NewsNet Marks Tenth with Big New Plans

By O'Leary, Mick | Information Today, July-August 1992 | Go to article overview

NewsNet Marks Tenth with Big New Plans


O'Leary, Mick, Information Today


NewsNet celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. On the time scale of online information, this is long enough to rank it among the industry's grizzled veterans. It has been a decade of accomplishment, with regular growth in data volume, software quality, and customer numbers. The biggest news out of NewsNet may be yet to come. NewsNet is--you may want to sit down for this--working on price reform. Yes, Virginia, NewsNet is indeed experimenting with alternatives to one of the most arcane pricing systems anywhere online.

Full Service Business Info

Over the past decade NewsNet has followed the same trend as other business-oriented online services; diversification. NewsNet started with newsletters, and a few people still hold the stereotype of the "newsletter service." Within its first year, however, NewsNet added newswires, and has since mounted directory files, investment reports, stock quotes, journals, and company data. Some of these non-newsletter databases are among its most heavily used files.

Newsletters, however, have not been neglected. There are approximately 600, with many more due in the next few months. Nevertheless, NewsNet doesn't have quite the exclusive on newsletters that it once did. Predicasts' Newsletter database represents stiff competition and other full text services have been adding newsletters. NewsNet does have over 100 letters that aren't available elsewhere, and, according to NewsNet Executive Vice-President Andrew Elston, NewsNet has an edge over others in currency, "I don't think there is anybody out there who can compete with us on currency, whether its newswires, or newsletters, or magazines."

NewsNet is also strong in a few non-newsletter categories. It now has 20 realtime newswires, including AP, UPI, Reuters, Jiji, Xinhua, PR Newswire, Businesswire, Agence France-Presse and the Federal News Service. These, of course, are available many places. It is NewsNet's financial data gateways, TRW and Dun & Bradstreet, that give it bragging rights as a third party data distributor. Since 1985 NewsNet has been the sole third party source for TRW Business Profiles, which has financial and credit data on 13 million U.S. business locations.

In 1990 NewsNet scored a coup with its gateway to Dun & Bradstreet's business credit database. Previously, most of D&B's third party distribution had been through DIALOG and Dow Jones News/Retrieval. The NewsNet gateway reaches D&B credit data, including payment histories and ratings on 9.5 million businesses, that are unavailable from other third party distributors.

Software: Serving Two Masters

NewsNet has also long been in the forefront in the race for end-users, who make up 60 percent of its 18,000 subscribers. This gives NewsNet a split personality when it comes to its software, since it must cater to this group as well as to information specialists.

Among end-users, NewsNet is popular as a current awareness service. These executive subscribers are fond of NewsFlash, which was upgraded in 1990 to provide greater retention and search power. Professional searchers, on the other hand, more commonly do command-based retrospective searching. Reasonably or not, they expect the same degree of search power that they find elsewhere, especially on Dialog. This is frustrating for NewsNet, as Elston explains:

"Software will never be all the things you want it to be, that your users want it to be. In the last few years we've tried to give our users a lot more of the flexibility and features that Dialog offers, but you get to a point where you are trading off currency and rapid updating. We want features that meld well with the kind of information we've got. …

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