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How InstaTrac Powers its Information Service With Visualping

How InstaTrac Powers its Information Service With Visualping

Summary: InstaTrac, a single-state legislative tracking service, needed a website change monitoring tool to more efficiently stay on top of legal and regulatory updates in Massachusetts. Manually rechecking web sources was time-consuming, and risked delayed responses to urgent updates.

Visualping automatically monitors various government web pages for real-time legal and regulatory changes, enabling InstaTrac to more efficiently keep pace with the key developments it needs to power its service.

Visualping’s ease-of-use empowers less tech-savvy employees at InstaTrac to set up their own monitoring, for the information they know they need, without requiring developers to build custom scrapers. This also frees up the developers for more value-added tasks. Lastly, with automated monitoring, InstaTrac can now supplement its service with more content, increasing InstaTrac’s value as a powerful and reliable legal information tracking service.

Industry: Legal Information services

InstaTrac’s Story

Long-time state house journalist Michael Segel founded InstaTrac in 1994. He couldn’t believe there weren’t any easy ways to access legislative data in Massachusetts, which was one of the least transparent states at the time regarding its legislative data, and one of the last to shift online.

InstaTrac is a single-state legislative tracking service that helps their customers track legislation, follow bills for updates, and get automatic notifications. InstaTrac has five product offerings: bill summaries, real-time bill alerts, voice-to-text transcriptions of hearings, sessions and news, and amendment summaries.

InstaTrac customers include lobbyists, state and local government officials, law firms, corporations, associations, advocacy groups, and unions – anyone interested in staying on top of the latest Massachusetts legislative updates. InstaTrac has 350 clients in total, and 1,700 individual users.

Situation

InstaTrac has grown exponentially since they first started in 1994.

It was the “dawn of the internet,” Chelsea Petersen recalls, Director of Operations at InstaTrac. Back then, Instatrac would trek out to the State House, go to the document room, and manually scan each and every bill.

Not to mention going into customers’ offices to set up modems, just so they can access the Instatrac service (wow).

More recently, InstaTrac leveraged sophisticated web scrapers, each custom-built by their two in-house software developers, to automatically monitor daily legislative changes and power its service.

InstaTrac would rely on these scrapers, as well as their Committee Coordinator, to recheck web pages throughout the workday, and to stay on top of bills and legislative updates.

As Massachusetts is the third highest bill volume state, in a two-year session, Instatrac relies on scrapers and staff to stay on top of more than 10,000 bills.

Custom Built Web Scrapers

Because Instatrac’s scrapers have to be custom built and tailored uniquely to each web page, to rely solely on the developers to build these tools was inefficient and costly.

In addition to building web scrapers, Instatrac’s developers are charged with adding more features to InstaTrac’s service, fixing or changing their search feature, building new collaboration tools for their customers, and more. Building scrapers to monitor all the information they needed took too long, and prevented the developers from focussing on more value-adding tasks.

Manually Rechecking

Charging the Committee Coordinator to monitor legal and regulatory updates required frequent and time-consuming checks throughout the workday – manually opening up Massachusetts’ government website, and tediously surveying it for potential updates to committee hearings, task forces, court house and senate sessions – important updates that, ultimately, may have not even occurred since they last checked.

“Just to get that information, our Committee Coordinator would check it every morning and every afternoon. Which wasn’t effective.”

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Lagging Behind Important Updates

As well as being inefficient, manual monitoring increased the chances of InstaTrac accidentally lagging behind urgent developments, and not responding promptly enough to satisfy customers, who were relying on InstaTrac to know about every update, right away.

“Sometimes, we would have customers say to us ‘I already knew about this hearing, why didn’t you know about this? I heard from so and so...why isn’t it on your site yet?’”

InstaTrac needed to incorporate an additional monitoring tool into its processes that would be relatively easy-to-use, so that Instatrac’s Committee Coordinator and other staff could feel comfortable implementing it, independent of the developers.

At the same time, they needed a tool powerful enough to reliably capture all the updates InstaTrac needed to power its service – and, depending on the update, in real-time.

The Solution: Visualping

Strikingly Simple Monitoring Frees Up Developers for More Value-Added Tasks

InstaTrac has now been using Visualping for nearly eight years.

They first came across Visualping, when they were comparing different products. Visualping was just starting to get off the ground, so it didn’t have all the features it has today.

Nonetheless, InstaTrac found it the most user-friendly and seamless website monitoring tool, compared to competing products.

“I was testing different products and I liked Visualping the best […] It’s super user-friendly, of course. As non-techy people in a tech company, that’s really critically helpful to us.”

How InstaTrac uses Visualping to monitor legal and regulatory changes in Massachusetts - the information service selects any web page and automatically tracks it for important legislative changes

Its ease-of-use meant the committee coordinator and other staff had no trouble going ahead and independently setting up their own web page change alerts. This made monitoring web pages more easy and efficient.

“Rather than having to explain to my dev team what I need to know, I know exactly what I need to pull. I know exactly what I need to be checking every single day. I can just set up a Visualping alert myself. I know the pages I need to be monitoring.”

This also meant their in-house developers have more time for more value-adding tasks at the company.

“Instead of developers spending time customizing all these different scrapers, I have one product I can go to and be like ‘Hey, I’ve got a URL to track changes. Done. It’s easy.’”

Real-Time Monitoring for a Faster Service and Competitive Edge

With Visualping, Instrac can specify the frequency with which they automatically check web pages to monitor regulatory changes – this includes the option for real-time monitoring, in which the tool notifies the user within five minutes of a web page change.

Real-time monitoring allows InstaTrac to keep up with urgent updates published online – for example, when new important hearings and events are updated in the legislature.

“We don’t know when the legislature is going to post whether they have a new event scheduled. So I work really closely with our Committee Coordinator – she adds all of these events, and she gets all of the Visualping alerts."

How InstaTrac uses Visualping to monitor legislative and regulatory changes in Massachusetts to power its service

The real-time monitoring also provides InstaTrac a competitive advantage over rival services. StateNet, from LexisNexis, used to be a single-state competitor but, with Visualping’s real-time monitoring feature, StateNet can’t keep up with how fast InsaTrac updates its site with critical legislative and regulatory updates.

“We don’t currently have any single-state competitors – we used to, with StateNet, which is a product of LexisNexis. These other groups try to stay on top of everything, but they don’t have that timeliness that we get from setting up Visualping, and having it ping us everytime something new comes in. So that really helps us out.”

Greater Aggregation of Data, And More Depth of Content

Because Instatrac employees were no longer having to manually recheck various web pages for changes, Visualping made it easier for their team to stay on top of a higher volume of content.

For example, with the help of Visualping, InstaTrac was able to launch a daily newsletter initiative, MassInsider.

“If I had to do it manually, it would have taken me forever. So, Visualping really just allowed us to build our content and add a lot more.”

The newsletter helps nurture client relationships, while also flexing InstaTrac’s expertise as the one-stop-shop about Massachusetts politics.

“Using Visualping allowed us to add more depth in content to our site. I was getting more press releases, for sure, and I don’t think we would have been as successful getting the regulatory stuff off of the ground if it weren’t for Visualping.”

Want to monitor regulatory changes?

Used by 98% of the Am Law 100. Get automatic alerts when any legal and regulatory web pages change.

Want to monitor regulatory changes?

Start Monitoring Now (It's Free)

Want to monitor regulatory changes?

Used by 98% of the Am Law 100. Get automatic alerts when any legal and regulatory web pages change.

Start Monitoring Now (It's Free)

Emily Fenton

Emily is the Content Marketing Manager at Visualping. She has a degree in English Literature and a Masters in Management. When she’s not researching and writing about all things Visualping, she loves exploring new restaurants, playing guitar and petting her cats.