Developments in market research illustrate some of these new directions in online information.
The editorial theme of this issue is new roles for information professionals. Not to "role" over and play dead, but I'm not excited about writing an entire column on new roles for information professionals. I prefer practical policies to pontificating punditry. Regardless of the role future information professionals will play or the job title they will hold, some characteristics should remain constant: the ability to critically examine new technologies, to fully comprehend the content of new information sources, and to clearly communicate the consequences of the collision of technology with content.
Today's information professionals confront an online world where the rangeand types-of sources verge on the infinite. It's imperative to be open to the possibilities of new content. Traditional online has its roots in printed documents. Putting documents online so that they can be retrieved by keyword searching, however, is no longer the prime directive. New content includes innovative ways of combining, hyperlinking, and manipulating those online documents, as well as incorporating visual images, sound files, and non-structured text.
ROLLING DOWN THE ROAD
Developments in market research illustrate some of these new directions in online information. Not too long ago, market research reports were exotic and high-priced. Many are still the latter, but their exclusive nature has been diluted by their availability in electronic form. Probably the first innovation online brought to the market research world was the possibility of buying data one page at a time-for a fraction of the price of an entire report. Information professionals had no difficulties grasping the concept of data extraction coupled with saving money. However, it was a harder sell to end-users, who tended to remain with the older model of buying the report in toto.
Opening up the genre of market research literature to the general business community was the innovation brought to your screen by IMR Mall (http.//www.imrmall.com), when they initiated Internet searching across several market research report producers at no charge for the search process. When I first wrote about IMR Mall ("Shopping the Mall for Market Research," ONLINE, September/October 1998: pp. 77-80), 1 noted that more firms would be added. IMR now includes reports from the 40 firms contributing to MarkIntel. FIND/SVP's market research reports were purchased by Kalorama and are still part of IMR Mall. The search capability has been greatly enhanced. You can now search for words in a document, chapter title, record title, or report title, and you can specify report source and date. You're limited to Boolean AND and NOT operators, which IMR Mall expresses as "contains" or "doesn't contain."
INSIGHT RESEARCH ROLLS ON
In that same column, I stated that Insight Research Corporation (http://www.insight-corp.com) had no search capability. It now has two possibilities. Quick Report Finder, at the upper right-hand corner of your screen, enables you to click on a preselected list of report topics and retrieve a list of the most recent report titles on that topic. Alternatively, click on Market Research Reports (under Analysis in the left-hand frame). You can then run a keyword search in the Table of Contents, report title, or anywhere within the report. Insight wants to sell you the full report rather than chunks of data.
The advantage to IMR Mall-as well as Profound's ResearchLine, Investext's Research Bank Web, or Dialog's MARKETFULL-is its aggregation of reports. This is particularly useful if you seek general information and don't care about its source. Market share figures for desktop computers in Europe, trend lines for shampoo sales worldwide, demographic data on gourmet food consumers, or growth prospects for the lithium battery market can be effectively searched in databases of aggregated reports. …