On Tuesday, Dec. 2, FreePint, the popular U.K.-based provider of news and analysis to information professionals, will launch two subscription services at a new VivaVIP Web site. The new VIP service will consist of a monthly publication, "VIP," and a supplemental semi-monthly titled "VIP Eye." Targeted at information professionals and content managers in the international business information community, the interactive service will rely on reader feedback to guide its development. FreePint hosted a subscription service several years ago that failed. FreePint founder and managing editor, William Hann believes the focus on reviews and analyzed news will make VivaVIP a winner.
The monthly "VIP" will carry product reviews and previews, case studies, interviews with senior information industry executives, and a monitoring service for current research and future trends in the information industry. The semi-monthly "VIP Eye" will transmit news and analyses by e-mail. The VivaVIP.com Web site will also offer two free services: the Wire, a press release database open for free postings by information-related companies and organizations, and the Lounge, a free discussion area for users posting views and content ideas. The Lounge will constitute the principal route for members to influence VIP content.
Pam Foster, formerly editor of Headland Business Information's "Business Information Testdrive" and "What's New in Business Information," will become the editor of VIP. The two Headland titles will cease publication this month. In describing her new titles, Foster said: "The monthly VIP is an exciting development as it is the first publication to give its subscribers the opportunity to really influence content. The emphasis in VIP Eye is on information news analysis rather than merely repeating the latest news. The business information industry is a fast moving sector and it's difficult enough to keep track of products, companies, and upcoming developments without considering what the implications mean."
Hann indicated that the VIP service would have more of a broad European focus than FreePint, which retains more of a U.K. orientation. The first issue of "VIP" will carry a comparative review of two European company information sourcesóBVD's Amadeus and OneSource's Global Business Browser: European Editionówith an emphasis on their private company coverage.
Annual subscriptions will cost £145 each publication or £245 for both. FreePint will offer discounts to non-profit organizations, possibly in the 20-percent range. Individual back issues will be available for purchase online for a not-yet-disclosed price and under a not-yet-disclosed embargo period. However, Hann indicated that the price of a single issue might run around £45. Companies and organizations interested in reprints or copies for posting on their own Web sites can negotiate rates.
Hann discussed the failure of FreePint's last effort at a subscription service, PubCrawl. That service foraged for full-text articles from key Web sites serving the information industry and profession. Hann said that, over time, the service became less useful as publishers began restricting free content. The new service, said Hann, has "really great stuff." According to Hann, the move toward a subscription-based service will not inhibit its continued free services. Advertising revenue and sponsorships are expected to continue to support the newsletter, Web portal, and a collection of questions-and-answers from expert searchers in the "FreePint Bar."
The main FreePint service, which began operation in November 1997, now delivers its free newsletter to almost 65,000 users and adds around 1,000 users a month. Members come from over 200 countries, with only a third of them based in the U.K. FreePint claims to be "the largest community of information searchers in the world."
FreePint's sister company, Willco Limited, provides hosting technology to online communities and member-oriented Web sites, such as FreePint's own site. Willco also runs the new URL shortening service called DigBig. The free service posts information on jobs, book reviews, events, and interviews. It also commissions and sells original research reports and hosts online seminars.