In an effort to cope with the flood of information on the Internet, and in response to changing user expectations, a number of traditional information providers have attacked the problem of indexing Web content and have been adding targeted content Web search capabilities to their search services. Dow Jones Interactive (Web Center), Dialog (WebTop), Northern Light, and EBSCO have all addressed the challenge of providing quality Web search results. Various upstart companies have jumped on the vertical portal concept as a way to provide access to a chosen slice of relevant Web content.
Now, Data Downlink Corp., an established information service that aggregates content from business databases and delivers data directly into spreadsheets, has announced the launch of Portal B, an integrated business information portal designed for information-intensive industries and large corporations. Portal B (http://www.portalb.com) offers enterprise customers a single point of access to internal proprietary content, premium databases, and the Web. The cornerstone of Portal B is touted as its database of over 8,500 business-oriented Web sites, hand selected and indexed by Data Downlink.
Detailed abstracts for each Web site provide information about the subjects, publisher, industry, and geographic coverage. Users can browse and search among various directories, including organization, industry, and subject, and can create customized site directories from the database, which can be named and searched. There are over 20 specialty site directories that should prove very handy, including the names and URLs of the top 100 business schools, 500 law firms, 2,000 trade publications (indexed by industry), 500 trade associations, 300 venture capital and private equity firms, and lists of application service providers, market research firms, translation services, and maps.
"Portal B totally redefines the search experience and business portal category by integrating an entirely unique combination of user-friendly resources: business Web searching, access to premium databases, and indexed access to a company's own corporate material," said Steve Goldstein, founder and CEO of Data Downlink. "We believe that our new service breaks the search barrier business users typically face when looking for information on the Web or via their corporate intranets. Portal B is the most productive, efficient, and cost-effective business solution to the challenge of managing the expanding information sets critical to a wide variety of companies."
Goldstein also stressed that the portal offers a subscription-based model that is free of advertising and e-commerce solicitations, which should appeal to enterprise clients hoping to keep their employees focused. He also indicated that a number of their customers had requested an intranet product that could index their internal content. Portal B can be configured to each company's needs, and can be customized and rebranded.
He also noted that if a table is embedded in an HTML page, it can be downloaded into a spreadsheet. The convenience and usefulness of this quantitative capability has been a distinguishing feature of Data Downlink's earlier products. The Portal B spider also opens and indexes any PDF file information found on Web sites—content that is ignored by other search engines, according to Goldstein.
"Despite the many benefits of the Internet, there is no question that companies are now suffering from information overload," said Patricia S. Foy, director of global knowledge management at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. "The real challenge is to find precisely what you want, when you want it, and nothing more. Portal B's integrated, clutter-free approach is compelling, and a promising indication of where business knowledge management on the Internet is headed."
Foy said that the product should prove to be a huge time saver for their end-users, as well as eliminating some of the administrative work that the company's information professionals do in steering end-users to useful sites. She has found it especially effective in providing good quality targeted information for industry searches.
Portal B is subscription-based and configurable for site license customers. The service, commercially available as of April 24, has been beta tested at 30 companies throughout the U.S. and U.K. Portal B is priced on an annual site license basis, with fees ranging from $6,000 to $200,000 per year, depending on the size of the organization. Companies are charged additionally for accessing other premium services from Data Downlink, such as privatesuite and compbook, and premium databases accessed via Portal B.
The product will probably prove most attractive to those large corporations that are already users of Data Downlink's products, particularly in the banking, asset management, and consulting areas. It should also appeal to companies that feel that the advantages of ad-free Web access for their employees to a quality subset of business data outweigh the licensing fee. Its quantitative component can provide a nice complement to other text-based services.
Privately held Data Downlink Corp., based in New York City, was founded in 1996 by Goldstein and Michael Angle, former executives of Knight-Ridder Business Information Services. The company's first product was .xls (http://www.xls.com), a service that provides access to over 70 business databases, delivering information directly to Microsoft Excel, HTML, Microsoft Word, or PDF formats at the desktop. Other products subsequently introduced by the company include privatesuite—a service to identify and retrieve profiles of privately held companies around the world—and compbook, a tool for company peer analysis. This month, Data Downlink received $11 million in venture capital from six investment groups to finance the launch of Portal B and other product development and marketing programs.
Data Downlink clients include investment banks, such as Credit Suisse First Boston, Wasserstein Perella, and Lehman Brothers; consulting firms, such as Bain, Boston Consulting Group, and McKinsey & Company; and leading corporations, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, AT&T, and Hewlett-Packard.
For more information about Portal B and Data Downlink, contact the company at 212/363-9620 or visit its Web site at http://www.datadownlink.com.