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Monday, April 28, 2008

Elsevier's Y.S. Chi Points to the Value of Engineering Content "Experiences"

We had a good time at the Buying and Selling eContent conference in Scottsdale this year, our first time at this event. Certainly there were many familiar faces from the content industry there, including Y.S. Chi, Vice-Chair of Elsevier, who gave what I thought was probably the most insightful presentation of the conference. Y.S. highlighted how the content industry needs to focus more on developing valuable "experiences" than more content.

What did he mean by this? Well, certainly Y.S. had in mind many of the workflow-oriented tools that publishers are beginning to emphasize in trying to add value to long-established database services. And I would think that it might also include some of the advanced social media projects that Elsevier and other major scientific publishers are embarking on that enable scientists to collaborate on building valuable reference content and research.

But I think that Y.S. was also pointing towards one of the key factors that makes publishing so hard for many established companies these days: owning content is not as important oftentimes as getting content to do something useful for people. If content can be thought of as the raw materials of publishing, then getting content from point "A" to point "B" is no longer such a great business to be in now that the Web and corporate intranets make the A-B value proposition pretty low on the value totem pole.

Search engines that publishers put on top of their own content collections help to find those raw materials more easily, but the value of those searchable services is considered high only when they are able to locate all of the possible content that applies to a given problem or task. Leaving content out of the equation means that you have only part of what you need to build a valuable experience. That's kind of like building a fantastic roller coaster but leaving out a few hundred feet of track. Sometimes doing just part of the job very well is just not enough.

The traditional solution that publishers would use to address the "missing track" issue would be to license more content or to create it themselves. That worked pretty well when there were relatively few sources of licensed content and relatively few people willing to create it themselves. But most sizable enterprises have very sophisticated sources of internal content as well as a growing array of sources that are generated by their peers in other companies or universities that help them to meet their goals. Add in Web sites that are growing sources of fresh information about businesses and key trends and it's not so easy to fill in that missing track. It's as if the roller coaster that the customer wants keeps growing far faster than the publsihers' ability to fill the gap.

In the experience economy that Y.S. references it's all about anticipating the gaps and finding more innovative ways to fill them more quickly than someone else, so that the raw materials of content can be transformed into experiences as efficiently as possible. Well, if the value of experiences is so high, then why do publishers still place so much emphasis on getting content integrated into the back end of databases when it's greatest value is found outside of a database? In other words, why not push the point of content integration as close to the point at which content is experienced? This will enable more sources to be brought together from more places more easily and efficiently.

Well, not surprisingly that's the key to what MuseGlobal does with content. The Muse Content Machine is a content integration platform that enables a publisher to assemble more searchable sources of content more quickly and more effectively than any one else. Instead of trying to create one master database with one login and one search engine The Muse Content Machine can enable a publisher to build applications that access multiple searchable sources from a single query. To your customers it will look like you've built a rich application from one commonly indexed database. But behind the scenes The Muse Content Machine federates content from thousands of different types of content sources and delivers the freshest and most relevant content from each source. Nasty details such as multiple source logins, different data formats and different types of content sources - search engines, databases, Web harvesting, feeds, video and audio, catalogs - are all ironed out very neatly and efficiently by The Muse Content Machine.

The Muse Content Machine lets publishers focus on getting the right content into the experiences that their customers want, regardless of whether those sources are in their key databases, at the customer's site or available from the Web. With thousands of different types of content sources already integrated into The Muse Content Engine our answer to "can you integrate this?" is usually "been there, done that." Best of all, when changes to a source occur The Muse Content Machine makes it easy to respond to those changes and keep all of your sources working together. To your customers it will be just one big powerful experience - but to you it will be the miracle of the most advanced content integration capabilities making everything that's not unified appear to be a unified source of content. The result: you'll have spent a lot less on developing content and a lot more on developing the experiences that will bring in higher revenues with lower maintenance costs.

Keep your eye on Elsevier as they begin to take advantage of Y.S. Chi's vision - and keep an eye on MuseGlobal as we help publishers, software companies and other media players to create more realizable value from unified content.

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