes. Details on pricing are not available, but PC World speculates that based on other services the prices are going to be in the $2-$30 per call range with $7 as a median. Yet another "Wow, this is huge" item from Google, to be sure, but all part of a more general growth in sophisticated ways to connect people with people through search engine marketing and other highly targeted content channels. Pay-per-call is still in its infancy, with tuning it for maximum lead quality still a concern, but there is indeed huge growth potential for voice and visual communication services to become the glue for completing a transaction. Just ask eBay, which paid big for online telephony service Skype. It's all about building the transaction - I trust, therefore I execute. And who better to trust than Google, many a user may say. The power of contextual endorsement from Google's core search content rides again...

Wolters Kluwer Releases PubFusion Content Management for Scholarly Journals

The announcement for Wolters Kluwer's new PubFusion content management tool claims that its EMC-based infrastructure is the first electronic package of its kind offered to scholarly journal publishers, an effort to recycle internal infrastructure that WK uses for its own journal and product production processes for its 160 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins journals. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins will be the marketing unit for the software which will be demonstrated at London Online. There are no online marketing materials for the product yet, but based on the existing LW&W titles and the PR information it's clearly a production system that tilts towards print production with "hooks" for presenting print-oriented materials online via a publisher's portal and via partners' channels. That's not a bad thing, given the state of scholarly journal marketing today. It allows them to hold down production costs with less paper-intensive processes as well as to use a production platform what will grow in more electronic-oriented directions without having to invest in bespoke/custom programming.

Think of PubFusion as ECNext for the scholarly set, if you will, helping smaller publishers to take advantage of solid infrastructure that's at least in line with the market's expectations. The fact that a major aggregator is initiating this effort gives it that much extra marketing punch, providing publishers with a look at how The New Aggregation is going to look moving forward. Content companies can support their clients' publishing needs with whatever discrete publishing and aggregation services add value to the content production and marketing process, either separately or in select bundles of capabilities. No longer does the content have to come to the database: the database can come to the content and provide value to the publishing process that can help publishers control costs and drive new revenue channels. PubFusion could be many things more than it is today, but as a starting point it's hats off to a great use of content technology assets that can help Wolters Kluwer build stronger marketing relationships with scholarly publishers.

Headlines for 29 November 2005

The Return of Monetized Eyeballs: User-Generated Media Property Valuations Soar
Business 2.0
Wall Street agog over Google
CNET News
Google Tests Pay-Per-Call Ads
PC World
Google to Offer Free Wi-Fi to Home City
Library Journal
New York Times begins printing outside U.S.
Crain's New York Business
Three-year budget freeze for News Intl
FT.com
What Google Should Roll Out Next: A Privacy Upgrade
The New York Times*
Internet Content and Visibility Becoming More of a Factor than Actual Roadside Visibility
Hotel News Resource
Finding a balance between digital copyright and consumers’ rights
IST Results
Places to Go: Stephen Downes explains Master New Media, the brainchild of Robin Good
NetDimensions
'Cyber Monday' Sales Strong, Web Sites Say
WSJ Online*
Thomson Financial to deliver PHLX sector index and PBOT market data
Finextra
Wolters Kluwer Health Introduces PubFusion(TM) Online Content Management Solution for Publishing
PR Newswire
Endeca Unveils Next-Generation Search, Navigation and Content Spotlighting for Online Publishing
BusinessWire
Manta Partners with Snapdata to Enhance Content Set
eMediaWire
Teragram to Provide Identification and Tagging Service on Public Companies for Forbes.com 'Attache' Tool
PR Newswire
McGraw-Hill's AccessMedicine Adds Definitive Surgical Reference
PR Newswire
Translations.com and Percussion Software Partner To Provide Global Content Management Solutions
BusinessWire

Monday, November 28, 2005

News Analysis - The Publisher's Dilemma: How to Build Shareholder Value and Future Revenues?

Break out the pitchforks and the torches, the shareholders are restless in the once-happy realm of publishing. While the likes of Google and Yahoo gobble up capital chasing extraordinary growth and healthy earnings, traditional publishers are caught trying to please institutional investors who may have very unrealistic expectations about what it takes to transform older business models into 21st century profits. But all is not lost for publishers that are willing to learn how to sell their positioning to investors with straight talk about both short-term and long-term expectations. The time for gladhanding colleagues on cushy buyouts is passing by as the time for true publishing survivalists to take charge comes into focus.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 28 November 2005

Craigslist head confirms citizen journalism project
Journalism.co.uk
The Washington Post wants YOU: Post Remix Debuts
P2PNet
Is the EU now attempting to regulate the internet via broadcasting legislation?
IT Analysis
A rival for the Bloomberg terminal on Wall Street?
Corante
As Corporate Ad Money Flows Their Way, Bloggers Risk Their Rebel Reputation
The New York Times*
British Library and Others Join Microsoft in Document Standards Effort
Information Today
Why IP owners should worry about open standards
CNET News
Blogging starts to take off in China
IT World Canada
OneSource Launches India Operations
Business Standard
A 'Wild West' in Media Makes Public Relations More Important
PR Newswire
Wiremedia Receives Additional Franchise Requests in Anticipation of the UFOC
BusinessWire
Dr. Joseph Webb Announces PrintForecast.com, a New Advisory Service for Printing Industry Executives
PR Web

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Growing the Economy: Moody's Economy.com Purchase Broadens its Financial Research Offerings

The financial research marketplace is no easy patch of ground to work these days. Large investment firms such as Fidelity are trying to strip research from major banks and brokerages from their trade execution pricing and there are a forest of research offerings from independent analysts and Indian vendors that are covering many topics very cost-effectively. So news from BtoB Online that Moody's Investors Service is picking up Economy.com comes as an interesting move to help Moody's keep in focus with professional financial analysts who are more likely than ever to be "rolling their own" financial analysis in an era of Fair Disclosure regulations that have made access to corporate data more widespread. Economy.com features a wide array of modeling tools and databases covering global markets with economic and credit risk data that allows financial modeling on many levels. More than just an acquisition of a stable of electronic publications, this purchase gives Moody's increased ability to sell a range of content solutions to analysts who may respect credit research offerings from Moody's and other research vendors but who want to see for themselves how the numbers really fly to gain a market advantage. Sometimes the solution is not what you're putting in to a research product but which research products a customer really needs to make a profitable investment decision.

Kenealy Returns to IDG Ventures; What's in Store for the Next CEO?

paidContent.org reports on IDG CEO Patrick Kenealy's stepping down to start a new fund for IDG's Venture Capital arm. Patrick steered a course for IDG that has brought its prestigious I.T.-oriented titles steadily more into line with online delivery, though taking some pains to make the content somewhat scarce in search engine results outside of online distribution partners such as Yahoo. This opened up doors for search engine-friendly suppliers such as TechTarget to fine-tune topical content channels for highly effective lead generation. The challenge that IDG faces in Kenealy's wake is not unusual: most generally-focused business and consumer titles are having a hard time keeping up with content users who know how to aggregate content effectively themselves through search engines, filtered alerts and weblog feeds. Given the I.T.-friendly crowd that is IDG's focus, the problem becomes that much more accentuated.

IDG has great content and is no slouch in deploying features that will keep readers in their camp, but the opportunity for IDG at this juncture is to think far more aggressively about the role of search engines, user-oriented feeds and user redistribution. This means thinking more clearly about each article as a robustly featured and strongly branded digital object whose value can travel through user-defined channels and gain value through its travels. As with many publishers the "safe haven" offered by syndication partners such as Yahoo is likely in the end to limit the revenue growth potential of IDG that can be gained by dealing with users as much more powerful partners in the content distribution game. Our best wishes to Patrick in his new role: hopefully he will spread the seeds of vContent on fertile ground.

Headlines for 23 November 2005

Moody's acquires Economy.com for $27 million
BtoB Online
CBS says in talks with Google for video search
Reuters
Media Giants Cling To 'Growth' Label Even As Their Core Businesses Plateau
Kagan
Legg Mason-PCM Deal Included Payout Pact That May Explain Timing on Knight Ridder Push
WSJ Online*
Buy the book, get the search service

CNET News
Primedia's losing act looks likely to continue

Crain's New York Business
Washington Post links to innovative readers
The Editors Weblog
SearchTHIS: The Gift of Google Angst
iMediaConnection
Ad-Supported Podcasting: Good Start, But There's More

ClickZ Network
Making Multi-Language Web Content Postings A Little Easier
TechWeb via Yahoo! News
Quest for the universal Wiki

InformationWeek
Blackwell's Book Services' Collection Manager(TM) to
Feature EBL Ebook Titles

PR Newswire
IHS to Buy I2 Technologies Content and Data Unit
Bloomberg via Rocky Mtn. News
Elsevier and Science Press Launch Joint Translation Center in China
PR Newswire
Ariel sues Reuters, which sues Bloomberg
UPI via WGMS
IDG CEO Stepping Down to Run Venture Fund
FOLIO: Magazine

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Slip Into Something More Flannel: Open Source Media Regroups Under More Personal Pajamas Media

Well, it took some chutzpah to have their new weblog's coming-out party at the Rainbow Room under a corporate-sounding name and a good amount more humility to say that it was a bad idea. Open Source Media has announced that it is returning to operations under its original Pajamas Media moniker, according to aa weblog entry by founders Charles Johnson and Roger L. Simon who eat a raw chunk of crow and admit that the "time to be grownups" approach requested by their financial backers was not working in the user-generated media marketplace. Presumably the PM branding will be applied to the new OSM infrastructure, and possibly a more personal editorial voice as well, as suggested in our earlier post. Weblogs require brand building on a much more personal level than traditional media outlets, which can be a challenge for suppliers who are trying to mix mainstream content sources and packaging with user-generated media. Media in general is all about generating valuable endorsements, both explicit and implicit: user-generated media takes that concept of endorsement much further into the content itself than other media, but it's the same game on a peer level more than an expert/god/goddess level. Corporate packaging can offset that peer-level endorsement value if it's not done in a way that allows individual voices to express their weight and value effectively.

On the other hand, you can blow both your personal and corporate branding by trying to "play the heavy" in personal content: Jason Calacanis, now in the role of shepherding Weblogs, Inc. through the AOL empire, breathed hot and heavy recently in a recent post on his weblog, threatening to call out the AOL lawyers to deal with a blatant ripoff of the Weblogs, Inc. design. People want to know that you have some power in personal content, but they want to know that it's your personal power and brand that's in play. Somehow I can't imagine Jason's approach playing very well with either corporate parents or your audience. As more mainstream content begins to rub shoulders with personal content these complex branding issues are going to become harder to manage for both individuals and the corporations who would like to leverage one another's talents and brand value. Content packaging is just beginning to bring these somewhat conflicting and contrasting branding issues into focus, with effective resolutions few and far between.

Street Creds: Google's Backing of World Digital Library Clouded by OCA Rhetoric

The Washington Post notes along with other majors the birth of the World Digital Library, an effort led by the Library of Congress with financial backing from Google and in partnership with other national libraries such as those of Russia, Spain, Brazil, France and The Netherlands. The goal is to create a common online repository of public-domain works such as rare books, manuscripts, maps, posters, stamps and other materials collected from around the world. Already Google has helped the Library of Congress to digitize thousands of works, so this is a reminder of sorts to the library community at large that Google is in line with the core mission of archivists worldwide. Yet as pointed out by Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Watch if you'd read The San Francisco Chronicle's article on "A World Library Online" via SFGate today you'd be reading about how Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle is saving the world from the rash plans of Google through the Open Content Alliance initiative. Key quote from the SFGate: "I had a feeling of being back in the early days of open source software -- where everybody was there because they hated Microsoft," said Paul Duguid, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems. "This was the un-Google meeting."

The SFGate article replays the OCA party line about "evil" Google trying to make commercial hay of their scanned content. Yet further down in the piece we learn of Brewster Kahle's Internet Bookmobile machine, a unit which is able to pop out scanned books into very credible print facsimiles of an original. Gee, that doesn't have much commercial potential, does it...? OCA has some great thinkers, some great content and some great goals, but it's time for this "my global vision is more pure than yours" nonsense to come to a halt. OCA members have commerce on their minds just as much as any one else and Google has a genuine interest in making public domain content available to the world as much as OCA members. The only point where OCA winds up being a "kinder and gentler" force is in its being more solicitous of publishers' fears of Google's efforts. Fear-driven marketing generally turns audiences off in the long run, a factor being discovered by Sony BMG in its efforts to introduce spyware into is DRM for audio CDs (eWeek). At some point OCA is going to have to implement support for commercial content as well as public domain content, at which time the true shape of this commercial competition with Google will become more clear. Until then, spin doctors will do what they can to shift the dirt to the other guy.

Headlines for 22 November 2005

World Digital Library Planned, Google Gives $3 Million
Washington Post
Internet ad revenue surges 33.9% in Q3 to $3.1 billion
BtoB Online
Google's Shopping Service to List User's Local Stores
The New York Times*
Internet still young, faster access to spur growth
Reuters
Use the Internet, don't fear it, newspaper editors told
AFX via Yahoo! News
Books Online: The Fee versus Free Battle Begins
Information Today
RSS on the Rise
ClickZ News
ChooseLaw Assists Prospective Law Students in Their Future Endeavors
PR Web
Before the sandbox, you go to content. In the sandbox, content comes to you!
Designing for the Sandbox
EFF Takes Action Against Sony BMG
eWeek
Reuters Messaging Is First Service To Connect Live To Microsoft's MSN Messenger And AOL IM Communities
Reuters Group
JupiterResearch Forecasts U.S. Digital Satellite Radio Device Market Will Grow to 55 Million Units in 2010
BusinessWire
ALM's Law.com Expands Blog Network with Addition of Three Leading Legal Commentary Sites
BusinessWire
Newstex Launches Blogs On Demand; Instant access to full-text blog feeds
BusinessWire
Ask Jeeves and GoFish Sign Content Licensing Agreement
MarketWire
Nexidia Launches New Business Unit to Expand Into Rich Media Search
PR Newswire
iwantcontent.com - new site for article authors and ezine publishers
ClickPress

Monday, November 21, 2005

News Analysis - Ground Support: The Shifting Role of Print Publications in B2B Media

Ah, print, the darling of trade publishers everywhere. It's still a potent weapon in today's B2B marketing wars, but with trade events and online publications soaring in their revenue mixes today's B2B publishers are oftentimes perplexed as to how to deal with the shifting strategic role of print. Just as yesteryear's battleships and today's aircraft carriers had to adapt their strengths to new types of missions B2B print publications can find important roles in today's business marketing mix - if they cede their former glories to new types of strategic and tactical roles. After all, how many things does an executive get in the mail these days that they really want to open?

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 21 November 2005

Google lets Web sites sign up advertisers directly
Reuters
Media deals push blogs into the mainstream
FT.com via MSNBC
No Blogs Next Year
ClickZ News
Gathering blogs into one place
The Seattle Times
Google's Scan Plan Debated at NYPL, as New "Book Search"
Name Emerges

Library Journal
How Google Tamed Ads on the Wild, Wild Web
The New York Times*
Diary of a Chinese Startup
Red Herring
Fast Search & Transfer sets out strategy to beat Google
Information World
Court applies reporter's shield to energy newsletters
Media Law
GPO getting closer to digital storage system
GCNNews
Consumer Publishers Lose Out on Tech Rebound
MediaWeek
CMP acquires Black Hat
BtoB Online
Administrators advise caution in Facebook postings
The Dartmouth
Cellphone clips and video podcasts vie for Emmy awards
WSJ Online*
Google's Riya Designs?
OM Malik
Thieme Medical Publishers Selects Cadmus' ArticleWorks(TM) for On-Demand Delivery of Journals
PR Newswire
PDFTextStream Upgraded, v1.4 Extracts PDF Form Content
PR Web via Yahoo! News
Interfax and Thomson Financial announce strategic partnership in Russia
Interfax
Science.gov Release 3.0 Enhances Federated Search Portal for Science.gov Alliance
ereleases
fuse Signs Deal With MobiTV Offering Content via Mobile Phones
PR Newswire via TNCNet

Sunday, November 20, 2005

KMWorld 2005/Streaming Media West: Applying Strategies and Tools for Organizational Performance

The San Jose Convention Center was the new venue for this conference, reflecting a faster pace and bustle and appropriately enough, a city center rather than the technical complexes of Santa Clara. The KM World and Streaming Media conferences run concurrently, and have adjoining exhibitions. This year, there was significant traffic from the KM conferences and exhibits into Streaming Media, as business solutions now involve streaming media technologies.

Overall, this year's program emphasized the application of the theory from last year's show, translated into actual practice. Recognizing that KM comes in multiple flavors, Tom Davenport, the keynote speaker, focused on different categories of knowledge workers, and the strategies that can be applied within the categories for 1) process and measurement, 2) organizational technology, 3) personal technologies, 4) social networks and 5) physical workspaces. These theme carried through to the individual sessions.

Search strategies dominated both the conference sessions and the exhibit floor, with the greater understanding that content management builds the repositories for various types of search. The challenge of relevant search is delivering the right content to the right knowledge worker at the right time. Collecting the content involves integration into workflow processes, and collecting relationships, not just the text itself, the domain of social networking applications. RSS and blogs are part of the technology to enable this process. More details on those sessions can be found on the Shore Industry Events blog.

Just as knowledge management has many flavors, so does search technology. Deciphering the value of search companies is a major challenge, since their marketing messages all sound remarkably alike, equally incomprehensible. Hence the opportunities for the increase in consulting companies on the exhibit floor and preconferences (as well as the speaker/book authors on the program) to guide customers through the maze of competing "secret sauces". As another dimension, the luncheon panel hosted by Verity, focused on conveying the value of enterprise search to executive management differentiating between the consumer search engines (meaning Google/Yahoo) and the varieties of enterprise search, which require relevance, not popularity. The same challenge faces the fast growing world of business blogs, which have to be differentiated from the personal journalism public blogs.

Knowledge comes in more than just text formats, and that realization was woven through the sessions for both KM World and Streaming Media. Personal knowledge management is not just the desktop, but also mobile devices, which become a format for delivering earnings calls for public companies, and expanding communication with constituents for public agencies, as well as a disaster recovery backbone. Streaming media provides for educational events, such as the Live Webinar on search, as well as delivering healthcare information to consumers. More details are covered in the Shore Industry Events blog.

Overall, these conferences are an excellent snapshot of the current state of approaches and vendors in knowledge management. The case studies are particularly instructive in looking at the dimensions of real life situations. Enterprises are tasked with solving problems, not buying technology, and the multitude of "so-called" solutions actually fit best in specialized domains, where they can provide high value. As this process continues, look for more consolidation, such as the Verity and Autonomy merger, represented separately for the moment. On the other hand, other useful technologies will emerge, such as Grokker, a last minute addition to the exhibit floor, with their exciting visualization technology for traditional published content in aggregated databases. Stay tuned for next year's developments in this fast moving space!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Battelle on Web 2.0: A Contentless Boom?

John Battelle of FM Publishing has a great piece in The New York Times Op/Ed pages today on the meaning of the "Web 2.0" buzz and why today's frenzy for Web properties is not a boom with a false bottom. John's premise is sound in many ways and based on generally accepted facts: inexpensive or free software and high-speed network access, effective search engines, more self-funded efforts by the "geeks" themselves, the trend towards acquisitions instead of IPOs. But mysteriously the article does not once mention the key driver in today's Web marketplace - content. This is where many involved in the Web 2.0 frenzy lose sight of the true focus of today's Web environment, which has subsumed technology as a whole far further into the overall structure of media and publishing than had been the case ten years ago. Technology companies are still building the shovels with which publishing companies are going mining for gold, but increasingly the gold miners of content are coming out on top with viable monetization schemes for content. Add in user-generated media taking advantage of nearly free technology shovels and there are a broad array of publishers who are the true winners in this mix.

As in earlier Web efforts there will be media and technology companies that jump in with notions of how content works that prove to have as weak a false bottom as the original dot-com bubble. We may not see as many "build it and they will come" fiascos this time around but there is plenty of money chasing weak business plans and weak technology that need to be evaluated outside of the Web 2.0 rhetoric. Welcome again, folks, to Content 2.X, where both technology and traditional media companies need to start negotiating their value propositions with users and institutions who have come to understand the value of content better than themselves.

Reed Elsevier's Investors Day Highlights

On November 17, RE's CEO Sir Crispin Davis and CFO Mark Armour provided a trading update to investment analysts. The overall picture was positive with 5% organic growth expected for the year. Within the four divisions, Legal is ahead of plan, Education is lagging below plan, and Science and Business are on target.

The Seisint acquisition in July, 2004 has helped bolster the Legal group's revenues and with its risk management tools has moved the group into the workflow/application arena. Including Seisint, Legal revenues are expected to grow 20% in 2005.

The Education division relies heavily on the US basal market (i.e., core texts for the K-12 market) and isn't as well positioned to benefit from growth in e-learning in professional markets as is Thomson or Wolters Kluwer. Low single digit organic growth is now expected for this division for 2005.

In the Science division, I found it encouraging to hear that library budgets for content are now growing 4-6%. Elsevier's investment in developing Scopus is also paying off with sales ahead of plan, and new updates forthcoming.

The Business division is weathering the print ad decline fairly well through offsetting growth in online services and good performance in the exhibition business.

Reed Elsevier will hold an Investor Seminar next Monday, November 21 with senior executives from Elsevier and other divisions. Shore will report more detail on the performance of the groups at that time.

Headlines for 18 November 2005

Google at $400: Is It on Merit Or Just a Mania?
WSJ Online*
Building a Better Boom
The New York Times*
FEC rules that a blog is 'the press'
Media Law
VNU terminates planned merger with IMF, CEO to step down
BtoB Online
Collapse of IMS Deal Takes Sale Focus Off VNU Business Media
FOLIO: Magazine
U.S. gives blessing to NYSE-Nasdaq mergers
BusinessWeek
Preserving the essence of the net - UN Summit
BBC News
Reuters to spend $4m on India growth plan
Finextra
Moto Phone Offers Cingular Users No-Click News
Extreme Tech
Google opens offices in Latin America
InfoWorld via Yahoo News
Questions, Answers on Newspaper Business
AP via Yahoo News
Is the British blogosphere lagging behind?
USC Annenberg OJR
eMeta Software Provides eCommerce Infrastructure For edweek.org
BusinessWire

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Yankee Swap: Seeking Value from Today's I.T. Research

The Boston Globe reports that the Yankee Group has a new owner, the fourth new owner in less than a decade. (Primark acquired Yankee in 1996, then in May 2000 Yankee was sold to Reuters, then Decision Matrix bought Yankee from Reuters 18 months ago, and now Alta Communications and Emily Green have acquired Yankee.) The Globe article mentions the decline in the value of publishing white papers. I wouldn't classify the reports from the Yankee Group as white papers, since they include substantive industry forecasts. But, whether the reports be company white papers or true industry market studies, the research/consulting segment is affected by the same dynamics that have hit the publishing industry. Static print (or PDF equivalent) reports that provide useful, but not customized, reviews of new technologies and companies are no longer valued at a premium.

Instead, models like that of TechTarget, which is poised for an IPO, where the tech vendors subsidize the publishing side of the business through advertising and event sponsorship are gaining steam. Although TechTarget currently resembles a trade publishing network more than a research/consulting firm, one can already see that TechTarget and other web-savvy IT trade publishers are picking up business at the expense of the former high-flying IT research firms. Plus, TechTarget has been very adept at leveraging the growth in online advertising.

Nonetheless, it would be premature to report the impending death of the IT research/consulting firms. Forrester, for example, is adapting well by leveraging its brand into a broader range of events, webcasts, weblogs, and use of other media to promote and package its products and services. It will be interesting to see if the new owners of the Yankee Group with Emily Green--a former Forrester analyst--at the helm can steer Yankee toward a more vibrant and nimble model that leverages its knowledge and expertise, as well as its relationships with clients and vendors, via a wider range of research products, services, and events. To extract a premium in the current environment, research/consulting firms have to provide clients with information customized for the client in a form and format that matches the specific needs of each client. Broad industry forecasts may garner news headlines, but they are not very helpful to clients that are formulating strategies to compete with the handful of companies that constitute their primary competitors, nor do they help identify emerging competitors from adjacent segments.

Test Drive: Google Base has Huge Potential, Modest Start

After a bumpy start (recurring Google theme these days?) the Beta version of Google Base is online, already filling with items and filling people's minds with questions about the implication of its presence. It's definitely an EARLY Beta swag at this - search results do not provide links to database records, just links to external items - but you can see some early outlines of what the service will entail with just a little doodling:

- Early competitive targets are hinted at via its list of existing record types: Course Schedules, Events and Activities, Jobs, News and Articles (with its bulk upload capabilities this one could be very interesting), People Profiles, Products, Recipes, Reference Articles, Reviews, Services, Vehicles and Wanted Ads. In other words many types of content that database publishers like to make money with today.
- The tool itself is reasonably flexible if you want to create your own item (record) types: here's an example of a company rating record that I quickly cobbled together based on content from a recent weblog entry. So from a technical standpoint is it possible to create business information records in this format fairly easily? In a general sense, yes, BUT...
- A gander at Google Base's Terms of Service is fairly revealing. If you put content in Google Base it says that Google does not want to impede your ownership rights but it reserves the right to display content from the service in Google products. No liability on Google's part for technical failures. They may use advertising as they please.
- A reporting feature allows users to notify Google about bad or questionable items, allowing for a certain amount of community-generated quality control.

Bottom line? For the short term this is a facility designed to collect mostly user-generated media and other forms of content from open source enthusiasts. While it's not entirely far-fetched to think that it could be used for serious business information that's not likely to happen until models for monetizing content in the established categories have been worked out. The most likely candidate for early business-oriented postings are feeds from government sources and other regulation-related public information; posting press releases may also be an early candidate for clever people who know how to add value to them with Google tools. The main factor to ponder with Google Base: databases have been moving towards commoditization for some time, but now developing structured content for the masses has become that much easier.

Consider this a shot not only at eBay, Craigslist and other more traditional databases but as well a poke at wikis and other simple database tools which do not have the ease of use, sorting and and data formation offered by Google Base. It took Google a while to get around to helping webloggers to monetize their content with advertising, so expect another shoe to drop at some point that may provide for more monetization capabilities to be added to Google Base. But even with those capabilities the lack of true service-level agreements, subscription control and other key components used for premium business information sources is not likely to make Google Base a serious player in many forms of business publishing for quite some time. But with Google's push into enterprise computing it's possible that Google Base could become a search-friendly tool for organizing many forms of enterprise content. This in turn may find business content being sent to enterprises for local storage in Google Base. Profound implications from all angles, to be sure. We'll see how this develops, but expect Google Base's growth to be driven by creative users and adapters of its content as much as by Google's own product efforts. That could mean a highly accelerated path to growth.

SIIA Brown Bag: The New Aggregation on the March. Shore Rates Survivability of Evolving Models

Hal Espo of Contextual Connections chaired a great panel on aggregation at today's SIIA Brown Bag, with panelists Ethan Eisner, VP of Marketing and Strategy for Corporate & Federal Markets, for LexisNexis, Alf Poor, VP of Client Services for Relegence Corporation, Debby Richman, Senior Vice President, Consumer Products for LookSmart and Larry Schwartz, President of Newstex LLC. While the videoconferencing was problematic in the beginning of the session, eventually the connection revealed some of the best practices motivating aggregation in today's content marketplace.

For LexisNexis, aggregation is increasingly responding to the "sea change" that they're hearing from their clients seeking value from premium content and focusing more content integration solutions, though LexisNexis continues to pursue lucrative content deals such as today's announced exclusive distribution of the Wall Street Journal to North American law firms. Integration of content from all sources is the future for LexisNexis, but they still rely on licensed content for most of their revenues. LexisNexis services a broad array of highly focused user requirements in the legal space and in the process of doing so with exclusive content is developing a value proposition that is ever harder to resist.

For Newstex aggregation is about adding contextual value to content from both free and licensed sources in a variety of formats in feeds to portals, publishers and institutions. In addition to adding stock ticker symbols Newstex has been honing its technology to tag news and weblog content with "people tickers" to associate content with individuals. This is a key factor for business intelligence applications and business information databases, which will benefit from Newtex' recently announced"Weblogs on Demand" service that tags high-quality weblogs the same as mainstream news content . Larry Schwartz sees user-generated media such as weblogs moving from about ten percent of their current content base to about half of it within two years, underscoring the importance of a more complex array of content sources needed to succeed in today's aggregation marketplace.

For Relegence aggregation is about developing a best-in-class business intelligence tool that is designed to filter content from a broad variety of premium, Web and enterprise sources into a common desktop alerting mechanism. With its roots in financial services Relegence focuses on low-latency content delivery and programming interfaces that can feed their sophisticated filtering output to other applications that can display content or execute various functions based on their analysis. While Relegence has recently announced a partnership with Dow Jones for a Dow Jones-branded intelligence platform for financial professionals they still see their future as an independent, agnostic provider of content services that provides value to content through highly effective filtering.

For LookSmart aggregation is about providing more value to online publications by providing effective vertical searches of free and premium online content in well-structured taxonomies that guide users to specific topic areas. LookSmart offers searches of open Web content but also provides a segregates search of articles from mainstream publishers, a relatively finite universe of content for which their taxonomies service audiences fairly well and drives up the value of their click-through advertising. LookSmart's Debby Richman notes that you don't have to own content to provide effective aggregation, though partnerships such as the recently announced availability of high-quality images from RLG's research library databases help LookSmart to help users to focus on the best of the Web without traditional redistribution agreements.

All of these are in their own ways excellent examples of The New Aggregation, the evolving business environment for content aggregation services that relies less on distribution control and more on focusing on specific attributes of content aggregation that add value to a user's experience of content in venues that they value most. But which models are most "survivable"? As seen in the recent acquisition of Moreover by Verisign, being a pioneer in The New Aggregation is no assurance of survivability. There will be only a handful of generalists in The New Aggregation dominating each attribute of aggregation, while others will select industry verticals and user roles that they can dominate with domain-specific knowledge of content and user needs. From this perspective let's look at the panelists' offerings and consider their roles:

- LexisNexis' focus on users in legal and justice markets allows them some sense of security, but as with most aggregators with traditional roots balancing old-world content licensing agreements with the more functionality-oriented expectations of today's users will put pressure on margins for some time to come. More integrators are getting skilled in legal content integration with workflow-oriented solutions that provide integration of collaborative content and other types of critical communications.
SURVIVAL RATING: Good, but they run the risk of being shackled to expensive and out-of-date content licensing deals that may limit the growth of true solutions positioning.

- Relegence's capabilities are highly polished and well-adapted to the real-time expectations of financial specialists, but those expectations tend to hem in many content technologies from focusing on a broader array of user needs and verticals.
SURVIVAL RATING: Fair, its functionality is well-honed by years of refinement by a demanding audience but those demands have made the product over-focused on a narrow range of requirements. They may require stronger partners to carry them to broader markets.

- Newstex faces the challenge of trying to add value to what is at its core a distribution model, but by focusing on their indexing expertise, value-add packaging and moving aggressively to enhance user-generated sources that others hesitate to tackle Newstex can position itself as a dominant supplier more in tune with the value points in today's content than traditional feed suppliers.
SURVIVAL RATING: Good, if they can maintain an aggressive pace of digesting sources untouched by others and developing value-add services tailored to advertisers as well as content acquirers.

- LookSmart offers categorized content from a finite and filtered universe of publishers and sources, which can benefit users and advertisers trying to find one another in quality content settings. But in spite of a savvy verticalization strategy its core focus on traditional ad-oriented sources limits the range of high-value tools that browsers and searchers may be seeking to solve questions that drive them to a search portal in the first place. You may get the right audience through a product like LookSmart, but whether that audience will return to you through them may be another question altogether.
SURVIVAL RATING: Fair. It's not clear that they can develop the right range of content for the right audiences in the right contexts fast enough to differentiate themselves in the eyes of users. Their Alexa stats show increasing per-user pageviews but soft overall traffic, indicating that pleasing advertisers may not be enough to drive revenue growth over the long haul.

So all in all The New Aggregation is honing content companies into new shapes that oftentimes resemble older business models but that have to be far more selective when choosing which attributes of aggregation are going to be in their best interests. Letting go of "owning" content distribution is just the beginning of finding a successful formula in today's aggregation. It's all about owning audiences in the contexts in which they value content the most at a given point in time. Those contexts and the venues in which they appear are shifting at a very rapid pace, even as new sources of content change the proposition of what audiences will be valuing as content sources a few months from now, much less in a few years. Unaddressed by the panel is the increasing power of personal content distribution and its impact on aggregation: if users and enterprises are the most effective content aggregators today, how do aggregators tap into those models more effectively? More to come, to be sure. Thanks to the panelists for a great session, and thanks to the SIIA for working to make webcasting technology a core component of making their own content more valued around the world.

Early Returns on Times Select Project on High End of Expectations

Joseph Nocera writes for The New York times on the progress of the Times Select premium subscription project - ironically a Times Select offering, so if you aren't signed up for it you won't get the insights. The project has already attracted more than 270,000 subsribers to the premium content, half of which were not already subscribers and therefore providing a net gain of revenues. The Times' Martin Nisenholtz sees this "at the high end" of expectations, according to the article. The "bait" for this exercise is content from popular New York Times columnists, along with the other premium items, some of which are exclusive to online subscribers and heavily promoted in the paper. It's a good model in most ways, but the inclusion of the columnists, although necessary in the beginning to attract ad dollars to a significant audience, will remain the plan's long-term vulnerability. People will pay $200 a seat to see Celine Dion in Las Vegas - reluctantly, since it's the only venue where she can be found - but exclusivity doesn't necessarily improve your visibility.

More to the point it's unclear whether this new model will be able to fund improvements to basic news coverage, the area in which newspapers are cutting back most drastically these days. Nocera points to research by a Citigroup analysis which suggests that only a third of ad revenues coming out of print make their way into online revenues. Online ad rates are showing signs of increasing, which may allow revenues to catch up in time. But like television news organizations that pared editorial capabilities back to the point where they are mostly "infotainment" outlets, newspapers are on the same track towards de-funding their core capabilities. The Times, by virtue of its aggressive moves into new online business models, may yet escape this fate by using "infotainment" revenues to fund hard news gathering, but the inevitable decline of columnists behind a paid subscription barrier tends to argue against it in the long run. Valuable premium content needs to thrive on its own virtues, but hopefully the Times can leverage these columnist-inspired revenues to beef up other more long-lasting virtues more central to its mission.

KMWorld Events Coverage

Shore Senior Analyst Jean Bedord was at this week's KMWorld event in Santa Clara, CA, and has provided summaries of many of the major panels at this event on our Industry Events weblog. It's interesting to see in her notes the increasing importance of social software as a core component of KM initiatives.
Click here to read Jean's posts on KMWorld.

Headlines for 17 November 2005

Mapping a revolution with 'mashups'
CNET News
Google Base as a platform
SiliconBeat
Users Crowd into MySpace
BusinessWeek
Primedia to Buy Stake in Automotive.com
AP via Yahoo! Finance
Forrester study shows marketers shifting spending to online
BtoB Online
RX for Medical Libraries
Library Journal
Fair Use in the Internet Age
Legislating IP
Anybody Notice that Google's Applications Ain't So Good?
Publish
Tribune to Cut Staff At Los Angeles, Chicago Papers
WSJ Online*
Reed Elsevier sees sales shortfalls at US education business
AFX via Forbes
Experts: Sony DRM Plan Worsens Problem
News Factor
The Pen Gets a Whole Lot Mightier
The New York Times*
Rouge Web Bots Increasing Costs, Stealing Content New Tool from BotSense.com Stops Bad Bots

PR Web
Groxis Releases Web2.0 Application for Enterprise Search Management
PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance
Chooselaw.com Announces Free Legal Content Feeds Via RSS
and Javascript

PR Web
Mainstream Data to Distribute UPI Content to Middle East
PR Newswire
GoFish Technologies to Provide Multimedia Content to About.com
MarketWire via Yahoo! Finance

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Open Source Media Launch: Citizen's Media Meets the Rainbow Room

Shore is at the Rainbow Room today to witness the launch of Open Source Media, formerly known as Pajamas Media. The announcement on the wires today notes that OSM will focus its 70-plus contributors on news, politics and current events, branching out into other mainstream media topics over time.

Complete coverage is available on our Industry Events weblog, including detailed notes on comments by Judith Miller and Senator John Cornyn.

Gawker Cuts Weblog Distribution Deal with Yahoo: Leveraging the Value of Independence

Reuters reports along with other majors on the licensing of five of Gawker Media's leading weblogs for distribution via Yahoo. This comes only a few weeks after Jason Calacanis flipped all of his Weblogs, Inc. property to AOL. By interesting coincidence, Jason put out an email blast yesterday looking for a new Web programmer to support Weblogs, Inc. operations. Perhaps his tech support didn't cotton to the new realities of AOL? Who's to say, but at the end of the day Nick Denton's Gawker Media approach seems to be the one that will win out in the end, offering its high-profile authors a multitude of sophisticated marketing channels through which to market their talents. In an earlier post I compared the selloff of Weblogs, Inc. to movie stars in the 1940s who were wedded to their studio contracts, slowly dying on the vine as television pumped up anonymous performers into household names. Gawker's moves tend to emphasize this analogy, with Denton acting as the savvy agent for his stable of independent properties to get them the best individual deals in the best venues. Kudos to Nick Denton for cutting an attractive licensing deal that maintains the position of his properties on the Web while offering them a powerful marketing channel via a leading portal. 'Tis the way to do it...

Headlines for 16 November 2005

Google Base Live, Accepting Content
Search Engine Watch
New Project Will Expand Google's Reach
AP via Yahoo! News
Google Aims for the Classified Ads Business
The New York Times*
Google Base Launched. Yuck.
TechCrunch
Gawker blogs land Yahoo distribution deal
Reuters
ABM report bodes well for business publishers
BtoB Online
Web Sites Build Up Ad Backlog
WSJ Online*
Report: Online Newspaper Readership Up 11% in Oct.
Editor & Publisher
Dark Knight: Why Would Anyone Want to Buy Knight Ridder?
Slate
Your Buyers Don’t Want Gobbledygook
EContent Magazine
Is Friendster Up for Sale?
CNET News
What Happens if the Old Media Dies Too Soon?
Silicon Valley Watcher
Newsstand Sales Soar For Celebrity Magazines
MediaPost
Flickr, Buzznet expand citizens' role in visual journalism
USC Annenberg OJR
Pajamas Media Goes 'Open Source,' Flips Switch on New
Online Venture at New York City Launch Event

PR Newswire
Inxight Offers Entity Clustering of Federated Search
Results in New SmartDiscovery Awareness Server 5.4

PR Newswire
United Business Media Acquires Events in US & Japan
PR Newswire

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Google Analytics Offers Free Insights Into Web Site Marketing Performance

The news of the debut of Google Analytics reached the online world yesterday and promptly brought the service to its knees. But on day two the service is performing well and reveals a capability that promises to put to rest some of the arguments against the lack of cost performance measurement raised against Google's AdWords and AdSense capabilities. With a very simple piece of code that can be inserted into each Web site's page, Google Analytics will spew out well-designed reports to help Web site owners to understand in detail how their traffic is converted into purchasing opportunities and effective content traffic. Reports can be optimized for a marketing view or a content view and include graphics and lists of visits by pageviews, new and returning visitors, source and geographic distribution, with varying levels of detail. The detailed reports a wide variety of views for executives, marketers and webmasters, including CPC program analysis, CPC versus organic conversion, keyword conversion and other views critical for understanding the value of online marketing and advertising campaigns.

While easy to use on its outermost layer Google Analytics appears to provide a very rich level of analysis that will help advertisers to maximize their ad investments more easily than ever before. This will be one more nail in the coffin of advertising and online directory services that do not offer up optimal ad performance. While there's no guarantee that Google's ads will out-perform the competition every time having data such as this at its disposal will give them enormous power to understand and optimize their advertising tools for a wide variety of audiences and advertising needs. Score one yet again for Google in the vision and power columns, with the performance column being up for grabs but bolstered significantly by the presence of a powerful tool that will help them to understand what it takes to win at the performance game on a very broad and detailed basis.

Yellowikis Takes On Open Source Business Information for Consumers and Enterprises

ZDNet has a great writeup on Yellowikis, a wiki database developing open source content business listings. Yellowikis founder Paul Youlten used to work in business development at Reuters Business Information (now Factiva), so he is aware of the business information marketplace and eager to apply the lessons learned from other wiki efforts to collecting information about companies. While targeting the yellow pages industry first and foremost their home page sees their mission as being "Yellow Pages (http://www.yellowpages.com), Dun and Bradstreet (http://www.dnb.com/us/) and Hoovers rolled into one - but open, free to both companies and users, global, multilingual and a lot more ecologically friendly." When Paul's daughter had an entry into Wikipedia rejected because it was not considered encyclopedic by the peer reviewers the light bulb went off in Paul's head. No problem, instant business publishing company run on free MediaWiki software and a little grit. Business listings rejected by Wikipedia are one source of content but Yelllowikis takes in content from the public at large, focusing on the basics: company name, contact details, company profile, competitors and key categorization tools such as geographic codes, SIC codes and NAICS codes. Their focus is international and multilingual in scope, with a current emphasis on Pakistan to facilitate earthquake relief efforts in that country.

While hardly something in its current form that would cause the business information industry to quake in its boots it's a typical "first mover" project that could build momentum with amazing speed to the point that eventually there's little room for near-substitutes to develop. How many online encyclopedias like Wikipedia do you want to refer to and update - and, likewise, how many free online business listings? But a key difference in this project versus Wikipedia is that an open source business information may not attract the subject matter experts that underpin a product like Wikipedia. With so many services providing electronic business information it's not clear that the world is clamoring for yet another product that is shoehorned into the oftentimes limited capabilities of wiki software. Will a local merchant be likely to want to update this listing when they already maintain a Web site from which such information can be harvested? This project certainly points out the potential for social publishing to impact core business information markets but also the problem of starting such an effort: how do you gain enough focus in any one community of businesses to have it taken seriously? It's far more likely that other kinds of services that are not tied down to the limitations of wiki software and that have sophisticated text mining capabilities to collect information automatically are going to be able to collect basic business information that can be edited by participants, similar to the Zoominfo model for business contacts. But as a shot across the bow Yellowikis offers a compelling glimpse at the basic problems faced by database publishers who must contend with the ease and affordability of database publishing made possible by today's leading content technologies.

Headlines for 15 November 2005

Amazon.com to join S&P 500
Reuters
Pressured, Knight Ridder Ponders Sale of Company
The New York Times*
Subscribing to China's Masses
WSJ Online*
API Funds $2M 'Newspaper Next' Project to Test New Business Models
Editor & Publisher
Harris study shows executives trust traditional media
BtoB Online
Ex-Post Newsweek Tech Media Exec Forms New Media Company
FOLIO: Magazine
Yellowikis - A Case Study of a Web 2.0 Business Part 1
ZDNet
Jimbo Wales on Wikipedia and the Digital Divide
Kevin Driscoll
Wikis allow news, history by committee
CNET News
Interactive Data's ComStock Launches PlusFeed, the Real-Time Datafeed for Financial Applications
BusinessWire
Microsoft Delivers Free, Comprehensive Desktop Search Capabilities for Enterprise Customers
PR Newswire
ProQuest brings 19th Century periodicals into digital age
InformationWorld
Reed Business Information to License U.S. Science Title Content to IDG's China-Based BioTech World
PR Newswire
KnowledgeStorm Dramatically Expands the KnowledgeStorm Network
PR Web
Pajamas Media Closes $3.5 Million Venture Round
PR Newswire
Reuters Completes Ecowin Acquisition
Reuters Group
blinkx Offers Searchable Speeches From Cambridge and the
Ivy League by Leaders, Economists, Authors

PR Newswire

Monday, November 14, 2005

News Analysis - InfoCommerce 2005: Connecting Quality Content with Today's Professionals

Database and directory publishers assembled at this year's InfoCommerce 2005 conference to trade insights on how to create quality content, an objective that is taking on new meaning in an era of user-driven content products. Today's content quality is as much about being able to respond to client needs uniquely and responsively as it is about I.T.-driven process controls. Users are in the driver's seat for defining what really makes a content service successful, a fact that forces publishers to reach out to their audiences in new and sophisticated ways. Today's content quality may be in the hands of the user, but it beats spending tons on second-guessing their needs.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Gather.com Introduces Powerful New Tools to Build Valuable User-Generated Media

The official launch of Gather.com was announced today, ushering in a powerful new set of tools to help individual authors to mingle their content with professional publishers in an online system designed to reward authors for their content's popularity and quality. Publishing via Gather is about as simple as any well-designed weblogging or social content interface, with the plus of easy-to-use keywording and categorization tools. But the real fun of Gather comes into focus once you hit the "publish" button. Your content is integrated into the Gather publishing community, which includes content both from individual contributors and content authored by contributors to public radio stations. Articles in Gather are sorted by highest user ratings, most read, favorite topics and by the pick of Gather editors. Publishing allows authors to accumulate Gather points, similar to frequent flier miles that will be redeemable for additional Gather services or for goods and services via participating online merchants. Popular content that's rated highly gets more points for participants, so there's an incentive to publish in the portal first.

The initial Gather.com site's content is colored by its use of public radio content as the anchor for attracting like-minded authors and readers to this online community, which is not a bad thing if you're an advertiser trying to reach the generally upscale and more female adult demographic found in this audience. Not everyone out there will be interested in the exploits of FarmGirl Susan, but for those that are in this mix it's an attractive range of content. Obviously this is a general technology that can be used to develop content for many kinds of specific communities, as well as to provide content that can be syndicated into other content channels looking to attract communities sharing affinity with their own content. From that perspective think of this initial introduction of Gather as a high-quality demo of what could be used for a wider variety of audiences. Also valuable in this community is the ability to view social networks of people who are authoring in the Gather environment, so that you can figure out how to get intros to authors and comment posters in the Gather community. It's probably the most effective integration of social networks with high-quality content out there today.

While Gather is not a true replacement for weblogs that offer individual authors the opportunity to develop their own independent authoring persona and publishing brand value, it is a well-designed alternative channel for weblog-like content. Gather can give talented independent authors an opportunity to be discovered and ranked by a broader audience base than is generally found in the somewhat closed community of webloggers sharing links. It avoids the "impresario" approach of talent development taken by recently acquired Weblogs Inc. and allows authors to gain financial benefits as their content rises in user esteem: the audience itself becomes the impresario. Not everyone is cut out for tweaking their content for search engines and trackbacks to gain ad dollars, so this offers less entrepreneurial authors not concerned with content ownership issues a middle ground that can build some brand value while broadening their exposure. Gather would benefit from recognizing that general technology for publishing community-building is only as good as the communities that it attracts and work actively to create additional Gather-branded communities that look and feel like distinct gathering places. With a reseller/affiliate program Gather could provide an attractive piece of infrastructure for magazine publishers looking to do the same with their audiences in an easily managed environment. But for now Gather represents an interesting and powerful new example of how well-packaged user generated media can form a powerful publishing resource that appeals to authors, audiences and advertisers alike.