YDC Appoints of Paul J.J. Payack as President
|In the News|
yourDictionary.com Announces Appointment of Paul J.J. Payack as President and Chief Executive Officer
Strengthens Management Team of the Premier Global Portal for Language on the Worldwide WebJuly 26, 2000, DANVILLE, CA, — yourDictionary.com (YDC), the most comprehensive, and authoritative portal for language, and language-related products and services on the worldwide web today announced that Paul J.J. Payack has accepted the position of President and Chief Executive Officer. Payack joins YDC from Legato Systems, Inc., the Palo Alto, CA-based leader in storage management software where he served as Vice President, Worldwide Marketing.”We are quite pleased to have an executive of Paul’s experience joining yourDictionary.com,” said George Wilson, Chairman and founder, “Paul brings to the YDC team an unparalleled set of experience and hands-on expertise in both the technical and consumer marketplaces.”Previous to Legato, Payack has served as a senior marketing and communications executive for some of the industry’s technology leaders, including Intelliguard Software, the Network Systems Corporation, The Dun & Bradstreet Coorperation, and Unisys. Payack began his career in Massachusett’s ‘Route 128 Technology Corridor’ at Apollo Computer, Inc., Wang Laboratories, and the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).”It will be a pleasure working with Paul,” said Dr. Robert Beard, the Chief Linguistic Officer and C.T.O of yourDictionary.com. “Paul not only possesses the technological and management skill set required, but as a published author and student of language has an appreciation for the written word that is absolutely essential to helping YDC adhere to its original mission of a truly global resource for the world’s linguistic communities.””YDC is poised to extend its leadership position as the world’s most comprehensive, and authoritative language portal,” said Payack, “We will build on our significant strengths, which include:
Payack is a noted lecturer on high tech Marketing and Communications, speaking at industry forums, universities, and corporations, such as BusinessWeek’s Digital Economy and CIO’s Perspectives, the University of Texas, Babson College, and the University of Massachusetts, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Hughes Aircraft unit of General Motors, and many others.
A published author, his work has appeared in dozens of collections, journals and reviews, including New Letters, the Paris Review, Boulevard and Creative Computing. A graduate of Harvard University, Payack currently resides with his wife and children in Danville, CA.
yourDictionary.com has been recognized as the web’s pre-eminent language portal by dozens of organizations around the world. Most recently, yourDictionary.com was selected as the “Best of the Web for Reference” by Forbes magazine. Other recent accolades have come from The New Yorker, the BBC, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Washington Post, USA Today, and Yahoo Internet Life, among many others.
The Advisory Council of Experts
Preserving the World’s Linguistic Heritage
Dictionary Publishers Going Digital (NYTimes)
|In the News|
yourDictionary.com Announces Purchase of ‘Web of Online Dictionaries’
|Reproduced with permission from The New York Times
Dictionary Publishers Going Digital
A Low Margin Business Sees Profits on the Web
By David D. Kirkpatricklogomachy ( n. an argument about words) is brewing on the Web.August 21, 2000 — Houghton Mifflin plans to publish the fourth edition of the American Heritage dictionary next month, the volume’s first major overhaul in eight years. The new edition is full of changes sure to arouse lexicographers — color illustrations, notes on slang and a new appendix describing Semitic as well as Indo-European roots.But what has the publisher most excited is happening outside the covers, as Houghton Mifflin hustles to sell electronic versions of its dictionary for inclusion in other companies’ software, Web sites and digital publications.Houghton Mifflin is not alone. Its major rivals — most notably Merriam-Webster and Microsoft’s year-old Encarta dictionary — are all stepping up their digital dictionary efforts to tap an increasingly lucrative market, setting up a business contest that philologists say will also affect the way Americans use English.Electronic novels may be making headlines these days, but electronic dictionaries are actually making money. At Houghton Mifflin, digital dictionary licensing is expected to account for more than $1 million in profit this year, more than 10 percent of the earnings from the company’s trade and reference division, according to Wendy Strothman, the division’s publisher.Stifled for years by low margins and flat sales, publishers are salivating over digital licensing as a new source of revenue growth and promoting new features like audible pronunciations. But word scholars worry that the new pressures of the online market may end up favoring well-connected or well-positioned dictionaries — some sniffingly cite Microsoft’s Encarta — over more authoritative lexicons.Many lexicographers initially saw the advent of the Internet as a terrific new tool, especially because it made possible electronic texts of nearly infinite length. That impulse inspired the Oxford University Press, for example, to revise its 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary for the first time since its completion in 1928.
A new online version of the O.E.D. is available to subscribers for fees starting at $550 a year. Researchers are posting the revisions and additions online in stages, and they expect to finish the alphabet in about 40 volumes around 2010.
Oxford University Press has not yet decided if it will publish a new printed version, too, said Jesse Sheidlower, its American editor. The Internet also enables rival dictionary compilers to share a common digital “corpus,” or archive of usage samples. Inspired by the British National Corpus that was established in 1993, a group of publishers and linguists based in New York is raising financing and gathering material to build an American National Corpus of 100 million words in texts of all kinds, including transcript, newspapers and novels.
But the American National Corpus has yet to win help from many of the nation’s big dictionary publishers, who would stand to lose the advantage of their own proprietary archives. “We think we have our needs pretty well served,” said John Morse, president and publisher of the Merriam-Webster, the United States’s oldest and best-selling dictionary, with an archive of more than 15 million citations.
The World Wide Web is also a gold mine for linguistic research. For the first time, scholars can trace the infancy of new words as they bubble up from narrow subcultures through online discussion groups and eventually into general use, said Michael Adams, a professor at Albright College in Pennsylvania and editor of the journal Dictionaries.
Professor Adams recently published a study of new coinages from the television show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — “slayage” and many other -age formations, for example — tracking their progress from teenage fans’ Web sites to magazines like Mademoiselle. He argues that Buffy has also spawned novel uses of “much,” as in “pathetic much?,” “morbid much?” or “Having issues much?”
But Microsoft’s Encarta dictionary, billed as the first lexicon for the digital age, has some lexicographers shaking their heads, partly because they worry that it could indeed be the dictionary of the future.
The idea for the Encarta was born in the early 1990’s, when Nigel Newton, chief executive of the British publishing house Bloomsbury, wrote a letter to William H. Gates, proposing to create a dictionary of “world English.”
The Web is seen as a gold mine for linguistic research.
At the time, Microsoft was paying Houghton Mifflin to license online versions of its American Heritage dictionary to use in Microsoft’s spell-checking software and to bundle with its Encarta digital encyclopedia. Why pay Houghton Mifflin, Mr. Newton suggested, when the two companies could build a wordbook of their own? Bloomsbury developed the dictionary, selling international digital rights to Microsoft and the American rights to Holtzbrinck’s St. Martins Press.
The new venture faced long odds in bookstores. Most American consumers traditionally want a red dictionary with the name Webster on the cover — as in Merriam-Webster, Random House’s Webster’s, and IDG Books’s Webster’s New World, says John Sargent, president of Holtzbrinck’s American operations.
But the new dictionary’s publishers are betting that Microsoft’s commanding position in the software market can make Encarta’s name and black cover even more ubiquitous. “Our thinking was that, given its use in Microsoft software, the Encarta brand would over time become the leading reference brand,” Mr. Sargent said. The electronic version is available for sale with some Microsoft software or for free at www.encarta.com.
The possibility that Encarta will, in fact, become the new Webster is precisely what is bothering many linguists. In a forthcoming review in Dictionaries, Sidney I. Landau, author of “Dictionaries: The Art & Craft of Lexicography,” roundly pans Encarta’s “cumbersome, repetitious and inconsistent style” and especially what he sees as its excessive political correctness.
The word “Indian,” an example Mr. Landau notes, is described in other dictionaries as potentially insensitive but also widely used among Native Americans and inextricably woven into terms like “Indian summer.” The Encarta issues a blanket condemnation, calling the term “offensive” several times. In a few cases, the Encarta Web site even interrupts the viewer with a “language advisory” before even displaying a potentially offensive word, as if it were a lewd movie. Such labels, Mr. Landau says, reverse most lexicographers’ understanding of their job—to report in neutral terms the changing shape of the language.
Professor Adams, another Encarta critic, worries that Encarta will succeed despite its flaws and at the expense of its rivals. “The problem is that if they don’t put out the best possible dictionary, because of the access they have through the Microsoft software, they could very well depress the sales of the four major publishers,” said Mr. Adams, who has worked as a consultant to American Heritage. “Good dictionaries would disappear, and we would be left with an inferior dictionary.”
Microsoft and its partners dismiss the criticism as predictable nitpicking. Every new or different dictionary has met a similar response from professional lexicographers, said Mr. Sargent of Holtzbrinck.
Houghton Mifflin, Microsoft’s previous digital dictionary supplier, was the publisher with the most to lose from the Encarta dictionary, which Microsoft this year began using instead of the American Heritage. But Ms. Strothman of Houghton Mifflin said that new digital licensing deals had “more than made up for the loss of that revenue stream.”
She said Houghton Mifflin prepares customized versions of its digital database for a variety of clients, seeking to capitalize on the recent interest in electronic publishing by embedding its dictionary in electronic books or reading software. Readers can look up any word with a click. When half a million fans downloaded copies of Stephen King’s electronic novella “Riding the Bullet” in March, for example, some of the software programs for displaying it included a digital version of the American Heritage dictionary, and Houghton Mifflin received a small royalty on each. This fall, the digital publisher netLibrary will begin including American Heritage dictionaries with its e-books, paying a sliding scale fee for its use. (Microsoft’s new Reader software, however, includes a version of Encarta.)
A number of Web sites, including www.dictionary.com, have even paid Houghton Mifflin for use of its digital dictionary to provide free spellings and definitions on the Web, hoping to attract viewers and sell advertising. “They are welcome to do that, but our content costs us money and we want to get paid for it,” Ms. Strothman said. “What puzzles me is why our competitors put their own dictionaries up on the Web for free.” Houghton Mifflin sells its dictionary on CD-ROM, but does not put it on a Web site of its own.
That position has cost the company some business. Paul J. J. Payack, chief executive of the newly formed company yourDictionary.com, initially favored licensing American Heritage, he says, because he liked its etymologies and simple definitions. But he did not like Houghton Mifflin’s licensing-only strategy. He wanted a dictionary that would bolster his brand by building its own, so he struck a deal with Merriam-Webster.
Merriam-Webster has taken a radically different tack from American Heritage, giving its dictionary away for free on its own Web site (www.m-w.com) while at the same time trying to license it to whomever it could, including America Online and the hand-held computer maker Franklin Electronic Publishers, among others. Recently, it also managed to strike a deal to display its Web site on Palm devices.
“Unlike Houghton Mifflin, we are just a dictionary publisher,” said Mr. Morse of Merriam-Webster. “We aim mainly to promote the brand.”
The main Merriam-Webster Web site and a related site for children offer word games and offers a free word-of-the-day e-mail with usage and etymology tips. Mr. Morse said the site was now getting about 20 million page views a month, at a rate of about 50,000 look-ups an hour during the middle of the day.
Merriam-Webster also tracks which words users look up for guidance in making revisions. This month’s hot word: “chutzpah,” spurred by news coverage of vice presidential candidate Joseph I. Lieberman.
But not all lexicographers are happy about the proliferation of Merriam-Webster’s definitions online, either. “The Merriam-Webster is fantastic but least suited for most people who use it,” said Jesse Sheidlower, the American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. “Its definitions are much more complicated and more difficult than the other major dictionaries. The other dictionaries are accurate, and you can use them without going nuts.”