I am fascinated by the changes that are happening in the publishing industry. I am fascinated because this once very stable industry had to go through one of the more disruptive changes since the industrial revolution, but I am also inspired by them because this abrupt change has opened many opportunities for entrepreneurs (technology and non) to implement or drive even more change.
These changes will derive from a combination of technology (hardware and software) and a new way of doing business. As a semantic technology and online advertising professional I, obviously, have opinions on what should be done to turn this into a win-win proposition for all the players in the market place.
The debate in the publishing sector today is particularly confusing. To simplify it, you can say that on one side, you have the traditional players that are under a great deal of pressure to try to retake a leadership position, and financial profitability, after having allowed Google to almost destroy their business model and significantly weaken their competitive position. On the other side, you have the new online-only players that are forced by their somehow unexpected success to continue to innovate to ensure that they will be able to offer a unique and different experience to their readers.
Both sides see semantic technologies as strategic because the applications deriving from them can help publishers:
a) increase revenue by improving the user experience and providing a more effective way to serve advertising, and
b) reduce costs by automating the work of content creators to let them focus on the most valuable part of their job (creating content) instead of wasting time in low-value activities like manually tagging content to make it easier to search and access by users.
In any case, the change this industry is experiencing cannot go unnoticed, even if you don’t deal directly, like I do, with semantics or online advertising, as we all are online newspaper readers and Web users.
Let’s consider a couple of examples on what semantics can do for publishers and brands that are wondering how they can launch more effective or less invasive online advertising campaigns.
Semantic technology can enable the creation of advertising campaigns linking, for example, pieces of content automatically to other content, either to another article or to links to real-time feedback or opinions submitted by users. Advanced semantic technologies enable the brand to use many criteria (topics, motivations, feelings, emotions) to create this link. In this way, brands can be more creative and increase the possibility to develop unique messages without compromising the reader’s experience.
For example, an advertiser for a new trendy luxury car could link the online ads not only to content about cars but also to topics of interest for the target audience (i.e. finance, golf, holiday resorts) and to other emotional or behavioural concepts like “success,” “modern” and “wealth,” attributes that are independent from the actual topic covered in the article (“success,” in fact, can be linked to sport, politics, economy, etc.)
Semantic technology also allows content creators to make their content automatically available in the standard formats required by the semantic web. This makes it possible to immediately activate all the described features and to reduce costs so that journalists and bloggers can spend more time on other, more important activities (like creating content instead of normalizing the content already created).
I’m convinced that this revolution will continue to bring about historical change, and that conditions exist that will make it possible for big publishers and small innovators to live and compete together in a transparent, fully functioning market. To make this possible, big publishers should not focus only on big legal battles to reverse what they made possible (the availability of virtually unlimited amount of free information) or on neverending discussions on how to reinstate a pay-per-view model. It is necessary and cheaper for them to understand and take advantage of the opportunities provided by new technologies (hardware and software). The profit that could be made by applications that already exist or for now, only exist in the minds of some innovators…are potentially much larger than we could imagine.