Hoover's Online

views updated

HOOVER'S ONLINE

Hoover's Online is a business information resource and portal that is operated by Hoover's Inc., a publicly traded company headquartered in Austin, Texas, with fiscal 2001 revenue of $30.8 million and more than 300 employees. A subsidiary, Hoover's Media Technologies, Inc., is a content aggregator and application services developer that was formed when Hoover's acquired Powerize.com, Inc. in August 2000. Hoover's Inc. also licenses its content and publishes books, reports, and CD-ROMs. For fiscal 2001 ending March 31, about 49 percent of Hoover's overall revenue was derived from online subscriptions, 37 percent from advertising and e-commerce, 10 percent from licensing, and 4 percent from print products and CD-ROMs.

Hoover's Online offers a wide range of business information, some of which is available for free and some to paid subscribers only. The site includes proprietary information developed by Hoover's as well as content from third-party providers. Hoover's proprietary database of business information covers more than 17,000 public and private enterprises worldwide and more than 300 industries. Through alliances and partnerships with other information providers, Hoover's Online contains content and links from sources such as Dun & Bradstreet, Harris InfoSource, InfoUSA.com, Market Location, Media General Financial Services, Mergent FIS, and NewsEdge.

The Hoover's Online site is organized into the following channels: Companies and Industries, Money, Career Development, News Center, Business Travel, and Purchasing Center. The site also features an easy-to-use site search where users can search for company names, ticker symbols, personal names, and more. Additional links are provided at the home page for such services as IPO Central, e-mail news alerts, portfolio tool, free newsletters, business links, small business, Hoover's wireless, and Hoover's European sites.

Hoover's core asset is its database of information on public and private companies and industry segments. Much of this information can be accessed for free through a site search or through the Companies and Industries channel. For specific companies and industries, non-subscribers have access to company capsules, which include basic contact information, a descriptive paragraph or two, a list of the top three competitors, the most recent year's sales and net income, a link to stock quotes, number of employees, and profiles of the company's top three executives. Subscribers have additional access to a more detailed company profile and history, in-depth financial information, a more comprehensive list of competitors, and information on the competitive landscape, as well as access to advanced search features. As of 2001, Hoover's offered individual subscriptions for $29.95 per month or $199.95 per year and annual enterprise subscriptions ranging from $1,750 for five seats to $45,000 for 1,000 seats. Larger enterprise subscriptions were negotiated on an individual basis, based on the number of seats. Hoover's Online had about 285,000 paying subscribers as of March 31, 2001.

Hoover's other channels organize links and information targeted at the other interests of individuals and companies looking for business-related information. The Money channel includes investment-related links to mutual funds, emerging markets, foreign markets, bonds, IPO news, insider trading, stock buy-backs, and earnings and forecasts. Available links and content at the Career Development channel include a job bank, a salary wizard, and information on trade shows. The Business Travel channel organizes links to facilitate flight bookings, car rentals, and hotel reservations. Informational links are furnished for more than 100 city guides; a flight tracker; travel tools such as maps, a currency converter, and even information on traffic delays; and weather information. Hoover's Purchasing Center channel is where users can buy industry and topical reports written by Hoover's and other sources, including Dun & Bradstreet, Factiva, ICON Group, eMarketer, and others. Hoover's also offers four free e-mail newsletters: IPO Update, a weekly roundup of IPO activity; Hoover's Online: Week at a Glance, which includes news summaries, a brief description of a new company, and tips for finding business information; Hoover's Industry News Digests, twice-weekly news summaries available for the advertising, healthcare, Internet, and telecommunications industries; and Hoover's Online Europe Weekly.

HOOVER'S GOES ONLINE

The company that became Hoover's Inc. was established in 1990 as the Reference Press by entrepreneur Gary Hoover and former University of Chicago classmates Alta Campbell and Patrick Spain. The company's flagship publication was a reference directory called Hoover's Handbook. First published in 1991, the book contained profiles of more than 500 major corporations. It was aimed at general readers as well as professionals and was available in bookstores. When Gary Hoover left the company in 1992 to start a chain of travel superstores, Patrick Spain became CEO.

From the start the company was interested in exploring the electronic delivery of its informational database. Through a partnership with Sony, information from the Hoover's Handbook was made available in electronic form. In 1993 the company began licensing information from its database to America Online. In 1994 Time Warner, through its subsidiary Warner Books, took a significant minority position in the Reference Press and assumed responsibility for bookstore distribution of its titles. In 1995 the Reference Press launched Hoover's Online, a Web-based business reference service. By the end of 1996 the company had more than 20 online services and was on Inc. magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies. In August 1996 the Reference Press changed its name to Hoover's Inc., in recognition of the strong brand it had created. In November 1996 the company published Cyberstocks: An Investor's Guide to Internet Companies and launched a companion Web site that contained the full text of the book at no charge, along with other financial information and interactive services, including daily updates of the 100 stocks profiled in the book.

CONSTRUCTING AN ONLINE BUSINESS INFORMATION PORTAL, 1996-2001

Over the next several years Hoover's would evolve from a traditional reference book publisher to a provider of business information and electronic commerce across different media. By 1997 Hoover's database contained information on more than 10,000 public and private companies. During 1997 the company gained two equity investors, Internet search engine InfoSeek and Media General, Inc., a provider of news, information, and entertainment services. Both companies gained seats on Hoover's board of directors.

In 1998 Hoover's Online redesigned its site to create a portal that provided visitors with a variety of free, subscription, and personalized online services and databases. The focus of Hoover's portal was information about companies. By March 1998 the company's subscriber base reached 15,000, more than doubling over a six-month period. During 1998 the company partnered with Amazon.com to launch the Store at Hoover's, where visitors to Hoover's Online could purchase books, magazines, and CDs.

Hoover's Inc. went public on July 21, 1999, with an initial public offering that netted $42 million for the company. For its fiscal year ending March 31, 1999, Hoover's reported revenue of $9.2 million and a net loss of $2.2 million. During the coming year Hoover's losses would mount as the company spent more on sales and marketing and product development. During the year Hoover's formed new strategic partnerships and alliances and expanded existing ones. It signed an agreement with AltaVista Search Service to include its company capsules and profiles on AltaVista's investment area. An agreement with Reuters news service gave Hoover's access to additional information for new company profiles, while Reuters users could access Hoover's company capsules and industry snapshots. Hoover's also agreed to license some of its company information to CNBC.com and began co-producing exclusive editorial content for use at CNBC.com and on-air at CNBC. CNBC parent NBC purchased a minority interest in Hoover's, as did Knowledge Net Holdings and Nextera Enterprises. Hoover's also gained access to additional content through agreements with Media General Financial Services, Dow Jones & Co., and News Alert, Inc.

In September 1999 Hoover's launched a $10 million advertising campaign that included print ads in national business publications as well as the New York Times and USA Today. The campaign, which featured the tagline "Know Thy Stuff," also appeared in 15-second television spots on CBS, CNN, CNBC, ESPN, and MSNBC. At the time the campaign was launched, Hoover's was generating about 20 million page views per month and boasted more than 100,000 paying subscribers. The campaign was intended to introduce the newly designed Hoover's Online: The Business Networkdeveloped through partnerships with Monster.com, Internet Travel Network, and Knowledge Universewhich offered a wider range of business-oriented services, including career information and business travel services. The site also featured a News and Analysis section, where users could find news items about specific companies and industries.

During 2000 Hoover's continued to enter into strategic alliances to gain additional content and wider distribution of its information. Through an agreement with Vault.com, Hoover's users could access Vault.com 's Employer Reports, which provided inside information about companies that was useful to job seekers. An agreement with Gomez Advisors gave Hoover's users access to rankings of Internet brokers and a link to Gomez.com. Other new content added to Hoover's during the year included Salary Wizard, made available for free from Salary.com, and interactive financial "tombstone" advertisements that announced the sale of new securities. During the year Hoover's invested in Intellifact.com and agreed to provide data to Intellifact's vertical Web sites. Hoover's also acquired Powerize.com for $17.1 million. Powerize.com was a content aggregator, and its Web site carried a wide range of business research and analysis.

Hoover's maintained an established presence in the United Kingdom through its London-based subsidiary, Hoover's Online Europe. At the beginning of 2001 Hoover's expanded its European presence by opening localized Web sites in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. However, 2001 was a difficult year financially for Hoover's. It posted losses of $21.6 million in the quarter ending March 31 and of $2.8 million in the following quarter. In September 2001 the company announced it would close its London office and pursue international sales through its Austin, Texas, and New York offices as well as through sales agencies overseas. The company also said it would reduce its workforce by about 20 percent. During the year Jeffery Tarr, formerly CEO of now-defunct All.com, became Hoover's president and CEO, while Patrick Spain moved to his new position as executive chairman of the board for a time before he resigned to serve as chairman in a non-executive capacity effective. In a company news release, Tarr said that by sharpening its focus, streamlining its product offering, reducing its cost structure, and shifting the responsibilities of several key management positions, Hoover's expected to return to net income profitability by the quarter ending March 31, 2002.

FURTHER READING:

"Austin, Texas, Online Business Information Company to Take New CEO." Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, May 4, 2001.

Dzinkowski, Ramona. "Creating New Revenue Streams at Hoover's Online." Strategic Finance, January 2001.

"Hoover's Expands Presence with New Sites in Europe." Austin Business Journal, October 20, 2000.

"Hoover's Focuses on Subscriptions." PR Newswire, September 25, 2001. Available from biz.yahoo.com/prnews

Hoover's Online. "Home Page." Austin, TX: Hoover's Inc., October 11, 2001. Available from www.hoovers.com .

Martin, Nicole. "Capitalizing on Content." EContent, May 2001.

Milliot, Jim. "Hoover's Has New Investor, Will Boost Online." Publishers Weekly, September 22, 1997.

Rivkin, Jacqueline. "Reaching the Business Book Buyer Via the Mass Market." Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1991.

Tudor, Jan Davis. "Hoover's Online: Data Worth Paying For." EContent, December 1999.

Vonder Haar, Steven. "Web Portals Give Users the Business." [email protected] Week, September 13, 1999.

SEE ALSO: Business-to-Business (B2B) E-commerce; Content Provider