Wednesday, 16th April 2008
Tim Buckley Owen
It’s pointless to pretend that there aren’t going to be job losses in the finance sector, or that they won’t affect the information profession. A net 25% of respondents to the latest Financial Services Survey from the Confederation of British Industry and PricewaterhouseCoopers http://digbig.com/4wshx said they had cut jobs over the past three months.
This was the highest rate since March 2003, and against expectations that numbers employed would increase marginally. In addition, firms' expectations for employment over the next few months (a balance of 33% expecting numbers employed to reduce) were the weakest since December 2002.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the crunch comes at a time when search and retrieval – the stuff that used to be our stock in trade – continues to get cleverer and cleverer.
Round about now, Northern Light should be launching its new, free business search engine, complete with text analytics and ‘meaning extraction’ capabilities from its MI Analyst application, which was formerly only available to its enterprise clients. As Information Today’s Newsbreaks service reported http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=41368 Northern Light has been working up to this since last autumn, when it stopped charging for the use of its Business Research Engine and started redirecting people to the beta version of its new offering at http://www.nlsearch.com.
Almost simultaneously, the news search engine and aggregation portal provider Rocketinfo announced the launch of its new Topic Discovery Engine at http://www.rocketnews.com/. As reported by FreePint’s partner publication ResourceShelf http://digbig.com/4wsjn this new engine examines all Rocketinfo’s 60,000 news sources, expanding a contextual search to include blog posts, photos, video clips and research data, besides an abundance of updated and historical news.
Ultra-simple consumer search engine development is almost certainly driving this trend in business information – and will no doubt continue to do so. As news of the Northern Light and Rocketinfo developments was breaking, the comparison shopping engine Become.com announced http://www.become.com/press/pr032508.html a $17.5 million investment in its future by the global private investment firm TPG Growth.
Become.com works by using its own Affinity Index Ranking search technology to provide a combination of product research and comparison shopping data for consumers, encompassing over 25 million products from 5,000 merchants. Algorithms that work for home shoppers can work for business as well.
So is there no hope for beleaguered information professionals? Of course there is. One of the ironies of a downturn is that those who are left have to work even harder, looking for the business opportunities that are still out there. Clever search engines can help everyone – and they should enable professional information searchers to work even smarter.
But don’t necessarily expect your next job title to include any of the words ‘information’, ‘library’ or ‘web’.
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