Come September, if you want to search the major Australian newspapers, your choices will be severely constrained. Publisher John Fairfax Holdings Limited has signed an exclusive deal with Factiva for electronic delivery of not only its newspapers but also its business and finance journal titles. The full list of titles appears below. According to the press release, as of Sept. 10, 2004, "Factiva will be the only international vendor offering full-text content from all of Fairfax's metropolitan daily newspapers…."
That statement is a bit misleading. It's only Fairfax's Australian titles that are exclusive with Factiva; its New Zealand publications remain widely available. The Factiva press release cites September 10, but Fairfax itself says the cut-off date is September 4. Plus, the international vendors affected are Dialog and LexisNexis. Fairfax will cease to send materials to those two vendors and will withdraw the archival database. Not affected is ProQuest, due to a marketing agreement it has with Factiva. According to ProQuest's Barry Smith, the companies are now expanding this agreement, previously in force in other parts of the world, to the Asia Pacific region. Academic institutions interested in the ProQuest Australia & New Zealand Newsstand can still subscribe. The Newsstand, which has coverage beginning in 2001, combines publications from Fairfax Australia, Fairfax New Zealand, News Limited, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It has only the seven Fairfax papers, none of its magazines, and lacks the Australian Financial Review.
Fairfax spokesperson Julie Coffey says that, although content will be removed from Dialog and LexisNexis, the publisher's own Web sites (http://www.f2.com.au) will be unaffected. If you fill out the registration form (registration is free) to become a member of Fairfax Digital, you can search the archives of the Fairfax Australian publications plus a few non-Fairfax titles. Searching is free—most newspaper articles cost A$1.65, while business and finance publication articles are A$2.20. You must purchase credit in advance and photographs are not included.
Factiva CEO Clare Hart commented that this deal is "a natural outgrowth of an ongoing relationship between the two companies." Before Factiva was created as a joint venture of Dow Jones and Reuters, Fairfax was the distributor for Dow Jones Interactive. Hart further stated that it's not Factiva's policy to seek out exclusives. She stressed, however, that publishers are likely to come to Factiva because they perceive that "Factiva has gone the furthest in reaching end users. We are the most innovative online company, particularly in integrating content into the workflow and introducing it onto the desktop. Our position, that we should compete on value not price and that content has value, resonates with publishers." Hart also pointed to the global reach of Factiva—it claims more than 1.6 million subscribers around the world—as a component of Fairfax's decision.
Exclusivity is a hot button in the information world. Not only do customers recoil from a lack of choices, fond though they may be of the sole source company, CEOs of competing companies dislike losing important content. Kurt Sanford, the newly appointed CEO of LexisNexis Corporate and Federal Markets, who was previously CEO of LexisNexis Asia, which includes Australia, pronounced himself "disappointed" in his somewhat curt prepared statement. "Exclusionary contracts are popular with some publishers, but Fairfax may not find the benefit they think they will, as they exclude markets, such as legal professionals." Then he tried to salvage what he could. "We feel our customers won't be too disadvantaged, however, because they can access Fairfax directly and continue to use LexisNexis for their legal, news, and business information needs." A letter to Australian and New Zealand LexisNexis customers expanded on this theme, noting that LexisNexis has 320 Australian/New Zealand news and business sources, "which is nearly double that of Factiva's."
Dialog CEO Roy Martin Jr. was considerably more vocal, even downright angry. Taking the time to meet with me in person, Martin declared forcefully that Dialog was opposed, in principle, to exclusivity agreements. "Exclusives are a bad idea and we don't have them. They are not in the best interests of customers. They're evil. Companies that care about customers do not pursue exclusives. In this case, we've contacted Fairfax about retaining distribution rights. We're hopeful they will allow us to continue service to existing customers." Martin noted that Dialog does have other Australian and New Zealand news sources. There are 258 Australian sources (243 are full-text) with continuous updating and an additional 160 archived titles, for a total of 408. Stating that he hopes Fairfax will relent, Martin's parting shot was, "For the sake of all our Dialog customers, I hope that sanity will prevail."
At least for the time being, I don't think that wish will be granted. For full Fairfax content, Factiva is the only game in town.
Currently available on Factiva:
The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
Australian Financial Review
Business Review Weekly (Australia)
Central Coast Herald
Illawarra Mercury (Wollongong, Australia)
MIS New Zealand
The Newcastle Herald (New South Wales, Australia)
Personal Investor (Australia)
Shares Magazine (Australia)
Sun Herald (Sydney)
Sunday Age (Melbourne)
The Sydney Morning Herald
Additions to Factiva:
Altona Laverton Mail
Bacchus Marsh Express Telegraph
Macedon Ranges Telegraph
Melton Express Telegraph
The Sunshine Advocate
Yarra Ranges Journal
Camden Wollondilly Advertiser
St George Sutherland Leader
St Marys Star