What a roller coaster ride we had in 2007! The housing market slumped over the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, stock markets swung wildly, the dollar sank to new lows (even below the Canadian "loonie"), rising oil prices took a chunk of our income, extreme weather conditions seemed the new norm, data losses and identity thefts continued apace, and toys made in China were recalled in droves. In our information world we saw legislative tussles over privacy issues and public access to content. User-generated content sometimes seemed to overwhelm us—but it has definitely become a tool for change. Librarians participated in virtual worlds, checked out gaming, and tried new Web 2.0 tools.
And—it’s still hard to believe it happened—the owner of Fox News (News Corp.) acquired Dow Jones and the venerable Wall Street Journal! There were other big acquisition deals as well—Thomson/Reuters, CSA/ProQuest, the sale of Thomson Learning and Gale (to Apax Partners and OMERS Capital Partners), the Harcourt units sold to Houghton Mifflin and Pearson, and more.
Yes, there was certainly a lot of information industry news to cover. You can get a sense of it by scanning over the list of our stories for the year (there’s also a search box) in our NewsBreaks and Weekly News Digests at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com. My NewsBreak Update column in Information Today (www.infotoday.com/it) also provided monthly wrap-ups and commentary on hot news and trends.
Here’s a list of the top read online NewsBreaks for 2007.
On the subject of reader comments, did you know our NewsBreaks site offers this capability? We’re eager to read your thoughts and input. There’s a Comments link at the end of each article. Let’s start some conversations!
Important Trends of 2007
It’s important to pay attention to trends—both within our industry and in the larger technology, business, and cultural arenas. It helps us keep our edge and decide on new directions for services and products. (For an interesting perspective on consumer trends, check out www.trendwatching.com.)
Apple and Google had very good years. Some have even declared it the year of the Apple iPhone. It certainly drove the mobile computing momentum. Google continues to be a disruptive force in any business market it touches. (For some juicy details, see the cover story in the January issue of Information Today, "Google 2.0 as ‘Calculating Predator,’" www.infotoday.com/IT/jan08/Hane.shtml.)
We saw a number of search engine start-ups attempt to improve upon the search experience—each offering a new pitch on how it is better than the others. Some, like Blekko and Cuill, are even still in "stealth" mode and won’t have anything to show for a year. Others include Powerset, Hakia, Mahalo, and Search Wikia. (Search Wikia has just launched in alpha release. See http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=40606.)
Here’s Danny Sullivan’s take on this in his post "The Google Challengers: 2008 Edition" (http://searchengineland.com/080103-084033.php). "If you think the future of search is on smart automation, Cuill’s definitely one to watch, and perhaps Blekko as well. If you think it’s the growth of humans, Mahalo and Search Wikia are your better candidates. The reality is that success will likely be a blend of the two. … But the reality is that all of these services will have an incredibly tough time to beat Google."
Last year, I said that 2006 was characterized by Web 2.0 touching everything (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=18946), and this year that trend continued with more of the same. It seemed there was a 2.0 designation for everything.
But, perhaps the biggest story of the year was social networking. Each week brought news of developments around Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and the many start-ups creating applications around them. But there were also some interesting networking developments for the professional community: 2collab.com from Elsevier (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=40102), ITtoolbox (an online professional community for the IT industry), and more.
IBM recently introduced IBM Atlas for Lotus Connections, a corporate social networking visualization and analysis tool. It helps enterprise users answer questions such as who are the key experts on a given topic, how are they connected, and whom a user’s contacts know that they do not.
Give it away for free seemed to be the new mantra for publishers and technology companies this year—we saw important premium content opened up for free access, including information from TimesSelect, The Financial Times, and Elsevier. Maybe it’s not about free versus fee but finding just the right balance.
It was a good year for Open Access initiatives. The year ended with President Bush signing an appropriations bill that included a provision requiring the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to adopt an open access mandate. There’s still considerable publisher opposition, but OA advocates are claiming victory. (For an exhaustive look at OA news for 2007, see Peter Suber’s review at www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/01-02-08.htm#2007.)
We continued to see the rush to digitize and make books available online. During the year there was a steady stream of announcements of public and university libraries partnering with Google or Microsoft or The Open Content Alliance for book scanning projects. Some, like Emory University, bucked the tide and opted to work with companies like Kirtas Technologies and BookSurge, a unit of Amazon.com.
Unfortunately, the bad guys were still active. Spam and malware plagued us. Identity thefts and data losses continued at alarming rates.
Here’s my take on the most important product news of the year:
- iPhone launch
- Facebook platform with others following, including Google’s OpenSocial
- CSA Illustrata (deep indexing of tables and graphics in scholarly articles)
- Zoho’s free applications (challenging the commercial software suites)
- New licensing model for The Financial Times
- Elsevier’s OncologySTAT (opens up premium content for free)
- Thomson’s WebPlus search engine (still in beta)
- Search engines introduce "blended search" (Danny Sullivan is calling it Search 3.0)—Google Universal Search, Ask 3D, etc.
- No big launch but the quiet, ongoing march of ebook content onto multiple platforms (Springer, Elsevier, and Taylor & Francis)
- Amazon’s Kindle digital book reader (underwhelming, unfortunately)
My personal favorite cool tools for 2007:
- Bloglines for RSS feeds
- Copernic Desktop Search
- Microsoft Outlook—calendar, contacts, tasks, alarms
- Cell phones with Bluetooth headsets
- Google Maps/Google Earth
- Wikipedia (as a pointer to other resources)
- USB connections on everything—PCs, cell phones, and digital cameras
- Flash memory cards (used in PCs, cameras, and phones)
- Wireless networks
- My public library (online and physical)
(Note: No ebook reader is listed, but maybe in a few years? … )
And what are my possible favorites for cool tools for this year?
- The new Garmin GPS unit we got for Christmas … such fun
- The Bluetooth chip for my laptop, making it compatible with my phone and other devices
- Possibly Microsoft Vista (especially for its security features; for now, I’m sticking with XP)
- USB 3.0 (rumored to be up to 10 times faster for data transfer, but the release date isn’t certain)
Trends to Watch in 2008
Note that I’m not calling this predictions—that’s not an area where I’ll stick out my neck. But, I have enjoyed some of the ones I’ve read—and it seems every media outlet has published something.
I did not enjoy seeing the forecasts in The Trends Journal by Gerald Celente, founder of The Trends Research Institute (www.trendsresearch.com/journal08.html). He says "2008 is going to be a wild ride." (Indeed, the economic and market news for the first few weeks of 2008 have been pretty grim.) Here’s something to mull over: "Just as the Twin Towers collapsed from the top down, so too will the U.S. economy from an Economic 9/11. When the high-stake speculators, banks, brokerages, and buyout firms that leveraged billions with millions get hit … everything underneath them will turn to rubble." (I hope he’s wrong.)
Given the capabilities of various devices and the convergence of many of the functions—on cell phones, PDAs, GPS units, e-readers, TVs, etc.—I think the mobile internet-centric trend will continue with the focus moving away from desktop and laptop computing. (As for internet addresses for everything—I’m still not ready for an internet-connected refrigerator, but I do like having a network-addressable printer that I can send print jobs to and receive alerts from.)
Many analysts and experts predict a decline in mergers and acquisitions activity this year due to a slowing economy. Though, I still see the occasional prediction that Yahoo! will be bought by Microsoft or that it will merge with AOL. And, of course, we just saw Microsoft announce it would acquire Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), so expect to see more consolidation in the enterprise search space (see the NewsBreak at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=40582).
One publishing and media consultant wrote that he sees additional consolidations for 2008. Michael Cairns of Information Media Partners (formerly the president of R. R. Bowker) said he sees the following trends emerging (http://personanondata.blogspot.com/2008/01/predictions-2008.html). "First, I expect more change driven by M&A activity in 2008. Second, as more companies bound by traditional publishing models migrate online and join those already there, the application of technology in our industry will accelerate. Third, we will see a ‘squeezing’ of the value-chain (from author to publisher to consumer) driven by publishers looking to build community models around content and authors."
The Jordan Edmiston Group, Inc. (www.jegi.com), which specializes in deals in the media and information industry, says that its analyses of the trends "portends continued brisk M&A activity" in these sectors.
Here are a few other things I’m watching this year:
- Accelerating number of mobile content applications—and new devices
- Increased spending for online ads with further declines in print
- Increasing popularity of widgets for content delivery
- Niche community networking sites are expected to grow in popularity as people grow weary of the megasites (MySpace, Facebook, etc.)
- Increasing use of social networking capabilities in enterprise settings
- New collaborative workflow tools will emerge as companies demand more collaboration across organizations
- Software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications will continue to grow in popularity for a segment of businesses
- Growth of open source tools and services
- Ongoing book digitization projects (Google, Open Content Alliance, etc.)
- Continued progress and growth in open access initiatives
- Further movement from fee-based to free content
- Continued buzz around user-generated content with publishers testing new publishing models
- Increased interest in text analytics, data extraction and mining, semantic search, and related technologies
- Continued interest in testing visualization tools for information discovery and analysis
- Security and privacy remain major concerns
Through Other Lenses
You can get varying perspectives on the hot topics of the year from the lists issued by the search engines. But, take even these with a grain of salt. According to "The Numbers Guy," a columnist for The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB119820461738044109-lMyQjAxMDE3OTI4MTIyMDE0Wj.html), the lists miss counting searches in December (more than 8% of the year). And, the numbers "are massaged beyond recognition and offered as accurate portrayals of Americans’ favorite queries." Most lists exclude adult terms, such as porn, and navigational searches to competitors’ sites. The search engines also do some "fancy aggregating and categorizing" that make for more "respectable" lists.
Here’s the link to search expert Sullivan’s (exhaustive) take on the year: "Search Year 2007: Search News, In Review" (http://searchengineland.com/080101-142959.php).
And, there’s "This Year in Search," from Kevin Newcomb of Search Engine Watch (http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=3627992). See also his "2007: The Year that Search Grew Up" (http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=3627989).
Here are John Battelle’s "Predictions 2008" from his Searchblog (http://battellemedia.com/archives/004172.php). Among the more interesting comments are these: "2008 will be the year Wall Street gets frustrated with Google" and "Yahoo!, meanwhile, will spend most of 2008 trying to figure out what to do with what it bought in 2007, and attempting to articulate a strategy … "
IDC’s predictions for 2008 are discussed in detail in the report, " IDC Predictions 2008: The Hyper-Disrupted IT Industry Takes Root" (Doc #209776). I was particularly interested in the comments about the plethora of social networking sites.
"In 2008, the buildout of the social networking and collaboration infrastructure will accelerate in both consumer and enterprise spaces … Rather than helping companies and individuals discover the ‘wisdom of crowds,’ the explosion of unstructured information from these systems will more often create a ‘cacophony of crowds.’ Consequently, we predict a growth in 2008 of what we call ‘Eureka 2.0’ software and services: leveraging text analytics, sentiment extraction, and related technologies (including semantic search) that are able to distill real insights—such as brand/reputation monitoring, customer satisfaction, and new product ideas—from this extremely valuable but overwhelming volume of information."
The cacophony label is perfect, IMHO.
Information Overload has been named the 2008 "Problem-of-the-Year" by Basex, a provider of research on the productivity of knowledge workers and how technology impacts them. I thought this was a particularly compelling find: "The cost of unnecessary interruptions, which is part of the information overload problem, is estimated to be $650 billion per year in the United States alone according to a recent Basex report." Some companies are now looking into implementing new work behaviors that can minimize interruptions and distractions. As for companies with poor information strategies, Stephen Abram commented: "Sounds like these companies need librarians!"
Library leader and visionary Abram has posted his "30 Library Technology Predictions for 2008" on his blog (http://stephenslighthouse.sirsidynix.com/archives/2007/12/30_library_tech.html).
CMS Watch offered 12 predictions that the vendor-neutral analyst firm believes will shape content technologies in 2008. The complete set of predictions is available at www.cmswatch.com/Feature/172-2008. The CMS Watch analyst team foresees both negative and positive trends. Among the things that may lose their luster this year: Facebook, SharePoint, and Web 2.0. But content technology customers should encounter more of a buyers’ market for content technology services, and they should see vendors focusing on critical infrastructure needs, such as better archiving and simpler search solutions. (Let’s hope.)
In early October 2007, Outsell, Inc. published its annual "Information Industry Outlook 2008." In the report, Outsell forecasts steady and moderate growth for the information industry from 2007 to 2010 ($448 billion by 2010 with 5.5% growth), with performance varying among segments, and it predicts that successful companies will be "agile and adaptive solutions providers." For information about the report, which costs $895, see www.outsellinc.com/store/products/527.
And, read the venerable Economist’s thoughts, "Technology in 2008: Three fearless predictions," at www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=348963&story_id=10410912.(A belated) Happy New Year everyone!