Monday, May 31, 2010

Spring Conferences, Part 3

SIIA NetGain was a one-day meeting in San Francisco this year, followed by a one-day field trip to Adobe, Google and Apple campuses. I will only cover the highlights here.

Ann Michaels chaired a good panel on social networking with Johna Burke (BurrellesLuce), Tabrez Syed (Spiceworks) and Serena Wellen (Lexis-Nexis). Most interesting segment was on Lexis-Nexis Communities and Martindale-Hubble Connect. Communities is an open networks that combines free and fee-based content currently aimed at 28 communities, some of which are practice-based (such as bankruptcy and insurance) and some of which are role-based (associates and paralegals). The content mix contains news, blogs, podcasts, video and ads. MH Connect is a closed referral network with multiple subscription levels, including free, built on top of an existing attorney directory. L-N gets content from contributors, who are also their customers, and monitors the spending of members in other parts of the business. The idea is that subject matter experts who generate content drive the visiting and viewing behavior of the larger population, providing revenue opportunities.

Andy Weissberg of Bowker chaired a panel on "How E-Readers Are Changing the Publishing Game" with Colin Crawford of Media7 and and Miles McNamee of Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). There was some discussion of how music went from paid analog (legal) to free digital (illegal) and to subscription digital (legal). Obviously there are some parallels to the book business, in that getting quickly to a convenient and affordable service model is in everyone's long term interest. But publishers now need to worry about the pirating of customers, even if the content ownership issue is settled. Customers, and the data they provide, are an important (if neglected) asset of publishing companies, and right now neither Apple nor Amazon is sharing customer data with content owners. (Google has no plans to do so either, as we discovered later in the context of Google Editions.)

Ken Doctor chaired a panel on "News Start-Ups" with Robert Rosenthal of the Center for Investogative Reporting and Jonathan Weber of the Bay Citizen. I found the idea of start-ups getting into the turbulent news business a little odd, until I realized that CIR is a non-profit, and the Citizen plans a public radio style business model of sponsorships and grants from foundations. Both plan to experiment with new business models, including ads and subscriptions, in order to sustain real journalism, as opposed to op-ed style blogging. CIR plans to move to video, in search of "more CPMs", though one wonders if they understand the cost structure of shooting and storing large amounts of rich media content, or the fact that even Google's highly efficient CPC model is unable to fully pay for their YouTube portal. (CPM on highly popular Facebook is a mere $1, compared to AdSense's $25.)

I may write about the Adobe and Google visits later; I jumped ship at Google and didn't proceed to the Apple campus.