When It Pays to Pay for Research

June 2004
by Reid Goldsborough

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There comes a time when one asks even of Yahoo, even of Google, Is this all?

Yahoo and Google do an admirable job of categorizing the Internet and making its contents more accessible. But ultimately they’re search tools, not research tools. A great deal of information is not on the Internet, particularly thoroughly researched, carefully checked information.

Information professionals have long known this, and that’s why they use high-end research tools such as Dialog, at www.dialog.com, and LexisNexis, at www.lexis-nexis.com. In recent years both these information aggregators have made their offerings more affordable for more casual business users, and both services are worth a look.

There’s a middle ground between the high end of the commercial research databases and the free Web, but it has presented some pretty tough terrain for companies treading on it in the past.

Northern Light tried providing paid reference services through the Internet at midrange prices, combining a generic Web search engine with proprietary content from thousands of newspapers, magazines, and books, and charging $1 to $4 per full-text article. It received stellar reviews, but its parent company, Divine Inc., went bankrupt, and the service has emerged today as a specialized tool for companies who want to search inside their own data.

Infonautics, with its Electric Library service, later renamed eLibrary, offered a flat-rate plan that cost $…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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