Everyone knows that data and information are subtly different things. Data is worthless unless it can be turned into information. General consensus says that data turns into information when it is analyzed, interpreted, enriched, redacted, linked etc. The moment data is touched by one of these processes, value is added and magically raw data becomes meaningful, and in the right context it can be extremely valuable too. Obviously those who manages to get access to, or produces raw data and masters the process of adding value, can build a business simply because people and their organisations are willing to pay for access to information at the right time and in the right format.
In the old days, before the world wide web, it used to be quite difficult and at times expensive to acquire and/or secure access to data. Still a number of companies mastered this very successfully. Additionally they were able to add value to the data, put it into a context and publish and distribute this information, and in most cases make it available for a (hefty) fee. For lack of a better word, we could call companies that build a business around these processes 'publishing companies'. Come to think of it some of the publishing companies were quite successful and mastered this process close to perfection while making a nice profit on the side.
Fast forward to today and take a look at your local record store, travel agent, insurance company, telecom operator, local news paper, trade journal, special interest magazine etc. do you notice anything? Disruption is happening due to the proliferation of the internet and business models are impacted all over the place. It is quite obvious that the publishing / media industry is not immune to this disruption phenomenon! Publishing companies are desperately seeking new business models, replacing their information = ink on dead trees models. I would argue they need to build platforms and bring high quality, granular services to market.
Level playing field
It is a shown over and over again the internet takes down barriers of entry and drives transparency; it unlocks things that were difficult to get to, like for instance, government data. Without a doubt many publishing companies build a viable business on government data because they mastered the process of adding value, acquiring, and distributing the data. Chances are that the playing field will change in the not-too-distant future for a very simple reason: data will become more open and thus accessible to whoever wants to ‘play’ with it. To get you thinking about this I invite you to watch Tim Berners-Lee 2009 Ted presentation The Next Web of Open Linked Data.
Open data all around
‘Open data’ is all information that is gathered and/or produced by government bodies and is available for re-use. The reasoning is that if it is produced and paid for with tax payers’ money there’s no justification to restrict access to it. There’s only one exception – data made available should not violate a person’s privacy. The nice thing about open data is that it is usually available conveniently in digital format and can be read by a computer. More and more municipalities i.e. local governments decide to go open data as much as possible. Challenging developper to come up with services and apps that make use of this data. Interestingly, making money is allowed by cleverly using the open data in an App or a service; however no one will be allowed to have a monopoly on the data.
Replicating what’s already available online in digital format by moving it to paper doesn’t make a lot of sense. This will force publishers, those who don’t add a lot of value to the raw material, to rethink their business models. Where is and what is the value add? This question should be on every publishers mind. What is the service you can provide that makes you stand out from the competition, which skills and platforms do you need? I can answer the platform question firmly and easily, Liferay Enterprise Portal has all the building blocks, so that is one less issue to worry about.