Roger Ehrenberg's post mortem analyzing the demise of Monitor 110 has been highlighted by a number of A-List bloggers and for good reason - it's rare you get an entrepreneur describing in detail why his company failed. Roger lists these 7 sins and then elaborates:
"That said, from an operating perspective I'd actually pick #5 (not being close enough to the customer) as the most deadly. In my experience, clear customer focus and feedback will drive product direction, release schedules, overall business strategies, and resolve internal differences of opinion, both at the corporate and, if applicable, at the board level."
When we started the business, we tried to get out to customers as frequently as possible, even if was just to show them we had loaded a new database. (I saw a number of customers and content providers well before starting the business.) Our pitch when hiring salespeople was "every month we give you a handful of new reasons to call customers and prospects." And now, we do annual road shows with our larger customers to show them new products and products we're thinking about. If a customer hasn't told us to do something, we won't do it. We might mock it up on paper, but we won't write any code.
Even when we get strong direction from customers, the question of whether we're building a science project or a real product often comes up, and Roger discusses this at length in his post. Great ideas can turn into science projects very quickly.
I had been following Monitor 110 for a couple of years and its sad that it didn't work out for Roger and Jeff. For any entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs this is a must read story.
The game was a little one-sided but the Alacra softball junkies showed up in force on Thursday afternoon at East River Park. MVP Justin Kempler blasted a ball into the East River and everyone else hit the ball reasonably well. The big difference was on defense; we need to work on fielding both ground balls and fly balls before the next game. If there are any local companies that want to play us in a co-ed game, send us an email. After the game we took over Nice Guy Eddies, drank some beer and played some pool. I will post soon on (with video) on our skills at the pool table. Colin Sinatro, who played admirably in defeat, gets ready to hit.
Q&A With Newstex President Larry Schwartz
Continuing our ongoing series of interviews with premium content partners, Larry Schwartz of Newstex tells us about their business, their success and how horse-back riding inspired his blogging. 1. Tell me about the origin of Newstex. The company was founded back in 2004, with my partner Steve Ellis. We had left a previous content aggregator and were getting out of the content business, when customers and publishers came to us and said, "There's a space here for you guys. you guys are pretty smart. Can you figure out how to put a company together that could feed news to us?" So we really started out trying to invent a better way to deliver syndicated news to business and financial markets in a real-time manner. It was very traditional, what is called an aggregation-model business.
Newstex started to evolve about 3 years ago as we started licensing and distributing full text premium blogs. Blogs? How did we get started with blogs? Well, it started with my daughter. She is a horseback rider. At the barn where she rides horses, they needed a website, because everybody was complaining that they didn't know the schedule or results of events at the barn. So I said, "Oh, I'll do one."
I had already been exposed to Moveable Type, so I set it up and created a little website and started doing other blogs for other horse shows and barns. So really I was doing it through the horse side, and then I got into blogging and started reading a lot more and getting more involved. That's when a light bulb went off, and I said, "You know, blogs are really commentary. And there's a real market here for news, and for the people who comment on the news." So we saw it as two separate products: the news product and the commentary.
That's when we started signing up bloggers as publishers, and attempting to syndicate the content as commentary. Now we are evolving this to user generated video. We still sell traditional news, but that has become a commodity sale unless you add value to it.
Continuing our ongoing series of interviews with premium content partners, Larry Schwartz of Newstex tells us about their business, their success and how horse-back riding inspired his blogging.
1. Tell me about the origin of Newstex.
The company was founded back in 2004, with my partner Steve Ellis. We had left a previous content aggregator and were getting out of the content business, when customers and publishers came to us and said, "There's a space here for you guys. you guys are pretty smart. Can you figure out how to put a company together that could feed news to us?" So we really started out trying to invent a better way to deliver syndicated news to business and financial markets in a real-time manner. It was very traditional, what is called an aggregation-model business.
The News we distribute is not unique, it is a complete commodity, but we do add unique metadata. The Blogs we license (The product is called Blogs On Demand) is very unique. The Blogs On Demand product is very unique, as far as we know, we are the only company to license full text blogs.
We license the blogs directly form the bloggers (ie publishers), we have an editorial team that reviews every blog we license, to make sure it's up to a standard we created including 54 metrics that we track on each blog. So you're not going to get junk, which is a real important point. On a lot of the blog search engines, like Google or Technorati, I could put "Newstex" in as a search term, and half the stuff I get is spam blogs or junk blogs. So it's really hard to find that needle in the haystack of information that you're looking for. Which is true of any content: news, reports, legal brief and of course blogs.
After the blogs are licensed and editorial approved, we ingest them into our system, and add metadata and tag as much information as possible. We normalize it so the content appears the same and it makes it very easy to search. For financial markets, we actually stock-ticker the blog posts. So if you're looking to read news about Apple Computers, you type in the stock ticker "APPL" and up pops not only the news, but the blog posts about Apple.
The Blogs on Demand product has grown from a few hundred blogs to over 4,000 blogs in over 46 topics including Financial, Legal, Health and Newspaper Blogs from the leading newspapers
In summary, we now provide editorial selected full text blogs that we aggregate and make it much easier and quicker to find quality information.
3. What do customers like best about Newstex?
One stop shopping...can you imagine going out and finding several thousand blogs to license and bring into your system? This is what we call the "plumbing" and is very tedious and time consuming. Newstex is really good at this, and we make it easy for companies to license blogs and news from us in one format and one delivery pipe. We enjoy being the plumbing and staying in the background - we have no applications, we only deliver content and are focused on doing that as best we can. We keep it simple for our customers.
4. How has your business changed in recent years? What changes do you expect in the coming years?
As I've discussed we've moved from News to User Generated Content as News has become more of a commodity. We see Video as the next big product for our customers. We are launching a video product this fall that will include transcription of the video. We're trying to bridge the text world to Video.
For Newstex, we're adopting "Cloud Computing" as the next big thing for our own internal use. This will allow us greater flexibility and to continue to keep our costs in line as we grow.
5. Tell me about your editorial staff. What types of backgrounds do they have?
Newstex was started as a virtual company. We have no offices, all of our employees or contractors work out of their homes. We think of ourselves as a utility company and thus we need to be a low cost operator. Our Editorial Staff is composed of an editor and several editorial assistants, all of whom have journalist and editorial backgrounds. Our editorial team comes from newspaper, magazines and Graduate Journalism program.
6. The current economic environment can be rough for publishers but also provides opportunities. How is the economy impacting your market today?
We haven't seen any real change, but that is also because the content industry moves at a very slow pace. If we were only selling News, we would be in big trouble, but having a unique product like Blogs On Demand has contributed to our near term and long term growth.
7. What sorts of interesting or unexpected uses of your content have you seen?
Hmmmm....Probably the most interesting use of our blog content is Amazon's Kindle. We supply blogs to the Kindle and it has been a good learning experience about how to work with an ebook type device.
8. Newstex has had an exciting and award-filled year! Tell us about winning the Codie Award, being named on the EContent Hot 100 list and Info Today's People's Choice Top new technology?
We have been big believers and supporters of the content industry by working with SIIA and Econtent on many levels, but the most gratifiy has been to help develop the SIIA Previews program, where we get to meet new content companies and hear many of the new ideas and concepts that are emerging.
To see recent content from Newstex, visit their specific database pages on the AlacraStore.com: http://www.alacrastore.com/publisher-rss/newstex
Despite the change in the seasons, the credit crunch and housing crisis remain top of mind to readers of Research Recap.
Research Recap has just released its second quarter Research Zeitgeist, detailing the most widely read posts of the period.
The top post for the quarter spotlighted a Standard & Poor's review of subprime, Alt-A and Prime Jumbo residential mortgage-backed securities indicating the “2007 vintage” will be the worst ever in terms of delinquencies.
While posts on technology, clean energy and other topics are well-received, the credit crunch still dominates the attention of financial professionals and business leaders,” according to Angus Robertson, Research Recap moderator. “Each time it appears that the scope of the subprime problem has been defined, its effects continue to ripple outwards into areas such as credit card and other consumer loans. Investors increasingly are turning to Research Recap for help in assessing the potential extent of the damage.”
The top ten posts for the quarter were:
1. 2007 Worst-Ever Vintage for US Subprime, Alt-A RMBS (Standard & Poors)
2. Alt-A Borrowers Looking More Like Subprime than Prime (Fitch Research)
3. Lenders Slow to Address Florida Mortgage Defaults (Barron’s)
4. Global Junk Bond Default Rate Doubled in First Five Months (Moody’s Investors Service)
5. US In Danger of Losing Top Renewable Energy Ranking (Ernst & Young)
6. Stocks with Questionable Management Integrity Identified (Audit Integrity)
7. Warning Signs Seen in Rising Credit Card Delinquencies (Credit Sights)
8. Bloggers’ Influence on Consumers Continues to Rise (Forrester Research)
9. Role of Hedge Funds in Subprime Crisis Examined (International Monetary Fund)
10. How Video Will Take Over The World (Forrester Research)
Alacra launched Research Recap last year to provide readers with an overview of recently released financial and market research, especially research that isn’t receiving widespread media coverage. Signature features of the blog include Research Zeitgeist, a weekly summary of top posts and hot topics, and regular Research Roundup posts that synthesize research from multiple sources on current topics.
Aroq, Ltd. is an online publisher providing trusted global business information for busy executives via four dedicated industry specific databases just-auto, just-drinks, just-food and just-style that were recently made available on the AlacraStore.com and via Alacra Premium.
As part of Alacra's ongoing interview series with our esteemed content partners, Andrew Leighton, Director of Research at Aroq, spent of a few minutes with us explaining what they do best and how.
Aroq's four branded websites offer global business news and research across the four vertical industries. The news is gathered and analysed, plus key execs are interviewed so that much of the news content becomes proprietary news analysis. The research reports' portfolio numbers some 70-plus global reports covering key industry sectors with exclusive interviews with key players and proprietary forecast data.
How would you describe your coverage?
Our coverage is global for each of the four industries. Editorial only provide the biggest and most important stories for inclusion in the news listings and the majority of our reports cover vertical sectors globally.
What do customers like best about the just-auto, just-drinks, just-food, just-style databases and/or Aroq, Ltd.?
The fact that the content is truly analysed and commented upon and delivered in a no-nonsense, straight-forward format. Also with regards to our research, many of the sectors are not covered by any other research publisher.
What business trends are you spotting among your customers?
In these consumer industries, the obvious trends are the downturn, the global food supply issue and the on-going M&A activity. These really are dominating the industries at the moment. Another key trend is the growing activity in emerging markets.
The current economic environment can be rough for publishers but also provides opportunities. How is the economy impacting your market today?
We are developing our relationships with our major corporate clients. This is securing new business for us by reaching out to more individual users in these organisations, thus securing the relationships in these tough times. The key is to keep sales activity pro-active for us.
To see recent research from Aroq Ltd., visit their specific database pages on the AlacraStore.com:
To see recent research from Aroq Ltd., visit their specific database pages on the AlacraStore.com:
In contrast to my previous Anxiety in the Library post, Forrester recently published Best Practices: Reinventing The Corporate Library. While the paper outlines things many of us already know, it does so extremely well and adds some new ideas regarding how to make the corporate library a more compelling asset for management. Here's the executive summary:
Knowledge workers and the companies they work for will only thrive if they have the best information. People have been lulled into thinking that there are just two places where information exists: somewhere in the enterprise or on the consumer Web. They're mistaken. In many cases, essential insights, facts, and primary research are only available via sources that require subscriptions or license agreements. Meanwhile, the role of the corporate librarian - the budget-holding professional who identifies and purchases qualified information resources - is becoming increasingly marginalized. The most successful librarians follow three best practices: 1) spend strategically on resources and staff; 2) make effective content delivery the mission; and 3) redefine information to include history and people.
One point the report makes "Measure what
information and services are critical to your users," has been an
important theme for Alacra this year in light of our customers’ tight
budgets. We've significantly enhances our bill-back and usage reporting
tools to help customers eliminate information leakage. Finally, the paper concludes with Self-Diagnostic tool for librarians to help assess where they stand relative to a reinvented corporate library.
I have been looking for a word to describe the 2008 SLA Annual Conference. While the participants were networking with enthusiasm and were bouncing from session to session with alacrity, the word that comes to mind is "anxiety". People I spoke to were glad to be in Seattle but realized many of their colleagues were unable to make it due to budget constraints. I had a sense people were thinking they might not be able to attend next year. I overheard a discussion about more corporate library closings. Another conversation was about how the Association needed the change more quickly, as information technology was changing rapidly and the demographics of the SLA were not. Finally, some vendors implied that they were there as a courtesy to the organization they had grown up with, but they acknowledged the bulk of the power and the money to buy things had left the information center and its inhabitants years ago.
So if some vendors attend as a courtesy, and the demographics are skewing the wrong way, and if change is occurring slowly, and libraries are closing and attendees are unsure they can attend, what I think you get is anxiety.
Current Analysis is a relatively new premium provider in our arsenal and is proving quite popular on the Alacra Store and Alacra Premium. Alex Wassilew, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Current Analysis, gave us the scoop on what makes their content such a draw.
Tell me about Current Analysis:
Current Analysis is the preeminent source for tactical competitive intelligence and analysis in the highly volatile telecommunications, networking, and business software markets. Current Analysis provides Competitive Response solutions that enable companies to effectively anticipate and counter competitive threats, and win more business. This is achieved through the rapid delivery of tactical, actionable intelligence to help fast-paced companies compete more effectively.
What are some typical uses for Current Analysis content?
Current Analysis helps clients beat the competition by providing continuous, in-depth competitive intelligence. We enable sales teams, marketing professionals, product managers, and executives in the highly volatile telecommunications, networking, and business software markets to quickly anticipate and respond to competitor threats.
What makes your content unique?
Unlike traditional research companies or strategic market intelligence firms, Current Analysis provides unique tactical competitive analysis that is designed for everyday use. For example, sales teams use our side-by-side product comparisons when competing on specific opportunities, and marketing groups use our in-depth market and company analysis to prepare marketing campaigns for competitive initiatives. Over 30,000 users have discovered our compelling value proposition and are using Current Analysis every day to win more business.
In addition to our in-depth qualitative research, Current Analysis combines many data sources of quantitative market, company, and product information into one comprehensive database, filters through the noise with category-specific industry analysts, and makes sense of the information for you—so that you don't have to spend hours doing research and analysis. Instead, you can quickly adjust your strategy based on reliable data that has been gathered and analyzed for you.
How would you describe your coverage?
All Current Analysis reports are meant to be tactical and actionable. Our analysts write shorter, bullet-point format reports that help our clients understand events going on in the marketplace, and our analysts make recommendations so our clients can respond to the events in the market.
How can a person who is unfamiliar with your company get to know you better for FREE?
Current Analysis’ has a lengthy list of free resources including analyst telebriefings and podcasts available for people trying to get to know our analysis or our analysts better at our online resource center: http://www.currentanalysis.com/resource/.
Current Analysis is delivering their content through the recently launched Alacra Content Marketplace, which makes it easy for content providers to deliver their content through the Alacra platform.
To see recent research from Current Analysis, visit the Current Analysis Publisher Page on AlacraStore.com.
|Dan Blank, Reed Business|
|Alacra Street Pulse|
Information Industry Blogs
|Rafat Ali's paidContent.org|
|John Battelle's Searchblog|
|Search Engine Watch|
|InfoCommerce Group Blog|
|Shore Communications Blog|
|Intelligent Agent Blog|
Alacra Employees & Friends
|Barry Graubart's Blog|
|Jacob Harris' Blog|
|David Meerman Scott's Blog|
|Ken Doctor's Blog|
|Karen Blakeman's Blog|
|Ian Kennedy's Blog|
|Fred Wilson's Blog|