News sector lags, but information industry grows

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Although the newspaper industry has been struggling to compete against the Web’s ability to deliver news fast and free, the rest of the information industry was on a modest upward path in 2008.

After increasing by 7.4% in 2006 and 6.6% in 2007, the information industry grew just 2.3% to $399.6 billion in 2008, according to preliminary data provided by Outsell Inc. at the SIIA (Software & Information Industry Association) Information Industry Summit last week in New York.

With a drop of 7.5% last year, news providers and publishers—the largest information industry category, with 2008 revenue of $123 billion—dragged down the overall market. If the news category were excluded, the industry would have grown an estimated 7.3%, according to Outsell.

It is the size, scope and diversity of the information industry that SIIA will convey to policymakers in the Obama administration this year, said Ken Wasch, SIIA president, in his opening remarks. “The association’s lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., will be focused on making sure the newcomers understand the size and importance of the information industry within our economy.”

Outsell divides the information industry into 12 categories, including news providers and publishers; education and training; search, aggregation and syndication; credit and financial information; and b-to-b trade publishing. B-to-b trade publishing, ranked eighth out of the 12 categories, grew on par with the total industry at 2.3% for a total just shy of $22 billion in 2008.

In her keynote address, Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson, spoke of the importance of content, “which is necessary but not sufficient in what we do.”

Information companies have spent the 10-plus years since the commercialization of the Web “thinking of new ways to do old things,” she said. In the future, it will become increasingly important to develop technology and applications to provide functions that go beyond content delivery, searchability and interactivity.

At Pearson, for example, “we have almost no [educational] programs without imbedded assessment,” Scardino said.

Glenn Goldberg, president of Information & Media for the McGraw-Hill Cos., said, “Content really matters in b-to-b, and we look for industries where the information we provide is essential to the decisions people make.” In construction, for example, commercial builders, developers and their suppliers are making huge investments and, therefore, are willing to pay for information that will help them make better financial decisions.

Ed Keating, VP of the Content Division at SIIA, noted that this year’s summit attendance was down 20% to 25% from last year, “which was in line with what we expected.” On the positive side, some of SIIAs largest member companies, including Thomson Reuters, Pearson, McGraw-Hill Cos., Wolters Kluwer and LexisNexis, sent several people, and roughly two-thirds of registrants were at the VP level or higher, he said.

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