World Reporter Enters Competitive Fray; Three Information Leaders Cooperate in High-Stakes Business News Game

Article excerpt

World Reporter is finally here. After months of preliminary build-up, one of the most heavily promoted databases in recent memory has arrived. It comes with great expectations, created as it is by three leading information companies: DIALOG (formerly Knight-Ridder Information, and--if the MAID deal goes through--DIALOG again), Dow Jones Interactive, and Financial Timec Information. The three have poured both their resources and prestige into it.

The main characteristics of this major new product are full-text articles from English-language business news sources worldwide, informative abstracts from non-English publications, and detailed subject and geographic indexing. For something brand new, all this sounds just a little familiar. The design indeed closely resembles several of today's leading business news databases. If you have a strong feeling of deja vu, you're right.

What, then, is the point of World Reporter? It is certainly not to create something entirely new. The niche that World Reporter is trying to occupy is already densely inhabited. Instead, World Reporter is a strategy in the shifting power balances and competitive relationships among the world's leading electronic information producers and distributors. It is intended to strengthen the position of some, undermine the leverage of others, and shift power back to those who may have slipped a bit.

Content Battles

In the online business today, the debate is about content--who owns it and who just passes it along. The rationale for World Reporter is part of the battle to control content, rather than being controlled by it. In World Reporter's case, the content is business news, a highly profitable commodity in an age when companies are desperate for a steady flow of information from all corners of the globe. World Reporter's three producers, who have long distributed content produced by others, decided that they needed a world business database of their own.

In shaping World Reporter to meet the demands of the market, they ended up creating something that is very much like the competition. World Reporter strongly resembles PROMT, Trade & Industry Database, and Globalbase (all from Information Access Company), Business dc Industry Database (from Responsive Database Services), and Textline (produced by Reuters). To a lesser extent, it echoes NEXIS, Reuters, and Associated Press. In design, it is an indexed, full-text/abstract database, yet it has an update cycle that pushes it into the newswire category. It is a hybrid database that creatively combines both types, but it has much to do to match the best in either category.

World News Coverage

World Reporter has signed up nearly 300 news sources, most of which are now online. They include newswires, business newspapers, general newspapers, business journals, and trade papers. Over two-thirds are English language, and articles from them appear in the database in full text; non-English language articles appear as English language abstracts. Although World Reporter proclaims that it is an international news source, it now has a pronounced Anglo-American flavor: Approximately two-thirds of the source publications are published in North America, Australia, or the U.K. Europe is represented by approximately 4 dozen; the Pacific Rim by 2 dozen; and the rest of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, by a dozen or fewer for each region.

There are some unusual patterns in World Reporter's sources. There are 6 dozen daily papers from medium- and small-sized U.S. cities, including four from Georgia, five from Pennsylvania, and eight from Florida. There are 6 dozen publications from Australia, which is approximately twice as many as from either Western Europe or the U.K. On the other hand, its coverage of industry sectors, as represented by newsletters and trade papers, is thin and uneven. Publications from non-English speaking regions are underrepresented. …