Monitoring good Web content sources, extracting relevant information, and redistributing it to the people who need it has become a basic service offered by many information professionals, and one that absorbs a great deal of time. The automated features in the newly launched Nexcerpt service can simplify and speed up the process.
The founders of Nexcerpt, Julie and Gary Stock, are veterans of the dot-com era, and drew on extensive experience with their previous company, InGenius Technologies, a producer of once popular Net monitoring services. Nexcerpt has identified key Web sources over a wide range of subject areas and set up automatic monitoring. It also enhances the results output to ease republishing and distribution via e-mail, intranets, or Web sites.
Nexcerpt has designed its product to support competitive and industry analysis, expert publishing, relationship marketing, and enterprise portal/intranet optimization. Nexcerpt customers include Fortune 500 corporations, consulting firms, and nonprofit organizations. The Nexcerpt system allows users to select from pre-existing categories for collecting content from reliable Web sites. Users can then edit the lists, deleting or adding sources from other categories. Results are returned in relevancy-ranked order. Users can even define the relevance of a document by category source and type of publication.
On a single account, a user can set multiple searches with no limits on the terms used. The Nexcerpt system will poll the sites and return results with keyword-in-context (KWIC) annotated results, for which users can set the surrounding word count. Results appear in either HTML or plain text. Users can establish any number of distribution lists and designate feeds of results to different audiences. The system allows the user to add comments to sets of results and/or individual results. The Nexcerpt system allows up to ten co-branding banners to promote the user's service to clients or readers.
Sue Feldman, research vice president, Content Technologies Research at IDC, wrote in a November 2002 IDC Insight report: "Nexcerpt solves some prevalent problems for knowledge workers and information managers. It provides continuous and up-to-date information, but in manageable bites. It eliminates the tedium of putting together a newsletter from diverse sources, since it is a search, editing, and publishing tool all in one. It removes the complexity of the publishing and distribution process, and it delivers useful subsets of documents."
Gary Stock, CIO and "Technical Compass" at Nexcerpt, said there are approximately 2,600 live targets in Nexcerpt's current listings. He indicated that a rapid expansion is under way with over 5,000 targets scheduled to be active by mid-year. "Our list began with a few standards," said Stock, "the top 100 English-language newspapers (by circulation), major dailies from each of the 100 largest U.S. markets (a mélange of MAs, MSAs, and CMSAs), TV and radio stations with consistent Web delivery, and various other media outlets to broaden our selection."
Stock also indicated that Nexcerpt: "will establish new targets for any customer's specific needs, upon their request. Nexcerpt also can pass authentication, and limit such private targets to eligible customers. In other words, if you have a subscription or other authenticated target (any secure server we can see), we can monitor that target. Excerpts from that target will be visible only to you (or, of course, to others who have provided Nexcerpt equivalent access authority)."
How much does Nexcerpt cost for an average user? For up to 10 different queries with unlimited keywords in each, a single user account would cost around $200 a month or $2,400 a year. Nexcerpt also offers multi-seat licenses and enterprise subscriptions. As for adding additional URLs to the Nexcerpt list, there is currently "no set fee."
InGenius Technologies, the former company founded by the Stocks, was purchased by Aeneid Corp. in 1999. InGenius produced a number of successful Internet change monitoring services, including NetBrief, javElink, Daily Diffs, EgoSurf, and Spelunker. In 2000, Aeneid changed its name to EoExchange. By mid-2001, EoExchange had canceled access to InGenius' services, leaving many unhappy ex-InGenius users.
I asked Julie Stock, CEO and president of Nexcerpt, how durable and ready to handle success Nexcerpt was. She responded: "Our business model is to continue to attract good paying customers. We have a twofold approach of looking for solid customers to sign up and buy with monthly subscriptions. We are also talking to major players like Dialog, LexisNexis, Factiva, etc. to partner and give us a marketing arm to get our technology into the hands of their customers. We have a low overhead operation, eight people. So much of our operation is automated it almost runs on its own. We can ramp up to handle thousands of users. We plan to last."
In the future, Stock said that Nexcerpt plans to expand into academic and science areas. They also "have plans to unbundle the technology and offer behind-the-firewall solutions," but she had no set timeline for that yet. At present, clients with firewall problems can set up a separate server and accept information delivered to that server as a protected zone. Stock indicated that Nexcerpt already had one client that used this approach in combining Nexcerpt Web feeds with in-house extraction done on PDF-formatted internal documents. Apparently, Nexcerpt drilling is not limited to HTML documents.
A colleague who works in competitive intelligence for a Fortune 100 company provided her impressions of Nexcerpt. Based on the free guided tour and the examples, she said it merited careful consideration. It was definitely worth a look and she had already signed up for the free 30-day trial.