The Latest Industry News, Developments
in Enterprise Search, and More
By Paula Hane
During the past month or so,
U.S. news has been dominated by both the MyDoom computer worm (let's hope the
offered rewards lead to the code writer's arrest) and the Democratic presidential
primaries. Adding to the campaign coverage, LexisNexis launched a new file
that bundles relevant U.S. election information from some of its more than
32,000 news, business, and legal sources into a one-stop resource. Current
LexisNexis flat-rate subscribers to news content can access the new Campaign
2004 file on the lexis.com and nexis.com services at no additional charge.
http://www.lexisnexis.com/campaign2004, nonsubscribers can view some of the
campaign coverage for free, including the latest news and the candidates' positions
To aid the print and online media, Factiva provides a media index that tracks
the visibility of high-profile election candidates. From January 2004 through
the Democratic National Convention in July, the Factiva Media Visibility Index
will track the number of weekly media mentions received by each of the Democratic
Eagle-eyed news scout Gary Price has posted several compilations of Election
2004 resources on his ResourceShelf.com site. One that's particularly interestingand
revealingis FactCheck.org, produced by the University of Pennsylvania's
Annenberg Public Policy Center. The project's goal is to serve as a nonpartisan,
nonprofit consumer advocate for voters that aims "to reduce the level of deception
and confusion" in U.S. politics. "We monitor the factual accuracy of what is
said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches,
interviews, and news releases." This site is well worth a look.
On the M&A Path
Those of us who are growing weary of the malicious code stories and nonstop
political reporting can turn to the blitz of coverage on Comcast's recent offer
to buy Disney. Comcast emphasized the advantages of merging the content and
distribution companies. As of this writing, the Disney board had just rejected
the bid as too low. By the way, Disney owns ABC and ESPN, while Comcast recently
purchased AT&T Broadband.
The media has had a field day by comparing the proposed merger to the AOL
Time Warner union (which has certainly had its share of troubles), commenting
on the consolidation of news and entertainment sources, and speculating about
the effects on Microsoft, which already has relationships with both Disney
and Comcast. One source reported that Time Warner was weighing a possible counter-bid
for Disney, while others suggested that Microsoft might buy Disney. Comcast
could also raise its offer. Time will tell, but the stakes are definitely high
on this deal as it could potentially reshape this industry.
The serious business side of the content industry has seen some acquisition
activity as well. Thomson Corp. announced it will acquire privately held CCBN,
Inc. (Corporate Communications Broadcast Network). Thomson currently owns 10
percent of the company. CCBN provides investor relations, Web site hosting,
Webcasting, and financial disclosure services. Besides the premium StreetEvents
subscription service, the organization offers a free public Web site, FullDisclosure.com.
The CCBN content is complementary to Thomson Financial's offerings. The acquisition
(conveniently) serves to end the lawsuit filed by CCBN against Thomson Financial,
alleging unfair business practices. (See the NewsBreak at
CCBN was co-founded in 1997 by Rob Adler and Jeff Parker, founder of First
Call (which was bought by Thomson in 1986) and CEO of Thomson Financial from
1986 to 1991.
The Industry Shuffle
I don't normally comment on executive job changes, but has anyone else noticed
that there seem to be a lot of comings and goings lately? At Thomson Gale,
there have been reports of layoffs, and Allen Paschal suddenly resigned as
president (no details available). He was succeeded "on an interim basis" by
Thomson Learning executive Charlie Siegel. A company representative said that
a search for a new president is underway. Paschal had been president of Gale
since 1998, when it purchased Information Access Co., which he headed.
Gartner, Inc. recently announced that Bill Pardue has been hired in the newly
created position of president of Gartner Intelligence, the business unit that
includes the company's research and events operations. In January, Marydee
Ojala reported that Pardue had resigned as CEO of LexisNexis and was being
replaced by Kurt Sanford
LexisNexis has also just announced some promotions and other personnel shuffling.
In other news, Dan Schimmel resigned after 12 years as CEO of OneSource.
Current chairman Martin Kahn was named executive chairman and appointed CEO
on an interim basis. (Industry veterans will recall Kahn from his days with
Ovid and BRS.)
In October 2003, OneSource received an unsolicited letter from ValueAct Capital
Partners, L.P. expressing interest in acquiring OneSource's business. A special
committee then spent several months looking into the offer and examining other
options and potential buyers for the company. No final offers emerged. On Feb.
9, 2004, a few days after the announcement of OneSource's 2003 financial report
(which revealed declining revenues and a substantial drop in net income), ValueAct
made a second purchase offerfor a lower price. As this issue went to
press, OneSource was still considering the proposal. (Check NewsBreaks for
COMTEX, a wholesaler of real-time news, also has interim management at this
time and is obviously experiencing considerable internal turmoil while it grapples
with declining revenues. The company recently announced that C. W. Gilluly
has been elected chairman of the board of directors and was appointed to the
position of interim CEO. Over the last 11 years, Gilluly has served as the
company's president, CEO, chairman, and vice chairman. He currently owns about
16 percent of the company's stock.
Stephen W. Ellis, former COMTEX chairman and CEO, and Laurence F. Schwartz,
former president, have resigned their positions. They were both just appointed
in August 2003 in an effort to "revitalize" the company. Longtime president
and CEO Charles Terry had resigned in April 2003 and was replaced by Raymond
P. Capece. The company remains optimistic, and Gilluly says it will continue
to strengthen its products. (Maybe a white knight buyer is needed?)
I'm not sure what all this portends, but I've been busy updating my contact
information in Outlook and making notes on changes in company ownership. The
tough economy and decreased spending for information products and technologies
over the last several years have clearly exacted a toll. But as one of my colleagues
reminded me, many changes in top managementand not just in our industryreflect
dissatisfaction with the financial performance of public companies (an understandable
occurrence). But for most customers of information products, what matters most
is not who is CEO but the effectiveness of the local sales and support people
(though a company's culture certainly takes its cues from the top) and the
quality and value of an organization's products.
On a positive note, the enterprise search software market has seen a recent
flurry of upgrades to existing products and technologies. Fast Search and Transfer
(FAST) launched a new enterprisewide information access platform that it says
will do for the enterprise what Google is doing for the Web. FAST ESP (Enterprise
Search Platform) creates a single point of access for all information across
an enterprise in real time, regardless of data format, structure, or location.
FAST calls ESP a technology breakthrough and says it puts greater distance
between FAST and competing solutions.
FAST ESP now gives organizations access to both data and content, including
relevant structured data stored in multiple databases as well as the unstructured
data of documents, e-mail, presentations, Web pages, and more. (For details,
see the NewsBreak at
http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040202-1.shtml.) Users have wanted a
unified view of enterprise information, and ESP is a major advance toward a
real intelligence tool.
In other news, Verity, Inc. launched Verity Ultraseek 5.2, a new version
of its enterprise search software. Verity Ultraseek offers new features that
improve the relevance capability and end-user experience. Its Web services
interface ensures that the software can easily integrate with virtually any
enterprise application, and its spidering/indexing capability allows it to
find and index dynamically generated Web pages. Structured and unstructured
information sources can also be brought together in the index through the software's
optional lightweight database connectivity.
Inxight Software, Inc. announced the release of SmartDiscovery 4, a new version
of its enterprise software. Inxight has added significant enhancements to the
product's existing search, entity extraction, categorization, and taxonomy
capabilities and offers a new fact-extraction feature that connects the dots
between the people, places, and organizations referenced in unstructured text.
This allows users to quickly discover events and relationships that are not
Inxight serves four core markets: government organizations, enterprises (including
pharmaceutical), information aggregators and publishers, and independent software
vendors. In recent years, the company has secured many government contracts
for use in homeland security, defense intelligence, and law-enforcement applications.
Tools Provide Added Value
ProfitCents public is a software program from Sageworks, Inc. that can load
the SEC data of any publicly traded firm in the U.S. and convert the numbers
from the SEC financial statements into easy-to-understand text reports of approximately
three to four pages. Recently, LexisNexis licensed the ProfitCents public technology
and will offer its users the same reports that are available directly through
Sageworks. For more, see the NewsBreak by Sheri Lanza at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040126-2.shtml.
While Lanza remains a bit skeptical about using a computerized algorithm instead
of human analysts (without conducting thorough testing herself), the reports
do provide another way to look at data and offer useful industry context and
can be particularly helpful for end users. By adding another leading-edge technology
solution, LexisNexis extends its financial resource options.
This is an example of how information providers are increasingly stepping
up to the challenge of attaching real value-added tools to their products.
The reality is that those who don't provide tools probably won't survive. Content
alone isn't enough.
Recently, Wolters Kluwer Health's Pharma Solutions division announced the
launch of Adis R&D Insight (R&DI), a new version of its drug-development
tool. Researchers can use Adis R&DI to analyze and evaluate large amounts
of data from the database at a single glance. Developed by Wolters Kluwer in
partnership with AdvanTechnologies, Inc., the product employs proprietary modeling
software to graphically represent key elements from the data. New graphics
capabilities allow users to create pie charts, bar charts, and tables. Users
can drill down, change groupings, and re-sort the data utilizing new parameters.
Adding tools for the user is also the driving force behind the newly launched
HighBeam Research, the new service and company name for the former Alacritude.
(See the NewsBreak at
http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040126-1.shtml.) The service, which is
aimed at individual researchers, incorporates Alacritude's eLibrary and Researchville
and will soon add an enhanced version of the company's Encyclopedia.com service.
HighBeam Research offers both customizable access to free Web content and subscription
access to the proprietary eLibrary database.
Rather than just provide access to content, HighBeam's mission is to aid
the research process and offer tools for finding, organizing, and delivering
answers. Special tools allow users to refine search results by topics and subtopics,
create personalized research groups, save articles, save search parameters,
receive e-mail alerts, and export articles to Microsoft Office applications.
Elsevier and STM Publishing
On Dec. 31, 2003, the entire editorial board of the Elsevier-published Journal
of Algorithms resigned due to the "pricing policies of Elsevier Press." Then,
on Jan. 21, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Publications Board
approved a proposal for a new journal, Transactions on Algorithms (TALG).
That title's editorial board is the one that had resigned from Journal
of Algorithms. For more information, including a statement by Elsevier,
see the post by TALG editor in chief Hal Gabow (http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~hal/s.pdf).
While details are still being worked out for the new journal, Gabow said, "It
is certain that individuals and libraries will be able to subscribe at an
attractive price similar to those of other ACM journals."
The rebellion against high-priced commercial journals and the rise of alternative
publishing options continue to gather momentum. In early March, the U.K. House
of Commons Science and Technology Committee is holding hearings as part of
its inquiry to examine pricing and availability of scientific publications
and possible government support for open access publishing.
Ian Gibson, U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee chairman,
said: "Journals are at the heart of the scientific process. Researchers, teachers,
and students must have easy access to scientific publications at a fair price.
Scientific journals need to maintain their credibility and integrity as they
move into the age of e-publication. The committee will have some very tough
questions for publishers, libraries, and government on these issues."
Elsevier and other companies and organizations will be presenting oral evidence
at the hearings. Watch for our ongoing coverage. As this issue went to press,
Elsevier had just posted "comments on evolutions in scientific, technical,
and medical publishing and ... reflections on possible implications of open
access journals for the U.K." on its corporate site.
Finally, research firm Outsell, Inc. has released a new study that assesses
the STM publishing sector. Outsell chief analyst Leigh Watson Healy said: "The
transformation of STM publishing goes way beyond the widely reported open access
threat. Open access is just one symptom of the overall disease, and there are
other ways that the market is responding.... The entire industry is witnessing
a revolution in the making."
The Outsell study reveals "increasing diversity and fragmentation in a market
that has evolved through consolidation to domination by a handful of big players
but also includes a large number of small publishers providing valuable content." The
36-page report is for sale at
An additional perspective is provided by the recent study on open access
publishing models conducted by publishing industry veteran Christine Lamb,
a senior analyst at Shore Communications, Inc. (The report is available at
http://www.shore.com.) This study defines the major attributes of the open
access movement; analyzes the marketplace for open access, its business models,
cost structures, and funding; and highlights and analyzes the major product
and marketing attributes and overall effectiveness of six open access providers:
BioMed Central, the Public Library of Science, TheScientificWorld, the Public
Knowledge Project, The Berkeley Electronic Press, and The Company of Biologists.
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 email@example.com.