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Magazines > Information Today > January 2004
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Information Today
Vol. 21 No. 1 — January 2004
Feature
What's Ahead for 2004?


It's that time again. The calendar has flipped over to 2004, and there are grand hopes for the information industry's future. The economy is bouncing back, even though there have been some industry layoffs as we went to press. Regardless, this year's "What's Ahead?" article finds optimism in the following predictions of our 11 contributors, all of whom are well-known figures in the business. Best wishes and Happy New Year to them and to all of you, our valued readers.
—The Editors

Lou Andreozzi
LexisNexis
CEO and President,
North American Legal Markets

Looking into 2004 and a little beyond, I have several thoughts.

For the information industry generally, we think the innovation process is critical to any company's future health and growth. I like CIO magazine's explanation of innovation: "Innovation is development that shows a marked departure from past practices with a promise of significant results."

The innovation process is where future growth lies: creating new product and service ideas, incubating them, and putting them into the innovation pipeline for launch in the marketplace. Our industry has gone through a couple of years of belt-tightening in response to difficult economic conditions. But now is the time to grow profits, which fuel more innovation. Companies that are still in a cost-cutting mode are going to have a rough go of it competing in the near term.

My second thought relates to our key business market: legal professionals. We see clear signs that the "globalization" of the legal profession creates a need to serve clients and customers locally and globally in a supportive legal, information, technology, and business environment. We recently conducted a survey with the International Bar Association of attorneys around the world and found that most of the respondents see the increased globalization of the legal profession as an opportunity to increase the efficiency of trade and improve the profession overall through increased competition.

Technology will obviously play a large role helping legal professionals who are working locally, working within local legal systems, and speaking the local language, yet often having to understand compliance and law in other locations around the world where their global clients have operations.

In the past, the timing of technology has been an issue. Many times, companies implement new technology for the sake of technology. What we've come to understand in our 30 years of business is that different markets move at different paces. It's vitally important to listen carefully to customers and ensure that service providers use technology to create and deliver the right product at the right time.

As an attorney myself, I can confirm what we all really know: Attorneys are analytical and are trained to look before they leap. As they have become more and more comfortable with Web research and tools, we have worked carefully—and sometimes cautiously—to design new products that do what they ask: give them the right answer, enhance their productivity, and help them comply with the law. That same lesson is applicable in serving customers on a global scale.

Last, we've heard the term "knowledge management" for years, and I believe we're finally at a point where the technology can deliver on the promise of KM. Whether its portal applications or technology that provides simultaneous access to external content and internal work product with enhanced functionality, knowledge management tools and technology are coming to the forefront and will certainly impact the practice of law and other professions in the coming years.


Lynne Brindley
The British Library
Chief Executive

The following are the key issues as I see them for 2004:

1. Understanding user behavior. The confluence of changes in the nature of research within scientific disciplines, the new IT infrastructures, international and cross-disciplinary collaboration, etc., are changing users' behavior in the online environment. All need to be more understood.

2. Metrics. Consequently, measuring behavioral patterns is not only important but equally possible as log downloads are analyzed rigorously. Standards for doing this (e.g., through COUNTER) will provide the comparative element. Such metric analyses should be complemented by other types of user studies.

3. Standards. More generally, the move to open, easily accessible, and interoperable standards is helping researchers gain easier access to more relevant information (such as CrossRef, ONIX, etc.).

4. Open access/open archives, in all its versions, will have a role. The jury is out on the impact it will have on traditional scientific information exchange. The emotive element surrounding this movement from both sides (traditional and New Age publishers) needs to be bypassed, allowing more fruitful analysis of mutual benefits and weaknesses.

5. Archive and preservation. A challenge facing the scholarly/scientific information sector is how the provision of information (particularly the increasing vogue towards retro-digitization of journal literature) enables the library and end-user communities to feel safe that their access rights are guaranteed in perpetuity, and that trusted repositories are supporting this with robust services.

6. e-Science. Selective sciences are currently refocusing their attention away from literature-based information services towards enhancing the knowledge database (possibly resulting in additions to a numerical, sequence, protein, etc., data set being the prime objective, and not a printed article. Nature and Science both have such novel information projects). This has profound implications for the nature of information science.

7. Collaboration and partnerships. Trends towards Big Science in particular call for new partnerships, often across traditional stakeholder activities, and new, specialized types of information services. The information map will change through this cross-fertilization of content and distribution partnerships.

8. Legal inconsistencies. Despite recent EU Directives, the playing field for some traditional support services (edocdel for example) is uneven, distorting the natural processes and allowing politics to take over from economics and efficiencies in the allocation of information support resources.

9. New services. A shift from a static "come and get it" to a proactive "we have it and we are giving it to you" approach is emerging—a return to the old SDI concepts in a new electronic form. Personalization and customization of information according to known end-user requirements (identified above) seems inevitable and desirable.

10. Information portals and information environments will proliferate, with input of new types of information (through procedures such as RSS), providing richer, more multimedia experiences. Text will merge with bulletin boards, video and audio, news services, etc., to deliver information packages that meet a broader definition of the end user's "total information needs." Is information architecture the latest fashion?

And finally, business models, business models, business models ... We don't have these cracked yet and will need to continue collaborative work that explores workable, sustainable solutions.


Sabine Brünger-Weilandt
FIZ Karlsruhe
Managing Director

Last year, the information business was affected by the difficult situation the economy in general was facing. Enterprises and institutions have responded to this in different ways. Dismissals of staff could not be avoided. I hope that in 2004, the mergers and acquisitions in the course of the monopolization trend in the publishing business will come to an end. The Big Players will "get things straight," rationalize, focus their activities, and make investments themselves and/or look for investors.

In order to survive and to remain independent, the remaining providers have to take appropriate measures. A proven way to achieve this are partnerships and strategic alliances. Particularly in Germany, the institutions involved in information and documentation will work together more closely in order to ensure a powerful and independent supply of information. At the same time, they will maintain a competitive position in the international markets.

There are smaller service providers who use information, which they can get free of charge from the patent offices, for their own products. So they can be able to compete with the big, established information providers.

The information industry has to respond to the market requirements in science and economy quickly, flexibly, and intelligently. Just reacting is not sufficient. We also have to take proactive steps in order to anticipate future trends and requirements. Further developments will consider the Web technologies and tools used by our customers and be adapted as much as possible to their working environment. The focus will be on solutions that support information and knowledge management and render work processes more efficient.

To create added value is still an important task of the information industry. The increasing competition forces the established providers to continuously enhance the famous added value of their products and services and to convey this to the customers. Content, tools, and service will to an increasing extent be tailored to the needs of the two target groups: information professionals and end users. In particular, the information professionals' demand for full texts and an intelligent linking and presentation of content (as well as for analysis and visualization tools) will be satisfied.

Access ways and user interfaces will be seamlessly integrated into the intranets of enterprises and academic institutions. Special marketing strategies in the field of customer relationship management will be a decisive factor to retain existing customers. This is something all providers will focus on.

The Google age offers excellent conditions for activities aimed to increase the information competence. Our industry will also be active in this field.

In 2003, open access was a main topic and will also be of primary importance in 2004. Scientific organizations, libraries, and universities discuss and test new business models for providing free access to scientific information on the Internet, thereby evading commercial publishers. How will the industries concerned react? Will it be possible to reconcile the different interests?

I think 2004 will be an exciting year with many interesting challenges and pivotal moments for the information industry.


Mario Girard
Nstein Technologies, Inc.
CEO

Most of my career has been spent managing firms in the IT world. However, as the CEO of a technology supplier to the information industry, I've had the good fortune of becoming quite familiar with many information producers and aggregators. In fact, I've spent a good part of the past few years getting to know the market, and more recently drawing conclusions about where I believe it is headed in the years to come.

At the risk of generalizing, I believe that this mature and well-segmented industry has experienced very similar difficulties when compared with most mature industries in recent times: consolidation with a focus on operating costs as a means of retaining shareholder value.

As is also the case with these same industries, 2004 brings the optimism of growth for the information industry. Ultimately, I believe that the winners will be those who embrace a creative approach in satisfying their customer's information needs—namely, finding exactly what they're looking for quickly and affordably regardless of the information source. This "revolution" has begun and will be the key revenue driver for the information industry in the years to come. Major global IT suppliers are beginning to understand that as well. Despite a number of structural impediments within the industry at this time, there is much that can be done in the very short term at an information-provider level that will generate significant revenues using creative means—revenues that can be generated by maximizing the value of information inventories under their control.

Specifically, I believe that exploiting valuable "bits of content" from within vast databases of unstructured information is the key to maximizing revenues in the coming years. In order to do it most profitably, technology will play the most important role, thanks to a new generation of software tools capable of understanding the "aboutness" of content and slicing and dicing it to meet the customer's needs. These tools are now far past the stage of experimental technology.

In fact, from Nstein's perspective, many information providers are now seeing the full potential of such new technologies. While these tools were being used primarily as cost-savers, they are now (as recently as the past couple of years) being employed to generate revenues—in many cases, significant revenues. In short, we'll be witnessing the emergence of a series of solutions within the offerings of the information provider that will give a complete new meaning to the famous expression "the right info at the right time."

As a concluding comment, in preparing my thoughts for "What's Ahead?" I reviewed the predictions of last year. Almost without exception, the themes of consolidation and value emerged—as well as the effective use of technology in answering the customer's needs and in driving profitability. While consolidation has dropped off the plate, replaced by strategic growth, customer value and the use of intelligent technologies will remain for a good while, confirming my belief that technology will be the key profitability driver.


Clare Hart
Factiva, a Dow Jones & Reuters Co.
President and CEO

Today's business strategists and technology executives are faced with several new and different challenges. Business practices are changing and evolving, the time span of the decision-making cycle is continually being compressed, competition is aggressive, and the rate of innovation is rapidly increasing.

To retain competitive advantage, executives need to provide employees with better tools for their jobs—tools that will offer more time for decision-making and that will give employees confidence in the choices that they make.

New developments in technology have progressed our industry, and we're confident that 2004 will be the year in which innovative technologies developed in the last couple of years will help organizations to carry out sophisticated information strategies that will enable better decision making.

In recent years, technology has acted as an enabler: getting bits of information from one place to another both quickly and more flexibly. It has acted as a mechanism, an option for delivery, but today, the value of technology to content is intrinsic.

Newer, more flexible technologies such as Web Services and XML are the great equalizers of information: unlocking content stores, revealing previously unknown information, and linking it to related information stored both within an organization and in other places, such as the Web or commercial information services. Organizations that put these technologies to use as part of their information strategy will gain competitive advantage.

Simplifying the research step in the decision-making cycle is a growing and evolving challenge. Changing the current work-flow process may require a cultural shift in the organization, but getting relevant information to users within the context of their work will reap productivity and bottom-line benefits.

Workers of the future—those who've cut their first teeth on video games, instant messaging, and the Web—will be more exacting about the answers that technology delivers. They'll expect intuitive tools capable not just of understanding who they are and precisely what information they need, but also capable of continually learning and recognizing their new and changing interests. It will be an individualized information experience driven by "who you are"—knowledge gained from a corporate directory that will enable ad hoc customization and personalization.

Text analytics and visualization technologies will further enrich the user experience in the decision-making process. Such technologies rapidly recognize associations among textual elements and can then present them graphically. This ability will permit executives to identify trends at the early stages of development or display material relationships that might signal customer, partner, or supplier activity. Acting quickly upon information will reduce risk and benefit the organization. Without these technologies, this information might otherwise be buried in a mountain of information that would be impossible to navigate.

It's clear that in 2004, we'll enter the early-adopter stage of applications based on these developments. Successful organizations will align their information strategies with their business strategies, capitalize on these technical advances in information management, and more effectively deal with the business challenges that they face—thus creating competitive advantage.


Jay Jordan
OCLC Online
Computer Library Center
President and CEO

At OCLC, we recently completed an Environmental Scan that we are just now starting to share with our member libraries and the information community. To develop the scan, we interviewed 90 players in the library, information, and technology domains; reviewed some 250 articles and papers; and did extensive global research. Let me share some of the trends that we found—they will likely have implications for the information industry in the year ahead.

Users. Information consumers are exhibiting three characteristics that bode change for the way we in the information profession do things. First, these information consumers are spending more time online doing things for themselves, whether for banking, shopping, travel, research, or entertainment. They are comfortable with Web-based information and content and are heavy users of Google. Second, these information consumers are generally satisfied with the results that they get, whether from Google or from their other online activities, even though the results may not be as authoritative, reliable, and accurate as librarians would like. Third, information consumers, especially young adults, expect seamless access to whatever they want whenever they want it. In 2004, information professionals need to focus on making the structure of library and library-based content on the network more attractive to these users.

Economics. The saga of limited resources versus unlimited needs will continue, no matter what the worldwide economy does in 2004. Libraries must reexamine their internal resource allocations in an increasingly digital world. Most important, libraries and allied organizations must be able to demonstrate their value very explicitly to their parent organizations and funding agencies.

Technology. The spread of data-exchange standards such as XML and MP3 and broad access to the Internet are creating a new, collaborative technological landscape. Information professionals are trying to bring structure to unstructured data: material on the open Web, special collections, and institutional content. There will be continued movement toward distributed, component-based software that will facilitate the extension of Web services (business processes delivered over the Web based on industry standards) and a shift from monolithic, bound-together technology solutions. There will be continued development of open-source software applications, which will likely mean an even faster rate of new technology introductions. There will also be continued movement from technologies that provide copyright protection (owner-centric) to frameworks that enable rights management (user-flexible).

Research and learning. Academic libraries will need to work on building strong links between library services and systems and new developments in e-learning and scholarly communication. This means, for example, that libraries need to be proactively involved in the development of institutional repositories and e-learning initiatives and must take a stronger role in the management of their institution's intellectual assets. Libraries will also be required to devote more resources to digital content management and to think about preservation as part of the responsible stewardship of those resources.

When you put all these trends together, the library and information community is in for a lot of evolution in 2004. (The OCLC 2003 Environmental Scan is available at http://www.oclc.org.)


Ron Klausner
ProQuest Information and Learning
President

The information industry is never dull. In 2004, opportunities abound for improving access to information. I predict the following trends.

First, there will be greater demand for quality content delivered within a framework that provides quick, accurate access. Quantity of content will be less relevant than quality. The use of linking technologies will accelerate, which will expose the strengths and weaknesses of indexes underlying most databases. As databases increasingly serve as pointers to full text residing elsewhere, the importance of quality indexing will become more critical. Always a valued asset for ProQuest users, indexing that is thorough, accurate, and rich will take center stage for databases as customers demand quality search results within a discipline that is efficiently linked to the text either within the database or elsewhere.

In another facet of quality content, libraries will pursue more specialized information to support specific subject areas and unique research needs. As aggregated databases become commoditized starting points, the research process will drive users to highly specialized databases providing highly relevant results connected to with unique content. For example, librarians and users have responded with unprecedented enthusiasm for ProQuest Historical Newspapers, which provides the full archive of major newspapers in electronic format. The opportunity to search rare content via the Web is a powerful benefit. We see this as the next important wave in database publishing, and we're working with librarians and faculty to identify opportunities and needs.

Second, industry consolidation will continue at a rapid pace. Forward-thinking information providers are redefining their missions, broadening their content and product offerings, and obtaining technology/capability developed by well-funded startups in the Web boom years. ProQuest's recent acquisitions are emblematic of the consolidation taking place throughout the industry. Companies with similar missions, cultures, and technologies are coming together. The result is favorable for customers and users as product content expands and technology is cross-pollinated. The opportunities for growth and bringing new content to life are exciting. As the economy begins to swing upward again (knock wood) and as libraries begin to see much-needed funding restored, information providers will have the chance to grow and succeed. We believe quality indexing, specialty publishing of unique content, and industry consolidation are key elements for success in 2004 and beyond.


Robert J. Massie
Chemical Abstracts Service
President

I recently read an article about "gerrymandering" of districts that elect members of the U.S. Congress. The term refers to the outlandish shapes that are concocted to purposefully advantage one political party over another in the individual U.S. states. Today, this process is aided by software and databases that allow almost instantaneous analysis of voter patterns by precinct and even by street and household. Anyone holding this program can become, with a bit of experience, a virtuoso at manipulating congressional borders and, ultimately, the political makeup of Congress. (The U.S. Supreme Court may once again, in 2004, take up the issue of "how much is too much?" in this regard, but that is a tangential point.)

What do I see in 2004? And what is the relevance of gerrymandering software and databases? What I see is the increasing realization of the potential for technology and content to solve targeted problems and provide high value-add solutions. From manipulation of large data sets, to uncovering knowledge embedded in data, to supporting very specific business and scientific challenges, the information and publishing industries will continue to customize, focus, target, and solve problems as opposed to providing large, unrefined information sets.

For CAS, 2004 will see the 20th anniversary of the STN partnership, the leading online service for sci-tech professionals. Together with the dynamic new managing director of FIZ Karlsruhe, Sabine Brünger-Weilandt, we are planning a suite of new services targeted on making the information professional's use of sci-tech information all the more relevant, cost-effective, and, yes, even exciting and groundbreaking. STN has long offered the most valuable collection of chemistry and other scientific data online, with powerful search and analysis tools like STN Express, Analysis Edition, just released. 2004 will see new tools and new approaches, and hopefully for nobler purposes than gerrymandering.


Allen Paschal
Thomson Gale
President

The following are the three key themes emerging in the information industry in 2004:

• The expanding role of search engines as a one-stop solution for searchers

• Seamless desktop information integration

• Acceleration of primary-source digitization

This could be the year we see the role of search engines further expand in importance, invading the traditional space of the premium and proprietary database providers. They will expand by integrating premium, relevant content in the initial search instead of just linking to Web sites.

Driving this expansion is a group of end users with broad research needs satisfied by the rapid convenience that search engines provide. This is evidenced by looking at Google alone, which handles more than 290 million searches per day.

Which brings me to the second development for 2004: seamless, integrated desktop searching. Driven by the research demands of search engine users, seamless desktop searching will provide premium information and content within the same program. This is best illustrated by the recent completion of Microsoft Office 2003, which provides direct access to Thomson Gale business information.

For example, if a Microsoft Office user is writing a report and needs information about a company, all they have to do is highlight the company name to receive Thomson Gale-published company profiles directly within the application—seamlessly. They don't have to exit one program and access another to find the information they need. For most general searchers, this seamless searching provides convenience and increases productivity.

Lastly, we'll see an increase in the digitization of primary-source information in 2004. This acceleration is being fueled by customers' demand for fast access to searchable primary-source materials that will uncover new research and teaching possibilities, coupled with advancements in imaging and process software that have dramatically reduced the cost of collection digitization.

Traditional microfilm collections, though still valuable for archival purposes, are difficult to search. Instead of scanning miles of hard-to-search microfilm or traveling to libraries that house primary collections, digitization makes once hard-to-find or rare information available in one database that's convenient and easy to use.

The common threads among these information industry developments for 2004 reflect society's current yet conflicting views about information: It should be easily accessible; it should be available seamlessly at the click of a mouse; it should be accurate and vetted; and it should be available to all.


Mark Rowse
Ingenta
CEO

It didn't take the sharpest of ears to hear the distant echo of a tidal wave still resounding through the information industry in the last year following the changes in economic and corporate fortunes post-9/11.

Today, for the survivors, the outlook is significantly brighter. In July, U.S.-based information industry consultants Outsell reported a 7.9-percent increase in revenues across their top-100 information content providers compared to the first quarter of 2002. Could this mean a return to calmer waters?

Our belief at Ingenta, as intermediaries helping some 260 scholarly publishers as well as librarians and readers in some 15,000 institutions worldwide to access content from some 6,000 publications, is that the tsunami has still got some way to run. In essence, moving beyond the first phases of "information adrenalin" and "content chaos," energy is now being put into simplifying the process of accessing information online.

Many initiatives point the way to "nerd-free nirvana"—a blissful world where the technology is so good you don't even notice it's there. But much still needs to be put in place so that what you want gets to your desktop without much effort.

Some possibilities for 2004:

Even greater consolidation of online services. Just as corporate consolidation of online services will continue, so will librarians and researchers increasingly use tools to create seamless access to the whole of a library's electronic resources together with others that they don't have within their collections. Resources like Microsoft's Research Pane and library portal toolkits will assist in this.

Increasing connectedness of content. While significant progress has been made towards connecting content to other relevant content, there is still a long way to go before the information professional can jump intuitively from an item of interest to all other kinds of relevant resources and to have the process assisted by computational power rather than a handcrafted link. Researchers will increasingly demand that scholarly resources are RSS- and RDF-compliant.

More sophisticated access control. The more apparently seamless the leap from desktop (or blog) to content, the more crucial a sophisticated information commerce system becomes, combining the features of e-commerce, access control, and digital rights management. This has been one of the major investment areas for Ingenta, and we will continue to roll out new services in 2004.

Throughout the industry, energy is being spent on ensuring that information professionals can focus on the key aspects of their new roles in the online world. Namely, providing the right IT infrastructure, licensing content their readers need (and paying for it only once), and providing a convenient Web access point for that content—a brave new world we at Ingenta wholeheartedly support.


Anthea Stratigos
Outsell, Inc.
Co-founder and CEO

Create, re-create, recreate!

We are optimistic about the outlook for the information content industry in 2004. The past few years have been tough for many people and companies in the industry. We've been dealing with asteroids falling out of the blue: new technologies, the entry of new competitors with no respect for the conventions of the industry, the fragmentation of markets, users with sky-high expectations for information products, and industry economics permanently shifting.

2004 will be about dealing with the aftermath. This is the year of an expanding IC universe. The asteroids have fallen and done their damage. What remains today resembles a post-Big Bang world: an ever-expanding universe moving outward in all directions. We mean "expanding" in three senses.

First, we expect traditional economic and financial expansion, with plain old growth remaining the norm. We forecast the Outsell 100, our representative group of publicly held IC companies across all sectors, will grow by 5.6 percent in 2004.

Second, the people, companies, and roles in our industry are expanding in different and sometimes contradictory directions: users acting like creators, content markets increasingly atomized, libraries liberating themselves from their physical surroundings, and XML freeing content from the documents and archives that bind it. Our industry is not on some linear path toward an ideal state or equilibrium, but rather moving on multiple, fragmented paths to an unknown but bigger future. The creative energy is amazing.

Third, after any Big Bang, it's going to be messy for a while. Linear paths are neatly defined; mastering diverging paths is going have a different look and feel. It looks a lot like play, with large doses of spontaneity and imagination. The changing universe offers multiple opportunities for creating new businesses out of planetary shifts and asteroids. We see a positive, expanding energy in the industry around creation, fun, and widening horizons, but only for those who seize it. It's time for the people in the industry—vendors, buyers, deployers, and users—to get out of the classroom and out on the playground, where fun and creativity can be a big part of their work. Our mantra for 2004 is less about working hard and more about playing hard.

Who'll be having fun in 2004? Bloggers are re-engineering the way people experience the news. Scholars are thumbing their noses at the publishing establishment. A handful of IT research firms are causing fits for the established players while delighting their clients. Even eBay is moving into the content playground, selling product-pricing data culled from its millions of transactions. The growth and excitement is coming from the people who are innovating; nobody's growing by doing the same old thing.

We look forward to creating, re-creating, and recreating with the industry throughout 2004!


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