Magazine article Information Today

Information Brokering - a Cottage Industry

Magazine article Information Today

Information Brokering - a Cottage Industry

Article excerpt

Information Brokering, or a fee based information service, has often been described as a cottage industry. Having managed and operated Boston-based Searchline Associates, Inc. since 1981, I have often found this concept humorous. As any principal in a consulting or service business will say, a 50-hour week is not uncommon, Evenings--yea; weekends--well of cource, if you have too!

The backbone of Searchline Associates, Inc. is the use of online databases from information services such as Dialog or Textline to produce research reports on a specific industry, company(ies), product or technology. The length and depth of a research report can range from developing a list of companies within a particular industry, to an in-depth analysis of an industry, including a market and financial analysis of the major corporate players. Timeliness is a high priority, and therefore most reports are generated within 24-28 hours. Clients range from the market and development departments of Fortune 1000 companies to individual business professionals in venture capital, advertising, public relations, publishing, and high technology.

Personally I have always been drawn to the sea; maybe it results from childhood memories of summers at the shore. Anticipating another steamy summer in the city was not encouraging. I therefore contacted a friend who had a cottage available in Nantucket, and arranged to spend the summer at the beach. After all, Nantucket is still in Massachusetts; it would be a two month move within the state.

As preparations for moving my office approached, my anxiety increased. What are the basic tools of the trade?

Equipment

My PC equipment is a hardy Compaq. However, it is no longer as portable as it once was. It is now loaded to the limit with 20 Mbytes of memory; two word processing programs (one I prefer for editing and the other for writing); a database management program for business performance analysis, mailing list maintenance, and small dbase design projects; and a modem, my most precious link to external online information sources, and to several clients with whom I communicate extensively through electronic mail. But in the end, the Compaq would definitely be portable.

My laser printer would be needed for final reports, and correspondence. This would replace my typewriter, which I still use in the office for quickie notes--a kind of remnant and secure reminder of earlier days. I would leave my dot matrix printer, the old workhorse for drafts, in the pasture this summer.

While a FAX is not my favorite method of communication, because it is slow by electronic mail standards, many of my clients use it and therefore the FAX would make the journey.

A decision about my photocopier was tough, but someone's got to do it. The FAX can make copies, and therefore I would do without it (if only for two months).

I planned to call forward my business line, so that client calls to the office would be transparently routed to Nantucket. The same answering machine would pick up if I was unavailable. I would, however, be operating with one phone line instead of several.

A surge protector, I decided, is a must on the island. Since I was not prepared to rip out a wall in my office, a small investment in a plug-in unit would insure equipment safety from brown outs and black outs.

Manuals

While there are 3,000 online databases available to me, in truth I search less than 75 since I concentrate in business and high technology. I therefore selected to bring approximately 15 manuals and thesauri which are used to provide terminology for searching databases from information providers such as Predicasts, Information Access Company, Data Courier, and Dun and Bradstreet. …

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