Thursday, July 21, 2005

First Look: Factiva and LexisNexis Join the Yahoo! Subscriptions Beta Program

Search Engine Watch broke the story of Factiva and LexisNexis content being available on the new Yahoo! Subscriptions Beta service before the press release was even out, an interesting irony that highlights some of the difficulties of positioning the value of subscription content in an open Web environment. Using the service itself highlights even larger issues. Okay, let's try to take this from an objective standpoint. Let's wave the magic wand and...

*POOF*...

Here I am, a person who is not subscribing to either Factiva or LexisNexis and I encounter the SEW story. Hmm, wonder if this is going to be useful? Let's try it out for General Motors and see what Factiva and LexisNexis have. The search results for this query look promising...kind of. I see the names of the aggregators but not of the publishers. Hard to even figure out what the article is about without clicking on the link. How do I know if this is a useful source? Is this recent content? Don't know, there's no publishing dates. Gee, maybe I shouldn't use this for news, maybe it's meant more as a general research tool. If that's the case, then why does an article on a GMAC financial announcement from LexisNexis come first? Could be a good reason, but I don't know. There's not even a categorization scheme to give me a hint. Let's click on the link to find out. Hmm. I see a headline, a date of publication - gee, this was from three weeks ago, why was it the first item? That's it. If I want to know anything else it will cost the three dollars. I wonder if I can find this story on Google News? Hey, that first article looks like the thing that I found on LexisNexis, but from a different publisher on the same date. Well, that's interesting.

All right, let's give this Yahoo! Subscriptions thing a try for Factiva on the same search as before - just LexisNexis and Factiva. Gee, where is the Factiva stuff? Oh, here we are - the third page of search results at the bottom - number thirty. Hmm. I guess Factiva must not be as strong as LexisNexis on corporate stuff. The link says that it's about an ethanol fuel vehicle being delivered in Colorado. OK, let's click on the link just for kicks. Wow, this is from May 26th, almost a month ago. US Fed News is the source - no, wait, it's originally from the Hindustan Times. $1.50 for this article, or ten for $9.95, kind of a mini-subscription. I get about half a sentence, can't really figure out if this is worth buying. Sounds like a press release sort of thing, maybe this is on the Web also. Let's search for the title on Google first, it's kind of old for news. Sure enough - bingo. The first item on Google's Web search results is a press release from the State of Colorado, dated May 26th. Well, so much for this subscription stuff, didn't give me much I couldn't already get.

*POOF*...

Well that was interesting, wasn't it? Obviously there are a lot of things that our friend didn't know or understand, but did the Yahoo! subscriptions service help him to understand the value of these services - or the aggregators serving up the content? Did the aggregators provide any value-add service that would compel me to buy this content or their services? Was this content in fact the "deep web" that has been hyped up as now coming to light? Oh dear aggregators, you've got a lot of thinking to do - as does your partner. There is a brighter future than this for subscription content on the Web, but not from this kind of service that does more to frustrate and confuse potential users than to solve any single comprehensible user need.
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