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Magazines > Information Today > June 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 6 — June 2003
NEWSBREAKS UPDATE
The Latest on Google, Market Research, and More
By Paula Hane

Like it or not, news about Google is dominating both the technology and mainstream media. I recently reported on Google's acquisition of Applied Semantics (formerly Oingo), a company known for its semantic text-processing technology (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb030428-1.shtml). Most media coverage focused on how the acquisition will beef up Google's targeted online advertising, but Applied Semantics' technology is also used in enterprise solutions for categorization, summarization, concept tagging, and event-extraction applications. It'll be interesting to see what Google does with this purchase.

"All Eyes on Google," the cover story in Forbes' May 26 issue, says that Microsoft now has 70 engineers working on search technology and is gunning for Google with help from Overture, its partner and Google's main rival. Things could get interesting in this space. Remember that Google's goal is to index all of the world's public information.

Google has also launched five international sites for its special News search, with more to come. These sites provide local news for Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and India. Each maintains a global perspective but also delivers more targeted local headlines and sources. The headlines on Google News are still selected entirely by computer algorithms, based on how and where the stories appear on the Web. Because of its news source selection (4,500 sources worldwide) and currency, Google News remains one of my most-used tools for tracking breaking stories. (By the way, our NewsBreaks are indexed by Google News, usually within hours of posting.)

USA PATRIOT Act Debate Continues

Because of the privacy issues it raises, the USA PATRIOT Act, which gives federal agents broad powers to investigate and track potential terrorists, continues to rile librarians and civil libertarians. Some libraries have been destroying patron checkout records. Others tape notices to PC screens alerting patrons that federal agents could access what they read. ALA is officially opposed to the legislation and is working to have it repealed.

Some senators, led by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), had been seeking to make the law's provisions permanent, rather than allow them to expire in 2005 as written. Hatch said he agreed to drop this campaign when "the Senate added another important anti-terrorism provision to the arsenal of weapons to combat terrorism. The Senate fixed a gap in the original 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to authorize the gathering of intelligence information relating to 'lone-wolf' terrorists who cannot be linked to an international organization or state."

But we're not finished with this issue yet. Some groups are up in arms about what they call PATRIOT Act II, or "Son of Patriot." This legislation was reportedly drafted by attorney general John Ashcroft's office, though it hasn't been released by the Department of Justice. For more information, visit The Center for Public Integrity's site (http://www.publicintegrity.org), which has posted what it calls a secretly obtained draft.

Widespread Financial Struggles

Meanwhile, financial challenges continue to pummel libraries and academic institutions, as well as the local, state, and federal government entities that support them. For example, as a result of deep public-funding cuts and the threat of further reductions, The New York Public Library announced the launch of its Emergency Campaign for the Library. This effort will seek to raise $18 million in private funds over the next 3 years to sustain essential collections, programs, and services during a period of city cutbacks.

Yes, times are tough, but there are a few encouraging spots. Some companies are managing to retain close ties to loyal customers, cut costs, and stay focused on strategies. (See the interview with ProQuest's Ron Klausner on page 1.)Several are using distribution partners to expand into new markets without expanding their own sales staffs.

Thomson Corp. recently announced its financial results for the first quarter of 2003. The company's total revenues were $1.7 billion, down just 1 percent for the current quarter. While Thomson said it expects overall revenues to increase, it does not expect to achieve its long-term growth target this year because "economic softness and market uncertainty have continued into 2003."

In making the announcement, Thomson president and CEO Richard J. Harrington stated his position on the company's performance and plans, which reflect what many organizations are attempting to do at this point. He said: "Throughout the quarter, Thomson remained focused on strengthening customer relationships and gaining traction in our markets by continuing to develop value-added solutions that enhance our position as a leading global provider of integrated information solutions. As we have said before, due to the seasonal nature of major parts of our business, first-quarter results historically are not typical of full-year performance. Looking ahead, we will continue to focus on introducing new products and services and increasing operational efficiencies across Thomson to drive growth and value for customers and shareholders."

As press time, OCLC announced some good news for public libraries. The company launched WebJunction (http://webjunction.org), a new Web-based service designed to help libraries share knowledge and experience. The resource is being developed through a 3-year, $9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. OCLC is working with four partners, including the Colorado State Library.

WebJunction gives public librarians a broad range of resources, including a forum for sharing information on policies and practices (e.g., Internet access for minors), technical tools, advice for purchasing hardware and software, and community message/discussion boards that cover both day-to-day support issues and broader management topics. (For more details, see the NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb030519-2.shtml.)

Partner for Growth

One of the most venerable database producers has announced that it's looking for one or more partners to expand its available resources. The BIOSIS board of trustees stated in a press release that it's exploring strategic options to "ensure enhanced growth, enriched product development, and continued access to biological literature."

According to Linda Sacks, senior vice president of product development and marketing, BIOSIS announced its intentions in order to attract interested companies and quell any potential rumors. She emphasized that BIOSIS is "not a company in trouble" but one that's just too small to grow, given the changes in the scientific communications process. (For more, see the NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb030519-1.shtml.)

Market Research Snapshots

At InfoToday 2003 in New York, Snapshots International, Ltd. announced the U.S. launch of its new Latin American series of market research reports. At the Online Information meeting in London last December, the company forecast that it would produce 100 reports. By February, it had published 84. According to a company spokesperson, "We won't publish anything if we have not been able to confirm all the data, so we withdrew some of the titles rather than publish anything substandard."

The Snapshots reports provide 5 years of historical data and 5-year forecasts. They cover market size, market segmentation, distribution, socioeconomic data, market shares (with Web links to the major players), and sources for further research, such as trade associations. All Snapshots data is compiled in-house by the Snapdata Research Department, a team of multilingual research experts who probe original sources and interview industry experts all over the world.

The Snapshots Series are available by region for stand-alone, intranet, and global networking solutions. Single reports are available for $225 each from the Snapshots International site (http://www.snapdata.com). The company also offers tailored, modular packages with individual industries and/or individual countries. Snapshots reports currently number more than 2,600 and cover 30-plus industries in 23 countries.

Debra Curtis, Snapshots' managing director, said: "Snapshots is continuing to respond to market demands for new regional and industry coverage which clients find hard to get elsewhere. I am very proud of our dedicated research team, whose consistent effort has made the Snapshots Series unrivaled in the marketplace."

Snapshots also announced a deal with Alacra, Inc., a global provider of business and financial information. The SnapshotsSeries will be available as Alacra premium content. They will join the organization's 100-plus premium databases, which provide company profiles and financials, investment and market research, news, and economic data. Most of the premium content is available on a pay-per-view or subscription basis. This arrangement brings Snapshots content to a new set of customers. Alacra's users include more than 750 financial institutions; management consulting, law, and accounting firms; and other corporations around the world.

A Snapshots representative said the company would debut the new version of its Web site at this month's SLAAnnual Conference. The site will provide full usage tracking, improved search capabilities, report abstracts, tables of contents, and more flexible pay-as-you-go options.

MarketResearch.com

MarketResearch.com announced the relaunch of its market-intelligence site. Based on months of client feedback and testing, it has been completely redesigned with more intuitive navigation, additional browse features, and new search functionality. The site provides access to 50,000 research reports from more than 350 research firms, including Snapshots International.

Customers can now search within specific topic categories and refine their searches using keywords, publisher name, date published, price, and geographic region. The service also offers searching within reports and allows users to purchase full reports or buy "by the slice."

Update on divine, Inc.

Last month, I noted that divine, Inc. was up for auction through the U.S. bankruptcy court in Boston. The auction, said to be a marathon session that lasted some 25 hours, was held April 28­29. Final approval was given by the court on May 12. Sources for the Chicago Tribune said that four groups bid a combined total of $54 million to divvy up the company's businesses.

Most of divine's software businesses were purchased by Saratoga Partners, a New York private-equity investment firm (with a bid of $28 million for the managed services businesses, including Data Return) and San Francisco-based Golden Gate Private Equity, Inc. The other two winning bids were from New York-based Little Bear Investment, LLC and Outtask, Inc.

Sources indicated that Saratoga planned to immediately resell at least two pieces of divine to other parties: the Enterprise Content Management businesses to FatWire Software and Northern Light (NL) to David Seuss' Business Drivers, Inc. Seuss, NL's founder, was the company's CEO before it was sold to divine in January 2002. Business Drivers is an executive sales consulting business that's run by Priscilla Seuss, David's wife and former vice president of sales at NL. Stay tuned for news of what's planned for the formerly popular but unprofitable search service.

Unfortunately, the bankrupt subsidiary of divine RoweCom and its new owner, EBSCO, will not see any of divine's liquidation money. Nor will RoweCom's many creditors (the libraries that paid the intermediary for subscriptions) unless they pursue legal remedies.

Libraries and publishers were not the only casualties of the divine debacle. A recent article in Crain's Chicago Business (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/article.pl?article_id=19928) calleddivine's collapse "one of the most spectacular flameouts of the dot-com era, reverberating throughout the private- and public-equity markets and scorching the highest levels of Chicago's financial elite as it vaporized $1 billion in investors' money."

Ouch! And, presumably, divine and some of its executives are still the subject of inquiries by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and a federal grand jury in Chicago.

For the latest industry news, check http://www.infotoday.com every Monday morning. An easier option is to sign up for our free weekly e-mail newsletter, NewsLink, which provides abstracts and links to the stories we post.

 


Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.'s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is phane@infotoday.com.
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