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Magazines > Information Today > March 2004
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Information Today
Vol. 21 No. 3 — March 2004
NEWSBREAKS UPDATE
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. By visiting
http://www.lexisnexis.com/campaign2004, nonsubscribers can view some of the campaign coverage for free, including the latest news and the candidates' positions on major issues.

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 presidential candidates.

Eagle-eyed news scout Gary Price has posted several compilations of Election 2004 resources on his ResourceShelf.com site. One that's particularly interesting—and revealing—is 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
http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb020805-2.htm.) 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
(http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040119-1.shtml). 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 offer—for a lower price. As this issue went to press, OneSource was still considering the proposal. (Check NewsBreaks for an update.)

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 management—and not just in our industry—reflect 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.

Enterprise Search

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 evident.

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 resources 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
http://www.outsellinc.com.

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, drivers, 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 phane@infotoday.com.
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