December 3, 2014
If you are a commercial database publisher, you have had your share of thrills and spills. But now the funding for libraries is modest and not likely to rebound quickly. Publishers whose content has been indexed now want some kind of compensation and even worse a few are putting up their own online services. But the scary part of relying on other people’s content is that some big guns will just roll over and make their content available with ever looser restrictions.
Nature now “permits subscribers and media to share read only versions of its papers.” Nifty idea but for many getting a third party to digest and highlight the important points is pretty useful. In fact, I think it will be sufficiently useful to replace a subscription.
If you wonder how the MBAs at LexisNexis, Cambridge Scientific, and EBSCO will react to this state of affairs, so do I. Maybe there are some other opportunities to pursue?
How will the Nature “marketing” experiment work out? My hunch is that for some sci tech publishers, no marketing trick will work. The companies anchored in the information models of the past have to find a way to pop up a level or two in the game of information.
Stephen E Arnold, December 3, 2014
November 24, 2014
I read “Technology Set Journalism Free, Now New Platforms Are in Control.” I reacted positively to the word “platforms.” After I read the essay, I am not convinced that the platforms mentioned in the article are in control. These platforms have the appearance of control, but I think Facebook, Twitter, and other big consumer services have a flaw. The content streams can be manipulated, often easily. There are platforms that operate outside of the consumer sector. Some of these platforms are far more important than channels that disseminate content (either well intentioned or weaponized).
The challenge publishers who want to use print as a revenue generator and as a way to enforce information control on a customer segment face a number of challenges. The big one is figuring out how to make money as monopolies develop in various sectors. There are some interesting efforts to combine print and digital; for example, the Monocle operation. For most of the companies wanting to tap print’s unique power, the problems require clear thinking. When I have been asked to think about how to make print work, I extricate myself from that engagement. I am probably able to come up with useful ideas, but I want to spend my time working on more interesting problems.
The flaw in this write up and others that try to find a place in today’s world for certain approaches to information is cost. As soon as paper is involved, the expense of buying it, printing on it, shipping it, and delivering it are greater than the money most companies can generate by selling it. Without money, the companies accustomed to information control and its attendant power have a big job to do.
Niche outfits may be able to do okay. But the big companies dependent on print thinking are probably going to fall out of their leather chairs.
And what about the platforms that most do not see or do not seek out? These will continue to expand their reach, scope, and capabilities. When cheerleaders for Facebook and similar companies wake up, another paradigm shift will be well underway.
What’s interesting is that today’s new platforms will be facing the challenges print publishers deal with today.
Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2014
November 20, 2014
The article titled The Power of Semantics on Research Information investigates the advancements in semantic enrichment tools. Scholarly publishers are increasingly interested in enabling their users to browse the vast quantity of data online and find the most relevant information. Semantic enrichment is the proposed solution to guiding knowledge-seekers to the significant material while weeding out the unnecessary and unrelated. Phil Hastings of Linguamatics, Daniel Mayer of Temis and Jake Zarnegar of Silverchair were all quoted at length in the article on their views on the current usages of semantic enrichment and its future. The article states,
“Daniel Mayer, VP product and marketing at TEMIS, gave some examples of the ways this approach is being used: ‘Semantic enrichment is helping publishers make their content more compelling, drive audience engagement and content usage by providing metadata-based discoverability features such as search-engine optimisation, improved search, taxonomy/faceted navigation, links to structured information about topics mentioned in content, “related content”, and personalisation.”
Clearly, Temis is emphasizing semantics. Mayer and the others also gave their opinions on how publishers in the market for semantic enrichment might go about picking their partners. Some suggestions included choosing a partner with expertise within the field, an established customer base and the ability to share best practices.
Chelsea Kerwin, November 20, 2014
November 19, 2014
The article titled Don’t Just Read, Listen” Scribd Adds Audio Books on CNet gives the details of the new addition to the Scribd service. In fact, 30,000 audiobooks were brought into the Scribd library, along with the 500,000 plus ebooks available. In a time when people seem to be losing interest in the written word, the spoken word might be the answer (especially spoken by celebrities like James Earl Jones.) The article explains,
“That catalog of 30,000 books includes new releases and award-winning books, including “The Hunger Games” trilogy, “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy and “The Days of Anna Madrigal” by Armistead Maupin. There are also children’s titles narrated by a few big-name actors, such as Meryl Streep reading”Chrysanthemum” and James Earl Jones reading “Who’s in Rabbit’s House?” Scribd is partnering with media company Findaway World to provide the e-books.”
In October of last year, Scribd began offering a $9 per month ebook subscription. The price will remain the same with the addition of the audiobooks, which puts Scribd just under the $10/month price of the Amazon Kindle. Purchasing individual books through itunes can cost a fortune, so these options are sounding mighty attractive in comparison. The brief article does not get into the question of search capabilities within audio, but they do mention the feature of a sleep timer for listening to audiobooks before bed.
Chelsea Kerwin, November 19, 2014
November 15, 2014
Short honk: I read “Thomas MIddlehoff, Ex Chief of Bertelsmann, Gets 3 Year Prison Term over Misuse of Funds.” The story online appeared on November 14, 2014, and it ran in the November 15, 2014, dead tree edition of a real “news” publication on page B3.
Ah, another executive getting caught. Not much to interest me. But tucked deep in the paragraphs of the “real” news story was this passage:
Despite his legal problems, Mr. Middelhoff had remained a director of The New York Times Company until April of this year, departing for reasons neither he nor The Times publicly explained. “We are saddened to learn this news today,” Eileen M. Murphy, vice president for corporate communications at The Times, said in an email. “Thomas was a valued member of our board for 10 years and we wish him well.”\
Real journalists are a loyal bunch. I assume in the rarified stratosphere of the intellectual gatekeepers, overlooking certain signals relating to a person’s behavior can be misinterpreted; for example, misuse of funds is translated as good business thinking.
Stephen E Arnold, November 15, 2014
November 12, 2014
I read two articles snagged by my Overflight service. The first is “Are You Ready for Marketing in 2020?” The story ran in what I thought was one of the UK’s most eager of the electronic pony riders. The other is a news report that LinkedIn, the social network for those desperate for contract or 9-to5 work and individuals with a hunger for getting 15 nanoseconds of fame. Yep, the entity “Stephen E Arnold” has a presence on LinkedIn. However, the “entity” is powered by the efforts of two of my research goslings and a real law librarian. We find the response to the “Stephen E Arnold” postings to the LinkedIn faithful amusing and somewhat horrifying.
Let’s look at each news item and then do some social and digital strategery, a neologism from the W era of the US presidency.
The Guardian asks a question and then promptly answers it without any reference whatsoever to the steady erosion of the traditional newspaper and magazine business. The author, a real journalist I presume, shows some grim data about the decline in ad revenue. There is a fix for this. A “real” newspaper or magazine can quit fiddling with the objective journalism stuff and get down to selling “inclusions.”
If you are not familiar with an inclusion in “real” publishing, allow me to explain. Think about those big, fat college guides that parents buy when Jill or James is “looking for a college.” Some of the entries are obese. Ever wonder why? Well, the business model of many college guides are based on selling space to the colleges and universities. Instead of calling these juicy descriptions of caring faculty and well groomed campuses advertising, the publishers use the euphemism “inclusion.”
How does this fit into the decline of newspaper advertising revenue? Easy. Just sell stories that pitch the advertisers’ view of reality. Then sell social media posts about the inclusion. Keep beating the drum until the inclusion buyer’s money runs out. Rinse. Repeat.
The solution is different from mine. The future in 2020 marketing will be data, content, channels, and technology. I think these are fine words, but the job is to hook these words to money. That will be done by charging for the newspaper or magazine endorse, brand power, and ability to put out content that has more credibility than a blog produced by an unemployed journalist, a failed Webmaster, or a retired person like moi.
The Guardian “real” news story concludes with a question: “Are you ready for marketing 2020 style?” Well, the answer in my opinion is that “real” newspaper and magazine publishers are not ready for 2020. They were not ready for online content in the 1960s. Now a half century later, these outfits are still struggling in a digital fish bowl. By 2020, most of the “real” newspapers and magazines will either become PR and SEO outfits, get into a different business like real estate, or fail. In my opinion, the very expensive and complex business model of the Monocle will not be viable due to the difficulty of generating enough revenue to keep prints, shops, online, and other bits and pieces affordable.
The second article is “LinkedIn acquires Newsle, a Google Alerts-Style Service for You and Your Network. One good thing about LinkedIn is that it is more focused than Amazon or Google. The company offers the ego- and unemployed focus that sets it apart from other social networks. Also, the company has snagged a couple of content centric properties. I quite like Slideshare because users create content, upload it, and get the benefit of being able to hunt for work or boost their ego. That’s synergistic in the MBA 1975 definition of the term. The Newsle deal, like the Pulse deal, is aimed at service. These have potential to distribute Linked In “posts” and news about Slideshare uploads as well as content that some publishers provide. Please, note that the savvy publisher will charge a person or company to write a story, slap the “real” publication’s name on it, and then hose the data to LinkedIn’s services. So I am on board with this type of acquisition for LinkedIn.
But the real impact of this LinkedIn constellation of services is that traditi0nal database publishers like ProQuest and Ebsco Electronic Publishing are likely to find themselves in a deeper hole than the one they are now in. The traditional market for these outfits is a library willing to pay outrageous prices for content produced by others. Publishers are rightly suspicious of these database outfits. If specialized information is the focal point, the audience for ACM or IEEE content remains small. As a percentage of the working population, the specialist markets are more difficult to increase. Selling cheaper mobile devices is a tough business, but these burgeoning prospect pools are looking for ways to reduce their costs of online, not raise them by reading the full text of Elsevier journals.
Raising prices for this specialized content will squeeze both the professional customers and the go-between companies like Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. Westlaw and Lexis already are feeling the effects of having their core market flee for jobs at Uber, Kentucky Fried Chicken, human resources, and trying to make a franchise pay for the kids’ sneakers. Legal information is indeed a very tough business compared to the salad days of expensive online information. I balk at paying $100, $250, or more for a query of US government produced legal documents. I am not alone I believe.
This means that LinkedIn may benefit from “real” newspapers and magazines charging for inclusions. As LinkedIn’s audience grows, it—not the publishers nor the intermediating database folks—will get the big paydays necessary to live high on the hog.
Good for LinkedIn. Not so good for the folks who have not adapted to the 1970s. By 2020, many of these outfits will be like the snow leopards. LinkedIn could be one of the winners.
Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2014
October 13, 2014
After several years of writing librarian-centric articles for Online Magazine and Searcher Magazine, I have decided to become an occasional author for Online Searcher. I will try to update the LinkedIn bibliography of my work before the end of the year. Some of my Online Searcher articles are available directly from Information Today. Online Searcher, as you may know, was formed in a crucible of innovation when Information Today merged its two separate publications.
For now, I will continue to provide articles about enterprise search for Information Today and about knowledge management to KMWorld. I have focused more and more on information issues related to law enforcement and intelligence. Although there is a fuzzy boundary between these two domains, I have decided to shift my efforts to operational intelligence and OSINT. I will not be covering these topics in Beyond Search, which focused on the highlights and lowlights of enterprise information systems. Readers active in law enforcement and intelligence will be able to follow my research in my presentations and webinars for those in these specialized communities. Search vendors and those who purvey wild and crazy for fee information services cannot breathe easily. I will be tracking the commercial findability outfits in Beyond Search until the industry changes or I grow tired of writing about jargon, lateral arabesques, and “intelligent” software.
Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2014
October 2, 2014
I read “Power Can Corrupt Even the Honest.” I am not sure if this is an objective scientific report or write up that says, “Hey, everybody’s doing it.” Judge for yourself.
I know that Elsevier is a purveyor of some expensive publications. The company also has an online autoclave in LexisNexis. I ran across one law librarian who told me that some law firms were reluctant to pump big bucks into Lexis queries. Sour grapes? Silliness? I don’t know.
What’s interesting is that the write up states:
After completing psychometric tests to measure various individual differences, including honesty, participants played the ‘dictator game’ where they were given complete control over deciding pay-outs to themselves and their followers. The leaders had the choice of making prosocial or antisocial decisions, the latter of which resulted in reduced total pay-outs to the group but increased the leader’s own earnings.
The findings showed that those who measured as less honest exhibited more corrupt behaviour, at least initially; however, over time, even those who initially scored high on honesty were not shielded from the corruptive effects of power.
I think I understand. To have real fun just become real powerful like a real professional publisher. Seems obvious to me, but I am not a real researcher. I do have enough common sense to come in out of the rain. Honest.
Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2014
October 2, 2014
I read “Google Bows to Pressure, Removes News Snippets from German Search Results.” This is a “real” journalism story from the same folks that delivered the Dave Schubmehl sale of my information on Amazon.
Not surprisingly, I interpreted the friskiness of the German legal eagles in a way that is quite different from deal old Computerworld’s.
Computerworld states with its real news authoritarian tone:
In a move to minimize legal risks, Google has stopped showing news snippets and thumbnails for some well-known German news sites in search results.
My view is that Google will allow publishers to witness a shift in their referral traffic from Google. Changes in either presentation in a Google page or results list can have an immediate and direct impact on traffic.
In my view, the Google perceives some countries as “not getting it.” What looks like a retreat may not be a signal of Google cowardice. Too bad traffic reports for German media properties are not as popular as Miley Cyrus concert attendance.
If one is not in Google, one may be hard to find or may not exist to some of the digital crowd.
Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2014
October 1, 2014
Unfortunately the revenue from online does not make up for advertising sales shortfalls, rising costs for paper and ink, and the old school business model that thrived on newspaper warfare.
The write up reports:
The note also said financial results from the company’s third quarter, which ended Sunday, had improved from a difficult second quarter. Digital advertising is likely to show growth of about 16 percent in the third quarter, the best quarterly performance since 2010, and digital subscriptions are expected to increase by more than 40,000, the largest number of quarterly additions since 2012. But the company’s profitability was lower than during the same period last year as costs increased.
So, farewell “real” journalists. Perhaps the Times should buy America Online and snag Ms. Huffington? Is she the future of “real” journalism? Maybe some of those mid tier consultants can come up with new ideas. (Oh, sorry, the mid tier consulting firms are struggling for revenues as well.) Perhaps a failed webmaster, unemployed middle school teacher, or a self anointed poobah will come to the firm’s rescue for less than a single “real” journalist. Well, there’s always selling write ups via Fiverr.com.
Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2014