A number of keywords came up repeatedly during the course of last week's Data Content09 conference, and they do a good job of identifying what's going on in the booming business of database content. Herewith, in no particular order, are those words:
Embedment. Getting embedded in your customer's workflow has long been a mantra of InfoCommerce Group, and it is now a well understood concept to most data publishers. One of its strongest benefits was exhibited at DC09: an upbeat audience that has weathered this economic downturn remarkably well, with lots of confidence and new ideas coming to market. When you are truly embedded in the business of your customers, you are embedded in their budgets as well, providing a remarkably stable and durable stream of revenues - in good times and bad.
Aggregation. Surprisingly, aggregation is hot again. That's no small statement given that content aggregators seem to be in natural competition with the all-powerful search engines. But this new view of aggregation focuses on well-organized, well-compiled and extremely deep sets of information on a specialized subject. Mix in some high-value, proprietary datasets and you've got something of high value.
Good Enough. As in, "good enough is good enough." We've wrestled with this proposition for the last several years at the conference. Sentiment seems to be turning in favor of this concept again. Yet it remains at odds with the frequent discussions of data quality and accuracy. The reality of both this business and its customers is that perfection is tough. It's tough because we are trying to pin down a moving target. It's also tough because while our customers welcome perfection, they generally won't pay for the cost of producing it.
Curation. The art and science of selecting what you want your audience to see is back with a vengeance, and it's closely related to what's going on in aggregation. The filtering of content is desirable and valuable. Contrast that with trying to simply deliver the most stuff. Information overload is creating a lucrative role for those who can intelligently select and summarize.
Platforms. There was a lot of discussion at DC09 of the power of platforms. At the very least, participate in one, such as SalesForce.com. At the most, develop your own. Allowing others to build applications based on your content, yields enormous benefits in terms of leveraging your own development capabilities (you can't build everything everybody wants, at least not quickly). Leveraged development can in turn spur viral growth.
Humans. It was reassuring to hear regular references to the continuing value of humans in the data compilation and management process. Computers have come a long way in their ability to mix, match, merge and harvest, but speaker after speaker said really good data can't be untouched by human hands.
There are other keywords that came out of DC09, but, surprisingly, one keyword was barely heard at all:
Google. While anything but irrelevant, Google has ceased to be an existential threat to the industry. Data publishers have largely made their peace with Google, and it doesn't dominate their thoughts the way it once did. Google is a tool that can be profitably leveraged, and Google is no longer the enemy. This is likely due in no small part to Google maturing as a business enterprise, and its recent focus on opportunities far less threatening to those of us in the data business.