Hoover's Redesign Highlights Search, Ease of Use

Business intelligence Web site Hoover's Online is in the midst of a relaunch aimed mainly at gaining and retaining subscribers, a development that mirrors the reversal of its former advertising-based business model.

The redesign highlights the site's search capabilities, aiming to hook marketing and sales executives on the currency and depth of its information on 18,500 companies, along with the various ways the information can be searched.

“We have three angles: the company information, the industries to which they belong, and the people,” said Russell Secker, executive vice president of marketing, Hoover's, Austin, TX. “What we have that's unique is the depth of content on all of those three dimensions. … So when you are about to go into a meeting with a prospect, let's say, you can go into a meeting after five or 10 minutes reading Hoover's content on that company and really be very well informed, and be up-to-date informed. You won't find executive names of people who have died, or revenue numbers from three years ago.”

For example, Hoover's is touting its “find similar companies” function where subscribers can create a list of companies like the one they've looked up using criteria such as geography, sales figures, number of employees and assets.

“For a sales person who has found a sweet spot, it's very useful to find other companies like his best customer,” Secker said.

Other target audiences for Hoover's include recruiters, students and job seekers.

Like so many Web sites designed in 1999, Hoover's current one was built to support page views and advertising. The site's revenue breakdown then was 70 percent ads and 30 percent subscriptions, according to company literature.

By contrast, subscription revenue accounted for 80 percent, or $24.3 million, of Hoover's $30.25 million in net revenue for the year ended March 3.

The company claims its Web site draws 4 million unique visitors per quarter, and that it has 9,000 enterprise accounts and 15,000 individual accounts.

The company employs 80 editors who track 400 companies each. Hoover's determines which companies to track by their popularity, which includes the obvious big public companies but also companies that are simply of interest to a lot of subscribers.

“Hoover's says, 'We cover the companies that matter,'” Secker said. “We spend a lot of time looking at who people look up on our Web site. For example, around 9/11 a lot of people started looking up the [Saudi] Binladen Group, so we wrote a record for the Binladen Group.”

The most noticeable change on the new site is its focus on the types of searches available. The redesign cost about $1 million from research to deployment, Secker said.

To ease the transition, the old site at www.hoovers.com has a top-of-the-page link to the new one at http://beta.hoovers.com. The old site is to come down permanently in the next week or so.

Hoover's was founded in 1990 as The Reference Press by Gary Hoover and was renamed Hoover's in 1996. It was acquired by business information giant D&B in March.

Whereas Hoover's maintains a database of 18,500 companies, D&B's database contains statistics on nearly 80 million companies in more than 200 countries. Hoover's executives hope that as a subsidiary of D&B, the company will get more business from Fortune 500 companies.

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