Information Industry Trends and Implications

The information industry is undergoing fundamental changes, which have implications across every aspect of businesses, ranging from new product development to sales and marketing—and ultimately enterprise value.

AMR International in London has worked in the information industry for over 20 years and has been dealing first hand with the challenges faced by management teams. Executive Chairman Denzil Rankine (pictured here) provides the following insight into some of the matters currently concerning industry leaders, after chairing a roundtable for CEOs of B2B media organisations at the IIN conference in London.

Information industry trends and implications

1. New product development
- Information companies are extending more deeply into their customer bases, offering solutions rather than standalone products and services;
- While innovation continues to be mainly driven through experimentation, management can now move towards more planned innovation by leveraging knowledge it has gained over the past 5-10 years of alternative business models.

2. Internationalisation
- Internationalisation is now a more accessible goal, and smaller businesses are increasingly exploring the opportunities for international development;
- Cultural alignment and strong local management, possibly secured through a partnership, are essential ingredients for success;
- Following customers with a genuine need reduces risk.

3. Evolution of sales and marketing
- Sales and marketing functions are increasingly sophisticated, for example utilising marketing solutions such as microsites and automation;
- More capable sales staff are now required, with relevant sector expertise and marketing skills. They also need to be able to understand their customers’ businesses to provide genuine consultative selling

4. New competitors
- Specialists with a deep involvement with their audiences, almost operating as consultancies are becoming increasingly powerful players. Examples are Procurement Leaders and Melcrum. Some have substantial subscription or membership club models;
- Management teams should carefully monitor specialists operating in their markets and the potential risks and opportunities emerging.

5. Creating enterprise value
- Enterprise value continues to be driven by proprietary data, and embedding within customer workflow; businesses which support high value decision making are well placed;
- Information businesses that can provide solutions as opposed to simple products or services will also enhance value;
- Management should carefully plan technology investments to differentiate their business and drive value.

As the transformation of business media continues, CEOs are now more aware of the challenges they face and are better prepared for them. The most successful businesses are now wholeheartedly embracing the opportunities for change brought about by the continuing electronic revolution.

About AMR International
Denzil Rankine is executive chairman of AMR International, a strategy consultancy focused on media, information and events with offices in London, New York, Frankfurt and Paris. AMR has a deep understanding of business media, information and events; it has helped dozens of organisations to develop and execute their transformation and growth strategies.


As Metered Paywalls Spread, Europe Looks to Pay-per-Use

How much content should you give away? There is no right answer, of course. David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker—with all the resources of Condé Nast behind them—recently told The New York Times that up to now, they had “this kind of awkward, the best we could do, kind of paywall, where we held things back”—a system that has “long since outlived its conception.”

So this summer they’re giving it all away free. They’ll then take that data to help decide how to work their new metered paywall. “We’ve raised prices pretty aggressively over the past few years,” said Monica Ray, Condé Nast’s executive vice president for consumer marketing. “And we’ve just seen more subscriptions.”

They are also doing more live events—witness October’s The New Yorker Festival—and plan to offer premium subscriptions, so despite the larger scale they are not that different in this area from a niche publisher. They also hope to gain international subscribers through improved digital offerings.

Taking a quick look around the niche landscape, in the U.K. Optimus Education gives a one-sentence description of the story and then you can “take a trial” or log in as a subscriber. Euromoney offers a good deal of free content, but only subscribers (or those with a free trial) get full digital access and a print copy delivered. GamblingCompliance strongly pushes subscriptions and the free trial offering only first sentences of key stories.

In the U.S., Cablefax offers some free content and a 3-week free trial subscription to their daily; Spidell Publishing offers industry news but not much free content from their many newsletters; Modern Markets Intelligence offers a free 14-day trial—otherwise you just get the lead sentences to the stories—and a free report; and AIS Health offers some free content—including the many blogs—and pay-per-view purchases.

That last option is interesting and leads into an article on the excellent Editor & Publisher site by Gretchen A. Peck about blendle, the iTunes of The Netherlands publishing industry. One of the arguments against metered paywalls is that it discourages young people who are used to getting most of what they want on the Internet for free.

But according to blendle’s co-founder Alexander Klöpping, they have been “live for a month, and 60,000 people have signed up to pay for articles from all of Holland’s top newspapers and magazines…Publishers in Holland don’t have metered paywalls and only offer complete issues or subscriptions. We’re adding pay-per-article for young consumers who don’t want subscriptions. Currently, more than half of our users [are] under 40 which is a target audience that publishers currently don’t reach.”

Dutch publishers get 70% of the money and access to that audience. Asked whether people just order the trendy type articles, Klöpping said no because they can get that for free in other places. “What sells on blendle is the hard-hitting reporting, longer analysis, background pieces and interviews. So, if anything, it makes the journalism better.”

Klöpping “believes that if you make it easy enough to pay for journalism, people will pay.” But the trend here seems to be to offer more. Read our publications, access our archives, check out our reports, attend our conferences, get site and data licenses, register for our webinars and seminars, etc. Can all that co-exist with the pay-per-article? AIS Health apparently thinks so.

A German start-up called LaterPay also believes in the viability of pay-per-use, but in a different way. Wrote the World News Publishing Focus: “Instead of signing up for websites or paying several small sums for reading articles, users simply ‘read now and pay later.’ When they reach 5 euros, a bill arrives.”

The founder thinks that such an honor system could ease people into the idea of paying for content. “We believe that pay-per-use may become the best subscription generator of all,” said CEO Cosmin Ene, “as people experience the content first, see what they get, get used to it, and may subscribe after they repeatedly like it. Convincing users with pay-per-use has more power than forcing them into subscriptions.”

It does require an element of trust, but it may be worth a try on our shores. “If you let them experience the benefit first, treat them well and protect their privacy, and make it convenient for them to use, they’ll pay,” Ene said. “The key words are: benefit, convenience, reasonable pricing, privacy protection.”

Lastly, in the E&P article, Peck quotes Ross Dawson, a media futurist and the founding chairman of Future Exploration Network, a futures think tank. “One of the key variables is how porous the paywall is. I believe that you need to have some porosity. You need to allow people to access some content. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to promote socially, which is a very important part of visibility.”

That’s a great point, but in our world, publishers are still struggling to find the right balance for social channels that rarely bring in direct income. To be continued.

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.

What It Takes To Be A CODiE Awards Judge

It’s that time of year again, the CODiE Awards. SIIA’s annual CODiE Awards recognizes excellence in the content, education and software industries. The CODiE Awards remain the only peer-recognized program in the content, education and software industries so each award serves as incredible market validation for a product’s innovation, vision and overall industry impact. This year marks a milestone for the CODiE Awards, celebrating 30 years.

We are officially accepting applications for CODiE Award judges. If you have ever wanted to be a part of the CODiE Awards, this is the year to do it! The CODiE Awards are judged in two phases: a first round review in which each product is assigned to judges for evaluation, and SIIA Member voting on the finalists selected in the first round.

The ranks of first round CODiE Awards judges include industry executives and analysts, representatives of media outlets, bloggers, investors, and, for the education categories, educators and administrators. All it takes is a background that reflects an understanding of the broader market for a specific product type and a willingness to see the latest and greatest the industry has to offer.

Take a look at FreePrint contributor, John DiGilio’s 2014 CODiE Award judging experience.

FreePrint Article

Google Opens News Publisher Center, Oliver Takes on Native Advertising, and NYT Tracks Words

1. Change Agents. Last Monday, Google introduced its News Publisher Center. It lets you make changes to their record of your news site so readers can more easily find your content. You can now:
- update your news site details, including changing your site name and labeling your publication with any relevant source labels (e.g., “Blog,” “Satire” or “Opinion”)
- update your section URLs when you change your site structure (e.g., when you add a new section such as or
- label your sections with a specific topic (e.g., “Technology” or “Politics”)

For now, it is only available to U.S. publishers. That should change soon. “Ultimately,” writes Eric Weigle, Google software engineer, “our goal is to make this a platform where news publishers and Google News can work together to provide readers with the best, most diverse news on the web.”

2. Advertising, Glorious Advertising. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, HBO’s John Oliver - from Birmingham in the U.K. – delivered a brilliant and funny, 11-minute commentary on native advertising last week that has now gotten more than 1.5 million views. He includes funny takes on church and state, the old Camel News Caravan with John Cameron Swayze—for anyone who thinks this might be a new thing—the ineffectiveness of banner ads, BuzzFeed, and the myth that native advertising is always clearly marked.

It’s hard to tell an industry struggling to find digital ad dollars that native advertising is bad. But you still need to approach with care. As Kiplinger’s Denise Elliott wrote when informing members about Oliver’s piece, “We take native advertising on our site … but don’t have any running right now. We also clearly mark it as third party generated content that for which editorial staff does not have any involvement.”

3. Word Play. The New York Times has a very cool new online game/tool called Chronicle. Here’s how it works: You put in a word or phrase and then Chronicle charts its usage through history in The Times. So I just put in “newsletter” and it starts in 1945, reaches its peek around 1996, plummets continuously to 2009, has a slight resurgence in 2010 and has since continued to fall.

I then added “blog” to the chart. That starts in about 2002, reaches about 4% of all articles in 2009—much higher than “newsletter” ever ascended to—but then has fallen since. I add “mobile” and the chart shows very high usage in the 1860s—a different definition no doubt—then not much until about 1997 when it proceeds to rise, though still only to about half the heights blog once reached.

The example the Times gives is “sex” and “marriage.” While marriage has had steady usage over the years—with slight bumps in the mid ‘30s, late ‘70s and early 2000s—sex had increases in the mid 1910s, mid ‘20s, then lay dormant until the mid ‘60s when it had a 10-year rise (probably the same time of the TV show Laugh-In). It went down again in the Reagan era and now pretty much aligns with marriage. Try your own words!

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

IP News

U.S. Patent Office Rejects Apple Autocomplete Patent Used Against Samsung (CNET)
While the Apple v. Samsung patent battle may have ended overseas, it is still going strong in the U.S. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected several claims of one of the patents Apple wielded against Samsung in the most recent patent-infringement trial.

Suit Against Alibaba Opens Window on Issue of Counterfeiting (The Wall Street Journal)
A lawsuit filed and then withdrawn last month against Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. by several of the world’s leading luxury brands provides extensive details about the issue of allegedly counterfeit goods on the Chinese Internet company’s shopping platforms.

Wasn’t Cloud supposed to End Shelfware? (GigaOM)
One of the supposed advantages of cloud computing over an on-premises deployment model was that you would only buy what you need and pay for what you use. But it turns out customers are still buying more cloud resources than they need and ending up with shelfware, only in someone else’s cloud.

Japanese Manga, Anime Firms Debut Latest Antipiracy Project (Publishers Weekly)
A consortium of Japanese government organizations, manga publishers and anime production and game companies announced that they have formed the Manga-Anime Guardians Project, a combined effort to crack down on online piracy.

Twitch to Mute Copyrighted Music in Video-On-Demand (CNET)
Video-game streaming service Twitch, which is the subject of rumors about a Google takeover, announced a new copyright protection policy that threatens to muffle audio on much of its users’ Video on Demand content.

Photographer Sues Textbook Company for Copyright Infringement (The Pennsylvania Record)
A New York City-based photographer claims Houghton Mifflin Harcourt infringed on his copyrights with photos reprinted in millions of copies of the company’s books.

Australia Eyes Copyright Act Amendment to Curb Downloading (Intellectual Property Watch)
The Australian government is seeking to amend its copyright act to address online copyright infringement.

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.

Conan Tribute for Williams Gives Lessons for Publishers

“This is unusual and upsetting,” Conan O’Brien said yesterday towards the end of the live taping of his talk show, “but we got some news that Robin Williams has passed away. We’re absolutely stunned to get this news. We’ve all worked with Robin over the years…”

From there Andy Richter, his sidekick, commented that “[Williams] was an amazingly kind and generous person…” And guest Will Arnett, who worked with Williams on the 2005 film, RV, said, “As funny as he was—he’s truly one of the all-time greats—he was even better as a person…one of the kindest guys I’ve ever worked with.”

The segment was extremely well managed by O’Brien and, if there was a quick decision whether to include the news, showed that they got it right. To have waited until the next day, when the airwaves and Internet would be saturated, would have turned it into just another tribute—as opposed to a heartfelt and memorable commentary.

Most niche publishers may not face decisions of that magnitude, but they do work on a 24-hour news cycle. I recall Martin Schneider, CEO of ExchangeMonitor, telling me that for their 7 am daily, “reporters file stories until midnight. And then at 5:30 a.m. someone checks the latest developments, so we can still get those in. We file a lot more remotely now and have become much more flexible with people’s time. It works out—allows for timely information.”

A former colleague recently called me one early morning to ask a question. Their niche print magazine was set to go to press that day, but an article had just come out in the newspaper that poked holes in their lead story. Do they need to update or get a reaction? I think you have to. People are so accustomed to reading on the Internet now that they would not excuse a print article that’s already old news.

We’ve seen the changes on the sports pages, where game stories are now given less importance—the thinking being that the reader has already either watched it or saw the highlights on Sports Center. In yesterday’s Washington Post, the front page of the sports section featured a column on the PGA Golf Championship and inside was a smaller “game story.”

The other lesson from O’Brien’s show is the power of speaking off the cuff. In May I quoted Ken Molay on his excellent The Webinar Blog, saying that “live presentations have a different dynamic and expectation than prerecorded ones. Audiences listening to a presenter in real-time are more willing to ‘build a relationship’ with the story and the storyteller.”

Although O’Brien’s show was being taped, I’m sure they would not have retaped that segment. It had to be of-the-moment. Molay wants you to give your webinars some of that feel. He would like to see the host or presenter occasionally interact with the audience before the Q&A. So instead of, “Please hold your questions for after,” the presenter would answer a question or two as they emerge.

Molay also believes in non-linearity. “Instead of going from slide 1 to slide 40 in sequence, separate your information into subtopics. Ask your attendees to vote on which is most important to them and what you should cover first, next, last.” (Perhaps this could be done beforehand.)

“You can still get through everything you wanted to say, but you give your viewers the illusion of control. They feel in charge of the content they receive.” I recall a famous screenwriter saying that rule 1 is to tell your story in a non-linear way with jumps and flashbacks. I hadn’t applied that thinking to webinars, but Molay wants presenters to tell a story, so it makes sense.

The final advice comes from a GoToWebinar survey. “We know from science that people do engage and remember better when their experience is active versus passive,” the report says. “…If the presenter were speaking to an in-person audience, where would [he or she] ask for a show of hands? Pause for questions? Respond to someone who makes a comment.”

The people in O’Brien’s audience yesterday—and maybe even those watching on TV last night—may remember that segment forever. That might not have been the case for something the next day.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

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.

Membership Models Give Publishers More to Offer

In his presentation on new membership models at SIPA 2014, Adam Goldstein of Business Management Daily (BMD) showed a slide that read, “A Google Analytics overlay showed that our meager tools—forms and checklists—were getting far more clicks than our article archive, which we had considered our strength.” So BMD “partnered with a forms provider, whose checklists, forms, and self-audits greatly improved the site, on a pay-for-performance arrangement.” (The session can be accessed by members on the SIPA site, and Goldstein will be speaking more on this at the BIMS Conference, Nov. 10-12 in Miami Beach.)

BMD also discovered that their biggest audience was bigger companies, so they raised prices on webinars and boosted the perceived value of the offer. In addition, for more engagement, they launched an Office Technology Answer Center and conducted polls. By the end of 2013, that Answer Center had 371 members, $77K contribution, and zero editorial cost.

His final takeaway: “Everything is membership: would someone rather subscribe, or BELONG?”

Of course, you still see “subscribe” and “publications” on the sales pitches of some niche publishers. But more and more you’re now seeing words and phrases like join, become a member, select a membership package, attend, register, get started now, be part of our forum, download, visit store, join our community, etc. Testimonials abound from other “members.” And the publication—depending on your analytics—no longer has to be the focus and often isn’t.

In the SIPA world, for example, BMD has an All-Access Training Pass for webinars. Similarly, Business Valuation Resources sells a Training Passport & Passport Pro. Pro Farmer asks you to join and presents three membership plans to choose from—the Preferred includes alerts and full website access. Credit Today’s member resources include benchmarking, a member forum and a legal resource center. ExchangeMonitor has four important forums/summits to attend depending on your specific subject interest.

Nowhere is this approach more member-centric than with Atlantic Media’s “National Journal Membership.” I’m looking at a beautiful printout of their membership program, starting with a vivid photo of the Jefferson Memorial and the phrase “Serving the Leading Government Affairs Professionals.” Yes, you still get the once-flagship magazine, but it’s definitely well below the fold on their sales materials. “Our purpose for being is service,” it reads under the headline “A Spirit of Generosity.”

Calling their package “The Next Generation of Government Affairs,” they offer these member benefits:
- “24/7” access on all platforms
- “Concision Reporting” for mobile
- “Precision Tracking”
- “Custom Presentations”
- “Weekly Executive Briefing”
- Onsite presentations of Best Practice Research
- “Thoughts on the Rocks, Coffee with the Newsroom” (receptions with editorial leadership)
- Membership@Lunch
- Access to summits, roundtables and webinars

A timeline takes you through your membership year. Most niche publishers are not of the size to offer all these benefits. But National Journal does set a tone that more publishers are starting to follow. It’s a more targeted and engagement-seeking approach. They don’t want to solve just any problems but your problems. And with the tools and data available today, they will work hard at it.

“Our ambition is to serve in unlimited amount—all that we do is given to every Member,” their pledge continues. “Every best practice study, every briefing, every slide, graphic, PowerPoint deck—attendance at all Member meetings—in unlimited amount for all our Members’ staff.”

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

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.

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