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A pair of new services-one just unveiled by Market Analysis and Information Database, the other soon to be launched by Lexis/Nexis-mark important steps in the effort to expand the $1 billion market for online business information services.

New York-based MAID's new product, NewsBase, weaves together CD-ROM and online capabilities to provide what the company touts as the "ultimate magazine subscription."

Lexis/Nexis, meanwhile, this spring plans to release new software designed to simplify database searches.

"This is an industry that is just barely scratching the surface, and the key to its growth is to make the services easier and less daunting to use," said Alan Wiener, analyst at Dataquest, San Jose, Calif.

NewsBase contains index and citation information for more than 300,000 news articles and press releases from more than 1,500 publications. There is a total of six months of editorial material available.

The user can search the CD-ROM for articles of interest and then download the full text by dialing into a computer network linked to the MAID database.

"We are positioning this as the alternative to multiple magazine subscriptions," said NewsBase Marketing Manager Jan Cromartie. "Our target is the business professional, especially home-based business professionals and those in smaller and midsize companies."

The disc, with packaging and layout designed to look like a magazine, is priced at $24.95; the cost to download is $1.89 per article regardless of its length.

Plans call for updated CDs to be available on a quarterly basis, ultimately moving to a monthly schedule.

"We also are planning new titles for later this year, including a consumer reference guide and a guide covering computers and multimedia communications," Ms. Cromartie said.

Lexis/Nexis' planned new offerings, slated to be released under the AnswerPak name, share the MAID goal of making it easier and less intimidating for customers to tap the vast stores of online information.

"It can be very daunting for the end-user to feel they are connected to a huge warehouse of millions of articles," said Deborah Silcox, director of marketing at Nexis' Business Information Services. "The sheer amount of data products that we can offer can be overwhelming to someone that is not a dedicated researcher and does not want to spend a lot of time picking and choosing among the sources of data to find what they need."

One of the AnswerPak products furthest along in the development process is designed to help account-service executives at ad agencies, said Craig Jolley, Nexis director of marketing product services for the customer relations segment.

Agency executives needing quick research for a pitch, for example, could use the AnswerPak software to quickly retrieve information that might take much longer to obtain by manually searching the Lexis/Nexis databases via computer.

Other AnswerPak services in the works include a product that could be used by marketers who need access to competitive-intelligence information about a specific company; and a fact-checking product aimed at journalists.

Lexis/Nexis hasn't yet set prices for AnswerPak.

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