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Hoover's Gets Even Better
by
Posted On August 1, 2003
When I need to get up to speed quickly on an unfamiliar company, I frequently turn to Hoover's company profiles, which list an overview and history, key financials, top executives, products, industry information (including SIC and NAICS codes), competitors, and continually updated news from NewsEdge (Dialog). Over the years, Hoover's has established a reputation for its authoritative, up-to-date, proprietary information on public and private companies. The tag line on the Hoover's Online home page reads "The Business Information Authority." The company has developed a large and loyal audience. Its content, which has been a favorite of business researchers, is not only available on the Hoover's site but also through distribution by more than 30 other services, including Factiva, LexisNexis, and America Online.

When D&B announced its intended purchase of Hoover's, searchers worried about what might happen to Hoover's products under the new ownership. Rest assured, things are just fine. After a year and a half of research and planning, the company recently launched a newly redesigned site.

The previous site was developed in 1999 with limited user input. It was built to support advertising and page-view metrics. The new strategy is to quickly lead users to content through a more intuitive site, but does not concentrate on generating a lot of page views. The changes are customer-driven enhancements, gleaned from careful research and an iterative design process that focused on actual user experiences.

The redesigned Hoover's Online is not just a pretty new interface, though it's clearer and cleaner with improved organization and navigation. The primary changes include new site architecture, simplified company records, new tools and content, and an expanded industry taxonomy system. The most obvious change, however, is the separation of the free and subscriber sites. Russell Secker, Hoover's executive vice president of marketing, said, "We like free users, but we want them to clearly see the value of our content and subscribe."

Users of the free site (http://www.hoovers.com/free) will now have no doubt about what isn't available to them, as they're given helpful opportunities to activate a subscription. A green sidebar on the left side that provides search options and user tools clearly indicates the choices available to Pro and Pro Plus subscribers. Many advanced search capabilities are not offered to users of the free site.

Hoover's no longer features the well-known company "capsules" and "profiles." Michael Reiff, Hoover's executive producer/director of products, said these offerings were actually confusing for users and not well-organized. The new design provides a simplified "basic" record for free and an "in-depth" record for subscribers.

New industry records offer basic information, news, and industry codes. The industry taxonomy has expanded from 300 to more than 600 industries and now has three tiers, rather than two, to provide more granularity for the content. Subscribers also have a new industry keyword search capability. For example, a search for the keyword "chips" will show all industry category matches, such as networking chips, construction materials, and snack foods. A new "reverse" search capability for subscribers called "Find Similar Companies" locates companies with similar attributes, including location, key numbers, and other criteria. Links to external content are now clearly identified and open in a new browser window so users won't lose their place.

For both the free and subscriber sites, all of the content offered for sale by "trusted partners," such as credit or industry reports or books, is now collected in a boxed list at the end of a record and is clearly marked. Users had complained about the previous clutter in records and the lack of differentiation between Hoover's and third-party content.

The free site has larger ads and more of them, but it's the price users have to pay for getting free access. Subscribers see only a single skyscraper ad on the right side. Subscribers should also be pleased to learn that pricing has remained the same.

Hoover's says its mission is to be the leading provider of business information to the SMB market-Sales, Marketing, and Business development professionals in Small and Medium Businesses. Hoover's in-depth proprietary database of 18,500 public and private companies, updated in real time, is supplemented by databases (from providers like its parent company, D&B) that deliver additional information on 13 million companies. According to Secker, Hoover's plans to add more D&B content.

One nice extra offered by Hoover's is its free newsletters. Anyone can sign up to receive any of the company's seven e-mail newsletters, such as Week at a Glance, which provides the week's top business news, IPO activity, and new company coverage; Hoover's @ Work: Sales & Marketing Edition, which offers tips and tools for sales and marketing professionals; and several industry digests.

Gary Hoover founded The Reference Press in 1990, which was renamed Hoover's in 1996. D&B purchased the company in March 2003. It's great to see an important resource offer an improved product and greater value for subscribers.


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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