It’s a crazy mixed-up world

The world of business information sources is changing so fast that every so often I feel the need to start singing and dancing to Soul Asylum’s “Crazy Mixed Up World.” Discontinued content, new interfaces, and huge price increases are just some of the issues info pros are dealing with lately. You know things are crazy when the subject line in one vendor’s email campaign reads, “Has Your Business Content Vendor Changed the Rules?”

Let me explain. When I first started in this business, Google was a baby, and the value an info pro brought to a project was their access to specialized online databases and the advanced skills needed to retrieve this high-grade business content – content Google couldn’t find. At that time most professionals subscribed to one or more of the “big three” content aggregators: Dialog, Factiva, and LexisNexis. Those power tools definitely put the “pro” in “info pro.”

Fast forward to the 21st century, with its drastic changes in the information landscape. It’s a do-it-yourself world out there, and our clients have access to and know how to use tools for finding the information they need. An info pro’s value has morphed from “Find and retrieve” to “Help us make sense of this.” Google’s gotten better at finding deep web content and is now considered yet another tool in a professional’s toolkit. And info pros have more than just three premium options, including EBSCO, Alacra, and Hoover’s.

In addition to these big trends that have occurred over time, recent changes have caused me to re-evaluate and revamp my list of must-have resources:

  • Dialog is no longer my #1 source – after nearly 15 years of loyalty. They moved to their new platform a couple of years ago, and Dialog now offers less business content. They also changed their pricing model, and – when compared to other sources with the same content – it’s often more cost-effective to go elsewhere.
  • Dow Jones, owner of Factiva, made the decision to move to a new platform as well – with its hefty price increase. They opted for fewer choices, and their one-size-fits-all DJX product was so overwhelmingly rejected by customers, that this ill-fated business decision led to their CEO’s departure.
  • While Dow Jones and Dialog have moved toward fewer options, LexisNexis continues its tradition of offering lots of choices. I learned this when, due to some changing business needs, I opted for a reasonably-priced subscription plan with unlimited access to their news databases. After years of primarily using Dialog and Factiva, LexisNexis is now my top source for business news.

You generally get what you pay for when it comes to information resources, yet I’m often surprised by what the free resources offer these days. From the Census Bureau to Zanran, you can dig deep and download data in useful maps and charts. These provide some nice alternatives to high-cost options.

Yes, it’s a crazy mixed up world out there when premium products leave us wishing for more, and free resources give us more of what we want.

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