Business content providers such as Lexis, Westlaw, Factiva and ProQuest are about to face a new wave of competitors due to the increasing digitization of information resources. Just as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu disrupted the personal entertainment sector by enabling viewers to avoid purchasing “bundles” that include content they don’t want, competitors in the business content space will soon apply similar disruptive pressures on traditional business content providers.
History will repeat itself
Telephone and cable companies created the environment that enabled companies like Netflix to flourish. It’s clear that today’s business content providers are creating a similar landscape:
- They require people to purchase things they don’t want
- They are expensive – charging $200 or more per month for content
- Much of their content is available elsewhere at a lower cost
How we got here
Like supermarkets, the big content providers offer a large selection of products. To purchase these items individually, we’d need to go to a number of different stores. One stop shopping is all about convenience. At some point, as these content providers acquired really high value assets, they were able to “encourage” customers to buy bundles in order to gain cost effective access.
Organizations typically buy content based on numbers of seats, and to fulfill a range of needs – some of which are temporary. An interesting side effect of bundling is that the broader the range of content required by an organization, the more unused content is purchased. Many organizations are required (due to bundling) to license content that is used by fewer than 10% of their employees.
Historically, there has been no cost effective way for organizations to determine which content is being used and by whom, and more importantly, what isn’t being used. Content subscriptions are usually purchased when there is a pressing requirement, yet few organizations have access to usage data, nor a strategy for canceling a subscription when it is no longer needed.
Say it isn’t so!
Our company was spending tens of thousands of dollars on subscriptions no one was actually reading. As long as our subscription costs were on or under budget they simply were not questioned. It wasn’t until the individual responsible for managing these subscriptions left that we finally reviewed the list. This is certainly not best practice. It is, however, very common.
Process of elimination
There is a cost effective alternative. It is now possible to use software to analyze online content usage. With easy-to-install browser plugins (well-known ones include Adobe Flash and QuickTime), usage of any web based resource can be tracked. There is simply no way to do this manually.
While it may sound a bit “big brother,” the point of this type of monitoring is not to determine what people are using, but rather, what they aren’t, so that knowledge professionals can be good stewards of their organizations’ money. Depending on the size of your annual online resource spending, evidence based cancelations could save anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million per year. Lucidea’s LookUp Precision system is an excellent example of this type of technology.
Disintermediation – coming to an organization like yours
Digital disruption isn’t just clobbering the movie and taxi industries. It’s having a growing impact on the business content sector too. Savvy buyers of online research resources are finding more and more places to direct their subscription dollars. To make a big impact on the bottom line, all you need is good information about what your end users are really leveraging.
Optimize your investment in online research materials. Instead of buying content people won’t use, reallocate those funds to acquire products they’ve been asking for, or ones you think they’ll need.
Want to tune up your collection of online resources, give people what they want, and save a bit (or a lot!) of money too? Try a resource management application and see the results for yourself.
Skills for special librarians who telework include setting boundaries to separate work life from home life; suggestions from a freelance consultant
Special librarians increasingly work in virtual settings; there are many free tools to create online resources to information and work virtually
Skills for special librarians include tuning out to avoid burnout; disconnecting from work, taking time every day to revitalize energy and enthusiasm
Skills for special librarians include using the Universal Design for Learning framework to develop meaningful training for users of special libraries