Intelligent Content Conference 2013: New Competition for Traditional Publishers Abound

Feb 11, 2013


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Article ImageFive years ago at the inaugural Intelligent Content Conference, there were 35 attendees. The 2013 ICC event, held in San Francisco on February 7 and 8, drew more than three hundred professionals from the disciplines of digital publishing, content management, content marketing, content strategy, mobile communication, and IT. It's as good a sign as any that corporate publishing-that is, businesses outside of traditional publishing using content to drive revenue growth-has moved to center stage.

Indeed, many of the tracks and sessions at ICC2013 could have been lifted from digital publishing conferences from a few years ago: mobile optimization, integrating content lifecycles, and user metrics. Content strategists and marketers within the corporate environment are grappling with the same issues that traditional publishers have faced around how to make content modular, reusable, discoverable, and most importantly, engaging, and compelling.

That latter point was driven home in a highly entertaining keynote on Thursday by Tom Fishburne, founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, which creates content marketing campaigns using cartoons. Fishburne reminded attendees that publishing is a privilege, that success is not about the brand but about the reader, and finally, that by "making your audience awesome" your brand will benefit. As he pointed out, "Technology can't save boring content, but it can amplify remarkable content."

The ICC2013 conference schedule put a major emphasis on ebooks, with presentations by Matthew Cavnar from Vook, Inc. around social connectivity in ebooks, and Professor Robert Glushko from UC Berkeley's School of Information providing a glimpse into the next generation of web-based e-readers, as well as breakout sessions on making corporate content more mobile.

In his presentation on integrated content lifecycles in a multi-channel world, Noz Urbina covered other future-focused technologies that content creators must consider, like augmented reality browsers and gesture-based interactions. Urbina, a senior consultant at Mekon, a content creation, management, and delivery consultancy in the UK, says "Apple's Siri is the door opener for a whole new generation of interactions around content."

But the sessions that garnered the most buzz were around more quotidian concerns: how to break down silos and create content management strategies to underpin the create-once, publish-everywhere (COPE) philosophy espoused in the Friday morning keynote by Daniel Jacobson, director of engineering for the Netflix API. Emphasizing the importance of the API, Jacobson explained that Netflix accounts for 33% of peak internet traffic in North America and must serve content out to 800 different device types. The company went from having a one-size-fits-all API to creating an optimized API that would enable it to handle the transaction volume without swamping them.

Jacobson also made a convincing case that a well-designed API offers companies more than just a smarter way to distribute content via third party platforms. He offered examples of API utilization for Netflix, NPR, and the Guardian UK that showed much higher usage of the API internally in those organizations than by external partners. "The public API is the tip of the iceberg," Jacobson says.

Traditional publishers who have strong digital distribution strategies can take heart that ICC2013 showed that corporations are facing a compelling need to engage end users through high quality content. It seems like an optimal time for publishers to consider collaborating with corporate partners to share both content and their know-how around how to make it intelligent.

Because there's another side to the story: the continued progression of non-traditional companies into publishing could spell new competition for traditional publishers. In his presentation "Content is NOT King: It's Gold," Russell Sparkman, CEO of FusionSpark Media used the example of Red Bull, the energy drink manufacturer. By aggressively using video, music, games, sports coverage, and other content generated in-house to draw in customers and strengthen brand identity, there's been a shift in Red Bull's business model - one that's apparent on the Red Bull home page that features nary an image of the iconic blue and silver can.

As Sparkman put it, "Red Bull is a now a content business that also sells energy drinks."

("Content" image courtest of Shutterstock.)