The creativity and innovation that makes data publishing such an important and exciting field was on full display at last week's InfoCommerce 2006 conference in Philadelphia. Can you predict company earnings using historical weather data? Yes you can. Can you accurately predict automobile industry sales levels, by make, model and even vehicle options using just your website log files? Yes you can. Can you build the number one most highly trafficked B2B website in one year with a small staff and no professional investors behind you? Yes you can. Can you build sites that are more powerful than the general search engines for specific types of information? Yes you can, yes you can, yes you can.

But what was also clear at InfoCommerce 2006 is that innovation and creativity alone do not guarantee business success. Success comes from basic business blocking and tackling -- sweating the details and understanding intimately the needs of our customers and our markets, making this year's theme, "Becoming One with Your Market" , the most on-target we've had in a while. We were struck by the number of speakers and attendees who mentioned that they are getting closer to their customers by sitting with them -- literally sharing offices and cubicles with them -- to study in detail the nature of their work and their work processes. It's this level of engagement, connection and understanding that is helping to define our success.

Several of this year's Models of Excellence winners provided real-world examples of products that prove that workflow integration is much more than theory; it's a very, very good business to be in. We got a taste of the huge opportunity that awaits us with vertical search, and we saw how data publishers are capitalizing on their central market positions to become powerful "switching centers" for entire industries.

And while the search engines remain huge factors in our fate, the right combination of site optimization and search marketing, coupled with a user-based interface, powerful site functionality and most importantly of all, great data, can assure us sustainable and very profitable business opportunities that will only get better as the online information business evolves.

Can we get there from here? Yes we can.