First a big thanks to our new website sponsors Dell-EMC, Halliburton/Landmark, Teradata and PNEC Conferences whose flagship E&P data management event takes place in Houston in May. Sponsorship support is import to us especially in the downturn. Fortunately for us these companies are taking the long term view, as indeed we are.
On which note, I thought it might be a good thing to reflect on our own future in the ‘lower for longer’ industry scenario. Writing and publishing a journal involves an information pipeline. As you probably work in oil and gas, I expect you know what a pipeline involves. If I was in marketing I would explain the obvious with say the example of the newly OK’d Keystone pipeline which is to bring Canada’s oil sands production down to refineries in the US gulf. Assuming that the Canadian companies buying up the oil sands production can still afford to cook them up and that the Gulf refineries are not at full capacity with revitalized Permian production, in which case the stuff may end up in the tanks in Cushing.
This of course does not help you understand how the information processing process works but right now, writing at the start of the current issue, it feel more like a brim-full tank of information than a freely flowing pipeline.
With over 20 years doing the business the process has become standardized if not terribly efficient. We visit hundreds of websites every month, receive hundreds of emails per day and almost as many press releases. Atop all this is our own content generated from conferences which we attend, either in person or virtually.
Several thousand ‘items’ of various degrees of interest from ‘zero’ to ‘scoop’ flow in prior to every issue. I say this in case you think that we are just sitting here waiting for the next press release to pop into our inbox ready for an arduous cut and paste.
So that’s what goes in. What comes out is what you are looking at now, either on screen or in print. A careful selection of what we believe to be relevant to the oil and gas IT and data community. Well, actually rather more that a selection since we do a massive and growing information processing, editing and (mostly) deleting stuff along the way.
In our early years the process produced something like 25 articles per issue. A number that has not changed significantly, although the word count has risen some, from around 7,000 per issue in 1996 to 10,000 today. What has changed, and what continues to evolve in a way that we believe better serves our readers, is the information intensity.
In 1996, 25 articles was just that. Today, the same number of ‘articles’ in our last issue actually represented almost 100 distinct information items. These have been sourced as above, edited for relevance and length. Comparing our early numbers with today’s publication it is clear that value-add of the editorial process has increased significantly.
The process is very time-consuming and we are increasingly pushed to fit in all of the conference attendances, reporting and information gathering between each edition. We are confronted by, to use a much abused word, the ‘sustainability’ issue. Things are going to have to change, but how?
Back in 2014, for our 200th anniversary issue we carried out a survey of our readership and found that pretty well all of our coverage was appreciated, most all item categories got a pretty good rating. So we do not plan to change our scope significantly. The survey also produced some constructive criticism. Some asked for a ‘major website re-vamp,’ others for an iPad edition, more interviews and more on operational and implementation experiences. There were also calls for some graphics, better article tagging and blog for reader feedback.
This inspired me in December of the same year to make a rash promise to ‘bring search in-house and make it smarter,’ to ‘get something along the lines of IBM Watson running on our information asset’ and to create an ecosystem of websites-of-relevance.’
Three years on I regret to report that none of these noble goals have been met in full. While we have not achieved a ‘major’ website revamp, we have made a lot of incremental improvements including the online PDF edition, which doubles as an ‘iPad edition.’ There are more interviews now, but not so much on implementation experiences. The ecosystem remains a great (IMHO) idea that is yet-to-be implemented.
We do need to do more. Our tweaks so far are more concerned with making the website function as you would expect, rather than adding major functionality. On which subject you may have noticed that this is the first issue where links to past articles work ‘right,’ at least for subscribers.
We need to do more to leverage the two million (at the last count) word resource into something more useful for operators, suppliers, researchers, marketers and students. To do this we are going to, as of 1/01/2018, go down to six issues per year. This will let us do the stuff that time and resources (this is the downturn for us too after all!) have prevented us from doing. Over time we will have a better website, taxonomy-based search, educational tracks and generally a more comprehensive resource. We will also be increasingly differentiating the public (free) website from our corporate subscriber-edition to try to encourage the lurker/headlines-only community to switch, thereby helping out with our ‘sustainability’ issue! Feedback to email@example.com welcome.
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