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Selling subscriptions
Information services (selling just "information")
Short description
Providing information services commercially really means selling just information on
the basis of subscriptions or, less frequently, on a one-off payment scheme. Information is
of course a very broad category, including e.g. more or less condensed data, information
graphics, texts, etc. Here only two examples are given to illustrate how information derived
from or related to cultural heritage resources can be sold.
Examples: offers auction data services (subscription) as well as artist-by-artist auction
indices (single payment) for professionals, but also targets the broader market of "art lovers". subscriptions for a search & retrieval service of information bits in
digitised public records.
Selling information services in a world of information abundance is a very tough business.
Many business options one might have first thought of, like "valorising" newspaper archives,
proved to be unsuccessful in commercial terms, at least not for second-rate players (a first-
rate and successful player is for example Wall Street Journal's
Commercially feasible services require skilfully elaborated,"premium" or "value-added"
information, along with sufficient demand from professionals or others with a personal line
of interest. Other decisive factors might be: having an information monopoly, status as a
trusted source, high specialisation.Yet, also if a provider really has a stock of first class infor-
mation, one lesson learned in the last years is that selling subscriptions in full information
packages is more likely to be feasible than an information bits approach:"people who are
willing to pay high subscription fees for services like Lexis-Nexis simply proved unwilling to
shell out the same amount when they were paying item by item". (Jackson, 2001) A telling
example for this effect is the Encyclopaedia Britannica online venture.
In the cultural heritage sector, many information services are of course offered by
memory institutions, in particular by libraries, but due to their mission, status and role as
basically free public information "hubs" a commercialisation seems to be not appropriate
(except for e.g. document supply or custom research services).Yet, while memory
institutions stick to their mission and develop valuable online solutions for special material
needed in scholarly research and education (e.g. digitisation of journals' backfiles, material
for course readings) commercial players are heading towards controlling the subscription
based use of published works (see chapter VIII.4). "The world leader in art market information" owns and runs one of the world's biggest art price quotation data banks,
spanning paintings, prints, drawings, miniatures, sculptures, posters, photographs, tapestries
(4 million results dating back to 1700) was the first "Dot Corp " listed on
the French Stock Exchange and is majority owned by the Server Group. It is based on hig-
hly-effective, integrated processes of gathering, processing and enrichment of data on practi-
cally all art transactions, sourced from over 2,900 auction houses in more than 40 countries.