LEXIS-NEXIS has had several separate Web products available for a few years, but the company has just announced LEXIS-NEXIS Universe, which provides the first fully integrated, customizable Web-based access to the vast LEXIS-NEXIS data warehouse. Designed for business professionals, and particularly for the enterprise-wide corporate market, the product joins the Universe product lines previously rolled out for different markets: Academic Universe, Congressional Universe, and Statistical Universe.
LEXIS-NEXIS Universe has actually been quietly marketed since August, but was officially announced in a press release on October 19. Getting away from the use of proprietary search software, the new service is accessed with a Web browser (Internet Explorer 3.01 or above, Netscape 3.01 or above, or browsers supporting HTML 3.0 or above). Calling it a productivity tool rather than an online search service, the company emphasizes that the product is integrated and customizable so it can be tailored to meet the needs of an individuals work flow, tasks, or functions.
LEXIS-NEXIS Universe can be customized for different professionals needs within a corporation by selecting from a large variety of content bundles. By slicing the nearly 25,000 sources of the LEXIS-NEXIS services into unique packages, this Web product can meet the daily information requirements of corporate functions such as strategic planning, marketing, sales, public relations, information technology, and business development.
The opening screen provides a choice of Top News (from CNN and other sources), Personal News, Industry News, and Search, all of which can be customized for each individual in an organization and also include flexible update schedules and e-mail delivery options. The Search option screen provides search buttons according to the content bundles chosen: News, Company, People, Government, Companies, Medical, Legal, and Public Record. These offer forms-based searching. There is also an Advanced Search button that allows Boolean searching.
LEXIS-NEXIS learned from its customers experiences with previous Web products, and has incorporated key features that proved popular such as FOCUS, More Like This, and Trackers. FOCUS provides a simple way to narrow a search without starting over and wasting time. More Like This, first introduced on the LEXIS-NEXIS online service in 1995, uses an on-point article to serve as the basis for a new search, allowing the user to ask for more information of a similar nature. Personal News serves as an individuals customized clipping service.
Coleman Hutchins, information center manager at the public relations firm Fleishman Hillard, says that putting Universe on the desktop of account executives and senior staff would allow everyone in the company to have access to thousands of global information sources at the click of a mouse. Universe is so user friendly that we gave it to an intern to do research with no instruction and he had no problem at all, Hutchins says. Yet the depth and breadth of information is unmatched. Putting this power on desktops through the firm would free information specialists like me from routine searching and allow us to perform the analysis and data crunching that is a real added value to our clients.
LEXIS-NEXIS Universe is an enterprise-wide product, aimed primarily at corporate users, with flat-rate pricing based on the number of users, and with the price decreasing as the number of users increases. The smallest content bundle available includes a 90-day news archive and costs $50 per user, per month. A mid-range choice of content bundles for one to 10 users would be about $250 per user, per month. Transactional pricing options are also available. For example, a small business or information broker may choose to get certain News and Company bundles at a flat rate and search other content transactionally. The company has also advertised an option to search in the Major Papers file for $9 a day, charged to a credit card.
Christine Wunderlin, manager of the Lands End library, wanted a predictable, flat rate that she could easily budget for, without concern about renegotiation with the vendor every few months. With the contract I negotiated for LEXIS-NEXIS Universe, I don't have to worry anymore. We're not being charged to look at articles or to print them, as with their competitors product that Lands End used previously, she said. A flat fee was important to Wunderlin because she charges back to the departments that use the product, an impossible feat with per document charges and continually escalating subscription rates, she says.
Though it was not mentioned in its news release on the product, LEXIS-NEXIS intends to add the capability to search the Internet for information. A company representative said that Internet searching should be available early next year, and searching in corporate intranets by mid-year 99. A user will be able to do one search, but the results from each source will be put in their own folders. So after a search, youd see a folder that says LEXIS-NEXIS, another that says Web, and another that is labeled Intranet.
So, LEXIS-NEXIS is clearly in the ranks of traditional services retooling their products for Web access (with special emphasis on that very important customization capability), and bracing themselves for the onslaught of Web-based competitors, hoping their superior content and search capabilities hold up under the pricing pressures. LEXIS-NEXIS was not out the door first, but the company promised that it has listened to what customers want. Watch for a review of LEXIS-NEXIS Universe in Mick O'Learys Database Review column in the December issue of Information Today.
For more information on LEXIS-NEXIS Universe, call 800/227-4908, or visit the LEXIS-NEXIS Communication Center at http://www.lexis-nexis.com.