Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Inbox Report: LexisNexis Releases AlaCarte Service to Target Small. Medium Businesses

I received a press release from LexisNexis in this morning's email on a new AlaCarte Service, targeted at individuals and small institutions. It's a Web browser interface, and in that way somewhat similar to Factiva's service, but with several tabs of focused services. Payment appears to be strictly "by the drink" - no base fee required. Registration is quick and painless - no charge card info required up front - at which point you may choose to locate content from the following areas: News, Business Research, Legal, Business Research, Legal, Business Public Records, Hot Topics and Additional Search Sources. Searches were pretty slow - presumably because of an initial rush of use? - and don't return much beyond the article title and price for most searches. News search was kind of silly - am I really going to pay three US dollars for a press release that I can get for free on Google News? - though results were pretty well targeted. Business Research results are far more promising, providing a selection of company profiles, related news and patents; same grouse on news, though the sources are well selected, but the company profiles at USD 9.00 from Hoovers, Datamonitor and other premium sources are an interesting option, as are patent filings. Legal searches are not available just yet. Business Public Records returns judgments and Secretary of State filings, but with not enough summary to determine relevance and inadequate filtering. Hot topics so far offers three VERY broad buckets - Iraq War, Terrorism and Taxes 2005. Search Additional Sources promises a "deep dive for historical records" but appears to be a tool for searching specific sources or sections of specific sources and seems to allow only one source search at a time and the sources need to be typed in (guessed at) by the user. Quite honestly I am mystified by this feature and how it may be of any real use.

There are some nice things about this tool - simplicity has its advantages and the ability to hone in on truly premium sources for some very specific purposes at pretty reasonable prices has its advantages - but overall the first impression is one of a very tentative step towards an on-demand offering that lacks the well-designed interfaces and features of the Factiva "by the drink" interface and little thought as to how people actually use information or what's required to make an intelligent choice about a per-item content purchase. For those wanting to get at key premium sources at reasonable prices this is an intriguing option, but as a research tool it's in sore need of some more careful product design and conceptualization, which will hopefully come in future installments. Successful implementations in The New Aggregation require a lot more than figuring out how to disgorge the contents of a database for individuals in a second-class manner. With first-class tools like Google and institutional search engines around the corner making it easy for people to determine which content is worth selecting it's important to assume the most of one's audience and not lean too heavily on the prestige of one's database.
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