09 April 2009

Expert Connect at Ancestry.com

There has been much discussion on the APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) mailing list and others regarding the upcoming "ExpertConnect" site at Ancestry.com (http://expertconnect.ancestry.com/). In a nutshell, researchers and providers can use the site to connect. Ancestry.com takes a significant part of the research fee for providing the service. Whether or not this bidding process will work in the genealogical field remains to be seen. Individual fee-based researchers will have to decide if using the service is something they need to do to increase their business and if they can afford Ancestry.com's fee. Their bids will have to reflect the fact that Ancestry.com is charging them for "connecting" the researcher and client. One question the provider needs to decide is how much it is worth to them for Ancestry.com to do their "marketing" for them.

Obviously Ancestry.com is looking at this as a revenue stream. Are there enough "providers" hoping to make a living at "providing" that it positively imacts Ancestry.com's bottom line? I am not certain. Is there an "unmet" market for lookup and research services that is not being met elsewhere? Again, I am not certain.

Five services are being offered:
  • record pickup
  • local photo
  • ask an expert
  • record lookup
  • custom research

Personally, I won't be using the service, for the time being either as a provider or a client. There are still a variety of ways to make contact with quality researchers and not have to pay a "bounty" to do it. But I do have one question:

"If Ancestry.com continues to promote and expand this service, how will that impact the mailing lists and message boards where requests for help (particularly record lookups, local photos, and record pickups) are common?"

If that issue has been discussed somewhere I have not seen it. Such requests are common on several Ancestry.com sponsored mailing lists and message boards that I am on.


Blogger Elaine said...

Thanks Michael for your insight into this matter. This new and exciting concept however; is not new at all. Genealogy Freelancers launched their site in September of 2008. I'm one of the owners so I have some insight as well. We first presented our invitation to the APG and were met with a chilly response publicly; mainly they were interested in where we were located rather than what we had to say; however privately we received a boat load of well wishes and apologies for some of the less than kind words. It's odd that once the big guys have presented our concept to the same organization it has some how become more valid or at least, worthy of some respectful consideration. We chimed in twice to this new discussion on the mailing list and have been virtually ignored - dismissed publicly, but again we have received a bunch of encouragement from their members privately.

For the past year we have been searching for the qualified specialist and as of this morning we have 400 members from around the world signed up. I agree with you completely that not all researchers need our service and having been in this field for many years with a healthy client base, I would not need it either as a main source of income; however there were times when traveling for one case would have been much more productive if I had 2 or 3 others in the same location, or if their was a lull in my case load. There are also those new to the profession that need to get their feet wet, or the retired professional just wanting to stay in the game. These were some of our reasons for the idea.

We asked the mailing list for suggestions in any way in order to bring a service to the community that they could feel they had a say in. We have relied on this from our own members though who have helped tweak it into where it stands today. Our rates are a fraction of what the other guys have proposed, because we don’t have all the other products and databases that they offer. We verify credentials when they’re provided, we answer any question and we implement suggestions. We believe in what we’re doing.

There is no doubt that most if not all genealogists have used big boy services and why not, it is invaluable in some aspects, but who can believe at this stage that their main concern is about ethics or the respectability of genealogy? After all, they have no qualms about imitating any new and good idea and then calling it a groundbreaking service. We aren’t that surprised by this, but what does surprise us is that the brand name seems to be blinding some who professed that big monopolies would destroy their profession, yet they appear to have eyes only for that machine. In closing we know we’re smaller, but we only ask for the courtesy to be considered.
Elaine Bostwick

6:07 PM  
Blogger Margaret Harris said...

It is one thing to request reimbursement for gas, postage, etc. and quite another to request a fee for service. Are the genealogy angels overworked? I wouldn't mind doing a random act of kindness once in a while, but if circumstances are inconvenient for the researcher, a small fee might be appropriate.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Stephanie Hoover said...

I'm not sure who the "genealogy angels" are, but I think ExpertConnect is geared to, well... experts. Professional researchers who not only expect to be paid, but make a living doing research.

My beef with this product (in addition to the very high commissions Ancestry demands) is with their definition of professional researchers. In Ancestry's mind you have to have initials behind your name to be a "professional." This is just nonsense.

I have been conducting research for 17 years and have worked for one of the largest information brokers/research firms in the nation, in addition to companies, individuals and publications. But I'm not a "professional" because I'm not "accredited"...? Ridiculous.

Stephanie Hoover

1:13 PM  

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