Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Pay for News? (My first public blog post in my Learning 2.0 journey)

A recent report from Outsell, “”, has caused some muttering among corporate librarians. The reason behind the ranting is that this publication is being heavily cited, often out of context, making some executives question, for example, why they need a paid news subscription when “good enough” news is free on the web.

"Don't you dare question me!"
Angry Librarian
Originally uploaded to Flickr by

Outsell's worthy intent is to force information professionals to think of their business in new ways. My guess is that the furor is not so much about the content of the Outsell report, but the unintended consequence of the publication making executives ask uncomfortable questions of their corporate librarians. To me, evaluating, building, and communicating value is my most important job responsibility. I (perhaps strangely) enjoy the opportunity to measure and calculate value and absolutely love each opportunity to present our great results to higher ups. Maybe the muttering librarians agree, but are too humble to toot their own value horns. Maybe their executives never asked tough questions before. (Are there executives like that?) Maybe they don’t have regular vehicles for communicating value to their executives. Maybe their bosses aren’t clever enough to understand value that doesn’t directly hit the bottom line. Or, just maybe, Outsell hit its mark.

An enlightened (read: shares my views!) acquaintance who is an executive for a manufacturer of OTC products said it well:

“I am a big believer in the corporate library/information group and the value it brings. I think we should question its value regularly and adapt to changing conditions…If a report gets a senior executive to… [take interest], we should welcome the opportunity to answer…”

Heck, adapting to changing conditions is what makes being a corporate librarian fun! There’s great sport in determining how changing technology and business conditions can make use of business content more effective. After all, this is the information age – wake up and enjoy it, all ye mutterers!

I do believe that information wants to be free and that, someday, even “premium” content will be (i.e., no more pay-per-article). However, premium access, delivery, and analysis options (i.e., pay-for-utility) are of significant value to business users because they save time, reveal harder-to-recognize leads, and close critical content gaps. The smart publishers are working on differentiating themselves not by continuing to hold their basic content hostage, but by providing interfaces and tools that will integrate content with daily work processes and decision-making triggers in seamless, AI-powered ways. In the not-too-distant future, business information systems are going to be really, really cool – even cooler than they already are.

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