Portrait of a Dichotomous Industry

What does the list of exhibitors at Online Information & Content Management Europe say about this industry of ours? The same thing that baffles anyone who goes to define it: It’s hard to explain.

This year’s breakdown of exhibitors in London is more-or-less the same as last year, with Content Management and STM companies leading the pack, closely followed by companies specializing in electronic publishing, portals, and intranets. (See chart, above.)

Some numbers are a little higher or lower than last year, but, it should be noted that these companies have classified themselves–and not too rigorously–so it’s not clear that the numerical variations, represented by the bars, are significant.

Content Management companies, for example, include those who provide CM solutions but also those who provide content and/or e-publishing services, the media who cover this field, and those who offer content services as turn-key systems.

The same classification confusion can be found for those that have listed themselves as e-publishing solutions companies and enterprise search vendors.

Confusing or Confused?

Is it possible that an industry that preaches the value of a good taxonomy could use one?

Or maybe it’s simply that the industry’s own confusion in defining itself actually defines the industry.

The conference organizers definitely got it right when they came up with the long title for this event, Online Information and Content Management Europe.

Like the classic Doublemint twins chewing gum commercials, the organizers seem to be saying is it’s two, two, two things at once: online information AND content management.

In fact, if you juggle the show categories around a little bit, you essentially end up with those two things.

Blue and Burgandy Vendors

The industry is made up, then, of those, represented by the blue piece of the pie chart (right), who produce digital content-based collections (roughly 50%) AND those, represented by the burgandy slice, who offer technologies to create or manage your own content (roughtly 45%). Others are consultants and recruiters.

On the content delivery side, we have the classical industry with its traditional vertical markets: scientific, technical, and medical information; legal and regulatory information; news and business information; and market research and competitive intelligence.

On the other side, we have the software and services part of the industry: Companies offering content management systems, search systems, e-publishing systems, intranet platforms, library systems, and document management software and solutions.

Perhaps part of the confusion in the vendor classification system at this trade show is because many of the players are actually hybrids. A good content vendor today offers something that involves content management AND search. And, as things seem to be shaping up, a good search engine company somehow manages to offer a great content collection.

The days (not so long ago) when we spoke of the content distribution "chain," in which each player had a distinct and indentifiable role, are clearly long gone.

But in a world where everyone does everything, it’s becoming increasing hard to say who who does anything in particular.

The ITI cast of bloggers will be doing our best this week to sort it all out for you.

Dick Kaser
ITI V.P. Content

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