A new report published by IRN Research, a market research consultancy focusing on the information industry, values the European online information market at 2,463 million pounds in 2002 showing growth of 12%. According to IRN, much of the increase is the result of a surge in online sales of scientific, technical, and medical (STM) information. STM suppliers, notably Elsevier and Thomson, have released a number of new Web-based services that have attracted revenue away from hard copy and boosted online sales by 40%. Online revenues still account for less than half of all European STM information revenues leaving substantial room for further switching from hard copy. In the more dominant online business information sector, the market saw growth of just 3% to 1,751 million pounds. Suppliers have felt the increasing pressure faced by its core finance and consulting sectors with revenues from new subscriptions drying up and with significant gains from technical investment yet to be realized.
While industry talk continues to center on ways to add value to the information service through integrated and customized packages, IRN's report sees a more problematic road to growth. While some free information services have switched to a fee-based business model, those that remain free are posing a greater threat to fee-based services in the business information sector, according to IRN's survey. Over 60% of business information professionals claim to be using some free information to replace information that they previously paid for, a much higher percentage than in previous surveys. In the STM information market, the role played by free information sources appears to be less of a threat, with many information professionals using these sources as supplementary sources to fee-based core services. The report sees little likelihood of an improvement in European online information budgets in the next 12 months. IRN expects most budgets to remain unchanged or decrease. The full report, The European Online Information Market 2003, is available directly from IRN Research, for 650 pounds.