Resources are Critical to Common Core Survival and Success Beyond November

Several years into the era of common core state standards (CCSS), there has been no shortage of challenge and opportunity, debate and disagreement.  Through it all, education practitioners have been among the staunchest champions for the new standards and their success. That was one of the several findings of an expert panel hosted last week by the DC think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Panelists discussed some of the issues that have tripped up the advancement of the CCSS and what the viability of the standards are beyond the November mid-term elections. Their bottom line: CCSS long term survival looks pretty likely, but given some of the rhetoric at the state and federal level, nothing is a sure thing.

While a couple of states have pulled out of the common core, states and school districts delaying testing or not investing in classroom materials are more likely to derail, or at least delay, full implementation of the standards. Panelists shared this sentiment and were fairly confident that we aren’t likely to see a mass exodus of states from the CCSS after the election.

While it’s clear that, for political decision makers, the CCSS has become a sort of bogeyman that they’d like to delay, this view has not been shared by educators. On the local level, educators remain some of the strongest supporters of the standards, and their biggest concerns of late are ensuring they have the training, support, technology and content needed to implement the standards properly in their classrooms.

Panelist Catherine Gewertz of Education Week suggested that proper implementation and having quality instructional materials and content was of a higher priority for educators than the concerns of policymakers over data privacy. While this isn’t to say privacy is not an issue, it makes clear that we should be having more robust conversations in states about the level of commitment needed to equip classrooms and teachers with the necessary tools to implement an entirely new set of standards and curriculum.

One other unanswered question is what will be the federal role in the CCSS post midterms. A Republican Senate may wind down the Department of Education’s ability to provide incentives. The AEI and the Council of Chief State School Officers would support a federal shift from recruiting every state to ensuring comparability and rigor of data and standards across self-committed states.

SIIA Comments on the Use of Data Analytics to Promote Social and Economic Opportunity

Today SIIA filed comments in the Federal Trade Commission’s Workshop on “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” The workshop was held on September 15 and usefully framed important developments in the use of data analytics for providing services to low income and underserved consumers and provided a forum for discussion of the possibility of unfair or discriminatory use of data analytics.

I participated on the workshop’s second panel relating to new developments in data analytics.  SIIA’s comments summarize the discussion in that panel and contain additional reflections on the issues raised by the workshop. The main points of the comments are:

  • SIIA members are industry leaders using analytics to promote social and economic opportunity through, for example, alternative credit scoring models, cognitive computing in health care, predictive analytics in education, and detecting discrimination.
  • Adequate and appropriate due diligence and transparency requirements already apply in regulated eligibility contexts such as lending, insurance, housing and employment.
  • Due diligence and transparency mandates should not be applied to new contexts absent a showing that they are needed to prevent tangible harms.
  • Trade secrets and business confidentiality should continue to protect algorithms from disclosures.  Such disclosures do not accomplish any meaningful public policy objective.
  • The focus of policy concern should be on the uses of algorithms, not on the algorithms themselves.
  • The FTC should continue the dialogue and discussion with other expert agencies and stakeholders to promote the positive use of data rather than seek additional laws or regulations.

Stakeholders should continue their discussions on these important issues.  The objective should be for government, industry, academics, and advocates from all sides to gain a shared understanding of how business and other organizations should use the powerful new analytics tools at their disposal to promote inclusion and economic opportunity.

Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology.

Electronic Signatures Get a Shot-in-the-arm

After more than a decade, could electronic signatures be poised to take off within the Federal Government?  Yes, and it’s about time!

Last week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a procedural notice to encourage greater use of electronic signatures.  This comes only weeks after legislation was introduced to accomplish this purpose, and policymakers in Congress began pressing the Obama Administration for answers.

As the SBA notice acknowledges, streamlining the lengthy and complicated loan application process is crucial for small businesses to secure the capital they need to get their products or services to market; and electronic signatures are critical to that process.

For many years now, within the Federal Government, electronic signatures have served the same purpose as handwritten signatures.  This policy was established back in 1998, when Congress passed the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA, Pub. L. 105-277) requiring that, when practicable, Federal agencies use electronic forms, electronic filing, and electronic signatures to conduct official business with the public by 2003.

This was followed by adoption of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (the ESIGN Act), which removed a myriad of anachronistic and inconsistent state and federal requirements for paper and ink documents and signatures in the private sector. In so doing, the ESIGN Act eliminated many of the legal uncertainties that have surrounded the use of electronic signatures and records in commerce and enabled businesses and consumers to more fully realize the cost savings possible through all-electronic transactions.

Suffice it to say, for over a decade the policy and technical frameworks have been in place for electronic signatures to be the “wave of the future” for Federal and state governments as well as the private sector.  For those ready to realize the benefits of electronic signatures, the guidance was updated just last year.

Here’s hoping that the future has finally arrived!

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.

Members Reveal Keys in Getting Emails and Conversions

Listening to Jennifer Kern, Gale Media’s director of digital strategy and marketing analytics, speak in an SIIA webinar this week, made me think of a Halloween book by Jerry Seinfeld that I read to kids a couple days earlier. Throughout the book, Seinfeld reflects on the one thought that pervaded his little self’s day: “Get candy.”

Similarly, Kern (pictured here) said that one thought stands behind everything Gale Media does: Get conversions. Fortunately, in these days of content marketing being as commonplace as Madison Bumgarner shutout innings, this leads to strong content across both their free pages and Modern Distribution Management (MDM) premium sites.

Kern’s presentation was one of three excellent and actionable ones under the tagline, How to Turn Your Website Into a Direct Content Sales Channel/e-Marketplace. Andy Kowl, senior VP, publishing strategy for ePublishing, and Dexter Steis, executive publisher for Natural Gas Intelligence, presented the other two. The webinar can be accessed by members as an on-demand video at this link.

Kern’s key takeaway in converting visitors is simply, “ask in multiple places,” and they are quite successful. To build their list, they use:

- a “popover/lightbox” on almost all pages to new visitors. Interestingly, they tested an old-fashioned looking popover they were using—an envelope was the only graphic—vs. a more updated one that showed off their many newsletters. Old-fashioned won by 25%. (Test!)
- callouts at the bottom of free blog posts and articles—their #1 conversion point—and other popular places on the website. They vary the looks.
- links to free newsletter in nav bars.
- an “interrupter” that peeks out from the lower right corner of blogs and free articles.
- an offer on LinkedIn (they got 125 new emails from offering a special report there).

To convert visitors to the paying MDM premium, they do:

- email campaigns offering 10% discounts.
- callouts in the free newsletter and on the homepage.
- testimonial ads.
- links in the blogs. The editors are all big on linking to premium content in their articles.
- an MDM Preview page where a couple paragraphs of a story are shown. A video callout of president Tom Gale on the right sidebar does very well there.
- a separate Premium landing page. Once visitors get there, they are followed by an MDM Premium ad as they travel the web.

Steis has worked at NGI for 18 years; they have 7 B2B newsletters—3 of which are dailies—and 16 full-time people, 2/3 of whom drive content. Their revenue is up 14% YTD—65% of the dollars coming from natural gas data.

Their old website had no focus; it simply showed a lot of small headlines. The new one integrates charts and graphs—and gas price data—in addition to giving visitors free tastes and much clearer links to the subscription products. “We put in the metered paywall October 2013,” Steis said. “At first, people got five free drinks—we wanted to err on the side of being more generous. But we have since peeled that back to 2 free drinks, and on your second click you’re prompted to get a free trial.”

His 5 takeaways:

1. leveraging Content to build traffic is easier than you think.
2. ancillary products (sales) and data sales are natural outcomes of more content and traffic.
3. better website with stickier content has increased renewals. (80% thus far in 2014 versus 65% in 2013)
4. Google News has helped drive traffic both directly and indirectly (from Google Search).
5. More traffic + metered paywall = fewer trials and modesty higher newsletter sales, but ancillary and data driving sales up 14% YTD.

Kowl opened the webinar with a good sampling of pages from members ePublishing works with. He made the argument for free content—without it visitors won’t return and search engines will bring in fewer prospects. “Don’t fear free,” he said mantra-like. He encouraged:

- providing a seamless buying experience.
- building a powerful audience database.
- focus on your responsive site design.

In the always-valuable Q&A, Kern suggested using Google Consumer Surveys to put a survey on your site. “We use just 3 questions. ‘What was your purpose for coming here? Were you able to accomplish what you wanted? If not, why not? If not why?’ It’s important to try to get qualitative feedback. Why did they bounce?”

Again, the webinar can be accessed by members as an on-demand video at this link.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Driving Traffic to Exhibitors Takes Thought and Planning

The more I follow our member publishers—Chartwell, Access Intelligence, ExchangeMonitor, Billington CyberSecurity, Magna Publications and October Research, to name a few—the more I get a sense that putting on conferences and events is proliferating as a strong revenue driver.

And that means recruiting vendors and exhibitors, and planning the best space for booths and a tradeshow. Here are 10 suggestions that I’ve gathered from the Member Listserv and other sources for driving traffic to booths.

1. Create a list of tips and techniques for exhibitors and send it to them well in advance. This includes encouraging exhibitors to contact their own lists to let them know they are exhibiting at this important event. Said one member who did this: “Part of our motivation, frankly, was also self-defense, as if to say, ‘Here’s what you need to do to be successful, so don’t complain if you don’t make any sales or capture any leads.’”

2. Encourage exhibitors to host an ask-the-expert-type forum at their booth. This could be a consultant or their own blogger/writer who can get more exposure and build their persona up. One member called it The Licensing Doctor Is In—and had permission to use the old Peanuts image with Lucy sitting in a lemonade stand with a sign that says, “The Doctor Is In – 5–cents.” They were able to add “Licensing” above the phrase so it looks like an insert.

3. Put programming in the exhibits area. Set up some type of stage and conduct short interviews with industry thought leaders in a sort of talk-show format. Could just be a minute or two of a 30-minute break. 

4. Ask an author or two in your industry (maybe one is a keynote) to sign autographs in that area. Position the person so people will be waiting in front of other booths, giving them time to look around and exhibitors a captive audience. I’ve always said that if I owned a restaurant, I would pay people to stand outside and wait in line. It creates buzz.

5. Put on a sit-down style, speed-networking event early in the Conference. These can be random or with a bit of work, more pre-determined. With the latter, all the vendors (and registrants from the same company) would be on one side so they are not talking to each other. The value is many-fold. Most of all, it allows short, friendly conversations that can preface a longer talk later on.

From a vendor on speed networking: “It allowed me to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time which as a vendor, I would highly value. It was very loud though which was a bit uncomfortable so maybe if you try this, space the seats out a bit so you’re not having to shout over the people to your immediate left and right. And as suggested, some sort of relevant pre-work in advance would be good, so that every conversation isn’t limited to the standard ‘So, what do you do?’ type of questions and then BZZZZ buzzer goes off and you’re on to the next one.”

6. Have food and/or drinks in the exhibit area, especially scent-wafting items like popcorn or fresh chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps the popcorn can be part of a movie red-carpet theme. In Las Vegas last year we had a nice breakfast buffet in that area.  Of course, having the evening networking reception in the booth area will certainly attract traffic, but make sure to spread it out.

7. Encourage exhibitors to provide a calming space. I know Astek used to buy a nice table and chairs from a local Ikea to be able to hold a conversation. (The bowl of apples was a nice touch.) Of course, space is at a premium but Astek didn’t use much.

8. Make the area tight so people have to interact. If we walk into a networking event and see that it is very crowded and hard to get through, we may be a little perturbed. But where are you going to talk to more people, in a room where you have your space or one where you bump into people? Maybe a balance is best.

Said a vendor from a recent conference: “Exhibitors were basically in a hallway that you had to pass through to get to one of the main session rooms (and the coffee area), but it forced, at the very minimum, lots of eye contact and smiles and admittedly, several lighthearted “excuse me’s” as we were trying to pass through.”

9. The often-used idea of “games” has been floated on the Listserv before, where people are encouraged to gain check-offs from every booth and then turn in for prizes. Said one vendor: “That can be okay but be careful that it doesn’t just send the wrong traffic to booths. But if you believe it can break that invisible barrier where people think if they walk up to a booth they will get a hard sales pitch, then it can be okay…”

10. The idea of vendor recognition has also come up—recognizing your longest ones, your most loyal, etc. This seems tricky, although one vendor was all for it: “Rewarding vendors who have contributed over time to a community makes sense and gives them some prominence over the fly-by-night vendors who drop in just for one show and offer no lasting value for the community. You just have to be careful to balance it so that a new vendor is inspired to contribute and not annoyed that they are at the bottom of every list.”

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Intellectual Property Roundup

UK High Court Orders ISPs to Block Trademark-Infringing Sites (Securing Industry)
A landmark ruling has been handed down in the UK that establishes the right of trademark owners to secure court orders blocking websites that sell counterfeit products.

German Publishers Capitulate and Let Google Post News Snippets (PC World)
German publishers said they are bowing to Google’s market power, and will allow the search engine to show news snippets in search results free of charge, at least for the time being.

Embedding is Not Copyright Infringement, EU Court Rules (Torrent Freak)
The Court of Justice of the European Union handed down a landmark verdict, ruling that embedding copyrighted videos is not copyright infringement, even if the source video was uploaded without permission.

News Data SHows More Signs that Patent Troll Suits are in Decline (Ars Technica)
A new report published by Unified Patents notes a drop-off in recent patent lawsuits, the second recent indication that there may be a decline in suits following this summer’s US Supreme Court decisions.

Apple Defeats GPNE’s $94M Patent-Infringement Claim (CNET)
Apple last week defeated GPNE in a patent-infringement trial, with a jury determining the electronic giant’s devices didn’t infringe mobile technology owned by the nonpracticing entity.

Judge Refuses to Block Aereo’s DVR Functions (GigaOM)
A federal judge in New York slapped Aereo with an expected injunction, but also hinted how the service might survive in the future, a ruling that could open the door to Aereo operating as a cloud-DVR service.

Google Algorithm Change Hits Streaming, Torrent Sites Hard (Ars Technica)
Video streaming and torrent sites have dropped precipitously in Google rankings after the company altered its algorithm.

Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

Join & Save–Owler on the CODiE Awards

titleThis blog was written by : Tim Harsch, Co-Founder & Director of Product, Owler.



We at Owler have long been fans of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). When the founding team was at Jigsaw we were members, and one of the first things that we did when Owler was founded was to join SIIA.

As part of both the software and information industries, it is invaluable to be able to connect with other leaders to discuss the challenges that we are all facing and to stay abreast of the latest trends and policies that affect us. More specifically, participating in the Content Division (CISD) has allowed us to ensure we are maintaining industry best practices as well as helping get our name out there to the community.

Last year we were honored to win a CODiE Award for Best Crowd Sourced Solution, recognizing our team’s hard work in developing a new platform for gathering data in an entirely different way.

CODiE’s are all peer-recognized awards and have a long history of over 29 years – making the distinction of winning that much more meaningful as a recognition of excellence within the industry.

Although we regrettably no longer qualify, the CODiE’s Join and Save program for new members is an ideal way for companies to get a head start in the industry by joining SIIA and earning a free award nomination for the CODiE’s as they do so. Nominations this year just opened and run through November 7. So if you aren’t yet a member, now is the perfect time to join! More details are available via the CODiE’s site here:

Follow Tim on Twitter: @tharsch

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Angel ScottAngel Scott is Awards Program Coordinator at SIIA. Follow the SIIA CODiE Awards on twitter at @CODiEAwards.

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