The Latest on Google, Market Research,
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opposed to the legislation and is working to have it repealed.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
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
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
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 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
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'
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.