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Online 96

John Raphael-Staude

Online Information 96 the world's largest exhibition and conference for the online information industry, took place from 3 to 5 December at Olympia 2 in London. There were 16,156 attendees, more than ever before, an increase of 22% on last year's attendee figure of 13,296. It was Online Information's 20th anniversary exhibition. Jill Cousins, Marketing Director for the show said, "The show has been a phenomenal success this year and is a true reflection of the growth of the industry, cementing its position as the world's leading online information event. Next year, we move to the bigger venue of the National Hall, Olympia and 70% of next year's exhibition space has already been sold. Obviously exhibitors are very happy, with most coming away with excellent sales leads and some even signing contracts at the show."

The morning panel chaired by David Raitt. was entitled "The Information Society." In the one and a half hours at their disposal R.F.deBrüine from the European Commission Geoff Hoon from the Labour Party and David Worlock of the European Information Industry Association discussed their visions and concerns regarding the Global Information Society including the question of Rights of Access. It was agreed that the Government should make much more information freely available to the citizens.

"Disintermediation: The Challenge of Change" was the topic discussed by a panel of experts in the main auditorium during the remainder of the morning. In the afternoon there were discussions of innovative approaches to "Online Education and Training" and "Networked Information Resources."

The second day began with a panel about "Publishing and the New Media" chaired by Arno de Kemp of Springer Verlag. This was followed with a discussion of ways to enhance searching and retrieval, intelligent agents, the quality of information they produce, and some aspects of the impact of this new software on the information society. In the afternoon a tutorial on teambuilding in the workplace was offered as an alternative to the panels on "New Ways of Delivering Information" and on "Internet Access and Telecoms Developments," as well as a workshop on scenario Forecasting the Role of Business Information"

On the final day the morning was taken up with a discussion about doing business in Europe and Asia, and a panel on Electronic Libraries and Services which included presentations on digital libraries at the archeological museum in Spain, the Czech National Library in Prague,and the building of an electronic library at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. After a discussion of the "Effects of New Technology" and a discussion of web authoring tools and trends in the afternoon, the conference concluded with a panel discussion about the future of traditional online services given the challenge of the phenomenal growth of the Internet. This session was chaired by Heinz Ochsener of Knight-Ridder Information in Switzerland who himself made a brilliant and provocative presentation entitled "The Internet and the Demise of Traditional Online" which sparked much discussion from members of the panel and from the audience as well. "The internet marks a fundamental change in the industriy, he said, bringing togeth0er diverse information sources and audiences never before united.While admitting that traditional online is in decline, Ochsner argued that online can have a rosy future because hosts bring to the Net their years of experience in developing and refining sophisticated search tools which enable them to search efficiently across a wide range of sources with the knowledge that the information available is authentic, authoritative and of real value."The Internet is an opportunity for hosts to deliver targeted tools which precisely match the searching requirements of different audiences."


Exhibition

One of the most exciting exhibitors at the Online 96 conference was M.A.I.D. which demonstrated its new service "Profound Live Wire," the first ever customised real-time alerting service with customised packages based on an "All-You-Can-Eat" pricing system designed to control information costs for companies. These M.A.I.D. products should be available now as they were scheduled for release for 1 Jan 1997.

Taking advantage of M.A.I.D's InfoSort categorisation technology M.A.I.D offers an efficient intranet strategy in which each company is able to define the information which it sees as relevant to its successful operation. M.A.I.D's intranet system ensures that only this information is received. External information is received and indexed alongside internal. information. By predetermining the information required individuals within the business have access to an updated electronic library of internal and external sources specifically relevant to their own needs.

With Profound LiveWire end users can establish exactly which news they wish to receive specific to an individual company , sector or topic. They will then be alerted by a flashing icon with the option of the news headline scrolling across the screen to any news relevant that has the established criteria immediately that it appears on any one of the news wires on MAID's Profound database.

At Online Information 96 Reuters demonstrated its Business Briefing software which is one of the only business information systems that includes a Mac version. It gives the user access to thousands of news stories and a tremendous archival database. The base price is five hundred pounds a month. For a supplementary fee one can have one's news profiled to appear regularly and automatically on one's desktop as is done with M.A.I.D's Profound.

Knight-Ridder Information, Inc. is the acknowledged world leader in electronic information access and delivery, with 200,000 customers in almost 100 countries. The company offers the DIALOG and DataStar services, with more than 600 online databases, as well as a range of complementary information services for information specialists, business professionals and scientific researchers. At the show KRI unveiled a new option for accessing its flagship DIALOG service: DIALOG Web. An advanced graphical Web-based interface, DIALOG Web leverages the Web environment to provide hyperlinks to database selection and search tools. A new Database Directory works like today's popular Web-based search engines, making it easy to find the right database. Integrated Web Bluesheets provide up-to-the-minute overviews of database content, features and pricing. The popular OneSearch feature, which permits users to search multiple databases at the same time, is fully supported, and a new Web interface to the Alert service will make it easier than ever to set up current awareness profiles. An integrated HELP system answers questions about the product interface and documents frequently-used DIALOG commands.

DIALOG Web reduces post-processing chores by enhancing all database output with HTML markup. In addition, DIALOG Web can be used in combination with DIALOG ERA, the powerful copyright compliance feature, for fast c-mail redistribution of search results or to populate Intranet databases. There will also be a link to the KR SourceOne document delivery service, for easy ordering of documents when the full text is not available online.

"The Web environment offers the opportunity to create a truly seamless service," states Libby Trudell, vice president for information professional market development at KRI. "Database selection tools, documentation, training and support will be integrated in the product, making it easier to take advantage of the full power and precision of DIALOG. DIALOG Web is designed to help searchers conserve their most precious resource: their time."


Awards

Individuals and companies within the online information industry were honoured at the Online Information 96 banquet held at the Natural History Museum, London in front of 400 industry professionals on the evening of Wednesday 4 December 1996.

The European Annual Information Product Award Sponsored by EUROLUG, European Online User Group
1996 Winner Digital Equipment Corporation for Alta Vista

The European Annual Information Personality Award Sponsored by the European Association of Information Services
1996 Winner: Dan Wagner, Chief Executive of M.A.I.D. Plc

The European Annual Information Promotional Activity Award Sponsored by EIIA, European Information Industry Association. This award is split into two categories, best stand at show and best sales literature.1996 Winners:
Best Stand at Show: Reuters
Best Sales Literature: Dow Jones for their `Dow Jones News/Retrieval' brochure

The UMI Excellence in Writing Award
1996 Winner: Tim Miller of New Media Resources, USA

The ESA-IRS Information Technology Trophy Awarded by EIIA, this trophy is for the best European technological innovation or application in the field of information handling and dissemination
1996 Winner CCN/Charles Goad (UK) for their Goad Retail GIS

The Internet Product of the Year Award Sponsored by Information World Review
1996 Winner: Dow Jones for The Wall Street Journal Interactive

The Electronic Library Best Paper Award Sponsored by Dynix
1996 Winner:Julie Johnson of Australia for the paper entitled `Government Web Pages: the lights are on but nobody is home.'

For more information about Online Information 96 and 97 contact: Jennifer Couch, Marketing Manager, Learned Information Europe Tel: +44 (0)1865 388000 Online Business Information Survey


Survey

A survey of the online information industry that involves both online providers and end-users recently commisioned by Reuters and Learned Information Europe was recently completed by the Information Research Network (IRN). More than 500 interviews with professional information specialists, current and potential end-users and 30 interviews with major providers of information were conducted over a three-month period in the UK, France, and Germany.

Results show the market in Europe is valued at between £450m-500m with revenue growth averaging between 10% and 15% per year over the last two years. The industry is predicting that these levels will continue to increase for the next two years and top £1 billion by the year 2000. The UK is the largest market representing over 50% of all European users and around 60% of revenues. Along with France and Germany this represents 75% of the European market.

Three players - Knight Ridder (Datastar and Dialog), FT Profile, and Reuters - account for 45% of the European market. MAID and Lexis-Nexis are building market share but remain some way behind the three market leaders.

The survey shows that the growth of the industry will be in the end-user market. Replies from librarians and information officers suggest that there is a likely increase of 6% per annum in the next two years while in contrast, end-users predicted an increase of 28% in spending over the same period, as compared with 12% last year. With this expected growth from end-users the results suggest that the major players are set to expand the content of their services through the Internet, Intranet and other local networks/groupware. Pharmaceuticals, food, travel, and advertising are seen as the major growth sectors.

The industry expects to see more 'branding' by key players to ensure their presence in the marketplace. However, the survey also suggests that consolidation in the industry is likely with underperforming operators losing out.

Within the broad sector of business news services there are a wide range of services providing access to business news. These include:

  • services providing the full text of press releases, such as PR Newswire:
  • full-text retrieval services offering archival retrieval of newspapers and other business news sources but usually with some delay in making the material available such as NEXIS;
  • general newswire services, for example AP & Reuters;
  • profiled news services such as First! from Individual Inc, Profound from MAID, Reuters Business Briefing, & FT Profile

The market sector attracting most attention currently is that for customised news services in which users are able to select, using a range of profiling approaches, only those new stories of direct relevance to them. This profile is run against new stories of a regular basis, often twice a day. Among the benefits that these services seek to offer are:

  • eliminating the need for a user to scan through a multiplicity of sources
  • providing information from multiple sources in a common format
  • delivering the content on a timely basis
  • providing summaries of news items
  • providing interfaces from internal transmission of information through and in the Internet (like Lotus Notes)
  • providing archival retrieval as well as current awareness

Some of these act only as integrators of newsfeeds and provide fairly limited profiling, whereas others provide very substantial level s of editing and indexing, and this is of course reflected in the subscription price.


Two Pioneers

The two companies that were the first into this market sector were Desktop Data and Individual Inc. both of which were setup in 1988 but did not really emerge on the market until 1990. The approaches taken by these two companies are very different. Desktop data's principal product is NewsEDGE which delivers an integrated mews service base don some 600 stories onto o a LAN server on the subscribers premises. One of the arractions of the pricing of this service is the the cost per subscriber decreases substantially as the number of subscribers increases.

Individual,Inc adopted the content analysis methodology developed by the late Gerry Salton at Cornell Unviersity. SMART, System fort the Manipulation and Retreival of Text is a highly sophisticated content-sensitive software suite which can be tuned to improve the relevancy of the profiles as the needs of the user change. First! is a corporate subscription service but over the Last t two years the company has launched a number of complementary services (HeadsUp, NewsPage, and iNews) which are targeted at the smaller company, or the individual subscriber in a larger company, and which provide summaries (usually few lines) of news items. The company offers a wide range of delivery channels, the most popular being fax, e-mail and Lotus Notes/Microsoft Exchange. In 1995 65% of delivery was through e-mail. The balance is now changing in favour of intranet delivery.

Although both these companies are growing rapidly in terms of revenues profits are still a long way off. For example, revenues for the first quarter of 1996 for Indiviual Inc were just over $5m a 46% increase on the same period in 1995. However the company had a net loss of $2.5 m for the quarter computed at $1.7m by first quarter of 1995. The company had an initial Public Offering in March 1996 which realised over er $35 m and one of the minority shareholders is Microsoft, so the company does not need to be overly concerned about its losses just yet.

Other Business News Services

There are many other companies offering business news services with some degree of profiling. In the US Dow Jones has relaunched its Dow Jones News service though using a Windows interface rather than a web browser. In the UK both FT and Reuters are offering profiled business news services. The FT launched FT Discovery at the end of 1995 in order to be competitve with Reuters Business Briefing and Business Alert. Neither of these services has a Web interface at present. Reuters has a wide range of sources and considerable technical and journalistic resources and can play a waiting game as some new players enter the market.

One of these is MAID, which provides and intuitive interface for its Profound service and which has embraced Internet delivery in a very comprehensive fashion. One of the puzzles for companies in this sector is how to take advantage of Internet/intranet delivery technologies without having to rebuild their exiting user interfaces.

The Hoover service developed by Sandpoint has been purchased by Information Acess Corp which has a very wide range of business information sources and will no doubt be continuing to invest in the service.

One of the interesting entrants to the US market is IBM with InfoSage. This offers comprehensive profiling capabilities and was well received at its launch in early 1996. IBM has the infrastruct-ure to bring the service to Europe. As well as InfoSage IBM offers InfoMarket and the Lotus Newsstand services. How these services will be positioned with respect to each other and the marketplace remains to be seen.

The NewsEyeQ services launched in May 1996 in the UK by News International deserves particular mention. The technology is based on the EyeQ profiler developed by Data Times in the USA and NewsEyeQ is a joint venture between News International and Data Times. Together with Personal Library Software as the retrieval software. The investment that News International has put into the service is substantial with a strong field sales team this is the first service of its type in the UK to adopt a pay-per-view pricing model and it will be interesting to see how this approach works out (** Late news - it didn't!!). In the UK market the main competition will come from FT Discovery and Reuters Business Briefing as well as MAID, but neither of these currently offers pay-per-view pricing or permits credit card billing of the monthly subscription.

Broadcast News Services

Another fast developing area of business news delivery is that of the provision of television news on a 24-hour basis. This was pioneered by CNN but there are two important new service due to be launched in 1996.

Microsoft and NBC have set up a joint vernture into which they are proposing to invest $620 m over the next five years. Initially this will be broadcast television, but an extension into interactive news services is also proposed. As has been mentioned above, Microsoft has a stake in Individual and may be using this as a means of developing search and profiling techniques for the news service.

News Corporation the parent of News International is also moving into this sector in the Fox Televison network and is marketing this aggressively to cable operators.

The importance of these broadcast services is twofold. First they will raise the visibility and importance of business news. Even more important is the possiblity of using the technology developed by Intel to Link a teletext type signal broadcast with the news stories to link into WWW sites. In a similar approach LEXIS/NEXIS is working with CNN on a link with the dialy CNN broadcasts to provide research support on stories cited in the broadcasts.

The basic commercial issue now is how to be able to deliver highly relevant news at a price that represents value for money. With most other online services the decisions on relevance are left to the end user. Because each search will be for a different subject , it is not easy for a user to judge how good the service is at finding relevant articles.

The situation is very different with profiled news services like FT Profile and MAID's Profound. Each day--even several times a day--the user will look at the results of the profiling process and be able to judge quite easily which of the typically twenty stories delivered that day are in fact relevant and timely. The user will also be reading newspapers and industry journals and be taking talking to colleagues and customers and does not want to be in the position of missing an important news item.

Keeping the subscribers satisfied in this market sector continues to remain a big challenge for business information providers. It requires continuing attention to content, profiling, delivery platform and pricing. The marketing challenges are considerable. For end-users the choice among these different services is not easy for each one offers its own particular attributes.

Judging these services on content alone is also a challenge to subscribers, for whereas some of the services, such as Reuters Business Briefing, have over 4000 sources many of these are taken from other news services such as Infomation Access Corp. Furthermore, some news services are protective as to which news services they will allow their feeds to be accessed. For example NewsEyeQ does not have the Financial Times, a result probably of the ownership of NewsEyeQ by News International a major competitor to Pearson's FT.

John-Raphael Staude,Ph.D.
Proteus Multimedia
E-mail:100424.3206@compuserve.com (John Raphael-Staude)

Update (August 1999) - UK address details deleted. John now lives in California.

Return to I3 UPDATE No. 8


© Copyright, 1997. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.

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I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News is a joint publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited and ENTOVATION International Limited - providers of trends analysis, strategic advice and workshops on knowledge management and knowledge innovation®