April 6, 2010
Your WestlawNext License Can Be Just Like Your Westlaw License. Part 1: You Can Block Out-of-Plan Resources for WestlawNext
In a March 16th post, I asked what I thought was a relatively simple and direct question: will there be pure fixed rate contracts for WestlawNext? Being a cross-database search engine, it was prompted in part by:
- a CRIV interview with Mark Schiff, TR VP, Product Marketing, by Caren Biberman, Director of Library & Information Services, Cahill Gordon & Reindel which omitted this matter in the section of pricing by going straight to transactional and hourly options for out-of-plan access; and
- TR Legal Marketing literature, most notable, WestlawNext: Pricing Guide for Commercial Plans which reviews generally the three board categories of "chargeable events" on WestlawNext without once mentioning that out-of-plan resources can be blocked by subscribers. See Greg Lambert's analysis of the Pricing Guide and its comment trail.
This rather large gaping information hole about WestlawNext pricing has been the topic of discussion on some AALL listervs with some librarians saying absolutely no way is West going to let them block out-of-plan WLN resources and others saying yes they will. The fact that this debate was taking place says something about WLN marketing, and, perhaps, about what folks are hearing or not hearing from their reps.
It isn't all that hard to come right out and state up front in the Company's marketing literature that structurally your WestlawNext license can be the same as your Westlaw licenses, is it?
- You create your plan and negotiate its fixed-rate pricing
- Here's the similarities and differences in plan components, what databases are included, etc.
- You choose to block or not block out-of-plan resources and blocking is available to all subscribers.
- You have one of two pricing schedules to pick from for accessing out-of-plan resources: hourly or transactional rate pricing
Anyone following the marketing literature (in most instances ferreted out by Greg Lambert for 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, who first published the WestlawNext: Pricing Guide for Commercial Plans and later the WestlawNext: Overview of Chargeable Events and Chargeable Times, we all understand licensing elements (1) and (4) above. In a series of private emails with some West sales managers (names withheld to protect the well-meaning) prompted by a listserv post on blocking availability published by one, I can confirm (3), by which I mean you can choose to block or not block out-of-plan resources and blocking is available for all subscribers, be they law firm, government sector, etc. Don't know much about (2) yet because there have been some conflicting reports published.
At this point, I believe blocking to be the case because I find the sources of this information to be very credible and their statements have been unequivocal. To paraphrase one statement made by an account manager, this means that your WestlawNext license can be just like your Westlaw license.
It Takes the Entire Law Librarian Blogosphere to Extract Information from TR Legal. Some of my fellow bloggers may be surprised that we finally got a straight answer from TR Legal on blocking. It came from Sales, not Marketing and I will be happy to buy the first round of beers for the folks who provided it the next time we meet. The moral of this story is that it sometimes it takes an entire law librarian blogosphere to extract information from TR Legal for general use by law library professionals.
The complaint from some in TR Legal has been that "mis-information" about WLN is being published. The response is make detailed information readily and promptly available. If it takes a 20 or 30-page document to spell things out, we will read it. Detailed comparisons of Westlaw and WLN features tell us about the product's features; detail comparisons of Westlaw and WLN's licensing structure, plan components and pricing will tell us something specific about cost structure and will inform us ahead of a hopefully productive discussion with our sales reps. Absent that, information gaps are going to be discussed in public because it's not mis-information if the information is not made publicly available.
Questions posed that are not answered by TR Legal Marketing to the community at large remain open for debate and speculation. The issue of blocking specifically and pricing generally could have been easily and quickly addressed by Anne Ellis when she started getting pricing questions to her very first post on Legal Current. She did not address those issues, meaning many remain unresolved. It's not like TR Legal doesn't monitor AALL listservs or law librarian blogs.
The days of leaving this to Sales to spell things out one-on-one completely in private are over. Folks are sharing by way of the blogosphere (and listservs) what they are reading when they find something to read and what they are hearing. They are openly comparing notes when communications conflict or at least are substantially different from what others are hearing from their sales reps.
It Should Come as No Surprise Why This Is Happening. It is hard to fix a vendor-client relationship that has deteriorated to the degree that it has with TR Legal. Which vendor do you think gets the lowest marks for providing detailed and trustworthy information about their products and services in vendor literature and direct communications, in responsiveness to issues and their prompt resolution for products and services, and in the reasonableness of annual print continuation pricing and online pricing for the value of the resources provided? Most know the answer. If not, see here and here.
Why does it take the entire law librarian blogopshere to extract information from TR Legal for the community at large?. They have a Librarian Relations Program, perhaps they should put it to work. We might even come to trust it. The WestlawNext roll-out could have been a start to rebuilding a better vendor-buyer relationship. So far, that hasn't been the case. [JH]