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Factiva.com Launched at SLA—A New Product or a New Paradigm?
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Posted On June 18, 2001
On June 11, Factiva announced the much-awaited launch of Factiva.com (http://www.factiva.com). Replacing both Dow Jones Interactive (DJI) and Reuters Business Briefing (RBB), Factiva.com is best described as a Web-based, destination product that delivers content from these two recognized products as one global content collection of close to 8,000 sources, universally indexed, in 22 languages from 118 countries. In today's online content market space, however, Factiva.com is more than a new product. It's built on a new platform that offers innovative searching and administrative features for today, and that's ushering in an open interface that will significantly change content-delivery options for organizations in the near future.

Recognizing that information professionals continue to be a key market, Factiva purposely chose the Special Libraries Association's (SLA) 2001 Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, for the launch of its new flagship product. "This conference is our largest customer gathering," said Clare Hart, president and CEO of Factiva. "Successful installations of our products always have information professionals involved." Many information professionals were heavily involved in the 25 beta sites for Factiva.com, as well as with the customer research and input program.

The market research began in 1999 with interviews of 300 global customers and prospects, and has continued throughout Factiva.com's development. Customer comments and insights were taken so seriously that the product's user interface was redesigned six times. "Information professionals were very clear about what three areas they wanted the product to focus on," said Hart. These included the integration of content into intranets, the post-processing of searches, and administrative help with enterprise content delivery.

Post-processing, which involves assembling and presenting research results, has always been an issue for information professionals. Factiva's research found that customers spend up to 40 percent of their total research time processing the results. Factiva.com's Briefcase feature is designed to help reduce this time. Searchers can create up to 25 Briefcases in which to save news and articles, in RTF or HTML format, as reports or as e-mail. As Hart explained, even the term "Briefcase" was the result of customer input and reflects the global perspective of Factiva.com, since it's a word that professionals around the world understand as a "container" for news and information.

The administrative headaches involved with deploying content to global enterprises range from authentication to 24/7 customer support. Factiva.com enables administrators to build their own custom client-billing interface that can prompt clients to enter billing codes, which can then be automatically validated. Other welcome features are the ability to manage group access to the content, including group news pages, and transparent authentication on corporate intranets.

Referring to Factiva.com as "the capstone of our content-integration products," Hart emphasized the distinctiveness of this product and of this product launch. Most significant about Factiva.com is that it's built on an XML-based architecture that allows content and functionality to be separated from the user interface. This is the first major product offering to do so.

Factiva Intelligent Indexing provides granular coding of all content, from articles and Adobe PDFs to pictures and Web content—a departure from both DJI and RBB. What's more, all of this content is accessible via single searches. The company has concentrated on features that enable information professionals and power searchers to perform sophisticated index-based searches and end-users to run easy-to-use searches. Another key difference in Factiva.com from its predecessors is the integration of searching and tracking. As for this product launch, unlike many launches that introduce the skeleton of an information product, 90 percent of Factiva.com will be ready to go as of July 31, the date that it will be commercially available.

The product does have a distinctive look and feel. It's as software-like as possible, with no frames. The screen colors are very calm and subdued—just one of the interface design aspects gained through frequent customer testing. Technically, it does not use Java because of firewall issues for many enterprises, and is built with Web-standard (W3C) specifications and Dynamic HTML (DHTML).

Factiva's goal is to move all customers to either Factiva.com or one of the Factiva Integration products by mid-2003. Additional Factiva.com modules are planned for later this year, and the open interface by early 2002. The open interface will offer the Web services, scalability, modularity, and interoperability critical for the next generation of content management and deployment. Customers will be able to establish relationships with Factiva.com's content and data through their own interface.

Since its official formation in July 1999, Factiva has successfully met its aggressive product-delivery and content-enhancement schedule. Effective June 16, the full text from all editions of the Financial Times (http://www.ft.com) will be available for all Publications Library and CustomClips customers, and will be incorporated into the launch of Factiva.com.

Factiva.com is yet another milestone in Factiva's content-integration strategy, which it has been pursuing since its inception as an organizational entity. As Hadley Reynolds of the Delphi Group wrote in the Factiva.com press release: "The new set of Factiva offerings is raising the bar in both structure and delivery environment for premium content services. We expect world-class content distributors like Factiva to play an increasingly active role in implementing corporate content-enhancement initiatives and creating the knowledge portal channel portfolio for organizations across the industry spectrum."


Rebecca Jones is the principal of Dysart & Jones Associates.

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