New article on West Publishing

From the November 2009 issue of Twin Cities Business:  “Thomson Reuters’ Brain,” by Dave Beal

The Eagan business that was once West Publishing now supplies its parent company with the intellectual firepower to outmaneuver Bloomberg and LexisNexis in the financial and legal content wars.

Lede:

There may be no more concise way to sum up the changed nature or ambitions of the former West Publishing Company than what Roger Martin says:  “We are sort of the next generation of Google — without the garbage — for professionals.”

The article discusses how successful the legal division is for the company:

Legal . . . is just one of seven primary business units . . . , but it’s a big contributor to the bottom line.  In 2008, it accounted for 27 percent of Thomson Reuter’s $ 13.4 billion in revenue and 39 percent of its operating income. . . .   In the first quarter of 2009, the legal unit had an operating margin of 32.1 percent versus 20.7 percent for the entire company. . . .

The article goes on to discuss the work of the company’s many “information technologists” and quotes chief scientist Peter Jackson on “the right balance of natural and artificial intelligence is a product-development key.”

One such product is ResultsPlus, which I have found extremely useful at time.  Acccording to the article,

ResultsPlus is built on machine learning and natural language processing, . . . but also central to its effectiveness is that it uses the primary search results — those guided by the user — to shape the secondary search. (The “metadata” fed into the secondary search also include “West key numbers,” . . . ).

Other sections of the article include:

Thomson Sells Reuters and Vice Versa

An Edge on LEXISNEXIS?

Westlaw’s war with LexisNexis has shifted back and forth for a generation, since a version of LexisNexis launched in 1973, two years ahead of Westlaw.  Lately, the clash is tilting in Westlaw’s favor.

Battling BLOOMBERG: Terminals, News, and Datafeeds

The article concludes:

Given potential growth in emerging markets and more opportunities being generated by Jackson’s R&D group, [Peter] Warwick [CEO of Thomson Reuters Legal] puts the annual revenue potential of the legal division alone at $ 14.3 billion — four times Thomson’s Reuters Legal’s revenues in 2008.

But growth will depend on how adept the company is at continuing to add value to its massive collections of data.  Google searches, after all, are free; Thomson Reuters is a Google for professionals who are willing to ante up for it.  As the company . . . has discovered, information itself is merely a commodity in the information age.  Information as a service — infinitely searchable, sortable, and customizable — is what’s in demand.