If Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, is right, all that information that "wants to be free" is getting its wish. (Check out Anderson’s article in this month’s issue, "Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business," www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free.) So what’s a traditional information industry vendor to do to hang on to paying customers? Accommodate, accommodate, accommodate—and don’t charge subscribers extra for the accommodations. Already this month, Dow Jones Factiva (www.factiva.com) has added two new user-oriented features. The first helps enterprises expand the use of Dow Jones Factiva content via Newsletter Builder, a wizard tool to customize Dow Jones Factiva newsletters. The second helps individuals who want to use another sense besides vision to acquire information with an automated text-to-speech beta service. In February, Dow Jones Factiva launched a de-duplication feature for fighting the endless battle against information overload. I spoke with Brigitte Ricou-Bellan, manager of destination solutions, and Julia Mair, executive director of solutions marketing, at Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group (www.solutions.dowjones.com), about the new features.
Nothing can seem more wearisome than trolling through repetitious information looking for something new. Now users of Dow Jones Factiva’s alert services can set their levels of tolerance for repetition. Level 1 removes "virtually identical" articles; Level 2 removes "similar" articles; Level 0, the default, continues to remove no articles. Users can click on the "Manage Alerts" icon, then the Edit next to the alert they want to adjust. An administrator can also reset the De-Dupe level for all alerts at once. All removed articles remain viewable online, and a notice of the number of removed articles appears with the link to the online alert included in the email delivery. This allows interested people to assess the impact of a story, e.g., public relations experts surveying the extent to which a press release was picked up or how quickly an "image impact" story is spreading.
According to Mair, Dow Jones Factiva plans to expand the de-dupe function to search results, as well as alerts, by the end of the year. Further enhancements are technologically possible and under consideration, according to Ricou-Bellan.
Listen to Articles
In this multitasking world, users may find it handy to listen to news articles and keep their eyes and their computer screens free for other tasks. The "Listen to Article" link appears at the top of any full-text article with fewer than 4,000 words. The beta service works with all Dow Jones Factiva content whether reached through a search of the entire 4 decade content pool in the Publications Library or through a current alert or newsletter. Non-English language items—specifically those in French, German, Italian, and Spanish—will be read in that language. No translation is available, however.
The "on-the-fly" text to speech conversion capability is supplied by VoiceCorp (www.voice-corp.com), a firm founded in 1999 and specializing in web-based speech conversion. Users need a Flash player to operate the feature. (To test the feature, go to www.factiva.com/press/ReadSpeaker_08.mp3.)
Oddly, the service is not available to mobile equipment—so far. Dow Jones Factiva Mobile (http://mobile.factiva.com) works with BlackBerry PDAs and other smartphones and mobile devices. It lets people search, read articles from a 90-day archive of 7,000 leading news publications, build personal pages, gather news from Track folders, and more. Ricou-Bellan pointed out that it was still in the first month of the beta test. "We want to make sure we get valuable customer feedback to build the next stages. We have a number of ideas on podcasting, for example, selecting multiple articles and generating a podcast or an iPod feed. Before the end of the year, we plan to clear the way to the next steps."
In August 2007, Dow Jones Factiva initiated its multimedia content with a 90-day archive of video and audio information covering business news, CEO interviews, executive speeches, shareholders meetings, product reviews, etc. I asked Ricou-Bellan why the archive wasn’t permanent or, at least, have a text archive. She indicated that the speech-to-text technology used for indexing purposes was not good enough for a file transcript. Mair said that they sometimes get an official transcript from news sources. The issue of archiving was under consideration.
By the way, the English-language voice of "Listen to Article" is known to Dow Jones Factiva staff members as Paul. "We all love Paul."
Dow Jones Consulting Services (www.dowjones.com/clientsolutions) has offered e-newsletters for at least 4 years as a customized newsletter service for specific enterprises. In May 2007, the company launched Dow Jones Factiva Newsletters (www.factiva.com/newsletter); in August, it added RSS as an output format.
Now Factiva.com subscribers can use Newsletter Builder as a wizard to design their own templates and create HTML-formatted newsletters easily without needing knowledge of CSS, HTML, or other programming languages. Newsletter Builder lets users customize formats to comply with company branding and style requirements, add a logo, masthead, subheadings, and hyperlinked table of contents, reuse templates, reorganize content with a drag-and-drop, and assign different output formats, e.g., HTML, PDF, mobile, and RTF. To access the Newsletter Builder, go to the Tools drop-down menu. The Template Designer appears on the new HTML Templates tab in Builder. It will also let users add links to non-Factiva information, both open web and in-house content, provided—according to Mair—any such content has a URL. Though only Factiva.com subscribers can build a newsletter, Factiva iWorks and Factiva Reader users can all read a Newsletter. (For a detailed walk-through tutorial on how to use Newsletter Builder, go to www.brainshark.com/factiva/vu?pi=910750067.)
Users can build up to 400 newsletters with up to 100 headlines in each. On average, most users run about 30-35 newsletters, according to Ricou-Bellan. After getting content from an alert, users review the items and decide what to include in each newsletter. "We never assume they will want it all," said Mair. The newsletters then link back to the main articles with a simple search reaching a 90-day archive. All the newsletters reside on Dow Jones Factiva servers, though Ricou-Bellan said it was alright for users to store them locally. In the future they plan to provide a longer archive, according to Ricou-Bellan.
Newsletter Builder will also let users email newsletters via Internet Explorer’s Send Page function. However, transmitting Dow Jones Factiva newsletters outside an enterprise involves some difficulties. Look to your contracts. Ricou-Bellan indicated that they were "looking for different models for the future. We have had many questions from customers."
One question was decided internally after some discussion—namely, not to charge extra for Newsletter Builder. Ricou-Bellan stated, "We felt that the key was to add tools for knowledge managers to use our product even more. After strategic discussions, we decided against any barrier to high adoption." Mair added, "It was created based on key feedback from our information professional users. They talked about the pain points in doing their daily jobs. We looked at what we could do to solve those problems, for example, how to create corporate newsletters more easily. We’re doing more and more of that kind of research."