Last Updated Nov 19, 2009 4:20 PM EST
But many different publishing niches that have operated profitably for decades are now coming under withering assault by new technologies, new business models, and aggressive new competitors.
Take the staid old business information segment. There was a time that all you needed was your Hoover's, your Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), and access to the latest SEC filings in order to keep up on the various companies on your radar screen.
Those days are gone.
While wandering around this week's "DreamForce" event in San Francisco, which is the annual event hosted by Salesforce.com, and contemplating how cloud computing is sweeping the planet, I asked Rand Schulman, the Chief Marketing Officer of InsideView, to explain to me what companies like his are doing to take on the legacy business information segment of the publishing industry.
"Well, the challenge is that, with the Internet, there is way too much information now," he said. "Plus things are changing inside companies much more quickly than in the past. So much of the information out there is just plain wrong.
"Our approach is to apply algorithms that weight and rate 20,000 sources of data in order to determine what is true, and relevant."
As part of this process, his four-year-old company sifts through social media content from Facebook, Twitter, LinkenIn, Google Blog Search, plus business-oriented services like Jigsaw and NetProspex in order to develop the most accurate "corporate family tree" profiles possible for its 200 or so corporate customers. They also mix some of the traditional business information services, including Thomson Reuters, Capital IQ, and Cortera into the resulting mash-up.
This kind of large-scale data filtering service has obvious implications for the advertising sales teams that represent a major portion of the headcount in most media companies (25 percent or 500, for example, at The New York Times, according to Gregg Vivolo, of the company's Regional Newspaper Group.)
InsideView's customized solution for sales teams, which is dubbed "SalesView," and was featured at DreamForce this week, is positioned to help sales people evolve into what Schulman calls "content engineers," who stay on top of constantly updating data flows in order to generate new sales leads and keep in touch with their networks at large.
Schulman told me that the product is "so effective that hundreds of customers are leaving Hoover's for us."
Six of the company's customers confirmed that they've made this switch in statements issued by James Warren, at RightNow Technologies; Eric Johnson at Serena Software; John Knotwell at inContact; Neil Florio at Qlikview; and Glenn Haertel at SynQ Solutions.
"Our trial with InsideView demonstrated significant value over Hoover's based on head-to-head tests in several active campaigns," stated Haertel. "The depth of contacts was far superior to Hoover's and [it] brought relevant news about target accounts directly to our sales team."
When I checked out the online demo of how the SalesView UI works, it seemed to be pretty intuitive, though of course, I'm not a sales guy...
Meanwhile, the legacy biz-intel companies are still out there, trying to adapt, but disruptive technology companies like InsideView look to me to be poised to eat their lunch.
Thanks to Peter Evers for help on this post.