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Thought Leadership Series – 67 Bricks 

Content & data: the future is blended

B2B, specialist and academic publishers have a golden opportunity to provide their communities with must-have intelligence through blending their data with expert analysis and commentary, as 67 Bricks’ Will Bailey and Jennifer Schivas tell James Evelegh.

By James Evelegh

Content & data: the future is blended

You can find out more about 67 Bricks in our Publishing Services Directory.

‘Blending’ is the key.

Selling access to data as a separate subscription or product to more traditional expert content such as articles, reports and news is a common business model for publishers, but that model is looking increasingly dated.

To succeed in today’s data- and AI-driven world, publishers need to adopt a blended approach in order to power the enhanced products and services users are fast coming to expect.

Modern users expect insights at their fingertips and to be served answers based on the knowledge contained in multiple places – not to navigate to different places to trawl through disparate datasets and articles; they expect to be able to interrogate results instantly and conversationally; for what they interact with to be personalised, highly relevant and curatable.

Modern publishers must create new products that blend their existing content and data and have the flexibility to pull in new content types and sources, to better serve this change in behaviour.

It’s essential that publishers “reduce the time to value”, says Will. This can only be done by uniting your content and data to unlock its true potential. This involves moving away from traditional mindsets which have their roots in print and instead treating everything you publish as a linked data asset which can be sliced and diced to provide real value to the end user. “Breaking silos can be hard” he adds, “often your legacy content won’t have been tagged or stored in a way that makes product innovation easy or quick – that’s something we can help with.”

Three opportunities

67 Bricks is an Oxford-based technology consultancy. When I met up with Will (head of partnerships) and Jennifer (CEO) in March, they were keen to outline the opportunities for publishers.

Their blended approach has been successfully adopted by clients such as the Economist Intelligence Unit and Enhesa Product (formerly Chemical Watch) and they are looking to repeat that success with other publishers.

Will Bailey, head of partnerships, 67 Bricks.

The goal for publishers should be to become the must-have information source for their community by providing the information they need, when they need it, where they need it and in the form they need it.

Bringing content and data into one place and managing it at a granular level is the only way to do this.

The first opportunity is simply to be the must-have information source in their sector. If companies can’t do business without you, then that brings considerable financial reward.

The second opportunity is to expand the potential customer base for their information product. Because information and service levels can now be personalised and tiered, the product can be useful to multiple people within a client company, not just c-suite executives. As a result, publishers can apply more sophisticated pricing models. A bronze / silver / gold pricing structure, for instance, allows for more entry-level participation and for publishers to develop the different tiers so as to draw people up the value pyramid.

The third opportunity is the ability to accelerate the process of new product development. It is much easier to consider the business potential of the information you hold when it is broken down into manageable subsets, rather than when it is presented in the unwieldy and monolithic way it was previously. Before, publishers would struggle to see the wood for the trees when considering their data assets; no longer.

Ultimately, these opportunities can best be summed up in terms of revenue potential. When Chemical Watch adopted a blended approach, their repeatable revenues rose by 40%, says Jennifer.

The GenAI effect

Recent and much-publicised advances in AI are the reason now is the time to act.

The new GenAI models are having a significant impact on publishers. Firstly, they are a great enabler, helping publishers prepare and categorise data more quickly and accurately, reducing the time it takes to get a product to market.

This, of course, cuts both ways. By lowering the barriers to entry, AI is effectively opening up markets to increased competition.

And, whilst much of the early attention on GenAI platforms focused on their unreliability, publishers shouldn’t become complacent.

GenAI’s reliability and trustworthiness are improving rapidly. As Jennifer pointed out, the difference between GPT 3.5 and 4 was considerable and unless publishers are careful, they will be faced with a situation where a GenAI model is providing an 80% accurate version of what you provide, but for free, which will put your business at risk.

Publishers need to protect their market position by continuing to overlay levels of service and expertise which their GenAI-enabled competitors won’t be able to match and which their community will be prepared to continue paying a premium for.

Will adds, “for publishers that own their data and have added value analysis, articles, and other longer-form content which complement one another, blending them together provides a bit of a moat against GenAI disruption.”

Jennifer Schivas, CEO, 67 Bricks.

GenAI is not only altering the competitive landscape; it is also changing user expectations about how data is used and found.

As Jennifer says, an increasing proportion of internet searches are now being framed as natural language questions as opposed to keywords, with results being presented as answers rather than a series of links. Designers of information products need to be able to provide information in ways that modern users are comfortable with.

So, I ask Will and Jennifer, what are the secrets of success when it comes to creating a blended content and data product? They had a number of suggestions:

  • Work out where your value lies: You need to establish what value your information has and to whom. What can your potential customers do with the information you provide them? Why do they use your data and not publicly available datasets? Why won’t they do that in the future as LLM-powered new entrants appear? Identify those differentiators and build features and services that strengthen them.
  • Agree on your business goals: To measure success, companies need to be clear in their goals before embarking on building anything and to ensure that they keep these goals in mind throughout.
  • Find and bring together all your data: This will involve a data audit to identify all the data you hold. In many cases, this will be siloed by brand or publishing channel. Once identified, it needs be extracted, tagged and merged with the rest of your data.
  • Change how you see yourself: Successful players in this space have stopped seeing themselves as publishers pushing out content, but as intelligence platforms providing answers.
  • Restructure your commercial teams: The process of selling blended content and data products will be very different to what your sales teams have been used to selling in the past, so they will need to be retrained. An important part of this will be to change the way they are incentivised.
  • Foster a collaborative culture: Your business and technical teams should work together on new projects from the get-go. What should be avoided is the business teams writing a detailed specification in isolation before handing it over to the tech team, to similarly work on in isolation.
  • Involve your users in the process of product design and development: This will help you maintain focus on meeting customer needs and give the project momentum as would-be users embrace it.
  • Be agile and embrace change: The pace of change is unlikely to slacken, so you need to be comfortable with that. Your information products will need to constantly evolve. Don’t expect them ever to be “finished”.
  • Use AI: It’s a huge business enabler, but you need to keep in mind that it’s also an enabler for your competitors.
  • Start small and specific: Pick the most valuable user need you can support and build out from there. Make space to learn and evaluate as you go, otherwise you can end up pursuing a dead end.
  • Define ‘content’ broadly: Content is not just long-form text. Blog posts, infographics, podcasts, video, events are all assets to be incorporated into your blended product.
  • Don’t miss out on the holy grail: Having your information product embedded into a customer’s workflow is an incredibly strong place to be. Always keep that possibility in mind.

Their final bit of advice is simply … get started! It’s very easy to get stuck at first base.

“You know you have something of value to offer, you know you need to make changes to realise it, and, yes, you know there are risks involved. It’s all too easy to succumb to analysis paralysis, feeling the need to spec something out to the nth degree,” says Jennifer.

“There is help at hand,” adds Will Bailey; “companies like 67 Bricks can work with you to assess your current assets, facilitate ideation, create an actionable roadmap and then build and deliver. Taking it step by step means you’ll be more likely to end up with the right tool, and something that can be built on in the future – not just a snapshot of what you thought you wanted when you started.”

“Get in touch to see how we can help you unlock your blended content and data potential,” says Jennifer Schivas.

67 Bricks provides technology consultancy and full-service product development for information companies.




In the May / June issue of InPublishing magazine, 67 Bricks provides a guide to generating ROI from GenAI.