If scholarly publishers are unsure as to whether social media can act as a cornerstone for research they should consider the plans of Reuters (Guardian) to introduce a private social media service for financial analysts later this year. While details are sketchy at this stage, it appears that Reuters will enable researchers and other financial professionals to post out analysis, data and other key information that can be picked up by Reuters subscribers on a premium basis. The 70,000-plus users already connected to the Reuters Messaging service are expected to provide the core audience for this service and will no doubt also provide the core of its contributors also. We'll see what the final product looks like but it's a shrewd move to leverage the power of Web publishing in a way that may yet unseat Bloomberg's messaging service as the core of financial dialogues in institutional trading circles.
It's this kind of advanced thinking about how audiences want to be connected to one another more than to publishers that's lacking from so much of the print-oriented publishing world. As the content industry becomes more real-time in its overall contours it should recognize that there is plenty of money to be made in enabling conversations amongst connected peers - enough to power the financial industry to record profits in 2006, by the way. Instead of looking at the bottom line of their clients more publishers need to look at their top lines and to consider how their services are contributing to overall revenues and profitability for their customers. If scholarly publishers were servicing Wall Street they'd be talking about the importance of ticker tape and carrier pigeons to investment banking. Publishers can do far better than that - and, yet again, Reuters has.