In these tough times, it's comforting-heck! exhilarating-to see a major traditional vendor stepping up operations, expanding market outreach, keeping past promises, and even making new ones. ProQuest (www.proquest.com) has announced that it will start expanding its corporate marketing outreach through its Dialog subsidiary (www.dialog.com), specifically emphasizing six products. But the announcement wasn't specific on whether this new effort would simply use Dialog's sales force to move new clients to ProQuest services or whether the data itself would move to Dialog and its existing corporate customer base. When posed this question, ProQuest executives promptly replied, "Both." In a development which many searchers, especially freelance searchers, will appreciate, the new outreach will also-in time-ensure pay-as-you-go pricing for all ProQuest products, not just the usual subscription pricing designed for ProQuest's traditional academic market.
The first phase of this effort will establish Dialog as the exclusive sales agent for ProQuest products in North America, while corporations outside North America will be able to purchase products through both Dialog and ProQuest. The initial products chosen for the outreach are the following:
• Professional ProQuest Central, an aggregation of citations from 11,250 journal titles, with more than 8,400 in full text including full text for more than 400 newspapers, 30,000 dissertations, and 9,000 market reports
• Dissertations and Theses with more than 2.4 million citations and some 1 million full-text dissertations, most added since 1997 and collected from 700 higher education programs worldwide
• CSA Illustrata, the graphics and illustrations extraction and indexing source for natural sciences and technology from Cambridge Scientific Abstracts
• ProQuest Pharma Collection with more than 2,250 active scholarly full-text journals in medicine, psychology, and science, as well as business, marketing, and communications journals in the field
• Medical Evidence Matters for comparing outcomes on therapy options in peer-reviewed literature
• RefWorks, a web-based bibliographic tool for research management, writing, and collaboration
The potential for complementing existing Dialog databases seems obvious-at least to a veteran (one might even say grizzled) Dialog searcher such as myself. For example, Dialog has carried Dissertations Abstracts Online for so long that its file number is only 2 digits (File 35), although the file carries no full text-yet. The CSA Illustrata database could find an overlap with tables and graphic identification features added decades ago to the single-digit Inspec files (Files 2, 3, 4, and-all right-202). Some of the full-text content in Professional ProQuest Central has already made its way into Dialog files. Libby Trudell, vice president for marketing and knowledge center at Dialog, says that the company has already begun enriching existing files by adding more than 1,000 titles to ABI Inform and the Periodical Abstracts. According to Suzanne BeDell, general manager of Dialog, files that had previously migrated from Dialog to Cambridge Scientific Abstracts have already been reinstalled on Dialog.
BeDell explained that some of the core ProQuest products being sold by Dialog as appropriate for corporations will reside on the ProQuest system. "At the same time," says BeDell, "we are taking more of the content and loading it onto the Dialog platform. Most of these products, e.g., ABI Inform and Dissertations, reside on both platforms, but now we can add more full text. Because of our acquisition of Dialog, we can build out further on those databases."
When Cambridge Information Group (CIG) acquired ProQuest and then Dialog, it promised to create a world-class platform that would unite all the content and accommodate both new and old, familiar interfaces. A tricky task, one must say. However, the company is still working hard on an integrated, multifaceted platform. BeDell stated, "We are testing now to see if the Fast search engine can emulate Dialog. In July, we will be bringing it out to a select group of customers. It will be as good as we can get and we want to see what users think. For example, the ‘near' function [terms within a certain distance of each other but not necessarily in word order] is a problem with Fast but a big deal with Dialog. We may have to give some things up or port over to a command line system and keep it going." Mary Sauer-Games, vice president of publishing at ProQuest, added, "We're setting the vision to come to market with ... old school Dialog in a great new technology with Google-like relevance for enterprises."
In working on the new platform, ProQuest appears to be listening to experienced users. BeDell says, "There were two things information professionals demanded for Dialog-keep command search and keep pay-as-you-go pricing." As to the former, she says, "We are prototyping the technology now to see how well it can handle the complex search strategy of Dialog. Each file is different with its own structure. By July we'll have a better understanding for whether we can replicate the command line with new search tools, but we already know the pay/go part of the new technology is much easier to do."
As for what's next on the schedule, BeDell says that they will complete the migration of European-based DataStar to ProQuest Dialog by 1Q 2010. "While most of the DataStar users are subscribers, primarily in the pharmaceutical industry, we will have to support pay/go in 2010, and I never see a time when we will not support it. We will continue to offer the standard corporate ProQuest pricing, but-as we add content to the Dialog platform-that content will become transactionally available. For example, Dialog has an option for credit card access. We will make that even easier. It's clunky now but we want credit card access on the web. It's good for mid-level and smaller companies and a core service for Dialog." Sauer-Games added, "We want the content available to whatever market wants it as long as we have the rights. It will be a common repository, but an academic market may get it through ProQuest as a subscription product, while a corporate client may get it through a Dialog interface with commands and pay/go."
Speaking of the corporate market, however, there are other ways in place for getting access to some of this content already, in particular the more current portion of the ProQuest Central aggregation of full-text journals. LexisNexis carries some of that content. More to the point, however, Factiva has a long-standing co-marketing relationship with ProQuest, wherein ProQuest markets Factiva to academics and Factiva markets ProQuest to corporations. However, it seems that the mode Factiva uses is mainly to integrate selected ProQuest journal content into its Publications Library. Simon Beale, vice president of global sales at ProQuest, explained, "We had lots of talks with Factiva and Dow Jones when the Dialog acquisition was made. We asked if they had any concerns. Essentially it is very much a channel alignment issue. Factiva did not see it as a misdirect. There were no changes in the case of public libraries. We still have a contract in place and continue to feed into Factiva and LexisNexis."
Just to remind readers of the history involved here, Cambridge Information Group acquired ProQuest 3 years ago, and then the new ownership, renamed ProQuest, acquired Dialog. For background, read some past NewsBreaks:
• "ProQuest Information and Learning Goes to CSA: What Now?" posted Dec. 26, 2006, http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/ProQuest-Information-and-Learning-Goes-to-CSA-What-Now-18853.asp
• "Whither Dialog? ProQuest Takes the Reins of the Venerable Search Service" posted June 19, 2008, http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/Whither-Dialog-ProQuest-Takes-the-Reins-of-the-Venerable-Search-Service-49578.asp
• "ProQuest Dialog: Predictions and Reactions" posted June 19, 2008, http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/ProQuest-Dialog-Predictions-and-Reactions-49579.asp