The End of the Beginning


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Sometimes I feel like I'm penning my epitaph here at EContent. The editor of a print magazine so completely extolling the virtues of the digital delivery medium is contradictory at best. Sometimes, the conflicting nature of it boggles: The reading public does not perceive many things as real unless they have a Web presence, yet balk at the discomfort of reading on their computer screens and are wary of digital sources that don't have verifiable print counterparts; a searchable digital archive is deemed essential for today's business publications, yet its existence seemingly undermines the raison d'être of print; and the need for timely information presses more than ever, yet unverified, unfounded, or untrue information abounds in the filterless flow of instant publication.

I struggle with the industry's inherent contradictions especially in a difficult economy. My magazine's success, for example, is measured by traditional publishing yardsticks: ad pages and subscription numbers. Yet the reuse of content via our Web site and the reinforcement of our brand in enewsletters are viewed as something separate and worse, even competing with our print model for survival. But like our industry, we inevitably surge forward on the digital tide.

Over the course of the year, I have been lucky enough to receive dozens of letters from EContent's readers and I (or the appropriate writer) have replied to them all. Once this year, I hit reply to an email the same day I received it and then ran the exchange in the very next issue of the magazine, about six weeks later. The writer then hit the send key again, this time chastising me for the slowness of my response. Shocked, I pointed out that I'd answered his email the same day and published the letter at the earliest opportunity, given a print publishing cycle (generally six to twelve weeks, depending on the magazine section). "Oh," he replied, "print publishing, right. That does take longer, doesn't it?" Yes, it does. In fact, six weeks is a very tight turn around for a print magazine; something we accomplish by using the latest digital pre-press techniques in-house.

But let's face it: Time is not on my side.

At the KM World/Intranets/Streaming West show, I was repeatedly confronted with questions about what I foresee as the trends for 2004. (If only I had an ecrystal ball.) Finding myself in the midst of producing this (the December issue) at an October show, I immediately thought in terms of econtent-industry acquisition strategies for the coming year. 2003 was a year of content management vendors striving to provide "complete end-to-end" enterprise offerings—and acquiring DAM, elearning, and other key components to do so. All of which was trumped at the show when EMC announced its acquisition of Documentum. This, following EMC's acquisition of Legato Systems Inc. only three months earlier, clearly signals the company's hope for a far-reaching redefinition of end-to-end. EMC wants to take CM beyond Documents, the Web, the Enterprise, all the way out to a grandiose Information Lifecycle Management (of course that could just be because of the potential for confusion in an EMC ECM offering, but I digress).

With all the broadening of content management's scope, one group of technologies looks ripe for the plucking in 2004: search. I say this especially in light of both marked consolidation in the search market along with some noteworthy new arrivals or, as in the case of Northern Lights, rebirth. While all CM vendors offer search of some sort—proprietary or partnered—effectively organizing, finding, and, as a result, using all of this managed content looks to me like more than just a bonus feature, but rather something that will set the players with the best search way ahead of the pack. And, chatting with search vendors at the show, I found the prospect of being acquired in the coming year met with more than a few smiles and sideward glances.

With all the broadening of content management's scope, one group of technologies looks ripe for the plucking in 2004: search. I say this especially in light of both marked consolidation in the search market along with some noteworthy new arrivals or, as in the case of Northern Lights, rebirth. While all CM vendors offer search of some sort—proprietary or partnered—effectively organizing, finding, and, as a result, using all of this managed content looks to me like more than just a bonus feature, but rather something that will set the players with the best search way ahead of the pack. And, chatting with search vendors at the show, I found the prospect of being acquired in the coming year met with more than a few smiles and sideward glances.

But growth—both fiscal and also in terms of industry evolution— won't come solely through acquisition strategies. We see glimmers of hope on every horizon, along with the mixed message of a "jobless recovery." That last one piques my interest, especially for how it may affect the econtent industry. I hear that part of the "problem" that has led to a slow resurgence in corporate hiring has been an increase in individual productivity. I'm guessing that this, in part at least, is due to the use of more effective information gathering and management tools in many organizations. And, assuming that companies do experience this anticipated financial rebound while hesitating to hire, it seems that a market for tools that allow companies to do more with less will be in even greater demand—be these technological or informational.

I choose to interpret the given desire (albeit over tradeshow cocktails) for editorial prognostication as boding well for this magazine. So perhaps it isn't the magazine's demise I'm penning, but rather its evolution.