Thursday, July 7, 2005

Hoover's Debuts New Look, Features and Levels of Access

The announced debut of the new online portal for Hoover's, Inc. the online business information service in a new direction. Gone is the single-line search box allowing people to look up company information from the home page. In its place are three options that explain the three major uses of the Hoover's online service: finding companies, finding business people or generating custom lists. Each of these lead to separate pages from which one can initiate single-line or advanced queries for further information. The single-line search box with options correlating to the home page options reappears once you've found yourself on a given company's details. Details are a little more restricted than before - historical financials are now bundled into the subscription service, for example - but overall the look, feel and usability of the company pages remains high, with better highlighting of advanced features available via the subscription package.

The net effect of these changes is to get the ad-based user to appreciate Hoover's as both a source of diverse kinds of business information and a source of specific business information solutions rather than a search engine-like "quick fix" for company lookups. The "quick fix" newcomer visiting the home page is slowed down to the point where they are encouraged to think about the problem that they're trying to solve a little more carefully and to get a flavor of what their subscription-based content and tools look like by taking a peek at a few selected full-bore company profiles. With no real direct competition for ad-supported online business information of this kind other than their own content via portals such as Yahoo!Finance and with increased positioning via subscription partner Factiva to provide business information solutions Hoover's is challenged to define a media strategy that can yield the most revenue outside of channel relationships. Making ad-based content work harder to convert casual users into subscription users is the goal for that strategy with this new portal, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn't leave ad-based monies on the table. Time will tell whether this approach will encourage ad-based use enough to get those conversions and whether there are not additional opportunities for monetizing the context of business content that can span both ad-based and subscription business information.
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