Thursday, 28 May 2009


I'm a little behind with my blogging because much of my attention has been focused on a new work venture, namely our very own "official" CCH Australia blog CCHatter. We launched rather quietly last week and I think we are still in the process of finding our "voice". Currently the blog is authored by Jessica Hobson (New Business Initiatives Director) and myself, although we hope some more passionate bloggers will emerge from the woodwork. It is also part of a very exciting new partnership with Practice Source who are hosting a feed to the blog on their site.

The blog has been a very practical introduction to social media strategy and policy. We've had to ask ourselves: why are we doing this? Is it ok to talk about x? What about y? What would our comms person think about that?

At the moment we are still feeling our way through this, starting with reviewing our existing communications policies to see if they stretch enough to encompass social media channels. We are also quite keen on the idea of a set of guidelines (such as the Intel social media guidelines) that will enable rather than restrict potential communicators.

Back to "why are we doing this?" Innovation and customer focus are buzz word around Wolters Kluwer and CCH at the moment, and social media is a perfect forum to explore both. We will be listening to our customers who are already engaged online, and asking questions, debating issues and (hopefully!) proposing the odd solution. It's not going to be a "new product" blog; it will be more about the future of professional publishing and how we can move in that direction.

This blog is a first toe in the waters of social media for Wolters Kluwer Asia Pacific, and I am optimistic that it is the starting point for developing a culture within the company of listening and engaging online. Head on over and have a look; and be patient with us as we establish that "voice"!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

News online - a "crisis of intellectual property"?

A study by PwC that has been reported in The Australian seems to bear out what I and many others have been saying:

A GLOBAL survey has found that readers could be willing to pay almost as much for some high-quality online newspapers as they do for print versions, particularly in specialist news areas.

The study of 4900 respondents in the US and Europe by accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers has found sport and business to be the areas in which consumers are most ready to pay for content.

This bears out the findings of CCH's "Professionals and Web 2.0" whitepaper, namely that people still expect to pay for quality content when it affects their business or professional decisions. Don't ask me why sport is the other special area, I have no interest in that particular topic!

Of course, there is a proviso to this assertion:

The survey said consumers would be willing to pay 97 per cent of the purchase price of a traditional newspaper for online business content, provided there were no free online products of equal quality on the market.

Providers of business and B2B information have been far more cautious in releasing free content, plus only a handful of providers have the capacity to research and verify the information. Small wonder then that this "specialist" area is considered of high enough value to purchase content, as opposed to standard news which as I pointed out in my previous post can now often be harvested from the eyewitnesses themselves.

I think have nailed the whole situation on the head with this pithy observation:

...what is happening is not the death of newsprint, but an effective crisis of mass intellectual property and copyright.

Again - what areas of information are worth investing time, IP and money? Selecting the wrong field or channel for journalistic or publishing efforts could mean saying goodbye to any kind of return on your work.

Monday, 4 May 2009

The exponential decline of newspapers

The New York times has announced its intention to shut down the Boston Globe. The decline of traditional newspapers - and the attention given to it - has escalated rapidly over the past few months, thanks to declining advertising revenue and the ubiquitous Global Financial Crisis. Australia is fairly protected from the current drama - but the reality is that the GFC has only accelerated the inevitable.

For the past decade news online has been free. This was not a problem when it was merely a supplement to print and broadcast news. But suddenly the internet is the predominant medium, and some very upset media providers are struggling to jam the cat back into the bag. According to the New York Times, possible solutions the AP is investigating are:

"to make sure that the top search engine results for news are “the original source or the most authoritative source,” not a site that copied or paraphrased the work.

The A.P. will also pursue sites that reproduce large parts of articles, rather than using brief links, and it is developing a system to track articles online and determine whether they were used legally."

I think both of these strategies are reasonably fair, as far as they go. But the reality is that an increasing quantity of news is now made available by the people who are there to witness it - on twitter, flickr, even Wikipedia updates. Yes, there is still value in quality investigative journalism - this is hard to replace. But the people who distribute this journalism need to rethink their target audiences and how they can reach them effectively. Thanks to the internet, there is no need for newspapers to be all things to all readers. There's no need to create new content to a topic when you can link to the equivalent.

Jeff Jarvis wrote a passionate and articulate response to the increasingly shrill cries of traditional media, entitled "The "speech the NAA should hear". I highly recommend it and am slowly plowing my way through the copious comments underneath it. Lots of gems of wisdom, although everyone is still struggling to answer the same question - how do we reinvent the media business model so that it is still high quality and sustainable?