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Magazines > Information Today > October 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 9 — October 2004

NewsBreak Update
News About M&A, Search, and Content Access
By Paula Hane

Looking back over the last several weeks, I am struck by the number of company acquisitions in the information provider and content management space. I suspect that this veritable buzz of M&A activity is evidence of both the gradually recovering economy and the further consolidation in certain industry sectors. In addition, because of heightened competition and rapid technological advances, many companies are buying key pieces of technology rather than taking the time to develop it themselves.

Another trend I continue to see is integrating content and tools for customers' work-flow needs, and several of these acquisitions reflect this movement. In addition to M&A activity, we're also seeing more strategic partnerships between content providers and providers of software tools and services.

The following is a rundown of some recent deals:

• Montreal-based Nstein Technologies acquired Valsar Consulting Group, which integrates IT solutions for large organizations. Valsar specializes in business intelligence, program and project management, and business process engineering. Nstein had been concentrating on automated indexing tools for e-publishing. It now focuses on its Global Intelligent Information Management platform for large corporations and organizations. To fuel its growth, Nstein purchased a KM company in May and in late August it acquired Alis Technologies, a provider of multilingual information management solutions.

• Questel•Orbit announced the acquisition of 12.5 percent of Lingway's capital. For the last year, Questel•Orbit and Lingway have been partnering to create the soon-to-be-released PatReader product, a tool to improve full-text patent reading efficiency.

• OCLC acquired the assets of the 24/7 Reference service (developed by the Metropolitan Cooperative Library System in Southern California) and will combine the OCLC QuestionPoint and 24/7 Reference services.

• Thomson Corp. has signed a definitive agreement to acquire KnowledgeNet, Inc. and merge it with its enterprise learning business, Thomson NETg.

• Open Text Corp., an enterprise content management vendor, has signed an agreement to acquire the Vista Plus suite of products from Quest Software, Inc. Vista Plus captures and stores information from packaged applications like Oracle E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft, as well as custom and mainframe legacy environments. In early August, Open Text acquired Artesia Technologies, a digital asset management vendor.

• Standard & Poor's, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, signed an agreement to acquire Capital IQ, Inc., a provider of information solutions to the global investment and financial services communities.

• Information Handling Services, Inc., a provider of technical and regulatory information, announced that it acquired the assets of Intermat, Inc., a manufacturer of parts optimization software tools and services.

Search Engine News

Lycos unveiled new Lycos People Search and Lycos Discussion Search products. The new products are said to be key components of the company's "personal connectivity" strategy announced earlier this year. Lycos claims its new tools are unique because of their aggregating, one-stop search convenience. Discussion Search, which taps online message forums, bulletin boards, and discussions (like Yahoo! Groups, MSN Groups, and others), serves as a good complement to Google Groups, which searches Usenet discussions.

Amazon officially launched its A9.com Web search engine in September. In April, it had introduced a beta version of the service, which combined Web search results (provided by Google) with book results from Amazon and site traffic information from its Alexa subsidiary. The new A9 adds image search from Google, movie information from the Internet Movie Database, and reference information (encyclopedia, dictionary, etc.) through GuruNet.com. By offering users search histories, bookmarks, and a diary feature, the company says that the new site is more of an information management tool than a search engine.

Specialized Vertical Search

Thomas Industrial Network announced the launch of ThomasNet.com, a "next generation industrial search engine" that merges information from its Thomas Register and Thomas Regional products. ThomasNet.com now offers an extensive online database of 650,000 industrial manufacturers, distributors, and service providers. "The future of business sourcing and search will be owned by and dominated by specialized Web-based sites that are designed, created, and managed by sophisticated subject matter experts," said Eileen Markowitz, president of Thomas Industrial Network. "The launch of ThomasNet.com is a major step in that direction."

ThomasNet.com uses the newly launched FAST AdVisor, the second search derivative application (SDA) from Fast Search & Transfer (FAST). FAST AdVisor facilitates interactions between buyers and suppliers for Internet yellow pages, business-to-consumer and business-to-business verticals, online classifieds, and traditional publishers. FAST AdVisor, which leverages FAST's enterprise search platform, FAST ESP, aggregates information from any structured and unstructured data source, including not only the publisher's own proprietary content but also advertiser, third-party, and Web content. With Google, Yahoo!, and others targeting local search, a tool like FAST AdVisor can help traditional directory publishers defend their markets.

In June, FAST launched its first SDA, Marketrac, for gathering and analyzing market intelligence information from internal repositories and the Web. It is planning another SDA for the publishing sector. To accelerate that effort, FAST recently purchased the publishing applications business unit from NextPage, Inc., a document management vendor.

NetContent, Inc., known for its Intellisearch technology, launched Scoop, a business information service that offers news alerts and publishing capabilities. The subscription service, which taps both proprietary content and Web news sites, is aimed at sales and marketing/communication executives. While the service is still a little rough around the edges and seems a bit pricey, it offers easy business news monitoring and good distribution capabilities.

Desktop Search Revisited

Desktop search technology continues to be a hot area of development (see my coverage in the July/August and September issues). Copernic Technologies, Inc. rolled out its new Copernic Desktop Search (CDS) product, boldly stating that it was now "poised to face Microsoft and Google in the battle for desktop search supremacy." The free-to-download CDS searches Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files; Acrobat PDFs; and all popular music, picture, and video formats. CDS also searches browser history, favorites, and contacts. I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but in SearchDay Gary Price wrote: "I'm very impressed with its ease of use and overall effectiveness [in] finding material on my computer quickly and easily."

Copernic already has more than 30 million users of its Web search products and offers Copernic Enterprise Search, which is targeted at small to medium-sized businesses. This past summer, Copernic hired two former FAST executives to accelerate its growth strategies. Copernic's new CEO, David M. Burns, and executive vice president of strategic development Raymond A. Romagnolo were key forces in the building of FAST's successful Web search business, which was sold to Overture. At the time of his appointment, Burns stated: "It's simple. Microsoft understands software, Google understands search, but Copernic understands both. Copernic is a real jewel, and the best-kept secret in the search space." This is clearly a company to watch.

Also, Price tipped me off to a new desktop search offering from GuruNet, whose new version 5.2 Beta includes a new tool: My Computer Search, which allows you to search your e-mail or any document on your PC for any word. GuruNet, which bills itself as an "answer engine," not a search engine, links users to preselected, authoritative reference content. It offers both free and subscription versions.

ISYS Search Software, an Australian-based company established way back in 1988, offers a suite of search products that includes a serious business-level offering, ISYS:desktop. It recently caught my eye when the company announced that another major law enforcement agency had selected ISYS:desktop to provide its intelligence analysts with desktop and network search capabilities. If you're not familiar with ISYS, you can try its search technology at ITI's Enterprise Search Center, along with five other search engines.

By the time you read this issue, the new anacubis Desktop 3.0 should be out. I'm getting a look at it next week and will have more to report later. (anacubis is known for its data visualization and link analysis.)

SAGE Update

SAGE Journals Online is now available. This new journal delivery platform, developed by Stanford University's HighWire Press, boasts a large collection of prestigious and highly cited journals in the social sciences (including major society journals) as well as an extensive STM list. Free access to SAGE Journals Online is available through Oct. 31, 2004.

Also available from SAGE Publications are the SAGE Full-Text Collections, which are full-text research databases in specific disciplines that include up to 22 years of backfiles. The backfiles are enhanced with links to and from Cambridge Scientific Abstracts' (CSA) abstracting databases on the IDS platform. The SAGE Full-Text Collections are sold through CSA.

Content for Sale

Showing that there are always new ways to slice and dice content, Network Subscriptions, a company focused on developing business- and consumer-oriented subscription bundles, has introduced a new service, Business Network, that offers subscriptions to six key business publications for a single subscription price. The company says this saves nearly 60 percent relative to the sum of individual subscriptions. Besides the savings and convenience, the service offers a 30-day free trial and users can cancel at any time. Priced at $23.95 per month, the bundle includes the following:

• Economist.com

• Encyclopaedia Britannica Online

• getAbstract's Business Book Summaries

• Harvard Management Update

• MIT's TechnologyReview.com

• The Wall Street Journal Online at WSJ.com

A team of international business journalists has launched a new service that they say "provides a guide to tomorrow's news today." The forecasting or predictive news service, called EarlyWarning.com, is aimed at subscribers operating in international business, politics, government, and the media. Individual subscriptions to this proprietary content cost $600. With this relatively high cost and the other analytical and forecasting options available for serious business use, this could be a challenge for this upstart operation—despite the impressive credentials of its editors.

Recommended Reading

Finally, two interesting reports that have implications for libraries and the information industry recently hit my desk—one from OCLC and the other from industry analyst John Blossom. Each provides much food for thought about access to content and, taken together, provide complementary perspectives on the evolving content story.

The new free report from OCLC, 2004 Information Format Trends: Content, Not Containers, examines how information trends and format innovations have required libraries to manage a much-more-complex universe of resources. The report looks at what it calls "the remarkable changes" of the past 18 months—most notably the unbundling of content from traditional containers, such as books and journals—and lays out the top trends for libraries in the next 5 years. The trends covered include the following:

• Legitimacy of open-source publishing, such as blogs

• Rapidly expanding economics of e-learning

• Repurposing of "old" content for new media

• Multimedia content as a service for an array of devices

The report from Blossom, president and senior analyst of Shore Communications, Inc., is titled "The New Aggregation: Models for Success in Creating Content Value." It takes a detailed look at why and how many content aggregators are failing to produce robust revenue growth and how publishers, aggregators, technology providers, and institutional content purchasers need to adapt to the changing business models for content aggregation. The full research report is for sale from Shore's site, though you can download a free PDF file that has the table of contents, report profile, and executive summary.

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

 

Links

http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040823-2.shtml [Quint NewsBreak on OCLC-24/7 Reference]

http://discussion.lycos.com

http://peoplesearch.lycos.com

http://www.thomasnet.com

http://www.fastsearch.com

http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040621-2.shtml [Hane NewsBreak on FAST's first SDA]

http://www.scoop.com

http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040830-1.shtml [Hane NewsBreak on Scoop]

http://www.copernic.com

http://www.anacubis.com

http://www.gurunet.com

http://www.isys-search.com

http://www.enterprisesearchcenter.com

http://online.sagepub.com

http://www.sagefulltext.com

http://networksubscriptions.com

http://www.earlywarning.com

http://www.oclc.org/reports/2004format.htm

http://www.shore.com/research/current/reports/SCI200404.html


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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