Tell Me Something I Don't Know


"Business intelligence" is a wonderful term, rife with importance, exclusivity and value. That's probably why so many data publishers have rushed to label themselves as providers of business intelligence. The term is assuredly upscale yet at the same time ambiguous, simultaneously promising everything and nothing. It's a dream term for marketers.

Yet I worry about those publishers who think "business intelligence" emanates from the marketing department rather than the editorial department. That's because the future of this business is intimately tied to delivering true business intelligence, and those who think it's a game will soon be out of the game.

Some publishers set too low a bar by believing that more information about a given company in one place constitutes business intelligence. If this is largely a collection of information available elsewhere, it's not business intelligence. It's an aggregation exercise. There's a role for aggregated content, but it simply doesn't rise to the level of business intelligence as I define it: being able to tell users something useful that they don't already know and can't easily find out from any other source.

Your reaction to my definition may be that I am setting an impossibly high bar. But for most data publishers, the jump to true business information is not a big one. It could be as simple as holding onto company press releases that disappear from the web with increasing rapidity. It could be monitoring and reporting how a company's revenues, employees, offices -- whatever -- trend over time. It could be the act of identifying a company's competitors. We know one company that plans to monitor the tenure of a company's c-suite executives to assess stability.

The web has in fact created a limitless content playground for data publishers to source, extract, mix, match, merge, infer, and impute valuable data points and insights that do in fact rise to the level of business intelligence. That's why data publishing is the most exciting corner of the information business right now. We've got the tools and the processes and the skills to create untold amount of true business intelligence extremely quickly, and often at very low cost. So let's all rise to the occasion.

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