Striking It Rich With Rich Data
In 1859, in sleepy farm country near Titusville, Pa., a group of New York investors dug the world’s first oil well. Locals had known about the sticky black stuff for hundreds of years, occasionally using it to patch leaks or lubricate farm machinery, but mostly considering it a nuisance. Sometimes, when digging for water, they would strike oil instead—and promptly abandon the site.
Like those farmers of old, there are publishers today who are sitting on a valuable, little-used asset, not considering that a little extra digging could yield enormous dividends. The product is accumulated information, which smart companies are repackaging and making available in new and creative formats. With an eye toward its usability by a target audience, raw information can be refined into that valuable commodity known as rich data.
“The goal of any publisher is to leverage the content they already have in new ways. That’s really the definition of rich data,” says Barry Bealer, president and CEO of Philadelphia-based publishing consultancy Really Strategies.
While fairly easy to grasp, the idea can be a challenge to implement. Publishers need to recognize the latent potential of the data they own and figure out how to use it well––finding the “killer app,” in techie-speak––before embarking on any major drilling project.
“The biggest barrier to rich data application is a lack of understanding of what the real needs and interests of a particular audience are,” notes John Blossom, president and senior analyst at Shore Communications, a Westport, Conn.-based consulting firm.
With oil, it wasn’t the substance that mattered as much as the realization that it could be used in new ways to solve new problems. Information providers today must do the same thing, or––as proven again and again in a world where becoming a publisher is as easy as registering a URL––someone will do it for them.