While the market for business content remains strong, content providers are increasingly expanding their audience pool by offering wares in different packages and price points. Alacra's announcement of its Alacra Store demonstrates an increasing trend of providing patrons with a variety of inroads to premium content. According to CEO Steve Goldstein, "Many providers have valuable content that gets sold to and used by a small group of users and organizations. We offer information that there are few channels for, and now we can take advantage of search engine optimization to get it out to people—without having to make a sales call."
In August, the company launched an ecommerce site where consumers can search for business reports and data that the company previously made available only through its Alacra product, which provides access to 100 commercial databases. Instead of the traditional subscription fee for access to all its content, the Alacra Store will offer individual report sales and prices ranging from five dollars for a basic news article to a few hundred dollars for a comprehensive D&B report. As Jarid Lukin, the company's director of ecommerce describes it, the Alacra Store provides "a more cost-effective solution for independent information professionals and people who need occasional access to this kind of premium information, as opposed to someone who needs constant access."
Not all Alacra content will be available through the Store. Lukin says, "We don't feel that some of our data makes sense to place in the store. For example, some takes training on how to use the data; this is really a self-service offering."
While some publishers focus on a core offering in an effort not to undermine existing revenue streams, others have begun proffering content in many ways in order to help it find its way into the workflow of a variety of users. Lukin emphasizes that "we see this as a complementary service to our others; not cannibalizing them. First and foremost, it is a separate part of our business that we will be trying to grow, but on top of that we think it can help the core business from a branding perspective and from a revenue perspective—particularly once users see the breadth and depth of our content."
Most Alacra Store content will be offered in PDF form, whereas the full Alacra product allows users many content integration and delivery options. When shopping, users can search by company, ticker symbol, or publisher and are then given the ability to further hone their searches. When a user finds a report of interest, they are given the opportunity to view a sample of that report type to help them evaluate its value before buying. Payments are made via credit card and users can access reports instantly. Purchased content can be downloaded to the desktop for a 24-hour period. The company does not yet feel it needs to implement a more stringent DRM solution because, as Goldstein points out, unlike music, most of the business content offered through the Alacra Store has a relatively short shelf life. And, Goldstein says, "There's been a mind-shift from publishers. As opposed to being seen as a threat, this type of offering is viewed as an opportunity to expose more people to their content.
"The timing is right for this type of offering," adds Goldstein, who says, "if we'd tried to do this a couple of years ago, the technology would have been much harder." Lukin says, "We've placed a lot of emphasis on analytics and search engine optimization. We think there's a lot of value in the work the search engines are doing in trying to crawl more ‘deep Web' content that is hidden behind fee-based databases. They are advancing their technology and we want to be along with them, if not ahead of them."
Continuing the company's focus on leveraging emerging technologies—like the Alacra Blog (written by Goldstein), and Alacra Book, which packages customer-defined data from Alacra into customized PDF or Word books—the company plans to include RSS as a key component of its Alacra Store sometime this year. This will allow users to define a feed and, if they see something of interest, click through and buy the report. Goldstein says, "The challenge has been that there are so many different types of awareness and alerting services from multiple technology and content providers, and I think the market is screaming for a more comprehensive offering."
The company also plans to develop a wiki that will "be an encyclopedia of business terms," according to Lukin. While at least initially, it will be produced internally (as opposed to wikis that are produced entirely by volunteer user/contributors), Lukin says, "We're starting it, populating it with tons of data and entries that we are writing and sourcing from sources, though we will make it very easy for people to tell us about changes, but avoid spam potential."
Ultimately, according to Lukin, the company is "always looking at new ways of exposing that data to new or potential customers and leveraging the latest and greatest technologies to stay on the cutting edge."
(www.alacra.com; www.alacrablog.com; www.alacrastore.com)