Niche databanks are sprouting in small sectors in the information environment that large comprehensive databanks can't easily fill. Despite their immense range, systems like DIALOG and NEXIS cannot supply every kind of information, and their sheer size and complexity can deter the uninitiated from retrieving what they do have. For specialized subjects, niche databanks provide a customized online solution for the distinct needs of a homogeneous class of information users.
BASELINE fills this niche for the entertainment industry, specifically film and television. BASELINE demonstrates how every aspect of online information, from database creation to search system design, can be adapted to the requirements of a particular user group.
BUILDING A NICHE SYSTEM
BASELINE is the outcome of a long and careful development, guided from the beginning by founder and president, James Monaco. Monaco's authority on film long predates BASELINE. He owns New York Zoetrope, a publishing company that specializes in film and television reference books. He is, himself, the author of How to Read a Film, American Film Now, and the Encyclopedia of Film, as well as other books, articles, and reviews. The status of Monaco and his publishing house gave his online venture immediate name recognition, a quality highly valued in Hollywood.
BASELINE was formed in 1983. It had an excellent foundation in the online industry as well as in entertainment; among its founding shareholders were Carlos Cuadra, developer of ORBIT, and Sam Wolpert, founder of Predicasts. The BASELINE plan was to build a series of proprietary databases in areas where no data were available, while using authoritative sources from third-party producers where they existed. Database building itself took several years, as even Monaco underestimated how large the entertainment industry actually was.
BASELINE began full commercial operation in 1988, and now has over 3,000 regular users in the United States and many foreign countries. Its membership is not limited to producers, casting agents, and other Hollywood executives. Many subscribers are from related fields that have a stake in the entertainment business, including law, public relations, advertising, and journalism. BASELINE also counts online searchers who need to track the entertainment industry among its users.
THE BASELINE DESIGN
Film and television are information-intensive industries. Their "products" require a small army of performers, producers, and technicians. Thousands of productions are continually in various stages of development, filming, promotion, and distribution. All this churning activity requires a diverse and dynamic supply of information. Hence, BASELINE is a combination biographical directory, company directory, current project log, abstract database, reference book, calendar, news service, full-text database, and market survey.
BASELINE has two basic kinds of information:
* Directories of people in the entertainment industry, and of individual films and TV shows
* Full-text publications and market survey results
This information is organized into 38 individual databases. The BASELINE concept is to subdivide its data sources into small, discrete segments. For example, BASELINE's full-text publications are each divided into two separate sections: one for the current issue and another for back issues. This fragments data, making it impossible to retrieve all the information about a particular performer or subject with one search. The arrangement does, however, make it faster and easier to obtain a desired bit of information, because an elaborate search statement is not required to extract it from a single, larger database. The BASELINE pattern, of course, is meant to meet its users' needs. The typical BASELINE searcher usually wants quick, hasslefree access to a specific bit of information instead of comprehensive retrieval. …