Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hart Beat: Dow Jones Combines Enterprise and Media Operations

When News Corporation took over Dow Jones two years ago, it was quick to move out key senior Dow Jones managers and move in its own team that had a vision for how to make the brand a profitable and thriving outlet for business news and information. At that time I said on ContentBlogger, "The opportunity is for News Corp to enable a more aggressive melding of enterprise and media services as the differences between today's business media outlets and today's enterprise portals begin to narrow." I also speculated at the time whether Dow Jones Enterprise Media head Clare Hart would stick around to become a player in this mix or move on, suggesting that at least for a time she was respected enough that it was worth her hanging in there.

Two years later, Clare Hart and her work for DJEM remains respected, but times have moved on, and, according to news reports, so has Clare as the enterprise media group at Dow Jones is being merged with their consumer media group. Dow Jones CFO Steven Daintith is taking over the Dow Jones COO role for now, an indication that a promotion into that role for Hart was not in the offing, so moving on seems like a good bet for her at this time. While some may read "glass ceiling" or "Murdoch loyalists" into this move, I think that it's more a matter of where companies like Newcorp need to bring business information services such as their Factiva property to gain more profitability. The direction for more profits from the licensed business media sources in Factiva's database is definitely towards the online media side of Dow Jones operations, a move that requires a different set of skills than those needed to make subscription business information database services successful in increasingly complex enterprise technology markets.

As I noted last October in ContentBlogger when the Wall Street Journal Pro Edition was launched, the rise of real-time Web news aggregation is accelerating the need for business media properties to become more effective news aggregators. At the time I noted that this would be a good move to make better use of Factiva assets in the Pro Edition framework, a move that seems far more likely to unfold now that the siloing of Factiva and other Dow Jones enterprise assets has been eliminated. Among those other assets that are more likely to emerge more aggressively in the new alignment is the Dow Jones Business & Relationship Intelligence group (formerly Generate), whose alerts-oriented mining of news sources will have a broader market to tap into via the Pro Edition platform. Thinking of Newscorp's push to gain more online revenues from paid content sources, these types of premium services are ripe for better integration into ad-supported Dow Jones content.

This is also, of course, a somewhat back-handed way to say that there really isn't much of a strategy available to Dow Jones to increase revenues simply by waving a wand over broader segments of its existing online content. That ship sailed many years ago, as the WSJ Online edition gradually moved towards a large portion of its content being available online without a subscription. Their hope lies in providing more value in their offerings to individuals who may not have access to large subscription databases and sophisticated alerts services in their companies or who have found access to such services harder to justify under central information budgets. Moving to make DJEM resources more available via their consumer and "prosumer" platforms is a natural bridging strategy into these needs that can set up broader enterprise sales strategies over time.

In the meantime, though, this move is somewhat of an admission that the subscription database business for business news is a dying business model. Factiva has been as aggressive as any other player in business information in adding features and integration capabilities to its offerings, but at the end of the day the value-add from such services is drifting away to enterprise technology players more quickly than Factiva or other enterprise news aggregators can counter with improved products and services. There are just too many enterprise platforms in which this type of content is needed, creating broad product and feature disintermediation. Harvesting structured information from unstructured news and information sources is one approach that many enterprise content vendors are taking to counter this trend, but this alone ultimately doesn't justify the typical subscription structure for news databases.

You can see where this consolidation of enterprise-oriented resources with consumer media resources at Dow Jones may spell problems in focusing on enterprise opportunities, but at the end of the day the software and the thousands of licensed content sources that Dow Jones pays for have to grow profits for them more quickly if they are to be worth the price. With enterprises increasingly reluctant to pay for licensed content that offers few or no advantages over Web-accessible content, the Web is the only probable point of strong growth for old-line news aggregators. This may not be a pretty transition for many Factiva staff, but it's one of those long-delayed and necessary moves that will at least set the stage for more robust growth in enterprise markets for Dow Jones in the long run - even if that growth comes from non-traditional channels.
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