When The Thomson Corp. announced back in January that it planned to divest itself of two product lines within Thomson Business Intelligence (TBI)—the basics of which were reported by Barbara Quint in her Jan. 22, 2007, NewsBreak, "Thomson Business Intelligence Dismantling" (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=19055)—speculation raged rampant about potential buyers for Profound and NewsEdge. It’s taken some months, but both products have now been sold.
Profound Goes to MarketResearch.com
On May 4, the first announcement hit the wires: MarketResearch.com would acquire Profound. This was not unexpected since both were major players in vending market research reports, albeit with different business models. In acquiring Profound, MarketResearch.com gained a broader range of products and increased its international reach, in terms of both content and sales personnel. Terms were not announced. MarketResearch.com had previously acquired another major competitor, MindBranch.com, and it owns Packaged Facts, Kalorama Information, and SBI.
Profound was the brainchild of Dan Wagner’s M.A.I.D. company. When M.A.I.D. bought Dialog and changed the company name from M.A.I.D. to The Dialog Co., the Profound brand was applied to the market research database and platform to distinguish it from Dialog and DataStar. The Thomson acquisition of The Dialog Co. and its subsequent reshuffling of product lines put Profound into the Thomson Legal and Regulatory TBI subsidiary, grouping it with NewsEdge, InSite2, Investext, and TBI News Research. Interestingly, Thomson renamed Profound TBI Market Research and, perhaps sensing some bad vibes associated with the original product, tried very hard to expunge the Profound name from its marketing literature. Only when it announced the proposed sale did the Profound brand name resurface.
Profound, in terms of content, has moved beyond market research reports. In addition to these, it now has company, investment, and country briefings; economic analyses and forecasts from 170-plus providers; and journal articles. The rights issues have apparently been ironed out, but the technical integration of the two platforms will be a tougher nut to crack.
NewsEdge Acquired by Acquire Media
Industry observers were given to understand that the divestitures of Profound and NewsEdge would happen almost simultaneously. This proved false. It wasn’t until almost 8 weeks after MarketResearch.com announced its acquisition of Profound that the second shoe dropped. On June 25, Acquire Media (www.acquiremedia.com) announced its acquisition, with co-investors, of NewsEdge. As with the earlier acquisition, terms of the deal were not divulged. However, analyst John Blossom, Shore Communications, speculated that it was "a bargain basement price."
The intent is to merge NewsEdge operations into New Jersey-based Acquire Media. The technical center will stay in Massachusetts, and enhancements are anticipated. Acquire Media says it "plans a roll out of significant new features and content to all product lines as it harnesses the strength of both companies."
NewsEdge resulted from a merger in late 1997 between Desktop Data and Individual, Inc. In 1998, it boasted it had a 38 percent share of the current awareness market. Thomson acquired NewsEdge in August 2001 for $43 million. At that time, its revenues were $71 million. One industry expert told me that he thinks current revenues are probably closer to $25 million today. At the time of its sale, TBI claimed that NewsEdge had more than 11,000 global news and business information sources. Of the core 50–60 sources, however, Acquire Media sees overlap with its existing titles of only about 40. There are another 120 titles with which it has no relationship. Careful vetting of the license agreements by Acquire Media happened during the due diligence process to avoid surprises after the sale.
Although customer figures are not available, it’s widely supposed that the customer base for NewsEdge has been shrinking. The availability of newsfeeds from many free Web search engines, including those as well known as Google and Yahoo! to more specialized news sites such as Topix.net and Moreover, has radically changed the news retrieval and current awareness markets. The perception among customers (and ex-customers) is that once Thomson owned NewsEdge, innovation stopped, as did investment in its infrastructure.
Acquire Media has a different approach to news. It "builds and operates digital media distribution and filtering platforms for publishing and financial services." In business since 1991, the aim of the company is not just to sell news, but to help publishers leverage their content. It employs both real-time engineers and natural language scientists, something that dovetails nicely with the taxonomic nature of NewsEdge’s behind-the-scenes filters for news stories. Taxonomies, to be useful, must also be dynamic, which was a NewsEdge point of pride before becoming part of TBI. A spokesman for Acquire Media says that much of the earlier taxonomy is still in place and is being updated. Going forward, a close scrutiny of the NewsEdge taxonomies and the Acquire Media filters will result in a finely tuned news product that will be particularly strong in real-time news delivery that can be bundled with the News Trader product line Acquire Media currently has in place.The TBI divestiture of Profound and NewsEdge is probably, ultimately, in the best interests of customers. The new owners are smaller, privately held companies that will maximize the value of their new possessions. Both Profound and NewsEdge have interesting pedigrees in the information industry, and both seemed to have gotten lost within the giant Thomson Corp. MarketResearch.com and Acquire Media will not have an easy time reviving these product lines, but they are better positioned to succeed than was Thomson.