Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Changes at ICIS; changes for me

Reed Business' ICIS unit is rebranding its Chemical News and Intelligence service and adding coverage of the oil industry. The news operation, now known as ICISnews, has reporters based in London, Houston, Singapore, Shanghai, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Washington and New York.
It's a little unclear to me how much of the service is actually new. Chemical News and other Reed properties have been global players for quite some time in the chemical world. Reed's Chemical Market Reporter has been around for more than 130 years. And Reed already publishes some newsletters about petroleum product prices. Nonetheless, the new ICIS does seem to be offering something that the old Chemical News service did not -- daily news stories from around the globe about the petroleum industry.
That's good news for journalists. The new ICISnews may offer some interesting job opportunities for B2B reporters and editors. It's also good news for traders and others in the petroleum business, because information is vital in a market where a move of a penny can cost millions around the globe.
But it's bad news for those companies that already cover the petroleum industry -- notably Reuters, Platts, Pennwell and OPIS.
Now this is normally where I would disclose my ties to newsletter publisher OPIS, as I have in earlier posts. But those ties were severed just yesterday.
I'd been arguing that OPIS was vulnerable to new competition because its products were old-fashioned (the electronic publications are text only), often shoddy (many OPIS products are published without being edited) and unprofessional (in-house ads are run inside of news copy.) But I failed in my attempts to impose some of my beliefs about quality B2B journalism. First and foremost, I failed to convince the company of the need to edit copy. So OPIS and I have parted ways.
Now it would certainly be fun if I could say that ICISnews is exactly the sort of threat to OPIS that I envisioned. But that wouldn't be true.
ICIS will compete against OPIS in some limited areas, including feedstocks and crude oil. But ICIS isn't going after the core of OPIS' revenue -- news and pricing data from the wholesale gasoline market. OPIS is nearly all alone in that niche. Although a few competitors have risen over the years, they've been other Mom and Pop operations (sometimes started by OPIS employees) with similar less-than-stellar products. OPIS has beaten them back.
But I remain convinced that some new competitor will emerge in that space -- most likely someone such as Reed that is already the benchmark player in similar markets -- and take advantage of OPIS' weaknesses.
In the meantime, I'm off to new challenges. I'll post more about those in the next few days.

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