“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Northern Light Business Search Engine…lacking

Posted by direwolff on November 27, 2006

Perhaps I’m giving this search engine more attention than it deserves, but as I was checking out business focused search engines I came upon Northern Light’s offering and was particularly interested by their Business Search Engine offering. Individuals can subscribe for $9.95 per month or $4.95 per use. Corporate licenses exist for $5,000 per year for up to 50 people.

So I decided to check out the quality of its information as they boast a pretty impressive number of sources, in their own words:

Search full-text articles from 1,400 trade journals and 22,000 business websites. A total of over 100 million pages of business research content.

While the access to the trade journals wasn’t possible without being a registered users, “Business Web Research” was accessible. Decided to check out their industry segments and picked “Automotive & Transportation”. This took me to a page with various news items from a number of sources like PRNewsire, BusinessWire, UPI, Reuters, New York Times, Bloomberg, Forbes, BusinessWeek, various other pubs as well as several Asian publications. These all looked to come from published RSS feeds from each of these publishers and indeed were all on topic. With that first success I decided to keep digging and followed the “Companies” link among several related subject links.

The 32 companies listed were indeed all automotive or transportation companies. While most of these were car companies, there was a listing for Lear Corporation which is an automotive interiors company. In researching Lear [NYSE: LEA] a bit further, I found a list of 24 companies that they list as competitors and there are 33 companies that list themselves as producing competitive products to Lear. As I mentioned, out of the 32 companies listed on the Companies page, most were car companies, but only 4 listed made up names from the 24 competitors that Lear has. I’d say not listing the other 20, or in the case of those who produce competitive products, the other 28 companies in this space, is a pretty significant dropped ball.

As I scrolled down the page it showed different news categories for each company, but some companies had nothing listed. This struck me as odd, especially when I found such significant companies as Goodyear with no information listed. I decided to check out Feedster for “Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company”, to see if I’d find any RSS news related to the company. The top 3 results all pointed to versions of the following story:


Union takes case to YouTube
CLEVELAND – The United Steelworkers union is turning to the popular video-sharing site YouTube to question the safety of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. tires being made while union workers in the United States and Canada are on strike….

From Knoxville News Sentinel business articles39 wordsPublished 2 days, 2 hours ago


Now, I’d think that this was a significant enough story to make it into Northern Light’s news section for Goodyear, especially given that it appeared in several newspaper sites’ RSS feeds.

The links available for the other companies were basically stored keyword searches for every mention of the company in the news, in publications, and in the “Business Web”. I checked out the DaimlerChrysler links. First the “DaimlerChrysler in the News“. At the time I looked at the results list consisted of 10 coming from the Asia Pulse, the Australian Business Intelligence, the Knight Ridder/Tribune, and the RWE Business News Information Service newswires. These require a fee to be viewed, but they appear as simple keyword matched results no better than you can get for free from any search engine. Perhaps access to these wires makes it more challenging to get, but in the case of the Knight Ridder/Tribune content, that’s likely to be picked up by search engines on the news sites that use this feed.

Next I clicked on the “DaimlerChrysler in Publications” link. The results here were a smattering of free and fee-based results. Again, nothing impressive about the fee-based sources and certainly nothing here that couldn’t be had off of traditional search engines.

The third basic link was to “DaimlerChrysler on the Business Web“. OK, these results were basically segmented from some trade magazines, university sites, general business sites, and some corporate Web sites, not to mention the DaimlerChrysler site (oh please!…was that last one really necessary?).

Not to bore you too much further, but I did find other sections where one could drill down into sub-folder levels from selecting news, publications or Business Web search results at the industry level, but given that everything seemed to continue to use keyword matching, I found it wanting and in many cases yielding irrelevant results. No wonder the state of the search engine industry is so dismal with so much opportunity for better approaches just begging to be explored. Basically, between RSS feed search engines and services like Google’s new Custom Search Engine (CSE) and Rollyo where one can limit the sites to be searched, it felt like I could put in a little time and basically build myself a CSE that is no worse than what Northern Light would want me to pay $9.95 per month for. Think I’ll pass on their offer as I don’t *get* the innovation here.

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