For 30 years, Capital Monitor™ has alerted subscribers from all walks of life to parliamentary, political, legislative, regulatory and judicial news and information as it happens. When the concept for this service was born in the late 1980’s, and launched as a business in January 1990, photocopiers and faxes were considered new technology.
How it all began 1990 - 1994
It was a momentous year for Capital Monitor, but 1990 was also the year the incumbent Australian Labor Party, led by Bob Hawke, won the Australian election for the fourth consecutive time despite losing the two-party preferred popular vote. The Opposition, a coalition between the Liberal Party of Australia, led by Andrew Peacock, and National Party of Australia, led by Charles Blunt, had been sidelined by voters for 10 years.
Taking place three months after Capital Monitor’s official launch, this was Hawke’s last election as Prime Minister and Labor Leader. He was replaced by Paul Keating in December 1991; a time synonymous with a British scientist, working at CERN, who had the first World Wide Web server and browser up and running on a NeXT computer with a hand-written label on it, saying: "This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!".
In Australia by then, the media landscape had begun a bewildering transformation of ownership consolidation that impacted media organisations’ presence in the newly built Australian Parliament House. Soon after inception, Capital Monitor saw a small space open in the Parliamentary Press Gallery and decided to make the tiny office home. Staff numbers had already doubled, yet the team of four found ingenious ways to get the most out of the room – fitting in desks, shelving all around, and a large photocopier as the centrepiece.
Key to early success was mostly the staff who understood client needs well. Operating as an overnight photocopy-and-postal service to begin with, the fax service attracted a premium charge, and was used to alert subscribers on the occasion when news and information needed to be shared promptly. Staff would phone subscribers first for approval to fax, and then share information to provide quick and reliable alerting mechanism. Offering a very narrow scope of Commonwealth information initially, once in Parliament, the service expanded its content, and built up its knowledge base as an insider, to service predominately government and legal clients with an information offering that was out of reach for most during that time.
Staff gleaned insights on the inner workings of government, parliament and the legislative process that they could now share with clients. They often stumbled on priceless gems of information that were essentially publicly available, but that no one was aware of at the time, such as Explanatory Memoranda to Bills. These documents, prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department for the Governor General as an explanation for new legislation, offered insight into the intention and motivation of the government of the day, and turned out to be very useful to clients interpreting legislation too. Not many others thought this information had any value at the time, except for a handful of Capital Monitor subscribers.
Early go-getters 1995 - 1996
Still led by a Labor Government, now with Paul Keating at the helm as Australia’s 24th Prime Minister, the mid-90s were truly an era for innovation worldwide, as well as locally. Too many to list here, innovations from 1995 included the first appearance of the Java programming language, as well as the birth of e-commerce colossi Amazon and eBay.
For Capital Monitor the catalyst for innovation was when Adobe released some of the first versions of Acrobat Reader and Distiller. This was the first time a decent optical character reading software, able to cope with poor quality text, was offered to the market. It enabled the scanning of documents that would pave the way for Capital Monitor in the future. In 1995 the business decided to invest in a US system called Verity Topic, a full-text retrieval system, used heavily by several US Government agencies before being declassified and sold. Capital Monitor saw this as an opportunity to enable the conversion of hard copy press releases and Hansards to electronic text, to be saved as PDF, and attached to an email for instant circulation, launching the concept for Capital Monitor’s Instant Email Alerts, still used to this day, albeit in a much different format.
On the 1st of July 1996, Capital Monitor went digital. This gave many subscribers the impetus to make the business case for email access in their own organisations for the first time. For months the Capital Monitor team worked tirelessly to run the new electronic system, alongside the legacy system, handling all content twice. As the change incited subscribers to move into the world of email and the Internet, uptake was so good that the decision was made to discontinue the paper-based services on the 1st of March 1997.
Another feature, present to this day and inspired by the move to digital in that time, was the capacity for the business to create a digital archive of every document ever processed within its walls. Available to subscribers for research purposes, the now extensive digital collection was born. Every document indexed by Capital Monitor in the last three decades is now retrievable in its original form as a fully text searchable PDF.
Joining the big leagues 1997-2007
It would be easy to take the natural immediacy of information access we have today for granted, yet it wasn’t always so. Since the late 1990s, electronically available information has changed the face of politics and how governments navigate the media landscape. The dynamic altered when information became available in real time online. Industries, lobby groups and other interested parties could now react, respond, or influence an outcome almost immediately, launching the 24-hour news cycle we know nowadays.
The decade to 2007, was marked by consecutive Liberal National Coalition Governments led by John Howard until defeated at the November 2007 federal election. The Australian Labor Party was back in government, with Kevin Rudd at the helm.
Meanwhile, gone were the days when Capital Monitor staff would collect press releases or Hansard, and photocopy them for distribution, primarily via courier overnight. The business built up its content and service offering during this time, attracting a loyal customer following, and an opportunity to take operations into the big leagues when LexisNexis® acquired the entity in March 2005. The concept for another big scale upgrade was penned soon after that, and later produced Capital Monitor’s most recent web platform and interface, in use by subscribers between 2010 and 2020.
Winds of change 2007 -2017
Political turmoil and a series of changes in the leadership of Australia’s two political parties, the ALP and LNP, characterised the decade between 2007 and 2017, resulting in Australia going through six prime ministers since November 2007 - Kevin Rudd (2007 & 2013), Julia Gillard (2010), Tony Abbott (2013), Malcolm Turnbull (2015), and most recently Scott Morrison (2018).
During this time, Capital Monitor went on to adapt to ever-changing customer needs, and new technologies. A few years after LexisNexis acquisition, the business built a new website, enabling subscribers to conduct complex searches on the database, and curate the content they saw in their alerts for the first time in Capital Monitor history. The new system offered various alerting capabilities, delivery methods, and frequencies, as well as the ability to receive information in a different format, such as attachment or active hyperlink.
Seeking to balance a growing variety of updates required by subscribers, Capital Monitor progressively expanded its content scope to include all Australian jurisdictions, turning the ever-expanding digital collection into vital research tool, now used by academia, market researchers, and the government itself for long lost information not available electronically elsewhere. A highly customised suite of online news and information products, in the form of newsletters and content pages, was also developed to offer a comprehensive current policy development, as well as big picture view within specific industries, or jurisdictions.
New content seconds away 2020
Today, a dedicated team remains in the Press Gallery of Parliament House in Canberra to deliver instant news and information, filtering content daily, before making it available to subscribers. Delivered within minutes of publishing through email alerts, newsletters and live web pages, fully text-searchable content is indexed in the cloud to the Capital Monitor digital archive for search and retrieval anywhere, anytime, every 90 seconds.
In May 2020, Capital Monitor launched a brand-new user interface. As well as copious enhancements, big and small, the upgrade brings consistency across the LexisNexis suite of products, and synchs Capital Monitor's information monitoring and alerting methodology with best practice industry standards.
Subscribe to LexisNexis® Capital Monitor™ and receive the latest in parliamentary, legislative, judicial and regulatory news, sent as it happens and delivered in a format that works for you.