Magazine article Information Today

'Dear Marty/Dear Matt'

Magazine article Information Today

'Dear Marty/Dear Matt'

Article excerpt

Well, ProQuest Information and Learning was recently sold to Cambridge Information Group (CIG), parent of CSA. By the time you read this, the new privately held company created out of the takeover will have announced its new name. At press time, it was still called ProQuest/CSA.

I wrote a NewsBreak about the acquisition during the holidays.1 When I was researching that NewsBreak, I interviewed the leaders of the new company, CEO Martin Kahn (now relocated to ProQuest's Ann Arbor, Mich., site) and president Matt Dunie (still in Bethesda, Md., with the CSA side). These two executives now have a brand new company with a 100-year tradition in their control. ProQuest Information and Learning (formerly University Microfilms International) doesn't actually date back a century, but many of its files run much longer than 100 years, including Historical Newspapers and the comprehensive Dissertations Abstracts. So what advice can a consumer advocate, such as myself, give to the new owners of all this luscious, unparalleled content?

Tip No. 1: Content Is King. In real estate, the three things to look for are location, location, and location. In the information field, the three key assets are content, content, and content. Don't let anything diminish what you already have: no cutbacks in production and no production shutdowns of temporarily less revenue-generating content. In fact, this is the time to reach out for new content, particularly if it fits with established content streams. For example, the premier collection of newspaper archives needs bolstering. New markets for the older issues have been found as newspaper Web sites such as nytimes.com offer access to archives as part of its TimesSelect subscription package and Google News Archive introduces the Google millions to pay-per-view material. However, questions have been raised about the reliability of the archiving process for newer material. When librarians license an archive for a major national newspaper, they don't just want 50-year-old issues; they need to know that the expensive license will guarantee satisfaction when a client wants everything a newspaper has written on a subject.

That is not the case if the online archive excludes online-only digital content from the newspaper Web sites. Unlike the all-text files for newspaper databases, ProQuest's image files can incorporate content that escaped the Tasini deletions (i.e., the removal of articles with copyrights that reverted to authors following that case). ProQuest has stood well in the past on its reputation for being more thorough and more comprehensive in its archiving. As a first step for the new company, inaugurating a major push to acquire that digital-only content could reinforce a reputation for complete service to both customers and publisher partners who may not want to end up on their knees praying that the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine kept some decade-old page image. Such an effort would demonstrate the new company's full commitment to products and customers.

Tip No. 2: Access Is Divine. Whatever you do, don't shut down any outlets for ProQuest content. In this regard, CIG has a bit of an image problem. Its on-again, off-again, on-again experience with Dialog some years ago left an impression in the marketplace that CIG would acquire databases to force users into switching from familiar services to the CSA platform. …

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