This paper was submitted for publication and is copyright to Barry Schaeffer© 2005.
Published here May 2006.

Editor's Note | Introduction | First Things First | The Heart of Today's Effort
Markup Protocols | Pressure to Produce | The Consumer Side is the Most Important
Holistic Markup Design | Stakeholder Involvement

The Consumer Side is the Most Important

While the creation and management side of the information life cycle is the part with which developers and technicians are most familiar, the consumption side is perhaps the most important. Consumers, by their willingness or otherwise to fund information products, set their value, including markup, albeit indirectly. This was masked in the early days of electronic information product delivery because the public would accept anything that appeared on the screen. So publishers rushed to fill this unsophisticated demand with whatever they had lying around and could convert for electronic delivery.

However, as early as the mid-nineties, the consuming public began showing signs of increasing discrimination, selecting quality in what they used on the Web and paying only for what they judged to be truly valuable. To meet this need, the electronic publishing community tried to fund its free delivery of information products through ads sold on its web sites. Near the end of the nineties, this too broke down as advertisers realized that consumers had learned to ignore the ads to get at the information.

Today, information products must be funded either by their producers or consumers, making the cost to create a product of intense interest. Any information product too expensive for the taste of its intended consumers and lacking a philanthropic urge on the part of its producer will wither. To the extent that a markup protocol significantly increases the cost of creating an information product, it puts that product and itself in jeopardy.

For modern information pioneers, perhaps the lesson of these realities is that we must "consider and design for the impact of markup schemes as well as for their value." Where that impact is significant and where portions of the information life cycle are incapable or unwilling to embrace it, the scheme should be re-engineered to a lower level or should provide a clear path from simpler initial adoption to full support. This, by the way, is no trivial task. Many markup protocols can be used only in their fullest incarnation, setting the entry fee for their adoption extremely high.

Pressure to Produce  Pressure to Produce

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