ZoomInfo Enhances People Search

ZoomInfo, the Boston-based “people search” company has added several new features that help you search more than 27 million personal profiles.

ZoomInfo finds info about people on the open web and uses it to build profiles or dossiers using artificial intelligence. ZoomInfo offers both free ad-supported services as well as fee-based services with additional features.

ZoomInfo now features a larger database, offering more than 27 million profiles of individuals, up from about 25 million previously.

The company is also offering several types of accounts. The free or basic service “allows you to create, edit, and monitor the popularity of your web summary, as well as reach out and contact other people you find in ZoomInfo.” A monthly premium subscription for $49.95 offers full access, “to all of ZoomInfo’s Premium features whenever you need them.” A week of full access is also available for $19.95.

ZoomInfo has also released a new “relationship search engine” that eliminates, or at least decreases, the need to build a network manually and mine it for several degrees of connections to locate and communicate with your target, according to a press release.

People Search

Searching for people in ZoomInfo is easy. Simply enter a name and some additional information about a person (if known) and click search. Here’s my profile. Not bad.

But spend some time with the database and you’ll see that the quality of profiles varies from person to person. To build my profile you’ll see that ZoomInfo used 801 references from the web.

The good news is that I have seen a noticeable improvement in ZoomInfo’s technology in the past couple of years. However, it’s still far from perfect and has a long way to go to achieve standards of quality offered by other biographical service providers.

One issue is what’s called “authority control” and without a well organized and maintained authority file (admittedly easier said than done) you’ll find many entries that might be for the same person. It’s hard to tell, and this can make a thorough search challenging.

Company Search

ZoomInfo now offers a new “company search” option. A search for Google found the folks in Mt. View. To get a list of competitors you’re required to have a paid subscription.

I also found an entry for a company named Google Groups that’s listed as a company in Michigan. Hmmm. The url listed took me to a an ad page that had nothing to do with Google.

Currency is also an issue. Here’s the company page for Ask Jeeves but no mention of the acquisition by IAC and their new stock ticker. The same is true Search Engine Watch. No mention of our old or new ownership, no mention of Danny as the person in charge, etc.

In another example, Topix.net CEO Rich Skrenta is listed but Chris Tolles, vice president of sales and marketing and Bob Truel, a co-founder are not included in the ZoomInfo profile, despite being listed on Topix.net company site. And a surprise: Pam McKenzie, a restaurant owner in Florida is a key member of the company? No, she’s not.

What about Yahoo? It lists Irene Rosenfeld and Charles Koch as chairman and chief executive officers along with Terry Semel (Yahoo’s real CEO) Well, Ms. Rosenfeld is the Chairman and CEO of Frito-Lay and Mr. Koch is the person in charge at Koch Industries.

This illustrates the importance of being careful when using ZoomInfo and other online reference tools. I like the idea of the company profiles but currency and accuracy are essential to make them useful and trustworthy. At this point, they need work.

Problems with an entry? ZoomInfo encourages users to claim their personal profile and edit or correct it. I would be interested to know how many people do this? Also, I’m unable to figure out what can stop a person from claiming another’s profile by simply getting a free email address from one of many services and registering as that person?.

So, what else does a new ZoomInfo results page offer. Again, let’s use my profile.

Below my name, you’ll spot an add to colleagues box. “Adding friends & colleagues to your Web Summary is a great way to build your professional network and help you be found.” If you add me, I’ll get an email allowing me to confirm or deny the request. Yes, it’s ZoomInfo the social networking service. Free.

You’ll also see a “provide feedback” button.If you’re a registered user, you can send a person a note.

On the right side of a profile page you’ll see an option to have updates delivered via RSS. You’ll also see a “Keyword Search” box, but to access this function and run keyword searches you’ll need a paid subscription.

Below that, a list (beta) of people that ZoomInfo says I’m colleagues with. I personally know several of these people like Chris Sherman, Phil Bradley, Peter Scott, Steven Bell, and Herbert Van De Sompel. Overall, not a bad list at all.

These are primarily people that run in the library and search circles. Of course, it can’t list every colleague but this is a good start on what could be a powerful tool in the future. Why someone from the World Wildlife Fund Inc is listed as a colleague of mine is beyond me. The same goes for Thomas J. Michalak, the Executive Director of the Harvard Business School. I’m honored to be listed as one of his colleagues but I’ve never met the man, spoken at Harvard or attended the B-School. But my mom will be happy.

Paid listings on ZoomInfo are powered by Yahoo. ZoomInfo also has distribution deals with other web sites. For example, people search on Business.com is powered by ZoomInfo. Additionally, Zoom has announced content deals with Bnet.com and SimplyHired.com.

Want to know more about ZoomInfo? See the SearchDay article Searching for People with ZoomInfo, which also touches on privacy issues.

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