Alacra, Inc., an established, independent content aggregator, has over the past decade quietly established itself in some of the most lucrative niches of the information business. Yesterday, the company launched a new product, Street Pulse, the first of several planned companion products based on a new “Pulse” platform oriented to mining and organizing selected real-time Web content.
Alacra has a history of competing successfully against much larger business information providers through innovative use of technology, and understanding the needs of information-insatiable professionals in financial services and management consulting. Pulse continues that tradition by capitalizing on the reality that important news about companies now appears on the Web first, with the gap created by the shrinking cadre of sell-side analysts being filled by independent analysts and opinion leaders in the blogosphere. Another critical enabler is ubiquity of RSS, the XML-based circulatory system of the blogosphere and, increasingly the larger Web.
Street Pulse draws upon 2000 or so selected feeds of real-time news, opinion and analysis on publicly-traded companies. It applies Alacra’s semantic analysis technology to automatically organize and cross-link the articles and posts by company, analyst and analyst firm. On one side of the screen are the most recent stories corresponding to a given company, analyst or firm; on the other side, a continuously updated “ticker” of new analyst and blogger commentary. Clicking on a company, analyst or firm link (e.g., the Google links in a commentary or news item about that company) produces the most recent posts by or (in this example) about that entity – which I find makes for very intuitive browsing. It also draws on “social” input such as suggestions of additional analyst sources. Other applications to be launched on the new platform include Deal Pulse (M&A), Weak Pulse (news about distressed companies), Credit Pulse (comments by rating agency and other credit analysts) and Legal Pulse (covering mentions of law firms).
The Pulse platform is using a “freemium” pricing model. That is, it is available as a free service on the Web (with expected revenue from advertising, and e-commerce sales of content from the Alacra Store). For professional users such as the traditional Alacra customers, there is a premium version that will provide mobile and desktop alerting, the ability to create watchlists, tools for sharing results, and integration with subscription content. It will be priced on a per seat basis like Alacra’s other professional products, with a single “slice” (e.g. Street Pulse, or one of the other applications) generating between $60,000 and $90,000 from the largest firms.
I seldom write about the information content services I actually use personally. But not only is Street Pulse innovative and newsworthy, it’s also a tool I easily could see fitting into my regular diet of information. In addition to routinely tracking information industry companies as part of my consulting practice, I’m a moderately active individual investor (that is, I subscribe to the theory that selective stock-picking by non-professionals makes sense in this environment). As such, I use Yahoo Finance as my main dashboard for tracking stocks and seeing articles of general financial interest. And Street Pulse offers what seems to be an excellent complement to Yahoo Finance, CNNMoney.com, AOL Money, CNBC.com, and other financial sites geared to non-professionals.
Pulse continues a trend of mining free information on the Web that began with people-tracking services like Zoominfo, spread to news aggregators like Google News, Digg, the Huffington Post and Newser, and is now moving into more specialized realms. We’ll see a lot more of this type of service; in the meantime, Alacra has grabbed an early-mover position in the valuable realm of market-moving opinion and analysis “for the rest of us.”