Magazine article Information Today

The Latest on Companies, Search Engines, and Products. (News Break Update)

Magazine article Information Today

The Latest on Companies, Search Engines, and Products. (News Break Update)

Article excerpt

Once again, the past month's news has been dominated by developments in the RoweCom/divine situation. Following divine's bankruptcy filing in late February, EBSCO continued to move closer to finalizing its purchase of RoweCom's U.S. and Australian operations. According to EBSCO, the final acquisition depends on three factors: 1) U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval, which is expected early this month; 2) the successful closure by EBSCO of its RoweCom Europe acquisition, which was expected to receive French regulatory approval by late March; and 3) the support of publishers, which represent at least 50 percent of the aggregate amount paid to RoweCom by customers--money not forwarded by RoweCom to publishers on the customers' behalf. EBSCO predicted that it would reach the 50-percent quota before the end of March.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that divine now faces the possibility of criminal charges stemming from a federal grand jury investigation. In addition, the civil fraud suit filed by RoweCom against divine is still pending. Libraries and publishers continue to reel from the effects of the debacle.

Search Engine Developments

A series of recent acquisitions reveals the pressures and mounting rivalries in the Web search arena. Competition is so tight that companies are consolidating their capabilities to stay in the running. And all the companies are gearing up to counter Google's massive presence.

At the end of 2002, Yahoo! announced that it would buy Inktomi, which had been concentrating its efforts on Web search and its paid-inclusion business after selling its enterprise search software to Verity. In February, Google said it would acquire Pyra Labs and its Blogger publishing tool, thus marking the company's entry into the world of Web log content. (For reactions to the Google purchase, see David Mattison's NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb0302242.shtml.)

Soon after Google's move, Overture, a pay-for-placement ad service, announced that it would purchase both AltaVista and the Web search assets of Fast Search and Transfer (FAST), including its showcase site, AlltheWeb.com. The acquisitions have positioned Overture to supply feeds--accompanied by advertising opportunities--to large Web site services such as MSN (which currently uses a feed from Yahoo!'s Inktomi). Searchers expressed some worries about the Overture ownership. Both AltaVista and AlltheWeb are popular with power searchers, and some fear that this consolidation will result in the loss of innovation and competition. (For more details, see Barbara Quint's NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb030303-1.shtml.)

As this issue went to press, Disney, owner of Go.com, announced that Google, rather than Overture, would power the Disney sites. The next day, Disney officials reportedly said the company was in discussions to sell its Infoseek Internet assets. These days, it sure is hard to keep track of which engine powers a site or even who owns what.

D&B, Hoover's Update

In early December 2002, D&B made a $7-per-share purchase offer for Hoover's. The deal was surrounded by controversy, however, and an interesting saga ensued. Some investors and analysts were critical of the low purchase price, saying Hoover's was giving away the company. Statements and counter-statements flew back and forth, and a lawsuit was even filed that sought to block the D&B purchase.

Marathon Partners, a 9-percent Hoover's shareholder, teamed up with technology investor Austin Ventures and made a higher offer. The bid was abruptly withdrawn, however, after D&B said it would not raise its bid (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb030217-l.htm). Finally, on March 3, Hoover's stockholders approved the merger with D&B.

A big sigh of relief was no doubt heard in Austia, Texas, and in D&B's New Jersey headquarters. Now Hoover's customers are holding their breath to see what will happen under new ownership. …

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