What Do You Want to Know About Tomorrow?

At the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), we maintain a constant dialogue with our members to ensure that we address their needs. To help us plan our activities and events in 2010, we conducted a web-based poll of members and nonmembers to determine the critical issues industry executives want us to focus on.

As a trade association that is neither segment, container, nor geographically constrained, we received a wide range of responses. Here are highlights on the top-of-mind issues for information industry leaders, which fall under three primary areas of interest: revenue, best practices, and the future.

Revenue: It will not be a surprise to anyone in the B2B paid content industry that business models ranked as the top concern among respondents. We have all seen shifts across other paid content arenas such as music and news and realize the importance of staying informed and nimble to avoid being marginalized. Respondents want to know how to price, compete with free, come up with new ways to generate revenue, and gain insight into the prospects for the online display space.

Social media was the second biggest revenue concern-in particular, how to monetize it. It is evident that many publishers realize that social media and networking create community and content and allocate staff time and resources to capture this interaction. Making money from this phenomenon has proven elusive, with few role models to emulate.

Best Practices: After revenue, the next response cluster focused on best practices in areas such as content management, intellectual property, and mobile content. Respondents want ideas on winning back customers, on product management and deployment strategies, and on sales best practices and managing the new generation. The fact that content management also cropped up, suggests that information companies realize that successful CM will allow them to better monetize their existing assets.

As expected, intellectual property was also a top concern. The most interesting takeaway here was that even in this era of Web 2.0-an era dominated by the notion of sharing or giving away content-publishers were keen to find out more about DRM to enable content subscriptions or services that track content as it moves around the web. Still, others want to know more about ownership of online posted content (blogs and tweets) and the IP rights of contributors and users of products.

One surprise was the very low interest in search. Only a few respondents mentioned it, specifially the semantic angle. Google only came up twice, suggesting that publishers may now have a clearer understanding of how to work with the search giant.

Mobile content represented another significant area of best practices interest. By far, the most sought after information pertained to ebooks. This is still a new topic for many publishers, who are looking for guidance with ebook delivery and e-readers, as well as mobile content delivery-not to mention insights on how to make money.

The Future: The remainder of responses focused on forward-looking guidance on the topics of innovation and trends. Above all, organizations seek genuine innovations that publishers are making to add value, technologies that will change the game, or new ideas for premium online content and services. There is also a desire to hear from new and up-and-coming companies in the industry.

In terms of trends, respondents suggested programming ideas that were both broad and specific: the need to understand future threats, weaknesses, and opportunities in the content industry; insight into the future of B2B publishing in a postprint world; and the convergence of content and software, including software-assisted content creation, important trends affecting application deployment, and open source.

It appears that publishers are using the right lens to look forward. Perhaps because of the stability in many of the B2B sectors, no one is casting about for a silver bullet. Instead, all seem to be trying to stay abreast of innovation and technology trends that will help them reduce costs or increase revenue.

Implications: No one mentioned struggling or surviving as topics they would like SIIA to cover in the next 16 months. However, it is clear that the industry is still very focused on the top line. Companies are spending time adjusting pricing and business models and are still exploring areas such as social media and mobile content. They seek counsel on how to improve their businesses by looking for best practices, standards, and analytics. Finally, the group is future-focused and is able to look beyond immediate top and bottom line considerations to try and figure out where technology, trends, and innovations will take them.