As Y2K wound to a conclusion, Information Today, Inc. (ITI; http://www.infotoday.com) announced that the year 2001 would see a renaming of the company's 22-year-old conference, the National Online Meeting. The new name, InfoToday 2001 Conference and Exhibition, would cover three simultaneous conferences—National Online 2001, focusing on global information content and delivery technologies; E-Libraries 2001, expanding the previous IOLS (Integrated Online Library Systems) with its focus on the distribution and management of information flow in enterprises through automated library systems and services; and, a completely new addition to the conference package, KnowledgeNets 2001, covering organizational applications of knowledge management theory, practices, tools, and processes. As usual, the conference will be in New York in May.
Tom Hogan, president of Information Today, Inc., explained: "The reason for the change is simple. As organizations continue to adapt to modern business practices, they are trying to answer their information needs on all levels. That means sharing information and knowledge for the benefit of the entire enterprise. Over the past few years, as knowledge management has risen from theory to practice, it has become apparent that there is much in common between the information professional community that has traditionally supported this conference and the knowledge management community that we have come to know better through our new KMWorld magazine and conference. It is our intention to look for opportunities for convergence of the two communities of interest, and our New York event was the logical place to begin."
In total, the InfoToday 2001 conference will offer six simultaneous tracks during the main conference days—May 15-17, 2001. It will also offer keynotes each day and, possibly, a closing wrap-up session speech. Each of these keynote events will be open to all attendees, regardless of the conference package they have chosen. The conference will continue to offer pre- and post-conference seminars, an Electronic Publishing Seminar, and more. Over 100 exhibitors are scheduled for the conference at present, covering search engines, databases, KM products and services, etc. The exhibit hall will also offer a presentation theater for free workshops, hands-on "cybertours," and complimentary receptions.
Prices for each conference segment will stand alone. Hogan said that the company plans to offer attendees an array of payment options. "We will have a one-price plan where participants can pick and choose if they want to focus on one of the three conferences. We will also make a ‘gold pass' available for a reasonable up charge for the run of all three conferences. We have not yet set the prices, but we are looking in the range of $495 for one conference and $595 for a gold pass. Because [it has] only one track, the E-Libraries 2001 conference may cost less." Proceedings and/or conference tapes will be available for each of the three conferences in case attendees see something they don't want to miss.
Hogan said that ITI hopes to expand the global aspect of the conference, though it has no plans to move out of New York. The company does hope to attract new speakers and cover more global topics in the future. Hogan feels that the new structure gives the conference more flexibility and a more "cosmopolitan" flavor. The other conferences sponsored by ITI—Internet Librarian, International Internet Librarian, and Computers in Libraries—will continue to operate independently.
Stephen Abram of IHS/Multimedia considered the change a very desirable re-branding. At this point, said Abram, "Information Today, Inc. is the premier — bar none — conference producer for the market they serve, but they had no cohesive brand for all their conferences. The old National Online Meeting (NOM) is the penultimate conference before the start of the each year's conference cycle (which starts with Special Libraries Association's and American Library Association's meetings in June). NOM had a very narrow identity—older, [and it] needed polishing and reorientation. Over the years, six or seven earlier-named conferences have merged into NOM, blurring its identity. The title InfoToday 2001 rebrands the package and has the added advantage of matching the company's domain name."
Abram predicted the new conference would bring the "best and brightest" from other sources, such as KMWorld. He hoped that ITI would continue to balance the program between the visionary or reflective and the practical.
Marydee Ojala, editor of ONLINE magazine (and former editor of EContent), commented on the change from the background of a traditional competitor that has gone through its own layers of name changes over the years, including a very recent change (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17737). She recalled the historical origin of the National Online Meeting name. Learned Information in the U.K. held the International On-Line Meeting, now called Online Information, as the world's first conference devoted to online in London in 1978. The U.S. operation of Learned Information later split off and became Information Today, Inc., but, while still Learned Information, it inaugurated the National Online Meeting in the U.S.
Ojala observed that her company, Online, Inc., has followed a different strategy in its conference planning. It has created a network of highly targeted conferences focused around specific technologies or services—e.g., DVD Pro, Intranets, and Virtual Communities. It abandoned its major "everything to all information professionals" conference, Online World, this year as too diverse, though she did admit that it remained a very successful conference right to the end ("We ended on a high note.").
Overall, she thought the change should help build the brand name for Information Today, Inc. Sometimes when she attends conferences, she meets people who know only the name of the show, not the sponsoring agency. When the name of the sponsor becomes part of the name of the show, that's smart branding.
InfoToday 2001 is sponsored by Information Today, Inc., publisher of Information Today, KMWorld, Link-Up, Searcher, Computers in Libraries, Intranet Professional, and MultiMedia Schools. For more information, contact Information Today, Inc., at 800/300-9868 (outside the U.S. call 609/654-6266), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or log onto the ITI Web site at http://www.infotoday.com.