Editor's Note - EContent Evolves

Electronic content is everywhere. It's integral to strategic business decisions on the enterprise level and it's what brings in repeat customers to a Web site. It's chopped up into little pieces, stolen, copied, aggregated, streamed, syndicated, indexed, traded, and bundled into myriad vertical and highly personalized segments. All of it is worth something to someone, and the race is on to create, package, and organize content for revenue and knowledge generation.

Enter EContent
Dan Brewster, chief executive of Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing, once said of G & J's efforts to reposition its publications, "Magazines are figuratively organic, living, evolving entities. They have to keep pace with the times. And the times are changing faster than ever before." EContent has been covering the online/Internet space for an astounding 24 years. It goes without saying that the last six have seen the content pot stirred up a bit thanks to the Web. That would make any magazine think hard about how it covers its respective market. Well, we've thought hard and evolved and reintroduce to you the magazine you are now holding in your hands.

For EContent, it makes sense to cover a much larger arena of content issues. Where once we covered database collections available to the end-user population, we now shift our editorial to the greater world of electronic content, which has witnessed an explosion of distribution, purchasing, and organizational practices.

Behind all of this are strategies. Because we now know that we can't simply raise the content flag and see who salutes. It has to do more than just flap in the air. People must be able to fold it up and take it home.

The Internet allows cheap to free distribution on one level and sophisticated collection and syndication on another. Publishers and creators eagerly offer content through multiplatform and multipartnership deals-create once and publish as many times as you can. And there are plenty of facilitators and enablers to help the creator reach the user-either for free or using any number of payment methods.

To get a handle on the nature of content, both of the Internet and of the database aggregators, this issue presents a special report on the content industry as we see it. The report covers three important and interrelated areas: technology, rights/legal issues, and pricing/business models.

Back in the day, this magazine had a fairly easy mission. The information industry was straightforward, content was sold at the enterprise level through proprietary and inflexible interfaces requiring some degree of training and a library science degree to properly utilize. You could follow the travels of content in a fairly direct line. The Web has changed all that-content is sold enterprise-wide, integrated seamlessly, and requires little to no training to access. It's also distributed all across the Web, taking advantage of syndication and other methods of maximizing return on a single piece of content, sometimes at the expense of royalty and/or copyright structures. Content now moves through a confusing, and opportunistic, value web.

The special report ties all the pieces together and begins on page 22 with Bill Trippe's analysis of the technology that has facilitated content through its new distribution patterns. On page 30, Marydee Ojala tackles the legal implications that have resulted from the new proliferation, and on page 36, Thomas Pack attempts to untangle the new value web that the industry has spun. The rest of the issue presents profiles and columns that further address these trends and dig deeper to identify the players who create them. I hope those of you who have been with us through the years like the new look and coverage, and to those who have just subscribed, welcome. Please feel free to contribute your opinions to our letters to the editor department. Direct them to ecletters@onlineinc.com