Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Test Drive: Ask.com Searches for a Better Google Solution

The new Ask.com is pretty killer. The target for this Jeeves-less rebirth of the venerable search portal is clearly Google, but now o so much more from a feature and content perspective in many ways. Type in a company name into the Web search box and not only do you get darn good search results but in some instances premium corporate profile's from ECNext's Goliath premium content service in sponsored search results up top. For others like General Motors the results include some pretty interesting options: "narrow your search" categories (History of General Motors, General Motor Engines,General Motors Timeline,General Motors Corporation Job Vacancies, etc.), broaden your search (competitors) and related names. It may lack some of the sparkle of Factiva's 2.0 beta, but it's highly usable content contextualization for business-oriented searchers. The search results themselves for Web content are very acceptable in a first pass, both in terms of search quality and embedded features. A nice little plus is a binocular icon on many results that allows you to pop up an image of a page when you cursor over it before you waste a click to look at the actual page. Natural language searches also return pretty good results.

Meanwhile, back at the main search page there's of course the single-box Web search form but also a nicely designed menu of alternative searches through images, news, maps, weblogs, encyclopedias, desktop, mobile content, movies and so on. Click on any of these options and the search form changes automatically to the needs of that search, with examples of searches and search results expected popping up at the same time beneath the search zone. It's like having a whole reference set at your fingertips without having to click over to other pages to get something done. News search results seem to favor certain sources such as AFX rather heavily [UPDATE: sometimes WAY too heavily] but otherwise provide good and sometimes excellent selections. While Google News still works well on many topics, this is a news search that's at least a match in many ways and clearly superior to either Yahoo's or MSN News. Easy-to-subscribe RSS links for specific news streams makes it easy to get key topics onto a desktop.

I was prepared to be quite underwhelmed by this offering based on earlier efforts by the Ask team but Barry Diller has clearly invested a ton in making a highly focused reference product that can service a broad array of audiences with tools that place content sources in very valuable contexts. Google features have been slavishly copied in some instances (don't argue with success) but other key Ask strengths are retained and greatly enhanced by one of the most intelligently designed search interfaces on the open Web. Best of all the search results don't seem to disappoint in any major ways that I've encountered so far. Ask.com had fallen off of my radar based on earlier gut checks on quality: now it's in my bookmarks. Let the competition to do one better than this effort begin.

Email in the Content World - Growing but Dying?

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Anne Holland for MarketingSherpa today, focusing on what needs to happen for enterprise and media business content producers in the near term to build successful strategies. We'll post a link when she's done with the piece, but in the process of being interviewed I did a dumb thing - I actually had the temerity to say that email was dying as a communications medium. Marketing guru that Anne is, she quickly snapped a towel across my virtual butt through the phone and reminded me of the oodles of research that shows that email is alive and growing at tremendous rates as a marketing medium. Touche, Anne. Even Shore's own research shows that the most popular content technology tool for people on a daily basis remains the email inbox, and we oftentimes recommend to clients to focus on email as a key delivery channel. Guttenberg's invention was hardly perfect but we've gotten a few centuries of use out of it; email is going to be with us for a long time as well.

But I do believe that we're at the beginning of an era in which more effective personal communications tools for content are both necessary and emerging. The incorporation of elements from the Groove collaborative desktop into Microsoft Office 12 and the increasing popularity of collaborative online content services point towards ways of sharing information with trusted peers that preclude the need to push and pull content through email channels. Feeds from weblogs in RSS and Atom formats to desktops and mobile devices allow people to tune into and tune out messages from trusted sources at will, a fact that frustrates some marketeers but that quietly has allowed content to reach its destination unmolested by firewalls, spam filters and other agents of non-delivery with increasingly sophisticated tracking tools. Google's Gmail service and similar services from other portal providers use the email ID as a unique ID to leverage a broadening array of communications services.

So yes, email is growing, but I don't know that this means that it will continue to thrive in its current form. It's poorly adapted to a world in which people are using multiple devices to manage similar content services simultaneously. Instead over the next few years we're going to see a new breed of communications services keyed by email addresses initially but using altogether different communications methods to sync up publishers and audiences. Emerging communications methods and services are being driven more by peer communications than hub-and-spoke communications, a factor that will place a higher premium on being a member of a social community than sheer firepower from a central source for getting a marketing message out.

The primitive "forward" function of email will be transformed into a simpler metaphor that allows content to appear on a user's desktop or other device in a more useful and organized context than the inboxes that we deal with today, even as peers are alerted to new valuable content in a far more effective manner that accounts for its value in the eyes of a specific community in much the same way that many search engine results take into account content's popularity. Services such as Google Desktop that merge emails, Web, desktop and enterprise sources are already knocking at the door of this value proposition: why have an inbox here and a search engine there when you can have one content interface that delivers the most valuable content in one place?

I am sure that this all sounds far too futuristic for its own good to many, but looking carefully at the content industry it's clear that many of these phenomena are already taking shape. We're at the very early stages of developing collaborative publishing services, one in which most publishers will assume that it's fair game to milk the email cow much as print was milked long after it was clear that new channels needed to be nurtured. The next two to three years are going to require a lot of thinking about how you are going to adapt from an email-centric world to a peer messaging world that may look superficially like email in many ways but has far more sophisticated services and options to consider for publishers. In the meantime, get out the bucket and milk the email cow, to be sure, but keep your eyes open for the emerging alternatives.

ContentBlogger Gets a Coat of Paint

It's not a whole new look, but we thought that we'd incorporate some of the changes that we have planned for ContentBlogger now rather than later. We hope that the new look is pleasing to you. If you have further feedback on what you'd like to see in ContentBlogger please drop us a line or comment on this entry.

News Headlines for 28 February 2006

Trends
Yahoo sues former workers, alleging trade secrets were stolen
The Mercury News
Details unfolding on Microsoft's 'Origami'
CNET News
Plan for Fees on Some E-Mail Spurs Protest
The New York Times*
The Blog 50
The Blog Herald
Diller takes on Google
CNN Money
Networks Grapple With YouTube; CBS's Turn
paidContent.org
Television As We Know It: The Beginning Of The End
Robin Good
EMC Does e-Discovery
Enterprise Storage
Yahoo! to boost European content following media appointments
NetImperative
Miva Challenges Google, Yahoo With Contextual Ad Program
DM News
Google to Grab More ERP Office Space
Publish
Pearson lifted by first FT profit in four years
The Independent
Realtors Employ RSS Feeds to Sell Homes
Daily India

Best Practices
Business intelligence lies beyond IT: Dresner
ZDNet Australia
Study says search marketers missing out by neglecting alternative engines
BtoB Online

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

FactSet Research Systems Acquires europrospectus.com limited
Factset
LexisNexis Aligns with Ozmosys to Deliver Alerts
EContent Magazine
Blackboard and Berkeley Electronic Press Announce ResearchNow Content Blackboard Building Block(TM)
MarketWire
Oracle to Deploy infoUSA's OneSource Business Browser Across All Lines of Business Worldwide
BusinessWire
Business.com Partners With Entrepreneur.com and SmallBizSearch.com for Content Distribution
eMediaWire
Wolters Kluwer Financial Services and Freddie Mac Provide Bilingual Mortgage Documents & Ed Materials
PR Newswire
Info.com Adds Health Vertical Search to Its Search Platform; Healthline Partnership Enriches Queries
GEN
Hot Banana Partners with PRWeb to Add Press Release Distribution to its Active Marketing CM Suite
PRWeb

Products, Markets & People
Mainstream Data Launches MediasFTP(TM) - Managed FTP Delivery Service
PR Newswire via Yahoo! FInance
Answers.com Doubles Content Over Previous Six Months
PR Newswire

Monday, February 27, 2006

News Analysis - Beyond Rich Data: Servicing Business Markets through Enterprise and Media Content Services

As the call for more "rich data" in online business publications comes to the fore, many publishers are left wondering how they will be able to transform their businesses into operations that can provide business content solutions instead of just text, graphics and ads. This daunting proposition becomes more formidable yet when one realizes how publishers who have embraced rich data aggressively are penetrating key accounts at the enterprise level as well as through their media properties. But despair not, o business publisher, there are many different ways to play the rich media game. Read on to find some that might be right for you.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for the Week of 20 February 2006

Want to catch up on last week's headlines? Try our weekly categorized summary with imbedded commentary on the latest trends.

Click here to view last week's headlines in review

Headlines for 27 February 2006

Trends
Google Preps Strategy For Real-Time Business Search
CRN
Ask.com Expands Search Engine & Information Focus
Search Engine Journal
Microsoft's answer to the iPod - coming March 2nd?
P2PNet
Search and you will find ... an old news story?
USC Annenberg OJR
Ruling May Undercut Google in Fight Over Its Book Scans
The New York Times*
Justice Department responds to Google's privacy concerns
AP via The Mercury News
Google rumor: social bookmarking
ValleyWag
Blog Epitaphs? Get Me Rewrite!
WSJ Online*
'Copyright criminals' look to remix the noise--legally
CNET News
Pearson 2005 Preliminary Results: All-Round Growth, Record Year in Education, Record Cash Generation
PR Newswire
'Da Vinci Code' trial pits history against art
The Observer
News Corporation to Tap Not Just Its Film Vaults, but Art From the Street
The New York Times*
Idahoans discover blogging !
The Blog Herald

Best Practices

Public Media Conference: NPR's Podcasting Project: The Lessons Learned
paidContent.org

Cool Tools
Near-Time Combines the Power of Blogs, Wikis and Group Calendars in New Hosted Collaborative Service
BusinessWire
PodZinger - Searches For Content Within Podcast Audios
PodZinger

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

National Archives and Google to offer historic films online
Pandia.com

Products, Markets & People
Thomson West Introduces Westlaw RegulationsPlus
Information Today

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reuters Earnings Look Flat But the Core Business is Stabilizing

The Wall Street Journal reports on the strong margin improvements but weak forecast for Reuters, which prompted a big dump of the stock in the markets, a market move reflecting impatience with the pace of promised improvements. But the markets seem to be ignoring the changing tenor of the core Reuters financial content business. With today's announcement of Citigroup signing on for a global contract to implement key content and infrastructure from the Reuters Core Plus kit Reuters has cemented a key account in the investment banking community that will be a strong reference point for other implementers.

By comparison long-time rival Bloomberg is scrambling to come up with a cohesive implementation strategy that can keep the best of its desktop presence while trying to accommodate deepening client demands for effective integration. Thomson Financial has built infrastructure that is likely to build them into a significant rival to Reuters over time, but still picks at the sides of the investment bank markets whilst building out from its retail-oriented ILX core. So while the numbers may not look rosy for 2006, Reuters has established a good position from which to fend off key challenges and to make further inroads into Bloomberg growth.

None of this seems to translate into huge growth for any of these companies short-term, unfortunately. Financial markets are mired in a low growth mode while many investors plow their money into real estate or other tangible assets. In the meantime financial content has changed fundamentally in many ways as a marketplace. We've gone from a "sweet spot" market where most of the money was made off of general-purpose terminal and feed products to a "barbell" market where most of the money is made off of highly automated services on one end and highly sophisticated desktop services for an elite few on the other end.

Even as financial markets recover it's not likely that much of the fundamental shape of the market will change: we'll see many fewer trading positions being added as conditions improve as global electronic markets keep trading much more efficient. It's going to take some deep thinking in financial content vendor circles to come up with products and services that can out-shine the ever-growing capabilities of their clients to manage their own content value propositions in-house. Some of this will be accomplished by taking a fresh look at how to integrate media markets with financial markets. In the meantime Reuters is making unglamorous but steady progress towards a strengthening market position.

Headlines for 23 February 2006

Trends
Dow Jones Sets New Operations Structure, Sees $8 Million Annual Savings
Dow Jones via SmartMoney.com
Dow Jones Re-org: Interview: Rich Zannino, CEO
paidContent.org
Company claims patent win in online rich media
CNET News
Tech CEOs urge US find more wireless airwaves
Reuters via Boston.com
Reuters Posts 25% Rise in Net, But Its Outlook Disappoints
WSJ Online*
Reed Exhibitions reports year-end revenues up 11 percent
Expo
Blog Readership Down, Influence Up
Web Pro News
ITV Interview: Ian Blaine, Co-Founder and CEO, thePlatform
ITVT News Blog
WebSideStory Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against NetRatings
PR Newswire
New Media Summit '06 Releases Top-Ten Business Communication Trends
PR Newswire

Best Practices
Five Reasons Web 2.0 and Enterprises Don't Mix
Publish

Cool Tools
Google Introduces Web Page Creator
Search Engine Watch
Wi-Fi to Go: The Hot Spot in a Box
The New York Times*

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

Reuters and Citigroup Sign Groundbreaking Enterprise-Wide Contract
BusinessWire via FinanzenNet
Upload Integrates With Microsoft SharePoint, Uniting Enterprise Blog and Wiki Capabilities With Portals
PR Newswire

Clare Hart and Claude Green Debut: Early Days and Much to Consider

There were few new details coming out in today's Factiva telecon. It was mostly an introduction of interim Factiva CEO Claude Green, an ex-Reuter hand who will guide Factiva's existing initiatives and help to focus Factiva on sales and financial efficiencies given his background. Clare has put the pieces together, now it's up to Claude to make them deliver for the Dow Jones/Reuters joint ownership. Little will change in the Factiva universe short-term, but it will be interesting to see what Clare can do with the whole of Dow Jones Enterprise Media. This arm of DJ includes DJ Newswires, conferences, newsletters, indexes, licensing and the Factiva unit. So Clare's core mission is - yet again - to figure out how to blend in these disparate pieces into a whole. Clare did not indicate that there was any eminent plan to integrate consumer efforts in any new way, but it's day one and with so many changes on the consumer side of Dow Jones as well we'll see what happens. With Clare's focus on search as a driver of content value I stand by my original comments about "Yahoo! for business" being the ultimate DJEM goal.

In many ways Clare's challenges parallel those of Thomson's several years ago, when they had disparate enterprise and media products with little cohesion requiring integration into a client-focused whole. While the DJEM set of products is more limited and fragmented than Thomson's full kit a few years ago, in many ways the challenges are the same: simplify and reduce the cost of infrastructure, create a more cohesive brand and a delivery mechanism and marketing approach that are more client-centric than product-centric. One huge advantage that Dow Jones has at this time compared to Thomson in beginning these intiatives is that they retain and continue to grow ad-based revenues alongside enterprise subscription revenues. Thomson jettisoned its print-based ad properties a few years ago to concentrate on building a more cohesive enterprise business, which has paid off in some ways but now lacks the media content to drive margins as the ad business begins to thrive in electronic channels. So being attached to a "consumer" media business that is reinventing itself in very powerful ways will be a huge plus for DJEM.

Clare will have her hands full for a few months establishing her creds at a new level of the Dow Jones organization, but with Rich Zannino committed to being "hands on" in moving Dow Jones' strengths into a 21st century content market, she has been given license to prove that her broad vision of the possibilities for business content in today's enterprise markets can unfold more fully. That may prove to be tough to do with some of the products under the DJEM umbrella, but one suspects that with acquisitions and careful planning this is just the very beginning of a very different tune being played by Dow Jones.

Dow Jones Reorg: Zannino Creates a Content Company with Franchises

If you get a chance take twenty minutes to listen to paidContent.org's excellent Skype interview with Rich Zannino in which he outlines the consumer side of Dow Jones' reorg, which is a window into their overall thinking. The key factor is the pulling together of the various print and online franchises (WSJ, MarketWatch, Barron's) and operations under one organization that will use the various franchises as outlets for their core content creation capabilities. MarketWatch content will make its way onto WSJ.com, online content will makes its way into the WSJ print edition, and so on within the next few months. This brings Dow Jones operations in a more close alignment with other media companies that are learning to repurpose content through multiple franchises and begins to leverage MarketWatch capabilities in more premium channels instead of through low-value syndication channels. Rich points out that MarketWatch has become more profitable with less ad inventory and less traffic after deciding to forego renewal of a syndication deal.

On the financial side DJ has come up with a formula for reporting that allocates incremental costs (as opposed to fixed costs) for driving online content to the incremental revenues. Rich points out that reporting follows the best way of running the business, but it's significant that the measurements have been irrevocably shifted to a content company mix rather than a print-plus-online mix. Notably Gordon Crovitz and Clare Hart report into Rich on a peer basis and Rich sees no need for a COO to keep him away from these crucial changes. It looks like DJ shareholders are on the road to a renewed organization that will be much better aligned for profitable and growing operations. Tune in the MP3 audio for this interview here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Clare Thing: Clare Hart Takes a Step Up at Dow Jones

I just walked into the office a few minutes ago and heard about the announcement that Factiva CEO Clare Hart is moving up in the Dow Jones world. Per the press release she is now a Dow Jones EVP and becomes President of an entity called Dow Jones Enterprise Media. Claude Green, currently Deputy CEO, will become Interim CEO, while Clare now becomes chair of Factiva's board, formerly Gordon Crovitz' position in the Factiva structure.

I will be learning more about this tomorrow, but a few just-in-the-door observations:

- While Factiva has not performed astoundingly well financially, there's no doubt that Clare carved a new and financially viable entity out of some very fragmented pieces and drew together disparate cultures into a much more powerful whole and energized what were two relatively sleepy products into a cohesive whole that has strong brand identity. These are skills that are about to be put to a greater test.
- The label "Dow Jones Enterprise Media" is a very telling label, one that I am sure that we're going to be hearing a lot of buzz (and some hype) about in the weeks ahead. Clearly the core of the Dow Jones market is enterprise based, either taking their feeds institutionally or Wall Street Journal-family products individually. The move in enterprises towards individuals being empowered as content purchasers for solutions larger than a newspaper subscription creates a great opportunity for a vendor such as Dow Jones with two great brands that resonate in the corporate space strongly to create an entity that includes WSJ and other media components and Factiva's increasingly sophisticated infrastructure. This will create a sum of the parts that's definitely greater than the whole. Think of it as Yahoo! for business, coming to a portal, Web service or feed near you.
- The "Interim CEO" label for Claude Green is the key teller on this. Integrating DJ and Factiva cultures is going to be in some ways more tricky than integrating the old Dow Jones Interactive crew and the former Reuters Business Briefing team. At least in that instance Clare was dealing with products that had similar market objective. Adapting a media company to the needs of technology-intense corporations is no easy task, as publishers focusing on rich data will be quick to tell you. But clearly the receptivity for a variety of content monetization models behind the firewall is increasing, including the opportunities for ad-supported content and other contextual monetization schemes. So merging the media business on some level with Factiva's largely subscription-based database business at this time makes eminent sense. Having an Interim CEO indicates that Clare will be working full-time on this cultural integration while Claude focuses on ensuring that Factiva's wide plate of initiatives remain in motion.

I'll update on this tomorrow, but my guess is that this is the outlines of the story in general. Exciting times.

Headlines for 22 February 2006

Trends
Photo site wins Google injunction

CNET News
Newspapers To Advertisers: We Exist
paidContent.org
China Said Cracking Down on Junk E - Mail
AP via The New York Times
Outlook 2006: A Rosy Future for RSS
DM News
Google Under Fire for China Presence
News Factor Network via Yahoo! News
Judge Won't Hold BlackBerry Hearing
The New York Times*
Icahn's truce reflects a media malaise
FT.com via MSNBC
52 percent of Chinese office workers write Internet blogs
Mainichi Daily News

Best Practices
Academics Don't Study the Web Enough
Publish
Bid to unify approach to intellectual property
Business Day, SA

Cool Tools
A New Entry into Customized Search
iMedia Connection
Whitepages.com Introduces Geo-Targeting
Adotas
E-Discovery Software Suite by Attenex(R) Adds New Content Analysis and Discovery Features
PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

Factiva's Clare Hart Moves Up to New Position at Dow Jones; Deputy CEO Claude Green to be Interim CEO
PR Newswire
Reuters Chosen by Six Banks in China to Provide Trade and Risk Management Service
PR Newswire
AARP The Magazine Joins ABC's Subscriber Profile Service
PR Newswire

Products, Markets & People
Factiva's Clare Hart Moves Up to New Position at Dow Jones; Deputy CEO Claude Green Named Interim CEO
PR Newswire
GlobalAutoIndustry.com Launches New Website; Improved Features and Functions for Suppliers
BusinessWire
FierceMarkets Launches New Mobile Content Publication
PR Newswire

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Headlines for 21 February 2006

Trends
Can Yahoo do content?
CNET News
Internet Advertising Goes a Step Further
WSJ Online*
Web Services Upend Old Ideas About the Little Guy's Role
The New York Times*
Google says it has required license via partner to operate in China
Forbes
50 Million US & UK RSS Users Do Not Know They Use RSS
Marketing Sherpa
Gore TV Seeks an Audience Via Unusual Fare
The Sun
AOL develops instant messaging for businesses
BtoB Online
Gartner Warns on Google Desktop Search App
Red Herring

Best Practices
iTunes U Making Impact at Duke
Duke University

Cool Tools
E-Paper Is Ready for Its Rollout
BusinessWeek
Checking Out the Machines Behind Book Digitization
The Book Standard
NeoEdge Networks Reveals Innovative Technology to Address Challenges of Digital Content Distribution
PR Newswire

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

AT&T, Cingular Wireless and Yahoo! Launch AT&T Yahoo! Go Mobile with Portal and Custom Content
BusinessWire
InfoSearch Media Announces Acquisition of User-Generated Content Site Answerbag.com
MarketWire
ProQuest joins forces with MLA in new Reference Online Initiative
Managing Information
Traffic.com(R) to Integrate Traffic.com Technology & Content into Future Microsoft Products & Services
BusinessWire
BuzzMetrics Finalizes Intelliseek Acquisition; Nielsen BuzzMetrics Service Launches
BusinessWire

Products, Markets & People
LexisNexis Unveils Innovative Insurance Compliance Solution; Helping Insurance Cos Stay in Compliance
BusinessWire
For Collectors, LexisNexis Now Offers RecoverScore Through Accurint to Incorporate Robust Data
BusinessWire via FinanzenNet
Teragram Linguistic Technologies Power the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL)
PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance
BlogBurst Distributes Blog Content to Traditional Media
Search Engine Journal
Flight Launches www.flightglobal.com - the World's Leading Aviation Media Site
PR Newswire

News Analysis - Development Partners: B2B Publishers Take On Broadening BizDev Roles

The lead generation marketing techniques of TechTarget grew up through servicing business technology buyers who knew how to take full advantage of their highly targeted online publications. Six years after their founding it adds up to a highly profitable USD 70 million business that now is moving into a broader array of services. As it does so TechTarget looks more like a business development partner that is capable of managing business development efforts throughout the sales cycle. It's a formula that can be highly profitable but not all business publishers are going to be able to replicate it easily for their own sectors.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Monday, February 20, 2006

Diverging Publisher Strategies: Reed Elsevier vs. Thomson

Reed Elsevier(RE) reported their year-end 2005 results on Thursday; Thomson the previous Thursday. Both companies have four divisions, three of which parallel each other (Legal/Regulatory, STM, and Education). They differ in that Thomson has a financial division, and RE has a business publishing division. The divergent strategies of these two publishing giants can be illustrated by comparing the two divisions that do not overlap, among other things.

Both companies recognize the need to transform their businesses from their original print publishing businesses to digital content providers and that a critical element of the transformation depends on providing content in the formats and venues that fit with the users' work processes. Delivering on this goal requires internal technical investment to transform legacy production systems, as well as investment into understanding the core applications of the users who ultimately pay for the information provided by the publishers.

Both companies are following these basic objectives; however, they differ in their approach in a few key respects. Thomson is far more focused on developing a platform that they hope users will adopt as their primary resource for external reference information. By means of data mining tools, users of the Thomson Pharma platform, for instance, can follow guided pathways through the large repository of data to extract a collection of relevant information. Compare that to Reed Elsevier's approach, which one could characterize as a more specialized user approach, where data and delivery tools are customized for specific markets. Furthermore, revenue models are more customizable in the RE approach. To circle back to the original point above, consider Thomson's tactic of selling off all advertising-supported content in its financial division to focus on subscription-based electronic services. RE, on the other hand, is benefiting from the growth in online advertising in its Reed Business group, and even its Elsevier group is in a position that conceivably could lead it toward more online advertising-supported revenue.

Both companies are under pressure to demonstrate the success of their product and service strategies through organic growth. Investment analysts understand that organic growth requires investment in internal systems and product development efforts; however, they also require certain rates of return on their invested capital. For 2005, RE edged out Thomson in terms of organic growth by a single digit, with 5% organic growth versus Thomson's 4% organic growth. At this point, it is not apparent that one company's strategy will trump the other's in the longer-term. But, it will be interesting to observe how the different strategies evolve over the next year or two.

Yo, Yo: "Lazy Sunday" Video Gets Pushed Out, Then Pulled Back

The New York Times reports on a video clip of a comedy sketch from NBC's "Saturday Night Live" television show that fans began to circulate on the web to millions of downloaders. NBC initially made a legal copy of "Lazy Sunday" available for free via its own Web site and on iTunes, but eventually the legals at the television network started citing Digital millennium Copyright Act violations for the most popular sites who had managed to popularize the clip - and, some would say, revived grass-roots interest in the sagging late-night entertainment show. Along the way, just to make things a little more odd, iTunes how charges USD 1.99 to download the clip. I'd love to show you the NBC version of the clip, but darned if I can figure out how: it wasn't listed on Google's main or video search results and it took several minutes of fumbling through the NBC Web site to find a link to the NBC version - which only appears in a Javascript-enabled popup window, so it's impossible to share a link. So my apologies, here's a Google Video link to a fan's downloaded version. Kind of says it all, unfortunately.

This is only the beginning of what promises to be a very long and frustrating battle between media executives who are still focusing on controlling distribution channels as the primary way to protect intellectual property and a Web-enabled audience who know that they are both the present and the future of content distribution. As with their music industry brethren, TV execs completely ignored grass-roots distribution until it now promises to create somewhat of a crisis in their industry. They think traditional marketing and channel control while the markets are already declaring on their own the "hit singles" that everyone wants to see and building their own distribution channels. While this can be frustrating to traditional producers, at the end of the day it's the most efficient and effective way to maximize the value of content.

There's a simple formula to deal with this phenomenon:

1. Make it easy for people to download complete or fair-use extracts of a work of authorship into their favorite media players and to add custom value.
2. Make it easy to share those works with others in a legal format.
3. Make it easy for your own team or others to monetize those legally distributed "payloads" with ads, payments or other means as their audience grows.
4. Share your revenues with your grass-roots channel partners.

To see how most of these pieces already work together very nicely, check out the Weed file sharing service, which has been around for several years serving independent artists.

Bottom line, it's not about creating expensive channels but about highly effective packaging that lets audiences create the most efficient marketing channels themselves. It's all about discovery, and traditional media are not as efficient as other channels in getting their content discovered.

Headlines for 20 February 2006

Trends
Google to feds: Back off
CNET News
A Video Clip Goes Viral, and a TV Network Wants to Control It
The New York Times*
Why old media dreads Yahoo News
MarketWatch*
New Elsevier policy on NIH-funded authors
Technology Blog
Tollbooths on the Internet Highway
TMCNet
Google's New Building in Santa Monica
paidContent.org
Digital options lighten load for tourists
Reuters
Block Hints At Possible Sale of Toledo, Pittsburgh Papers
Editor & Publisher
Despite youths' tech comfort, e-textbook demand slow
USA Today

Best Practices
A Reader at Every Shelf
Library Journal
Digital Rights Management (DRM): Media Companies' Next Flop?
Informit.com

Cool Tools
It Rings, Sings, Downloads, Uploads. But Can You Stand It?
The New York Times*

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

VIVO, Brazil's Largest Mobile Operator, Selects CoreMedia DRM
BusinessWire
LexisNexis Partners with Corpedia and Compliance 360
EContent Magazine

Friday, February 17, 2006

XM Radio Falters with Traditional Aggregation Model

I had the pleasure of listening to XM radio a while back in a rental car. Not bad - listening to a subscription satellite radio for free. I kind of liked the Elvis channel for a while, and the Jazz channel actually had a real DJ off-duty from their local FM station choosing some good stuff. Even some news somewhere there on the dial. But it got boring pretty quickly. Typical cable TV-style segmentations of content gets flat pretty quickly. As The New York Times points out XM is struggling to have enough budget to both grow audience through marketing efforts and to attract new big-name talent such as Oprah to the satellite service. I expect that satellite radio's struggles will continue as long as they continue to use an astoundingly powerful technology for such antiquated content marketing channels.

It's somewhat ironic that satellite radio is trying to pursue a bundled cable channel model just as cable channels are discovering that the Web and user-managed devices such as TiVo are forcing them to rethink their content aggregation strategies. It's proof again that even when you think that you've found a new technology "choke point" for content that can wrestle control from users, it's rarely to your advantage these days. Satellite radio will continue to falter until it recognizes that the real advantage is not the exclusivity of the signal but rather its ability to feed what COULD be a rolling iPod in someone's car.

With the right in-dash or removable technology satellite radio has the potential to allow users to create their own mixes, with or without ads, and to access those mixes both via the device and via the Web at their pleasure. Hopefully this would include some Web content as well, fed into the system via popular podcasts or other multimedia sources, and some redistribution capabilities with our without DRM. Satellite has the potential to be the world's most potent and universal downloading service, but instead the media experts insist on replaying old models. Oh well, all in time.

Headlines for 17 February 2006

Trends
Icahn Ends Effort To Take Control Of Time Warner
WSJ Online*
Proposed US measure protects firms from Chinese Internet coercion
AFX via Yahoo! News
Director at XM Resigns as Costs Skyrocket
The New York Times*
infoUSA's Yesmail adds acquisition division
BtoB Online
LexisNexis sees profit for 2005
Dayton Daily News
IDG Withdraws CMO Neal Noms
FOLIO: Magazine
Amazon jumps into online music store and MP3 player business
Mobile Magazine

Best Practices
Can You Make Money Re-Selling eBooks or eBook Packages?
Daily India
There May Be Something to That Podcasting Thing
MacNewsWorld
Search: What Price Loyality When All Options are Free?
Publish

Cool Tools
Microsoft Office 12 gets into the Groove
Silicon Republic

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

Reference.com Expands Content by Adding Columbia Encyclopedia to Search Capabilities
PR Newswire

Products, Markets & People
IBM WebSphere Content Discovery Server does more than look up information
Enterprise Networks
ALM Launches First Qualified Lead Delivery Service for Legal Industry Marketers
BusinessWire

Thursday, February 16, 2006

eMeta Acquired by Macrovision to Bolster Content Packaging Capabilities

Macrovision's announced acquisition of privately held eMeta Corporation builds on several months of Macrovision acquisitions that have drawn the company towards increasingly sophisticated packaging and management of intellectual property. The management of software and content IP has been merging steadily over the past several years, especially in the entertainment and electronic game industries, areas in which eMeta has been increasingly active in offering ecommerce services for downloads and other content. In doing so eMeta has helped companies to become more effective marketers of content, but with an approach more focused on providing enabling technology than complete marketing services. This works well for content producers that already have significant investments in online infrastructure and a good deal of in-house online marketing savvy, such as eMeta client The New York Times. For publishers that are less invested in content infrastructure and know-how solutions such as ECNext have allowed publishers coming in from the world of print-oriented content a more complete turnkey online marketing solution for premium content, albeit within a more narrow range of content offerings.

While the eMeta acquisition certainly positions Macrovision much more strongly across the full range of services required to package, deliver and monetize general media services it also will help them to be well positioned for publishers that are trying to package a world of content for the B2B world. The range of content payloads requiring assembly and delivery in sophisticated packaging is expanding rapidly for B2B markets: Video, audio, multimedia presentations, Web services and other sophisticated electronic services are increasingly the focus of major B2B publishers and aggregators struggling to define high-margin value propositions for their clients in an era of open access to traditional content sources via search engines. As a result content ecommerce services will be moving rapidly in the B2B environment to support a commercial structure that can benefit from download-oriented online entertainment and games infrastructure more than it does today's "search the database" metaphor used to manage most business information. So don't consider this purely a move to leverage eMeta's strength in consumer markets: there will be a back end to this maneuver over time that may challenge and surprise content ecommerce providers.

Headlines for 16 February 2006

Trends
Working to Sell Advertisers on Newspapers and Magazines
The New York Times*
Class action lawsuit sought over ProQuest accounting
Ann Arbor News
Merrill Lynch: Newspapers miss ’05 ad projections; ’06 outlook is weak
BtoB Online
Reed Elsevier buyback and profit disappoint
Reuters via The Scotsman
TechTarget's 2005 Revenues: $70 Million
paidContent.org
Onvia Increases Revenue 13% Over Prior Year
PR Newswire via MSN Money
US Internet companies defend co-operation with Chinese censorship
AFX via Forbes
Blogger Threatened With Prosecution for Content
Blue Mass. Group
Google opens China blog
P2PNet
Yahoo Japan to offer one-for-two stock split
AFX via Forbes
New DVDs already sparking copy-protection confusion
CNET News
Pew U.S. Poll finds 30 percent use Net just for fun
Reuters via CNET
The Googlization of Libraries: Debunking the Internet Godzilla Myth
The Shifted Librarian
Vlogging takes off and boosts hope for citizen journalism
Technology News

Best Practices
Optimizing Creative for Contextual Ads
iMedia Connection
Internal Blogs Not Always Blogs As We Know Them
Web Pro News

Cool Tools
Podbridge Podcast Ad Network Uses Sophisticated Audience Measurement and Ad Placement Tools
BusinessWire

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

Macrovision Acquires eMeta Corporation toExpand Leadership in Digital Content Management
BusinessWire

Products, Markets & People
AIS Deployed Mobixell Networks Rich Media Service Center(TM) for Content Delivery Platform
BusinessWire via Yahoo! Finance

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Headlines for 15 February 2006

Trends
U.S. Moves to Fight Internet Censorship
AP via ABC News
Chinese Government Defends Its Restrictions on Internet Use
WSJ Online*
The Web and China: Not So Simple
BusinessWeek
Gates defends Microsoft's actions in China
FT via MSNBC
Big investors don't have time for Time Warner breakup
CNN Money
Logan: AOL Has Strategy In Sync, Time For Results
paidContent.org
The economic weight of the blogs
ZDNet
VNU major shareholders push for 3-way breakup: report
Washington Post
Paddock launches Beep portal to target young audiences
Chicago Tribune
Working to Sell Advertisers on Newspapers and Magazines
The New York Times*
UK Publishers start to tune in to podcasting

NetImperative
Answers.com Removes Offending Wikipedia QuakeAID Content
OfficialWire via BellaCiao

Best Practices
RSS Powers PR Professionals: Newsmastering, Newsradars And Personal Media Aggregators

Robin Good

Cool Tools
Quadralay Launches AutoMap 9.0 to Simplify Customized Content Generation Using XML for Writers
BusinessWire
180solutions Launches ZangoCash Content Syndication Platform
PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance
Exalead Delivers Simple, Affordable Search Solution for Workgroup Environments
PR Newswire

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

Opera, FAST and Telenor Collaborate on Mobile Services R&D
IrishDev
ChemConnect to Provide Energy Market Data to Dow Jones Energy Service
PR Newswire
LexisNexis(R) Martindale-Hubbell(R) to Provide Carr Allison with Online Client Development Products
BusinessWire

Products, Markets & People
Fulldisclosureinc.com Enables Investors To Democratize Financial Services Providers
EWorldwire
Endeca Reports 135 Percent Annual Revenue Growth in 2005 for Search and Information Access Leader
BusinessWire

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bloggers Grow 60X in Three Years: The World's Largest Library Staff?

MediaChannel.org notes along with others the latest Technorati stats documenting the explosive growth in weblogs. The latest count is 27 million, up from 20 million last October and roughly doubling every six months. A lot of this dies out quickly, though: after 3 months of posting about half of those die out and only about ten percent, or 2.7 million, post at least once a week. Still, let's put this in some perspective. Worldwide we'd estimate that there are about 1.5 million librarians in public and private practices managing their institutions' collections. Assuming that about half of the weekly weblog posters are keeping tabs on content found on the Web that means that already webloggers in gross total about equal today's total professionally trained corps of information professionals. Wait a year and there will be more than double that number, from which we could more safely assume that we'll have about 1.5 million people who do a pretty good job of pointing people to content on the Web. In another year we may have that same number who are pretty trusted authorities of specific topics who have found reasonably strong audiences for their content pointing skills.

Many librarians are already enthusiasts for weblogging from the perspective of professionals trying to communicate with peers and patrons. But few librarians have really begun to consider the full impact of both the breadth and focus of weblog content that's being created in and beyond their base of patrons and how that content will impact both their archiving requirements and their ability to leverage webloggers as key recommenders of content and as topic experts who can support patrons. There are overlaps with editorial functions potentially, to be sure, but rethinking what is a "local collection" is very necessary in an age in which less and less content starts out in book and journal format and more in raw forms such as weblogs. In the meantime a growing army of webloggers are performing this function to some degree already themselves, cataloging the Web from very personal and oftentimes local perspectives. I don't expect that we'll see that army signing up for library science classes any time soon, but in the meantime they are creating their own "sweet science" of content organization that's influencing more and more readers and writers worldwide.

Headlines for 14 February 2006

Trends
Microsoft's Mobile Maneuver
BusinessWeek
Microsoft unveils mobile software to rival BlackBerry
SeattlePI.com
Google taps BearingPoint in corporate search move
Reuters
CMP Media shutters ‘Secure Enterprise’ and ‘IT Architect’
BtoB Online
China says foreign internet cos must abide by local laws
AFX via Forbes
Have We Seen the Back of the Hard Copy Reader?
St. Petersburg Times (Russia)
Time's up for the Midtown media giants
The Observer
MySpace Rises As New Online Star
AP via Yahoo! News
New Twist in Knight Ridder Sale: Quality Control?
Editor & Publisher
Reporters Find Science Journals Harder to Trust, but Not Easy to Verify
The New York Times*
Blogging Continues To Grow
MediaChannel
Google's ad sales tested in court
CNET News

Best Practices
The Interconnected Social Web: Feedback, Trust and Reputation Critical Online Marketplace Components
Robin Good
Google Video DRM: Why is Hollywood more important than users?
BoingBoing
Teaching the future of journalism
USC Annenberg OJR

Cool Tools
Stellent's Wiki, Blog, RSS Organizer
TMCNet
3Bubbles - Breaking the Chains
3Bubbles

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

Dictionary.com Expands Content by Adding Investopedia.com's Business and Finance Terms
PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance
Healthnostics and FosteReprints Partner for Online Content Licensing
MarketWire
Samsung Chooses Handango for Two-Year Exclusive to Source and Deliver Mobile Content
PR Newswire
Wolters Kluwer Health To Support InterSystems' High Performance CACHE Post-Relational Database
Genetic EngineeringNews

Products, Markets & People
Thomson Tax & Accounting Forms Three New Business Groups
PR Newswire

Monday, February 13, 2006

News Analysis - Fine Print: LexisNexis Integration and Workflow Tools Move Beyond Vertical Search

Serving market verticals with new content services is a hot trend these days if recent content industry conferences are any indication. Yet content services such as LexisNexis have been out there for decades doing just that for many business sectors. While everyone seems to be piling on the vertical search bandwagon LexisNexis is moving aggressively to get beyond mere search services and far more integrated into the real workflow of legal professionals. It's a tricky move that may not lead to huge profits in the short run, but with competition closing in from the Web and from enterprise technology providers it's the path that major aggregators must get right if they are to enjoy healthy profits in years to come.

Click here to read the full News Analysis

Headlines for 13 February 2006

Trends
In Search Of The Real Google
Time Magazine
Google shares may fall another 50 pct-Barron's
Reuters via Yahoo! News
RIAA Bans The Reselling Of iPods With Preloaded Music
FMQB
Lo Behold, Starbucks Is a Network
paidContent.org
Yahoo! seeks help to fight China censors - report
Forbes
Madison Avenue's 30-Second Spot Remover
The New York Times*
A Search Engine For Every Subject
BusinessWeek
CEO and Business Owner Podcast Use Increasing
PR Web
Bill Gates Plans Challenge to iPod
Podcasting News
Is Slashdot the future of media?
Fortune via CNN Money
Intel's mantra: Let's make a deal
CNET News
S&P lowers credit rating of Dow Jones & Co
BtoB Online

Best Practices
Rivers of Information and Social Media
Technometria

Cool Tools
Text mining software is gold for tech firm
MSNBC

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

Misys Healthcare Systems Partners With Elsevier
PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance
CoreMedia OMA DRM Enables 24-7 MusicShop for Secure Multi-Channel Delivery in 11 Countries
BusinessWire via TMCNet
RR Donnelley Awarded New Multi-Year Contract by Questex Media Group, Inc.
PR Newswire
Dow Jones Newswires and Energy Intelligence Group Launch Publication for Liquefied Natural Gas Industry
BusinessWire

Products, Markets & People
Elsevier To Publish Journal Of Clinical Densitometry
Medical News Today
Xinhua China Book Preview System to Reach 10,000 Title Milestone in February
PR Neswire
Bloomberg Launches First Benchmark Analytic for CDS Index Options
PR Newswire

Friday, February 10, 2006

Teragram: Parsing the Web from the Inside Out

With its foundation in linguistic analysis, Teragram has been working behind the scenes since its founding in 1997 to become a leading provider of tools that help make searching more effective. Currently, Teragram provides a set of tools for automatic categorization, taxonomy management, entity extraction, and other text analysis tools that can be used to improve the accuracy and relevance of search. Note, Teragram also offers tools to enhance search effectiveness in 30 European, Middle-Eastern and Asian languages.

A recent deal with Reed Business Information (RBI) provides a hint of some things to come from Teragram. RBI will deploy Teragram's technology to categorize its large portfolio of business content, which will enable RBI sites to direct users to related content across the RBI universe. A potential added benefit of having its repository of content categorized into a common taxonomy would involve placing relevant ads alongside RBI content, provided that the ad placement technology leverages key words to determine relevance. Because the content tagging will be carried out by the publishers of the original content--conceivably by the same writers and editors who write the original content, as opposed to aggregators, data mining companies, or search engines--the quality of the tags assigned will be high.

The early web search engines and contextual ad networks mostly relied on guesstimates of the relevance of search results and ad placements based on a general analysis of the text on a page. We all know from experience that it can be difficult to find very targeted pieces of information using Google or Yahoo!, especially when searching a popular topic. However, with publishers of orginal content increasingly adding metadata that describe information down to a level of specificity such as the latest sales figures for a company or the date of birth of an executive, the accuracy and usefulness--and consequently the value--of the content increases enormously. We are beginning to see the results of investments by publishers in content management systems and taxonomy tools such as those offered by Teragram. As a result, finding information on the Web will become a much more satisfying experience in the coming years. Furthermore, applications that mine Web content, as well as specialized collections of premium content, should provide a much higher level of accuracy and relevance than we have seen on the Web thus far.

Thomson Further Pares its Portfolio of Print

In Thomson's Q4 2005 and Full Year 2005 earnings release and accompanying slides, CEO Dick Harrington repeatedly pointed out the importance of achieving growth through the sales of "electronic solutions and services". Thomson illustrates the components of its products and services as a value pyramid with three layers. The foundation is the "content" layer, the middleware is the "platform", and the pinnacle is to "enable results".

Thomson has made good progress in transitioning to electronic content delivery and in building platforms for digital content sources in three of its four groups: Thomson Financial's (TF) Thomson One platform; Thomson Legal & Regulatory's (TL&R) Novus platform; and the more recent Thomson Pharma platform in Thomson Scientific & Healthcare (TS&H). The Thomson Learning (TL) division is the last to remain with less that half of its revenue base derived from electronic sources and services at just 37% compared to 98% from TF (see page 22 of slides for complete divisional figures), but that initiative is clearly underway. As part of the transition to solutions & services, Thomson announced the divestment of three companies within its Learning group. They include "Peterson's, a college preparatory guide; the U.S. operations of Thomson Education Direct, a consumer-based distance learning career school; and K.G. Saur, a German publisher of biographical and bibliographical reference titles serving the library and academic community. The financial results of these businesses are included in Thomson Learning for 2005 and will be reclassified as discontinued operations beginning in the first quarter of 2006. The combined annual revenues of these three businesses are approximately $145 million" (from the earnings releases). In addition, Thomson put its American Health Consultants' (AHC) business, which generated $35 million in revenue in 2005,up for sale in December 2005.

Harrington indicated that the divestments are part of a portfolio optimization exercise and further explained that if parts of the current portfolio don't fit with the primary solutions and services on which Thomson has chosen to focus, then the individual properties lose strategic value and will be sold. Looking at the properties that are being divested, it is also clear that print-heavy units, as demonstrated by K.G. Saur and AHC, are prime candidates for divestment.

Shift in Acquisitions Strategy

I've commented before on Thomson's shift from an acquisition-heavy growth strategy to an organic growth strategy (see: Organic Chemistry: Can Thomson Pharma Provide Organic Growth?). Harrington again emphasized his "build rather than buy" preference. Total spending on acquisitions was $289 million in 2005 and planned spending on "tactical" acquisitions for 2006 is between $200 and $500 million. Contrast these figures with 2004 levels, when Thomson spent $1.7 billion on acquisitions. To its credit, Thomson has demonstrated good progress in achieving higher organic growth with its successful initiatives in TL&R and TF, where organic growth was higher than growth through acquisitions in 2005. TS&H has yet to prove its success with the Thomson Pharma platform, but it is still too early to gauge its ultimate success. For 2006, Thomson will likely be focused on developing its common platform for the Learning division, so that it can compete effectively in the rapidly evolving eLearning segment.

Headlines for 10 February 2006

Trends
Google Rolls Out Special Auctions To Sell Ad Space in Magazines
WSJ Online*
Microsoft rebrands MSN to focus on content
SeattlePI.com
Lurid Numbers on Glossy Pages! (Magazines Exploit What Sells)
The New York Times*
Online search grows rapidly year over year
BtoB Online
Sun-Times Launches 24-Hour News Wire
AP via Yahoo! News
TheStreet.com reports first profitable year
Crain's New York Business
Jack Kliger Loves Magazines
Forbes
Private Equity Boom and Shorter Holding Periods Spicing Up Media M&A Market
FOLIO: Magazine
Europe and Asia Adjust to Online Information Priorities
eCommerce Times

Best Practices
Information Overload: Blogs As Content Navigators, Information Filters, Trusted Niche Guides
Robin Good

Cool Tools
Journalism 2.1? A new site tweaks the grassroots formula
USC Annenberg OJR

Deals, Partnerships & Sales

Cadmus Communications Awarded New Print Contract for The Deal
PR Newswire

Products, Markets & People
Elsevier To Publish Journal Of Clinical Densitometry
Medical News Today