HarvestInfo: Newspapers Seeking ‘Federated Search’

Newspapers are increasingly seeking out “federated search” solutions that can search and crawl all forms of their content, including display, classifieds, various feeds, editorial and archives, according to Catherine Kelly, President of HarvestInfo, a vendor to newspapers.

“We’re starting to hear the term ‘federated search’ pop up from different newspapers, without any prompting,” says Kelly, who was recently promoted from CTO. “They say ‘we have six search boxes’” and want to clean it up. Kelly says the papers also want to stop isolating their shopping content from classifieds and display.

HarvestInfo’s federated search unites its suite of five shopping and search-oriented verticals (and a sixth vertical, services-based directory, coming in Q3). Currently, 30 of its 300 newspaper clients have implemented some form of federated search. “The hardest part of it is the integration of the content, and bringing it all together,” Kelly told The Local Onliner.

Some of the company’s most prominent clients include The Palm Beach PostThe Atlanta Journal Constitution and The Houston Chronicle. The latest implementation is Clickitsa.com, a regional site combining several Prime Time publications in the San Antonio area. The tiny thumbnailed and cataloged display ads are an especially good feature. The site is “mostly, but not totally, integrated,” says Kelly, noting that it still lacks some crawls.

HarvestInfo, which is now ten years old and is up to 50 employees, competes against vendors such as Planet DiscoverTownNewsTravidia and others. Since it also needs to incorporate their feeds, and vice-versa, it also sometimes works with the other companies, in coopetition.

In our view, the company’s immediate competition is probably Planet Discover, a pioneer in federated search with such sites as Wicked Local, and recently acquired by Gannett. But Kelly believes the Gannett acquisition may actually turn out to be a win-win. It validates the space, and keeps PD busy trying to turn on more than 110 Gannett sites, she says. “The simple fact is that Gannett is a big pill to swallow.”