The strategic realignment that The Thomson Corp. (www.thomson.com) announced last October continues to roll through Thomson's operations. Thomson Business Intelligence (TBI; www.thomsonbusinessintelligence.com), created from a 2005 reorganization of assets previously assigned to Dialog and reporting—somewhat oddly—to Thomson Legal & Regulatory (www.thomson.com/solutions/legal), has begun dismantling its operations and disposing of its products. Two of the products—TBI Broker Research and InSite2—will transfer to Thomson Financial. Another two—Market Research (formerly Profound) and NewsEdge—are up for sale. And one—News Research—will be eliminated at the end of the year, although a very similar product, Dialog NewsRoom, continues to operate.
The origins of individual TBI product lines stretch back several decades in some cases. However, TBI itself began in 2005 when Thomson moved Dialog to Thomson Scientific and packaged business and news sources under TBI within Thomson Legal & Regulatory (now Thomson North American Legal). The strategic realignment within The Thomson Corp., begun in late 2006, targeted the company's efforts toward electronic workflow solutions within enterprises. The new reorganization created six strategic business units—North American Legal, Financial, Scientific, International Legal & Regulatory, Tax & Accounting, and Healthcare. It has also led to the divesting of education assets serving higher education, careers, library reference, corporate elearning, and e-testing. Thomson Learning is still on the block. It has already sold NETg and begun the bidding process for Prometric.
Although the announcement from TBI that went out to clients stated that the current divestiture of product lines represented a decision to "realign specific services within Business Intelligence Services" in order to "best align our products and resources to the markets and customers we serve," in fact, Paul Stutler, vice president and general manager of TBI, clarified that, when completed, the transition would mean the end of TBI. Personally, he expected to be working on the transition for some time but expected that much of the dismantling would occur within the next 6 months. One thing is clear: Thomson does not want to lose anyone's business. The announcement to clients stated, "We are confident all transitions will be positive, with no interruption in your TBI, InSite, or NewsEdge services."
As to the fate of TBI's core product lines, here is the latest information we could gather.
TBI Broker Research
Content: More than 2 million analyst reports covering about 38,000 companies from more than 800 analysts.
Action: Returned to Thomson Financial, which has supplied the content to TBI as a rolling 2-year subset of its Investext service. Thomson Financial has many existing packages for delivering Investext content in their service, not to mention all the other outlets for some version both inside and outside the Thomson family. A representative indicated that the products were going into the Corporate Services division at Thomson Financial. As of yet, the company has not determined how it will integrate the product. Stutler expected developments in this area to be announced soon.
Content: Coverage of more than 2,500 trade publications, business and popular magazines, newsletters, newspapers, news wires, analyst reports, etc., accessed through a series of search options using an elaborate taxonomy and offered through flat-fee pricing with one annual subscription price.
Action: Going to Thomson Financial's Corporate Services division. It is a new product line for them, and again, Thomson Financial has not yet determined its placement in their services. Stutler expected that Thomson Financial would continue to serve customers for InSite2 and maintain the service. However, if you click to InSite2 now from the TBI site, you go to a URL tied to Thomson's Gale Group: www.insite2.gale.com/is2/enduser_index.cgi. The structure of the service clearly indicates its Gale origin with optional "packs" of additional data paralleling Gale's traditional product breakdowns—Newsletter InSite, Computer InSite, Consumer InSite, and/or Health & Wellness InSite. But the Gale Group is part of Thomson Learning, the possibly $2-billion division of Thomson already on the block. Within Thomson Learning, word has it that Gale is a major revenue producer. So the future of InSite2 may remain somewhat murky for a while.
TBI Market Research (aka Profound)
Content: More than 250,000 business-critical research reports, including market, company, investment, and country briefings; economic analyses and forecasts from 170-plus providers; plus articles from specialized research and industry journals.
Action: Up for sale; discussions with potential buyers are underway.
Content: Taps more than 11,000 global news and business information sources; includes a streaming headlines feature called My Live News and SmartTerms indexing.
Action: Up for sale; discussions with potential buyers are underway. Looking at the matching count of sources ("more than 11,000") for NewsEdge and News Research, I worried that the Dialog/DataStar NewsRoom service offered as an alternative (see below) might depend upon the NewsEdge service to feed its content. A Dialog representative assured me that this was not so and that Dialog's sources were independently contracted and remained healthy, although admittedly, the Gale Group was one major source.
TBI News Research
Content: Articles and transcripts from 11,000 newspapers, business magazines, and news wires worldwide; trade press; scholarly journals; newsletters; broadcast and cablecast transcripts; and blog data stretching back 30 years.
Action: To be discontinued as of Dec. 31, 2007. The file began as a spinoff development of the Dialog NewsRoom product, which contains substantially the same content, but with some differences in the interface and archives extending only to the year 2000, according to a Dialog representative. Stutler expected to refer concerned News Research customers over to Dialog NewsRoom (also available through Dialog's DataStar outlet).
TBI apparently had some real fans. Customers of the services were the first to flash the announcement of the changes to the library listservs. I spoke with two corporate librarians, each using different TBI products. In both cases, they liked the content, the interfaces, the availability of alert services, and the price of the services. Both were already checking alternative sources and workarounds, just in case.
I asked them what they felt would constitute worst-case, acceptable-case, and best-case scenarios for the future of the products. The worst case would require teaching "Google-obsessed" end users how to use a new interface and search engine to reach the same data they had already trained them to reach. In fact, one added, "That's not the worst case. That would be impossible." An acceptable scenario would be to "just leave me alone and tell me where to send the check." A best-case scenario would have the new owners improving the product with added content, tweaking the interface, and considering the application of some of the best features from TBI products to other products in their line. Any attempts to increase prices significantly and/or to reduce access and usability (e.g., by curtailing the number of end users included in the license) were also regarded as reason enough to start shopping elsewhere.
Looking at the announcement, industry analyst John Blossom commented:
Unfortunately Thomson Business Intelligence never quite coalesced into the integrated offerings for market verticals and functional verticals that other business information offerings have formed over the past few years. Instead the individual cultures and architectures of each of the product offerings under the umbrella were never put aside in full and wound up being an ‘old' Thomson division of stand-alone offerings under a common sales umbrella. … Best of luck to everyone in this deal, in the end better things are bound to happen as a result of this move.