Information Retrieval Services

SIC 7375

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

Companies in this industry are primarily engaged in providing online information retrieval services on a contract or fee basis. The information generally involves a range of subjects and is taken from other primary sources, such as the original publishers of the materials. Establishments primarily engaged in performing activities, such as credit reporting, direct mail advertising, and stock quotation services, and who also create databases are classified according to their primary activity. Establishments primarily engaged in collecting databases from primary sources and reformatting or editing them for distribution through information retrieval services are classified in SIC 7379: Computer Related Services, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Industry Snapshot

Demand for electronic information skyrocketed with the growth of the Internet, but the resulting low-cost competition wreaked havoc with traditional subscription information services. The information retrieval business, which usually charges customers either by the amount of information retrieved or at a flat subscription rate, has traditionally served corporate and academic researchers and librarians--audiences that were used to paying a premium for professional-quality information. This stable market has been undermined, however, as similar information has come available on the Internet, often for free.

With newspaper and magazine articles routinely available for free on the Internet, old-line full-text database services like LexisNexis and Dialog have witnessed customer flight to cheaper services. As a result, competition has gotten tougher and, in many cases, revenues at traditional providers have stagnated or fallen. Mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships were frequent beginning in the early 1990s and continuing into the late years of the first decade of the 2000s as information providers adapted to the new marketplace. Nearly all likewise embraced the Internet in some form, as demand weakened for proprietary software, database connections, and CD-ROM subscriptions. Continued consolidation was expected in order for companies to remain viable.

In spite of some providers' woes, however, according to census statistics, the information retrieval services industry gradually recovered from the sluggish conditions that began in 2001 to enjoy a strong performance in the mid-2000s before the economy fell into recession in the late 2000s. Activity of online information services increased during the 2000s. Online information services became increasingly competitive, whereas information retrieval services began to diversify, consolidate, or add new products in line with demand. General search engines found themselves competing with a growing number of topic-specific databases, from, a how-to database, to, a philanthropic database offered by

Organization and Structure

Online information services were increasingly the leading means of delivering electronic information. Other methods included CD-ROM, diskette, and magnetic tape. Online services were trademarked services that may or may not bear the same name as the companies that owned and operated the services.

Online service companies may be considered the vendors, distributors, resellers, or retailers of informational databases that were often developed by third-party database publishers. The database publishers, often considered part of the broader "information services industry," were not part of the online services industry, however, and were usually classified by the type of publishing they performed. The data in the databases may be numeric (such as financial statistics), bibliographic (citations to periodical literature), full-text documents, directory or dictionary entries, patents, images, or even digital audio and video recordings. Most online services provided multiple databases. Specialized online services may also produce one of the databases themselves. Increasingly, there were online services that provided a combination of databases that they developed along with others that they licensed to redistribute.

Online services could be categorized as either business/professional research services or personal online services. Business/professional online services may be highly specialized by offering only a single set of related databases to a niche market. They may be somewhat specialized but offer multiple databases from different sources on a similar broad subject, such as the legal online services LexisNexis and Westlaw or the scientific service STN International. Finally, professional online services may be very general and offer up to hundreds of databases on all different subjects, such as Dialog or LexisNexis. Such distributors of multiple databases were most often referred to as "database vendors," and their clients were usually corporate librarians.

The largest business segments were legal and investment. Marketing, intellectual property, scientific, and credit information service needs also composed a large portion of this market. The remainder of the industry served a variety of niche markets. For instance, many databases were tailored specifically to one industry or profession, such as chemical, health care, civil engineering, agricultural, banking, insurance, or food service needs. In addition, many niche services were managed by nonprofit industry service organizations.

While the business/professional services encompassed both the specialized online services and the general subject online services, consumer information services tended to be general, offering a wide variety of databases in order to appeal to a wider market. With the emergence of the Internet, however, consumer information services became indistinct from other businesses, such as electronic publishing, Internet access services, and search engines.

Indeed, the Internet search engine is by far the most pervasive form of information retrieval system, both for businesses and consumers. Far different from the traditional information service revenue model, popular search engines were completely free to users. They instead earned money through selling advertising on the site and through electronic commerce partnerships with other firms.

Although parts of the information retrieval industry were relatively young, and therefore entrepreneurial in nature, each segment of the market tended to be dominated by one or two large firms that posed formidable barriers to smaller competitors. For instance, the market for legal information was dominated by just two competitors, LexisNexis and Westlaw. Even niche markets tended to favor the single competitor that was first to establish a presence and to acquire ongoing access to essential copyrighted information. As a result, firms in the industry typically diversify and grow through mergers, acquisitions, or joint ventures with other companies.

Online services allowed customers using computers or computer terminals to access a remote central computer storing databases by connecting through a telephone/telecommunications network. If the customer was using regular analog phone lines, which were historically the most common method and, in the early twenty-first century, the most common means for home and small office customers, the customer's computer was then connected to the phone line with a modem, a device that made the conversion between digital computer signals and analog phone signals. Business customers were increasingly using digital phone lines, such as ISDN, for online service access, because they enabled higher speed and quality of data transfer. Customers accessed a central data bank of information by calling a local, or sometimes long distance, telephone number, and information was then transferred to the user over the phone lines. Online services offered local dial-up numbers throughout the country to a faraway data bank by making use of any one of various data communications networks. An alternative way to connect to the online service's computer was via the Internet, especially the World Wide Web. If a customer's organization had a host computer directly on the Internet, then its users could connect to the Internet through a local area network, and no modems were needed.

Online services, which managed the databases, would charge the customer a flat monthly rate for unlimited access to the data bank. In other cases, customers paid according to the length of time they accessed the databases, the amount of information accessed and printed, and the type of information used. Professional online services may charge as much as $300 per hour to access certain databases, along with additional fees for printing records, because collecting timely information, paying copyright royalties, providing telecommunication connections, and supporting sophisticated data storage equipment generated immense overhead. Customers who accessed large amounts of tax and legal information may have paid tens of thousands of dollars per month in online charges. In comparison to business information services, personal systems were typically inexpensive because the data was less costly and the volume of users in the market was large.

The advantage that online systems had over other forms of electronic information services was timeliness. The medium was especially appropriate for customers who required up-to-the-minute information. Database managers had the ability to continually update information related to stock quotes and other financial data, legal rulings and court proceedings, sporting events, world news, and other timely matters. Online systems were also advantageous because they allowed access to massive amounts of information that was cumbersome for customers to access via print or other media. In fact, the most popular online services offered simultaneous searching of multiple databases.

Background and Development

The electronic information services industry was born during the post-World War II information explosion. The advent of computers during this period formed the basis for channeling large amounts of data to scientists, engineers, businesses, and government agencies. Government investment in new information technologies in the 1950s and 1960s was supplemented by increased private sector spending on research and higher education. The result was that, for the first time, skilled professionals could create, store, and quickly access large amounts of data.

The purpose of the earliest retrieval systems was simply to store and print information, mostly for technical endeavors. As the number and size of the databases grew, however, systems engineers began to focus on searching capabilities that could filter out unneeded data. Eventually, users were able to type commands into a computer that would search and display information containing specific keywords or phrases.

The first computerized bibliographic databases stemmed from the federal government's need for the efficient application of research dollars and the desire to eliminate duplicate analyses. Some of the more popular databases developed in this period included MEDLINE and ERIC. The government also subsidized nonprofit efforts, such as the American Chemical Society's Chemical Abstracts database.

In addition to supporting nonprofit services, government investment in the 1960s initiated many of the private information retrieval services that dominated the market in the 1980s and early 1990s. For instance, Dialog came from a venture between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Lockheed Corporation called Project RECON. ORBIT Online was developed as a result of System Development Corporation's work with the National Library of Medicine. Industry giant Mead Data Central (now called LexisNexis) got its start from seed money provided by U.S. Air Force projects.

The federal government also played a vital role in developing telecommunications networks that made online services possible. Networks that essentially provided affordable access for online database users through local telephone lines stemmed from Department of Defense efforts. The network of all networks, the Internet, also began as a Department of Defense project.

As more efficient telecommunications networks increased and computer technology advanced in the late 1960s and 1970s, the market for online information services began to proliferate. Companies and libraries relied increasingly on technical and legal information to provide a competitive edge in the marketplace or to make their research efforts more efficient. Furthermore, many users were finding electronic information access to be an important tool for increasing productivity.

As electronic markets began to grow, many publishing houses began to experiment with electronic publishing as a means of delivering their information. H.W. Wilson and Company, for instance, began to offer access to Wilson indexes and abstracts online through WILSONLINE. Likewise, McGraw-Hill and other periodical publishers began to offer their publications online. One of the greatest commercial uses of electronic information retrieval was for legal publications.

By the end of the 1970s, the emerging information retrieval industry was beginning to establish itself in many sectors of government, academia, and industry. Because of technical limitations, however, retrieval systems remained extremely costly. Furthermore, most systems were complicated and required professional research skills for effective use. As a result, estimated industry revenues were still well under $500 million by 1980.

Technological breakthroughs in personal computer and data storage devices fueled rapid industry growth through the 1980s and early 1990s. At the same time that microcomputers became faster and less expensive, users became accustomed to working with modems, networks, and other communications devices, allowing large numbers of people to gain access to reservoirs of data. For the first time, information retrieval companies were able to expand their services to the end user, who would actually use the information, rather than professional researchers.

As end users increasingly became the market for information providers, companies began to emphasize user-friendly system interfaces that allowed easier data searching and access, such as providing menus instead of requiring the user to memorize arcane commands. Firms were also quick to take advantage of retrieval technologies. For instance, online services were able to make use of faster modem communication speeds, including high speed, always-on network connections that became common in businesses by the mid-2000s and, increasingly, in homes.

As new markets emerged, companies began to expand their offerings. Online information "supermarkets" evolved, including Dialog, where users could access hundreds of specialized databases covering thousands of publications. Information "boutiques" that offered simultaneous online access to multiple databases and services for one particular industry or profession also resulted. Individual niche services flourished as well. Between 1987 and 1992, the number of electronic databases available in the industry leapt nearly 300 percent, from 3,369 to more than 10,000.

In the late 1980s, the emergence of CD-ROM technology for storing and accessing large amounts of data by a personal computer appeared as a competitive threat to online aggregators. Many database publishers who had previously distributed their electronic databases exclusively through online services began to publish and distribute that same data themselves on CD-ROM. By the early 1990s, however, it became clear that the information market was growing fast enough to accommodate both online and CD-ROM media, and that the two could exist side by side serving different customer needs.

Legislative issues related to copyright infringement came to the forefront of the industry during the 1990s. By 1996, the U.S. Congress debated whether online services should be held fully responsible for copyright infringement by their customers, and infringement suits based on online content had begun to circulate in the U.S. court system. To fulfill copyright law obligations, online services were required to monitor the distribution and customer access of each copyrighted database record to ensure that proper royalty fees were paid. Thus, the computer systems of online services automatically tallied how many times a specific record was accessed to determine the licensing fees that should be paid to the database producer. Database producers, in turn, paid royalty fees based on this tally information to the original publishers.

For the fairest, most accurate payment of royalties, end user customers also were charged for each record accessed, sometimes at a different rate for different kinds of records. This system worked well for certain professional and business customers, but the home consumer market preferred flat-fee pricing. Through careful historical analysis of database access statistics, database producers and online services were in many cases able to derive revenue projections that enabled them to charge flat fees for customers and still honor royalty agreements.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the proliferation of free information on the Internet put severe pressures on old-style subscription services, and some organizations cracked under the strain. Dialog, one of the oldest and most revered subscription databases for professionals, was one casualty. In 1997, the troubled service was purchased from Knight Ridder, a newspaper publisher, by an obscure British concern known as Market Analysis Information Database (MAID). Renamed Dialog Corporation plc, the service continued to flounder with flat revenues and fleeing customers. In a controversial move, the company ratcheted up its search fees drastically when it learned many users were identifying information sources (newspapers, periodicals) with its powerful search engine but then retrieving the articles more cheaply from the sources' Web sites. This alienated more users. Although the company managed to turn a slim profit in 1998, it was strapped with debt and faced an uncertain market. Finally, in 2000, the Dialog service and trade name were sold to Thomson Corp. of Canada.

Demand for information services grew rapidly in the 1990s. Based on the Census Bureau's revenue estimates, the industry grew at an average of nearly 18 percent a year between 1992 and 1998, when the industry took in $12.3 billion in sales. That growth was heavily weighted toward the end of the period, when industry sales surged 30 percent or more each year.

Market Conditions
In 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the information retrieval industry had $27.7 billion in sales. The total market for electronic information services was tricky to gauge, however, because it depended on how they were defined. Private-sector estimates were usually quite a bit higher. For example, Veronis Suhler Stevenson, a communications market research firm, estimated that the market for business information services alone reached $28.3 billion in 2001.

Although the business information market is but one industry subsector, it is an important one, along with the library market. By the early 2000s, the information retrieval industry was recovering from a challenging economic climate, which had led to lower levels of business and library spending. The negative downturn on the corporate side is evident in the findings of the Veronis Suhler Stevenson Communications Industry Report released in late 2002. The report found that adjusted revenues for more than 70 of the industry's major publicly traded organizations, including Reed Elsevier, Reuters, and Thomson, increased almost 8 percent in 2001. This was much lower than the compound annual growth rate of more than 11 percent that these firms achieved between 1997 and 2001.

The Internet's Impact
In many ways, the Internet turned the traditional information retrieval business model on its head. In a few short years, consumer-oriented indexes/search engines like Yahoo! provided competition for subscription-based services. Although this was challenging for information retrieval companies, it did not spell doom for traditional fee-based providers. According to an estimate by LexisNexis, in 2000, the Web contained just 40 million unique documents, compared to LexisNexis's 2.5 billion documents. For professional researchers, the power of such retrieval systems also far exceeded that of a Web search engine, allowing more versatile search options and often more efficient indexing and classification. A database like LexisNexis or Dialog was also usually more stable than many Web pages, an important feature for historical research.

In 2003 many researchers believed there was still a vital need for both free and low-end subscription services over the Internet, as well as proprietary database systems, whether accessed through the Web or other means. The main problems for vendors of traditional services were expected to be pricing and market share, as some of their business was lost or relocated because of newer Internet sources. In the early 2000s, information retrieval companies took a number of measures to deliver more value to end users in the professional and consumer sectors and provide them with content that could not be obtained freely on the Internet. For example, most rolled out new products for targeted audiences, such as public relations professionals, lawyers, students, and genealogists. Some added high quality content from peer-reviewed academic journals. Still other companies, including ProQuest and the Gale Group, began to digitize old books and news articles, providing users with searchable historical content (text and images) dating back as far as the early 1700s.

Legislation and Legal Issues
The main type of legislation that affected the information services industry in the early twenty-first century was copyright law. Most of the information contained in databases distributed by online services was copyrighted, yet because it was in electronic form, it was easily reproducible. Online services did not feel any need to challenge existing copyright law, but challenges from others touched their industry. Original authors of published articles and artists of creative works sued database producers and vendors for electronically distributing their articles without permission.

Copyright-related issues made waves in the industry in 2002 and 2003. At that time, a number of magazine and newspaper publishers, including news giant Gannett, removed literally millions of freelance-written articles from electronic databases. This happened in the wake of Tasini v New York Times, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found that electronic rights to articles default to authors rather than publishers. This had the greatest impact on digital content published prior to 1999. After that year, most publications required freelance writers to consent to the electronic publication of their articles. Some publications removed all of their electronic content published before 1999 instead of taking the time to selectively identify and remove individual articles.

By mid-2003, the business information services market was gradually rebounding from the unfavorable market conditions of the previous years. The demand for information retrieval service was fueled by increased business spending from the corporate sector, as well as new product offerings that further spurred growth. The Veronis Suhler Stevenson Communications Industry Report released in late 2004 found "the need for information products accessible through the Internet was particularly high." Other analysts, such as Outsell Inc., confirmed this information in the mid-2000s. The industry challenge in the late 2000s was to offer better content and services than that available for free.

Annual revenues of $2 billion were declining into the mid-2000s. The softened economy left executives seeking alternative methods for obtaining their research rather than having to purchase it. For instance, research firm Forrester explained executives were utilizing search engines such as Google to obtain "market intelligence on the cheap." The bottom line was that online competition only added to their profit losses. Meanwhile, "research houses" were also looking at their options, either with added products or services, or consolidation. Industry leader Gartner Inc., which dominated more than 40 percent of the market, began to concentrate on options that did not invest in research, and thus pumped up its sales team. International Data Corp. expanded its products to include Financial Insights and Life Sciences Insights in an effort to focus on "sector-specific" research. Another important industry leader, IDC, planned to include manufacturing insights, as well as energy, healthcare, and government. Some significant consolidations were Forrester's purchase of Giga Information Group in 2003, MasterCard Advisors' acquisition of TowerGroup, Monitor Clipper Partners' purchase of Yankee Group, and Datatec International's acquisition of Analysis Ltd. Louise Garnett, lead analyst at Outsell, Inc., followed the information market and indicated that additional consolidation would continue.

Other industry leaders were trend setters applying strategic processes while maintaining their competitive edge. Thomson Gale, for example, undertook more than two years of research while focusing on delivering information to the user. In 2006, Thomson Gale announced the addition of continually updated podcast feeds, beginning with presidential speeches. The following year, in 2007, the company offered a new database called the Small Business Resource Center. Additionally, Thomson Gale tailored some of its Resource Center products for "OpenURL connectivity" to further enhance the overall experience of the end-user.

The Factiva service also made significant changes, including a redesign in 2006, offering a user-friendly interface and features similar to the popular Google search engine, a first for a major company in the industry. Market analyst Delphi Group surveyed a group of 300 IT managers from various industries and found that almost 60 percent experienced improvement in their search for information through online information retrieval services. Despite some positive findings, 68 percent of the participants found their search to be not very user-friendly or timely. The respondents admitted spending two to four hours daily searching for information, with a success rate of 75 percent.

Popular search engine Google launched Google Scholar, a scholarly information retrieval service, in 2005. Despite some opposition from librarians, Google believed it could bring end users new subscription-based service. Google's Internet search tool directs its users to journal articles, peer-reviewed-papers, books, technical reports, abstracts from bibliographic databases, and data from e-print servers. Only "time will tell whether it becomes a major access tool and replaces some of the traditional indexing and abstracting services or ends up as yet another orphaned initiative," according to Online. The process of scanning works from major libraries, to make the contents available with a few online clicks, was still relatively slow by 2006, however, due in part to copyright issues and the sheer volume of published material.

During the late 2000s, while giants Google and Yahoo! continued to dominate the general search engine market, a new trend toward search engines that directed readers to prepared answers to common questions and provided instructions or medical information flooded the Internet. For example, WebMD and its sister site MedicineNet provided medical news, features, drug information, and reference materials, written and reviewed by its own content staff. While a Google search for "Hodgkin's disease" might produce a list of over 1.4 million topic-specific sites, the same search in WebMD might produce a list of 263 links. The links lead to articles covering various aspects of the topic (e.g., overview, treatment, care, causes) produced by a WebMD content writer. also provided a consumer-driven search engine, and provided the same type of at-site information retrieval specifically focused on pharmaceutical products.

Although Google and other mainstream search engines continued to expand, the overall design of Web searching remained basically the same in the late 2000s as it was earlier in the decade. However, several projects were under development to enhance the search experience to include more specifically targeted results. For example, Microsoft introduced its new Web site Bing operates similarly to Google, but with several enhanced features that limit or better define search results. A search for "Hodgkin's disease," which produces over 325,000 results, also provides additional options in a side box that limit the search to such topics as survival, causes, symptoms, and treatments. Nonetheless, major search sites continued to develop a smarter, more intuitive search engines.

Consumer-targeted information retrieval systems were expanding rapidly at the end of the 2000s, aimed at a wide range of information--some very specifically targeted and others very generally targeted. For example, in 2009, boasted over 6 million visitors to its Web site per month, making it the most popular how-to searchable database on the Internet. While some information retrieval, such as (owned by Pearson, an education publishing company) was offered free of charge (with the sites depending on advertising revenues), others charged a fee. For example, for a fee, provides unlimited access to its searchable database of camping, hiking, and biking trails and maps from across the United States.

By 2008, according to industry statistics, there were an estimated 4,883 online information retrieval firms employing over 83,000 people. The combined industry garnered $36.7 billion in revenues that year. The average online information retrieval firm employed 18 people, while generating about $9 million in revenues. Information retrieval services represented the largest sector, which held 50 percent of the market share by number of firms and generated 83 percent of industry profits. Online database information retrieval held 38 percent of the market by number of firms and generated 10 percent of industry profits. Other significant sectors included database information retrieval and remote database information retrieval.

Current Conditions

Despite the economic recession of the late 2000s, in the early twenty-first century the information retrieval services and online information services industries in the United States were experiencing exponential growth. For example, revenues for Google, the most popular Internet search engine, increased by more than $16 billion in three years (from $ 21.7 billion in 2008 to $37.9 billion in 2011), and yet there was still some market left for other providers, such as Yahoo!, whose sales went from $717 million in 2001 to almost $5 billion in 2011. Veronis Suhler Stevenson predicted that U.S. spending on communications would top $1.4 trillion by 2015. The fastest growing sector was business and professional information and services. According to president of VSS John Suhler, "While there are instances of declines and decelerated growth--largely in the more traditional segments of the Communications Industry--there is a convergence taking place in which everything digital continues to gain greater influence, scope and relative revenue mix, neutralizing the general decline of traditional media." Of the 20 categories of the communication industry as defined by VSS, only two were expected to register declines in revenues in the early to mid-2010s: newspaper publishing and local consumer directories.

Increased use of the Internet contributed to the industry�s growth. For example, in 2010 the average American spent 397 hours on the Internet, according to VSS. The New York Times reported that 2010 was the first year that time on the Internet surpassed time spent watching television, and that the amount of time people spent online had increased 121 percent between 2005 and 2010. Time spent on mobile online media, such as via smartphones, also increased in 2010--almost 50 percent--to 77 hours per person. With the rapidly changing technology and incorporation of new devices such as computer tablets, that figure was expected to continue to increase.

Industry Leaders

General Professional Database Services
The Thomson Reuters Corp., which was created in 2008 when information provider The Thomson Corp. purchased the news service Reuters for $16 billion, was parent to scores of general and industry-specific information retrieval services and was a major information provider worldwide. One of its main offerings was a general-purpose database called Dialog. The Dialog service was the pioneer in online retrieval services when it was founded in 1972. It was sold in 1988 for $353 million by its parent, Lockheed Corp., to the newspaper publishing and news service company Knight Ridder Inc. Under Knight Ridder Information Services, Dialog was also linked in the mid-1990s with DataStar, a European information service. However, amid sluggish sales, Knight Ridder sold its information services in 1997 to U.K.-based Market Analysis Information Database (MAID) for a steep $420 million. The new company, called Dialog Corporation plc, failed to effect a turnaround, and sales languished as the company was slow to embrace the Internet paradigm. MAID sold Dialog to Thomson Corp. in 2000 for $275 million. In 2006, Dialog commanded 1.4 billion records in 900 databases. In addition to Dialog, Thomson's other major electronic retrieval systems included Infotrac, a periodical index and full-text database provided by the Gale Group, and Westlaw, a legal database provided by the West Group. In 2011, Thomson Reuters, headquartered in New York, reported revenues of $13.8 billion and employed 57,900. One of its new projects in the late 2000s was the development of a federal government initiative to meet the specific needs of the government.

The LexisNexis Group was a division of U.K.-based publishing company Reed Elsevier and was among the largest general-purpose databases for professionals. The company, founded in 1970 and based in Dayton, Ohio, was known as Mead Data Central until its parent, the Mead Corporation, sold it to the European publishing joint venture Reed Elsevier plc in 1994. The company's services included Lexis and Nexis. Started in 1973, Lexis offers access to legal databases. Nexis is the largest news and business information service, which began in 1979. LexisNexis offers its information services electronically via the World Wide Web, as well as in print and CD-ROM formats. The company's electronic solutions allowed users to search more than 3 billion documents. In the late 2000s, LexisNexis continued to expand by offering increasing products on narrower topics. For example, new databases included a Japanese-language database and TotalPatent, a database that provided the world's largest selection of patent-based information.

Business and Finance
Among the online services that served specialized business markets, the largest companies were those that provided real-time securities and other financial information services. The largest companies, which have been in the business for some time, not only provided information services, but in some cases also continued the practice of leasing proprietary computer terminals to access the information.

Internet Search Engines
Web-based universal search engines have had a profound impact on the rest of the information retrieval business. Unlike other services, they have relied almost exclusively on advertising for revenue.

Google Inc., which had 2011 revenues of $37.9 billion, became the top Internet search engine in the mid-2000s, passing longtime forerunner Yahoo! By the end of the 2000s, Google had about four times the number of users of Yahoo! Like its rival, Google sorted results, searching over 8 billion pages and providing results in 35 languages. Google owned YouTube and DoubleClick, an online advertising company.

From its inception, Yahoo! took a value-added approach to collecting Web site information: it classified all sites in a hierarchy for ease of searching. Although this has meant that Yahoo! does not always list as many sites as competing search engines, users have been pleased with its approach. In 2002, Yahoo! was the Internet's most widely used search engine, a spot it held until it was surpassed in 2006 by rival Google. The company's 2001 revenues were $717.4 million. Its earnings were fueled by advertising and services like Yahoo! Auctions and Yahoo! Bill Pay. In addition to acquiring HotJobs in late 2001, Yahoo! entered the traditional information retrieval market the following year, when it launched the Premium Document Search service. This offering provided users with access to more than 70 million full-text documents from more than 7,000 different sources. However, the service was short-lived, and by early 2003 it had been discontinued. At that time, Yahoo! continued to offer access to articles from The New York Times as well as investment-related information through its Yahoo! Finance service. In 2008, Yahoo! rejected Microsoft's unsolicited buyout offer and in 2011 recorded sales of $4.9 billion.


Positions in the information retrieval services industry included computer programmers; system analysts; information processing and delivery professionals; sales representatives; management; clerical and office management; writers and editors; and research analysts. Dun and Bradstreet reported a total workforce of 85,092 in 2008, up from 83,500 in 2006.

Occupations that were predicted to experience the greatest growth throughout the 2000s were related to computer programming and system development. Jobs for sales professionals in all computer and data processing fields were projected to grow at a healthy clip as well, while significant increases in the number of writers, editors, and technical writers employed in the industry were also anticipated.

America and the World

The U.S. electronic information retrieval industry was the largest and most advanced of any nation in the world. It was also acknowledged by foreign markets as the provider of the most comprehensive and highest quality information services. Acceptance of the English language as the standard for information services helped U.S. companies compete abroad. As a result of these factors, U.S. firms found major growth opportunities in overseas information markets. The fact that online services specialized in transferring data over long distances made the expansion into international markets a logical step.

The largest market for online services outside the United States was Western Europe. Both the major U.S. business and consumer online services had subscribers in Europe. The liberalization and privatization of telecommunications services in Europe was also expected to lower the telecom rates paid by businesses and consumers and consequently encourage the use of online services. The Asia/Pacific region, and Japan in particular, was another fast-growing market. Strong opportunities for growth also existed in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Foreign investors from all countries were seeking information about these markets, and these countries and regions were expected to demand increasing amounts of business, legal, and financial information about the United States and other developed markets.

Another aspect of the globalization of the online services industry has not only been the export of the services, but also the internationalization of the databases being offered. U.S. database vendors were increasingly contracting database providers in Europe and Japan to provide the content for databases on their respective industries, which in turn were offered back to the European and Japanese markets in addition to the U.S. market. For example, NEXIS began offering BizEkon, a Russian business directory, and Comline Corporate Directory, which contains profiles of Japanese firms. DataTimes, a full-text online newspaper service, started delivering China Daily and several other Chinese publications. Similarly, U.S. database producers were licensing their databases to foreign database vendors for distribution abroad.

Research and Technology

The electronic information retrieval industry is heavily influenced by technological advances and is, in effect, a corollary of recent advances in computer and telecommunications technology.

Developments in the computer industry made more powerful computers and database management software available at lower costs. This permitted online services to expand their database offerings without technical limitations and lowered the entry barrier to smaller companies to get into the business of online services.

Computer software developments led to the growing use of graphical user interfaces for accessing online services. The software then permitted users to organize the data on their own computer hard drives without spending additional costly time connected to the online service. Other trends in software made access to external data appear as a seamless part of working on one's own computer desktop. This is particularly the case for computer users whose computers are directly linked to the Internet through an organization's local area network. Lotus Notes groupware software and Microsoft Office software offer features of integrating online accessed data with desktop applications.

The combined developments in computer hardware, software, and telecommunications services have enabled the transmission of more complex kinds of data through online services. The rise of broadband Internet connections and advances in data compression technologies enabled transmission of full-motion video and accompanied sound through online services. The distinction between online information services and interactive cable television broadcasters became blurred. The difference may merely depend on whether the data are defined as information or entertainment, or whether it is viewed through a computer monitor or television screen. By the early 2010s, a plethora of sites had launched, such as, that allowed Internet users to select and watch hundreds of TV shows and movies for free.

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News and information about Information Retrieval Services

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Contract Award: Experian Information Solutions Wins Federal Contract for Information Retrieval Services
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; December 14, 2010; 263 words
...Congress), Fedlink Section, has awarded a not to exceed $360,000 federal contract on Dec. 14 for FEDLINK information retrieval services. Contractor Awardee: Experian Information Solutions, 111 Continental Dr., Newark, Delaware 19713, United...
Contract Notice: Espreon Property Services Wins $27,500 Contract for Information Retrieval Services
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; June 8, 2010; 229 words
...June 7 -- Espreon Property Services, Sydney, won a $27,500 contract award from Centrelink to provide information retrieval services (Information Searches). The contract period is from May 18, 2010 to June 30, 2011. For more information...
Contract Notice: Land Services Group Wins $22,000 Contract for Information Retrieval Services
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; June 8, 2010; 228 words
...June 7 -- Land Services Group, Adelaide, SA, won a $22,000 contract award from Centrelink to provide information retrieval services (Information Searches). The contract period is from May 18, 2010 to June 30, 2011. For more information...
Uspto Issues Trademark: A
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; February 16, 2018; 700+ words
...agencies; advertising and commercial information services via the internet; price comparison services; information retrieval services on the internet for others; arranging auction sales of furniture; arranging auction sales of table decorations...
Uspto Issues Trademark: About Me
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; January 14, 2018; 647 words
...import-export agency services; wholesale store services featuring pharmaceutical products; business information retrieval services on the internet for others; rental of vending machines; arranging of subscriptions for the publications...
Are Computer Services Subject to Sales Tax ... Again?
Pennsylvania CPA Journal; January 1, 2018; 700+ words
...released two separate letter rulings during 2017 that provide guidance on the sales and use tax treatment of information retrieval services and support services related to computer software. The DOR concluded that both are subject to tax based on...

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