King Content’s Queen

November 9th, 2006 by Hugh

If content is king, then its queen is making money.

So says Scott Kessler of Standard and Poor’s Equity Research. Suddenly it seems that everybody is talking about the merger between online sales and off line content. Most agree that the old media still has the best content, but the computer is now so central to people’s lives, that the money is moving online.

The biggest driver is undoubtedly Google which wants to diversify away from its reliance on a single revenue stream – online advertising. It’s partnering with newspapers and now it’s looking at radio too.

Scott Kessler writes:

In our opinion, the faster traditional media firms work toward partnerships focused on making money from content, the sooner they will be able to reap the benefits.

It’s helpful to Exbiblio that analysts are starting to think aloud in this way. The more people start to talk about an idea, the more easy it becomes to sell a concept. Exbiblio is offering a way for traditional media firms to plug into online methods of making revenue – and it’s starting to look as if that’s going to be a good message to be putting out in 2007.

Ads in your textbooks?

August 15th, 2006 by Adam

The Seattle-PI has an article today about “Ads coming to textbooks”. Seems that Freeload Press, a startup textbook publisher, is providing free downloadable text books supported by advertisements.

I was just speaking with Claes-Fredrik this morning about ad-supported revenue models vs. more traditional product pricing. Exbiblio technologies potentially affect every printed or digital document that you access, including those which are not currently the target of advertising (for example, a business plan or a novel).

It seems that the world has trended toward advertising supported services. Google is the poster child for this, but there are many others. Those hosting the ads say that ads are as valuable as the content itself if they are well targeted (and the more user behavior that is tracked, the more accurate the targeting).

Personally, I try to create a lifestyle with fewer ads as they usually encourage discontentment and greed, which are not qualities that I wish to promote in myself. For example, I pay for my e-mail service instead of using an ad supported one, I’ve upgraded my Flickr account to one which doesn’t show ads, and I don’t own a television (though I sometimes buy shows I like on DVD). I definitely don’t want ads delivered based on all the digital and printed documents in my life even if it means paying more for an Exbiblio style product.

Some would say that ads can be optional. Users who don’t want to see them can pay a higher fee (Flickr for example). My question for this approach is which users are going to opt out? Probably the ones who can afford it, right? Well, who are the advertisers targeting? The ones who can afford it… This seems like a lose, lose. Their are a bunch of people getting ads that they can’t afford to act upon and advertisers are missing the folks who are willing to spend money.

There is some interested discussion in the comments of this blog about whether Freeload sponsors will want to pay for textbooks distributed to third world countries where they are unlikely to build a customer base in the near-term…

I’m not sure what the answer to these questions are. They are tough issues. But, I’d appreciate your thoughts in the comment section.

UC and Google Books

August 2nd, 2006 by Hugh

The Exbiblio system is, of course, about closely integrating print on paper with online texts. One of the obstacles that needs to be overcome is the fact that the majority of written texts do not yet exist in digital form. The Google Books Project aims to change that, but it faces quite a struggle against copyright holders, many of whom hate the idea of their property being propagated over the internet. Personally, I think they are wrong. The existence of digital texts does not discourage me from buying a nice paper copy of classical books such as War and Peace, but that’s by the by.

The LA Times reports that The University of California is in talks with Google to digitize 34 million volumes from its 100 libraries on 10 campuses. It’s said to be the largest academic library in the world:

Daniel Greenstein, UC’s associate vice provost for scholarly information, said that joining the Google Books Library Project — with its ability to search for terms inside texts, not only in catalog listings — would help “create access like we’ve never had before to our cultural heritage and scholarly memory. It’s a whole new paradigm.”

Greenstein mentioned the fear that a natural disaster might destroy this body of knowledge for ever. He was no doubt thinking of the fire at the Library of Alexandria where many of the great texts of the ancient world were lost, possibly during the war between Egypt’s royal family and Julius Caesar in AD 48. Incidentally, Stanford University has just recovered some lost works from the Greek scientist Archimedes who in the 3rd Century BC jumped out of his bath an shouted “Eureka!” – “I have found”.

More about the UC talks with Google can be found on Tim O’Reilly’s blog.