The New York-based custom research and consulting firm, FIND/SVP, has partnered with Empire Media and TripleHop Technologies to launch Find.com, a new venture that the companies are calling the "next-generation, true business search engine designed to meet the search demands of business professionals." The free search engine, which uses TripleHop's search and classification technologies, aggregates results from major Web search engines and 3,000 selected business Web sites, as well as provides access to premium research content that can be purchased on a fee-per-document basis. Find.com premium content providers include The Gallup Organization, Frost & Sullivan, BNET, ChoicePoint, NetContent, and FIND/SVP.
Search results are merged, ranked, and categorized on the fly. The folder presentation is similar to what Northern Light does, but an organizational tab system lets searches be further filtered by file format, site, and source. Search topics and results can be saved for future use.
Find.com has been organized as an LLC, with Empire Media and FIND/SVP each owning 47.5 percent of the business and TripleHop taking the balance. Empire Media is a diversified media group with a focus on publishing and interactive media. The company was founded in 2002 when it launched empire, "the magazine of business innovation." Chris Travers, co-founder of Empire Media and CEO of Find.com, stressed the advantage of the three-way partnership: "It has three established entities, with each partner providing a set of resources." TripleHop provides its search engine, Empire is doing the advertising and marketing, and FIND/SVP has chosen the business Web sites and supplies content.
Travers said the companies felt it important to get into the marketplace now with its offering, get early feedback, and then build from there. While the premium content is eclectic and admittedly slim at this point, Travers said that Find.com is in active discussions with other content providers and will be adding to the mix over the coming months. He also said that the company was pursuing more data-focused sources, and users could expect to see the service add profiles of businesses, industries, people, etc.
When I pointed out that my initial (and admittedly limited) testing showed less accurate and relevant results from the premium content than from the Web content, he acknowledged that the premium content was very specific, and the volume of documents was an issue with the full-text searching of this content (not just keywords or metadata). He indicated that this should improve. But, Travers feels the service already offers good value: "It's a good place to start an initial business search." He added: "Because Find.com was designed for the business professional, it takes users straight to the most relevant information from the most trusted sources available, saving businesses both time and money and providing accurate support for the most vital business decisions."
In announcing the launch, the companies cited the just-released results of a study by FIND/SVP that claimed flawed online searches were costing U.S. businesses an estimated $31 billion each year. According to the study of 262 business users (FIND/SVP clients and respondents of Empire Media's opt-in lists), 71 percent of business executives are frustrated with consumer search engines, and 74 percent are not confident that their results are reliable. Despite this lack of confidence, 67 percent state that it would be difficult or impossible to do their jobs without Web-based search tools. Find.com was launched to solve these issues.
According to analyst Tim Hickernell, vice president, META Group, "The commercial search market has barely begun to address the untapped demand for highly-specialized and screened content and we believe this market is poised for growth in the next 3 to 5 years."
Barely mentioned in the press release announcing the new search engine is its availability for use as a corporate-wide application. Deployed as an enterprise search solution, the Find.com technology lets users simultaneously search both external sources and a company's internal files. The application provides extensive coverage, including intranets, external Web sites, file servers, document management systems, JDBC/ODBC databases, public e-mail servers, Lotus Notes, legacy search applications, local documents, and e-mails, etc. It handles over 250 document formats, including MS Office, PDF, HTML, XML, TXT, etc., plus audio and video. Find Enterprise Search can be provided as software to install on a company's servers, as a service provided on an ASP basis, or as an API to integrate within existing applications.
Travers said that the enterprise offering will become increasingly important, but the venture's "opening position in the marketplace is definitely as a freely available business search engine." I asked about how Find.com planned to do better than some failed business search ventures, like Alacra's Portal B, or compete with current offerings from HighBeam Research, Factiva, and Northern Light. He said that Find.com's "free search paradigm with an overlay of access to premium content" would be an advantage. "People just haven't gone for the subscription models," he said. He also felt that TripleHop's on-the-fly clustering technology provided a competitive edge as a very valuable tool, as well as the focused results from the hand-picked "business Web." Part of it is also timing, he indicated. "There's increasing evidence that users are prepared to transact for small amounts of content from credible sources."
He also feels that the future of search is in bringing an editorial point of view to provide quality and value. He sees Find.com "blending great content, great technology, and of course, advertising and ecommerceŚwe are making it all work together."
Analyst John Blossom of Shore Communications also pointed out that many others are chasing this same concept. "For now we'll call it a good idea with decent technology in search of decent content and a clear appeal to the true needs of professional content users. Toss it on the stack with the others for now, perhaps it will mature over time."
I tend to agree, at least on its use in accessing premium content. But, it's a good option for a free business Web search engine.