Hoover's: Solving Information Chaos

Article excerpt

Dwayne Spradlin joined Hoover's, Inc. as president in November 2004. After about 5 months on the job, he was eager to talk about recent changes at Hoover's and company plans for the rest of 2005 and beyond. Before joining Hoover's, Spradlin was president and COO of StarCite, Inc., an online meeting and events planning business. Prior to that, he was senior vice president of corporate and business development for Verticalnet, Inc., which offers a portfolio of online industry marketplaces. Spradlin spent the majority of his career with the management consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Hoover's prides itself on offering an editorially produced company information database that is updated daily. The company, based in Austin, Texas, was founded in 1990 and acquired by D&B in 2003. Hoover's offers several subscription levels, licensing plans, and access options (including wireless). Information on access options is available at http:// www.hoovers.com.

Q: Start by bringing us up-to-date on what's been going on at Hoover's.

A: I jumped at the opportunity to come to Hoover's, not only because it's a household name, but also because there's such potential here in an area that I feel passionately about. My whole professional career has been spent in information. The last 10 years or so have revolved around the value of the Internet as a distribution channel for information and the transformative power that can have. In Hoover's, I see something very real and tangible. In a time when information should be democratizing but instead has grown to be almost overwhelming, a company like Hoover's is working to make relevant the plethora of content. It is increasing the signal-to-noise ratio, if you will, so that people can actually get their jobs done.

I look at the search engines and companies that provide information to consumers, whether in the B2C or B2B space, and they are contributing to the noise. They are not adding the value that the Internet had promised. So, Hoover's marries the notion of the multitude of information with highly educated, highly focused knowledge engineers and translates that into a form that is valuable. Hoover's built a business model around this, which, quite frankly, wins not because it's sexy, but because it creates real value for its users. That was intriguing to me.

When I arrived in early November, a lot of things were heating up in the company. There was tremendous new energy around taking the company and its products to the next level. Customer centricity is something near and dear to my heart, and I've been working diligently with the company in the last several months to accelerate plans to get new products out to customers. My focus has been working with the management team to drive things forward. Our product is really about delivering insight to customers--an ability to sift through huge volumes of information and make sense of it.

Q: Recently, Hoover's launched My Hoover's. Can you talk about this?

A: I think My Hoover's is a phenomenal example of the insight provided by Hoover's and is the first implementation of a number that are planned in this area. With the introduction of My Hoover's, we added some "push" capabilities into the equation. In our toolsets, for both free and paying users, there's the ability to customize the information to be subscribed to--and this will continue to evolve. The feedback on our personalization tools, so far, has been staggering, so we'll be investing significantly in this area over the next year or two.

Q: But Hoover's had offered alerts and searches before, hadn't it?

A: Hoover's had this functionality, but we've now "productized" it so it's central to the work flow of the user and quite intuitive. In addition, My Hoover's will be the container for future innovation in terms of delivering personalized content to users.

Q: Can you give us a view looking forward? …

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