Review of the Year 2009 and Trends Watch—Part 1
Paula J. Hane
Posted On January 4, 2010
The sorry state of the economy continued front and center in all media coverage during 2009. But most folks seemed to think that it was a better year than 2008. There were clearly some glimmers of improvement, though we saw continued weakness in the job market-a jobless recovery some call it. Budget woes for libraries, layoffs, and cutbacks at companies in the information industry continued, but at a slowing pace. Some vendors stepped up with announcements of no price increases and even price cuts. Some offered free access to key resources, such as H1N1 information and information management tools.
But, as ITI's VP of content, Dick Kaser, wrote in an editorial for Information Today, "If there's one thing to be said for this economic downturn of ours, it's that it's bringing out the best in us." We've re-evaluated, repositioned, grown, and basically dug our way out. We've become more creative in using our resources. The economic crisis has actually served to advance our networking and collaboration efforts. So let's take a look at this busy year past and then look forward to the promise of a new year.
Over the past year, by far the most read news article posted on the InfoToday.com site was "Amazonfail: How Metadata and Sex Broke the Amazon Book Search," by search consultant Avi Rappoport (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/Amazonfail-How-Metadata-and-Sex-Broke-the-Amazon-Book-Search-53507.asp). It shows the drawing power of a good, juicy topic and a carefully crafted title, as well as the incredible speed and reach of Twitter and blogs. And it was a darn good story at that. Rappoport was in the thick of the breaking developments and examined the event from all angles. There's even a flow chart of the action.
Also very popular among our readers was last year's "Review of the Year 2008 and Trends Watch, Part 1 and Part 2"
Other frequently covered and popular topics in our NewsBreaks (a full list is available at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com) included the following:
In addition to our twice weekly postings to the website, my monthly NewsBreak Update column in Information Today also provided regular news highlights and analysis of trends.
Be sure to read the InfoToday Blog for our "state of the industry" coverage during Online Information 2009 in London. The blog team posted about a dozen or so video interviews with users, vendors, and analysts. Here's a short wrap-up from ITI's Dick Kaser: www.infotodayblog.com/2009/12/18/state-of-the-information-industry-in-summation.
There's also expanded industry coverage in the January 2010 issue of Information Today. And the December 2009 issue featured a collection of insights from industry notables: "Industry Forecast: Weathering Turbulent Times," www.infotoday.com/IT/dec09/Brynko.shtml. They provide lots of food for thought.
Last year I speculated that 2009 would be the year of the new frugality. It looks like that did happen. Other trends I mentioned that have carried through the year include increased interest in the mobile web, enterprise social networking, open source solutions, book digitization, ebook readers, etc. In fact, the trends I said I'd be watching in 2009 have all proven to be important drivers during the year. (Not that I stuck my neck out on any of them-I thought they were all a slam dunk.)
Some say 2009 was the year of Twitter-or, as Andy Jordan of WSJ.com, says, "#2009, the year we learned to speak in 140 characters on the fly." It was also the year of the mobile app-it seemed that just about everyone rushed to provide services for delivery on tiny screens.
Changes in Content Distribution
Providers of all kinds of digital content are grappling with changing business models and trying to figure out how to charge readers for quality content in an age of free internet access. The entire media landscape is in a period of transformation. Here are some recent examples of the changes occurring:
- Newspapers and magazines are struggling with loss of advertising revenues and lower paid readership-many have closed or declared bankruptcy.
- Some publishers are linking up to create new platforms to sell content (Journalism Online, etc.)
- University presses are selling books at sites such as Scribd.
- Professional services providers of news and information, such as Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg, are pursuing the consumer market.
- News providers have been hooking up with ebook device providers to tap another outlet for their content.
Ebook distribution is a market in great growth and transformation. Dedicated ebook devices are being introduced at a dizzying pace as new technologies drive innovation. Some publishers are fighting back against Amazon's domination in the ebook market and its low prices by withholding some of their new titles from the ebook format. Meanwhile, users grapple with the issue of proprietary formats-whether an ebook acquired from an online store or another download source is compatible with their particular device. The EPUB ebook standard offers some hope for this, as do some of the open architecture initiatives.
The Internet Archive launched BookServer, "a growing open architecture for vending and lending digital books over the Internet. Built on open catalog and open book formats, the BookServer model allows a wide network of publishers, booksellers, libraries, and even authors to make their catalogs of books available directly to readers through their laptops, phones, netbooks, or dedicated reading devices. BookServer facilitates pay transactions, borrowing books from libraries, and downloading free, publicly accessible books." (See http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/Internet-Archive-Dishes-up-BookServer-as-Digital-Books-Market-Heats-Up-57760.asp.)
We'll be hearing a lot more about cloud computing, I suspect. It is No. 1 on Gartner's list of the Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2010. It was No. 2 in 2009. We may also see a shakeout in the number of companies, with consolidations and some companies going under-not good for users.
But questions remain about its use for sensitive data, especially given some widely publicized data leaks and hacks of late. David Talbot, chief correspondent for MIT's Technology Review, examined the issues in the January/February 2010 cover story, "Security in the Ether," (www.technologyreview.com/web/24166). He wrote, "Cloud computing actually poses several separate but related security risks. Not only could stored data be stolen by hackers or lost to breakdowns, but a cloud provider might mishandle data-or be forced to give it up in response to a subpoena. And it's clear enough that such security breaches are not just the stuff of academic experiments."
The Good Enough Revolution
Summing up an important trend was a Wired magazine feature article titled "The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine," by Robert Capps (www.wired.com/gadgets/miscellaneous/magazine/17-09/ff_goodenough?currentPage=all). While the article focuses on a lot of consumer technologies, such as television, books, phones, MP3 files, etc., it also implicates the good-enough effect as touching almost every other business market, including the legal profession, healthcare, advertising (those text ads are cheap and effective), and trade shows (look for more virtual events). Like it or not, the trend is here.
Here's some food for thought:
The attributes that now matter most all fall under the rubric of accessibility. Thanks to the speed and connectivity of the digital age, we've stopped fussing over pixel counts, sample rates, and feature lists. Instead, we're now focused on three things: ease of use, continuous availability, and low price. Is it simple to get what we want out of the technology? Is it available everywhere, all the time-or as close to that ideal as possible? And is it so cheap that we don't have to think about price?
We Want It Now
Further to the theme of accessibility is wanting our information now. The folks at the independent consumer trends firm trendwatching.com (www.trendwatching.com) have dubbed this "Nowism," and have explained in a trend report "Why currency is the new currency." The drivers of this trend include abundance, a focus on experiences, and an online world where digital has become synonymous with "instant."
Twitter is the personification of this real-time phenomenon. It's no wonder that Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have all initiated searching of Twitter posts.
Information overload was in the news this year and seemed to be everyone's nightmare. There were webcasts by a nonprofit group calling itself the Information Overload Research Group (IORG; http://iorgforum.org). A key company in the organization is Basex, Inc. (www.basex.com), which describes itself as a "knowledge economy research firm" that serves IT vendors and buyers with an expertise in knowledge worker management and productivity. On Aug. 12, the group held an online Information Overload Awareness Day and more than 350 people registered.
In my May 4, 2009, NewsLink Spotlight, I reported some alarming statistics regarding the topic of information overload. I discussed how some are tackling the problem and provided some suggestions and helpful links: http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/Spotlight/Tackling-Information-Overload-53712.asp.
This fall, AIIM released the first in a series of ebooks focused on the information management challenges facing organizations. 8 Reasons You Need a Strategy to Manage Information-Before It's Too Late contends that the strategic imperative to manage information effectively will soon become irreversible-with devastating consequences for those who assume it is otherwise. The free ebook can be downloaded at www.aiim.org/8things.
As an enticement to read and consider implementing a strategy before it's too late, here are the eight reasons:
1. A tidal wave of information
2. Ubiquitous computing
3. Social everything
4. Collaboration without governance is a disaster
5. The era of simplicity
6. The Tree-Hugger's time has come
7. You can no longer do this manually
8. Mismanagement risks are rising
Through Other Lenses
Ask.com looks back on the top questions of the year across popular categories such as entertainment and pop culture, travel, health, fitness, parenting, and technology (http://sp.ask.com/2009/topquestions). The search engine calls itself "the #1 brand for questions and answers online," and says it has a unique perspective on what was on the minds of Americans in 2009. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 40% of all Americans are overweight, so it's not surprising that the most-asked question of 2009 was "How much should I weigh?" followed closely by "How do I get out of debt fast?"-a reflection of the all-time highs of credit card and mortgage debt in 2009, worsened by the steadily rising unemployment rate.
2009 Year-End Google Zeitgeist: www.google.com/intl/en_us/press/zeitgeist2009/
Yahoo! 2009 Year in Review: www.yearinreview.yahoo.com
In addition to the Top 10 Searches, it looks at important moments of the year, including "Obama in the House," and "Financial Hangovers."
ReadWriteWeb has published a series of annual review posts covering best products, top companies, and predictions for the coming year. Check it out at www.readwriteweb.com/archives/2009-in-review.
My next NewsLink Spotlight posting on Jan. 7 will feature the trends I'll be watching in 2010 and a wrap-up of some of the more intriguing coverage from other commentators and analysts (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/Review-of-the-Year--and-Trends-WatchPart--60486.asp).