by Arik Johnson
A friend of mine, who serves as sales manager at a large, privately-held consumer products company, told me recently, "One of our biggest competitors is about to launch a new product line as part of a joint marketing effort with another of our biggest competitors and they're planning to go head-to-head with our regional salesforce right in our own backyard". Sounds ominous, huh? Scary, even... What was even scarier was, it came as a total surprise; what's more, my friend's 11-year-old discovered the event from a generic news service on the Web. So, where do busy executives efficiently and effectively learn about the events that can potentially make, shake or break their businesses?
Since its recent growth spurt in the past few years, the Internet has become one of the greatest and most widely used communications mediums in history, having swept the world with instant delivery of breaking news on announcements and events affecting business and industry. Such services, also known as "news-clipping" providers, can deliver some of the most complete and comprehensive news available today. Others, fall far short of that mark. Some fear the flood of new information from such services, but, with a little logical configuration, news-clipping services don't have to add to the "infoglut" currently flooding your people with too much information, changing too soon to be acted upon. Keep in mind, the choices for receiving news are diverse that businesspeople often find it difficult simply figuring out which services to use and which ones to steer clear of. What type of service you select usually depends first upon what type of user you are.
Remember that selecting news-clipping services is not a one-size-fits-all undertaking. There are distinct profiles of news-clipping users, who have differing missions in the organization, like specific competitive intelligence users who want every bit of information about a company's competitors. Or those with differing needs for news, such as salespeople who really should be spending their time selling rather than watching the news. These differences can make choosing a service a daunting task. Here are a few of the different profiles of users along with some key issues:
This very different makeup of users and needs means that the options for news clipping service are equally as complex. Each service offers a different mix of price, quantity and quality of sources, frequency of updates, areas of interest coverage, chronological depth of archives, ability for integration with your intranet as well as search and delivery options. Here's a list of a few of the more popular and well-known services that are business favorites in use today, and all of these services are available for delivery via email or the Web. There are many more than those listed below, and quite a few of those not listed are much more specifically focused on particular areas of interest and topical needs, these number among the major services currently available for general news delivery.
NewsDesk - www.newsdesk.com
Powerize - www.powerize.com
Reuter's Business Briefing - www.bizinfo.reuters.com
Dow Jones Interactive - www.dowjones.com
Inquisit - www.inquisit.com
Individual's Newspage - www.newspage.com
Hoover's Online - www.hoovers.com
ClariNet's ClariNews - www.clari.net
NewsAlert - www.newsalert.com
WavePhore's Newscast - www.newscast.com
NewsEdge - www.newsedge.com
C|Net's News.com - www.news.com
PointCast Business Network - www.pointcast.com
My Yahoo! - my.yahoo.com
My Channel on Excite - my.excite.com
Lycos Personal Guide - personal.lycos.com
InfoSeek News - www.infoseek.com/news
Crayon.net - www.crayon.net
InfoBeat - www.infobeat.com
LEXIS-NEXIS - www.lexis-nexis.com
Dialog Corporation - www.dialog.com
InSite2 - www.insite2pro.gale.com
Phillips Business Information - www.phillips.com
Scoop Direct - www.scoop.com
PRNewswire - www.prnewswire.com
BusinessWire - www.businesswire.com
IndustryWatch - www.industrywatch.com
So, What's the Catch?
Invariably, all news services suffer from a common and glaring fault -- they only really offer raw data. None of these services can claim to identify the news that's "important", as opposed to being merely "relevant", to any given user in their daily appointed tasks. At their best, filtered news services can provide some degree of relevancy ranking, but none can lay claim to the ability to synthesize the context and analysis necessary to make the news items "actionable", or decision driving. Part of this fundamental shortcoming is also due to the inherently historical nature of news services -- true competitive business advantage comes from predictive decision making, or the ability to predict the likely outcome of a market situation. News services can only really tell us what's already happened, and so, offer little in the way of competitive advantage (i.e. they offer nothing one's competitor cannot also know with the simple activation of an account on a service).
Lately however, there have been some new services coming online with analysis features, including contextual impact services such as Current Analysis (www.currentanalysis.com), which puts news in perspective relative to some vertical markets in the high technology industries. These types of services represent the first of a new breed of value-added services that can come close to relating the importance of news events. Another standout service that's come around lately comes from Cartia, and their free NewsMaps (www.newsmaps.com) service on the Web, which delivers a "topographical" overview of keyword density that helps to visualize and demonstrate relationships between topical areas of interest. The upcoming growth of value-added services like these will surely add to the importance of news clipping services on the Web and enhance their value to companies wanting to keep an eye on their markets.
Arik R. Johnson is Managing Director of the Competitive Intelligence (CI) outsourcing & support bureau Aurora WDC. Learn more about Arik at his firm's Web site www.AuroraWDC.com/arik.htm.