Interview with John J. Regazzi, Author of "Infonomics and the Business of Free"

The Business of Free: Has Information Become a Commodity?

By IGI Global on Nov 11, 2013
Contributed by Ann Lupold, Discipline Manager

Called a "pioneer" and "true innovator" of the information industry, Dr. John J. Regazzi of Long Island University (LIU) has designed, launched, and managed some of the most innovative and well-known information services in the professional community. Including the Engineering Village, Science Direct, Scirus, Scopus, and many other electronic information services, his experience dates back to the early days of online and CDROM industries. John spent most of his career with Reed Elsevier, and eventually retired as CEO of Elsevier Inc. Prior to that he was CEO of Engineering Information Inc., a company he helped turn around and which was acquired by Reed Elsevier. In 2005, John assumed the role of Dean of the College of Information and Computer Science of Long Island University, and recently stepped down from this post and now lectures and directs the Scholarly Communications and Information Innovation Lab at LIU.

Dr. Regazzi was recently featured on New Jersey's WSOU 89.5 Leadership Series with Darrell W. Gunter, a radio program designed to inform listeners of best practices in leadership and to share practical steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business, sales teams, and departments. In it, Dr. Regazzi discusses his recent IGI Global publication, as well as his vast experience in business leadership. View the recording: John Regazzi: Author of Infonomics and the Business of Free.

Released in August, Regazzi's IGI Global publication Infonomics and the Business of Free: Modern Value Creation for Information Services addresses the question of whether or not information has become a commodity. Dr. Regazzi recently took some time to speak with IGI Global about his recent book, research, and career.

The Business of Free: Has Information Become a Commodity?

IGI Global: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you become involved in the field of knowledge management in business?

Dr. John J. Regazzi: Well actually it is a bit of a long story, but I won’t bore you with it all here. I started my professional career on the faculty of Rutgers University in New Jersey, but just as I was beginning there, a friend of mine was automating a publishing company in the Bronx. He was tasked with bringing their linotypes into the digital age. I took a leave of absence from the university, thinking I would return after a year or two, but wound up spending nearly 40 years in the corporate information industry.

I retired some years ago as CEO of Elsevier Inc., the largest scientific, technical, and medical information services company in the world. While there, I was responsible for the e-services businesses, as well as their market development programs. In that capacity I helped launch Science Direct, Scopus, Scirus, and several other services which are now staples of the scientific community.

Explain the term ‘Infonomics’. Why is it so important to use infonomics in business today?

The term infonomics has been coined to convey the underlying value of information today—how it is produced, the market demand for it, how user behaviors affect it, and how it is changing as an economic good and service.

Consumers make decisions every day about how to acquire the information they need—from their travel reservations, to their educational courses, to the business analytics they require. More and more they expect that most, if not all, of their requisite information: 1- Is available on the Web; 2- Is readily accessible and useful; 3- Can be verified; and 4- Is free. As we look at this shift, a compelling conundrum emerges: while the new digital channels of information distribution have reduced information users’ costs to zero or near zero, these same channels have increased the corresponding benefits significantly. This book examines how infonomics and the “business of free” have changed the fundamental value propositions of information, how businesses need to think differently about creating value and profits in the new age of infonomics, and how consumers will derive increased value from the new infonomics.

Tell us a little about your book. What are the most important issues addressed? Why is it so important to put a specific value on information?

The information industry and ways of creating value in it are changing substantially and forever. The history of information commerce and economics is quite a varied one, but one thing has generally been consistent over the years: nothing is free. Recently, however, that has changed, and in today’s infonomics, more and more things are free. What can explain the sudden rise of a new information economics that goes against the grain of hundreds of years of conventional financial wisdom? For example, both open source and open access have their origins in the rapid growth of the information industry, its technology, and the ways in which it has empowered professionals over the last four decades.

Understanding how to create value in what the book calls as “the business of free” is critical to creating sustainable professional information services of the future. The rules have changed.

What have you found most fascinating in your research of information quantification and it role in business?

As a broad generalization, we can say that today’s infonomics are shaped by an underlying tension between two central facts. First, we are living in the information age, and second, we increasingly expect information to be free.

The information age is one in which information is ubiquitous, is a major economic force, and is also of great social and cultural importance. After the Internet paved the way for exponentially increased access to information, we now live in a world where information is all around us. Given the potential of the ongoing wire- less revolution to make the Web still more accessible, this will probably be even more the case in five, ten, or twenty years. More people will be able to access more online content in a wide range of contexts within their everyday lives.

Economically, the information industry has become one of the world’s fastest growing and most powerful. The fact that Apple Inc. now rivals petroleum giant ExxonMobil for the title of the largest company in the U.S. only serves to under- score the industry’s economic clout. By many measures, information has arguably replaced tangible goods and resources like manufactured products, steel, or oil as the Western world’s most important commodity.

Yet despite the fact that information has become so central to our culture and economy, users increasingly anticipate being able to find the content they need online for free.

In your opinion, what do you see as the future for the information industry? What impacts will the wireless revolution impose in the long run?

Radical and sudden changes have taken place in infonomics even just over the past decade. Future developments depend largely on the way in which current corporate, governmental, and public entities and communities respond to current situations, so it is difficult to make many hard and fast predictions. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the landscape of infonomics and of the information industry will continue to change very quickly. We can, however, make some reasonable assumptions. Among the trends and anticipated changes mentioned in the previous chapters, there is one that is particularly important to highlight.

In characterizing the infonomics of the information age, it is important to note one broad, overarching trend, one that is rooted in the changing value of information. Even as recently as a few decades ago, information was a saleable good in and of itself. Academic journals, newspapers, and early electronic databases were all essentially purveyors of information, in one form or another. The technological advances of the late twentieth century, however, triggered economic and cultural shifts that changed the way we think about information. Now, the companies that can make a profit in the information industry are usually those that focus not on information itself, but on the user’s experience of that information. In other words, those that focus and empower the customer.

Infonomics and the Business of Free: Modern Value Creation for Information Services

Released in August 2013, Dr. Regazzi's book Infonomics and the Business of Free: Modern Value Creation for Information Services addresses the question of whether or not information has become a commodity and examines how infonomics and the “business of free” have changed the way companies must create and market their information to make it accessible and valuable for their customers. Information professionals who are responsible for creating valuable information and making services sustainable and accessible will greatly benefit from this book’s unique perspective and complete review of current research.

Part of IGI Global's Research Essentials Book Collection, this book series recently debuted in the 2013 copyright year. Research Essentials aim to pack the same high-level research our audiences have come to expect from our more comprehensive publications, only in a smaller reference format.

Publications released as Research Essentials will offer a succinct discussion on niche topics in a wide variety of subjects. Sized and priced appropriately, these concise, advanced, and timely resources will be perfect for supplementary course usage, targeted towards instructors and students, as well as the independent researcher looking for the most recent and innovative research in their field. For more information, contact or call (717) 533-8845, extension 100.
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