Fast, real-time, low latency, ultra-low latency, sub second – I could go on. The point is that there is so much emphasis on the speed of information these days. Just last week we participated in The Trading Show NYC (@TheTradingShow), which is a one day event for those in the quant and automated trading space. We met a variety of people from different vantage points in the industry, but they all remarked that speed is a factor in how they conduct business. They concluded that the faster the data comes in, the faster they could make decisions.
My kid plants tomatoes every spring. She waters them, gives them some kind of fertilizer, makes sure they get plenty of sunshine and in turn, the plants produce dozens of little bite-sized tomatoes for her enjoyment. I’m always amazed at how little effort it takes to get all those tiny tomatoes.
If I asked ten people what is relevant information I would get 10 different answers. That is because what is relevant to each of us at any given time will be unique to the individual. We may care about the same topic such as a possible acquisition of a large company by a competitor, but I may be concerned with the product availability implications and you might be looking into the economic effects of the area surrounding the acquired business. Just type the company name into a search engine and you will find a lot of information but much of it might not be relevant to you. You might as well grab a cup of coffee and settle down for some serious research or you can take your search to the next level to find relevancy.
In my early days of doing business research, I thought computer searches could solve all of the world’s research problems. One of my first assignments was for a large investment bank that only bought blue chip stocks. I would pull up a company’s stock ticker symbol and see all of its important financial data and news, then create a comprehensive research report. As I started to cross-reference this “tickered” news with additional keyword searches, I immediately saw the problem. Writers would often not include the ticker in a story – or they would include the wrong ticker.
Imagine a high-wire walker. Precariously balanced on a steel cable dozens, perhaps hundreds of feet above the ground, they make forward progress in a calm, deliberate manner. If they lean too far to one side – disaster. Too far to the other side – disaster.
While balancing your content needs is not a life-or-death situation, making sure your company has access to the best content possible can nonetheless be mission critical and make sense of budget constraints.
On one side of this issue you have the social media fire hose. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – and more – in a wide-open, never-ending stream of data. The information comes in too rapidly for most people to follow; not only do they have other things to accomplish, but being constantly pummeled with information quickly becomes exhausting. It may be free and easily accessible, but it can be difficult (at best) to use effectively.
On the other side, you have human-curated content. This will always be the most expensive solution, but its greatest upside is the hands-on approach that gets you only the most very specific data you’ve asked for. The downside here can be that without a wider view, you’ll only ever get exactly what you ask for, and there’s no randomness to the stream of data that might clue you in to something just outside the mainstream that’s breaking in your industry.
Balance, then, is finding the path between these two extremes that is both cost-efficient and highly insightful.
Read Part 1 of this post.
There is an old adage I’m sure you’re familiar with – you get what you pay for. In this case, the lure of free content is powerful. Every company’s budget is stressed and every employee is looking for ways to trim costs. If the tech geeks downstairs in their dark, smelly rooms can write a bit of code that scrapes Google News for today’s top headlines, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of value in paying the Associated Press for their stories.
Except when there is.
Services like Google News don’t care about you, your company or any of your needs. They are going to open the fire hose and send you everything that will fit through it. Makes sense since the name Google is derived from an unfathomable number. Sure, they apply some relevancy magic to bring organization to search results but the rest is up to you. Now there are questions where a search on a search engine will give you exactly the answer you need in an instant: the score of a game, the location of a business, listing of services, etc. Google News can give you the top stories of the day for a variety of topics. If a little monitoring is all your job requires, then free sounds like the way to go while monthly subscriptions are unnecessary. However when there is information you seek that requires a little more research it might be time to open the wallet.
I’ll never forget the day the New York Times put up its pay wall. They had been talking about it for months – in the light of waning subscription numbers, because of waning advertising dollars, they said, we have no choice but to ask you to pay for the news you read on your computer. I used the NYT as one of my go-to sources for news, along with a paper copy of the Washington Post I picked up every day on my way to work.
In the content delivery business, we tend to think of content – not necessarily news – as existing in just a few states – important, relevant and irrelevant.
When a hedge fund management company needed large quantities of news and other information for a data mining project, they quickly found that NewsEdge’s services fit their new needs. Blending their specialization in using artificial intelligence to drive new, exciting investment strategies with NewsEdge’s real-time processing and refinement capabilities was a natural match.
Controlling information is something we tend to associate with despotic, totalitarian governments in far-off places. When we call that information “news” or “content,” though, we want the ability to control it. Not to control what news is produced, but without the ability to control the content we consume, we quickly lose the ability to get at any of the information we want or need.