February 12, 2010
There's Nothing Next in WestlawNext's Marketing and Sales Tactics
The recently announced plans to rollout WestlawNext to the legal academy -- librarians and faculty this Spring with a "possible introduction as early as the Fall 2010 semester" to law students caused quite a buzz on private and public sector law library listservs. In a nutshell, folks reached what I think is the obvious conclusion. It's a marketing tactic to push adoption by private and public sector institutional buyers.
WestlawNext's Monkey About to Run Wild. Well, of course it is. Why is anyone surprised, shocked or dismayed about this? This is standard operating procedure. West almost gives Westlaw away for free to law schools to get the Westlaw monkey on law students' back. So does LexisNexis but with less success because West's e-course management system, TWEN, essentially free, is generally preferred by law profs over LexisNexis' hacked version of Blackboard.
The announced law school rollout to law students contradicts what bloggers who traveled to Eagan recently for a demo heard. Greg Lambert, one of the attendees, writes
I have to say that I'm extremely disappointed in the people at ThomsonReuters that decided that giving this new product to law students was a good idea. In fact, it specifically flies in the face of what I and others who traveled to Eagan, Minnesota last month were told.
Well, that doesn't surprise me either. I, for one, would have performed one of those staged "bullshit" coughs had I been in the audience listening. And I'm not implying that the TR Legal presenters at the demo were outright lying. If West's billing staff and payments received staff don't know what each other are doing, why should we expect any West "right hand" know what any other West "left hand" is doing. Getting law schools students addicted to a very expensive legal search service has been the Step One marketing tactic by WEXIS for 30 years now. It works. Why change?
Preparing for WestlawNext Negotiations. When I first starting blogging about Colbalt, I suggested it should be released to a law librarians to crowdsource it before being unleashed upon us, apparently in the fourth quarter of this year. It still should. Instead, it appears that we will be negotiating WestlawNext upgrades with less hands-on experience than 1Ls. "WestlawNext for law school subscribers will be included as part of your current Westlaw subscription agreement. There will not be an incremental charge to access WestlawNext," writes Anne Ellis, Senior Director, TR's Librarian (read Marketing) Relations. For the rest of us, let the "incremental charge" negotiations begin. And they will commence just like they always have. Here's a sample from Lisa Solomon's experience:
a 11% premium for the power to search with the WestlawNext algorithm in the same databases I currently have access to on Westlaw, tough cookies. They’re going to change their offerings around enough to make it difficult for you to compare apples to apples. And, most importantly, they’re not going to let you eat just you want to eat: they want to stuff you until you explode, like some crazed Jewish grandmother on Shabbos. Oh (and to beat this food metaphor to death), they’re not going to let you eat just a few courses at the fancy new WestlawNext (the Bouley Restaurant of legal research), and pick up the rest of your meal next door at good ol’ Westlaw (Bouley Bakery/Market): if you don’t want to eat your whole meal at WestlawNext, it’s No soup for you!
Greg offers a suggestion that should but probably won't be followed because why should TR Legal change something that has worked so well in the past:
My gripe is that when something as big as this is released without someone from the company coming out and letting everyone know when it is officially going to be released, what databases are and are not currently included, who is and who is not going to have access, and how much the darn thing is going to cost you, then it sounds like I'm dealing with a used car sales team rather than ThomsonReuters.
Here's my suggestion to ThomsonReuters -- WestlawNext looks like a pretty good product, and it implements some good technology. Don't blow this thing up out of the gates by pushing out information piecemeal. Don't let your marketing team override the library relations and development team on who should and who should not get access. Don't send local sales reps out with pieces of information so that each of us is given a different story on how much this is going to cost and what is included.
Alas, Greg, we are and have always been dealing with used car sales tactics from West. With the first go at WestlawNext we won't even have an informal Edmunds.com to rely upon for "true market value." Visit Lisa Solomon's blog post to read the email exchanges with her rep on negotiating an upgrade to WestlawNext.
I, for one, do keep negotiations with reps confidential but will say this, the last time West wanted to reopen my Westlaw contract a few months ago, my stipulations in an email were, in a nutshell, the following:
- One year contract with optional second and third years at stipulated price increased.
- Being able to rebalance my entire WestPack plan once a year by adding/removing titles as long as it does not decrease what I pay to West for a WestPack plan.
- West provides their in-house usage data of what my account holders are searching by modules before we renegotiate.
West's response, dead silence. I mean no response whatsoever, not even a "thanks but not thanks" reply back. Since there were no negotiations, there's nothing confidential about this. And that was before WestlawNext. Upgrade negotiations will be very interesting... "Now is not the time to try to force firms into upgrading a product through manipulation and confusing tactics," writes Greg. "A damaged relationship with your clients is a very, very difficult thing to repair." [JH]