Information Today
Volume 19, Issue 11 December 2002
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Letters to the Editor

[This is a response to Richard Poynder's column at http://www.infotoday.com/it/nov02/poynder.htm and on p.1 of the Nov. 2002 issue of IT.]

First of all, I wish to clarify our newly adopted name. The name "Emerald" stems from the name of our flagship product, Emerald Fulltext—a database offering an expanding collection of over 40,000 articles from management titles published by Emerald. It was an acronym of the product's working title—the Electronic Management Research Library Database—when it launched in 1996.

Emerald was adopted as the trading name for MCB University Press in order to benefit from the increasing presence Emerald Fulltext was achieving in the marketplace. In fact, when we realized that our prospective customers recognized Emerald Fulltext more than MCB University Press, we decided to make it easier for customers to link our company to our products, paving the way for Emerald to become our corporate moniker.

"Transformation" rather than "reinvention" is the word that should be associated with MCB's change in trading name. Instead of shaking off our past, we have accepted it, embraced the learning and growth opportunities it afforded us, and moved forward. Our old image taught us a valuable lesson in the power of the market, but then so has our image of today.

Regarding our pricing policies, we agreed to an interview with Mr. Poynder earlier this year in which we provided written responses to 22 questions concerning a variety of issues, including journal pricing policies. In the spirit of openness, which we champion at Emerald, we would like to share with your readers some of our responses to Mr. Poynder's questions as a means of clarifying the pricing points he raised in his article.

Poynder: I understand that several years ago there was considerable anger amongst librarians over the rate of price increase of your journals. How would you characterize that period and what did you do to address these concerns?

Emerald: "It was a period of taking stock—reflecting and listening to our critics. We saw the opportunity to take advantage of new technology and to consider the potential for new business/access/purchase models, which would help address these concerns.

"The result has been improved listening through customer/user forums, librarian workshops, author workshops, and more people discussing issues with our stakeholders. This was a real cultural shift for the organization—but one that was absolutely necessary.

"We used what we learned and we turned a corner as an organization. Admittedly it is an uphill battle to change perceptions—our customer/stakeholder focus now has renewed vigor...."

Poynder: Is this now a historical issue, or are you aware of current concerns?

Emerald: "We are very aware of our historic image and it's difficult to change perceptions. In truth, it makes us work even harder to get things right for the customer.

"More librarians than ever now purchase Emerald products using our new business models. Usage is rising and copy flow is also increasing. These are all good indicators and they suggest to us that we must be on the right track. However, we are not complacent; we are still learning."

Poynder: I believe you saw electronic access as one solution to the pricing concerns. Is that right, and if so how was this intended to help?

Emerald: "Electronic media brought with it the opportunity for new business models and to offer increased value for money—i.e., more content, better deal for subscribers. This is proved by the way that the database is used. Users search and access broadly across the whole Emerald database.

"In terms of value for money, the maximum cost per article for database subscribers is less than 70 cents, and the average journal cost via the database is less than $250."

Poynder: There have been some criticisms here too: Chuck Hamaker's review of Emerald in the Charleston Advisor, for instance. Did he simply fail to understand the product, or was his criticism fair?

Emerald: "Emerald's four-star ranking (out of five) was a good start, but Chuck Hamaker's identification of areas where we can improve was extremely useful. Our approach is to listen, learn, and improve. No electronic service is absolutely perfect, but informed, detailed written feedback is welcome. We are working on some of the areas identified by Chuck for inclusion in future releases of Emerald."

Poynder: What is the overall policy on pricing, and have you yet announced the increases for the coming year? If so, what has been the overall increase?

Emerald: "Our overall policy on pricing is flexibility—one size certainly does not fit all.

"Annual price increases on databases and consortia, which deliver a good value deal, have held steady at 7.5 percent or less in North America. Our pricing for 2003 was announced to agents in early June 2002."

We invite Information Today readers to visit our Web site to review Mr. Poynder's 22 questions and our responses to them
at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/news/press/poynder.htm.

 

Kathryn Toledano
Business Development Director, Emerald (previously MCB University Press)

 

Richard Poynder responds:

This article was originally envisaged as a one-on-one interview with Kathryn Toledano. I was told, however, that it would only be granted on the condition that Emerald retain editorial control over the final text.After subsequently receiving many critical comments from customers, I forwarded a list of questions to Emerald, again inviting the company to speak to me. These questions were eventually answered by e-mail.

If Ms. Toledano had agreed to the initial interview request without stipulating unacceptable conditions, her views would have received greater prominence in Information Today. Having later discovered the strength of the dissenting voices, however, it seemed appropriate to include those voices alongside Ms. Toledano's, clearly reducing the space available to her. I welcome Emerald's decision to publish the full text of the questions and answers on its Web site.

•••

I recently read Marydee Ojala's NewsBreak entitled "Google Expands Google News" [http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb021007-1.htm and p.18 of the Nov. 2002 issue of Information Today]. What stands out is her statement that "Google News prides itself on being extraordinarily up-to-date. This gives it a distinct edge over the aggregated news databases from Dialog, Factiva, and LexisNexis." Although this may be true for Dialog and LexisNexis, it is not so for Factiva. Factiva provides the full text of the complete Dow Jones, Reuters, and Associated Press news wires just minutes after they appear in real-time services, providing extremely timely premium news content—unduplicated in a single source elsewhere.

In our experience with Google News thus far, their time stamps are generally not very reliable. In addition to Ojala's explanation that stated "there is a lag time inherent in the updating process and in crawler activity," the real problem is in determining when a page is really newly updated with news versus just reflecting minor changes. These changes, such as minor edits to an article or even the addition of a new link at the bottom of an article, could also result in a time-stamp/update change for an individual page, making an article appear "fresher" than it really is. In addition, Factiva provides administrative tools in our news service that lets a user manage and filter out multiple versions of an article, a productivity enhancement that Google does not provide.

An additional point that should be addressed is the availability of news on the free Web. Of surveyed knowledge workers, 62 percent believe anything is available on the Web (from an Outsell, Super I-AIM study). But new research shows more than two-thirds of publications used most often by knowledge workers either do not have Web sites or do not make their material available on the Web for free. The valueof Factiva.com lies in its rich premium content collection and the navigation and personalization tools available to leverage the content in various ways.

 

Pat Sabosik
Vice President and Director of Global Marketing, Factiva

 

Marydee Ojala responds:

Pat, you are indeed correct that when it comes to wire-service news, Factiva has an edge on just about every other service, Google not excepted. As a Dow Jones and Reuters company, Factiva can certainly mount wire stories from those news agencies before any other service. Factiva also has a global advantage, since the Reuters wires are in 11 languages and Google News stresses English-language sources. I was remiss for not explicitly stating that Factiva sets speed records when it comes to wire-service stories.

I was probably too quick to tar Dialog and LexisNexis with the same brush. Nexis.com has today's news (choose Source: News Sources and Date: Today) with a mixture of news wires and major newspapers. Dialog has the First DialIndex category that updates news wires every 15 minutes. Dialog's integration of NewsEdge may in the future enhance its news timeliness. However, when it comes to newspapers, news magazines, and the trade press, aggregated databases are generally updated on a daily basis, in accordance with the licensing agreements in effect with individual publishers. Since Google spiders Web pages for its news stories, it acts on a different business model.

The time stamps placed on Google stories are an intriguing phenomenon. I've done extensive testing on Google time stamps and, as I stated in the NewsBreak, they are not as exact as they appear. Your comments about minor updates triggering a new time stamp is interesting and would explain why some publications have prominence in Google News. Some journalists, who first looked at Google News when it launched in late September, commented on how often theAustin American-Statesman appeared as a current source. Could the paper really be following breaking news with that much alacrity and accuracy? Your answer regarding slight edits or link addition probably explains this. Either Google needs to find a way to identify factors that give a particular source exaggerated prominence or theywill have another avenue for Google-bombing on their hands.

Your third point regarding what news people in the workplace really need to do their jobs is well-taken. Regardless of the number of sources made available, it is the relevance of those sources to users and the ability to navigate efficiently to information and extract significant data that determines overall quality. Google tends to be more relevant for those following politics, general business, entertainment, and sports. For more industry-specific news tracking, the trade press must be included. Premium content is indeed key to successful research.

 

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE magazine

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