February 15, 2007

How LexisNexis Added Blog Search to Content Lineup

SUMMARY: For every online content site that has added a blog to its lineup, just as many are still questioning how blogs fit with their traditional media products.

That was the big question LexisNexis faced in 2006, as more customers requested that bloggers’ entries be incorporated into the 30-year-old company’s legal information and news databases.

Here are six real-life lessons they learned in the process that other media company and subscription sites should consider when adding blogs.

Incorporating blogs was a tricky and potentially expensive proposition for LexisNexis, says Jonathan Hoy, Strategic Alliance Manager. First, he would have to strike licensing deals with blog publishers and then his technical team would have to write a conversion program that translated and indexed each publisher’s data feed.

But given rising consumer interest in blogs and the need to stay ahead of competitors, Hoy knew they had to find a solution. “We asked ourselves, ‘What’s the cost of not doing this?’ ”

They solved the problem through a partnership with a company that operates an aggregated, indexed blog feed service (see hotlink below). With a single feed now populating LexisNexis’ database, subscribers can search traditional news sites and more than 350 blogs. And subscribers are searching: since adding blogs seven months ago, usage of blog content has increased an average of 17% each month.

If you're thinking of adding blog content, here are six lessons Hoy learned along the way:

Lesson #1. Make sure the blogs are top quality and relevant

Whether a blog enhances your site’s content or detracts from it depends on the blog’s quality and relevancy. For LexisNexis, the question was which ones belonged alongside well-known, authoratative news sources in its database? Rather than poring through thousands of blogs, LexisNexis worked with the aggregator’s prescreened group. “We knew they were not going to pick ILoveMyCat.com,” Hoy says.

Ensuring that those blogs were relevant in LexisNexis’ search environment meant good tagging and indexing of blog text:

o First, the aggregator tags all entries by topic, company name, ticker symbol, names of key executives or government officials and bundles them into a single feed.

o Hoy’s team then categorizes the text in that feed according to their own search indexing schema, which organizes entries by related topics and other contextual measures that determine relevancy of search results.

For a non-search-driven site, think about how to make blog content relevant to readers beyond the basic subject matter. This could mean incorporating hotlinks to other articles and product offerings or filling in gaps in existing publishing schedules. The key is to have the content add value.

Lesson #2. Include an option to ignore blogs

Despite the hype surrounding blogs, not everyone wants to read them, and there’s always a risk that adding them could alienate some customers. Hoy and his team were particularly concerned with how their traditional subscribers might react to seeing blog posts next to a New York Times article in their search results.

The simple solution: Make the content optional. LexisNexis allows subscribers to eliminate blog entries from their results by selecting which sources they choose to search. This way, someone interested in only traditional media sources doesn’t have to waste time scrolling through a mix of articles and blog entries.

Lesson #3. Label blogs clearly

Even if you have made it possible for the anti-blog crowd to skip blogs, make sure readers can’t mistake a blog entry for a reported news article or another type of content. LexisNexis’ program clearly identifies the type of source in the search results -- blog, newspaper, magazine, etc. They also allow subscribers to see those results grouped by category.

Lesson #4. Choose a marketing strategy

How you tell readers about new blog content will depend on your goal for adding blogs in the first place. LexisNexis saw them as an enhancement of their search database.

They issued a press release announcing the blog search addition. Then, Hoy and the marketing team focused on training their sales reps to pitch existing customers and prospects on the value of the new content:

- A unique database that combines blogs with traditional media
- A record of blog posts in case bloggers delete their archives
- The ability to track sentiment in the blogosphere about a corporate name, political or legal issue, etc. (more on this later)

Although Hoy doesn’t have data to back up new accounts landed because of the blogs, anecdotal response from customers has been very favorable. Which leads to our next lesson ...

Lesson #5. React to customer feedback

Once customers have a chance to see blogs in the context of your other content, they’ll likely offer thoughts on how to make the product better. LexisNexis customers, especially law firms, have been eager to suggest additional blogs to include in the database.

Hoy has yet to hear the opposite -- to dump a certain blog -- probably because customers can choose whether to search blogs and which results to read. But even a complaint might not get a blog kicked out. “What may be useless to one attorney may be pure gold to another.”

Lesson #6. Consider how blogs fit with other initiatives

Although Hoy’s team initially added blogs to their Lexis and Nexis search databases, they don’t see them as simply another research tool. Blogs play a large role in the company’s push into the reputation management space.

In 2005, the company launched MarketImpact to help customers track how company or product names are perceived in the marketplace and analyze news for industry trends.

In December 2006, they added to this business line with the acquisition of Datops, a European firm that provides similar reputation management tools. Now they are integrating blog posts into these services, to help subscribers see what the blogosphere is saying about their brands.

Legal customers, in particular, have embraced the blog-searching function as a reputation management tool, with one customer using the service to keep track of bloggers’ comments related to an employee’s dismissal. Meanwhile, government agencies search blogs to keep track of public sentiment about key policy issues.

“I’m constantly amazed at the anecdotes we get back from customers about the way they’re using blogs,” Hoy says. “Don’t limit your thinking to within your existing business model and existing customer base.”

Useful links related to this article

Newstex LLC - which provides the aggregated blog feed:


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