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Magazines > Searcher > April 2003
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Vol. 11 No. 4 — April 2003
SEARCHER'S VOICE
Another Killer Product
by Barbara Quint
Editor, Searcher Magazine

In my long career as an editor, I have only once used my editorial page to applaud a product. That occasion was the "Killer Product" editorial in the July/August 1991 issue of Database Searcher. Well, with the arrival of a new century, I guess it's time for a salute to a second "killer product."

Nexcerpt [http://www.nexcerpt.com] is a Web monitoring and redistribution service from Julie and Gary Stock, former founders and owners of InGenius Technologies, a Net monitoring service. The InGenius services were popular with users, but the company apparently got caught in the turmoil of the "dot-gone" era and users lost out. However, the Stocks are back and with an exciting new product.

How does one define a "killer product"? It's got to be something with a consumer appeal that just jumps out at you. Oddly enough, "killer products" don't always have to push the technological envelope. In most cases, the very familiarity of some of the components serve to quicken the potential consumer's recognition of its attraction. ("My God! Of course! We've needed that for (years, months, weeks...). Buy it! Quick!!")

When I talked the Nexcerpt product over with a colleague who's a stone-cold expert in all things Web, he was impressed, but not as impressed as I. He pointed out that he already used software he had purchased to help him automate the monitoring of Web sites. And he even knew of some Web-based services that would do it for him. Of course, both the software- and Web-based monitoring systems required him to enter all the URLs he wanted tracked. Nexcerpt, on the other hand, has its own rapidly growing collection of quality URLs ready to go.

But then my colleague said that lots of folks have lists of golden, gilt-edged URLs. However, he admitted, those meta-sites don't offer Web tracking as a rule. Nexcerpt, on the other hand, not only identifies quality sites — and offers routes for the user to add additional sites, sometimes for additional fees — but monitors those sites frequently and presents results in a manner designed to facilitate rapid and flexible redistribution to communities of users. The distribution techniques even support direct Web publishing. Since Nexcerpt uses the open Web for its basic service, it doesn't have to worry about copyright issues — it moves the readers to the site content, not the site content to the readers. When it does get involved with controlled material, it relies on the user to supply access permissions, e.g., subscription passwords, and limits distribution according to user specifications, e.g., to intranet users only.

But what really amazed me is that you can get this kind of service for such an affordable price. Normally I am an implacable foe of pricing systems that do not allow pay-per-view options. However, clearly a current-awareness service would constitute an acceptable exception. For Nexcerpt to offer this kind of polling-to-publishing service for $200 a month ($2,400 a year) seems like a very good deal.

Let's think of some of the ways we all could use the service. Another colleague with whom I spoke runs an intense competitive intelligence service for a Fortune 100 company. At first I thought she might not need it due to the lack on Nexcerpt's current list of sources of in-depth titles covering her particular industry. She agreed with my assessment, but then pointed out that the company still needs those general sources as well. Also, if her company liked the style of the product and the workability of the technology, it would be more than willing and able to provide the funds to customize Nexcerpt to its needs. So people who already run top-of-the-line tracking systems could still find use for this service to take part of the load off. Searchers who track a narrow, specific line of sources could use this service to broaden their reach without having to add staff or hours to their workdays.

What about people who don't offer this kind of service but should? Hmm. Sound like anyone we know? How about the traditional online services? These, days most users find themselves struggling with Web content overload a lot more than with print overload. Partnering with Nexcerpt could give commercial services a way to provide customized access to their users. One would hope that partnering might even find ways to handle some of those controlled access problems.

OH! Here's an idea. The Nexcerpt product shares one basic problem along with any Web monitoring. The Web as a source is unstable; URLs that work today don't work tomorrow. Material given away to all and sundry this month will only answer the call of a credit card next month. On the one hand, this does have the advantage of making Nexcerpt results the first thing people will check each day, if only to harvest the material while it's ripe. However, the archiving problem remains a struggle. But the commercial online databases frequently overlap with Nexcerpt's list of Web sources. How about if the commercial services establish an archive offer (pay-per-view pricing an option here) that Nexcerpt can share with all its own customers?

News publishers, including trade press, should find Nexcerpt feeds a vital tool to help their editors and reporters stay on top of ongoing developments. If those same publishers have Web sites delivering news to their readers, offering feeds from Nexcerpt — at a mere $2,400 a year! — guarantees daily and oftener refreshing of the site. (Did we mention that the Nexcerpt system allows co-branding of feeds and all the feeds come off its own servers, unless the customer makes separate arrangements?) This could pull a lot of eyes to publisher Web sites. In fact, the Nexcerpt system would even allow e-mail delivery of information or announcements that tie users back to Web sites.

KUH-UHL!!

About that "killer product" I identified back in 1991. It was so devastating that it even threatened its owners. In fact, I later learned that the genius who developed and advocated the product was known to fellow employees as "The Man in the Lead-Lined Office." Apparently his employer had no idea that this employee was as brilliant in marketing new products as in designing them. With just him and a part-time secretary, he took this lone product nationwide into mainstream marketing and was delivering units in the tens and even hundreds of thousands practically overnight. The fact that his product was better than the ones the company was selling to pay the rent and the company's products cost about 2,700 percent more than his...well, I guess it was bound to happen. The company yanked the product within 2 months of my editorial.

That won't happen this time. The market has changed. And, in these tough times, any product that can enable information professionals to do a better job, answer tougher questions, and save time while doing it, should be able to make a very nice living. Hallelujah! Good news — at last — especially in these tough times.

...bq

Here is a more detailed version of the Newsbreak we posted to the Information Today Inc. Web site on February 3, 2003 [http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb030210-2.htm] concerning the new Nexcerpt service. By the way, I hope all loyal Searcher readers make a habit of reading the ITI Newsbreaks. My colleague, Paula Hane, News Bureau Chief at Information Today Inc., and I are kind of proud of the news reporting we do there weekly — with the occasional help of some of the columnists and authors you read in Searcher and other ITI publications. We try to get the right stories and get the stories right. If you forget to monitor the site on Monday mornings, subscribe to the free Newslink e-zine [http://www.infotoday.com/newslink/default.html] and you'll get an e-mail reminder of the latest Newsbreaks along with other ITI offerings and a monthly "trends" article from Paula Hane.


Barbara Quint's e-mail address is bquint@mindspring.com.
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