Weathering Turbulent Times—Part 2

As London Online 2009 officially opens its doors this morning, watch for Information Today, Inc.’s roving video crew on the exhibition floor. We’ll be conducting on-the-spot interviews that will appear in this blog during the conference covering the state of the industry from myriad angles.

In yesterday’s blog, we kicked off the commentary about the state of the industry with two information industry experts who shared their insights. Today, we’re featuring two other experts who are offering their perspectives of the past year and what lies ahead.

The commentary from our panel of experts has been excerpted from the front-page article in the December issue of Information Today, which is also available at www.infotoday.com.

Janice Lachance
CEO
Special Libraries Association (SLA)

In recent months, I have spoken to groups of librarians and knowledge and information professionals all over the world. Whether I am in Albany or Ahmedabad, Milan or Albuquerque, if I close my eyes and listen, I am hearing exactly the same thing: The traditional specialist librarian is becoming an endangered species. Corporations, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and universities are on the hunt, attempting to identify nonessential functions and positions they can cut.

At best, many special libraries are experiencing severe budget cuts that challenge their continued ability to deliver the knowledge organizations need in order to make effective decisions. At worst, these libraries—digital and brick-and-mortar—and the valuable professionals associated with them are disappearing.
Exacerbating this unfortunate trend is the misperception that in the digital age, librarians and information professionals are little more than book stackers and (expensive) human search engines. The tragedy is that special librarians are uniquely qualified to deliver what organizations will need most to recover from these hard economic times: actionable knowledge.

In the recovery from this recession, knowledge and information professionals have a timely opportunity to take action and show they are more than relevant—they are indispensable to successful organizations.

Ed Keating
Vice President, Content Division
The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)

Economists believe we have passed through the low point of the current global recession. So what does that mean for the digital paid content industry? Because of the length and depth of the downturn, the digital content industry has fundamentally changed. Segments will be impacted unevenly as some markets shed thousands of workers that they will never rehire, while other markets have lost readership to free online substitutes. Try answering the following questions and determine how they apply to your content:

Q: Are your users looking for “good enough” or “perfect” information?
A: It used to be said that in order to succeed in the information industry, you needed to provide timely, accurate, and comprehensive information. As the price for these products increased through forced bundling and other tactics, consumers sought out substitutes that offered most of what they needed. Customers might trade off some content or functionality for a substantial drop in price. Would you rather provide a CUSIP (Committee on Uniform Security Identification Procedures) license or an EDGAR feed?

Q: Are print and digital managed as separate departments?
A: If they are, you are in big trouble. The same customer reads both print and online content. Organize your editorial, sales, and marketing accordingly. Otherwise expect to suffer through channel conflict and the pain of keeping people on the payroll who still think the internet is a fad. Would you rather be The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal?

Q: What containers are being used to deliver your content?
A: Newspapers and magazines still revolve around the concept of a page, and this is also the metric used for some websites. In the age of Twitter, wikis, and blogs, this notion seems quaint at best. Businesses that are truly poised for success have studied customer workflow and deliver their services via software. Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters provide countless examples across different market segments.

I’d venture that content providers in the legal, scientific, technical, and financial spaces will emerge well-positioned after the recession. They tend to provide lean-forward, customer-engaging information that drives a transaction. Moreover, many have started to integrate user-generated content into their offerings because of their decades-long strength in licensing, assimilating and delivering content. Also, because their chosen delivery scheme has migrated from print to electronic to software, they are poised to enjoy years of strong renewal rates and cash flow.

Stay tuned for the final installment of “Weathering Turbulent Times” in tomorrow’s blog.

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