Competitive Intelligence / Competitive Strategy, by Arik Johnson
by Arik Johnson

Better Read Than Dead: Internet News Clipping Services Help Keep Companies On Top Of Their Markets

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.

Different Strokes

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:

  • Competitive Intelligence "Need-to-Know" Users - must find out everything reported or rumored to be happening at companies in their market. These are the elite "power users" of news clipping services, often with licensing and purchasing budgets in excess of their own annual salaries. These types of users find LEXIS-NEXIS or Dialog very useful services for more "complete" coverage of events and giant background archives.

  • Competitive Intelligence "Nice-to-Know" Users - these folks aren't as dedicated to market analysis as they are to managing the relationships that touch the company and its marketplace, such as a sales manager in charge of a salesforce in a market where buyers use multiple vendors of similar components. Services such as WavePhore's NewsCast or Powerize can be deployed to satisfy their needs effectively.

  • Industry Intelligence Users - marketing and advertising people who need to position the company and differentiate it from others in a market. Also, salespeople who watch key customer relationships looking for new opportunities. These types of users will want to be able to sort items specifically by industry, using free services such as PRNewsWire, BusinessWire, or IndustryWatch.

  • Technical Intelligence Users - product development, R&D, engineering and design personnel will be more interested in the evolving technologies necessary to innovate and come up with better products and services than their rivals, as well as respond to new customer needs. Generally, technical journals and industry specific publications can provide a solid foundation for technical intelligence consumers.

  • Topical Intelligence Users - users interested in a single area of interest that is less mission-critical than the previous types of users outlined. Maybe they're simply checking stock prices to keep abreast of analyst perceptions of new initiatives, for example. Dow Jones, Reuter's or Hoover's would fill the needs of this type of user, coverage a "mile wide and an inch deep".

  • A last category consists of General News Awareness Users and Personal Users who are typically those less concerned with a complete picture of a market or company as they are with just being informed about what's happening in the marketplace and the world. Usually, these users are unwilling to pay fees in the form of licensing news they consume and will select instead a delivery mechanism from one of the Internet search engines, such as Yahoo!, Excite, Infoseek or Lycos.

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 -

Powerize -

Reuter's Business Briefing -

Dow Jones Interactive -

Inquisit -

Individual's Newspage -

Hoover's Online -

ClariNet's ClariNews -

NewsAlert -

WavePhore's Newscast -

NewsEdge -

C|Net's -

PointCast Business Network -

My Yahoo! -

My Channel on Excite -

Lycos Personal Guide -

InfoSeek News - -

InfoBeat -


Dialog Corporation -

InSite2 -

Phillips Business Information -

Scoop Direct -

PRNewswire -

BusinessWire -

IndustryWatch -

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 (, 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 ( 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