News Aggregators: Who Do I Use?

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FirstRain coverage of Lattice Engines includes web volume, business influencers, market drivers, Twitter trends, recent stories, related topics, and subject filtering.

The following is a Quora post I wrote concerning news aggregators…

As an industry analyst that publishes a weekly subscription newsletter on the information industry, I follow companies and industry topics related to my industry.  Coverage spans about fifty companies across North America and Europe with many of the firms having global footprints.  As such, press releases are likely to come from North America and Europe but news coverage needs to be global.

Alerts are basically a distraction so I employ daily push (email alerts) and pull (portals) approaches.  I only want alerts for major events (e.g. PE/VC fundings and M&A activity).

Also, I am not performing due diligence or media analysis, so duplicate filtering and high precision are critical.  I do not want five variants on the same AP story or passing mentions of companies in the twelfth paragraph of an article.  I also am not interested in stock market news as it is ephemeral.

I provided the above as I use information services to meet specific workflow needs.  Your needs may differ.  Here is how I achieve the above objectives (in order of importance):

  • FirstRain – I have used FirstRain for five years.  They have extremely high precision meaning that stories are almost always about the topic in question.  They include a FirstTweets feature which provides ten Tweets about my subject.  Instead of simply looking for Twitter keywords, they follow the Twitter links and analyze the linked content.  Thus, FirstTweets provides me with side door access to blogs, company website posts, and social media.  I am setup to receive daily news for companies and industries and can explore their news archive by company, industry, or business topic.  SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE
  • Owler – Owler combines semantic mining of open web news with social media crawling (Blogs, YouTube, and Vimeo), polling (e.g. CEO and transaction favorability), crowdsourcing (e.g. company size estimates and competitors), and editorial resources.  Editors review story tagging to improve precision and collect funding and M&A information.  I receive daily alerts of news and social media that complements FirstRain well.  I also receive editorially created M&A and funding alerts that provide transaction details and company overviews along with curated story hyperlinks.  FREE SERVICE
  • Feedly – I use Feedly as my RSS portal.  I have it setup for company blogs, industry analysts, trade publications, and a few individual bloggers.  I generally use Feedly as a backup system to make sure I haven’t missed a story or for when my newsletter is short and I’m looking for additional ideas. FREE SERVICE
  • Seeking Alpha – I have a short list of public companies that I cover with earnings news flashes.  Seeking Alpha provides me with alerts on transcripts, filings, and investor analysis (I generally ignore the investor analysis).  The key things for me are the earnings bullets and transcripts. FREE SERVICE
  • Trade Publications – I am setup for weekly feeds of a few trade publications.  FREE SERVICES
  • Factiva – Factiva is a subscription service, but I can access it through my alma mater’s library.  I generally access Factiva only a few times per quarter for archival research (they go back over thirty years) or Wall Street Journal articles (Factiva and the WSJ are both owned by News Corp).  SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE
  • YouTube – I have setup the corporate YouTube sites for many of the companies I follow.  YouTube provides corporate positioning videos, product demos, webinars, conference keynotes, and training tips.  I live in YouTube the week of Dreamforce (SFDC’s annual show) as I am not able to attend the show. FREE SERVICE

I also have licenses to various sales intelligence services but do not use them generally for my newsletter as it could bias my research.  If you have access to a subscription sales intelligence service (e.g. InsideView, Avention, Hoover’s) or news service (e.g. Factiva or LexisNexis), it can also be part of your aggregation mix.

Using Sales Intelligence Services to Prepare for Sales Interviews

Update: Avention was acquired by Dun & Bradstreet and Business Browser was renamed D&B Business Browser.  The blog is no longer available online.


Avention recently published an excellent blog by Jay Webb, President of the J. David Group, concerning preparing for sales interviews.  His firm specializes in placing sales reps at technology companies.  Webb marveled at the frequent lack of preparation by job candidates who fail to understand the company, its industry, and the individuals conducting the interviews.  They often make silly mistakes like saying they are looking to work for a smaller company when they are interviewing for positions at larger organizations.

Webb emphasized the value of preparing technology sales candidates for interviews and noted six areas of focus beginning with the product.  He observed that candidates often fail to sign up for software trials.  Not only are they not researching the products they are looking to sell, but they are failing to show interest to the sales and marketing departments at the company where they are interviewing.  Of course, not all technology companies have software trials, but there are still webinars, white papers, and other tools for researching the product and demonstrating interest to the firm.

Other preparation steps include

  1. Researching both the organizational structure of the company (who reports to whom) and corporate family tree structures (how big is the company? What other industries is it involved in? Does it have additional offices in other cities or countries?);
  2. Reviewing corporate SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
  3. Researching the firm’s competition
  4. Understanding the firm’s industry

“In [staffing] sales we use tools such as Avention (OneSource for those who remember that name) to do account research. Turning that idea on its head, I am able to provide candidates with a report containing the relevant information they need, gain a little more control over the process, and save time so I can work more deals,” blogged Webb

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Avention OneSource Business Browser provides a broad set of company and industry intelligence including family trees, executive profiles,  competitors, financials and filings, company news, SWOTs, analyst reports, earnings call transcripts, and industry research.

“If I can deliver better prepared candidates, I stand a better chance of winning,” wrote Webb.  “Additionally, if my candidate is that prepared, they draw from the higher end of the salary range, which means more commission for me. What’s more, when a candidate is that attractive, hiring managers move very quickly for fear of losing them to their competitors. More sales, higher value, and faster close. That’s pretty easy math.”

In short, every sales rep should view the job interview as if they are a strategic sales rep preparing for their top client.  Why would any sales director hire you if you are unprepared for a critical meeting?

Of course, not every candidate has access to Avention products, but there are company resources available for job preparation through academic and public libraries.  On college campuses, look for OneSource Business Browser, Bureau van Dijk Orbis, Capital IQ Academic, LexisNexis Academic, Factiva, or Mergent products.

At public libraries, you should check out ReferenceUSA, Mergent, or AtoZ Databases for company research.

I would also look at Owler and CrunchBase for free online research.  Both provide company overviews, funding data, and news alerts.  Of course, company websites, LinkedIn, and social media should also be reviewed.

For industry research, check out Plunkett Almanacs, First Research, IBIS World, MarketLine, Freedonia, Euromonitor, Mergent Intellect, or Business Browser’s industry module.

Happy Job Hunting.