"The people working to crush the existing publishing models are working much harder than the people trying to maintain the existing publishing models." Stephen Arnold
It never ceases to amaze me how two people can be in the same room and hear entirely different things. Ace analyst and friend John Blossom of Shore Communications and I agree that this year’s Buying and Selling eContent was a little stale. But we had very different views of the presentations. MY take is that the audience is composed of content buyers and content sellers. The sellers want to know how they can make more money and better meet customer needs. The buyers want to use the forum to let the sellers know what their needs are as well as learn about what new products might be available. And everyone is there to network.
If you talk to an information professional or a buyer of content at a financial institution or professional services firm, most would agree with Andrew Keen – there is a need for a professional editorial process or curator on all content that might be used internally or for a client engagement. They cannot take the risk of distributing to their users or their clients anything that has not been vetted or that is not authoritative. So for the markets Alacra serves and for the buyers in the audience (prestigious accounting firms, consulting firms and investment banks, Fortune 500 companies) user-generated content comes with all sorts of risks that cannot be hedged. Doctors contributing to an Elsevier wiki are just too small a population to make sweeping endorsements of the value of user-generated content. (The presentation by Y.S. Chi of Elsevier was very good.)
Further, while Manta and Jigsaw offer very interesting and perhaps very valuable services to some demographic, that demographic was not present in the room, the exception being all the vendor salespeople in attendence. These products are aimed largely at individuals or teams of salespeople, markets so crowded that margins must be razor thin.
And then there was Stephen Arnold, who according to some people I spoke with might be a genius. He seems like a smart guy but this wasn’t evident on Tuesday morning. Nothing he said (here’s the speech) was wrong, or even that controversial. It was just unmemorable and not relevant to the audience. I paraphrase: "Enterprise search is broken. Someone is going to fix it. Stephen Arnold knows who the fixer will be.” The something about Silverlight and Google TV and…I forget. But it doesn’t help a publisher make his numbers this year or next and doesn’t help a buyer better serve the information consumers in their organization. One thing Arnold said on Monday afternoon was spot on – the people working to crush the existing publishing models are working much harder than the people trying to maintain the existing publishing models. Technology aside, hard work usually prevails. But where my colleague John was politely impressed with Mr. Arnold ("well-polished and insightful presentation") I think the audience was looking for something else and something more.
Of course, it’s always important to have speakers with different points of view or speakers that come from outside the conference’s industry. But speakers need to stimulate their audience with information that is relevant to them or serendipitously interesting, like the Viet Nam War Memorial presentation by Footnote.com There just wasn’t enough of that this year.