Magazine article Information Today

Convergence, Consolidation, Fast-Changing Industries

Magazine article Information Today

Convergence, Consolidation, Fast-Changing Industries

Article excerpt

Insider opinions on an industry in tumult

Most industries go through a fairly predictable evolutionary cycle: a period of build-up, growth in number of players, increasing competition, improved productivity and pricing adjustments, consolidation to a smaller number of bigger players, possible break-up of some large players, and then either additional growth of niche and vertical market players or some sideways convergence with a related industry. The Web has served to speed up the process, and is itself a complicated example of industry change.

At first there were a handful of good sites we knew and used for access to Web content-Yahoo!, AltaVista, WebCrawler. New search engines and tools arose to meet new needs and challenges, and existing sites improved. Things changed faster than most of us could follow. Some of us used to think America Online would never amount to much-and now wish we owned its stock. But recently we have been experiencing the real upheaval in the industry, as Internet stocks have become the darlings of Wall Street, search engines have morphed into portals, print and broadcast media have gotten involved, and mergers and buyouts are hitting fast and furious.

Dividing lines are now not so clear. Traditional online information providers and services have turned to the Web. New services have arisen that have one foot in the information industry and another foot in the Web search engine industry. Web search engines have grown to provide increasing amounts of information and content. Even consumer and business market lines are blurry. The Web has become a caldron, blending connectivity, content, commerce, and community. In fact, the question is, what industry are we talking about? The online information industry? Internet search services? E-commerce? Online communities? Entertainment? New media networks? Ahhh, that last one is interesting. Lycos is now calling itself a "Web media company."

And, we're beginning to see some interesting combinations of kinds of companies. Just recently, we've seen announcements of these mergers and buyouts: America Online and Netscape, Lycos and HotBot, Disney and Infoseek (plus partnering with ABC and ESPN), @Home (and, AT&T is acquiring TCI, a major stockholder of @Home) and Excite, and Yahoo! and GeoCities. Whew! It's hard to keep track.

What does this mean for the future of Web searching and our industry--whatever industry name we choose to use? Are these companies all going to merge into new media conglomerates? Will dominance of these mega-media Web companies actually foster more divergent growth opportunities for commercial vertical Web-solution providers? We've asked some industry folks to give us their thoughts on these recent developments. Here are their comments. Readers are invited to send in their own reactions and reflections, and we'll publish some of the best. Please send them to me, Paula J. Hane, contributing editor, Information Today,


As I was putting these comments together for publication, I received news of another mega-merger. USA Networks is proposing to buy Lycos and merge it with its cable television Home Shopping Network--and Ticketmaster is in the mix as well. Looks like entertainment and new media attached to e-commerce is the ticket for portals these days; information seems to be taking a back seat--at least in the news. I thought the description in The Industry Standard's Media Grok was quite appropriate ( "In this warp-speed game of Net-consolidation musical chairs, you never know who might end up in your lap."

A Reflection on the Future of Web Searching

C. David Seuss

CEO, Northern Light Technology, LLC

The recent announcement of @Home's acquisition of Excite made me think about how quickly this industry is changing. Excite was once a search engine, like Northern Light still is. …

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