Tuesday, 29th January 2008
Tim Buckley Owen
‘We are special and different and that is fundamental,’ said FT Chief Executive John Ridding last year, defending the decision to introduce a new charging regime for FT.com. But the FT’s not so special, it seems, as to justify the continuation of its own staffed Research Centre, whose imminent closure was reported recently by Information World Review.
One can guess the rationale: more research delivered direct to desktops, much cleverer analytical tools, greater incentive for the FT to deliver ever more added value online. While stopping short of saying that the Research Centre was losing money, the FT did tell IWR http://digbig.com/4wgxj that it would have required ‘significant investment’ to turn it into a more profitable business.
You can understand what it’s up against. Just a couple of weeks later, Alacra – one of the business information providers currently in negotiation with the FT over its recognition as a third party channel http://www.ftadmin.co.uk/version1/thirdPartyChannels.html – launched its new Premium Content Ad Network or PCAN.
Developed specifically for online business and financial publishers – whether global media companies or solitary bloggers – PCAN http://digbig.com/4wgxn will offer participating websites a share of the revenue whenever a reader clicks on a PCAN ad and buys a document from the Alacra Store. Unlike normal contextual ads, PCAN’s will be directly relevant to the business community in which it operates – for example offering someone searching for Apple on an investment site ads for relevant research, not for iPods.
It sounds like a great opportunity for independent information professionals eager to monetise their sites and, perhaps, also to seize a tiny slice of the FT Research Centre’s former clientele, which numbered 250 corporate clients a couple of years ago. But – because customers obviously have to identify themselves if they want to purchase – click-through ads also represent a further tiny sliver of customer privacy given away.
It’s all voluntary, of course; people do it all the time, not only as purchasers but also as participants in social networking sites. Take LinkedIn, the one with by far the most credibility among business folk; in a recent profile of its founder Reid Hoffman http://www.cnbc.com/id/22756984/for/cnbc/ Michael Liedtke of CNBC acknowledged Hoffman’s belief that ‘good fortune flows from good relationships’, but also noted that the site let employment recruiters and others pay for expanded access to LinkedIn members.
Will the day ever dawn when we want to counter this drift towards living our business lives in the goldfish bowl? And, if it does, will we then regret the passing of flesh and blood research services where people, not computers, guaranteed your privacy?
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