Last week’s outstanding DataContent conference featured presentations from dozens of companies that are defining the future of online information services. What was so amazing to me was the extent to which the trends identified in past conferences became reality a just few short years later. Here’s a quick look at some of those older memes that have become standard business practice.
Workflow Integration: The rise of the value of compelling software-enabled functionality tightly integrated with database content has finally allowed information services to truly embed themselves in their customer’s daily workflow, thus ensuring amazing renewal rates and high margins. eGordian won an award for their “model of excellence” last year and showed attendees how they did it this year. SRDS also has upped the ante with embedded media-buying tools in their offering as well. The complexity of the software tools offered by everyone in the information business in general continues to increase at a breakneck pace.
User-generated Content: The way that companies are fine-tuning the management of user-generated content continues to be refined and improved. A few years ago Angie Hicks Bowman of Angie’s List shared her secrets and this year we heard how Vitals (one of the country’s fastest-growing companies) and Stylitics are rewarding users for contributing content. In a related development, Cortera also touted its “give to get” cooperative model for data contributors, which is a creative corollary to the user-generated content model.
Data as Currency: At Hoover’s we used our data as marketing currency (free listings to drive traffic and a % of traffic buying subscriptions) and now Sylitics is using user-generated data on apparel purchases to offer people discounts on clothing brands that they like. Sounds like a winner to me.
Data Exhaust: Cision (formerly the Bacon’s press clippings service) is now leveraging the information on who is writing about which companies in order to allow corporate customers to better map “influencers.” [BTW, my favorite quote of the show came from Cision’s Heidi Sullivan who described her analysis of user behavior as “drilling into eyeballs.” I guess Halloween is coming!] Information industry players across the board are getting much better at analyzing their usage data to discover new revenue opportunities.
Commission-based Pricing Models: I remember this as the holy grail back in 1998. What if a buyer’s guide enabled a transaction and the seller of services paid a commission to the buyer’s guide for enabling the transaction? Well, eGordian is doing that in the construction market and doing it really well. InfoArmy is also doing a revenue share with its content-creating “crowd,” which is an interesting twist on the model that Jim Fowler described as “game-ification.”
Social Influence: Social continues to affect the information business in interesting ways. Cision noticed that social buzz is a clear indicator that a story is about to break in the traditional media. Reachable found a way for large organizations to overlay social data to leverage their in-house social connections to increase sales. Sentiment analysis remains tantalizingly elusive, but things are moving too fast in the social world for that to remain true for long.
Real-time Data: The process of gathering data continues to move from “push” (out-bound surveying) to “pull” (in-bound monitoring of events). This potentially solves one of the trickiest problems in the database publishing business: paying to find out that data hasn’t changed and it does an end-run around the time-lag inherent in so much data. Almost every “publisher” (if can I really even use that word to describe DataContent attendees any more…) has a core data maintenance strategy with real-time accuracy as its bedrock.
Vendor Relationship Management (VRM): Cortera, Lattice Engines, and HG Data are taking the trouble to create new data overlays that accurately define a company’s buying history (via shipping volumes, commercial loans, technology expenditures, and import-export data) and even predict “purchase intent” (via hiring data, real estate purchases, etc.). This embeds VRM into the business models of these firms and makes their data incredibly valuable. Effie Worldwide also bases its entire business model on the peer review of the effectiveness of advertising vendor relationships making it practically a pure-play VRM model.
Managed Crowdsourcing: Jim Fowler of infoArmy is doubling down on crowdsourcing with his new business. This time he is leveraging the crowd to create competitive intelligence reports on companies and industries. His focus on local language content is something that is on the “bleeding edge” right now, but could become standard practice at some point down the road.
The Fourth Dimension: Time-stamping data at the field level is fast approaching. Speakerfile discussed granting access to a speaker’s past presentations and Lattice Engines spoke about how they preserve information on past vendor relationships to give insight into a firm’s current purchasing situation. Projecting a firm’s future growth (based on government projections for industry growth) is another way company information providers are effectively leveraging the fourth dimension.
Inferential Data: The rise of the use of semi-structured data continues. Gordon Anderson of InsideView explained how difficult-to-find information like revenue estimates of private firms or the divisions of large conglomerates can be captured and leveraged, even when the value is not exact, but rather “inferred,” as long as it comes from a recent source that you can be confident is accurate (like a company’s mention of the software it uses or a LinkedIn profile that says “I have revenue responsibility for a $20 million business unit”). We can expect this trend to continue and it will unlock vast new stores of data that can be brought to market.
Big Data: Last and anything but least, Russell Perkins’ capstone presentation brilliantly laid out the future of the data content business and its symbiotic relationship with “big data.” In a nutshell, big data is great for analytics but worthless without the “actions” enabled by the products that the information industry offers. “Insight leading to action” indeed. Once again, Russell and DataContent let us know where the industry is headed and reinforced the critical role that information companies will continue to play in a future where powerful data-enabled services drive virtually all consumer and commercial behavior.
In conclusion, we at Information Evolution once again congratulate the Infocommerce Group for the past 20 years of insight and inspiration and we look forward to the next 20+ years of DataContent under the SIIA’s able leadership. Kathy Greenler Sexton, Brian Rosenberg, and the entire SIIA crew did a fantastic job the first time out and we’re already anxious to see what they have in store for 2013!