Pam Foster Business Information Trends: The Times They Are a-Changin'
Jinfo Blog

Thursday, 1st March 2007

By Pam Foster


Pam FosterThere's something of a seismic shift occurring in the ownership structure of a couple of our best-known information companies. The news that Thomson Business Intelligence is to be broken up and that Reuters is pulling out of Factiva has rocked the business-information world. At the same time, information companies and information workers are increasingly entering parallel universes to peddle their wares and talents. If all this is slightly bewildering, take heart, because it seems that we still trust traditional media best.

Thomson breaks up Business Intelligence services

Thomson Business Intelligence is being split up with parts of it being sold off, discontinued or moved to another platform. News Research will be discontinued at the end of 2007, Market Research (Profound) and NewsEdge are to be sold off and Broker Research and Insite are to be aligned with Thomson Financial.

Providers of general business news are finding it an increasingly crowded space, and Thomson has always faced stiff competition from Factiva and LexisNexis, as well as from free Web services such as Google News Archive. Now that Dow Jones has 100 per cent ownership of Factiva, it presents an even greater threat to competing companies, bringing together, as it does, the content of Dow Jones with the technologies developed by Factiva - a powerful combination. While Thomson has embraced technology for offering workflow products to its scientific and financial communities, it has certainly lagged behind the likes of Factiva and LexisNexis in developing products that integrate content into the business user's most critical decisions. It seems likely that Thomson wants to concentrate on growing its more specialised news services for the investment banking and investment management communities.

Profound is one of the best-known and oldest established sources of market-research data. It grew out of the MAID service, created by Dan Wagner who later went on to purchase Dialog in 1997, before selling it to Thomson in 2000. Looking back, it's fairly obvious that the service hasn't been a priority for Thomson for some years. A review in VIP, carried out last year, stated, 'Approximately 40 per cent of the overall content is more than two years old, which suggests that some sources are no longer updated and are retained for historical research only,' <>. Thomson claims that discussions with potential purchasers of Profound are underway.

Broker Research provides insight from 800 analysts covering nearly 38,000 companies worldwide, while Insite provides premium content from more than 2,500 key trade publications, business and popular magazines, newsletters, newspapers, newswires, analyst reports and more. Customers of both are being moved over to Thomson Financial, which is puzzling as Broker Research comprises the same data as the well know Investext database which is available as a Thomson Financial product. Insite data will also overlap with Thomson Financial data.

The decision to break up Thomson Business Intelligence appears to be part of a large-scale realignment strategy. Last October, the company announced that it was selling its Thomson Learning businesses, and at the same time announced that from 1 January 2007 it was reorganising its operations into six existing Strategic Business Units: North American Legal, Financial, Scientific, International Legal & Regulatory, Tax & Accounting and Healthcare.

These units don't make much sense to the business-information community as they dump business information into either Thomson Scientific or the North American Legal Group. Once again, with the benefit of hindsight, maybe the signs were there - Thomson was concentrating on financial, rather than business information, in its overall future strategy.

Further analysis of Thomson's strategy is published in the January 2007 (38) issue of VIP <>. VIP will continue to monitor and report on the future of the Thomson Business Intelligence products as and when they are sold.

One owner for Factiva

Dow Jones & Company has acquired Reuters' 50-per cent interest in Factiva, bringing Dow Jones ownership of Factiva to 100 per cent. Factiva has been integrated into the Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group, which is managed by Clare Hart, who served as Factiva's CEO from 2000 until her appointment as President, Dow Jones' Enterprise Media Group in February 2006. Reuters will continue to supply its news to Factiva under an agreement as a paid supplier, and will enter into or continue a number of commercial arrangements with Factiva and Dow Jones.

Factiva was founded in 1999 as a 50/50 joint venture between Dow Jones and Reuters. Originally known as Dow Jones Reuters Business Interactive, it brought together two of the best known business information products of the time - Reuters Business Briefing, which was renowned for its European content and Dow Jones Interactive with its emphasis on US content. The companies changed the product name to Factiva later that year.

The acquisition will ultimately benefit both Dow Jones and Reuters. It will remove certain joint venture conditions that limit Factiva's business opportunities in its core enterprise market and enable it to develop licensing deals with Reuters' rivals. Reuters too is now free to pursue other markets and compete with Dow Jones in developing specialist products for professionals.

Further news and analysis of the Factiva change of ownership and Dow Jones restructuring, including news of job losses, is published in the January 2007 (38) issue of VIP <>.

Parallel universes need information too

We're all aware of the impact China and India are likely to have on the world economy, but what about Second Life, one of fastest emerging markets that isn't even real? Second Life is a three-dimensional, multi-user online digital world that is being created by its residents, who create characters (known as avatars), scenarios and living situations. It has its own virtual economy for transacting millions of dollars worth of virtual goods and services, using the Second Life virtual currency, known as Linden Dollars, which can be sold for real US dollars. It already has a couple of stock exchanges, banks and other financial institutions.

Businesses, retailers, universities and others are moving into Second Life, acquiring land, building offices, holding office hours, providing services, and treating Second Life as seriously as the real world. Next month (March 2007) there's a conference planned, in New York, for Fortune 500 companies who need helping devising a virtual world strategy. Virtual Worlds Conference 2007 is aimed at businesses seeking to understand and maximise marketing and business strategies within virtual worlds.

The number of organisations involved in Second Life grows each day and currently includes Reuters, Talis, IBM, Nissan, Wall Street Journal, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Sun Microsystems, Adidas, Toyota, American Apparel, MTV, US Centers for Disease Control, the State Library of Kansas and many others. For some, the benefits are in marketing, while others benefit from the ability to collaborate. IBM has 1,000 of its senior executives involved and is using Second Life as a mentoring community. The company has built a connection environment, a social- networking tool, where avatars profile themselves, then meet in Second Life.

All universes, whether real or parallel, need information, and Reuters was quick to jump in to open what it claims to be the world's first virtual-news bureau <>. Reuters' tech and media reporter Adam Pasick, who is known as Adam Reuters in Second Life, serves as a virtual bureau chief covering financial news that transpires within the online virtual world. Second Life residents can keep up with the latest news by using the Reuters News Center, similar to a real world mobile device. In addition, residents can visit a virtual Reuters building - the Reuters Atrium - a town hall community centre, where they can meet to discuss events, see the latest images and videos of the day, or just chat with their friends.

There is a strong presence from the library and information community in Second Life. Libraries have purchased two land masses (Info Island and Info Island II), built several libraries and created services. Talis has spearheaded the development of Cybrary City, which provides services to Second Life residents and to librarians. You can follow some of the activities of librarians through the Second Life Library 2.0 Blog at <>.

Corporate interest in virtual universes, as well as other Web services such as is part of a second Internet boom. Second Life may seem a bizarre choice for traditional companies like Reuters, but it offers a great way for the company to get involved in a 3-D virtual world and connect with a new generation of users. It's too early to assess the full impact Second Life will have on the real world but, in the meantime, it's safe to say that it will have an impact on you, either directly or indirectly.

Jill Hurst-Wahl of Hurst Associates <> is an information consultant, speaker, author/blogger and avatar. Read about her experiences in Second Life in the article 'Why Second Life Matters', published in the December issue of VIP <>.

And yet ...

Traditional news media are the most trusted for reporting significant events. According to a survey conduced by LexisNexis <>, it seems that people would prefer to turn to newspapers, magazines, television and radio, rather than emerging media sources created by citizen journalists, including Internet-only publications, blogs and podcasts, to get the latest news and analysis of important events.

Half of those surveyed said that they would turn to network television for immediate news information in such situations, while the next most popular source was the radio (42 per cent). Findings show that approximately a third of consumers (37 per cent) would use daily local newspapers or cable news or business networks (33 per cent), and a quarter of those interviewed would rely on Internet sites of print and broadcast media. In contrast, emerging media like Internet user groups, blogs and chat rooms would be used by (6 per cent) surveyed.

Before traditional publishers become too complacent, however, responders also said that emerging media is beginning to play an increasingly important role in people's lives. In the future, more than half (52 per cent) of the consumers surveyed anticipate they will continue to mostly trust and rely on traditional news sources. However, more than a third (35 per cent) expect they will trust and rely on both emerging news and traditional news in the future, and more than one in 10 (13 per cent) anticipate they will trust and rely mostly on emerging media.

A reliance on print has been further borne out by WAN, the World Association of Newspapers, which has announced that global newspaper circulation is growing, and that new newspapers are being launched at a remarkable rate. Even in North America and Europe, where negative assumptions about the industry are widespread, both circulation and the number of new titles have increased. What's more, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, have endorsed the claim that newspapers have a bright future and will not be killed off by the Internet. The pair were speaking at the World Economic Forum, held in Davos in January 2007.

Google is helping newspapers sell print advertising to bidders. Advertisers log into Google AdWords which offers a list of participating papers and the sorts of ads that are available. Advertisers then enter a bid for an advertisement and newspapers in turn accept the ones they want. Advertisements are restricted to small display ads. Google certainly has a large network of online advertisers, plus the project aims to attract small advertisers, many of whom have been priced out of newspapers. But analysts are cautious about the outlook for print advertising and research suggests that online ad spending is set to increase at the expense of traditional print adverts. Further reporting and analysis of the future of newspapers is published in the February issue of VIP.

There's no doubt that the future of news organisations will be largely dependent on their attitudes towards digital media. Those who embrace it and adapt will still be around in years to come; those who refuse to take it on board will eventually die.

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