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Dialog Will Drop DialUnit Pricing Later This Year
Posted On May 24, 1999
In the course of researching recent increases in Dialog ( charges for a story in the upcoming July/August issue of Searcher magazine, writer and information professional Mary Ellen Bates interviewed Jason Molle, president of Dialog's American operations late last week. During the interview, Molle told Bates that in July the company will announce that it will change its current pricing scheme and eliminate the controversial DialUnits sometime later this year. Molle also indicated that the company would review the impact of recent pricing changes—attributed to a re-calculation of the DialogWeb vs. Dialog Classic pricing—upon invoices and adjust them for unusual shifts.

Bates notes that "they aren't eliminating DialUnits in July; this is the time that they will announce their schedule for when they'll tell us the details of the to-be-determined pricing plan and when it will be introduced."

As for the recent price increases noticed by many Dialog users, Bates indicated, "Dialog changed the way that DialogWeb calculates DialUnits at the beginning of May. Dialog characterizes this as a ‘bug fix,' saying that DialogWeb wasn't calculating DialUnits properly, so a search on DialogWeb was costing less than on DialogClassic. Still sounds to me like an undisclosed price increase, even if it was just to ‘correct' an unannounced problem."

Apparently the discovery of the glitch between the two access points coincided with a mainframe upgrade, which may also have added to the costs users saw. Bates responded, "Remember all those ‘processing ... processing ... processing ...' messages and slow response times (and high DialUnit charges) you noticed over the last couple of weeks? It turns out that Dialog was installing a new mainframe and it was having troubles working with other back-office equipment. Result? Higher DialUnits for you, as it ran inefficiently. Dialog says that it will be reviewing all invoices before they go out, looking for ‘unusual activity.' If you get your invoice and still see ‘unusual' search costs, call your rep and ask for an adjustment."

For a full study of the price problems analyzed this month, see the article by Mary Ellen Bates of Bates Information Service appearing in the July/August issue of Searcher entitled "Dialog's DialUnits: There Is a Great Disturbance in the Force." We will also load the full article in July at Information Today, Inc.'s Web site for Searcher ( Bates did earlier studies of the DialUnit controversy in Searcher, a first one when DialUnits were introduced (Searcher, September 1998, "Dialog's DialUnits: A Price Increase in Sheep's Clothing") and a second after Dialog eliminated the rounding-up factor (Searcher, November/December 1998, "Dialog's DialUnits Revisited: Lassie Comes Home"). The July/August 1999 article runs the same tests as the previous two articles and discovers price increases ranging from 8 percent to 300 percent.

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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