Going "Back to the Future" with the New Business&Industry Database from RDS

By O Leary, Mick | Information Today, December 1995 | Go to article overview
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Going "Back to the Future" with the New Business&Industry Database from RDS

O Leary, Mick, Information Today

Is the world ready for another business database, especially if it is modeled on one of the most important and heavily used of all business files? Responsive Database Services is betting that its inaugural product, Business&Industry Database, is indeed a worthy rival to PROMT, a business information oracle since the inception of online searching. Business & Industry Database (B&I) makes the case that it out-PROMTs PROMT, by taking the PROMT concept and refining it to provide greater "responsiveness" to business information needs. B&I consciously follows PROMT, with carefully edited abstracts and full text from leading business publications, with a focus on market, company, and product information. At first glance the two databases may look quite alike, but upon closer inspection, important differences appear.

Responsive Database Services may be one of the newest database producers, but it has deep online roots. It was founded in 1994 by Dick Harris, one of the most esteemed figures in the information industry. From 1981 to 1992, Harris was president of Predicasts, which created PROMT and, during Harris' tenure, several other important business databases. Following the sale of Predicasts to Information Access Company in 1991, Harris left the company and later established his new firm.


In part, B&I is a response to the changes that PROMT has undergone in recent years, which have moved it from its original concept. PROMT originally contained abstracts of key articles from business journals, newspapers, and newsletters. Over time, it added other kinds of publications, including abstracts of corporate annual reports, investment firm and market research reports, press releases, and SEC registration statements. PROMT also added the full text of short articles, and, in place of some abstracts, used excerpts from the original article. These enhancements increased the value of the PROMT "mega-file" for one-stop searching but made it more complex and increased the likelihood of retrieving duplicate and unwanted records.

B&I attempts to go "back to the future" by restoring the old PROMT concept of using carefully selected articles from important business periodicals. This old plan is updated with modern, user-oriented indexing and editorial features. The result is a new database that doesn't do everything that PROMT itself does but does many things better.

International Business and Markets

B&I contains abstracts and full text of articles selected from over 600 business journals, newspapers, and newsletters. The total is divided evenly between U.S. and foreign publications, representing U.S. national and regional markets and those in dozens of countries. All industries and markets are represented, but there is an emphasis on fast-changing high-tech sectors. PROMT covers over 1,000 periodicals representing similar topics, but the two databases do not duplicate each other. Approximately half of the periodicals in B&I are not in PROMT, including many of the foreign titles. In fact, one of the main distinctions between the two databases is the strong emphasis on foreign markets in B&I.

Both B&I and PROMT are highly selective in choosing articles, and each database will include quite different sets of articles from the same source periodical. B&I's editorial focus is on articles dealing with markets, companies, industries, and products, to the exclusion of those dealing with general business, economics, etc. Preference is given to articles with tabular data, such as market share rankings. B&I also specifically excludes certain types of ephemeral articles, such as interim earnings reports, executive changes, and interest rate shifts. Throughout there is an emphasis on avoiding duplication of information, one of the unpleasant side effects of the PROMT mega-file concept. PROMT has a somewhat broader range of topics represented in its selection.

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Going "Back to the Future" with the New Business&Industry Database from RDS


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