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DataStar Back from the Dead and Without DialUnits; Minor Adjustments in DialUnits for Dialog Itself
Posted On July 6, 1998
In a surprise announcement, the Dialog Corporation has promised to restore its European-based DataStar service to almost original condition. Dialog will maintain the office in Berne, Switzerland, rehiring some technical staff there. The migration of some 100 databases still only available on DataStar over to the Dialog system, which the company had planned to complete by October, now has no scheduled completion date. A Dialog executive indicated that with the Berne-based operation still in force, the pressure to meet the previous schedule had eased.

Key scientific and medical databases may depart the system indefinitely with the cessation of DataStar's hosting relationship with FIZ Technik. FIZ ran its own service off the DataStar machines and allowed DataStar to offer access to some 15 or so shared files. The discontinuation of this arrangement was announced at the end of June.

A new DataStar ProBase pilot software that works with Windows 95 in a 32-bit version will be released "fairly shortly." The company also intends to re-examine plans to enhance the DataStar Web interface. The latest version of DataStar Web appeared in December 1997. Dialog Select for Windows (formerly QuickStart) now offers an interface that reaches both DataStar and Dialog files. Winstar Telebase produces the interface but Dialog markets it.

In a most promising development, apparently DataStar customers have received a reprieve from the new Dialog pricing scheme. At least for 1998, Dialog will not install DialUnit pricing nor impose new monthly minimums. It still plans to offer integrated billing at some time.

When asked what drove the reprieve, a Dialog executive indicated that customers had identified a number of special search features on DataStar, both content-oriented and command-based, that Dialog could not replace at least in the time span they sought. Rather than eliminate the value, they decided to reactivate DataStar as a service and as a brand name.

DialUnit Reduction in Dialog

Following weeks of turmoil over its new DialUnit pricing system, the Dialog Corporation announced a 50 percent pricing reduction for a handful of its files—15 to 20 (depending on how you count databases) out of over 400 files on the system. The reduction went into effect immediately and applied retroactively to the June invoice. Not all the files listed received a precise halving, particularly the special files generated by Dialog to help searchers locate databases to search.

Files receiving the downward adjustment in DialUnit pricing are as follows:

301 • Chemname — $23 to $11.50
398 • Chemsearch — $23 to $11.50
340 • CLAIMS/U.S. Patents Abstracts 1950-present — $11 to $5.50
519 • D&B Dun's Financial Records Plus — $9 to $4.50
516 • D&B Dun's Market Identifiers — $9 to $4.50
411 • DialIndex — $1.75 to $1
416 • DIALOG Company Name Finder — $1.75 to $1
414 • DIALOG Journal Name Finder — $1.75 to $1
413 • DIALOG Product Code Finder — $1.75 to $1
348 • European Patents Fulltext — $6.25 to $3.25
345 • INPADOC/Family and Legal Status — $4.75 to $2.50
130 • Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Industry News Database (PHIND) daily — $23 to $11.50
129 • Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Industry News Database (PHIND) weekly — $23 to $11.50
131 • Pharmacontacts — $23 to $11.50
128 • Pharmaprojects (non-subscribers) — $23 to $11.50
928 • Pharmaprojects (subscribers) — $23 to $11.50
434 • SciSearch (a Cited Reference Science Database 1974-1989) — $8.50 to $4.25
34 • SciSearch (a Cited Reference Science Database 1990+) — $8.50 to $4.25
652 • U.S. Patents Fulltext 1971-1979 — $9.75 to $5
653 • U.S. Patents Fulltext 1980-1989 — $9.75 to $5
654 • U.S. Patents Fulltext 1990-present — $9.75 to $5

Rumors had circulated that Dialog would be making an announcement concerning the elimination of "rounding-up" to the nearest full DialUnit. This was not to be the case. As Dan Wagner, chief executive of the Dialog Corporation, described the DialUnit adjustments, "... these major price reductions in key sci-tech, intellectual property, and business files make our unsurpassed content collection the most cost-effective choice for information seekers." Wagner continued, "Throughout the past month, we have been monitoring daily usage of Dialog very carefully. We have been in close contact with our customers to fully understand how these changes are affecting them. We feel that some modifications to our original pricing plan were needed and have therefore implemented them to ensure that our users find our services to be the most competitively priced."

In defending the controversial pricing generally, Wagner pointed to "a recent study by industry expert Carmen Miller" that "demonstrated that standard business searches on Dialog are priced more than 20 percent less than our competitors." Dialog had commissioned and published the Miller study, available on its Web site, which compares "typical" searches on Dialog with searches of Dow Jones Interactive and LEXIS-NEXIS.

[The September 1998 issue of Searcher magazine will carry an independent, detailed series of tests and analysis by Mary Ellen Bates that compare DialUnit costs with the earlier pricing. Advance publication of this article should come onto this Information Today, Inc. Web site sometime in early July.]

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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