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Publishing 2.0: Tim O’Reilly at Content Evolution - AOP Summit 2006

Tim O’Reilly, Web 2.0 pioneer, and founder and chief executive of O’Reilly Media, spoke about the ‘internetisation’ of everything at the AOP Online Publishing Conference, Content Evolution, on 4 October.

O’Reilly said that the challenge for publishers was whether they can remain the intermediaries between authors and the public. “The question is, how can we be players in the world of user-generated content and mashups? The web will continue, with or without us.”

“The companies are bubbles on the wave – they are not the wave itself,” he said. However, he observed that what all the new successful 2.0 businesses have in common is their use of the internet as a platform.

“They also harness the collective intelligence of users: this is the essence of Web 2.0. Google gets smarter with every click that we make, we tell them what’s important.”

O’Reilly pointed out that whereas Yahoo, the highest trafficked website, employs 9,000 employees, and Time Warner - the second highest - employs 85,000, Craigslist, the seventh highest, employs just 18 staff: “The users are doing all the work.”

He warned against the temptation of having overly restrictive digital rights management (DRM) surrounding content. “It’s a bit like taking a cat to the vet: you have to hold it loosely, or it will claw you. Apple blew Sony out of the water because of its loose approach to DRM.”

He gave the example of photo-sharing site Flickr, where the default privacy setting for sharing access for users’ photos is ‘make this public’.

He argued that publishers should think of their content in terms of a database, and the programming as the new journalism. Syndicated O’Reilly content appears in all kinds of formats, ‘skins’ and layouts on its partners’ sites.

This trend far from negates the need for traditional editing skills, however. “We’re living in the age of the computer-aided editor,” he said, “the role of the editor is as relevant as it has ever been – (s)he just has more powerful tools.”

Asked about the future spectre of Web 3.0, O’Reilly quoted William Gibson: “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” O’Reilly foresees the ‘sensory networked web’, and the line between real and virtual (as explored through imaginary digital world Second Life) as being the two likely major components of Web 3.0.

When asked which UK publishers he thought were ahead of the game, O’Reilly highlighted Nature Publishing which he said was doing “amazing things”. Later that evening Nature Publishing won the award for Best Use of New Digital Platform at the AOP Online Publishing Awards 2006.

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