News About M&A, Search, and Content
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
QuestelOrbit announced the acquisition of 12.5 percent
of Lingway's capital. For the last year, QuestelOrbit and Lingway
have been partnering to create the soon-to-be-released PatReader product,
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
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
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
taps online message forums, bulletin boards, and discussions (like
Yahoo! Groups, MSN Groups, and others), serves as a good complement
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
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
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 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:
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online
getAbstract's Business Book Summaries
Harvard Management Update
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 operationdespite the impressive
credentials of its editors.
Finally, two interesting reports that have implications for libraries and
the information industry recently hit my deskone 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
monthsmost notably the unbundling of content from traditional containers,
such as books and journalsand 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.
Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.'s news bureau chief
and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.