"People will pay for information services, not for content"
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Theo Huibers is the managing partner of Thaesis (www.linkedin.com/in/theohuibers) and a professor and researcher in search technologies at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. He works or has worked for several Dutch and German publishing companies. In parallel he is also developing a search engine specifically dedicated to kids: a four-million euros research project that can be followed on this web site: http://hmi.ewi.utwente.nl/puppyir/
See also in the attached PDF
the article written by Theo Huibers : "Breaking the rules"
Could you tell us about the methodology you use to approach the implementation of search technologies in a newspaper? What is the information you use, the element you assume will be implemented to reach different targets? The type of revenues you take into account?
Our calculations are always fact-based, that is, based on statistics, in-depth knowledge of search technology and the media sector and facts and figures from relevant areas.
Our methodology considers six ways to make more profit with search technology (applicable for large publishers)
1) Guide your end user intensively through your information world by using advanced search (and suggestion) technology.
Publishing companies have a lot of information on their websites or on their verticals, not only the news but also in-depth reports, graphics, background stories, expert opinion, public services report etc…. They need to help the user find the right path to all content, not send them straight to Google for their next question. Amazon do that well when they guide the readers to all related topics of interest when they choose a book but very few newspapers do that. It’s more or less the same technologies that Google uses that you have to implement in your websites. There are some large international companies that offer to do that, but also smaller national companies that can advice and integrate different levels of tools.
2) Develop constantly new information services that surprise, delight and inform your end users.
Every newspaper should have an internal team that is aware of all the new web tools that become popular on the user side and need to be integrated within the newspaper website or in the mobile environment. New visual presentation, information services, widget etc.: you need to benchmark those tools so that you provide the same friendly environment as Google, Yahoo etc.
3) Build your own dedicated online advertising system, as you had in the old days with the printed version.
Publishers need an ad system where advertisers can book their advertising in a friendly way on the entire news platform, like a self-service ad portal for example. And it could also be a common effort between newspapers to offer an ad portal where small and bigger advertisers could book on several news sites.
4) Increase the value of each advertisement that passes through your advertising system with cross-media package deals, lead generation suggestions and customer intelligence.
A good use of search intelligence applied to advertising is to link automatically ads and content (contextual advertising). It does not mean that the newsroom and advertising department work together, it’s just about providing the right context to generate efficient leads for the advertisers.
5) Increase the added value of your own news organisation by offering your employees advanced search systems.
Journalists need to integrate while they’re writing advanced search technologies that would to improve the way they work and allow them to build richer web packages connecting to articles from their colleagues, good photos, graphics etc. All the things that you can input from the very beginning. Imagine the depth of your website if 200 of your newsroom journalists work like that, if they are educated to use those tools. Newsroom could at least master the advanced search tools from Google; it increases productivity to know how to use those tools. And it’s very relevant both for national and regional newspapers… look at the coverage of the ‘flu right now and all you can build locally using public services information, real time update on maps of the schools that closes etc…
6) Lower the cost of technology by strategic and synergetic use and standardisation of the search tools.
Every newspaper using within their organisation different technologies, different IT, etc… this costs a lot of money and I truly believe that it could be improved by building mutual tools. The company should think about the IT architecture they need and short-list providers that could work for the whole company, this would save money for the upgrades, the development, and the maintenance of those systems. People focus on how they can make people pay,etc… but that’s not the priority I see: people don’t want to pay for content but for information services. If a website delivers what people need then they might accept to pay for that, also because they trust the quality of their media brand…
You don’t need to do everything at once, but it’s an absolute necessity to build a roadmap that fixes your strategy. Then you can have an incremental implementation and invest progressively, if step 1 delivers good results then you start step two etc…
When people think of the business of search, they usually think of using Google or Yahoo, do you include those players in your business models or do you advise alternative models, technologies perhaps?
This depends on the six-way analysis. There is often a serious alternative for the Google and Yahoo option, but most newspapers are addicted to the advertising revenues made by Google and Yahoo. They do not consider another way and just follow the Google/Yahoo way. If you consider alternative technology partners, there is indeed a lot of buzz in this area. However it should be possible to select an adequate search technology party, if you know what you’re looking for. Amazing enough most news organisations do not have a single clue about the search technology world and its possibilities.