The latest annual survey of the European market for online information, published by IRN Research, values the market at €3,070m in 2004, increasing by 10% at current prices compared to 2003. This annual increase is the lowest for three years and over half of this double-digit growth has come from the switching of spending from traditional hard copy sources to online services, rather than from any new sales. Online business information is the largest market segment, accounting for 66% of total online sales in Europe in 2004. Online sales in this segment increased by 7% at current prices in 2004 boosted especially by more online sales of legal, tax, and regulatory information and market research online subscription services.
IRN reports that sales in the European online scientific, technical and medical (STM) information segment increased by 16% at current prices in 2004 to pass the €1bn level. Extensive migration of services to the Web in the last three years means that the share of total European STM information sales taken by online products and services passed the 50% level in 2004 and continues to increase. In 2002, STM online sales accounted for just 42% of all sales. Profit margins for most of the leading players in both business information and STM information have improved in 2004. In the business information sector, there has been strong M&A activity amongst company information vendors in 2004 and early 2005 while the high profile European mergers in the STM sector in 2003 have generally been replaced by smaller, more subject-specific mergers and acquisitions from mid 2004 to May 2005. Across the European information industry generally, venture capitalists are taking a greater role with leading suppliers such as Springer Science + Business Media, BvD, Bonnier Business Information, and VNU World Directories Group all becoming part of these financial groups in the last year.