Vertical search engine ZoomInfo relaunched itself earlier this week. The company, whose primary focus has been as a vertical search engine for biographical and people information, has struggled to this point in identifying a profitable revenue model.
In its relaunch, ZoomInfo now describes itself as a more general business search engine. Their new business model has a free basic service, utilizing Google Adsense for advertising revenue. A premium offering, ZoomExec, provides executive profiles of more than 1.3M people, for $99 per month. At that price point, they are clearly looking to take low-end market share from companies like Hoovers and Leadership Directories.
The new interface is clean and easy-to-use. When you first land on their site, you see a (static) Tag Cloud, but it seems more an attempt to look Web 2.0 than to actually incorporate any useful Web 2.0 capabilities.
As John Blossom points out, one major change in the new UI is their default to searching keywords rather than companies. The Company search is still available, but the default is keyword.
A few test searches yielded fairly accurate results. ZoomInfo also provides you the ability to refine your search using geographic or revenue information or by selecting related terms. It's clear that they have invested some efforts in developing strong taxonomy and clustering tools.
ZoomInfo's crawling and semantic analysis technology has enabled it to build a fairly sizable database of company and people data. To date, they have faced two challenges. First, is the issue of accuracy. ZoomInfo claims to have continually improved their accuracy, but a quick search for Alacra shows they still have our old address (now at least 18 months out of date). Of course, for many users, 70-80% accuracy at the right price is good enough. The second and more significant challenge is positioning themselves to the market. Their earlier incarnation, as a people search engine, allowed them to make strong inroads in the recruitment market, but not as a more mainstream application. Repositioning themselves as a general business search engine might be a bit too broad in my opinion, but a freemium model, with free content supported by ads plus premium offerings, is certainly the right direction.