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Dialog Choice Offers Flat-Fee Enterprisewide Subscription Pricing
Posted On February 9, 2004
A new pricing initiative called Dialog Choice will offer unlimited access to selected content on Dialog at a fixed annual price. At this point, 40 information providers have agreed to put some 70 databases into the program. Customized pricing is based on the number of databases selected and the number of individuals granted unlimited access. Enterprises may choose to restrict the number or type of databases opened to specific in-house user groups and retain alternative Dialog pricing plans for less frequently used files and files not covered by the program. More database producers are expected to join the program in the coming months. The packaging works equally for users of the Dialog or DataStar interfaces.

With hundreds of files and over 14 terabytes of content, Dialog still leads in breadth of coverage as a "supermarket" search service with content extending through news, science and technology, business, and arts and humanities. Data formats on the Thomson subsidiary include full text, bibliographic abstracts, patents, directory information, and even some image-oriented files.

Roy M. Martin, Jr., Dialog CEO and president, stated: "Through our recent product and service innovations, and now through the flexibility of Dialog Choice, we are helping to make enterprise solutions as successful as they can be. The advantage of the Dialog Choice concept is that it allows enterprises to know in advance exactly how much it will cost annually to make critical information resources continually available to their people who need them most."

The recent innovations to which Martin refers include the 2003 introductions of Dialog Portals, a service that supports the integration of Dialog content into enterprise portals using established portal software packages, and the Dialog Application Programming Interface (API), a Web-based integration service that helps local MIS staff develop their own interfaces working with enterprise Web sites, portals, intranets and extranets, software applications, etc. Dialog Choice aims to provide the predictable pricing needed to persuade enterprise portal and intranet developers to integrate Dialog content.

Enterprise information managers may choose to open access to one or more of the files covered in the Dialog Choice program and specify the departments or offices to receive unlimited access. Other pricing plans, such as transactional pricing, may cover different departments that only use the selected files occasionally. Files not covered by the Dialog Choice program will require alternative pricing.

Dialog has had negotiated subscription pricing in place for many years. Unlike many other search services, Dialog has even been known to post prices for calculating expected costs. Cynthia Murphy, senior vice president of strategic marketing at Dialog, explained the difference between Dialog Choice and other existing pricing programs targeted at the enterprise market. The Dialog Enterprise Pricing plan, according to Murphy, serves very large customers and carries a $100,000 minimum, and even the Dialog Advantage discount-on-usage program has a $10,000 minimum. Both programs access a wider range of databases, however. Murphy could not guarantee that enterprises looking to combine pricing plans could expect payments made through Dialog Choice to count in meeting those minimums, but she did say that in most situations she expected they would.

The current roster of Dialog Choice providers includes 29 providers of a single database, seven providers with two, six from NTIS, five from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), and 22 from sister subsidiary, Thomson Gale. All of the Gale databases accessible through Dialog now are available through Dialog Choice. Noticeably missing from the list are databases from other Thomson sister subsidiaries, in particular Thomson Scientific and Healthcare sources, such as Derwent and the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).

Users may pick individual titles or select packages of coverage for Chemical Safety (9 databases), Engineering (10), Food and Agriculture (6), Patents (5), and Pharmaceutical/Medical (8). Intellectual property sources, for example, include European Patents Fulltext, JAPIO-Patent Abstracts of Japan, INPADOC/Family and Legal Status, U.S. Patents Fulltext, and WIPO/PCT Patents Fulltext.

User counts for pricing categories are: 1-5, 6-10, 11-20, 21-50, 51-100, 101-250, 251-500, 501-1,000, 1,001-2,500, and 2,501 plus. At the 1-5 user category, only 15 of the 70 databases fall under $1,000. The price per user drops off sharply as one heads into the higher counts. For example, one of the least expensive files, the Gale Directory of Online, Portable and Internet Databases, costs $300 at 1-5, but only $4,000 at 2,501 plus; one of the most expensive files, EIU WireServices, ranges from $23,625 to $92,624.

Subscribing to packages can also reduce costs. For example, at the 1-5 user range, the Pharmaceutical/Medical package costs $12,926, a $4,309 saving over the list price for the eight individual files combined ($17,235), but at 2,501 plus, the package costs $50,571, a $16,857 saving over the list price ($67,428). However, Dialog Choice defines users by headcounts of anyone allowed to access a file, not by computer access points or "simultaneous" users.

In general, said Murphy: "Information providers see us as an extension of their marketing. We have a sales force working in 40 countries. The program negotiates price points with the IPs, mitigating any risk, but clients are looking to reduce confusion." Murphy explained that developing Dialog Choice had taken a long time. The company wanted to insure its simplicity and ease of use for both enterprise customers and the Dialog sales force. Some of the extended negotiations with database producers stalled over seemingly minor issues, such as the standardization of number of users. Nevertheless, Murphy expects to see the program grow by 10 to 20 files each quarter.

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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