Thursday, May 29, 2008

Standing in between someone and the information they need...
is a sure way to lose a job. Jeff Jarvis, in his excellent blog Buzzmachine recently commented on the Justice Department’s antitrust settlement with the National Association of Realtors. He rails against the market inefficiency created as realtors monopolized listings. He goes on to point out that 6% commissions are a thing of the past as internet brokers will now be able to compete on a level playing field.

It brings to mind a comment that a b-school professor made to me years ago "Never stand between someone who needs information and the information itself as you'll soon find yourself out of a job". So far I can only think of examples that by and large support this theory. For example, when financial data became more ubiquitous, the role of stock brokers changed drastically. The same is true for travel agents thanks to websites like Expedia, kayak.com and travelocity.

However, it is important to note that just because some inefficiency or monopolistic profits are squeezed out of a market does not mean that all those workers are out on the street. Markets have a way of segmenting themselves and the smart realtors (following in the steps of the stockbrokers and travel agents) will focus on higher net worth individuals, or corporate relocators or other high need/low time people to build their business. For the "down market", they may adopt the strategies of their internet competitors and use their strong brands to grow share.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NOYS BOYS and other Acronyms
I've always been interested in language and acronyms in particular have intrigued me. Acronyms are quite prevalent in technical fields and often have the impact of creating a "language" that is only known to members of a particular community. When I worked for legal and tax publisher Commerce Clearing House, they published an internal directory of all the three and four letter acronmyms in use so sales, editorial, technology and fulfillment could all be on the same page, so to speak.

A few recent sightings got me thinking about these constructions. For example, I received a vacation response from someone at Google, the subject line had OOO (Out Of Office). I also read some reviews of the swag bag at the All Things Digital Conference and learned that SWAG = Stuff We All Get.

With a 7 year old in the house, we've come up with our own lexicon for everday words and happenings. Here are a few of my favorites:

RB = Roast Beef
BOYS = Both On Your Side. This occurs during raucous badminton matches where both shuttlecocks wind up on one side of the net.
NOYS = None On Your Side. See above
OOB = Out Of Bounds

Of course when guests come over they have no idea what in the heck we are talking about until we indoctrinate them into our badminton fraternity. Then they know the language and can join the community.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Social Networking for the St. Elmos’ Fire Crowd
My 25th prep school reunion was this weekend at Choate in Wallingford, CT. Being a glutton for punishment I agreed to be one of the reunion chairs for the event reasoning that since I plan a lot of events for SIIA, there should be some skill overlap. Luckily there was. We made extensive use of email to help in the recruiting efforts and used blogs, Photobucket , Skype and FaceBook to supplement. Unlike the information industry crowd, there has not been as much acceptance out in the general populace yet. We got about 25 classmates to join Facebook and through that process found out that some of my classmates are in the info industry!
I’m hoping that a lot of the photos taken will make it up to Facebook or Photobucket to help lay the groundwork for our 30th reunion.

Our approach stands in sharp contrast to the graduating 6th formers (seniors) that I got to meet a few weeks ago. Every one of them is on FaceBook now and as one student pointed out was that they are “only one wall post away” from contacting each other in the future. This will certainly come in handy for them 25 years from now when they have to find each other.

P.S. Thanks no Nancy Kho for the St. Elmo’s Fire reference – I sent her a link to the photos last week.
CCC on May Day
Copyright Clearance Center, an SIIA member, recently held a one day conference on Copyright. Once there I saw the schedule and got a little worried – they had schedule four ninety minute panel discussions on the topic. I’m thinking that is way too long and people will be nodding off. SIIA runs lots of conferences and we’ve moved to much shorter sessions , never venturing beyond 60 minutes. To my surprise and delight – they were all terrific. CCC matched the right speakers with the right audience. The people in attendance, including Keith Kupferschmid and Ken Wasch from SIIA live and breath the topic and were quite passionate about their opinions. They touched on copyright in print, music and video.

The highlight for me was hearing recording artist Suzanne Vega talk about her experience with the global remixing of “Tom’s Diner”. This tune was remixed by a variety of artists. Once they reached some level of popularity they’d contact her or her legal team for permission. For the first and most popular remix, she wisely paid a flat fee for global rights to the version and she now receives all royalties whenever this version is played. She has pretty much approved every request except when someone wanted to use it in a porn soundtrack – she advised them that there were probably better songs they could choose from.
NY Times Incline or Decline?
I recently attended Incisive Media’s ePublishing Innovation Forum in London. It is put on by the same team that bring the industry the iconic London Online conference. They put on a good conference with some really great speakers. Vin Crosbie, a media consultant presented some information about the decline in newspapers, specifically citing the decline in readership at the New York Times.

The question I raised was how looking at only one metric is misleading. Sure, people are not consuming as many dead trees as they used to. Where I live in CT I can only receive the Times for home delivery on the weekends. However, I receive the excellent DealBook newsletter every morning, plus emails containing the top news headlines every day. On the home pages I maintain there are links to NYT headlines as well as a variety of RSS feeds from the auto sections, food sections and from freakonomics. (I also download a crossword from time to time). The implications for advertising are quite significant.

Is it anyone’s job at the NY Times to profile me as a subscriber? Probably not yet but by looking at the self selected items above, you could deduce that I’m interested in business, economics, food and autos – and you’d be right. My NYT consumption may be less in terms of time spent than when I used to read the print from cover to cover. However, my consumption is now more valuable and targeted as there is less waste. Invariably the metrics will catch up with consumers like in the same way that the Nielsen’s are tracking TV, radio and beyond. This composite “metric” may show some growth in these properties if someone can figure out the arithmetic.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Anagram
I was in London last week for the ePublishing Innovation Forum and flew over on Virgin Atlantic. As you may know, Virgin Atlantic has those wonderful personal video screens that allow you to watch whatever you want along with the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward. While flying over I caught the first 50 minutes of a UK show called Torchwood. It is kind of like X Files on steroids. Alas, we were landing at Heathrow and I missed the ending.

Upon arrival I checked out the BBC website to see if I could watch it but they did not make it easy. However, I found out that the episodes can be purchased on iTunes in the states. I also learned that the show can be viewed on a BBC channel here in the US which I don't subscribe to.

What the heck does this have to do with content, you may ask? Well, I think it is an interesting parallel to a B2B business model where some of the content is given away for free (1 episode), then I have the option to buy by the drink for $1.99, and then finally I can cough up another $50 bucks a month to upgrade my cable to some super duper forced bundle.

I'll probably wind up buying the seasons from iTunes for $25 each and skip the cable upgrade. However, had it not been for that free sample, I would not have even heard of Torchwood an anagram of Doctor Who.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


My First Directory
The other day I was riding my bike and spotted a Schlitz beer can on the side of the road. Not really a remarkable occurrence except that it flashed me back about 30 years to when I used to collect beer cans. Schlitz was known for having cans in a variety of sizes from about 7 oz. to 24 oz. Those cans looked pretty cool on my shelves back then.

As my friends and I sourced these cans from road sides or cajoled our parents to buy them we learned about a book called the Beer Can Collector's Bible. It was published by Jack Martells in 1976 and it served as a directory to help us organize our collections.


Aside from a dictionary, thesaurus or encylopedia, this was the first bit of reference material I owned that was not for some scholarly pursuit. The biggest frustration, however, was that the publication lacked any information on price or value of the cans. It's amazing to think about how the market for collectibles and other items has changed with the advent of the Internet and marketplaces like EBAY. Collectors can communicate with each other to find the elusive item for their collection and get current market conditions.
Alas, my collection got put in the dumpster last year when my parent's sold their house. They did have someone take a look at the collection but there was not much worth selling. At least I still have my baseball cards!