Alacritude, LLC, the Chicago-based start-up that purchased eLibrary.com and Encyclopedia.com earlier this year, has announced that documents available from eLibrary will now be indexed by Inktomi and featured in search results on portals that use the Inktomi search engine. Sites include MSN, About.com, Overture, LookSmart, HotBot, and others.
The Alacritude partnership includes agreements with Inktomi Corp. and with the marketing agency All Effort, Inc. to "optimize and index the full text of 2 million eLibrary documents." The deal may prove to be a smart marketing tactic that gives a needed boost in subscription sales for eLibrary, which had been steadily losing subscribers under its former owner, Tucows. (See "Tucows Sells Two Former Infonautics Services" at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17104.)
Documents from eLibrary are now included within the Inktomi search results, with a note after the title: "eLibrary is the subscription-based online library for fun or research. Find out more about securing your guaranteed free 7-day trial with your credit card and retrieve [title]." When users click on the link they are then taken to the eLibrary site and shown a small abstract.
eLibrary is a subscription-based archive of over 13 million documents from more than 2,000 sources, including news wires, newspapers, magazines, academic and trade journals, transcripts, photographs, maps, and books. Content is supplied through an arrangement with bigchalk.com, Inc. Users can register for a 7-day free trial; subscriptions cost $14.95 a month or $79.95 a year.
The eLibrary content is being made available through Index Connect, Inktomi's paid-inclusion program for large Web sites. Sites in the program pay only for the traffic actually received, and they can monitor the performance of their indexed pages and optimize them as desired. This is where the deal with All Effort comes in.
Henry Hwong, president and co-founder of All Effort (http://www.alleffort.com), said that the company uses its proprietary technology to crawl and index the full text of the eLibrary articles and then creates the XML feed for Inktomi. "We are excited to leverage our XML technology solutions for eLibrary. We were able to deliver millions of documents to Inktomi-powered portals and attract an awesome volume of interested eLibrary prospects." Hwong calls it a work in progress, as the company continues to analyze queries, site traffic, and conversions.
Patrick Spain, Alacritude's chairman and CEO, said: "Search engines play a critical role in our efforts to reach individual researchers at the point where they first attempt to get an answer. With this agreement, we are now able to show a large potential audience that we have credible, useful content that can help them. We are quite pleased with All Effort's sophisticated approach to optimizing contextual search results, and we're thrilled with the success of Inktomi Index Connect in converting highly qualified leads into eLibrary subscribers."
While Alacritude claims the new partnership is "shedding light on the so-called 'invisible Web,'" Chris Sherman, one of the authors of the well-known book on that topic, said that he and co-author Gary Price excluded fee-based content from their definition.
"So while technically they're revealing invisible Web content," Sherman said, "what All Effort is actually doing is simply providing enhanced metadata for documents that actually aren't part of the invisible Web at all, but rather part of a proprietary, closed system. This isn't a criticism—not at all—just a clarification. What eLibrary is doing, though laudable and potentially helpful for searchers, doesn't change the underlying nature of its proprietary, fee-based service, and it's no more part of the invisible Web than content provided by Dialog, Factiva, or LexisNexis."
Price stressed that even users who opt for the free 7-day trial have to provide a credit card number and then remember to contact eLibrary if they want to cancel. He noted that Northern Light's Special Collection provides pay-per-article access, and Factiva offers free searching and individual articles at $2.95. Of course, users must first know about and then remember to use these options, while the eLibrary deal with Inktomi gets articles in front of the users of popular search sites. In his Web log (http://resourceshelf.freepint.com), Price called the deal "an interesting promo idea. However, it could again illustrate the poor job libraries do in marketing the services that they already offer for free!"
I asked Spain whether eLibrary would ever offer pay-per-article access. He said that in his opinion, people don't like to pay for information that way. "Nobody likes micro-payments. People want to budget." He feels the Northern Light model really doesn't work and is convinced that subscriptions are preferred.
Spain is quite pleased with the success of the new marketing effort with Inktomi. He finds it to be a more effective strategy than paid advertising programs. He said that a modestly scaled test (with fewer documents) on the Inktomi network had generated hundreds of trial subscriptions in just a few days. He also noted that the conversion rate from these free trials to a paid subscription is "equal to or greater than" the service's regular conversion rate, which he claims is over 50 percent. He said to compare this to the industry conversion average of 17.4 percent, as reported in a study by the Online Publishers Association (http://www.onlinepublishers.org/opa_paid_content_report_final.pdf).
Spain said that Alacritude is talking with other search engine companies about arrangements for eLibrary that are similar to the one with Inktomi. He also indicated the company would be making an announcement by the end of the year about a new metasearch tool that will allow users to search eLibrary along with some predetermined sites simultaneously. eLibrary is also evaluating the addition of more content from bigchalk.com.
An interesting note: The LookSmart site (an Inktomi partner) also prominently features a suggestion to link to the freely available articles on FindArticles.com, which provides an archive of content from Gale Group. FindArticles is a content distribution partnership between LookSmart and Gale. eLibrary supplier bigchalk gets its content from ProQuest, a Gale rival.