Two Thomson Corp. subsidiaries, Gale Group (http://www.gale.com) and Dialog Corp. (http://www.dialog.com), have announced that they will begin a comprehensive, long-term joint-marketing effort designed to reach the academic and public library markets worldwide. No specific products or services were described in the announcement, beyond the fact that the first set of offerings would target the public library market and appear by the middle of this year. (This probably means timing the new products' releases for ALA's Annual Conference.) The new alliance could put Dialog back in the public library market after decades of disinterest, as well as increase the company's presence in academic libraries. Gale would be able to draw on Dialog's breadth of content to round out and distinguish its offerings in these hotly contested market sectors.
Gale Group has a large collection of reference works—some 600 databases—as well as a massive collection of full-text files. It has strong presence in the academic and public library world with its InfoTrac and Resource Center product lines. Dialog is a leading supermarket search service with a wide array of data (including most of Gale's full-text periodical material) and a strong presence in the corporate, government, academic, and scientific markets. According to the announcement, "The new alliance seeks to leverage Dialog's depth and breadth of content, brand power, and technology platforms in combination with Gale's market leading position, expertise, and sales support infrastructure for its worldwide markets." The alliance will co-market, co-brand, and co-develop new products, enhance content sharing and licensing, and leverage both companies' sales and service infrastructures.
"This alliance is an important step for both companies," said Allen Paschal, Gale president and CEO. "It demonstrates the virtually unlimited opportunities for new-product development and service enhancements made possible when two Thomson businesses work together. We're excited that we'll be able to offer our customers in the academic and public library community a wider range of content, products, and services by working with Dialog."
Roy M. Martin Jr., Dialog president and CEO, said, "We are leveraging the strengths of two great companies, sharing content and building new products that, we believe, will be well-received by public libraries and their patrons and the academic market around the world."
Neither company plans to displace any existing products or services.
The advantage of the new alliance would seem to go to Dialog, which has little presence in the public library market and a limited presence in academic libraries. Putting the Dialog brand back in the nursery for all future knowledge workers and in public libraries (sometimes referred to as "the people's universities") could lead over time to stronger corporate and institutional sales too. It would have particular impact if the Dialog interface were used, rather than Gale's InfoTrac interface.
The reluctance to announce the directions in which their first product offerings would go probably stems from the delicacy of Dialog's relations with its other content providers. Most of Gale Group's competitors—ProQuest Information and Learning comes to mind—also offer significant portions of their products as Dialog files. Inside sources assure me that Dialog and Gale have no plans to use the content of direct competitors in their new-product development.
Considering the care Dialog will undoubtedly impose on the alliance so as not to disturb the flow of content to its central service and clients, one could predict that the new products could come from one or both of two sources. News sources, such as Dialog's strong collection of full-text newspapers and news wires, would enable Gale to compete with ProQuest's traditional strength in this area. Since Dialog acquires its news content directly from newspaper and media publishers, that gives this material independence from Gale's database aggregator competitors. The second source might be government databases, such as the ever-verdant MEDLINE and ERIC. Of course, the latter products have a universality, including access over the free public Web, that might make them less attractive to consumers. Nevertheless Dialog's collection of such files could have larger archives than the publicly available Web files. Again, the integration of Dialog interfacing across a wide range of licensed databases could stimulate interest among librarians in licensing for institutional use.
In any case, consumers should appreciate that Thomson subsidiaries are conducting unified efforts to bring the very best and most complete offerings they can achieve to the marketplace.