Opinion by Dick Kaser: Business as Usual

This year’s gathering of the database and search industry in London leaves me puzzled about how the industry is doing.

On the trade show floor, there was certainly not the doom and gloom of a few years ago, when, whispering in the aisles, some vendors were actually confiding to me that they wondered if the industry would survive another year.

But neither was there a great buzz, as in many years past, about the next new thing that had come along and how everybody was getting on the ball about it.

In some respects the quiet was somewhat reassuring.

The fact that there was not much new on the show floor and no real surprises on the conference program may not be all that significant. Can anything bad be said about an industry that appears this year to be operating calmly and conducting business as usual?

In my posts to this blog, I’ve noted that some of the big players seem to have new branding strategies, which as minor a story as it was, was the biggest story I could find.

The fact that some old, familiar brands have changed over to more corporate-level names may only reflect the natural merger of assets that were acquired in the past. That the merger comes 10 years or more after the corporate acquisition of some of these companies would seem, however, to have, have to have been motivated by something.

It could reflect contracting markets, I suppose. But it could also imply a corporate desire to realize some new synergies and make the enterprise as a whole better able to respond to changing market conditions and current customer demands. For want of a definitive answer, I will assume it’s a little of both, with the emphasis on the latter.

Uncertainty about the impact that Google (and Yahoo! and MSN) will ultimately have on both publishers and libraries still exists here, but not at the knee-jerk level we saw six months ago. Even the topic of Open Access to the scholarly literature is not raising as many eyebrows. And blogs, including this one, are by now old hat, with the only question remaining how to best employ blog and related platforms in the workplace.

Could it be that after so many years of travail, angst and trauma, the industry has returned to a new normalcy? Is the silence that seems to emanate from the hall this year the sound of an industry that once shaken-up has finally settled down? Or was it—dare I suggest?—simply the dread silence that precedes a perfect storm?

Thanks for joining us. See you again next time.

Dick Kaser
ITI V.P., Content

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