A frequent public speaker and lecturer at industry events and on college campuses, Jack W. Plunkett is the CEO and publisher of Plunkett Research, Ltd., a company that provides industry information and market research in printed and, increasingly, electronic formats. A resident of Houston, Plunkett serves as an advisor to several corporations and non-profit institutions in and around the city. Here, Plunkett discusses why it's important that sustainability efforts quickly achieve operating efficiencies that make them literally self-sustaining, the costs associated with transforming yourself from a print-only publisher to one with digital products, and why access to fresh water is going to be the biggest single problem that we face this century.
What do you say when people ask you, "What do you do?"
I say "I'm an analyst," which leaves most people with a totally blank look on their face. So I then continue to explain that I founded a firm, Plunkett Research, Ltd., more than 20 years ago with the goal of analyzing trends in business, technology, and demographics. We focus on explaining developments that will create the greatest changes within a business or technology sector over the midterm, five to 15 years. For example, we recently introduced a new Plunkett's Games, Apps & Social Media Industry Almanac, and we will soon release a major report on the green technology industry. Meanwhile, we write and publish large, annual versions of books on such fields as energy, infotech, biotech, and health care -- in total about 20,000 pages yearly. I love what I do because I get to learn constantly and interact with fascinating people in emerging fields. The fact that both globalization and technology have accelerated dramatically over the past couple of decades has made my work all the more demanding and interesting. Thanks to globalization, we have to study -- and sell to -- markets around the world, while the rapid adoption of digital media meant we had to develop ebooks and a serious Internet-based subscription system in addition to our printed volumes. Printed editions now account for less than 25 percent of our volume. In 1995 it was 100 percent.
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It's also an immense intellectual challenge. We have become reasonably well known for explaining potentially difficult technical and financial trends in a manner that readers of most types can understand, even if they have no particular expertise in that domain. This means that my team and I have to understand, and be able to intelligently discuss, concepts like nanotechnology, globalization, or solar power -- not from a deeply technical perspective, but from a point-of-view that will be useful to a broad base of readers, including business professionals, investors, and graduate students. How will developing concepts change the world around us? How will consumers, governments and industries be affected? Which logistic, technological, or social challenges will result? Which investment and trade opportunities will arise? Our typical subscribers are schools of business and engineering at top universities, where students use our data for projects and case studies, as well as consultancies, government agencies involved in trade, investment firms, and business development people at major corporations.