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The value of interlocking services (managing information overload revisited)

The value of interlocking services (managing information overload revisited)

One of the all-time most popular posts on this blog was lengthy discussion of the tools I used to manage information overload, circa 2009. Obviously there are lots of new services since then, and hardware like the iPad yielded changes in my workflow. I’ve been meaning to do an updated version of that post, but I’ve been daunted by the fact that even the smallest tweak to my network of apps led to paragraphs of rewrites that looked to be longer than the original piece.

As I was mulling that, I was setting up a new entry in my invoicing software package for a new consulting client. I added them to Basecamp, my primary project management tool, which automagically added them both to Harvest (invoicing service) and Omnifocus (to-do list on steroids). It occurred to me that interoperability with other services really is the new killer app. It’s both an important feature to sell me on a service and a huge barrier to switching from an existing tool.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this is Spootnik, a service that ties together Basecamp and Omnifocus,┬ásynchronizing┬áto-dos and projects across the two packages. (If the two sound redundant, think of them as a Venn diagram of my personal projects and to-dos intersecting with the common projects on which I interact with teams.) Its whole raison d’ etre is enabling interoperability and it does the job so seamlessly that on the rare occasions I need customer service or to deal with billing, I’ve forgotten the name of the company and have to do some searching.

The point is, that in an increasingly wired world with a panoply of devices, the one feature that trumps all is interoperability. Without it, I’m unlikely to take the time to try a product. With it, there’s too much pain in switching to indulge a wandering eye.

Take for example, NetNewsWire, my RSS reader of choice on the Mac and iPad. Is it the best? No. They’ve fallen a bit behind on cutting-edge features. But it integrates so seamlessly with Instapaper and Omnifocus that I don’t even entertain a switch.

So how does this play outside of the app ecosystem? How about in news? While major media companies still (still!) dither over how much of their legacy-driven content to put online and how much of a story to reveal in RSS, the content world continues its relentless march of promiscuity and medium-agnosticism. Portals are dying as a concept, and it becomes just as important to ensure that your news content — and even more importantly, your ad content — translates to where it is consumed, whether that is in Flipboard, on Facebook, on some other mashup-reader technology, or even the unlikely destination of your own website.

That’s not where most media producers are at — especially as regards advertising. This is a hugely disruptive opportunity. How can we ensure that the things that drive revenue for a media business — advertising, unique content and curated environment — translate to all floors of the Tower of Babel?

A recent comparison of subscription news services to invaluable web services showed a huge gap between value and price. The challenge for content creators shouldn’t be a rush to the bottom for price, but a new way of looking at the question: How can one make their content and advertising services worth as much as Gmail, Dropbox or Omnifocus? It can be done.

But it won’t be easy.

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