Magazine article Information Today

Season's Greetings - Again!

Magazine article Information Today

Season's Greetings - Again!

Article excerpt

Well, it's that time of year again. If the online industry is looking for some last minute gift ideas, here they are. This year, I'm including several options since--as far as I can tell--no one took me up on last year's single suggestion. You probably don't remember, but I suggested third-party payment options as a good idea for a marketing online dial-up products. Of course this approach has already sold a lot of popular, mass market CD-ROMs and the drives that run them. Just check out the gift section of your corner computer store. But dial-up services do not appear to have taken the idea to heart.

Nonetheless, we will try again. After all, this is the season of hope. Maybe a shopping list will have a better chance. Be assured, however, that whatever we suggest will bring joy to both the giver and the receiver. Only products, services, and/or features that can bring the online industry profit as well as joy to online customers will reach Santa's workshop.

Images, Please

How about digitized images integrated with text? Let's be flexible with this one. Clearly many new consumer information utilities have started to offer this kind of product as a deliverable. However, sometimes it appears more as a screen-only product. Downloading graphics text takes more effort. Clearly any search service that does not allow for binary file transfer is out of the picture (excuse the pun) when it comes to handling images. Or is it? What about supplying the graphics as a separate product from an image-based source like University Microfilms International's massive array of microfilm or even their laser printer CD-ROM workstations? You might even try a Fax-only article delivery service like CARL (Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries) Systems.

Frankly, full-text retrieval works for a lot of material, just not all of it. When the lack of images proves a real handicap, consumers would like an alternative. For example, many journals and trade magazines publish key articles built around collections of graphics. Fortune, Aviation Week and Space Technology, Business Week, et al., devote the bulk of at least one issue a year to collections of reference graphics almost synonymous with the magazine. For those key articles in those key issues, why couldn't an online service and/or full-text database compiler offer an image alternative. On the other hand, some magazines carry key tabular sections in almost all their articles, e.g., dotted rows and columns in Consumer Reports or the "Reviews 'R' Us" articles in Ziff-Davis' computer publications. Not all users may need this material. They may choose to read specific material on specific products in the text. However, if users want a quick tabular overview, it would be lovely if the database could supply it. Without the capability of offering full-image document retrieval, traditional commercial vendors risk their current as well as future markets. End users, especially mass market consumers, will never accept shoddy-looking ASCII printouts with no graphics. Professional searchers aren't going to put up with it much longer either, especially now that document suppliers like CARL will let them identify the articles for free. As I approach the end of my second decade of online searching, even I roll my eyes when I retrieve a "Fortune 500" article from a commercial database vendor only to find all the names and data on the "500" missing and only the ancillary introductions and sidebars left. "Real people" will never accept this. However, "real people" might be willing to wait an hour or so to have a Fax delivery of the full article--even if the delay stems from the need to fulfill an order through another supplier. As more image-based delivery systems penetrate the market, professional searchers will have to insist on equivalent service or switch vendors. Frankly, it is professionally embarrassing--not to say dangerous--to recommend incomplete, unattractive, high-priced products to clients already aware of full-length, pretty, cheap products. …

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