Hey, it’s my blog so first I get to tell a story, then you get the good news at the end of this post. Of course, if you’re lazy, you can just ignore my explanation, but I promise to keep it (somewhat) interesting.

Ever since shortly after I founded CustomScoop back in 2000, we have made it a point to offer a 2 week free trial of our service to all comers. At the time, this wasn’t a very common practice in the media monitoring industry — online or off. Indeed, some of our competitors weren’t too pleased, but I have always believed that once you try our service, you will like it. Fortunately, that has been the case for eight years, with most trial users offering positive feedback.

Price-wise, we have always been somewhere in the middle of the pack. We are far from the most expensive, but we certainly aren’t the cheapest. Our goal in the marketplace is to deliver a superior product with the data and tools our clients need to be effective. We have consistently attempted to deliver the highest quality and most intensive human customer service in the industry. We believe we have succeeded.

Of course, we know that the price of our service is out of reach of many small businesses, sole practitioners, and yes — even bloggers. Yet we believe many of these people would benefit from using our services.

Over the years, we have often been asked for a less expensive account that would meet this market need. Typically, we have referred people to Google News Alerts if they don’t have the budget or clip traffic to justify paying for our serivce.

(Yep, that’s right, we refer people to other companies, including competitors, all the time when we believe our service isn’t the right fit. That’s because I don’t see any point in winning business only to see the customer disappointed with the product. You might score a few bucks in the short term, but the long-term cost, including word of mouth, will far outweigh it.)

We have been reluctant to offer lower-cost accounts for a variety of reasons, but primarily because we have built a business based on extensive human touch, superior service, and significant customization. As a result, we have not been structured to support high-volume, lower-cost accounts.

That has changed. Over the past year or so, we have worked hard to make significant adjustments to our technology to enable us to maximize the level of service we provide all customers. More important, it provides us with greater scalability in terms of customers as well as source coverage.

With those changes, I am pleased to announce that today we are debuting a new kind of CustomScoop account. We call it a "Personal" account but it works just as well for small businesses as it does for an individual. While it doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles of our paid accounts, it does offer the same data and many of the key features.

You can see a chart comparing the personal account to our paid offerings here.

Ultimately, this gives communicators a great alternative to Google News Alerts. If you’re going to use something free, you might as well use something that offers pro-quality tools. Specifically, here’s what CustomScoop can do that Google can’t:

  • CustomScoop Personal lets you consolidate different topics into a single email alert so your inbox doesn’t get cluttered and you don’t see duplicate stories.
  • CustomScoop Personal lets you consolidate different topics into a single RSS feed so your feed reader doesn’t get cluttered and you don’t see duplicate stories.
  • CustomScoop Personal lets you slice and dice your data in many different ways, including breaking out media coverage by state, country, and more.
  • CustomScoop Personal gives you much greater control over your search terms, including functionality like case sensitivity, requiring multiple keyword mentions, including or excluding specific states, languages, or even sources.
  • CustomScoop Personal gets you personalized and timely email support for any issues you encounter.
  • CustomScoop Personal enables you to tag your clips and save clips to folders to better organize your information.
  • CustomScoop Personal provides you with a free Firefox browser plugin to make reviewing clips fast and painless.
  • CustomScoop Personal lets you create simple charts to better understand your media coverage.
  • CustomScoop Personal enables you to request any legitimate traditional or new media source to be added. We gauruntee that if we CAN add it, we WILL add it.
  • CustomScoop Personal can be easily upgraded to a paid account at any time with no loss of data or customization.

Did I miss something? Probably. So check it out for yourself!

You can get your own free CustomScoop Personal account right now, right here.