Metal detector

When we started market research/customer interviews for our Alacra Pulse product, there was no shortage of complaints about dealing with web-based information.  News is increasingly breaking on the web and the “real-time web” is gaining in importance.  Many traditional sources lag behind.  The common theme was that filtering was the most critical benefit that would get a user to try and ultimately engage with a new service.  In their own words, many of the people we spoke to agreed with what Clay Shirky has espoused so succinctly: “It’s not information overload, its filter failure.”

So our line of questioning immediately jumped to what should we be filtering out and what should we be keeping in.  Vetting the sources came up all the time, and that was the subject of an earlier post on Curation.  Essentially people were saying, “Keep almost everything out, and shoot for a high signal to noise ratio.”  And then they added, “But don’t miss anything.”

As for what to keep in, we were told that any news story or event that would spur a consultant or a banker to call a client is a story to deliver.  Idea generation always gets a rainmaker’s attention.  We also heard that changes in opinion by sell-side analysts were important, and that our customers were handcuffed because their access to investment research was embargoed.  And we heard a lot of, “Make me as smart as you can with as little reading as possible, but I never want to be blindsided.”  So there was a Current Awareness component to potential users’ needs.  With these helpful gems we went off and started looking, programmatically, for things that mattered, and came up with the Pulse suite.

•    To overcome the sell-side research embargo we developed Street Pulse, which aggregates analyst comments from web-based media.  We went beyond sell-side analysts by adding rating agency analysts, industry analysts and a handful of reputable bloggers who were analysts in a former life or are considered experts in their respective fields.
•    There are a number of excellent services providing M&A news and analysis, but we found they often miss things from the far corners of the web.  So we created Deal Pulse which, in addition to covering announced deals, highlights deal rumors and deal ideas from unlikely, but reputable, web based sources.
•    Weak Pulse was created in response to requests by restructuring bankers.  Initially they asked us to find any mention of the phrase “seeking strategic alternatives,” which is their call to action.  We expanded Weak Pulse to include bankruptcies, downgrades, layoffs, reorganizations and other events that indicate a company is in distress.
•    The clients of customer-facing executives at investment banks, consulting firms and law firms are often corporate CEOs and CFOs.  Anything a CEO or CFO says to the press or at a conference may be important, both from a current awareness perspective or an idea generation perspective.  So we created Chief Pulse, which combs the online press for comments or quotes made by over 100,000 corporate executives.

New information services need to add-value and be differentiated from the numerous services that already exist. By looking for things that matter, like the man on the beach with a metal detector, the Alacra Pulse suite is meeting the needs of an increasing number of firms.