May 12, 2013
I read “Daily Voice Bankruptcy Is a Setback for Hyperlocal News.” The key is “hyperlocal.” The idea is that people in a locale want news and information about that particular area. Sounds good and makes sense. I live in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, and I don’t know what’s going on at the local college. After the fact, I might learn about a lecture or a musical event.
Monetizing good ideas is tough unless a person or an institution just gathers the information and posts it on a Web page which few may see. Hyperlocal doesn’t work where folks don’t read all that much (rural Kentucky) or where there isn’t much news because there is no local college (again Harrod’s Creek). But New York and Connecticut? Slam dunk. Smart people like those who work at Bloomberg and Goldman Sachs and similar outfits. Lots of real universities.
According to either Fortune or CNN Money:
Tucker blames the bankruptcy filing on a lawsuit filed last year by some former reporters who claim they were incorrectly classified as “exempt” from being paid overtime. The company, formerly known as Main Street Connect LLC, “does not have the financial wherewithal” to continue fighting the lawsuit,” and that it is scaring off potential investors, Tucker said in court papers. The company says its legal costs are already at $500,000, and that it is relying on debt to finance operations. Tucker says he has lent the company $250,000 of its $550,000 of secured debt. Its total debt is $867,000, and its assets are worth less than $400,000. Its remaining local sites drew about 437,000 unique visitors in March, for an average of less than 11,000 each.
Yep, staff and readers – definitely a potential problem. A setback for sure.
My view? There’s Twitter.
Stephen E Arnold, May 12, 2013
Sponsored by Augmentext which is not a two way service like some real information systems headquartered in the same region as the Daily Voice
April 9, 2013
I find the information revolution semi-bright or semi-dark. I read “Are We Paying Enough Attention to Information Technology’s Dark Side?” My first reaction was, “Nah.” Most outfits are worrying about revenues. Google has to deal with the shift from the money Gold Rush of the desktop era to the lower revenue per click of the mobile world. Microsoft has to worry about the economic impact of its initiatives to nowhere. Smaller outfits in search have either been crushed like Convera or squished like Dieselpoint, mired in controversy like Autonomy and Fast Search, or just unable to make ends meet, deliver a product which works, or get their act together long enough to close a deal.
Paradise Lost may help illuminate the dark sides and bright sides of information. A happy quack to Lapidary Apothegms for reminding me of this phrase.
The concern of the “Dark Side” write up is broader. The big issue is Big Ideas. With references to high profile information luminaries like James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, and governmental issues. Here’s the quote I find interesting:
While the idea of lumbering bureaucracies adapting quickly may seem unlikely; it’s entirely possible they’ll adapt just fast enough to remain in place for awhile yet. And instead of quick change, the classic definition of the state will twist and wither. Whether its successor proves good or ill remains to be seen—but if history (and Marc Goodman) is any guide, it’ll be some of each.
The future is the semi-bright and semi-dark situation.
With regard to information, flows of information, data, and knowledge can erode certain structures. In an organization, as information moves more freely, the old chokepoints are bypassed. The notion which has gripped managers and bureaucrats is that flowing information has more of luminescence than cutting off that flow thus casting shadows.
In my experience, information is not neutral. Digitization has its own motive power. In one talk I gave years ago, I pointed out that information breeds more of itself. The image I used in my lecture was a sci-fi decision maker surrounded by Tribbles. Tribbles just kept on making more Tribbles. Bad news were Tribbles in the confines of a starship.
Even though I have worked in information centric businesses and government agencies for decades, I am not sure I understand information. I do not have a clear grasp of its behaviors. Over the years, I have formulated some “laws”, which I describe in some of my writings and talks. A recent example is Arnold’s Law of Vulnerability. In a nutshell, the “law” reports data from our research that says, “As the volume of information increases attack surfaces expand.”
The implication of this “law” is that digital information disconnects from the factual and becomes the propaganda described by Jacques Ellul. A software program which crashes a system or more importantly modifies it in a manner unknown to the system developers is a growing problem.
Conflating political movements, digital data, and next generation systems increases complexity. In short, as informationizing operates, clear thinking becomes more and more difficult. Thus, we now have to navigate in a datascape in which:
- Facts are not facts, even the results of a scientific experiment can be falsified or, more troubling, placed in an “objective journal” as an advertorial
- Systems have minimal ability to detect falsified data from sensors, SMS messages, or data streams which contain signals to which the smart software responds in a Pavlovian way
- Humans accept outputs of systems as though those outputs were a reality which corresponds to the actuality of a single individual.
Work needs to be done in the space between the bright and dark of information. Much remains to be done and not by failed webmasters, azure chip consultants, search engine optimization experts, and unemployed journalists. Perhaps Google’s smart software can just take on the job
March 26, 2013
A top news story used to either make or break a reporter, though it can still do so today, the old channels are mostly closed and monitored by the Internet beat. Reporters used to have to bribe sources and the best information continues to come from the source. In a throwback to the old days, The Guardian says, “Wall Street Journal Blames Beijing Troublemaking For US Bribery Probe.” The accusation is that the Chinese Wall Street Journal office bribed government officials with expensive gifts for information. The US Justice Department was already conducting an investigation on the Journal’s parent company News Corporation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
News Corporation believes that someone only wants to make trouble for the Journal and they are upset over the allegations. They also believe a Chinese government agent tipped off authorities. In an internal investigation, News Corporation did not find anything wrong.
How did this happen?
“The newspaper believes the bribery allegation came in relation to the Journal’s reporting of events in Chongqing, the province in which disgraced Chinese official Bo Xilai once had a power base.”
“The report also comes in the wake of claims that China has hacked into the systems of US newspapers – allegations that are denied by Beijing.”
The proper authorities are conducting further investigation, while the US, England, and China argue back and forth, name-calling and the like. The new Chinese premier Li Keqiang even made a statement that everyone should forget this event and concentrate on preventing further cyber attacks. Only in a perfect world or if something bigger comes along, like North Korea gaining an atom bomb.
Whitney Grace, March 26, 2013
March 25, 2013
Thomson Reuters in “Cengage Learning Hires Restructuring Advisers” reported that a former Thomson property is arranging a modest infusion of cash. “Modest” in this context is about $430 million, which is nothing when compared to the cost of a modern text book. (“See Textbook Prices Are Inflating Even Faster Than Tuition Prices: New Boston University Classifieds for Students Makes Buying Textbooks More Affordable.”)
Cengage used to be Thomson Learning, a sprawling collection of publishing companies. Some of the firms had traditional textbooks; others had combinations of traditional textbooks and electronic versions. My recollection is that the technical infrastructure of the original Thomson Learning was quite diverse. “Diverse” publishing infrastructures in the same organization add significantly to the costs of doing business. “Diverse” is also a stuck brake on innovation because repurposing content is time consuming and labor intensive. Prior to spinning off Thomson Learning to Apax Partners and Omers Capital Partners, Thomson’s senior management were focusing their considerable talents on cost efficiencies. . I assume that the technical infrastructure issues have been resolved.
Debt can be a burden as this illustration from Shape Home Loans suggests?i Does debt enhance agility or is it a financial play disconnected from structural changes such as those described in my “Gadzooks, It’s MOOCs: The Fuss over Open Source Learning” article?
One item in the Thomson Reuters news release caught my attention:
…the company said it had borrowed $430 million, almost all of its remaining credit facility to ensure its businesses have the cash they need. Stamford, Connecticut-based Cengage has a $1.5 billion term loan that matures next year and a total of $5.3 billion of debt as of Dec. 31.
First, this type of cash crunch in publishing is likely to become more common. I wrote a story for Online Searcher about the impact of online learning. There is also a chorus of “if you are smart, you can skip college” echoing around Kentucky. What if the online learning and the “you don’t have to go to college” blend? Companies depending upon the traditional purchasing patterns in education may find that new revenues are not sufficient to keep up with old revenue losses.
Second, the spillover from a Cengage-type of problem will have cascading effects. Examples which come to mind are revenues flowing to such organizations like Ebsco Electronic Publishing, ProQuest, and Wolters Kluwer. These companies are in the education food chain. If Cengage flu becomes contagious, these firms will face some additional financial challenges.
Third, the authors who provide content to the textbook giants have to be paid. With the shift to online courses, some of these authors may take their “fame” and their content and go a new direction. It is now possible for some textbook superstar authors to try to become celebrities. If Google needs knowledge, the company just hires the superstar. Won’t the same approach become possible in the online learning space? Maybe an existing textbook company will corner this market? I am not sure traditional textbook companies have the agility necessary to pull off a slam dunk.
Fourth, the online services like Thomson Reuters’ WestLaw and Reed Elsevier’s LexisNexis may also feel the impact of a shift. On one hand, these systems could gain new content from disaffected textbook publishers and, therefore, more revenue pulling information. On the other hand, traditional online services have been caught flatfooted by the surge in online educational content and may be too late to ride the new revenue train.
Net net: Is it time for customers of Cengage to disengage? A larger question is, “Will the professional publishing and professional online services be able to adjust to yet another sapping of their life blood?” Changes are coming. Many of these shifts will not be gentle, kind, or slow I fear.
Stephen E Arnold, March 25,2013
March 24, 2013
According to the new post on Funnelback’s Web page, the search engine technology and services system is morphing into a compliance auditor. The article, “Funnelback WCAG Compliance Auditor Version 2 Is Out Now,” shares that the newest release of the auditor technology includes the ability to configure checking runs, on-demand checking of HTML, and comprehensive reporting abilities.
The article comments on the additional features:
“Matthew Sheppard, Manager of Research and Development at Funnelback said, ‘Customers have been making amazing progress on their website accessibility with version 1.5, but we wanted version 2 of the tool to make the process easier than ever. WCAG Compliance Auditor version 2 is flexible, highly configurable and accommodates the last minute changes that web content editors often face whilst maintaining their website’s content accessibility at the same time.’”
I think the new capabilities are intriguing, but there is no information available on the Web page on which countries the auditor works for. However, the global company has a demo available at http://www.funnelback.com/our-products/demo. Definitely worth a look.
One question: “How can a single consulting firm know so much about so many search and retrieval systems?” Hyperbole, exceptional intelligence, or marketing?
Andrea Hayden, March 24, 2013
March 21, 2013
Online shopping is designed to be a pleasant experience for shoppers and LEDHut wants to make sure that its customers get the most from their online shopping experience. According to the Econsultancy Digital Marketing Excellence article “LEDHut Brightens the Online Shopping Experience with Site Search from SLI Systems” LEDHut is switching to SLI’s Learning Search. They were previously using the open-source Magento e-commerce platform.
LEDHut wanted a site search that not only improved relevancy but also helped visitors learn more about LED technology and the lighting products that are readily available. More importantly Learning Search gives LEDHut the ability to provide more relevant and tailored results to their shoppers. Not only does the solution take into account misspellings but they also offer product suggestions and the users has done a few keystrokes. LEDHut is looking forward to adding a SLI powered mobile site. Keith Scott, Marketing Director of LEDHut made the following statement:
“The LED lighting industry is still in its infancy in the UK and Europe, which means our customers need to be presented with relevant items that match their searches. Now, instead of being overwhelmed by too many results, SLI’s Learning Search delivers precise results that are easier and faster for shoppers to browse through – which also helps them increase their knowledge of LED options to fit their home and lifestyle.”
Shaun Ryan CEO of SLI systems stated a very important fact.
“Fine-tuned, relevant results that are generated from the past behaviour of other visitors encouraging shoppers to browse and glean information about product choices – which in turn increases conversions.”
Online shopping should be a user-friendly and customer oriented experience so LEDHut definitely with the help of SLI Learning Search definitely has the right idea in mind.
April Holmes, March 21, 2012
February 11, 2013
It is so easy to put a black cape, top hat, and dastardly mustache on Google, because nobody gets that successful without a few skeletons in their closet, right? Also the company has a “Don’t Be Evil” motto that gives them more flak than the average company. They must be evil, right? Or maybe it is the simple, natural process called change. Blind Five Year Old outlines“Google’s Evil Plan Is Simple (And Not So Evil)” by explaining the search engine is not evil, the users are. The article even details what Google’s “nefarious plan” is:
“Get people to use the Internet more. That’s it. The more time people spend on the Internet the more time they’ll engage in revenue generating activities such as viewing and clicking display ads and performing searches.
The way Google executes on this strategy is to improve speed and accessibility to the Internet. Google wants to shorten the distance between any activity and the Internet. Lets look at some of Google’s initiatives with this in mind.”
The article outlines a bevy of Google products and services meant to increase Internet accessibility and usage. More Internet usage means Google gets used more and Google makes more revenue. At the same time, Google is saying that this will improve people’s lives. Google is trying to find the best ways to make its products and services available everywhere at anytime. It sounds more like economics than world domination theory.
Whitney Grace, February 11, 2013
February 8, 2013
In June 2012, an insular commercial database and professional publishing operation paid me to show up and share the trends my team had identified in online information. We were deep in the open source search study, which will be available to registered attendees of the Lucene Revolution in May 2013. I showed up, ran down a list of five areas which looked like potential investment areas. The group said, “We have these on our list already. What the heck did we hire you for anyway?”
Flash forward eight months. The insular outfit is still insular. And one of the opportunities I highlighted just became much more expensive. Navigate to “LinkedIn Eyes Future as Professional Publishing Hub.” The story points out that LinkedIn is profitable and growing organically. Here’s the passage I noted:
LinkedIn plans to hook you with business content you can’t get elsewhere — whitepapers, news articles, educated discussion threads, and so forth. When you come back more often and stick around longer — LinkedIn likes to use the term “engagement” to describe your attention — the professional social network can get clients to list more jobs and spend more on ads.
Oh, oh. Content marketing. I think the approach is a variation on Augmentext type content.
Most professional publishing and database companies do not grow organically because after years of trying to move into new markets and channels, the outfits just raise fees to lawyers, accountants, librarians, and financial analysts. When that stops working, the companies buy stuff and try to make the investments work. Whether it is medical fraud or crazy online encyclopedias, the path to the good old days of commercial professional and database publishing are harder and harder to recapture.
LinkedIn, like a couple of other outfits, is now heading into professional publishing land. If one of the big guys like Thomson Reuters or Ebsco try to hop on the train, the price of ticket has gone up a lot.
I don’t like to say, “I told you so.” I am more inclined to point to Williams James’ comment about “a certain blindness.” If you don’t see it, you cannot react. This is not Google or Facebook “arrogance” on the part of these traditional publishing companies’ management. The inability to spot an hot opportunity, overcome the friction of the “way it was,” and then act in a purposeful manner is the core problem in this business sector. Mark Logic can run conferences that cheerlead slice and dice as a strategy for growth. Outsell-type consultants can spin reports about innovations in publishing. The failed Web masters and unemployed journalists who bill themselves as mavens and poobahs can explain what’s happening in content created by and for professionals.
The problem is that making money means getting in before the CNet’s of the world report the obvious. So, no I told you so. Just a certain blindness. One can get run over crossing the street when blind. Stakeholders, are you listening? Some of the management in the companies in which you have invested may not be able to see the opportunities on the information superhighway.
Stephen E Arnold
January 28, 2013
To us, it seems Facebook has taken over the Internet. The giant social network that promotes sharing data and creating a web of relationships is a real innovation, rising above the crowd online and off. Or is it a ripoff of a 16th century monk? After reading “Facebook Concept Used by 16th Century Scholars, Researchers Discover” on Phys.org, we are not so sure.
The article states that our obsession with social networking is nothing new. Researchers say this idea of creating groups or networks and then exchanging information dates back to the 16th century where young scholars created nicknames and developed mottos and emblems to form groups where information was shared. We learn:
“Professor Jane Everson, Principal-investigator, said: ‘Just as we create user names for our profiles on Facebook and Twitter and create circles of friends on Google plus, these scholars created nicknames, shared – and commented on – topical ideas, the news of the day, and exchanged poems, plays and music.
‘It may have taken a little longer for this to be shared without the internet, but through the creation of yearbooks and volumes of letters and speeches, they shared the information of the day.’”
The discovery was made when a team of academics were cataloging the works of the Italian Academies. Too bad for the monks, this copycat system is alive and thriving with no thanks to these early scholars. We think the similarities between our societies is fascinating and salute these early monks for the innovation.
Andrea Hayden, January 28, 2013
January 23, 2013
Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer has a big hill to climb. Just as she is working to woo investors, recent statistics present some troublesome numbers, we learn from “Mayer’s 10X Challenge: Yahoo’s Homepage, Mail, and Search Traffic Show Significant Year-Over-Year Declines” at All Things D. Yes, that search thing is one of the issues; email and the customizable homepage are the other primary problem spots. The article informs us:
“Private stats from comScore show that those three areas have continued their longtime decline over the last year, in some cases dropping significantly. In November and December, for example, compared to the same two months a year ago, U.S. search was down 28 percent and 24 percent respectively, while mail was down 16 percent and 12 percent.
“This matters a great deal, since the troika of homepage, mail, and search have been the critical driver of the Yahoo value ecosystem for advertisers.
“The impact of those drops is felt all over Yahoo, whose music, movie, games and travel site have also seen massive drop-offs in traffic year over year in those same months.”
Though the drops in search and email were steep, the home page seemed to stabilize a bit, and Flickr has increased its users by a handsome 37 percent. That could have something to do increased support the CEO has been showing for that project.
Flickr, however, is not enough to save Yahoo, insists Swisher. She does give the company credit for other moves it has been making to refresh its offerings, like a new version of Yahoo Mail and a homepage redesign that emphasizes its mobile and social facets. Will it be enough to keep Yahoo near the top of the heap?
Cynthia Murrell, January 23, 2013