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News Alerts Keep You Informed

This article has been archived and may no longer be updated.


Genie Tyburski, Web Manager, The Virtual Chase


   Originally published in Law Office Computing (June/July 2004) under the title, "Good News and Bad News." Revised to reflect resources and strategies current as of the date appearing at the end of the page.


25 October 2004. The law firm's marketing director welcomes Lawyer X into his office. He explains that at a recent marketing meeting, the managing partner asked if he could set up an information service that would deliver current news about the firm's clients to the lawyers who represent them. Later, while brainstorming with his staff, someone recommended the marketing director talk to Lawyer X.

"Is this something we can do with Lexis? And if it is, can individual lawyers or groups receive news just about the clients or industries that interest them?" the marketing director asks.

Major news aggregators such as LexisNexis, Factiva and Dialog have alerting services that deliver current news regularly by e-mail or other means. Depending on the group's or lawyer's specific interest, a more focused, timely or less expensive option might be available. It's also possible that multiple services should be used to track the news about certain companies or industries.

There is no such thing as a one-stop shop for current news. Copious potential sources exist and no single aggregator provides access to them all. Moreover, in addition to being expensive, the major aggregators are not always the most current news sources. The Web makes it possible for media and newer or niche information providers to deliver news to the desktop as it breaks.


Suppose a corporate lawyer's clients include a dozen major, mostly public, companies. When news about lawsuits, regulatory issues or major corporate events breaks, it appears in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and other national newspapers. If it's big news, it may also appear on television news networks such as CNN, MSNBC or ABC.

Previously, the lawyer kept current by reading The Wall Street Journal and scanning industry newsletters or reporting services. Sometimes she heard news from her clients first.

Now she wants to know about it before the client calls. She sets up an e-mail alerting service with LexisNexis or Westlaw. She begins receiving daily e-mails containing dozens of news stories about her clients, many of which repeat news she has already read in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times (Both services now have features to turn off duplicate news stories.). In fact, many of the stories report on the same event. Many also reproduce the same Associated Press or Reuters story.

In a matter of days, the lawyer succumbs to information overload, cancels the service and returns to doing what she has always done. She can live with hearing the news from the client first.

In this situation, a more focused and timely approach would keep the lawyer informed without inundating her. Since she reads The Wall Street Journal, she should begin by setting up a keyword alerting service on Factiva. The Wall Street Journal Online offers an e-mail alerting service for fixed topics only. Factiva provides same day access to The Wall Street Journal. Because the lawyer already reads the newspaper, she should be able to scan matching headlines quickly for anything she might have missed.

She can opt to expand the sources covered by the alerting service by selecting a broader group of publications. Factiva's Major News and Business Publications, for example, covers BusinessWeek, Forbes, The New York Times and several other major news sources in addition to Dow Jones publications.

To pick up broadcasts by CNN and other major news networks, she could subscribe to a niche service such as ShadowTV, which monitors live and archived televised programs for mention of your keyword, and then delivers the matching segments via e-mail.

As an alternative to these costly tracking services, the lawyer could supplement monitoring The Wall Street Journal with Factiva by subscribing to select low-cost or free alerting services. Many of these alert subscribers to the news more quickly than the traditional aggregators. However, they do not necessarily offer the same search power.

In the case of the corporate lawyer, services such as The New York Times Tracker (low-cost), CBS MarketWatch (free), Yahoo News Alerts (free) or Google News Alerts (free) might come in handy. Each enables keyword tracking and provides customizable delivery options. But the more alerting services you set up, the higher your chances of becoming inundated with stories that are of little relevance, or that you have already seen.

What if you have a high tolerance for receiving lots of news, provided at least some of it is relevant? Several media sources or aggregators offer alerting services that track news by keyword. Those not offered by a major research service, such as Factiva or LexisNexis, provide minimal search power. Typically, you can search by a single keyword or phrase, or by connecting search terms with the Boolean "and," "or" or "not." Often the search engine loosely interprets your terms so that news mentioning "West Virginia" matches a query for "Westlaw."

Nonetheless, these services are likely to alert you to news of potential interest faster than the traditional research systems. Yahoo News Alerts, for example, lets you track about 40 sources by keyword, including Associated Press, Reuters, major press release services, and major and regional newspapers. You can opt to receive immediate delivery of matching items or daily delivery at a specific hour.

CBS MarketWatch, a business and financial news reporting service, lets you track the news for up to 25 keyword queries. Sources include CBS MarketWatch News, news services such as Reuters, Associated Press, Knight Ridder and theDeal.com, as well as press release services.

Another business news service, Rocketnews, gives searchers access to thousands of online news and industry sources through its software, Rocketinfo Desktop. Sources include traditional news media as well as Weblogs, books, market research reports and more. You can set up keyword queries that automatically update when you activate the software. With the built-in e-mail feature, you can also comment on specific news stories and send them to clients.

A unique service, Nexcerpt, monitors multiple Web-based sources, alerts you to stories that match your keywords and lets you annotate them for publication on your Weblog, intranet or Web site. You can even deliver the news stories you annotate in a single e-mail message to clients. Of the free or low-cost sources mentioned, Nexcerpt delivers more local or regional news.

If you rely on a specific news source, review its Web site for a keyword alerting service. Though still new, an increasing number of publishers are providing them.

The Marketing Director greets Lawyer X as they pass in the hall. "Oh, by the way," he begins, remembering the suggestions Lawyer X gave him, "You were right about different groups wanting different things when it comes to receiving news about clients."

"So how did it go?" Lawyer X asks.

"We're going to work with Lexis to set up some industry trackers on our intranet as a test. We're also preparing a memo for all lawyers to let them know about the free and low-cost services available online."

"Sounds like a plan," Lawyer X comments before continuing on his way.


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Created: 25 October 2004
URL: https://www.virtualchase.com/articles/archive/e-mail_news.html

Suggestions: Genie Tyburski, tvceditor [at] virtualchase [dot] com