EBSCO Joins Business Info Fray

Article excerpt

Mick O'Leary has been using and writing about online information for over 15 years. He is the director of the library at Frederick, Maryland, and a principal in The Data Brokers, an information consultancy. His e-mail address is 71735.2041 @compuserve.com.

Can Corporate ResourceNet carve out a successful niche for itself?

Corporate ResourceNet is EBSCO Publishing's big new product for the business information market. It succeeds the company's previous business service, the Collectanea Corporate DeskTop Library. This didn't catch on, in part because it didn't have a complete set of business data or a clear identity (or perhaps because you couldn't spell or pronounce it). Corporate ResourceNet (CRN) is a completely new product that integrates EBSCO's periodical content and search software with Web sources and third-party business databases.

This is not the easiest time to introduce a new business service. The competition-- including Dow Jones Interactive, LEXIS-NEXIS., and DIALOG--all have big head starts. Each has already migrated its extensive business data collections to the Web. Each has an established presence in the corporate market. Dow Jones and LEXIS-NEXIS have the additional great asset of their high-recognition brand names.

CRN is playing catch-up, but it is not safe to dismiss it since EBSCO has already demonstrated an ability to encroach upon established market leaders. In the past few years, its EBSCOhost databases have taken a big share in academic, school, and public library markets, at the expense of longstanding leaders like Gale (IAC) and UMI. EBSCO's recipe for success there has been solid but unspectacular data collections, excellent search software, and competitive pricing. CRN brings the same formula to the corporate/business market.

Relying on the Web

CRN is an eclectic service that includes proprietary EBSCO content, data from several third-party producers, and thousands of Web resources. The service is arranged in three departments: a periodical collection for general business research, a section for company research, and a large directory of business-oriented Web links. CRN relies heavily on Web sources. Web content is integrated with proprietary data, and CRN relies on the Web for several kinds of information that its competitors obtain from proprietary databases.

CRN's Web-dependent design may be in part a strategy to maintain competitive pricing. CRN has a single flat-rate annual subscription that includes periodical content, basic company profiles, and the Web directory-except premium company records. The base-level subscription for a single-user license and a subset of the periodical collection is $2,000. This positions CRN favorably, compared to other business services that have more transaction fees, especially full-text article charges, or whose flat-rate contracts are much higher.

CRN Journal Search

Research on most business topics is carried out in CRN's collection of 3,200 periodicals, 2,100 of which are in full text. The database has journals representing all aspects of business and related areas such as economics, government regulation, and public policy. Full-text coverage for most titles begins in the early '90s; the database is updated daily. There are links from company names in journal articles to corresponding company records, if available. Additional coverage of U.S. urban regions comes from CRN Knight-Ridder, a separate collection of 100 full-text newspapers, updated daily with a 90-day archive.

The periodical collection is broader topically than would be expected in a business database, since it contains hundreds of journals in the sciences, technology, social sciences, and even the humanities. Having such multidisciplinary breadth is valuable for today's wide-ranging business research needs, but it will often result in irrelevant hits. It is, for example, a stretch to see what value the Journal of Cognitive Science, Romance Quarterly, or the Journal of Religious Education have for business research. …