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Thriving on Chaos

Jim Kollegger moderates a panel – Genesys Partners. Panelists: Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft; Neal Nipschutz, Dow Jones; Steve Lohr, NY Times; Jon Miller, former CEO of AOL and now founder of Velocity Interactive Group.

Dan’l gives us a finger wave.

Economy, Obama, technology diaspora, what does it all mean to business models?

To Steve: "How do you look at the economic mess and what do you see?" Steve: "Most of the stimulus package will go to the states for ’shovel ready’ or ‘keyboard ready’ projects. One area to watch is that Christine Varney is the head of antitrust – there’ll be a step back; anything that can be described as stabilizing will be fine."

To Dan’l: "Steve Ballmer said that our model is not for a quick turnaround." Dan’l: "Our operating system business is impacted as people migrate to handhelds – as businesses scale back their headcount, our business is affected. In the long run, we’re optimistic."

Neal: "I don’t think you go back to anything resembling what we had before during boom times. Part of it will be that areas like financial services will be risk-averse for a while."

Jon: "If you think about the traditional media industry, they typically trade at 10/12 times EBITDA, but now CBS is trading at 4 times EBITDA, and that feels very depressed. If you talk about reset – where does it go? I suspect it resets at a lower level and these companies will trade at a different level. It’s good for digital media because it’s a less expensive kind of consumption" – more consumers will be consuming.

Dan’l: "There’s a huge long-term opportunity because IT is a huge component of this – as developing countries modernize with IT infrastructure, they’re going to reach much further – there’s opportunity on the other side of this."

Neal: "It’s true – America’s going to be less strong over the next decade."

Steve: "Isn’t it surprising, though, how the world fell off a cliff on September 15th?"

Neal: "Yes, one of the side effects of globalization." 

Jim: "What does ‘the digital dime’ mean to journalism?"

Steve: "It means to double down on digital. We’re selling off the building, physical assets."

Neal: "You would hope and think that in a democracy serious news would be supported but that’s not necessarily so. Media may have to revert to a subscription business."

Steve: "You really think the genie can be put back into the bottle?"

Jon: "The issue is not the news…paper but the news. News consumption has probably never been higher than it is today. But the business model isn’t supporting that right now. I don’t think the genie goes back."

Jim: The new political administration – going from an XBox to an Atari. Any insights?

Steve: "It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?" He adds that this administration is "much more technocratic."

Jim: "The tools of the teenager have come into the White House – the president puts out an address on YouTube."

Neal: "You can use the greater knowledge of technology to be more closed and secret – you can bypass the media entirely."

Steve: "They’re very good at getting onto message and communicating – and they stuck with the message – they never did ‘the polling thing’, and in that sense it’s very elitist. It wasn’t the wisdom of crowds. They had a vision and stuck to it."

Jim: "You have two things going on – practical application of technology, and $37 billion of information stimulus coming."

Neal: "We’ve never seen this before, this kind of spending on technology. There’s no real recent experience in the ‘get it out fast’ kind of spending we’re talking about."

Steve: "And there’s a workforce bottleneck – do we have the people with the skills to implement this?"

Jim: "What other technology trends do you see being driven or affected by this?"

Neal: "There’ll be new media that we don’t even think about now that’ll be disruptive in teh next 18-24 months, I’d imagine that there’ll be some cities that don’t have a major newspaper in print; all these trends accelerate and if the downturn in time is longer than the consensus view, it’ll just accelerate."

Dan’l: "There’s a lot of infrastructure stuff going on; there are big shifts that will change the economics. Where will compute cycles come from, where will the storage be, where will the backup facilities be?"

Neal: "If you can provide content, the technological delivery mechanisms may change radically, more targeted types of information and news will still have a place." 

Jon: "Every four years there’s a pretty big reset – the most recent one has been the impact of video and social networking; before that there was Google; before that, Yahoo/AOL/Ebay. Things do change and continue to evolve, but the stuff that really rises to the top is these kind of larger movements. The industry will continue to recreate itself over time – not the thousand little things, but these really large things."

Jim brings up the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Dan’l: "Where you are is a vital thing – GPS affects what comes to you. Those services will surface soon. Also the notion of the mesh – this location in the cloud that’s yours, that synchronizes all the relevant information to your devices" – he says Microsoft is the first to do this, but Apple has MobileMe, so I don’t think he’s right.

Jon: "Something happened at the end of 2008 – consumer usage of the internet passed enterprise usage. That’s one of those things that never goes the other way. The consumers are driving much of the use and development on the web that works its way back to business."

Steve: "Jon, where would you invest in 2009?"

Jon: "Following consumers. You see video consumption taking off, makes perfect sense because of high speed connections to the home, and storage devices for both information and entertainment. There are two trends: we’re starting to see deconsolidation in traditional media – separating content and distribution. On the internet side we’ll start to see consolidation."

Jim: "If you’re a company in this marketplace, what do you keep your eyes on?"

Dan’l: "We’re paying attention to lots of stuff; my particular area of interest is to look at entrepreneurial activity around the world and where their energy goes and money flows to support them. I have a pretty good bead on that side of global innovation – how does that fit into things that we care about, and it does lead to buying companies; we’re pretty acquisitive. You’ll see more of the same from us."

Jon: "My firm is most focused on digital media – what are people doing in these new mobile environments? What are the usage contours? If you look at things like the iPhone apps, smartphone applications – I think we haven’t yet understood what that behavior’s going to look like."

Steve: "Regarding the iPhone, why could Apple do this and not Microsoft?" Dan’l: "We should’ve. And we’ll play catch-up."

Question: "Who should 25-year-olds look up to?"

Neal: "The general advice is find something you’re passionate about and do it. Having grown up with those skills, the business world is full of opportunities."

Steve: "The great irony is that journalism schools are booming." Neal: "And all the newspaper editors are losing their jobs and going back to teach."

Dan’l: "LIfe sciences and information around life sciences. I think there will be an implication on the economy when you can
understand your genome and make life choices based on it. Technology is an essential enabler, but it’s just another language. Learn Chinese, too."

Question: "How many of you talk to your own peers who use new technologies all the time and understand them possibly more and use them more effectively than young people?"

Dan’l: "That’s exactly what I do. My group is a bunch of 30-year-olds – how do THEY use Facebook? It never hurts to insert a rookie into that, a college kid who’ll call them on it." Steve: "People who are 35-and-older are more suited to multitasking because they have more focus."



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What’s the value of value-add?

Moderated by Lee Greenhouse of Greenhouse Associates. Panelists: Diane Corrado, Walters Kluwer Health; Tom Brown, LexisNexis; Joe Jaksha, Thomson West.

Lee: "Is the value of content declining?" Tom: "In some regards, if we’re preventing a case of identity theft, you can argue that the content is adding value. To maintain a certain value proposition you should really keep adding to it, enhancing and improving the consumer’s experience." Diane: "Although my customers want a robust platform, they tell me content is king, and without the right information it doesn’t matter how good the platform is. In the medical space, it’s vital." Joe: "You have to have content – as the table stakes – and then build on top of it. Customers expect that to be there before you even open the door."

Lee: "historically, how has West added value to content?" Joe: "Historically it was codification of the legal system. Created a de facto standard before standards were created. In the 70s and 80s it was about aggregation. But that’s become the table stakes as well – in the 80s it was integration, cross-linking. Focus on the specific customer, lawyers and legal professionals – how do you wrap that package with sophisticated technologies and a service model that supports it."

Lee to Tom: "What’s the nature of content in your business and how do you increase the value of it?" Tom: "Evolving the data to reflect the economy and behaviors that are present. Cell phones, for example. There’s an expectation that this is available. Identity theft has been perpetrated throughout the economy – there’s an expectation that fraudulent addresses will be notated – that’s an expectation that customers have." Lee: "You guys deal with the lowest form of life – public records." Tom: "The challenge is to resolve the public record so that banks, government and law enforcement can use it…In my world, I’m responsible for the products we offer to banks – we help them solve money laundering and terrorist financing. The essence of that is helping them to know the individuals they’re doing business with. We also help prevent identity theft – a growing problem and only going to get worse as the economy deteriorates. We also help identify the ‘underbanked’ so that credit can be extended to them on terms that are acceptable to the consumer." Lee: "This is all from mining data." 

Diane: "I think what’s happening in legal and medical industries is that you’d walk up to the librarian’s desk, bearing a gift, hoping they’d shine a light on you and help you do your research. But it’s moved out of the library and into the hands and devices of people doing the research. Information has to be fast – we’re different from Google, in that you don’t want 12,000 hits but you want one hit, or five, or a manageable number. Getting the information you’re looking for, with as few clicks as possible, without the intervention of a librarian….We use a process called contextual design; most companies who interview their customers run a simple interview, but contextual inquiry allows us to sit in your office for a couple of days and watch you work. Henry Ford said if you asked people what they wanted, they’d say, ‘A faster horse.’ One of the good examples I could use is that we’d question users about their eye-rolling, and they’d deny it – but we noticed that the search results they wanted were at the bottom, so when we got the search results closer to the top, their fatigue went down 60%."

Diane points out that they are not just publishers, but aggregators. Databases, journals (peer-reviewed and scientifically proven).

Lee to Joe: "What’s next for Thomson West?" Joe: "The information units have been focused on smaller information bites – it’s not books, or even the full case – and where that wraps into the ability to monetize is where you can take that piece of information where you can present it in different contexts; that’s where we are really focused."

What’s the impact of adding value – are you running faster just to stay in place? – Joe: "There’s an expectation that you continue to add more for the same price. But the bigger part is making it sustainable – it changes the way our customers do their business and becomes a critical part of the way they do their business, where it’s woven so deeply into what they do, so the cost of changing is prohibitive."

Tom: "Do you add coverage, content on individuals that are hard to have info on – how do you do that? If you’re just providing redundant information, that’ll be of less value. We’re also looking at new applications. With the underbanked, we aggregate a lot of data so that the underbanked can be assessed from a credit-worthy standpoint just like everyone else. That’s a population of 75MM people that are unattainable to the financial sector."

Diane: "We spend a lot of time talking about the customer’s customer and what their needs are. Many people who use our data are doing it on behalf of someone else."

Tom: "Becoming more relevant to the customer means you bring more value to them."

Lee to Joe: "You’re a product guy – you’re not going to let these sales folks get away with that!" Joe: "I think the percentages vary by project – we’re focused on taking the time and effort to do things that are hard. If it seems like too quick of a win, it might not be sustainable. We’re looking at some investments in our core capabilities that are extensive and expensive – but which would be difficult for a ‘free’ content provider to create with open source code." Examples of "the hard stuff" – "the unique blend of ‘brute force editorial’ and some of the higher end AI capabilities and how do you uniquely combine those in product offerings with a knowledge of the customer?"

Lee: "How is service a part of the value-add?" 

Joe: "One of the things that we see is that our customers have a high degree of expertise in what they do, but when they get a request slightly out of that area, they need help." 

Tom: When you misjudge the value that the customer is placing on the product or service, you can overengineer the solution and give them more than they need – so they won’t pay for it.

Diane: You also have to be aware of what the competition or coopetition is doing so you don’t invest a lot.

Question: "how do your customers define value – what is their willingness to pay?" Diane: "it falls very succinctly into categories: productivity enhancement; if you can enhance my relationship with my customer or profitability; they will also pay for something that saves them expense – if it consolidates two or three things into one thing, you’ll get them to pay more."

Question: "how you feel about content as a value add – what kind of content is a value add?" Tom: "It’s vital." Joe: "It’s that content creation has become an expectation. The definition of content has broadened in terms of the metadata associated with content – the context around that particular article, the metadata becomes extremely powerful content that is not physically attached to that document." Diane: "What we’re seeing is that the content’s there – everybody’s a publisher now – the problem is how do you sift through that to get through the relevant material? We’re the vendors who are going to help you zero in on what you want and what you want it for."

Question: "To what degree does scale matter?" Joe: "Niche publishers who’ve found a focus in adding value to a particular area, that becomes less of a scale thing, and in fact it doesn’t scale very well. When you start to
cross verticals, it doesn’t scale very well." Tom: "Scale’s vital to give you the ability to respond. The challenge is relevance." 


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At the blogger table

We’re right in the middle of the room. There are six of us. I’ll see if I can get business cards and link out to their blogs as well. It’s the same size table as every other one – seats 8 – but with all the laptops on it, it’s a little crowded. Ours is the only table with a power strip. Yes, we have power.

And they’re loading up for the next panel. 

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Frictionless Information

Kristian J. Hammond, Northwest University – talking about "Adding Value in the Age of Google". Dr. Hammond walks around, he ROAMS. Joking about making an engineering presentation.

First he defines us, as his audience – mostly print media, some broadcast, vertical niche producers. High production/high value content. Our problems – Google, social media, the nature of content itself (what’s "good"?), something he calls "bounce" (that people don’t stay long on the site), and free (if not now, then eventually).

Approaches his lab sees: "Head to head on search" – competing with Google. It doesn’t matter if your search is better, you’re not going to win that way. "Cease and desist orders" – content is showing up all over the place, but it’s a losing battle. Unless there are really strong safeguards in place, it will always be the case that the last battle you fought will be fought over and over and over again. He refers to it as an "arms race". Also, "web mirroring" – so the content provider can become the "one-stop shop".

He brings up cell phones – where cell adoption in developing nations leapfrogged land lines. Don’t bother to solve the problems, just jump over them.

"We want to get rid of the text box."

And now he launches into a series of abstractions that are impossible to document but utterly riveting to listen to.

Now we are looking at "The Relevance Engine" – he shows us a Word document. The RE runs a series of analytics on the doc, and pulls up information from the web, discussions, experts, educational sources, etc. – it’s called "Watson". Pretty cool!

Then he shows the server side version of it. Shows us a prototype with the Chicago Sun-Times. Now he’s showing us a diagram of how it works. There is absolutely no danger of anyone here stealing this idea.

On to video! "Beyond Broadcast" works with a TiVo box – looks at the channel, the time, and the close-caption; the code builds a micro-site based on the context. Took it to online video.  

It’s a white-label solution that provides related content to what you are displaying.

No matter what you’re searching for, there is always spam. Any way to harness spam technology for "good"? "Make my Page" checks search engines, takes the queries, and looks for related content and pulls together a new document in a structured and contextual way. It’s also responsive to the audience – editable.

"My goal is I want to rid the world of search."  

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Licensing Digital Content

Moderated by Dan Duncan of McGraw-Hill; panelists are Caitlin Grusaukas, a law student; Mindy Pennington, librarian at Pfizer; Ed Colleran, CCC; Dominic Young, News Int’l.

Oops, I just unplugged the camera by mistake. That lapse in video? My fault. Sorry.

Question to panel: "What do users not like?" Caitlin: "Younger people have expectations that everything is going to be free. We’re used to having everything at our fingertips – for a lot of people of my generation, the idea of copyright is something that we associate with MP3s and Napster, but people are not quite as cognizant of copyright restrictions on news and websites; access means that you can share it." Mindy: "People want to make it easy to share, and checking rights takes time. More and more people want to use content on their mobile device, and there’s also issues around who they can share it with." People doing research together who don’t have the same copyright clearance…it’s difficult. Ed: "From the user standpoint, two big themes are ease of use, but they also want a broader set of rights; collaboration is a key to the business community." Dominic: "We’re giving our users everything for free" – but he is also part of ACAP, which tries to allow those who own and control content to set the rules themselves.

Dan: "Many of the users don’t even look at terms and conditions when they access content; the language is confusing, reads like a contract." Dominic: "It’s important for users to know what they can and can’t do, and making it difficult for them doesn’t help anybody. Doing it in a way that’s compatible with how the internet works is really important – the tools aren’t there to do that." Dan to Mindy: "Are users educated as to terms and conditions?" Mindy: "Users never see the legal contracts. For purposes of reprints and taking things to conferences, we’ve implemented the CCC tool. We let users know what they’re allowed and not allowed to do with it. Most people are fairly cognizant of what they’re allowed to do."

Dan points out that content-generating/IP companies are generally more cognizant.

Caitlin: "In the broader university community, access is all seamless." But she points out that she can’t always print, or access, everything – the copyright restrictions affect access.

Mindy: "License trumps copyright – there may be rights available to you that are not necessarily there under copyright." Dan: "Likewise licensing agreements can restrict."

Dan throws to Dominic…ACAP. "ACAP comes out of the free user industry, and the way the content is accessed and used by search engines works well for some publishers and not so well for others. The idea is that it can be done machine-to-machine, but to scale up the capability on the network."

Ed: "There’s also an opportunity here with the advent of social media tools and online communities – some publishers have found a branding opportunity for their content."

Dan to Caitlin – would students pay for content? Caitlin: Students want information/media fast and quick, they’d be interested in paying a little bit for that. Mindy: Why aren’t publishers releasing content in different formats, ones that would allow for ad placement? A lot of end users would like to flip through the journal even virtually, rather than article by article in a database.

Dan to Ed and Dominic – what now? Dominic stresses ACAP. He is difficult to hear; I don’t think he’s miked well. Ed: "It’s not just about text content anymore – people want the video clip, the photograph – we see that as a big thing going down the line. It’s not just the publishers, but authors as well – authors are taking a more predominant role, self-publishing, and that sort of thing.

Dan to Ed: "What ABOUT the authors?" Ed: "We see a whole other market, the Creative Commons type of authors, anybody who wants to get paid for certain uses and allowing it to be accessed for free for other uses."

Dan to Mindy: "Next 5 years?" Mindy: Micropayments, further chunkability. And chunkability in terms of audience, not just content – only 10 people want to use this chart. "A more granular approach to how we’re going to do licensing."

Dan cites some MicroScripts: "Ease of use. Compliance." Also education. Publishers need to educate users about what they can and can’t do. 



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Just got the word – Updike is no longer with us.

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We Interrupt This Broadcast

Via Brantley’s List: The Kindle 2.0, intro’d at the Morgan Library on 2/9, the same day as TOC. http://www.alleyinsider.com/2009/1/kindle-2-coming.

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Lunch Keynote – Mark Walsh

The Lunch Keynote does not mean lunch.

Mark Walsh wants to talk about "Lessons from Politics". Given that he was the CEO of Air America – he has a radio voice. Washington really IS the hot spot; it keeps coming up.

He brings up Oppenheimer, one of my favorite historical characters. Getting on the bus to the detonation – the mathmatician wasn’t on the bus. Oppie: "What up?" Mathie: "If I got the math wrong, none of you is coming back." Point being: "We got the math wrong on everything in the last few months."

His story: In March 2005, he’s at a dinner party for Obama, newly elected Sen from Illinois, who wants to hear what they’re most concerned about. Walsh: "I’m afraid of two things – Democrats never bring a knife to a knife fight; we’re not prepared to push back when the going gets tough. Second, you’re the newly installed freshman senator from Illinois, and YOU’RE the savior of the party?"

He leaps to some assumptions: we have trouble assimilating information, hence sound bites. He brings up Al Gore’s "I invented the internet" problem, and talks about "Microscripts" – one-word scripts that have intense meaning. "Lipstick". "Change". "Maverick".

How does this affect business people? "We must learn to find shorter and shorter ways to express core product features." And that works in reverse, too – you need to have them for your competition as well. Not an elevator speech; a bumper sticker.

He states that Facebook, Twitter, SMS texting all are personal Micro-Scripts. Marketers have to mimic these. And he feels that the current generation 25 and younger have a generational Micro-Script: "Whatever".

Obama is going to "reboot" the country: "He will be a force-feeder of more thoughtful ways to approach things….He is Human Ritalin." This means that transparency, accountability, forethought will resurge. Except most people won’t "get it". 

Walsh’s Micro-Script? "Shift happens".

Question: Well, I didn’t hear the question, but the answer is, "There’s no one to tuck us into bed, and that fear will cause a searching and a hunger. Politicians will be asked not to pander – fear is so deep it cannot be assuaged by micro-scripts. Fear is a magnificent sales point."

Question: "Who does Micro-Scripting well?" "Apple, Wrangler (Real. American. Jeans.). IBM." But some sectors have failed micro-scripting: autos, except Volvo (Drive. Safely.)."

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SIIA Executive Face-Time

Hal Espo, formerly of the DOI Federation and now running Contextual Connections, interviews Glenn Goldberg, president of the Info/Media group at McGraw-Hill. An insider tells me that he reports directly to Terry McGraw. Normally they do webcasts, but this one is in person. Hal apparently does all the Executive Face-Time interviews.
Goldberg seems to be a MH lifer, but prior to that worked in government.
Billion-dollar portfolio, B2B publications are doing well. Because they are a large company, they are selective about the markets in which they participate. It’s a challenging environment in the US but a robust market in China. "Scale and leverage matter." You can overdo on scale, but customer notice is important.
When asked where growth was coming from in the next 12-14 months on the B2B side, he responded that the energy markets have been robust overt he last 5/6 years. MH is in Russia, in Asia – "content really matters; editorial really matters". He mentions the lesson of "sticking to your knitting" – and he’s absolutely right. 
Goldberg looks a bit restless on the stage – as if he’d rather be playing football or something.
Playing in an environment where heavy investment is going on, this is important to MH on a B2B level. 
He talks about the MH Construction Network – over the last 10 years the value prop has not just been around advertising but also around solutions. How leverage-able is your brand in that space? Taken an ad-based business model and developed a really integrated proposition around tracking the lifestyle around commercial construction. Your customer needs to evolve with you. You sometimes have to work at the pace of your markets as well (true enough!).
In-depth about JD Power – bought about 4 years ago. Relationship had primarily been with OEMs. Do a syndicated survey on a yearly basis, but asked themselves what else can be done? They began to do consulting, branching into the "C-Suite" – moving up the value chain of the company.  That kind of evolution doesn’t happen as quickly as some people would like.
Each of the MH businesses has benchmarks/standards (JD Power, S&P, MHE) – "we don’t want to be all things to all people", but building deep w/in certain verticals.
He describes Umbria – a recent acquisition. Until that acquisition, they did syndicated studies every year – but MH needed to provide more assessment more frequently. Umbria has the ability to pull from the web comments about brands, organize these comments based on "tribes" (customer segmentation), and use that to supplement the once-a-year service to add additional value.
What about the customer? Who can get information from just about anywhere, immediately? "We still believe people care about quality content; we think it’s a balance."
What role does advertising play? "Advertising was the core of many of the franchises that we own – absolutely essential part of the value prop of our B2B business, but we have dramatically morphed those business models" – getting away from ads. "You don’t want to mess up your brand." Apparently there’s great interest in monetizing that content on the web, but they don’t want to dilute the brand. "You need to be thoughtful around how advertising plays."
As for the commoditizing of news? "We’re in the content business, but how we do that is changing." He cites Steve Adler – "create content as we always have, winning awards, helping people make important decisions. We’ll also curate content. What are the best thinkers saying about a subject? And we’ll also create communities via the Business Exchange Online."
What about television – particularly local broadcast television? "It needs to change – there’s no question it needs to change. News early in the day and late at night is still relevant. I don’t think it’s the medium – it’s partly about the value proposition – we need to invest in local news; we do believe it has a role to play. There’s still an incredible value in broadcast. There’s a dichotomy going on – you have these big events like the Super Bowl or Academy Awards, and you have local events. The balance is something we’re all trying to figure out."
And the big question: "What keeps you up at night?"
The answer is "I say the same thing everybody else does. We have people who understand what the customer needs. I think I have the right people to really be a part of the solution for the next 25 years – but we don’t always get it right. How do you get the tech people and content people to talk the same language? Can you get it done, can you break down the barriers and align people and keep things simple?"
And what about the children? "The world truly is borderless now – it’s great for countries, individuals, and business. At the end of the day, all of our kids still need to build relationships. And they’ll be a little bit different, the devices will be a bit different, but they still need to be holistic about it."
Audience questions: 
John Blossom: "One of the challenges you must be facing is that sometimes benchmarks change and get questioned – how do you see the role of S&P these days as benchmarks are changing?" Goldberg: "We’re very proud of the fact that over the last 50 years we’ve helped create a language around the credit business that’s being used and will be used for many years. We welcome the opportunity to respond to this – the most important thing is to take uncertainty out of the marketplace."
Lee Greenhouse: "In an environment like this, there’s a lot of pressure to trim costs in a hurry – what are the risks as manager that you’ll overreact and cut back too much and find out later you should have been more selective or surgical?" Goldberg: "That’s the balance, isn’t it? Here’s Platt’s doing really well, and we have a very large presence in Washington covering regulatory issues. But we’ve made a decision to cut back in Washington and redeploying on a global level." 
Another questioner talks about "selling information by the pound on a subscription level" – I think of a lot of library and institutional subscriptions. 
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More SIIA notes

We’re about to reconvene – I have my beloved Firefox working, and I am praying to the Sudafed gods to DRY ME THE HELL UP. And unclog my ears so I can hear things.

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