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GlobalSpec: A Trailblazer of Vertical Search
by
Posted On December 1, 2006
It's great to see information industry companies celebrate important milestones—especially if the company is also doing well in its market segment. GlobalSpec (http://www.globalspec.com) is a leading specialized vertical search and information services company that serves the engineering, manufacturing, and related scientific and technical market segments. This year, the company celebrated its 10th anniversary and, according to CEO Jeff Killeen, is experiencing record growth.

Over the past 10 years, GlobalSpec has evolved from a searchable product database to a fully integrated platform of engineering search engines, content, and tools. It recently introduced two additional components—an interactive user community and news—to its complement of offerings that map specifically to the information needs of engineers and related technical professionals.

GlobalSpec launched a peer-to-peer online community called CR4 (Conference Room 4; http://cr4.globalspec.com). GlobalSpec calls it "the Engineer's Place for News and Discussion." It offers a Web 2.0 collaborative environment for engineers, scientists, technical researchers, and interested professionals who like to talk technical. The newly redesigned CR4, which was in beta for about a year, makes it easier for users to register, post articles, ask questions, and obtain information tailored to their specific interests. The site provides access to open, industry-based forums where participants can discuss engineering issues and find answers to technical questions. Additionally, the site contains blogs from industry professionals, tracking news, trends, and technological advancements.

Each section now has its own RSS feed, as do many of the CR4 blogs. This means that users can select just the feeds they want. Among the unique functionality in CR4 is the ability for users to post images, which, in conjunction with the symbols editor function, can be used to post mathematical formulas when posing questions and participating in discussions.

GlobalSpec also recently added engineering news (organized by category) from more than 300 sources. The new beta service aggregates RSS feeds from many of the most important industry news sources and features editors' picks from GlobalSpec's editorial staff. The news stories also provide social networking capabilities, offering the ability to add comments, rate a story, and add it to del.icio.us or to digg. Killeen said that the company's work with its industrywide advisory panel of some 400 engineers aided in the decisions to add the two content areas—news content and the user-supplied interactive content within CR4.

So, along with the two added components, GlobalSpec users benefit from its domain-expert search engine, a broad range of proprietary and aggregated Web-based content, as well as 55 product-centric e-newsletters with a combined subscriber base of more than 2.5 million. Killeen said that the newsletter business has exploded since the company transitioned from a single, general-purpose newsletter to the very focused, topic-specific approach.

Here's what GlobalSpec's proprietary SpecSearch database provides to the engineering, technical, and industrial communities:

  • More than 148 million searchable product specs
  • More than 1,700 searchable suppliers (note: this item has been removed from the numbers sheet for sales)
  • More than 1,500 searchable product areas
  • More than 20,000 searchable supplier catalogs
  • More than 1.9 million searchable product families, representing 148 million parts
  • More than 30,000 product announcements
  • Company names and contact info for 111,000 suppliers
  • More than 2,600 product areas

Its Engineering Web vertical search engine indexes hundreds of millions of pages of engineering content from the open Web as well as from a variety of proprietary content publishers. (SpecSearch and the Engineering Web are integrated into a single, unified user experience on the GlobalSpec Web site.)

Over the past year, GlobalSpec's registered user community has increased by 50 percent, growing from 2 million registered users in October 2005 to more than 3 million in October 2006. The service is growing by more than 80,000 new registrants each month. Use of the entire site, including CR4, is free for registered users.

Killeen has been with GlobalSpec since 2001. He previously ran online programs at Barnes & Noble and Forbes.com. He's excited by the recent developments and successes at GlobalSpec, and he's a big believer in the value of vertical search. Killeen said that you should think of it this way: "If your job was to find a needle, and find it now, where would you go? To an 18 foot tall haystack with 100 needles buried somewhere in it (generic consumer search engines), or to a pile of 100 needles?"

Outsell, Inc. industry analyst Bette Brunelle called GlobalSpec "a truly nimble company"—one from which other publishers could learn. She wrote in a recent analysis: "GlobalSpec was an Outsell Rising Star in 2005 and is still a ‘rising star' with 44 percent growth in 2006. It is proving itself adept at all things Web, from its pioneering sponsorship-based model to smart partnerships and now to the quick development of community and news. This cements its position as a much-discussed go-to site for engineering and technical workflow."


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.



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