Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dow Jones Acquires Generate to Build Up High-Margin Enterprise and Media Assets

I was chatting with someone from Dow Jones' Enteprise Media Group at Buying and Selling eContent exhorting them to get more into virtual aggregation products while noting that folks from Generate were saying that a deal announcement with someone was eminent. This morning the deal news broke - with Dow Jones coming out the victor in a range of financing and exit options that Generate was considering. The Generate team will form the core of a new business unit at Dow Jones to be called Dow Jones Business & Relationship Intelligence, to be headed by Generate President and CEO Tom Aley in a SVP slot with Darr Aley, his twin brother and EVP of Marketing for Generate, taking on a VP of Marketing role in this new business unit.

With a softening economy challenging Generate's value-add strategy for short-term growth, this is one of those win-win deals that you hope for and are glad to see when they come about. Dow Jones' Factiva business unit, the business information backbone for their Enterprise Media Group, has done well enough but had seemed mired in its efforts to move its business intelligence capabilities beyond traditional aggregation of licensed content for most of its clients. The acquisition of Generate provides Dow Jones three critical springboards into a much more robust future based on The New Aggregation concepts that we've advanced here at Shore for many years.

The first springboard is the virtual aggregation capabilities that Generate's web harvesting provides. Generate, unlike some other Web harvesting tools for business information, has focused very heavily on ensuring that harvested data is cleansed and de-duplicated before releasing it into its databases. This doesn't make their data perfect, but with more and more institutions making their own Web publishing the "golden source" for publishing business information it does give them a distinct advantage in both update cycles and overall breadth of content quality that will accrue as more and more data gets released into the Generate/DJ databases. Now Dow Jones has an engine to build an independent and powerful source of business information that will not have to rely as heavily on licensed content sources.

The second springboard is a very robust intelligence front-end in Generate's G2 platform, which combines semantic analysis of incoming content for events that may trigger specific types of deal-oriented activities with a very rich and well-designed business intelligence application and API toolkit that has enabled Generate to build a market very quickly for its high-end business intelligence services. G2's integration of watch lists for both companies and people combined with real-time triggers will give Dow Jones a real-time business intelligence service far more powerful than what is currently in their quiver - with Factiva content helping to add value rapidly to the application.

The third springboard into making virtual aggregation a reality for Dow Jones is Generate's gClick tool, which enables content on people and companies served up from Generate's database to appear in a pop-up window or other Web display with a click of a browser-embedded icon or a Web page link. An entire page or a highlighted section of content can be analyzed by gClick to determine which companies and people are present and a customized dossier is prepared and displayed automatically. While the media applications of this tool have proven to be useful for some of Generate's clients, expect this to be particularly useful in enterprises where it's easier to manage features like this on a standardized basis. With many enterprise Web portals and search engines failing because they don't provide the right content in the right context this capability can help to build a foundation for many virtual aggregation services within the enterprise.

Put these three capabilities together and you have a huge leap forward in Dow Jones' ability to add value through business intelligence services beyond its traditional base of users. While they had been making some new inroads with their Factiva SalesWorks tools into the line managers who need more value from business information the data sets that Factiva alone could provide were not particularly better than any other set - with Web content left to the side in raw form. With its Generate acquisition Dow Jones has set the stage for a new era of growth in business information services based on the real-time, all-the-time world of Web content combined with sophisticated analysis that can transform this information into highly actionable business insights quickly and effectively. My congratulations to all involved: business information just got a lot more fun again.

UPDATE: A couple of extra thoughts that have been rattling around in my head today. The gClick feature will be a very nice proprietary advantage for the WSJ.com site in time, although it's likely that they'll still market the feature to non-competitive media outlets. Also, if you think of how the G2 platform has done well in financial markets to date it makes a wonderful complement to other DJ products in this sector - providing a new real-time oriented service that need not mess with stock exchange market data to make an impact on the markets. Neat.
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