Directories: Keeping up to data

Electronic media have transformed business directories, writes Rachel Miller.

Electronic media have transformed business directories, writes

Rachel Miller.

The market for business information is growing and the shift towards

electronic sources continues. According to market information specialist

Key Note, the business information market will grow by 44.5% by 2000 and

the electronic information sector will expand by 50.2%.

The choice of new media for directory publishers includes off-line

methods, such as CD-ROM, and online, such as the Internet. And, while

online systems account for most information sales, the use of CDs is

growing faster.

The government is promoting new media to businesses with its Information

Society Initiative Programme for Business. As part of that, the

Department of Trade and Industry’s new directory of UK companies, UK

Trade, will go live on the Internet in March. Developed by ICL, the

service will put UK exporters in touch with customers all over the


One of the key advantages of directories on CD-ROM is their search


The time-consuming process of making a short list of companies can now

be done simply by initiating a search on the CD-ROM directory based on

certain criteria.

Anyone who has ever had to organise a conference will know that it can

take a long time to find the right venue. That’s all set to change with

the launch of the Conference Blue & Green directory on CD-ROM at the

Confex exhibition in February. Les Kelly, group publishing director of

Miller Freeman Information Services, says: ’It allows users to feed in a

set of requirements for a venue - such as a part of the country, number

of delegates, car parking, audio visual equipment, as well as whether it

has a golf course - and the system compiles a short list of venues.’

The TelePower Pro telephone directory from TDS Multimedia is a

nationwide database of business telephone numbers on CD-ROM. As well as

offering telephone number retrieval, search by keyword and storage of

ten frequently used searches, this system will also search phonetically

with its ’sounds-like’ matching mechanism. ’There are 2.6 million

records on the CD-ROM,’ says David Askew, managing director of TDS. ’If

you were looking for Compaq’s address and you had spelt it with a K

instead of a Q, the system would still be able to find it as long as you

gave it the correct area in which to search. You can also search by

specific words, such as pizza. And unlike directory enquiries, there is

no limit to the number of entries you can make.’

A similar product is Thomson’s Business Search, which has more than two

million UK classified business listings on one CD-ROM, replacing 164

printed versions of the Thomson Local. Thomson has also just launched

the directory on the Internet.

Directories on the Internet also offer useful facilities, such as the

themed searches that are a key feature of the Electronic Yellow Pages

service, Yell. Yellow Pages’ strategic development director, Paul Fry,

explains: ’Within Yell there is a Film Finder service which enables you

to find out what’s on at your local cinema. Having done that, the system

then asks whether you want details of local restaurants and taxi

services as well.’

Yell is regularly updated, says Fry. ’At Yellow Pages, we make changes

to 100,000 names and addresses each week and the Internet site is

updated each month. You can’t do that with a CD-ROM.’

Access to up-to-date information is a big attraction. ’We are looking at

the question of currency of information,’ says Susanna Smart, head of

corporate communications at Reed Information Services. ’There is a

perception that on-screen information is more up-to-date than a


Many CD-ROM directories are not updated any more frequently than their

paper equivalents. ’For archival information, you can’t beat CD-ROMs but

for real-time information, you need online,’ says Smart.

So, while information on the Internet can be kept up-to-date, CD-ROMs

come into their own when storing large amounts of information. Reed

publishes its Kompass directories on a CD-ROM called CD-Plus, which

features all five volumes. ’That’s half a bookcase worth of books,’ says


Another benefit of new media is the opportunity for information to be

downloaded. Clare Williams, PR consultant for Key Note, says: ’You can

print from your CD and lift relevant passages out and put them straight

into your marketing plan.’

New technology also helps directory publishers reach an international

customer base. Les Kelly says marketing Miller Freeman’s directories on

the Internet has brought in orders from Australia.

The beauty of the Internet for international users is that information

can be accessed at any time. ’Time differences are irrelevant as the

Internet is open 24- hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year,’ says Susanna Smart

at Reed.

The publisher is launching the Kompass exporting directory on the

Internet this year specifically to encourage businesses overseas.

Reed is part of the global Kompass franchise and it holds information on

more than one million businesses around the world, available on CD-ROMs

for Asia-Pacific, the US and Europe. The market for international

information is growing, says Smart. ’We are in a three-way partnership

to launch the Kompass global Internet site in March,’ she says. ’The

Internet is excellent for accessing real-time information but directory

publishers have had to sort out the problems of security.’ The issue of

security has been a significant hurdle for anyone that wants to trade on

the Internet.

Making money on the Web

Miller Freeman launched the Electronic Buyer’s Guide in 1996 and it will

be on the Internet from October. ’This will be our first use of the

Internet other than for marketing,’ says Les Kelly. ’We will put some

information on which people can access at no charge. If they want more

information they will have to pay for it.’

Alternatively, anyone who buys the CD-ROM version is given a password

that gives them free access to the Internet directory. The Internet

payment system will be developed and managed by Dnet.

There is money to be made from advertisers who want to feature in the

directories. ’The traditional approach with putting directory

information on CD-ROM is to focus on the manipulation of data and often

advertisers get lost in the process,’ says Kelly. ’We have taken a novel

approach with the CD-ROM version of The Knowledge, the television and

film industry directory, which launches in March. We have given

advertisers the opportunity to put their ads on the CD in a way that

resembles the book.

What the CD also offers is the opportunity to use sound and video


It means advertisers can play jingles or show moving pictures.

Similarly, Paul Fry reports that some of the ads on Yell are animated to

encourage users to explore.

Advertisers are very excited by the opportunities, says Susanna


’We recently offered companies the chance to have a page on our Kompass

site for pounds 50, and it was very popular.’

’Advertisers can get more exposure on new media because users spend more

time browsing on-screen,’ says Trevor Fenwick, managing director of

Euromonitor and chairman of the Directory Publishers Association (DPA).

But, says Fenwick, ’I don’t think anything will ever get rid of paper,

but users can have customised information, and with CDs they can use

that information as they like,’ he says. ’The main impact of digital

delivery is that the end user is empowered.’


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