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Posted On September 18, 2000
On September 11, LEXIS-NEXIS launched, a new Web-based interface of the flagship news and information service for business professionals. replaces the LEXIS-NEXIS Universe service for L-N customers, and provides an easier-to-use product with broader search capabilities and searching available from the home page. Universe users don't need a new ID or password. The new search site provides all the content and functionality that Universe did, including access to previously saved Universe searches.

The new site is being promoted as the company's "new flagship product for news and business." Legal customers have been using the site for the past year, and business searchers have been looking forward to the launch of the upgraded Web service for NEXIS.

The service is designed to meet the needs of the entire range of users and levels of expertise within an organization, and offers search flexibility and customization capabilities. End-users who like the ease of searching on a Web search engine should appreciate the ability to get answers quickly and easily, while advanced searchers and information professionals can choose Power Search options that include using Boolean and adding indexing terms.

The main difference that offers is the ability to search directly from the home page and simultaneously search for LEXIS-NEXIS documents and from Web sources. The Search form accepts ordinary words and phrases, and uses the L-N SmartIndexing Technology to make searching for targeted information quicker and easier. Using the Search form option will access only the previous 7 days of news and NEXIS Web sources, and the previous 2 years of company and legislative sources. A drop-down list allows users to select the sources for searching. Corporate customers who need to associate the search with a particular activity can input a code for activity tracking. searches 300,000 relevant Web sites collected from L-N newspaper and wires sources. (These sources actually comprise a searchable file in the L-N service, NEXWEB.) Each database document that describes a Web page contains the title of the page, text describing the page, and a link to the page, which then opens in a separate window.

"From the massive LEXIS-NEXIS services we have harvested the knowledge of thousands of subject experts, who in effect have pre-qualified the reliability of the favorite Web sites they mention," said Keith White, L-N's vice president of product development. "Our approach leverages our unique database to provide pertinent Web results to our customers."

Several other searching options are available from the home page. The Subject Directory allows a user to point and click from a selection of 36 subjects and drill down to more than 1,200 topics to find the latest news about each. Users navigate through a hierarchy of topics and sub-categories. This searching option doesn't search the full text of documents, but uses the index terms assigned by SmartIndexing.

Search Forms help users quickly get to the information they need. Each form is designed by content experts to look for a particular type of information and is associated with one or more recommended sources for that topic category (wire services, public records, trade magazines, transcripts, specialized databases, etc.). The fields on the form prompt users for specific search terms and options (a name, subject, ZIP code, date restriction, etc.) appropriate for those sources. Users can customize their choice of forms and have them appear on their home page.

Power Search is targeted toward the more sophisticated researcher, providing full-text searching with Boolean capabilities, as well as tools to easily navigate and add one or more SmartIndexing Technology terms to the search. Users also have source specification, date-range options, document-sort options, activity tracking, and search-control features (wild card characters, segment searching, search-term nesting, etc.), which should satisfy the needs of information professionals for a high level of control and precision.

The Company Dossier feature searches for information on 500,000 public and private companies. This allows a user to simply type in the name of a company or a ticker symbol from the home page and retrieve a report that aggregates information from many L-N sources. The report provides a snapshot of the company, related news articles, management information, pertinent legal cases, and patent and trademark information. Users can also screen for and locate companies by type, industry, financial status, location, or combinations of those limiting factors.

New to are Task Pages—vertical portals created by NEXIS developers initially for three market niches: insurance, financial services, and competitive intelligence. According to White, Task Pages increase the utility and value of NEXIS information by placing it in the context of these professionals' ordinary work flows and decision-making applications. The concept of providing customizable task-based tools and applications for specific professions is an important component of the implementation, similar to the applications in the Practice Pages on Task Pages will be available to all users over the next 2 weeks.

White said that NEXIS had worked with a respected market-research firm, which conducted an extensive blind-research study of several thousand users in a random sample, gathering a large fact base of data over the course of 6 to 9 months. He noted that this level of research and investment is normally done for consumer products but not for the development of business information products. Armed with this information about what customers want, a team that included some of's developers was able to build the site in less than 90 days.

"We invested significantly up front in market research and development to ensure we delivered a solution that extends from the company's information center to meet the needs of business professionals throughout an enterprise," said Bill Pardue, NEXIS president and CEO.

Users seem quite impressed with the new NEXIS product. Steve Homan, manager of research services at Sprint's Corporate Research Center, said: " is a powerful, robust, and intuitive reference tool. The flexible search capabilities allow you to look for diverse content in a single search. And the search results are always on target."

One independent professional researcher said it's the best product that LEXIS-NEXIS has put out in a long time, and liked the combined searching of Web content with NEXIS information. Another liked the extensive context-sensitive online help. While some questioned why it took the company so long to move to this new interface, others hinted that the product was rushed to launch with little preparation of the L-N sales force and the customers.

Subscriptions to are reportedly similar to previous Universe arrangements, and can be based on a per-search or flat-fee basis for the enterprise. Single and multiyear contracts are available.

Academic customers of L-N will continue to use the Academic Universe product, which has less content available than Nonsubscribers to L-N still have the option for pay-as-you-go searching by credit card through the LEXIS-NEXIS reQUESTer service, with its forms-based interface ( This offers access to several predetermined categories of information (newspapers, business and financial; business sources; major papers) for daily fees of $24 to $69, or weekly fees of $49 to $129. According to White, use of this service has been increasing, and the company will work to provide continued enhancements for this type of search access as well.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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