One of the worst things of going freelance (aside from paying one’s own benefits) is losing access to a professional research department like the ones I took for granted at Forbes and McKinsey. I’d file a request and a few days later a couple reams of paper were on my desk, sorted in order of relevance, with post-it flags to steer me to the good stuff.
Search engines have always been woefully incomplete for serious fact hunting, but in 2000 Forbes gave me a Factiva account and it was pretty cool, sort of an HTML Lexis/Nexis which I could abuse because the bills went elsewhere.
I did some consulting for a firm that bills its clients for every breath it takes, and so its Factiva searches had to be affiliated with specific clients. No more wandering around the archives, everytime I opened a full-text document I racked up a couple bucks in charges. I started to hate Factiva. I feared it. I thought about sliming someone else’s log-in and doing a number on their account.
Then along comes Patrick Spain (founder of Hoovers) who launches HighBeam Research (where the dear Chris Locke is “Chief Blogging Officer”. I paid my monthly fee and suddenly felt like a fat person at a buffet.
Proving what? At Jerry Michalski’s first meeting of the minds in the 90s, one of the speakers told the story of a conference he attended where everyone was given a roll of pennies in their registration packet. The deal was everytime a person entered or exited the conference hall, they had to drop a penny in a bucket or a security guard would nag them. Most of the attendees just dropped the entire roll in the bucket and told the rent-a-cop to f.o.
Moral of the story: micropayments suck. Hit me once like Highbeam and make me happy. Factiva makes me more nervous than sitting in the back seat of cab stuck in traffic on the B.Q.E. on my way to LaGuardia with only a twenty in my pocket.