Northern Light Sold, Partners With Yahoo

Northern Light, which shuttered its public web search service less than a week ago, has been sold to divine, inc., a provider of content management and delivery solutions for enterprise customers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Under its new ownership, Northern Light will continue to make available its Special Collection, an online business library of over 70 million pages of full-text content from more than 7,100 sources. Unlike subscription-based content aggregators such as Dialog and LexisNexis, Northern Light makes documents from its special collection available on an individual basis, almost always for a nominal and affordable fee.

Separately, Yahoo announced a deal today to make Northern Light's Special Collection documents available in a new service called Yahoo Premium Documents Search. "We're going to be the first portal to offer consumers this premium research content," said Scott Gatz, vice president of search and directory for Yahoo. "We're trying to build deeper and more focused relationships with our consumers."

Yahoo will provide multiple access points for the content. A link to Premium Documents search will be integrated onto Yahoo's category bar. In addition, premium documents results will also be integrated into Yahoo News and Yahoo finance result pages. Users can search the 70 million pages of full text in the Premium Content database and read summaries for free.

Yahoo is offering two payment options for the premium content. Individual articles are available from between US $1 and $4. Yahoo is also offering a subscription model, with the ability to access up to 50 documents per month for $4.95. Certain documents, such as analyst reports, will be more costly, but the majority of content will be accessible under the subscription model, according to Yahoo's Gatz.

For searchers who frequently access premium content, this amounts to a screaming bargain compared to the alternatives. At this price point for access to such a vast amount of premium content, Yahoo has a good shot at being one of the first major web properties to actually make a pay-for-content model work. Yahoo could also become a significant threat to other aggregators who charge substantially more for essentially the same content.

Yahoo's integration of Northern Light's premium content could very well mark the tipping point that analysts have long awaited, marking the first major move away from the discredited "everything is free" model supported by web advertising to a "pay for what you get" model that allows web companies to prosper without consumers feeling ripped off.

It's good to see Yahoo offer this new service -- yet another development that illustrates the trend away from the gizmos and gewgaws once hawked by portals, and toward offering significantly improved options and capabilities for searchers.

Northern Light


Yahoo Premium Document Search

AKA Northern Light's Special Collection with Yahoo's branding on it.

Yahoo Premium Document Search Help

More details about the service at Yahoo.

Yahoo Teams Up With Northern Light for Premium Document Search
ResearchBuzz, Jan. 15, 2002

Tara Calishain looks at both changes to the Northern Light site now that the web index has closed and the appearance of Northern Light content at Yahoo.

divine Buys Northern Light, Jan. 22, 2002,1928,2001_958791,00.html

More details on the acquisition.

Divine Announces Acquisition Of Northern Light
Northern Light Press Release, Jan. 22, 2002

More details on the acquisition, from Northern Light.

Bon Voyage, Northern Light
SearchDay, Jan. 9, 2002

More details from Chris Sherman on the reasons behind the close of Northern Light's web index, as well as how the news search feature is remaining open.

Lights out for Northern Light free service
Reuters, Jan. 16, 2002

"We are not the search engine where you go to look for movie listings, products or the latest DVD player," explains a Northern Light executive, as to why it has pulled out of the web search game. Pity the company didn't realize this back in 1999, when it spent millions on television ads trying to capture the general public that it is now spurning as uneconomical. It's also interesting to consider that Northern Light was the very first "paid inclusion" search engine, among the major players. It carried some content because it could make money off of it. Indeed, it is now focusing only on that content.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.