| Reigniting the Content Economy
February 27, 2009
I was raised in San Francisco, have wanted to be a writer since I was 13, and involved in journalism since I was 15. This week, I read that the San Francisco Chronicle may be shutting down. I’ve posted before on the disheartening wave of newspaper downsizing and closures, but this latest blow hits close to home. I know there’s newspaper bailout talk. Yet, as we’ve seen with the auto industry in the past, throwing money at complex business problems does not suffice. Consider the music business and the increasing legal and illegal distribution of music online … (though there may never be talk of bailing out the entertainment industry; the fourth estate certainly garners more political sympathy)… the most basic models have to be rebuilt in light of digital distribution and the expectation of free content, despite the fact that making quality content costs money.
Certainly if I had the secret recipe, this revolutionary model, I would be one of the most employable editors in these dire times. Mind you, I am on the lookout. I sincerely believe that in this collapse of the media business, the information vacuum will need to be filled. There will be an opportunity to apply our skills to developing a content creation model that advertising can actually support. This advertising will likely be the web-based kind, which unfortunately doesn’t (yet, at least) pay the rates we get for print. The cold reality is that we have less money to work with, good economy or bad. Yet the digital advertising model can’t be sustained with less content than we’ve produced in print; it arguably requires more. So how do we make more with less?
I had a great talk with Dennis, a sales person from my sister publication, CRM Magazine. We were talking about a remarkable bit of news we read, that DogTime Media’s audience has grown to 8.5 million. Why is dogtime growing while many of the finest media companies are collapsing? Dennis suggested that it is because they don’t have as much to lose. They are flexibile, agile, have low overhead for content creation from the outset… all things stacked against existing media companies, which have built extensive infrastructure, employ vast staff to produce requisite content, and have an ad model based on print. How can they abandon all that has worked so well and for so long?
Today, I read an interesting Outsell story about DemandMedia, which “offers over 500,000 professional and member-contributed how to articles and 100,000 how to videos. The site has grown 171% in visits year over year according to Google Analytics and self-reports over 30 million visitors per month. With unemployment rising and the economy sinking, the number of searches and views of economy and personal finance related articles on eHow has increased 84% in just the last six months.” Outsell VP & lead analyst Chuck Richard explores how eHow is “adding editorial horsepower without adding salaried editorial staff, while adding content at a rapid pace.” Chuck will not be at BSeC, but Outsell founder Anthea Stratigos will be presenting a talk on Trends, Strategies, and Tactics for coming out ahead. I’ll be listening. Join us and participate in the kind of discourse this event is known for; let’s work on developing the transformative strategies that will allow content companies new and old to thrive.
February 24, 2009
Brian Kim, COO Liferay
While social networking tools have steadily increased in popularity web-wide as well as inside the firewall, I’m getting a strong sense that they are getting an even more intense workout now that layoffs are a daily occurrence. As ever, we see that hard times often trigger good ideas. In this case, I’m seeing visible proof that these digital networks provide meaningful connections that can deliver real value.
An increasing number of enterprise application vendors recognize the popularity–and power–of social networking tools and are integrating some of the most popular features into content management, delivery, and publishing offerings. Liferay, best known for its Open Source portal solution certainly recognizes the impact that “social” has in the enterprise, as demonstrated by its emphasis on “social collaboration.” Company COO Brian Kim, who will be presenting a talk on “Putting Social on Your Portal for Better ROI” at this year’s BSeC, says the company is “encouraging users to think outside typical use cases of how portals are used.” He plans to provide examples of organizations effectively using social content on their portals to create community and enhance the content base. He says, “Some of our clients use networking tools and to their advantage. They use them to build an ecosystem around their product: Users come to their site to see what’s going on, which drives interest and gets users to collaborate and contribute content. All of this activity and information brings users back to the site, which ultimately drives business.” Social networking is a lot more than fun and games; join us at BSeC to hear examples of how it can add community and content to your site.
February 19, 2009
BSeC ’09 co-chair is interviewed today by Firece Content Management about content trends. At BSeC she’ll be conducting”virtual interviews” with the industry experts who judged our EContent 100 Awards competition.
The tables turned, in her own interview she describes a key trend as being the integration of free and fee content.
Her post below describes the conversation group at BSeC that will open the discussion to meeting attendees. Or, please, feel free to comment here.
February 18, 2009
I had a good talk with BSeC speaker, Alacra CEO Steve Goldstein, for an EContent news feature I did on the company’s latest content offering: The Alacra Pulse Platform. With this launch, Alacra will be trying out the freemium model (a term one of its own employees coined) for the first time. The product is interesting on its own merits, but I always find it fascinating to see what Alacra is up to in terms of its content strategy and willingness to experiment with new delivery mechanisms (and, in this case, content sources and content models). With Pulse, Alacra has invested time in hand-selecting freely available web content, which it aggregates and slices and dices for users. Steve said, “We had to add blogs to the mix for a number of reasons: First, there’s a lot of good stuff there. Second, these days there are a lot less analyst reports available, a gap that hasn’t been filled by independent researchers, so blogs are filling part of that gap.” Thus, he recognizes the value of freely available content and believes that through vetting and presentation, he can add value (even more in the premium edition). Good.
Steve Goldstein, CEO of Alacra
However the value of web content goes much further than the information it contains. Steve points to the “Dave Winer line about the internet, the more you send people away the more they come back.” According to Winer, “Now the fundamental law of the Internet seems to be the more you send them away the more they come back. It’s why link-filled blogs do better than introverts. It may seem counter-intuitive–it’s the new intuition, the new way of thinking. The Internet kicks your ass until you get it. It’s called linking and it works.” Right. No surprise: Alacra wants people to come back (and spend money). They believe that freemium approach will reveal potential new customers—which can be difficult and costly to pin down—and should help with incremental sales through the Alacra store. Freemium is more than finding the right balance of free and fee, it leverages the interconnectedness of ideas online to help lead customers to your door.
February 16, 2009
Dick asked for tales of excellence. Here’s one from my local public library. I was browsing the travel section, having already checked the catalog and determined that the library’s collection did contain some books about Prague. But I couldn’t find them on the shelf–guess I didn’t notice that, if I’d looked closely, the catalog would have told me they were checked out. A librarian walking by noticed my disgruntlement and stopped to ask if I needed help. I explained the situation and she asked when I was going to Prague. Not for a month, I said. OK, she said, I’ll order one for you.
Order one?? Spend money?? Not wait until the ones they already owned were returned? Not go the ILL route? Wow.
Not long after I received an email that my book was waiting, a brand new tourist book for Prague. Excellent!
Two lessons here, I think. One, I didn’t approach the librarian. She took the initiative to approach me. Two, she perceived an immediate information need and fulfilled it in an extraordinarily timely fashion. She didn’t ask permission; she just ordered the book. I may take it out multiple times simply to justify her pro-active attitude.
February 12, 2009
You’ve got to check this out. It’s a video by one of our authors on the ads for mobile products that ran recently at the Super Bowl 43 game. At $3 mill a minute did the mobile marketers score? Hear the verdict by the author of our Mobile Marketing Handbook.
Mobile Ads and Mobile Misses
The program at Buying & Selling eContent contains many perspectives on mobile media strategies, including a keynote by Marc Bookman, CEO, Mobile Content Networks.
In preparation for BSeC ’09, I had a briefing earlier this week with Lior Arussy, author of Excellence Every Day and a featured keynoter at the conference.
I wrote earlier in this blog about how much hope I took from this book, seeing in it a truly inspirational message in our troubled economic times.
Now it’s your turn to help light a candle in the darkness. The author is interested in gearing his remarks to the content industry. You can help by either posting a comment here or filing a story at the Excellence Every Day web site.
Ever since reading the book, my co-chairs and I have been tossing around examples of excellence that we’ve witnessed in our daily lives. Stories about how people can and do go out of their way to delight their customers.
When’s the last time you yourself were “delighted” during an information seeking experience? What content provider made you feel warm in your heart? Help shed some light on how good a user experience can be.
What the heck, you can even pat yourself on the back by sharing something that your own company did to delight your users.
Please comment here.
February 11, 2009
I don’t play golf. Sometimes this lack of athletic interest works in my favor. Take Sunday at Buying & Selling eContent, for example. The people who do enjoy golf get to head over to what I’m told is an excellent course. If you’re a golfer, you’ll know much more about how to judge a golf course than I do, so I won’t even try. For non-golfers like me, the attraction on Sunday is the Enterprise Content Buyers Forum.
Organized by BST America’s Bill Noorlander and Carol Ginsburg, the Forum is all about maximizing the rules of engagement and usage for cost optimization and improved ROI. Sort of a mouthful, I know, but given the economy, absolutely essential information. Everybody’s budgets are under pressure. According to Noorlander, we need a totally different way of thinking. Information buyers need a new approach to their vendors and vendors need to consider being as flexible as possible. Information professionals should “focus on what has changed and what impact those changes have had on how people identify what they need to have, what they’d like to have, and what is just cool,” he said. “How much pain can be pushed down to end-users?”
We’re expecting content buyers, content sellers, and licensing experts to spend the afternoon discussing just what to do about cost constraints, return on investment, content distribution, and new models.
Panelists at the Forum include Nikolai S. Kopelev, GlaxoSmithKline; Catherine Porta, PriceWaterhouseCoopers; Craig Wingrove, KPMG; and Diane White, National Security Agency on the buyers side. They bring years of experience in the pharmaceutical, accounting, consulting, and government arenas. On the sellers side are Dave Oakley, LexisNexis; Steven Kaufmann, Dow Jones, and two other invited senior people from large international vendors.
The Forum is included in the registration fee for the conference, so if you’re not interested in golf, don’t feel like playing, or think you should concentrate on your cost optimization goals instead of your golf fame, I hope you’ll join me on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. for the Enterprise Content Buyers’ Forum. I’ll be in the audience, planning to learn a lot!
If you opt for golf, you’ll have a chance to hear a summary of the Forum on Monday morning. Bill will share the five top things, the “hot topics,” from the Sunday afternoon session.
February 6, 2009
As I mentioned in my last post, it seems like the relative newcomers to the content game have some advantages in bringing new ideas to market, assuming they wisely leverage “2.0” tech without abandoning good old fashioned business planning. Yet this is not the time for companies of any size or longevity to cease innovating. As John Girard Founder & CEO of Clickability puts it, “When you combine what is going on from an economic standpoint with the rapidly accelerating pace of change, you have a conundrum: You can’t really spend a lot, but if you don’t invest to try new things, you can quickly fall behind.”
John Girard Founder & CEO, Clickability
The temptation, of course, is to hunker down, cut costs and try to ride out the storm, but the next big thing might blow right by you in along the way. So how do you make sure you don’t miss out on the next big thing? John suggests “finding ways to experiment cheaply, then really back your winners.” He believes “in an evolutionary process in business through which you spend as little time and money to put thought experiments out there…and the ones that get responses, you then expand on.”
While he plans to provide examples from the content market as a whole in his BSeC talk “Future Proof Your Business,” he gave me one from his own sales and marketing efforts: “On the marketing side, we tried all kinds of ideas to get leads. One was our iPod campaign, in which we sent headphones to about 10 CIOs & CTOs and said, ‘if you take a meeting with us, we will bring the iPod.’ By spending a small amount of money, we were able to test the idea and measure or costs and the return. Then we tried it with 50 CIOs and CTOs… the hit rate was 30 to 40 percent.”
Ultimately, he admits that, “Figuring out what things apply to our business is tricky, but luckily there are a lot of people out there experimenting and many are willing to share their ideas so we can figure out what works.” Amazing that this will be John’s first time at our show, because that is exactly what BSeC is all about.
February 5, 2009
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Larry Schwartz, President of Newstex
Inertia is a drag. A business reality today is that start-ups have the flexibility to build business models from the ether. No, I’m not talking about bubble-esque vapor based models. I mean the structure of the business itself, down to the infrastructure. Chatting with Larry Schwartz, President of Newstex today, he really got me thinking about the freedom newer content companies have, unshackled from the constraints of Gutenberg-era thinking. I don’t just mean producing physical media via a printing press (frankly, I’m still a big fan of print), I mean physical office space, data storage, enterprise software loaded on all the pcs…
Larry describes his company, Newstex, in an almost shocking way: “We have no employees and no physical assets.” The company uses the cloud for storage, and Larry says it would have cost a fortune to launch its Video on Demand service without this approach. His entire team is virtual; no one commutes anywhere for anything—much less to be walled in by cubicles. Yet they are highly collaborative, which is part (non) corporate culture and part a willingness to experiment with tools like Yammer, designed to make companies and organizations more productive through the exchange of short frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you working on?” Larry describes it as Twitter for business, in which information is shared only among team members. He says, “It is our water cooler.”
Fittingly, at BSeC, Larry’s will present on the topic “The Virtual Content Company How to Operate in the Clouds,” though he emphasizes that the take away from his talk won’t only be applicable to new kids on the content block. “Years ago,” he says, “companies raised $5 million and spent $4 million on infrastructure and technology, now they raise $2m and only spend $50K on infrastructure, so they can spend the rest on the product and marketing.” Major content companies, according to Larry, might feel they have to spend $20K to make a “viral marketing video.” Instead, he suggests they consider the real audience for this type of marketing content and do it for a lot less. He puts his money (if very little of it) where his mouth is: Newstex used a free service, Animoto to create the video on its home page, which Larry says is currently the most popular feature on his site.