An EContent Interview: Four Chief Executives and an Analyst--Online-only Extended Version

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At the 2002 Buying and Selling eContent conference—where top-level content executives gather to bone up on the latest industry trends while doing a whole lot of networking—I had the opportunity to sit down with a few of the content industry's key players to discuss some of the issues and strategies that their companies—and the industry as a whole—are currently facing. Unfortunately, I was not able to provide the complete text of the interview in the print issue, but am pleased to offer the extended version here for our Web visitors.

The companies represented provide news content, business content, content delivery infrastructure, and just about everything in between. As for the men themselves, they bring decades of technology and content experience to the table, though from widely divergent experiences.

Charles W. Terry, president & CEO of COMTEX News Network has lead COMTEX to 20 consecutive profitable quarters. Prior to joining COMTEX, Charlie served 14 years with CompuServe.

Andrew "Flip" Filipowski, chairman and CEO of divine, inc. has started and built tremendously successful technology companies including PLATINUM technology, inc., which he founded in 1987 and sold to Computer Associates in 1999 for $3.6 billion. Filipowski has also led various Internet and technology ventures and software companies.

Randall Marcinko, president and COO of Nstein Technologies, Inc., began his career as a natural products organic chemist. Over a 20-plus-year career in the content industry, Randy founded Dynamic Information Corp. (which sold to EBSCO) and has consulted many leading publishers personally and through Marcinko Enterprises and Digital Learning Space.

Daniel Schimmel, president and CEO of OneSource Information Services, Inc. led OneSource's successful IPO in May of 1999. Previously, Dan served as general manager of the OneSource Division of Lotus Development Corporation, which became OneSource Information Services, Inc. when Dan led a management buyout of the company in 1993. In 2001, Schimmel was recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Donald L. McLagan, chairman of the board of executive advisers at Outsell, Inc., is also an executive advisor for Metacarta and ValuEdge. Don has been an innovator of business information services for more than 30 years, serving in entrepreneurial and leadership roles at NewsEdge Corporation, Lotus Development Corporation, Data Resources, and the Advanced Computer Techniques Group within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Comptroller.

Michelle: What is the single most important challenge, issue, or key strategic idea you are wrestling with right now?

Don: The price for content: Is it free, charged for, is it a subscription fee, is it paid for by the drink? And how do we make money from it? Knowing your answer would be the most important thing I'd like to know.

Charlie: I think one of the most important strategic issues is getting the publishing community to understand that the value of their content is not in the creation, but is in the eye of the beholder. For the person who is reading it—if it is not what they want to read at the right time, it doesn't matter if it is a Pulitzer Prize-winning story. If it is or isn't on the screen of a day trader during a major announcement, then the guy may have lost a lot of money. I think getting the right story, in context, to the right person at the right time is something that establishes value.

Randy: Something that we're grappling with that kind of follows that theme is that it is critical in today's information world to remember that it is all about clients finding answers. One solution is getting it to them at the right time, as Charlie said, but also giving them the truth and reminding them that finding an answer is a process. That is a big issue we're grappling with.

Dan: I think we are grappling with providing full solutions for our enterprise clients. That is what they want. I don't think they care as much about the price of content as, to build on what Randy was saying, the value of it in the key decisions and key operations and making it come alive—integrating it with other content and other applications. That is the number one challenge that we see.

Flip: I think that it is really the transformation, on a timely basis, of that information. It is a question of degrees of value, being able to get content organized—taxonomied, deciphered, and contexted—as quickly as possible. I share the view that there are some monetary components to that discussion, but it is really the volume of available information as it becomes increasingly electronic. Its volume overshadows its value.

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