Newspapers and Magazines Need Content Agility

Next week, I will be speaking at the Mark Logic Digital Publishing Summit on the topic Achieving Content Agility in a Web 2.0 Environment. The timing is impeccable as the NY Times Mourns Old Media Decline covering layoffs at Time and Gannett among other cutbacks in newspapers and magazines. Business Exchange has topics on Newspaper Revenue, Newspaper Companies and the Magazine Industry covering the doom and gloom while Web 2.o and Social Networking are relatively optimistic.

I believe content agility was coined by Mark Logic a company that sells an industry leading XML content server. You can see a key presentation from them on Making Web Content Agile or flip through Harold Ratner's presentation on Agile Publishing. Content agility speaks to the speed and flexibility in creating content, elements of content delivery, applications that allow users to develop communities around content, publishing content to multiple devices and the ability to repurpose content. It touches on content analytics, search, translation, and monetization.

Back in 1996, I joined AdOne Classified Network and led the development of its SaaS (back then, we were an Application Service Provider or ASP) to move newspaper classifieds onto the internet in a searchable, browsable application. In 1998 we launched our first tool to allow consumers to place and pay for classifieds online. By 2000, we had only a handful of newspapers using the tool while Craigslist was winning the classified wars and expanding to nine US cities. Clearly, this digital transformation was not agile enough for newspapers. By 2005 I was off doing other startups including TripConnect, a web 2.0 travel social networking site. Newspapers struggled to hold on to their classified ad revenue. Gannett's classified revenue was down 28.5% this quarter.

Technology and streamlining editorial and delivey processes play a significant role in achieving content agility. First and second generation Content Management Systems are failing in this area. XML, search, and dynamic delivery are all key ingredients to content agility, but are still not sufficient. Monetizing content can no longer be an afterthought and needs to be leading elements of the editorial and technology strategy.

These are my thoughts as I work on the presentation. More to come.

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