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Northern Light Is Sailing Back into Business Research
Posted On December 8, 2003
Northern Light, the company named for the innovative 19th century clipper ship, has announced it is bringing back its business Web search engine and the premium document library (previously known as the Northern Light Special Collection) on Jan. 15, 2004, for enterprise customers. The service, called the Northern Light Business Research Library (, will be offered first to the 75 or so former customers of the NL Special Collection. According to CEO David Seuss, the company already has "tentative sales to two potential enterprise customers and a half dozen prospects in the queue." Individuals will be invited to come back to the popular subscription offering in March 2004.

NL is positioning the product as a usable, affordable, and effective alternative to the general Web search engines, which often provide irrelevant or dubious results and are dominated by e-retailing, and the expensive commercial services, such as Factiva, LexisNexis, and Dialog. The service, powered by the Northern Light Enterprise Search Engine, promises: "There will be no advertising on the service, no pop-up ads or pop-under ads, no paid search results, no offensive content. The Northern Light Business Research Library is a professional business tool for professional use."

(Note: An interesting twist to this story is that early in 2003, the divine (Northern Light) Special Collection was closed and its customers were "transitioned" to Factiva. Seuss says the NL Business Research Library and Factiva could complement each other since each service offers unique content and could be deployed to different desktops or departments within an enterprise.)

The content in the NL Business Research Library includes:

  • The "Business Web": over 100 million pages of Web content editorially selected to be of high quality for business research
  • Millions of full-text articles from trade journals selected for their deep repositories of industry expertise and insight
  • Business wires for up-to-date breaking information
  • Local and regional newspapers

Former NLResearch users will find the environment very familiar, with special search forms for Power searching, News (2 weeks of news and continually updated headlines, weather, sports, and financial information), EIU (reports from the Economist Intelligence Unit), Investext, and Market Research (with reports from Find/SVP, ICON, and MarkIntel). supports natural language searching on all search forms, as well as Boolean syntax, parenthetical expressions, fielded searches, and more.

Users can search both the Web content and the premium content with a single query. As in the previous incarnation of Northern Light, search results are organized into Custom Search Folders based on their subject classification, helping users identify themes and refine their searches. Content will be available in full page-image format showing all the pictures, tables, and charts in the original articles.

Seuss indicated that the Web and premium content for the new service was much more focused on pure business needs than the content in the former NL offerings, which included more general interest publications and sites. He said the old NL Special Collection included about 5,000 titles. The new NL Business Research Library has nearly 1,900 titles, with the following approximate breakdown:

850 trade journals
200 science and technology journals
300 medical journals
200 academic journals
200 general interest publications
100 newspapers
9 newswires

The so-called "knock-your-socks-off pricing" could make the Business Research Library quite attractive for budget-strapped enterprises. An annual flat fee of $19,500 provides a company with unlimited searching and document downloads. There are no connection fees, no search fees, no per-user fees, and no page-view or per-document fees. Pricing for individual use has not yet been determined, but Seuss said it would probably be similar to annual pricing for a product like eLibrary (which costs about $100 per year).

For more information on the Northern Light Business Research Library, and a list of titles included in the service, visit

For background information on Northern Light, and its comeback from the 16-month ownership by the now bankrupt Divine, Inc., see the NewsBreak at At that time, analysts pointed out that Northern Light would have to do better this time around, citing its lack of focus and business model as factors in its previous troubles.

Seuss explained that things are definitely different now. The main issue in the past was economic, he said. "We had a profitable enterprise business but an unprofitable Web search business, plus high search costs." The company will no longer compete in the free Web search arena. "Nothing is free anymore," he added.

He also said the company had worked for several years to move off its VMS operating platform. The company's successful move to Linux has resulted in a 95-percent lower cost per query processing. "This was a gigantic change in our infrastructure," he noted. Because of the clearly defined focus on business applications and the technology cost savings, the company is now operating profitably.

Earlier this year, Northern Light made available its never-previously released Northern Light Enterprise Search Engine that it says offers performance, relevance, and "unparalleled scalability." With the search engine, the company provides its 17,000-node subject taxonomy, developed by its expert librarians, that is extensible and customizable. NL can also create vertical solutions and custom classification schemes for enterprise applications.

And, the company just announced a licensing deal with Sirsi Corp. to use the Enterprise Search Engine to deliver Web content for Sirsi Rooms. The Enterprise Search Engine will be used to search editorially selected Web resources and return context-specific results, assisting library professionals in finding, evaluating, and indexing the "best of the Web" for each "virtual room" included in the Sirsi Rooms solution.

According to Seuss: "We had to win a bakeoff with industry-leading competitors to get the deal. One of the interesting tests Sirsi did was to compare a dedicated database from editorially selected sites with Google results, proving beyond a doubt that context adds value. I think this is the future shape of Web searching."

Mark Moorehead, Sirsi's director of product management, confirmed the choice. He stated, "We studied search engine solutions and found Northern Light delivered the best performance."

Seuss added that what Northern Light is doing for the business world with its Business Research Library, Sirsi, using the NL Enterprise Search Engine, will do for the academic world.

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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