| Reigniting the Content Economy
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
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.
In preparation for a briefing with BSeC ’09 keynoter Lior Arussy next week, I’ve just finished reading his book, Excellence Every Day.
While Information Today, Inc., is the publisher, I like to take pride in my objectiveness as a journalist. So I kid you not when I say, I found it both timely and inspirational, with a distinct ring of truth and a message that can only help us emerge from economic crisis better off than we were before.
From Lior’s point of view, excellence is not about a moment of stardom or public acclaim. Excellence is its own objective and its own reward. And the potential to achieve excellence exists in every moment, for each of us and every one of our employees.
What is excellence? It’s stepping outside the processes that make our companies so efficient and allowing our employees to provide that all important human touch in their dealings with customers and each other.
It’s about creating a work environment where our people can achieve their human potential and our companies, their best destinies.
It’s a credo that Lior’s own company, Strativity Group, lives by.
So far, every encounter I have had with his office has been remarkable. We nailed down his speaking engagement in a single afternoon, rather than taking days or even weeks, as is so often the case to close these deals.
When Lior couldn’t make a meeting we had scheduled in New York due to a travel delay, his assistant was all over it, and again within minutes we had a rain date.
People who go out of their way . . . small acts that leave a big impression. How would you like to be treated?
In the book Lior tells a lot of stories to illustrate his point.
My personal favorite is the one about the Virgin Airlines flight attendant who, when the in-flight entertainment system failed, decided on her own to give all passengers a choice of duty-free merchandise or 10,000 frequent flier points: Service beyond the call of duty. Service outside the regulation manual. Service that delighted customers and took the heat off the complaint desk staff (saving 25 pounds sterling a call). When excellence prevails, everybody wins.
Lior tells us to empower our staff to do the right thing when the moment for truth presents itself.
Though it may be a dark time, Excellence Every Day gave me a lot of hope. I immediately applied some tips from it in dealing with my staff (my own customers) and I’m now on the look-out for random acts of excellence to encourage and reward.
In addition to hearing how this approach can aid information companies through their current challenges, all those attending BSeC ’09 will get a copy of Excellence Every Day. If you can’t make it to the conference this year or want to read the work in advance, click here to order. IMHE, It’s well-worth the read, and I’m not saying that just because we are the publishers.
February 3, 2009
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Robin Neidorf, General Manager, FreePint Ltd.
One thing that is particularly special about the BSeC event is the quality of attendees and the kind of networking that goes on. A favorite part of the program for me are the conversation groups, in which a small group gathers together to discuss a topic of interest to the industry. Unlike listening to event the best presentation, these groups really generate discussion and since the attendees are all industry leaders, real meaningful ideas based on actual experience are exchanged. This year, Robin Neidorf of FreePint Ltd. is leading one that looks like my choice: Flexible Content & Facilitating Reuse. It has never been more important to find incremental revenue and enabling content reuse is a key aspect of this.
I spoke to Robin today and she raised some issues faced by FreePint in its efforts to satisfy customer demand for more flexible content. “One of our challenges,” Robin says, “is that we have content that is on both ends of the spectrum in terms of flexibility: incredibly flexible content on one end, and content that is more rigidly controlled on the other.” She points out that, of course, there are business reasons for both. “No customers are asking for more restricted content; they all want more flexibility, but we have to be sure this works with our business model.” This probably sounds familiar to most content companies, however Robin demonstrates her insight when she says, “If I could wave a magic wand and make all the content as flexible as customers want, it would actually be more valuable.” Yet she points out that the transition is very difficult; an issue of both technology and account development. She emphasizes the need for customer feedback in order to stay in tune with their needs, but also the effort it takes to develop enabling technologies that also provide FreePint with enough control to get return on investment for its highest value content. “The irony,” says Robin, “is that if I could jump to the end game, our content would be of more value. That is what keeps us innovating.” I look forward to continuing the discussion at BSeC and to hearing the ideas and insights other attendees bring to the mix.