Northern Light’s CEO, David Seuss, sees social search as a beacon on the horizon. It’s still relatively faint, but with his company’s help, it’s growing ever brighter. "We want to bring a social element to business research in a big way," Seuss says. "We think there is a lot of stuff that goes on in the social computing world that is irrelevant and distracting in a business setting. But some of those concepts make sense in a research setting."
With the principles of social search in mind, Northern Light has lately been tinkering with a new product, Northern Light Search (www.nlsearch.com), a freely available online business research tool. Officially launched this month, Northern Light Search provides access to thoroughly vetted business and industry news from thousands of hand-selected business news sites, leading business publications, industry authority blogs, regional newspapers, and national news sources. Users can search, browse, and analyze content, personalize the site, set search defaults, and create and subscribe to alerts.
"NLSearch is for serious use on business issues and business problems," Seuss says. "We believe the lessons we’re learning from the enterprise portal business apply here. Researchers should be able to leverage the knowledge of those researchers whose interests are the same as their own. A lot of Web 2.0 products miss that link. When a search engine retrieves the most popular search results, that’s good in a general way, but it’s not specific to me. What I need are genuine collaborators. I need someone who knows something about the specific topic I’m searching. I want to be able to leverage what they’ve already learned."
NLSearch links to the Northern Light Market Intelligence Wiki, which provides an overview of industries and business trends, with information about market segments, issues, companies, and regulatory actions. "We use the same engine that powers Wikipedia," Seuss says. "We have focused on market intelligence and research, and we employ an editorial staff. We’ve seeded the wiki with very good material that will get it off the ground. The hope is that users will add their own material, and that this will become another valuable resource." Seuss says that other social applications are in the works for NLSearch, such as tag clouds and autocompletion.
The search engine also deploys a trademarked text analytics tool called MI Analyst. The analyst combines the capabilities of Northern Light’s free-text searching with advanced text analytics that were developed specifically for market intelligence applications. MI Analyst includes entity extraction for facets such as companies, government agencies, IT technologies and markets, job titles, business issues, strategic scenarios, and sources.
MI Analyst allows users to see a summary sentiment score (i.e., whether the document author’s tone is positive or negative) for each company and sort search results according to sentiment. MI Analyst also allows users to uncover the relationships between entities revealed by the document set, mitigating the research barrier of unfamiliar or unidentified concepts, synonyms, acronyms, and aliases. Users can also perform trend analysis with display and data export options.
Seuss says that NLSearch’s primary market consists of small companies and independent researchers that are interested in online business research but haven’t bought in to the high-priced content aggregators out there. "Small and medium businesses are the ones we’re reaching out to," he says. "The more narrow focus on business content, as opposed to the entire universe that Google News would give is one piece of value, and overlaying the meaning extraction capabilities is a second dimension of that value."