CMS Redux

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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Content Provider Heal Thyself
Many of the companies in the Content 100 are providers of content, rather than providers of content management applications. My very first column for EContent bemoaned the marketing skills of the information industry, and still little has changed. Just take a look at some of the Web sites of the vendors. Dialog (www.dialog.com) has a very busy home page that serves both as a marketing resource and a log-in page for subscribers. Let's assume you want information on NewsRoom. The relevant page provides no more than about 150 words on the product, though it does state that the service is for a fixed annual fee. It may be fixed, but there is no indication on the site of what the fee actually is, or even the basis on which it is delivered. At the end of this brief section comes the invitation to contact Dialog for more information. A form then pops up which requires a substantial amount of information to be provided, but does not set out a privacy policy. In fact, according to the site index, there is no privacy policy anywhere on the site. Incidentally, this form also asks which other services the respondent uses. On the list is FT Profile, which was bought by LexisNexis at the beginning of 2000, but no reference to Factiva. Just how old is the form?

One of the key selection issues for an online news vendor is always going to be the sources that are covered by the service. If you select Insight 6.0, a Dialog flagship product, and ask for information on database sources, all you get is the statement that "Insight provides information from over 1,000 worldwide news publishers with real-time updates along with another 2,000 searchable publications in the archive. Thousands of additional sources are available to choose from to supplement the standard coverage." Am I alone in thinking that at least an indication of what exactly comprises some of the core content would be helpful.

Some of the vendor Web sites do not even conform to accepted good practice. Moreover (www.moreover.com) provides product details as pdf files without any indication of the size of the file. Another important issue is the extent to which Web sites meet the Web Access Initiative (WAI), or Section 508 in the USA. Just as a trial, I ran the LexisNexis product listing page (www. lexisnexis.com/productsandservices/) through the Bobby software suite that checks for conformance to the WAI (http:// bobby.watchfire.com/bobby/html/en/ index.jsp) and the number of question marks (denoting non-conformance) was remarkably high.

As with the CMS vendors, there seems to be a lack of focus among content providers on making effective use of the Web for marketing purposes. For information content providers to stay in business they are going to have to enhance the way in which they convince current non-users that there are real business benefits, and associated value, to offset the costs of subscribing to the services. The three examples given here are just the tip of the iceberg.

Getting the Message Across
This issue highlights considerable levels of innovation and product excellence among companies providing content and ways of managing it. However, in 2002, we have seen companies fold for the want of sales. Reef and SmartLogik come immediately to mind, but there have been others. I have a concern that the content industry is not getting the message across to businesses and organizations that effective content management is critically important to business performance. I have referred on a number of occasions in these columns to the work that has been carried out by Don Marchand that highlights the benefits to companies of effective information management (see www.enterpriseiq.com).

EContent is one valuable channel in supporting the content industry. However, sooner, rather than later, the industry has to look very carefully at the way in which it is marketing and selling to new prospects, and in my view, step up a gear in communication effectiveness. Unless businesses realize the ways in which content is going to enhance their competitive position, and are provided with ways of evaluating products and services, they are unlikely to make the level of investment in CM applications that the industry needs to survive.

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