Growing Out of Recession
David Worlock, co-chair of leadership programs at media reasearch and advisory firm Outsell, told publishers at last week's Mark Logic Digital Summit that they were "not thinking radically enough" about how to reignite growth as the industry emerges from recession.
The central message delivered by Worlock was that publishers must focus on niche markets, matching content to users in new ways with the help of metadata tools and taxonomic thinking, an understanding of user behaviors and use of third-party content.
"Where we are is in a problem around growth," he noted, saying he expects both consumer and business media to return to profitability by focusing on targeted audiences. Growth through M&A and restructuring is a "difficult avenue right now," he added, predicting instead the dominance of what he calls the "workflow concept," or "information earn[ing] its keep through demonstrated productivity."
"More and more you see people going back to the way things work and trying to build and mirror services around them," he says. "You can call them solutions, you can call them processes—whatever you want."
Worlock traces the evolution of information services from a research-based model through research aggregation (indexing and licensing content) to a tailored workflow model enhanced by user-generated content. He ties this into recent comments in Wired magazine about the death of the Web as a general services and information provider, saying that it is the role of publishers to create networks that satisfy specific needs.
Publishers should match content to users by aligning metadata to workflow in ways that create new value for information, he said. This is done by helping users meet their productivity, decision-making and compliance goals. Growth will come from matching these workflow values to new users.
Worlock cited Thomson Reuters as a case study of successful recent growth generation along these lines. A top-down strategy brought together the data and client resources of two major divisions, encompassing financial services (e.g., Reuters) and education (e.g., WestLaw). The process was facilitated by two strategic acquisitions, that of tax compliance solutions provider Paisley and Complinet, provider of compliance services to the financial industry. The company then used metadata to create "a whole suite of new products and services whereby the legal sector could address the compliance problems of the financial services markets"-one of several new growth points for the organization.
Structuring organizations against change "simply makes life harder," he said, warning against the "unconscious protection of packages, protection of containers" observed in some publishers' attitudes, when they should be thinking in terms of a platform-neutral delivery to well-targeted audiences.