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Alacra Adds "Pay Per Book" Pricing
By Paula J. Hane

While some of us might associate the "pay-per-view" phenomenon with consumer entertainment offerings, like sporting events and movies on demand, it has been getting increasing play in the business and professional world too, where companies and individuals are carefully watching expenditures during tough economic times. Information providers continue to tweak and test new and revised pricing models, hoping to find the right combination of offerings and price points to lure customers large and small. Increasingly, we are seeing them add pay-per-view or information-by-the-slice options to their traditional subscription pricing plans.

Alacra (http://www.alacra.com), a provider of high-end business and financial information, recently announced the launch of its new "Pay Per Book" pricing option for its Alacra Book service. Launched in June 2001, Alacra Book is an online service that aggregates company-specific information from multiple sources and lets users "publish" this information in a single, customized PDF document that they can then e-mail, print, or view. The new "Pay Per Book" pricing will allow Alacra customers to pay for individual books without having subscription arrangements with the individual information providers. The price of a book consists of a set packaging fee of $25 per book plus the cost of the content used. The total price can vary considerably depending on the content chosen (some free, some $10 per page, etc.), but an average book is reportedly about $100.

Alacra Book was developed primarily for investment banks, law firms, and consultancies to assist in their daily preparation of Briefing Books and Public Information Books (PIBs). The company claims that instead of taking hours to compile a book, it can take less than 10 minutes using Alacra Book. Users select the company, choose the content from various sources, and submit their e-mail address.

According to Steven Goldstein, Alacra CEO, the move to offer the transactional plan was driven by requests from their law firm customers who wanted to bill back the Alacra Book costs to their clients. Alacra can now provide medium and small investment banks, law firms, and consultancies access to a tool previously only practical for large firms. Goldstein says the new pricing option should be attractive to some of their existing clients and he hopes it will attract a number of new ones, particularly law firms.

Alacra also announced an agreement for Thomson Financial (http://www.thomsonfinancial.com) to provide licensed content to the Alacra Book service. The Thomson databases include Disclosure, Worldscope, Securities Data, Investext, MarkIntel, Thomson Ownership Data, and I/B/E/S. Thomson Financial has been one of the providers for the 80-plus premium databases offered by Alacra (along with EIU, Factiva, Mergerstat, and others), but the agreement had been under negotiation, with some speculation that the deal wouldn't work.

Alacra Book provides coverage of 30,000-plus global public companies. According to Goldstein, the content for Alacra Book is drawn from over 20 of the most important company-specific information sources offered by Alacra. The premium content available includes investment research reports, company financial data, corporate transactions, earnings estimate reports, mergers and acquisitions data, shareholding data, analyst research reports, and news. He said that content from Factiva and LexisNexis were not currently available through the transaction-based pricing.

In June 2001, Data Downlink Corp. changed its corporate name to Alacra, and its previous services, including Portal B and .xls, were rebranded as Alacra. In January, the privately owned company received $4 million in funding from its investors to "support the rollout of several new products, finance Alacra's continued growth, and to maintain the strength of the company's financial position."

Interestingly, early this year Thomson Financial launched its own Web-based Thomson ePIB service to provide customized PIBs in Adobe PDF. According to the announcement, Thomson ePIB covers over 80,000 public companies. The service does not yet offer transactional pricing, but a company representative said the company hopes to have it by the end of this year. Thomson Financial has not yet published pricing information, though there are customers using the service. At this point the service provides information from Thomson sources, and Standard & Poor's is the only third-party source. However, some deals are "in the works."

By the way, getting back to the consumer pay-per-view trend, I was amused to see that even the ancient Colosseum in Rome is moving into the information age (http://www.colosseumweb.com) - and possibly into pay-per-view. According to Italy's Culture Ministry, cameras will be installed in the archaeological site that will allow Web surfers to view special areas, and some interactive features, such as concerts and games, may be available on a pay-per-view basis.

Paula J. Hane is contributing editor of Information Today, editor of NewsBreaks, a former reference librarian, and a longtime online searcher. Her e-mail is phane@infotoday.com.