Sunday, October 01, 2006

XPRL - Game-On.

There has been some discussion about a paper I wrote and which is being privately distributed but affects us all. It is about XPRL called "XPRL - Game-On". I have been asked for copies and though it more relevant to post it here.

The big issue for PR, as the paper explians is how the industry can use information from many sources and bring it together as tools for practitioners to use.

The evolution of software development such as AJAX mean that we can use Web 2.0 much more effectively with a PR mark up language conforming to a W3C based schema.

It sounds and is technical. The industry can no longer hold its nose when we talk about this sort of thing because it is pregressively being dragged into the use of more technology based services which is described here.

Introduction

In 2001, the big consultancy fee earning driver was financial reporting. It caused the accountancy firms, stock markets and the regulatory authorities to come together in common cause to develop XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language - http://xbrl.org).

The biggest accounting firm now boasts: “Getting the right information to the right people at the right time—faster, more accurately, and with greater efficiency—is vital in today’s business world. Which is why investors and analysts alike favour XBRL” (PwC 2006). The culmination of this work was the announcement in August 2006 that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has plans for its own XBRL analysis tools that feature easy-to-use software that will allow any investor, analyst, or company to access the benefits (note 4).

In the intervening years, a considerable shift in web development, especially in advertising for relationship building has moved on-line.

"In the month of June alone, our web properties at FOX Interactive attained 30 billion page views, and just yesterday served 4 billion ads (Murdoch 2006)."

Each quarter the shift from traditional media advertising shows a significant change in favour of the Internet. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reported that Internet advertising revenues reached a new record of $3.9 billion for the first quarter of 2006."

In addition, there is realisation in the public relations sector that on-line developments are becoming pivotal to the future of Public Relations.

Sir Martin Sorrel CEO of WPP, the second largest adverting, public relations and marketing services group worldwide commented that "One of the interesting thing(s) is that the new technologies, the blogs, the development of Web sites, the development of social networking sites, is really ...... giving a new driver to public relations and public affairs. Paid-for publicity, it is known from research, is probably less effective than editorial publicity." (Sir Martin Sorrel Augst 2006).

Omnicom's Fleishman-Hillard Interactive note that "The Internet and interactive technologies are changing how people communicate. New skills, new strategies, and new capabilities are needed today to build brands, manage relationships, and interact directly with key audiences."

Guy Lambert joint managing director of OgilvyOne also indicates the increasing demand for digital involvement. "Agencies have to really understand the digital agenda and they need to reorganise agencies around putting digital at the heart of the agency," Lambert says.

This is a very different picture to five years ago.

To drive this new era, the Public Relations industry now needs the same capabilities as those developed by the financial sector half a decade ago. In many ways, with the growth of social networking, much of it driven by application of XML (note 4a), there is an urgency of far greater import than developments hitherto.

XPRL, the global Public Relations industry wide eXtensible Markup Language (XML) is now pivotal to realisation of the potential for the Public Relations sector.

This paper explores these developments and the opportunities and proposes a route map with some financial and specialist resources already penciled in.


Why is XPRL so important today


Until recently the application of PR programmes could be separated. Financial PR, Press relations, corporate affairs and the many other domains of PR practice could operate without significant interoperability. The means for communication were discrete and independent.

Social media

The rise and rise of blogging, the evolution of citizen journalism, podcasting, wiki's and convergence between communications platforms such as PC's, mobile text, voice and video and iPods seems to be a sudden and pervasive evolution.

The ability to offer content and interactivity on these platforms has two notable features. First is an ability to spread content (RSS) and second is to transpose content from on platform or channel to another (e.g. blog to wiki to calendar to spreadsheet and back). This is facilitated more by the application of XML than any other technology.

Content

In addition, there is a need for a different form of content. The evolution of interlinked content such as that proposed by the New Media Release (Note 5 ) and knowledge management capabilities under development by PR developers (Note 6) are but two examples of significant developments within the Public Relations sector. To be interoperable with client content, requires software development this is easy when using a recognised XML standards and complex and expensive to develop and maintain when it is bespoke.

In the meantime other sectors are undergoing huge change like the publishing industry and they too have been pushed into action. The International Press Telecommunications Council has continued its development of an XML standard, NewsML (Note 7). It is a standard that PR developments will need to recognise to allow interaction with press release distribution vendors, news agencies, web content aggregators and search engines to smoothly exchange news, text, photos or other media using standard XML modules and tools. The result will be lower costs and shorter development for news agencies and news system vendors who face the challenges of presenting news on the web and a wide range of personal electronic devices.

Volume

The evolution of social media is forcing the Public Relations industry to monitor off-line newspapers, their on-line versions and added value content, on-line only publications, blogs, wiki's podcasts etc. At the same time there is need to make sense of this huge volume of content using a range of techniques from Google Trends to traditional evaluation companies. The industry now has to find software vendors to bring these data together in order that relationship, and especially reputation management can respond 24 hours a day and at speed.

In order to make this happen, there is a need for these vendors to deliver their content in such a way that it can be used in cross vendor applications. This 'interoperability' is key if the PR sector is to offer services to respond to the influences of social media. Interoperability is dependent on common standards.

PR independent vendors


Were this just a matter for the PR industry, bespoke solutions for individual departments and agencies would be, if less than adequate, at least possible. This is not happening. A raft of vendors with no connection with PR have content and data that is used by public relations practitioners. The content and statistical data are available from many applications (Note 8).

Without common standards to allow different vendors' data to interact, the PR industry is at a disadvantage.

Developers


PR software exists. More is coming available but for such a diverse industry and with so many different domains of practice, the numbers of software developers working in this sector is minuscule.

Part of the reason is that every programme and every data fields has to be specified every time a new programme is called for. It is expensive and always one off. Integrating data between one system and another is trying, updating legacy data is difficult. There is almost no open source movement behind the PR sector.

The simple expedient of specifying XPRL compliant software would change the whole industry and the range of products and services available to practitioners.


Interoperability



In simple terms, what XPRL does is to offer names for information and data so that different software programmes know what the data are.
There are many ways of describing a press release or media release or press notice or..... For a computer programme this is confusing. Media reach, circulation, distribution is another example.

To be able to develop capability for simple things like distributing media releases, there is a need for a standard to allow a range of data to be processed without confusing the many computers between the PR executive and the newspaper, television station, blog, cell phone or wiki.

The PR industry needs interoperability.

Meet international norms


To get interoperability it needs a standard and the best standard is the one provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (WW3) but which needs adaptation to the requirements of Public Relations.

There would seem to be an opportunity for a big group to develop their own XML format. Why not? It would offer competitive edge and would exclude others. A schema developed for group subsidiaries like PR firms, evaluation companies, press release distributors, research and evaluation companies and new media agencies would be quite sensible.

Co-operation


Except that, as soon as there were are two suppliers (today there are three XML executions for press lists, umpteen for news distribution and even more for media evaluation) of information and so the existing (confusing and unusable) data transfers will remain and the PR industry will have to continue to make different data match up as now.

And now? At present we use people.

Account executives cut and paste data to prepare research, content, distribution, evaluation and reports. The cost is high, accuracy is a management problem and other vendors easily usurp the PR role.

Multi platform multi channel


At present this is manageable. The introduction of five (e.g. blogs, wikis, podcast, print media, broadcast radio and TV), ten (add mobile sms, Instant messaging, VoIP, vidcast, etc) or more communications channels across a dozen different platforms to reach a single public for a campaign will make cut and past impossible.

The number of platforms and the number of communication channels keeps growing.

At the same time, globalisation means that there is a need for a single international standard. A single PR schema.

For a single company or group to achieve an accepted standard would be, at best, very difficult.


Competition


Competition is coming from where it is least expected. The audience is often the source of news. The amateur competes with the professional. MySpace with its 30 billion hits per month is mostly home to the amateur relationship builder and content provider. These people already have XML.

The publishing industry (NewsML) is already laying out its capability to distribute content to a common standard. The financial sector (XBRL) has adopted a standard for management reporting because the PR industry could not.

RSS having usurped email in many cases is about to replace the news clipping industry (where so many of the vendors have - each - an XML execution).

The need for multi channel, multi source output interoperability is critical between vendors and agencies as much as between client agency, communication channel and feedback.

At present the industry is at a disadvantage.


Future aims

Excite the Industry

Never before has there been such an opportunity for an industry sector.

We are now talking about billions of interactions every month where PR can blossom (Note 9).

From a process of developing relationships with a few journalistic intermediaries, mostly at a national level to building global relationships with intermediaries and the end user is a big leap. It is full of opportunities and rewards.

The PR industry desperately needs a range of tools to be able to realise such ambitions. We need to know what these tools need to achieve and we need to be able to attract the expertise to build them.

The best developers are going to develop products that have large and global markets. A beggar thy neighbour approach will reduce the total size of the market, hamstring software creativity and will encourage competitors to usurp swathes of relationship building and management from the PR sector.

Working together will grow our markets, revenues and profitability.

Provide a platform to respond to new media opportunities

The present schema still stands and forms a basis for development. Industry wide adoption or significant uptake will help development of capability in the old and 'new media' sectors now.

There is a need to build on the existing schema to provide added 'new media' capability and to provide capability for service integration and interoperability.

There is a need to encourage the software developer base, using XPRL, to create software for the industry at least comparable with other sectors like engineering, pharmesuticals and banking.

Enhance revenue and profitability with better service


It is possible for the Public Relations Industry to achieve what the financial sector achieved? Yes of that there is no doubt. because the adoption of XPRL into XBRL will create added revenue and enhance profitability.

For press relations, initiatives like the New Media Release offer so much more to practice by way of added, measurable reach that revenue and profit will follow.

An ability to interact with new media using automation tools will add to capability, increase capability and reduce cost.

Added transparency and fluid project management for executing PR programmes in a time when the news (especially the social media driven news) changes fast will save time, cut cost and improve service very quickly.

The PR industry needs to sell this idea to itself. The belief of Sir Martin Sorrel is that the PR sector will grow. XPRL can make a major contribution to this growth by opening up added capability in the area of web and social media software.

Way forward

Requirements

From Leeds Metropolitan University and a private donor, XPRL already has an investment of over $100,000. It needs to continue to extend its capability and needs a route map.

This comes in a number of steps:

  • Identify capability to underpin future development
    • A cross discipline PR/social technology research resource to identify the extant and evolving needs of the PR industry
  • Identify and recruit leaders in the Public Relations sector who have the drive and ambition to access the benefits for their own businesses and the market in general
    • A group of leaders in the field who have existing and developing interests in the evolution of Public Relations as it changes to meet the effects of global communications development.
  • Agreement, among industry leaders and the institutions that represent the Public Relations sector, to drive this opportunity forward including commitment to aid the evolution of the software and systems development base through adoption of global, industry wide standards for software and data interoperability (note 10).
  • Implement a programme of development and inter schema relationships (e.g. XBRL, NewsML, New Media Release etc)
    • This requires co-operation among existing vendors and other schema as well as, in some instances, regulators.
  • Public Relations for the concept internally to the Public Relations sector and its external stakeholders and publics.


Existing offers and potential

Recent interest in the evolution of XPRL has provided new imputus for the inititative. In less than a week, as the benefits of XPRL re-emerged a groundswell of interest has emerged that speak to the above agenda:

  1. Cross discipline PR/social technology research
    1. An offer has been made to sponsor up to half the cost of PhD research over a three year period. There is a need for matched funding to create a total pool to the value of $500,000. This generous offer, with its matched counterpart, will provide the PR industry world wide with both technical and PR related research into the opportunities and technologies that can be depolyed by the industry to inform the development of XPRL to assist development of Internet mediated PR, software design and practitioner opportunity.
  2. Leaders in the Public Relations sector
    1. A mini summit on deliverables from XPRL with a few of the very big hitters from the commissioning side (consultancy heads and in-house) to make sure the project delivers what they need. Colin Farrington, the Director General of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, has volunteered the Institutes facilities for the meeting.
    2. There are a number of leaders in the Public Relations industry who have made very public statements about the opportunities for the Public Relations sector. They include Sir Martin Sorrel, Richard Edelman and Toni Muzi Falconi, the ex President of the Global Allience and many senior executives in a range of consultancies. In addition there are enthusiasts like the UK Governement Minister, David Miliband.
  3. Aid the evolution
    1. This will require public relations and negotiation to generate effective funding levels. Lou Capozzi, president elect of ICCO has expressed a wish to be involved and its Director General Simon Quarendon has been briefed. Offers of support have come from David Rosen (NewYork), Toni Muzi Falconi (Methodos S.p.A) who has been very active in New York and among international leaders.
  4. Programme implementation
    1. This will needs to be driven by a small professional and properly funded team. It will mean restructuring the present arrangement and there is every reason to propose that XPRL should have representatives and competencies in many countries.
  5. Public Relations
    1. Toni Muzi Falconi (NYU) has resourced a group to prepare a global Public Relations plan.
    2. A concerted and dedicated competence is required.

Conclusion

The PR industry needs XPRL. In addition, it is the time for XPRL.
The PR industry cannot be very effective in grasping its current opportunities without it.
The way it can operate and the way it can evolve is reasonably clear cut.

While, on the face of it, there is a need for a great deal of goodwill, the underlying drivers are so significant that missing the opportunity will be negligent.

The PR sector has passed up the opportunity to be involved in enhanced revenue and profits through the application of XPRL once because of a lack of understanding that technology is important to PR however remote it may be from daily practice.

Today, technology is on every desk, Google news, Blogs and RSS are migrating across the industry like a virus. Every practitioner is now face to face with technology and, love it or hate it, it is not going away.

This second opportunity, many dimensions greater than the last can be grasped given cooperation, even self interested cooperation of the users of PR and PR services.

With our first donation of this round already offered, XPRL is at the disposal of every practitioner who is excited by the prospect of working among the hundreds of millions of people and billions of interactions that are on offer to the industry now.












Footnotes

1 Rupert Murdoch August 2006 Seeking Alpha http://internet.seekingalpha.com/article/15237
2 PwC 2006 http://www.pwcglobal.com/extweb/service.nsf/docid/6BBA4081197E4EAA80256F500038FA6B
3 Sir Martin Sorrel 2006 http://edition.cnn.com/2006/BUSINESS/08/18/sorrell.intvw/
4a An example is explained at http://www.alwayson-network.com/comments.php?id=12133_0_3
4 The Financial PR sector was excluded from this dramatic development because it did not lever the value of XPRL in these developments.
5 New Media Release discussion list http://groups.google.com/group/newmediarelease and podcast http://forimmediaterelease.biz/index.php/weblog/nmrcast_7_real_world_implementations_09_08_06/
6 Cogenz http://blog.cogenz.com/
7 NewsML http://www.newsml.org/pages/index.php
8 Some data providers include Flikr http://www.flickr.com/, Digg digg.com, Technorati http://www.technorati.com/, Google Trends http://www.google.com/trends and products like Google Zeitgeist http://www.google.co.uk/press/zeitgeist.html, BlogBeat http://www.blogbeat.net/ etc
9 "In the month of June alone, our web properties at FOX Interactive attained 30 billion page views, second only to Yahoo! and just yesterday served 4 billion ads." Rupert Murdoch
10 A draft proposal on XML membership and membership benefits is being considered.

For historical news about XML see: http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=xml&btnG=Search+Archives&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
For historical news of developments of XBRL see: http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=xbrl&btnG=Search+Archives&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
For a historical news of development of NewsML see: http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=newsml&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&btnG=Search+Archives

Other related schemas: