Patrick Spain comments

Patrick Spain, the founder of Highbeam, emailed:

Probably the last thing you wanted was another HighBeam person weighing in, but I thought I would anyway and you can ignore it, if its not helpful to you.

Most of the differences in the business models of Factiva and HighBeam are apparent from looking at the sites. I leave you to say what you like about them. Their individual model is an annual fee and then payment on a per article basis. Ours is monthly or annual subscription that provides unlimited access to our resources. I am the first to admit that Factiva has more and deeper sources than HighBeam, though I would question whether most people need or will pay for “perfect” answers rather than just “excellent” ones.

The real difference is that Factiva, at least on its site for individuals, is still selling content. We aren’t. We think the time for selling content online is past. We are selling access to a research environment that has tools, content, and an easy to use interface. If we do it right, you get an excellent answer quickly and easily. Howard Schultz at Starbucks would call this selling the “experience” rather than just the coffee.

Furthermore, we give a lot of the tools and some of the content on HighBeam away for free and support it with advertising. The user base of the free part of our site is many, many times the size of the paying user base. We make money from both.

Another more fundamental difference is that our only focus is to serve the research needs of individuals in a variety of business environments. Factiva sells primarily at the enterprise level. There is a pronounced, yet underreported, shift toward employees purchasing the goods and services that they consume directly from the vendor, rather than through a central corporate purchasing entity. This trend, made possible by the Internet, is most evident in the purchase of travel services, which has almost entirely devolved to individual employees. But it can also be seen in in the information business and the software business. will sell a single employee a seat at $50 a month.

We think that individuals within companies purchasing exactly what they need, when they need it, is the future. The old model of selling large ticket goods and services to central purchasing entities (many of which are now outsourced or gone altogether) with an expensive direct sales force is increasingly broken. Within this fundamental and irreversible shift lies immense business opportunity.


Patrick Spain
Chairman & CEO
HighBeam Research, Inc.

Testing Highbeam Links

As part of the ongoing discussion between Highbeam and Factiva on the relative strengths of each service, I received some feedback from Highbeam on my earlier recommendation that they integrate into Office 2003’s “research” function so I can search from within Microsoft OneNote.

Highbeam points out that they are integrated, but under an old name, “E-Library”.

I tested a search via Highbeam into the Forbes archives to pull out an old story I wrote in the early 90s about the impact of Internet-based search tools such as WAIS and GOPHER on the professional search market. The search failed, pointing me to an InformationToday article. So I needed to go directly into Highbeam, declare I only wanted to search Forbes, and voila, I hit the piece.

Highbeam gives me an option to link to the article. So, this is a test of that function to see if I can direct readers deep into their archive.

We’ll see if it works.

1. Hmm, it seems to have befuckticated my WordPress style sheet.
2. Removing the link cleared up the problem — a strikethrough of all text on the blog.
3. Let’s see what happens when the link code is restored. Nope it’s messing me up. The link works, but it trashes the CSS template.
4. Okay, time to email Highbeam and ask what’s up.

Here’s the problem


Here’s the code that’s killing me:

Good-bye, Dewey decimals. (Internet and Wide Area Information Servers)

Hmm. Now it works. Ghost in the code of something. The problem probably lies in WordPress then. It’s been flaky recently. Maybe time to upgrade.

Anyway, interested in whether a user other than myself can deep link into Highbeam’s archive and see the fulltext or if they get a come-on. I’ll test from a different, uncookied PC