The economics of the Web have reversed the original business model for online information upon which businesses like LexisNexis and Dialog were built. Through those services, users paid up to $4 for individual articles from daily newspapers that originally cost 25 cents on the newsstand. That model is obviously dead today, where the cost of an individual article – even articles from leading trade magazines and scholarly journals – is effectively zero. Does that mean that publishers, aggregators, and other content owners should police the Web to ensure that their content is not freely distributed? Not at all – one needs only look at the recent case of Wikileaks to see that it will be impossible to keep any content from showing up freely on the Web. As they say, the genie is already out of the bottle, so the only logical step is figuring out how to make money in the current environment. This is where taxonomies can add value – by enabling the creation of new information products that connect disparate pieces of content with high-value applications and new markets.
These applications can be new paths of discovery for scientific or financial research, helping users find new opportunities and connecting them with like-minded individuals. They can leverage the inherent value of a taxonomy to organize content in new and useful ways to adapt to an ever-changing business environment, including new business models for packaging and distribution. They can provide a strategic framework for search engine optimization and monetization through advertising. The most successful companies in the new Web paradigm, like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, are those that are building their businesses around the connectivity of content, people, and products. While in those examples, this connectivity is derived largely out of the behavior of people, conceptual connections are more appropriately the domain of taxonomies.
For a more detailed approach to a taxonomy-driven business strategy, I recommend InfoCommerce Group’s Business Information Framework, which is available as a free download. This report connects the opportunities offered by the effective use of taxonomies with sound business fundamentals, and provides a framework for strategies that can create new value for content owners.