Businesses vie for online presence

While industry watchers argue that nobody but pornographers and online casino owners are actually making money on the Internet, businesses are still scrambling to hang a shingle in cyberspace.

While industry watchers argue that nobody but pornographers and online casino owners are actually making money on the Internet, businesses are still scrambling to hang a shingle in cyberspace.

Everybody from the British Child Support Agency to the Times Literary Supplement seem to be digitising their offerings, as evidenced at the Online 96 conference here this week.

According to a report released here yesterday by Learned Information, the market for online business information is valued at around £450 million a year in Europe. The market is led by Knight Ridder, FT Profile and Reuters which hold around 45% of the total European market, between them.

The Child Support Agency has developed an online guide to procedures to simplify the form filling process for parents seeking the agency's assistance.

The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) launched its TLS CD-ROM providing reviews, letters and comment in digital format for £295 pounds a year.

Many companies are offering services that make sense of information currently on the Internet using specialised search engines. For example Aries Systems, a North Andover, Massachusetts-based company has introduced its Knowledge Web, a medical literature Internet search service on the Internet.

Manning & Napier Information Services (MNIS) a Rochester, New York-based business and legal consultancy has launched a specialised search and retrieval engine designed to enable the intellectual property law and research and development communities to assess the legal status of new technology over the Internet.

Questel Orbit, a subsidiary of France Telecom, has launched a similar service. The company's Imagination software provides a search and retrieval facility that will give users access to the company's text and image databases of patent, trademark, chemical, sci-tech and business information over the Internet.

Derwent Information has also announced it is collaborating with Microsoft to develop an international patent database focusing on making international patent information easy to access over the Internet.

TeneFore Systems has launched a real-time financial data service providing subscribers with details of share prices and alerts directly to their mobile telephones. The service costs £49 pounds a year and 80p a message.

Also at the show Financial Times Information announced it has signed a global strategic licensing agreement with Verity to co-develop a new generation of online and CD-ROM-based information products based on the FT Profile wire service. The new products will be based on Verity's new search and retrieval technology called Search 97.

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