Thomson Debuts New Databases, Interface
O'Leary, Mick, Information Today
Today's online information economy would please Adam Smith. It is a classic capitalistic marketplace, with multiple competitors and informed buyers driving improved products and lower (or at least more slowly rising) prices. The competition is at its most intense for business information. Key databases like Disclosure, PTS PROMT, Dun's Financial Records, and ABI/Inform can be found on several suppliers, which forces competition on the distribution side. On the production side, even stellar databases like those just mentioned are not unique; often comparable information is available on other databases.
Nonetheless, there are exceptions to this competitive scuffling. One of the biggest is Thomson Financial Networks, which produces the important and unrivalled Investext database. Investext contains full text reports on companies and industry sectors prepared by over 200 investment banks and research firms. The reports, which cover thousands of companies and dozens of industries in the United States and abroad, are a rich source for corporate intelligence, market data, and trends. The database is available on several leading online services, including Dialog, Nexis, Dow Jones News/Retrieval, and NewsNet, as well as from Thomson's own online service.
Thomson has just taken another great step toward enlarging its information monopoly with the announcement of its MarkIntel Master, MarkIntel, and BondText databases. These three files exemplify the Thomson practice of bringing hitherto private market research into public access. All three are based upon the same kind of limited distribution, high-priced research reports that have made Investext so popular among all kinds of business researchers. As if this weren't enough. Thomson has also rebuilt its own online service. Investext/Plus has been renovated and upgraded as I/PLUS Direct, which has the new Thomson databases and new search features.
Thomson Files Break New Online Ground
MarkIntel Master contains reports prepared by leading consulting and research firms for private clients. The database's initial contributions include research companies in several major industry sectors:
Kline & Co.--Speciality chemicals and cosmetics.
Ducker Research--Construction products and industrial components.
Decision Resources - Biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.
John S. Herold--Oil and gas.
Forrester Research--Computers, software, and networks.
MarkIntel Master contains reports on companies, including private companies, and industries in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The company reports average approximately five pages, and discuss strategies, products, market share, and customer perspectives. The industry reports are longer--10 to 30 pages--and examine technologies, markets, forecasts, and trends.
The database has over 2,000 reports published from 1988 to 1992. There is an embargo period for reports from several providers, which results in a delay, sometimes of several months, between their distribution to clients and their appearance online. The list of contributers will be expanded to provide coverage of additional companies and industry sectors.
MarkIntel is a companion file to MarkIntel Master. It differs in that its contributors are general market research firms, rather than the specialty consulting firms that contribute to MarkIntel Master. The initial supplier to MarkIntel is market research leader Frost & Sullivan. Over 1,000 F&S reports are currently available in health, chemicals, electronics, autos, energy, and power systems. F&S reports in biotechnology, defense, aerospace, automation, and communications; data processing will eventually be added.
F&S company reports include company profiles, strategies, and five-year projections; industry reports cover market segments, new technologies, trends, and business environment. Reports published from 1990 to 1992 are online, with a four month time embargo from publication date.
BondText provides yet another new wrinkle in the business analysis field, with reports on the debt situation of companies, governments, and municipalities. Bond analysis may seem like a dry, highly specialized subject of interest only to financial analysts, but in fact an organization's debt status affects its structure, resource allocation, equity position, and overall planning. BondText reports cover not only debt composition and refinancing, but the organization's debt-related plans and limitations as well.
BondText contains over 4,000 reports from major investment banks and research firms, including Merrill Lynch, Salomon Brothers, Dean Witter, Kemper, Duff & Phelps, and Thomson BankWatch. Publication dates for the reports range from 1988 to the present. BondText reports are time embargoed for several weeks.
With the vast amount of information already available online, few new databases actually break new ground. The three Thomson databases do enter new territory that previously was available online only in the form of brief abstracts or not at all. They provide new sources for business and technology analysis, forecasts, and company activities, especially the ever elusive private companies. Their principal drawback is their lack of currency. If data are considered weapons of competitive advantage, the original purchasers of the reports have an edge over those who consult them online weeks or months later. This delay, of course, does not hinder every kind of research. The Investext reports themselves are embargoed, but they are nonetheless enormously popular. Regardless of the effect of the time embargoes, these databases are an important addition to the roster of online business sources. They will be welcomed by legions by insatiable business, company, and financial researchers.
Although known primarily as a database producer, Thomson has operated its own online service for several years. I/PLUS Direct is the successor to Investext/Plus and CORIS. It provides menu-driven searching to the three new Thomson databases and Investext. By year's end, SEC Online, American Banker, Bond Buyer, and PTS PROMT will follow.
The I/PLUS search system is based upon the thorough indexing that is applied to Investext and the new databases. Each report is indexed by Company, Industry Sector, Product/Service, Business Topic, and Geographic Area. The initial menu cycle involves searching on one of the indexing categories or other citation element, including SIC Code, Report Source, Author, Report Number, Report Title, or Date. Unqualified full text searching is also permitted.
Additional menu cycles, using different qualifiers, can be applied to the initial set of results to focus the search more sharply. Search results can also be limited only to those records which contain a significant discussion of the topic. Reports can be displayed online in full or by page, and can be printed offline.
The interface, with its multiple menu levels and search qualifiers, is a deliberate instrument designed to achieve precise search results. The menu structure itself is designed to encourage use of the subject indexing, which in turn requires some familiarity with the index structures and terms. I/PLUS Direct will repay the steady searcher who makes some effort to learn it, but may prove cumbersome and excessively intricate to the impatient, "get in and get out" searcher.
I/PLUS Direct uses conventional connect rate pricing, with an hourly rate of $95.00 and record display costs that generally fall in the $5 - $20 range. There is presently no flat rate pricing option. This is unfortunate in view of the value which customers obtain from flat-rate pricing and the usage increases which is stimulates. It is a major online trend which Thomson should have incorporated with these important new databases.
At this point Thomson's new databases are exclusively on I/PLUS Direct. There are now no plans to provide them on other online services, a departure from the Investext pattern of widespread availability. Adam Smith might not approve, but it is a case where the database producer that is its own distributor has the upper hand compared to other online services or to customers. Whether or not such a monopoly works to the benefit of customers, the industry, and the database producer itself is subject to debate. Regardless of what might have been, the market will be attracted to these databases and will go to I/PLUS Direct to get them. Thomson has done what it takes to bring these significant new products to market, and has a right to shift the traffic its way.
MarkIntel Master, MarkIntel, BondText
Full text reports from market research, consulting, and investment firms, covering company strategies, market position, structure, and debt status, and industry market structure, trends, and forecasts. Important kind of business analysis newly available online.
Thomson Financial Networks, 11 Farnsworth St., Boston, MA 02210, 617/345-2000. Online from I/PLUS Direct. $95.00/hr. plus record costs based upon report pages. Price per page range from $5.50 - $18.00.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Thomson Debuts New Databases, Interface. Contributors: O'Leary, Mick - Author. Magazine title: Information Today. Volume: 9. Issue: 10 Publication date: November 1992. Page number: 13+. © 2009 Information Today, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1992 Gale Group.
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