Trends to Watch in 2006
We continue to grapple with the Google effect. It is clearly forcing change on traditional companies in our space. We are likely to see more company consolidation, such as we've seen in the enterprise search space when Autonomy bought Verity. In fact, Google is proving disruptive in almost all business markets. Here's a telling comment from IDC's 2006 predictions:
Google is the next—and a disruptive—information platform. In 2006, players competing in the information platform space need to keep a weather eye on Google, for three reasons: One, the fastest way to unify access to both data and content today is to implement a search engine that can federate access to multiple repositories, index multiple formats, and bridge the information divide while leaving legacy applications in place. Second, the growing development community around Google means that Google's search platform is daily growing richer in functionality—thanks to suppliers that are adding pieces Google itself doesn't have competency or interest in. And three, Google—and a number of similar online and wireless players—have very powerful adoption leverage through their ubiquity (certainly compared with software vendors) and their extremely attractive pricing (low priced or free) based on a radically different (‘IT inside') revenue model.
We should see more shifting from products to services. Companies will choose Web service delivery of online applications instead of buying software. Witness the success of Salesforce.com. Ray Ozzie, Microsoft CTO, had this to say: "The ubiquity of broadband and wireless networking has changed the nature of how people interact, and they're increasingly drawn toward the simplicity of services and service-enabled software that ‘just works'" (Oct. 28, 2005; http://www.scripting.com/disruption/ozzie/TheInternetServicesDisruptio.htm).
Information companies will continue globalization efforts—acquiring rights to distribute global content and pushing into global markets, often with key partnerships. China and India are expected to experience tremendous growth and continue as hot markets. In return, don't count out the purchasing power of foreign acquirers (especially from the Asia-Pacific region) of U.S. companies.
I think we'll see growth in online events—things like more use of Web conferencing, online courses, as well as blogs and podcasts that closely cover events that you can't attend in person. They offer convenience and controllable costs. In addition, more companies are offering Webinars—that combination of seminar-type information with a marketing push, along with polling and reporting capabilities for the Webcaster. One company that provides Webcasting solutions said: "Webinars have gained strong recognition among corporate marketing executives as a highly efficient and effective means of generating hundreds and thousands of qualified, targeted sales leads at very cost-effective prices."
To my surprise, we continue to see new search engines launch. This year, we saw the debut of several, and I suspect the trend will continue:
- Ipselon, a metasearch engine that excludes pay-per-click results and banner and pop-up ads
- Truveo, a new video search engine, in beta
- SearchWebMedia, a new Web media engine from GoFish
- PodSpider, a new podcast search engine
- Congoo was supposed to launch officially in November but now is targeted for late January. Congoo will index and retrieve hidden content from premium sites and provide limited free introductory access as a way to drive new use and subscriptions.
- Navisso Search has just invited the general public to test its newly launched product, Navisso.com. The company said that Navisso Search is a Web search engine that does not rely on external search feeds, unlike other popular search engines. Navisso Search utilizes automated crawling technology to identify Web sites for inclusion in the search index. At this point, its coverage is pretty spotty.
Here are some other trends to watch:
- Open Source is gaining momentum.
- XML continues to grow in importance for information exchange/handling.
- Book content will continue to make its way online. Finding what you need will continue to be a challenge, however.
- Mobile computing will be increasingly in demand (the killer app in my estimation—Google maps and satellite photos on a cell phone).
- Continuing momentum for open access in scholarly publishing—expect to see more experimenting with new models and debates, but nothing conclusive for a while.
- The "big aggregators" (Thomson, Elsevier, ProQuest, etc.) will continue to introduce more value-added services for their markets.
- Aggregators of library-oriented products will be closely watching the results of Thomson Gale's AccessMyLibrary program, which surfaces Gale's content to search engines and then leads users back to libraries for access.
Through Other Lenses
You can get varying perspectives on the hot topics of the year from the lists issued by the search engines. Lycos, Inc. published The Lycos 50 2005 year-end list based on Lycos user searches (http://50.lycos.com). Google posted its annual 2005 Year-End Google Zeitgeist (http://www.google.com/press/zeitgeist2005.html). Yahoo! has posted its 2005 Top Searches (http://tools.search.yahoo.com/top2005). It regularly reports on search activity in its Buzz Index and offers interesting commentary on search spikes and trends in its Buzz Log (http://buzz.yahoo.com/buzz_log).
LexisNexis has posted an interesting site: "2005 Year in Review: When It Happened, How It Was Covered" (http://www.lexisnexis.com/news/2005yearinreview.asp). The site covers the people and events that shaped the news in 2005 and allows visitors to journey back to the actual day this year's top national and international news events occurred.
Search expert John Battelle has written his "Predictions 2006" in his Searchblog (http://battellemedia.com/archives/002149.php). One interesting comment concerns the search giant: "Google will stumble, some might say badly, but it will be significant. How? My money is on its second or third major deal—something on the order of the recent AOL deal. It may well be a loss (perceived or otherwise) in the Google Book Search case. Or it might be the privacy issue. This is not to say the company is going to fail, or the stock, for that matter. Just that it will face a major test in 2006 that it won't pass with flying colors." He also predicts there will be a major court case over privacy issues, that mobile computing will make sense for the average user, and that there will be a lot of head scratching and simmering disputes in the content creation business.
Each year Outsell publishes its annual information industry outlook and makes it available to the industry. This year Outsell published it in September 2005 to coincide with its Go! conference. Titled FutureFacts: Information Industry Outlook 2006, it contains an industry forecast through 2008 for eight segments: Search, Aggregation & Distribution Services; Market Research, Reports & Services (IT and non-IT sectors); Education & Training; Company, Credit & Financial; Scientific, Technical & Medical; Legal; News & Trade; and Yellow Pages & Directories. FutureFacts provides a detailed view of how each segment is performing. It also contains seven future scenarios the company predicts will change the industry and includes a scorecard of how well its predictions for 2005 played out. The report can be downloaded free at http://www.outsellinc.com/subscribe/FutureFactsIndustryOutlook.htm.
Finally, analyst John Blossom of Shore Communications has given a forecast preview of the company's Outlook 2006 report (http://www.shore.com/commentary/newsanal/items/2005/20051226forecast.html). Shore sees investing in users for 2006 revolving around four trendy "Ps" shaping content today: packaging, platform, premium, and personalization. Blossom expects to see a flurry of content deals as companies work to realign in a rapidly changing marketplace.
One thing seems certain: 2006 should be anything but dull!