The question , when it came , was loaded in a way that I had not guessed at in advance , though I knew that its appearance was inevitable . I was speaking at an excellent MarkLogic breakfast briefing ( the slides are on this site ) last week and had chosen Super-distribution as my theme. I wanted to explore the argument, which I now encounter fairly regularly , that simply turning content into “workflow” is insufficient . Few content owners have enough content for complete workflow sequences . Ergo , third party and client content must be imported and used in conjunction with the process tools and content supplied by the solutions vendor . Best way to make this work is to open up the APIs , allow major customers to customize to their own workflow under JV or service agreements  , and learn from this how to mass-customize for smaller clients . This speeds up the development track for solution development , and utilizes the experience and technolgy savvy of major customers , who likewise get the benefit of learnings from third party users . For the content provider it can provide a lock-in , a market differentiation from other content providers , and a defence against that most feared of competitors – one’s own customers .

So , my questioner asked , you really do mean that most content has little worth in isolation and that paywalls are unlikely to succeed ? “Yes , I do ” was the answer and almost before it was out of my mouth I heard an echo of a conversation that must be happening across the information provider world right now , between senior commercial managers like my questionner and their group main board colleagues .” Information commoditized ?” , say the latter , “tell me this isn’t true . Tell me it applies to network johnny-come-latelys like the Murdochs in collapsing markets like newspapers . And tell me that it will never apply to the wonderful content we bought last year at 12X EBITDA and which we so badly needed to complete our dataset , enable us to expand in Central Asia and illustrate  the profound difference between ourselves and our hated competitor”.

 

And my friend , if he knows what is good for him , will say ” Just so ” and “I could not agree more” , but increasingly he will try to insert into the conversation things like ” Should we really be trying to build workflow on our own : might we look for allies at IBM , SAP or Oracle ?” or ” Maybe our historical hated competitor is really our future best friend ?” or ” Surely collaborating on tools with Autonomy or its ilk makes more sense than pretending we can re-invent and own the history of software ? ” Then he can reasonably say ” This is the last squeeze of the Lemon if that is representing the content model – and now at least we know about the development track that takes us to the next good place . And our business must be based on margin improvement and future visibility of returns , not upon some historic fixation with content which is increasingly remote to a network-based service industry .”

Will they listen ? I don’t know , but I am certain that the newspaper world was deaf to this dialogue . And I was very interested to see approval for Project Canvas in the UK last week . This creates a platform for the web integration of all free to air television in the UK . The Murdochs will inevitably feel that this competitively impacts their Sky franchise , but presumably , since it is clear that neither the Times nor the Sun can claim ( remember “it was the Sun wot done it ?”) to have delivered the UK coalition government , their political influence is deflating at the same rate as their readership .

Finally , on the same platform was Andy Stevens of IOPP giving a spendid example of agile publishing using MarkLogic to create mobile content sets around their journals data . As they say , check it out  (http://www.marklogic.com/news-and-events/news.html).

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