New Mediums and Messengers
Making all that rich content searchable through indexing and tagging is critical to presenting content in context. But with search-engine projects like Google Scholar focused on revving up broad-based search and discovery, publishers have an opportunity to do more: They can add value by packaging and presenting content in a format that’s customized for the user. Mark Logic’s Hunter says, “Publishers have to offer solutions, not just products.”
Simba’s Strempel provides an example of how that translates in the world of medical publishing. “Google is good at yielding an immense list of search results. But publishers can put together a team of medical editors to choose only the information that is essential to doctors—for instance, only the post-publication version of a research study—and deliver it to a handheld device at the point of care,” ensuring that doctors have up-to-the-minute information to optimize their decision-making around patient care.
Publishers also hold the keys to the full-text versions of their content. Search engines may make it easier to locate an article and perhaps even an abstract, but most times the user will still want to go to the publisher for the full-text version, particularly if the content is of a scientific, legal, or medical nature.
For other types of content, the stakes are high in exactly how the information is tagged, indexed, and ultimately located by the user. Hunter describes the conundrum. “If you’re a computer programmer looking for a key piece of code in a book on programming, you want to be sure it’s in the book before you buy it.” In a bookstore, that means flipping through the pages and locating the code before paying for the book. But how does the user know the right code is included in an online version unless they see it displayed—online—at the computer where they will be writing the script that incorporates that nugget of code? Publishers face the challenge of indexing and abstracting enough to enable a purchase decision, without giving the content away for free.
Another approach that publishers are using to add value to simple search and discovery is experimenting with interactive social-networking technologies. Nature Publishing Group has introduced facets of social networking to its website, including Nature Network, an online meeting place for scientists, and the Nature Newsblog, which allows readers to comment on stories published on the site and in its podcasts. This type of user-generated content not only adds to the richness of information on the site, but leads to a more loyal and engaged audience that may drive the sale of print journals.
With so many publishing channels and technologies available today and evolving for tomorrow, only one thing is sure. To thrive in the post-print world, publishers have to get comfortable with a perpetual Beta mode of collecting feedback, identifying market opportunities, and redeploying content for new channels in ways that make sense for users. “There’s no such thing as a finished product anymore,” says Strempel of the traditional publishing world. “You just have to keep on it.”
Companies Featured in this Article
Amazon Inc. www.amazon.com
BioMed Central www.biomedcentral.com
Enterprise Search Sourcebook www.enterprise searchcenter.com
Mark Logic Inc. www.marklogic.com
Safari U www.safariu.com