Sustainability of web business

Challenges for the WWW industry

We’ve been there before – .com bubble & bust.  But what will be the impact of the current economic collapse on the WWW business?  The first time round many of the businesses did not have any real business  model.  The last number of years have seen ‘established’ businesses embrace and exploit the technology e.g. www.ryanair.com moving to a web based booking model only.  However at the same time we have seen businesss such as the newspaper industry being almost annihilated by the move to the online world.

In two recent pieces the Economist references the challenges being faced by many of the web2.0 and/or Silicon Valley companies.  For instance how will Facebook extract value from its global penetration, how will Twitter make money?

Seems to me we will have the same result again.  Those with a sound business model will survive.  And a sound business plan includes providing something of value – ie something worth more than it costs.  www.linkedin.com seems to be able to generate revenue from its business members.  I think the www.ft.com offering whereby a limited amount of free reading is provided may be a way forward for newspapers.  However business’s also need to understand that the technology itslef has changed the business environment.  News cannot be delivered by print – comment/analysis/ out of the box thinking can be delivered in print.

Should be an interesting next 12 months.

Ireland – rugby champions of Europe!

What a drama – playing out the final game in the caulron that is the Arms Park. Ireland triumphed – just- over a brave, gallant Welsh team. As in all of the Irish games the two leaders – Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell led from the front. No other team they’ve met has had this calibre of leadership

What a drama – playing out the final game in the caulron that is the Arms Park.  Ireland triumphed – just- over a brave, gallant Welsh team.  As in all of the Irish games the two leaders – Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell led from the front.  No other team they’ve met has had this calibre of leadership.

We can rejoice.  The monkey is off the back.  The Irish team have gone to the citadel and won.  Yes they made mistakes under pressure – but they aslo played some wonderful rugby under pressure.  On balance there is some justice in the match being won by the team that scored two tries.  but the reality is that it came down to a kick here and a kick there.

There will be a temptation to read too much into what a team of rugby players – wearing the Irish jersey – has achieved.  What they have done is win five international Championship rugby matches on the trot – and been the first Irish team to go unbeaten in the Championship for 61 years.  A fantastic achievement for this group of players and all of those in the backroom who have backed them up.  It’s also a great day for all Irish supporters – who have followed Irish teams through highs and lows.  And for all the schools, clubs, players, former players, coaches and administrators.  And for all of those who have sustained injuries over the years.   To say nothing of the sponsors who should not be overlooked in touch challenging times.

A great season and a great finale to the international season.  And now we can look forward to following Munster and Leinster in the Heineken Cup.  And the Lions tour later this summer – surely today’s match will provide almost the full line up – Scotland and England players may struggle to find many slots in the Test team lineup.

challenges for newspaper industry

In my recent post I commented on my ongoing experience of reading the news online (http://www.bluereek.com/2009/03/reading-the-news-online/).  Broadly it’s positive todate.

As in any economic downturn the newspaper industry is being hard hit by significant drops in advertising revenue.  However there is a wider debate taking place about the future of newspapers – free papers, local papers, online news services.  Yesterday’s FT article, ‘When newspapers fold’ brings much of this together in one place.

I do not think there is any doubt that we continue, for now,  to need a vibrant, stimulating, well informed newspaper industry.  Obviously the web has changed things – in terms of work methods, speed of dissemination of information (e.g. twitter), availability of video, podcasts, etc.  And newspapers have not been slow to engage with the technology – providing current news feeds, quality web sites, personalised feeds, etc.

The challenge though now is how to build out a business which leverages these options/opportunities/ risks – providing a quality product, employment for news producers/ analysts and a reasonable return for the investor.   The industry seems to have flipped from charging for its online offerings to giving them away back to charging again. I do not think ‘news’ per se will command much in terms of income – there are too many ways for news to get around the world (as evidenced by the growth in mobile phones).  Indepth analysis, commentary, a particular slant/view – people may pay for this.  But is it a case of turning newspapers into magazines – where the timeliness is not as important?

Blogs such as this one are of little threat to the newspaper industry.  But as the semantic web advances we will begin to see the web providing a platform whereby individual users can gather all they are interested in through a portal.  www.twine.com provides an early insight.  But this is a long way short of what will be delivered – with each of us using a range of ‘agents’ to track/analyse/ present news/ research/ entertainment of interest to us.

Interesting times.  Newspapers who have great editors, journalists, photographers, researchers, producers must have a good future, if they can figure out the business model.  But everything goes into the melting pot.

Microsoft and the semantic web

Microsoft and Creative Commons announced last week the release of the Ontology Add-in for Microsoft Office Word 2007 that will enable authors to easily add scientific hyperlinks as semantic annotations, drawn from ontologies, to their documents and research papers.

Great news on Technology readiness/ adoption in Ireland

ICT improves in Ireland

Last Friday’s Irish Times reports that Ireland has climbed from 26th to 18th place in the ICT league (compiled by the Information Telecommuniction Union). 

This measures progress over the period 2002-2007.  It is good news – in amongst the boring bad news.  To get ourselves back on our feet we need to stimulate business – what this survey is telling us is that some of the building blocks which were not there previously are now in place.

Our broadband rollout may not be perfect.  It may also seem expensive in many cases.  But the real failing is that we as a country are not maximising the opportunities quicky enough around the infrastructure we already have.

Rather than thinking of the web as a way to source cheaper resources overseas we need to see the web as a way to internationalise all our businesses (and a reason to build out a range of new businesses).

Good positive Microsoft press on web services

Would recommend trying out the mesh (www.mesh.com).

Very positive review of 5 recent offerings from Microsoft.

I have used all 5 and found them effective and easy to use.

Would recommend trying out the mesh (www.mesh.com).  Useful for those of us who work across many PC’s, share files with others and have found holding the data in the cloud makes sense.

Tagging and web 3.0

…using faviki (www.faviki.com) rather than del.icio.us …

I have been using faviki (www.faviki.com) rather than del.icio.us for last 10 days or so.  Just read a luke warm review of ‘zigtag’ – another effort at helping us understand each other tags.   Interesting argument – have we just become fed up of the whole ‘tagging thing’?

I suppose it takes me back to the basic discussion with anyone implementing any document management type solution – it’s a balance between the effort you put in when loading/ storing/ categorising/ tagging the documents and the benefits you gain when searching/ retrieving/ sharing the documents.

Would be interested to hear how people have done using either of these semantic web type tagging options.

The end for Documents?

Joel Oleson’s post foresees the end of documents – at least as we have known them. The post is provocative – probably goes too far for many readers. Interestingly in SharePoint implementation work we spend a great deal of time promoting and supporting collaboration re production of documents (Word, PowerPoint, MS Project, etc.).

It struck me, while thinking about Joel’s post, that I have spent a great deal of time over the years working to agree reports with clients (strategy, business planning, reorganisations, BPR, etc) when the value of the output might have been greatly enhanced using wikis.

Reading the news online

I have restricted myself to reading the news online

Over the last few weeks I have restricted myself to reading the news online (as against print copy).  On a Sunday I typically scan the following online: Sunday Independent, Sunday Times (Ireland edition), Sunday Tribune and Sunday Business Post (not available until later).  Many attractions include: free, no pile of paper to get rid of, easy to index anything of interest (using www.faviki.com), easy to search for what’s of interest.  So what are the disadvantages? – reading on my computer screen is a strain, reading at a laptop in the lounge area seems less sociable that actually flicking through newspapers where you can handon the paper to someone else in the room.  There is also a perception (for others and for myself) that because I work in the information systems sector when I am using a computer (even to read the news) I am working.

To some extent reading the news online faciliates greater social newtorking (tagging, indexing, etc) but impacts negatively on the immediate social network – the people with whom you live.

Where is cloud computing in Ireland?

The offerings are global – and available (Amazon, Google, Salesforce, etc.).  There are attractions particularly in terms of avoiding major capital expenditure, scaling the infrastructure investment as demand for the business application grows. The 'private cloud' is now also an option.  There are concerns – how do I pick the right vendor, will it prove expensive in the long run?  However it seems to me that for a country like Ireland and for entrepreneurs here trying to build out businesses to kickstart our serious challenged economy, cloud computing offers a great way to push forward, with limited capital outlay but all the scalability to build web/ global business.

Dion Hinchcliffe's well thought out piece provides a more comprehensive list of some of the pros & cons.  Time to move forward.