"The problem isn't `Give me more information,' it's `Give me less,"' said Rob Lippincott, VP-executive producer, AT&T New Media Services, Cambridge, Mass. "Businesspeople are saying, `Give me the right kind of information."'
Tom McElroy, market manager for Lexis-Nexis' marketing and planning professionals segment, Dayton, Ohio, sees trends developing as online information brokers struggle to differentiate themselves.
They are providing more analysis of data to fit a user's search criteria; offering higher-value data, such as pricey market research reports as opposed to news wire copy; and developing simple click-and-use interfaces.
The changes reflect the altered makeup of business information computer users and clients. The $15 billion market for online information used by business professionals has grown 50% from 1992, according to Online Services 1995 Review Trends & Forecast, a report from Simba Information, Wilton, Conn. Simba projects the market will reach $21 billion in 1998, a 40% jump.
"There is a ton of activity going on," said Robert Jordan, publisher, Online Access. "Much of this is from smaller, entrepreneurial companies [that] are taking advantage of the reduced barriers of entry and easier distribution through mechanisms such as the Internet."
Among large corporate clients, Lexis-Nexis is finding that information centers-librarians who have long bought online information-are handling complicated tasks, such as creating case studies. At the same time, marketing personnel are upping their online information budgets for more general purposes, such as background research and breaking news.
Individual Inc., a privately owned Burlington, Mass., information provider, crafts personal news summaries from 300 computer and telecommunications categories that each of its 10,000 subscribers selects. Each morning, it sends a package of some 20 short news items culled from 600 sources.
"Our customers are busy people like product managers," said Jim Leightheiser, product manager-personal news services. "With our service, they can read their entire daily report in 5 minutes over a morning cup of coffee."
Users also can retrieve the entire article via e-mail. The result: In the past year, sales grew 60% to $20 million.
Lexis-Nexis is creating products that cater to increasingly narrow groups. In July, it released ClientSmart, aimed at the ad agency-public relations realm. Eventually, Lexis-Nexis plans retrieval products for advertisers, marketers and strategic planners.
The AT&T Business Network that went online late last month provides news and information aimed at small businesses.
Eschewing original content, AT&T put together what Mr. Lippincott called "must-have" brands, including Dow Jones & Co., Dun & Bradstreet Information Services and Guerrilla Marketing International. AT&T expects businesspeople to readily pay a premium monthly price, $34.95 for 10 hours of connect time, for streamlined information.
"This is a chauffeur-driven tour of business information," Mr. Lippincott said. "It's not cheap to find this stuff, so we are addressing our strength to where people understand the value of information and will pay for it. We've got to get out of the $9.95 club," referring to mass market online services such as CompuServe and America Online.
Ziff-Davis Interactive, the electronic information arm of the Cambridge, Mass., computer publisher, is using a different strategy. Ziff-Davis recently announced the first free personalized news service on the World Wide Web.
Registrants of the advertising-supported service can get daily news about high tech developments from Ziff-Davis publications and some news services.
Analysts expect to see online information providers turning up their marketing.
AT&T will promote its Business Network with an aggressive program including direct mail, face-to-face selling and new media such as CD-ROM and the Internet.
"We write to our customers every month and they write back to us, with a check, so we have a lot of names and addresses of people we think will want this," said Mr. Lippincott. "And I don't think we'll leave any avenue unexplored to reach them."