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Exposing your rich data

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Like other publishers, Randall Publishing Co. has begun to embrace the idea of rich data-gathering and disseminating information specific to its industries that can be sliced, diced, searched and distributed.

"I challenge trade publishers to look at their assets," said Michael Reilly, president-CEO of Randall. "If you have any kind of data in your circ base, you need to collect it and sell it."

More often than not, the Internet provides the link between readers or buyers and the new offerings traditional print publishers are using to create revenue streams.

In 1998, Randall acquired Equipment Data Associates, which collects information from banks on all public filings of loan awards. That gives the publisher access to information such as what contractors own and when they've applied for loans. Currently, Randall sells that information to its construction magazine advertisers, placing them in front of an audience ripe to buy. The EDA Web site offers daily updates as new lien information becomes available from each state. Subscribers can then have the data e-mailed to them in a database file or sent to them on a diskette.

Readers, too, can be a revenue source if the right rich data are made available to them.

When William Pollak, president-CEO of American Lawyer Media, acquired legal newsletter publishers in Texas, California and New York to amass courthouse reports, he wasn't thinking about rich data. The idea to create revenue outside the typical publishing model only emerged when he decided to merge the three publications' databases of case verdicts into a single data repository that holds every detail of nearly 100,000 cases in the three states.

"We went through the process of transforming document databases into true searchable, relational databases where all the facts were divided into separate fields that can be searched in a variety of ways," Pollak said.

American Lawyer has spent in the "low seven figures" on the technology transformation. But the expense paid off. Today, clients pay up to $2,000 on annual contracts that give them access to the data, and expert witnesses have paid up to $10,000 to be listed in the database. Revenue also comes from a research service that provides an American Lawyer representative who finds information for call-in clients.

Reed Business Information has likewise tapped new revenue streams selling rich data to readers. Through a major IT overhaul, the publisher has automated the information provided by Reed Construction Data. Instead of a free weekly printed bulletin for qualified contractors listing new jobs that were put out to bid, RCD now charges for real-time access to the data. The information Reed used to publish in Purchasing Magazine, which covers part of the supply chain process, is now only available through an online business intelligence center.

"We used to give away information like steel pricing trends that people are willing to pay for," said Reed CEO James Casella. "We took data that we had, aggregated it and turned it into a profit center."

These publishers claim to have only begun tapping into revenue opportunities from their rich data. Casella said Purchasing Magazine's BI center generates roughly 10% of total revenues, and that number is growing each month. Randall's Reilly is capitalizing on about 15% of the information collected by EDA, so he has worlds of untapped potential revenue before him that the company is exploring. And American Lawyer's database is currently accounting for about 5% to 10% of American Lawyer's revenue-the equivalent of one of the publisher's weekly newspapers. Pollak expects that number to grow as the company expands on the offerings stemming from the rich data.

Opportunities to make money from rich data are out there, but finding and tapping into them takes a lot of diligence and capital.

"You can't do it part-time or outsource some of it. You need to have a development team; you have to put resources against it," warned Reed's Casella. "And you can't just take what you have and expect to make money off it. Don't underestimate the investment and be prepared to make the investment." M

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