Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited
Scarlett PalmerThe Department of Land Management and Development, University of Reading, Reading, UK E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keywords Business Information, Economic Information, Far East, United Kingdom, United States
In a previous issue of this journal I looked at current news and business information on the Home Pages of the major newspapers. The concept behind that type of service is that the information is generally presented in an easily readable form and is a quick way of catching up with the day's events. In this issue I shall look at some of the services that provide a more in-depth coverage of current affairs, providing the stories behind the headlines and research level business information. All the services I review provide worldwide information (to some degree) but the perspective varies.
The Economist Online
The Economist magazine which styles itself "the international weekly journal of news, ideas, opinion and analysis" and claims to be "the leading source of analysis of international business and world affairs" is now available over the Internet at www.economist.co.uk.
The web edition of The Economist is available on the Thursday of each week, usually by 10 p.m. London time, and contains the full editorial text of the print edition of The Economist. The web version has all the maps, charts, tables and diagrams (and some of the photographs and artwork) that appear in the print version, plus some web-only colour artwork. There is also a web-only Focus section, which allows subscribers to read a selection of articles from the current and past issues grouped by subject.
Users who have a subscription to the hard copy version of the journal can access all the features of the web version at no additional cost. These include the full text of The Economist each week and a searchable archive of back issues since 1995. The subscription also includes free unlimited archive retrievals ($1 per article for non-subscribers). Users may store or print articles for personal use. For users who do not have, or want, a print subscription, an annual subscription to the web edition alone costs $48 (or equivalent) and allows the same access as other subscriptions.
Non-subscribers must register (at no charge) to use the service and then have access to a selection of articles from The Economist, including its cover story and related articles and about a dozen further articles in each edition. Registration also allows access to the archive of back issues, including the ability to retrieve five articles for free (worth $5). Perhaps most useful is the facility allowing registered users to receive "Politics This Week" and "Business This Week" by e-mail. These e-mail newsletters summarise the world's main political and business events (respectively) that have occurred over the last seven days. Each story is summarised into a single paragraph containing the key facts and figures; a quick way of getting up to speed on world events.
The site claims that further features will be added later this year. Promised additions include electronic versions of The Economist Pocket World in Figures and The Economist Style Guide. There will also be a new collection of popular articles from past issues; all of The Economist's surveys since March 1997 (with illustrations) and a new "browsable" design which allows users to see the first paragraph of each article in The Economist.
The Press Association
The Press Association, the UK's national news agency, has a well laid out and easily navigated site that can be found at www.pa.press.net. The "PA News Centre ... Direct from the Press Association at the heart of the UK's news media" offers free access to a full range of UK based current affairs reports. The "front page" gives up-to-the-minute coverage of the top stories in news and sport and there are links to themed sections that include, inter alia "News", "Business" and "Parliament". Each of these sections contains the headline stories, summarised in a paragraph, with a link to a more detailed version of the story. In addition each section has an "in depth" column with links to a number of current issues covered in greater detail.
The site also offers a useful "StoryFinder" service that allows the user to "search for the latest stories from the UK's top news sites, plus topical information from official sources". Searches can be carried out by moving to the "StoryFinder" page and entering your own search terms or, even more simply, users can simply hit the "StoryFinder" button whenever it appears to access more stories relevant to the page they are on.
The PA News Centre also has additional multi-media features. On the Business page there is the facility to run a "pop-up window" which enables you to track the latest share information. The window remains "live" even after exiting the site so you can keep it running in the corner of your screen for constantly up-dated information. As an aside, a similar facility is offered from the Sports page. For those of you who follow cricket there is a pop-up window available that shows "live ball-by-ball scores direct from the scorers' laptops".
The Parliamentary page offers "PA inside Parliament" which is live video coverage of the House of Commons when in session. A review of 1998 includes video highlights of the year from both houses and, in addition, there is an archive of videos of important speeches including, for example, the Queen's Speech and the Law Lords ruling on General Pinochet.
Far Eastern Economic Review
For those needing to keep abreast of the ongoing turmoil in the Far Eastern markets the online version of the Far Eastern Economic Review provides a useful resource. The web site, www.feer.com, offers access to the main stories in each week's issue. The top stories are summarised in a few lines with a link to the full story. In addition there is a frame with links to archive material on, for instance, "Politics & Policy" and "Business News". Clicking on any one of these topic sections results in an index of countries mainly in the Far East (but including the United States and The European Union) and subjects, depending on the section, such as "economies", "retailing" and "foreign relations".
Users can also access the "search" facility which allows searching by date and industry or country. Entering the search term "property" under the industry section resulted in 16 articles from June 1996 onwards. These included articles with sub-titles such as "Gloom hangs over once-bubbly property markets in Asia. Developers are worrying about how to sell empty space, while lenders fear defaults" and "Precious Albion -- Hong Kong rediscovers British real estate", useful reading for anyone wanting to familiarise themselves with the area. As with The Economist Online; users can register (at no charge) and receive via e-mail a free regular Newsletter produced by the Far Eastern Economic Review
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal Interactive edition (www.wsj.com) looks very promising when the front page first appears on your screen but in reality there is limited information available to non-subscribers. Having said that a number of in-depth "Special Reports" are available and if any of these should cover the area you are researching they make informed reading. For people who need frequent access to US business and finance information the subscription rate to The Wall Street Journal Interactive edition is $59 a year and includes continually updated news from around the world, in-depth information on companies and personalised news and portfolios. If you already subscribe to the print edition you need to pay only an additional $29 per year for full web access.
The New York Times
In contrast to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times is freely available on-line at www.nytimes.com. Users should complete the registration form that gives access to the daily contents of The New York Times, news updates every ten minutes, access to weekly features, and original reporting. Users can also search the 365-day archive.
The New York Times also offers a section on "Issues in Depth" which includes Outlook '99, "an annual survey of the economy, markets and industry". This offers a series of articles under the headings "Economy and Industry", "Technology and Media", "Markets and Investing" and "International". Each individual article also offers a series of links to related articles. These are well-written and provide a useful insight to the year ahead as seen from a US perspective.
The New York Times site also hosts the "Business Research Center"; a facility which enables users to search the archive for any given search term. The service, run by Northern Lights, retrieves full text articles from past issues of The New York Times together with the option to search over 5,000 publications and the entire web! Results of searches are automatically arranged into folders to make the large number of hits more manageable. For example, a simple search on "commercial real estate + UK" resulted in 6,125 which were arranged in folders such as "banking and finance" and "investing". The majority of the articles are freely available but some of those in the "special collections" folder must be paid for. Users can always read a free summary of the article to determine if it is useful. If the full text is required, you can initiate a secured online credit card transaction. The document is instantly available on the screen after the purchase. Prices range from $1.00 to $4.00 per article. You pay only for what you actually retrieve.
A review of these few sites reveals that whilst the vast majority of information on the web is still available at no cost there is a growing tendency to charge, particularly for more detailed information. This trend, not surprisingly, is most noticeable in US based sites but I suspect that, sadly, charging for value-added information will gradually become the norm rather than the exception.
Sites reviewed in this article
The Economist Online: www.economist.co.uk
Far Eastern Economic Review: www.feer.com
The New York Times: www.nytimes.com
PA News Centre: www.pa.press.net
The Wall Street Journal: www.wsj.com