The theme of this year's DataContent Conference was "Crowd, Cloud and Curation." But in addition to those big themes, another word cropped up in almost every session: mobile. The excitement around mobile was palpable, and there seemed to be general agreement that tablet devices are already starting to have a significant impact on the industry, and a largely beneficial one, provided publishers embrace the tremendous shift to mobile online access and start to leverage the power of these new devices. My view? As a reliable skeptic, you might expect some push-back, but I'm fully on board. Mobile devices, tablets in particular, are rapidly changing how users access data, and even how they do business. This creates opportunities in some markets, but more fundamentally, it means publishers cannot allow themselves to be left behind as usage patterns and user expectations for data products begin to radically shift.

Our keynote speaker, Clare Hart, CEO of Infogroup, nicely set the stage for the sessions that followed by noting that to maximize the value of data, "you have to innovate around it." This well sums up the InfoCommerce Group view that data publishers need to focus on "data that does stuff," not simply providing mountains of raw content from which users are expected to find and extract value on their own. Clare illustrated this with a sneak peak at a soon to be launched Infogroup product called Yesmail Marketing Intelligence that will provide remarkable competitive intelligence to marketers, coupled with a powerful user interface and real-time alerting.

Among our 2011 Models of Excellence nominees, we got in-depth looks at two barely-launched ventures: BestVendor, which is doing some exciting work in social discovery, and First Stop Health, a new data-driven health concierge service. We also got a good overview of FeeFighters which matches businesses to credit card processing services, an area that's gotten a lot of attention lately.

We also learned about newly launched Chaikin Power Tools, which integrates mountains of data and sentiment analysis into a simple, elegant buy/sell indicator for investors. We also heard from another startup, Brilig, which lets online marketers precisely tap specific market segments, precision that's been sorely lacking to date. Resolute Digital and b2bAnywhere confirmed the stampede to mobile in our session on that topic, and gave us some useful thinking on how B2B mobile will evolve.

Anne Holland of Subscription Site Insider presented some preliminary findings from a study conducted in conjunction with InfoCommerce Group on paid subscription product renewal rates and retention marketing best practices. In our always popular "Excellence Revisited" Wanted TechnologiesAlacra andAgencyFinder offered candid assessments of what went right - and wrong - with products that had previously won them our Model of Excellence award. The level of candor, as always, was incredibly insightful.

Also insightful were presentations from DonorBase and The Praetorian Group and our own Janice McCallum who offered specific revenue generating ideas with potential applicability to many in the audience. And we also got helpful case studies from Depository TrustPDR Network and ZoomInfo about what's involved in launching a new data product inside a company that's not in the data business, and how to successfully re-position existing data businesses that have lost their way.

We also went interplanetary this year, as we learned about the launch (first publicly announced at our conference) of Saturn, a new service jointly developed by LocationaryNeustar and theLocal Search Association. Designed to be a frictionless cloud-based platform where data publishers can upload data, the goal of Saturn is to help business partners standardize, synchronize and maintain their data to improve accuracy. There's a lot more to Saturn, and the potential to revolutionize data collection, enhancement and maintenance is huge. Best of all, none of this vision involves making all information free!

Conference attendees also got the inside scoop on Infochimps, a company with the ambitious goal (well underway) of collecting all the data on the web, arguably doing for data what Google has done for text. It's a breathtaking vision, a vision, I should note, that fully supports the role of paid data products. In fact, Infochimps would like to be the central marketplace for such datasets.

The 2011 Model of Excellence award winners? This year, the awards went to ArtlogDepository Trust and FeeFighters.

If you now really wish you were there, you can view some of the speakers and presentations here, in Pancasts provided byPanopto. Our compelling programs are our best advertisement, so consider this our first promotion for DataContent 2012. You have to be there!