Alacra Monitors the Pulse of User Demands

Nothing is free ... usually. But from March 15 to April 15, Alacra is offering free, unlimited access to its updated PulsePro, a configurable desktop and mobile solution that detects key business events from 3,000 hand-curated news feeds and blogs, extracting business intelligence in near-real time and delivering it to users. So if you've been wondering if this is the right tool for you, now is the time to find out.

"Alacra Pulse was born out of our conversations with customers, who shared with us the challenges they'd had in helping their users adapt to web information," says Alacra CEO Steven Goldstein. Alacra's first Pulse module, Street Pulse, debuted in February 2009, followed by the professional offerings of Deal Pulse and Weak Pulse in June the same year. Street Pulse, according to Goldstein, "detects comments made by sell-side, industry, and credit research analysts as well as influential bloggers." He adds, "Deal Pulse spotlights the latest intelligence on M&A deals and rumors, and Weak Pulse highlights distressed company news about bankruptcies, layoffs, downgrades, and companies seeking strategic alternatives."

Since its release, Alacra has been taking in feedback from Pulse users and working to improve the tool. "In the 12 months since we first introduced Pulse, we've gained many insights from our customers and through analyzing user behavior on the free Pulse site. One thing that we quickly learned was that our users wanted to see all the events on a company," said Goldstein. "The original design was event-centric, with different tabs for Street Pulse, Deal Pulse, and Weak Pulse events. This required users to click between tabs to see the latest news on an M&A rumor and analyst comments on that deal, for example. In the new design, we've made it more company-centric, so users can choose to see all events on a given company or easily filter to just those events they are interested in."

Goldstein adds, "We've also learned that the application was not as user-friendly as we'd like. We'd struggled to balance the needs of the sophisticated user with the simplicity required by most. We've spent much of this winter working to retain advanced features while simplifying the overall design and keeping the standard interface clean."

This new iteration offers more than just a streamlined interface. Users will now also have access to Chief Pulse. Goldstein says, "As many of our clients use Alacra Pulse for idea generation and business development, Chief Pulse, which captures comments by C-suite executives at a company, was a natural addition to the product." This iteration will also offer XML-based APIs to enable integration within portals, CRM systems, or other applications; "first mention" event filtering to address one of the news service users' most consistent complaints about sifting through a multitude of articles on the same subject; customized company watch lists and filters for keywords or specific events; and more.

Of course, you can try this all out for yourself by going to Alacra's website between March 15 and April 15. "Web users have become accustomed to trying applications on the open web then integrating those which provide real value," says Goldstein. "Freemium models, where users can access basic functionality for free then upgrade to a paid version as needed, have proven successful in the Web 2.0 environment. Alacra wants to support the needs of these users."

According to Barry Graubart, VP of product strategy at Alacra, "Our use of the freemium model gets us in front of a wide range of users who might otherwise never hear of Alacra. Some of those will discover value and become prospects for our enterprise solutions." With hopes of converting this wide range of freemium users to paying customers, Alacra will have several pricing plans available for small businesses on up through global corporations. For individual subscribers, it will be offering an annual subscription option to PulsePro. Users will also be able to continue using a freemium version of the site that will limit data to the latest five news hits for the particular search term. In the meantime, though, all PulsePro functionality is free, including personalization and alerts.