Picks, Pans and Passes


Another week full of activity, so here's a report card on some of the more interesting developments, graded as either a "pick" (thumbs up), "pan" (thumbs down) or "pass" (it is what it is):

Reed Business Information has announced the acquisition of 2006 Model of Excellence award winner BuyerZone, which has an underlying business model that neatly side-steps a lot of the issues that have dogged other e-marketplace initiatives. BuyerZone is a great business, and more importantly for Reed, a real platform to leverage its central market position in many industries to quickly build out powerful transactional offerings. This deal's a pick.

The Commonwealth Business Media unit of United Business Media has announced the acquisition of Official Airline Guide (OAG). A long-time high-flier in the information business, OAG thought the Internet was just a little turbulence, and tried to ride it out rather than changing course, a bad strategy for a subscription-based provider of print airline schedules. What Commonwealth sees in OAG is the raw data for high-value business intelligence, and it's providing that analytics overlay by putting OAG into its BACK Aviation consulting group. This deal's a pick.

Another 2006 Model of Excellence award winner, Zillow, is continuing to roil the real estate industry. First, it launched a free national database of home valuation data to great fanfare. Now it seems to be lifting a chapter from Craig's List, and is offering to let homeowners and real estate agents post real estate listings for free. Further confirming how publicity savvy it is, homeowners can either post a traditional sale listing, or a listing of their home with a "make me move" price. This is all very fun and frothy, but it's going to take a lot more than great PR to win the huge prize that is the real estate listings business. Jury's out on this one, which is why we rate it a pass.

Microsoft has launched a beta of Live Search Books this week, its answer to Google Book Search. Initially, searches will be separate from the main Windows Live search engine, but Microsoft wants to move quickly to integrate book content so a single search on Windows Live will return both book and Web content together. And yes, Microsoft plans to scan the full text of books, but with a twist: Microsoft plans to ask publishers for their permission first. This kinder, gentler Microsoft sits well with us, and suggests its "House of Hubris" label should be assigned to some different company. Any company spring to mind? Respect for copyright makes this new service a pick.

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